All You Need To Know About Growing Basil Indoors

Basil is one of the most fragrant plants with many health benefits and uses in cooking. There are many varieties, about over 100, from Thai Basil to Sweet Genovese. They all have the same health benefits but slight differences in taste.

Fresh basil in pots next to sal, olive oil, pepper and a wooden boar

There are so many indoor plants to grow.  Basil is one of them. Yeap! That’s right! As you can grow tomatoes indoors, spinach or avocado, almost all varieties of basil you can grow in gardens, you can also bring them inside your house. As long as you provide them with the right conditions, they can thrive and grow big and bushy. But what exactly do you need to know about growing basil indoors? Let’s find out!

What are the benefits of basil?

Basil is a herb. It belongs in the mint family and is used in cooking. Due to its distinctive fragrance, it adds extra flavour to dishes. It’s the basic ingredient for pesto, and it can be added to salads, pasta, pizza and many other delicious meals.

It’s prevalent in Italian and generally in Mediterranean cuisines, but it can also be found in Indonesian, Thai and Vietnamese cuisines.

Fresh basil in paper bag pots on a windowsill

But beyond the distinctive smell and flavour that it adds to meals, basil plants are also full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Basil’s essential oil has medical benefits. Someone can use it for digestive issues and insect bites. We usually use basil to treat snakebites, colds, and inflammation. It’s also full of calcium and vitamin K.

Are you ready to find out the health benefits of that herb?

  1. It reduces oxidative stress
  2. It reinforces liver health
  3. It prevents skin ageing
  4. It reduces high blood sugar
  5. It improves cardiovascular health
  6. It supports mental health
  7. It reduces inflammation and swelling
  8. It fights infection

The best growing conditions tips for basil

Basil is typically an outdoor growing plant and likes sunny and warm weather. But, under the right conditions, it can grow perfectly indoors as well. But, of course, for basil to thrive indoors, you have to provide it with plenty of sunlight and keep it in a warm spot. So, let’s see what exactly basil needs to grow inside.

1. Light

Basil loves sunny areas. If you grow it inside the house, you need to provide it with at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. Place your plant in a west or south-facing window to get the most of sunlight.  If there’s no adequate natural light, you’ll have to use grow lights (fluorescent bulbs). Basil needs about 10 hours under those lights. Just make sure that the leaves don’t touch the bulbs. Otherwise, they’ll get burnt.

Fresh basil in terracotta pots on the windowsill

2. Temperature

Basil doesn’t love cold or hot temperatures. They love warm ones about 22-29°C. So during winter, try to keep them away from doors that let in cold air and from chilly windows.

3. The right soil

Beyond the proper light and temperature, growing in potting soil basil needs the right potting mix to thrive. You should plant seeds in well-drained and rich in nutrients soil. Since basil isn’t resistant to water, place it in drainage pots. While it isn’t tolerant to water, you should keep its soil moist to prevent its rotting roots.

4. Fertiliser

To yet help the basil, you have to put fertiliser on it. So first, fertilise your indoor growing basil every 4- 6weeks using a liquid fertiliser at half the recommended portion.  Finally, you need to check the pH levels of soil at least once a month. The appropriate pH levels should be between 6.0-7.5.

How to plant your basil the right way 

Basil might be a great choice for a new indoor gardener to start with, and you need to know exactly what process to follow to make sure that your plant will thrive.

Here’s what you need:

  • Basil seeds
  • Starter pots
  • Starting container with a plastic dome
  • Seed starting mix
  • Spray mister

Once you’ve got all the needed materials, you can proceed to the planting process.

Bush basil growing in the garden

  1. The first to do is to prepare the starting pots. Add slightly moistened seed starter mix about 1.27- 2.5 cm below the top of your container. Do this with your hand because the pots are tiny.
  2. You can now add seeds to each pot. You can place a few seeds in the centre, hence after germination, to be able to select the strongest plants.
  3. After adding the seeds, cover them with a 0.63cm dry seed starter mix. 
  4. Fill a spray bottle with water, lightly spray the state mix, and help seeds blend in with the soil.
  5. Place your starting pots in a container with a plastic dome to help them keep humidity in. Instead, you can use a shallow pan and plastic wrap if you don’t have such a container.
  6. Place them, afterwards, in a warm location. The temperature should be around 22°C. After that, don’t water them again.
  7. You’ll see the first signs in about 7-10 days. Once seedlings appear, you can remove the plastic dome or plastic wrap and place them on a sunny windowsill. Spray the potting soil frequently. When the true leaves appear, you can select the strongest seedlings. Then, pick the other seedlings and remove them.
  8. Once the plants have 3 pairs of green leaves, you can repot them to 7-10cm pots. Make sure you add a week fertiliser solution to boost the nutrients of the compost.
  9. You can remove the basil outside when it is hard to adjust to the tough outside conditions.

Instead of buying seeds, there’s another way to start a basil plant. How? From cuttings. Let’s see how you can do it:

  1. Get a 10cm stem cutting right below a node and remove all the leaves from the stem’s bottom.
  2. Place the cut end of the stem in a glass or jar and fill it with water. Let roots grow out of the stem.
  3. Fill a container with a pre-moistened potting mix.
  4. And finally, place the newly rooted stem in the mix.

From the pot to the garden

You can either get basil seeds from a garden centre and start a new growth plant in your garden, or you can grow basil indoors and transplant it in your flower or vegetable garden. The best season to do so, it’s in the warm days of early spring. Here’s how to do it:

1. Choose the right location

 The ideal conditions for basil to thrive are warm temperatures and a few hours in full sun. The best hours of sunlight are the morning ones. During the rest of the day, try to give it a shade to prevent direct sunlight.

Basil in a brown plastic pot on a sunny window sill

2. Enhance the garden soil

Mix the soil with plenty of organic matter to create a rich, well-draining base for your plant. Then, pot your basil into a 20cm deep bed or garden container to help the plant grow strong roots.

3. Give your basil plants enough space

While planting basil, leave 30-40cm of space from other basils to let plenty of sunlight reach all parts of your plants.

4. Dig holes

 Gradually dig holes to ensure the right depth to plant your basil. Use a transplanter to be more precise.

5. Place the basil seeding properly

While planting the basil, you have to ensure that the root ball is level with the soil. Then, you can use a transplanter to fill the gaps and press the soil around it with your hands.

6. Water your transplanted basil and keep the soil moist

Once you have finished transplanting your plant, water it and apply 2.5-5 cm of mulch on top to maintain necessary moisture and prevent weeds from growing around basil.

A little girl watering a basil with a glass of water

From harvesting basil to storing and using it

Having a herb garden is the best thing since you have fresh herbs any time you wish. Plus, you can store them and use them any time of the year.

Unfortunately, it’s also a plant that wants to be harvested. While harvesting basil,  you can boost new growth and help it become bushy. Harvesting your basil doesn’t need special skills. The ideal is to harvest basil before it blooms. This way, you’ll get the freshest leaves. If your plant has already flowered, you should cut the flowers on top of the plant to grow stronger leaves. In case you need small amounts, you can pinch the leaves off with your fingers. Don’t worry! Your plant will be just fine. If you need larger amounts, then cut with scissors.

Choose to cut the leaves from the plant’s top to help grow and maintain your basil bushy and dense. You should pick up the leaves when the plant is 15 to 20 cm tall and do it early in the morning. It’s then when the leaves are juicier. In case your plant is overgrown, you should make a more intense harvest to remove up to 2/3 of the plant. Then, start harvesting from the top.

If you harvest your basils pretty often, you can have many leaves per week. So if you don’t want them to go to waste, you have to store them. There are 3 ways of storing the leaves. You can freeze them, dry them or preserve them in oil.

Freezing the leaves

Freezing will help leaves maintain more of their flavour. You don’t have to do much. Just harvest them and store them, whole or chopped, in airtight, resealable plastic bags and place them in the freezer. Then, any time you want to add some basil to your meal, get a bag out of the freezer and you’re good to go.

Basil leaves in ice cube tray on a wooden table ready for the freezer

You can also place leaves in an ice-cube tray. Chop them and place them in the little containers. Fill the ice cube tray with water and toss it in the freezer.

Drying the leaves

Drying is a simple method but with a serious con. There’s an amount of flavour that will be lost along the way.

To dry the leaves, you have to:

  1. Cut leaves at the stem and place them in a well-ventillated and out of the sun area.
  2. Let them dry for about 3-4 days. Afterwards, check them. If they aren’t completely dry, place them in the oven at the lowest temperature and keep the door slightly open. Check them frequently and turn the leaves to dry equally.

Preserving the leaves in olive oil

This way is ideal for adding a tiny basil pinch to dishes without covering its flavours.

To preserve leaves in oil, you need to follow these steps:

  1. First, place blanched basil leaves in a blender or food processor, and add 1-2 cups of olive oil and a 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt for each cup of basil.
  2. Blend them very, very well.
  3. Then filter the mixture or leave it as it is for a stronger flavour.

Fresh basil in a metal mug on a wooden background

Basil is one of the easiest to grow houseplants. It doesn’t need much care. It can thrive outdoors and indoors as long as you provide it with the right temperature, sunlight and water. A single plant will be enough to give you all the health benefits and flavour to your dishes. Keep fresh basil in a pot, and you’ll have the tastiest sauces.

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