One of the easiest herbs you can grow indoors is basil. It is popular in many dishes and has a delicious flavor, which makes it a necessity for both gardeners and chefs (both professional and amateur). Given the proper conditions, you can be just as successful growing basil indoors as you would in your outdoor garden.
So, what are the proper conditions you ask? You’ve come to the right place if you want to know how to grow basil indoors. You must make sure it’s getting sufficient light and that the soil is a balance of moist and well-draining. You’ll also want to make sure you’re watering it regularly and that the temp and humidity are at the proper level.
It seems like there’s a lot to caring for your basil plants, but it’s actually pretty easy- especially if you already have other plants. This will be a great addition to your indoor garden, and it’s functional too!
All About Basil
While most people associate basil flavors with Mediterranean and Italian dishes, it’s actually native to Asia. The best time to plant outdoors is early spring, but it can be planted indoors at any time. This plant grows quickly and will establish in 3 to 4 weeks. It has small, green, shiny leaves. The leaves grow in clusters and have a very strong scent. You will notice your plant blooming after about 75 days. If you want to lengthen the vegetative phase of your plant, snip off those blooms.
Caring For Your Basil Plants
As with most herbs, basil loves the sunshine. As long as you let it get some exposure to bright light every day, you can be sure it will thrive. Of course, you can also set up some grow lights and it will do well. Plus, a grow light will give your harvest a boost and you’ll have enough basil to keep your kitchen stocked 365 days a year.
Basil is typically free of pests and diseases and has a wonderful aroma and delicious flavor. It is very rewarding to grow basil (and other herbs as well). Throughout its life, the flavor of the plant will change. As the plant blooms, the flavor will get stronger and you can even still eat it after it flowers, it just might be a bit bitter. This herb responds very well to pruning/topping, so you can start using the leaves as soon as it has started to branch out.
Basil is a plant that loves the light and needs at least 6 hours of full sun each day. If you can’t provide your plants with direct sunlight, you can use fluorescent bulbs, but you’ll need to keep your plants under them for at least 12 hours a day and the lights should be 2 to 4 inches from the plants- but don’t let the bulbs touch the leaves or they will burn.
As mentioned earlier, the soil for your basil plants needs to be both well-draining and able to retain some moisture. When you plant your basil indoors, you might want to add some organic compost to help with this. Additionally, the pot/planter you use should have plenty of drainage holes to keep the soil from becoming waterlogged.
It’s best to try to keep your basil moist, as it thrives when you provide it with approximately an inch of water each week. However, if it’s in a container, you may need to give it more than that. A good rule of thumb is to water it when the topsoil is drying out or the plant is starting to wilt- however, it’s better if you don’t let it get this far.
You should aim to keep the area where you are growing your basil at around 70° Fahrenheit or higher. Additionally, you’ll want to avoid placing your plants in an area where they may be exposed to cold breezes, such as near windows or air conditioner vents.
Basil plants enjoy humidity, so mist them every now and then, especially if your home tends to be a bit on the dry side. If you feel they need more moisture, you can make a bed of wet river rocks to place the container on. This will increase the humidity in the air around the plants.
If you have already added organic compost to the soil, you probably won’t need to do anything else to add nutrients. Of course, if your plants aren’t growing much, you might want to consider adding a bit of liquid fertilizer once a month– just make sure it’s a lower concentration. You don’t want to use too much.
Varieties Of Basil
You may not realize this, but there are several different types of basil, each having its own unique attributes and flavor. Some of the most popular ones that do well indoors are as follows:
- Genovese (Ocimum basilicum): this one is often referred to as Italian basil and is known for it’s large green leaves and stereotypical basil flavor.
- Purple (Ocimum basilicum): this one is known for it’s gorgeous purple color and is known for pointy leaves and licorice-type flavor.
- Lemon Basil: (Ocimum basilicum x citriodorum): this is a hybrid basil with thin, delicate leaves and is often used in Asian-inspired dishes because of it’s citrusy flavor.
Growing Basil From Seeds
Especially when placed under grow lights, basil plants will grow easily from seeds. As long as the temperature is kept around 80° Fahrenheit, germination will take about 5 days. If temps are colder, they will still germinate, it will just take a bit longer.
Most of the time, people use their basil before it’s time to repot it. However, if you’re growing your plants from seeds, you’ll want to move the seedlings from the starter tray to a 4-inch pot after about two weeks. This will more than likely be the last time you will need to move them. You’ll want to pinch it after you repot it to encourage leaves to grow. While its true that these plants do respond well to pruning, the indoor plants are not going to grow as bit as outdoor ones.
Basil is a very popular herb to grow indoors. It has a wonderful aroma and can be used in your Italian and Asian inspired dishes for some extra flavor. Plus, as you see, they are easy to take care of!