How to Grow Basil from Seed: Expert Tips to Boost Your Harvest

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Have you ever wondered how to grow basil from seed? Basil is not only a versatile culinary herb, but it also has many medicinal uses. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the benefits of growing basil from seed and provide step-by-step instructions to help you cultivate an amazing basil harvest.

Basil Basics

Common nameBasil
Scientific nameOcimum basilicum
Days to harvest60-90 days
LightFull sun (6-8 hours per day)
SoilWell-draining, fertile soil; pH 6.0-7.0
WaterConsistent moisture; water when soil is dry to touch
FertilizerLiquid fertilizer every 4-6 weeks or slow-release granular at planting time
PestsAphids, whiteflies, slugs
DiseasesDowny mildew, fusarium wilt

Choosing the Right Basil Seeds

There are many different varieties of basil, each with its own unique flavor and appearance. Some popular options include Genovese, Thai, Lemon, and Purple basil. When choosing which variety to grow, consider your personal taste preferences and how you plan to use the basil in your cooking.

VarietyFlavor ProfileBest Uses
GenoveseSweet, classic basil flavorPesto, pasta sauces, salads, pizza
ThaiSpicy, anise-likeThai curries, stir-fries, noodle dishes
LemonCitrusy, slightly sweetFish, chicken, salads, fruit desserts
Purple (Opal)Similar to sweet basil, with a hint of spiceGarnish, salads, cocktails
Holy Basil grown from seed

Starting Basil Seeds Indoors Under Grow Lights

Learning how to grow basil from seed indoors can be a game-changer.

Using grow lights for seed starting allows you to control the light, temperature, and humidity, creating the ideal conditions for germination and early growth.

This method can also help you get a head start on the growing season, giving you a continuous supply of fresh basil.

Preparing Seed Trays and Soil Mix

Choose well-draining seed starting trays with individual cells or small pots. Fill the cells with a high-quality seed starting mix, which is typically a blend of peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite. This type of mix helps retain moisture while allowing excess water to drain away.

Sowing Basil Seeds

Proper Seed Depth

When learning how to grow basil from seed, it’s important to plant the seeds at the correct depth. Sow basil seeds about ¼ inch deep, lightly covering them with soil.

Optimal Spacing

Space the seeds about 1-2 inches apart to give them room to grow.

If you’re using individual cells or pots, plant 2-3 seeds per cell to ensure at least one seedling emerges.

Setting Up Your Indoor Grow Light System

There are several types of grow lights available, including fluorescent, LED, and high-intensity discharge (HID) lights. For basil, fluorescent or LED are the best seed starting grow lights. They are the most energy-efficient and affordable options.

Positioning the Grow Light

Place the grow light above the seed trays, ensuring even light distribution. As the seedlings grow, adjust the light height to maintain the appropriate distance.

Controlling the Light Duration

Basil seedlings need about 14-16 hours of light per day. Use a timer to automate the light schedule, making it easier to maintain consistent conditions.

Germination and Early Seedling Care


Ideal Temperature and Humidity

Basil seeds germinate best in warm, humid conditions. Maintain a temperature of 70-75°F and keep the soil consistently moist. Covering the seed tray with a clear plastic humidity dome can help retain moisture.

Watering and Nutrient Requirements

Water the seedlings gently, using a spray bottle or watering can with a fine nozzle to avoid disturbing the seeds. Once the seedlings have a few sets of true leaves, begin feeding them with a diluted water soluble fertilizer, following the package instructions.

Thinning and Transplanting Seedlings

When the seedlings have developed at least two sets of true leaves, it’s time to thin them out. Remove the weaker seedlings, leaving the strongest one in each cell or pot. This will give the remaining plants room to grow and ensure they receive adequate light and nutrients.

Transitioning Basil Seedlings Outdoors

Hardening off seedlings

Before transplanting your basil seedlings outdoors, they need to be hardened off. This process gradually acclimates them to outdoor conditions, reducing the risk of shock.

Start by placing the seedlings outdoors in a sheltered spot for a few hours each day, gradually increasing the time spent outside over a week or two.

Choosing the right time for transplanting

The ideal time to transplant basil seedlings is after the last frost has passed and nighttime temperatures consistently stay above 50°F.

Basil is a warm-season herb and will not tolerate frost, so be sure to check your local frost dates before transplanting.

Selecting the ideal location and soil conditions

Choose a location for your basil plants that receives at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day. Basil prefers well-draining, fertile soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. To be sure you’re using the best soil for growing basil, amend the planting area with compost or well-rotted manure to improve fertility and structure.

Planting and Caring for Basil in the Garden

Planting Basil Seedlings

When planting your basil seedlings, space them about 12-18 inches apart to allow for proper air circulation and growth. Dig a hole slightly larger than the root ball, gently remove the seedling from its container, and place it in the hole. Fill the hole with soil, firming it around the base of the plant.

Watering and Fertilizing Basil Plants

Basil requires consistent moisture, but it’s essential to avoid overwatering. Water deeply when the soil feels dry to the touch, allowing the water to reach the plant’s roots. Fertilize basil plants every 4-6 weeks with a balanced water soluble fertilizer or use a slow-release granular fertilizer at the beginning of the season.

Pruning and Pinching for Bushier Growth

Regularly pruning and pinching back your basil plants encourages bushier growth and prevents them from becoming leggy. Optionally, you can grow more basil plants from the cuttings. You can even root basil cuttings in water.

Pinch off the growing tips and any flower buds that form to redirect the plant’s energy into producing more leaves.

Pest and Disease Management

Basil is relatively pest and disease resistant, but it’s important to monitor your plants for any signs of trouble. Common pests include aphids, whiteflies, and slugs. Remove pests by hand or use organic pest control methods as needed.

To prevent diseases like downy mildew and fusarium wilt, practice good garden hygiene by removing dead leaves and debris, and avoid overhead watering.

Tips for Growing Basil

Companion planting

Planting basil alongside other plants can provide mutual benefits. It’s a great way to ward off pests and even enhance the flavor of nearby vegetables is by companion planting with basil.

Companion PlantBenefits
TomatoEnhances flavor, basil repels tomato pests
PepperEnhances flavor, similar growing conditions
EggplantEnhances flavor, similar growing conditions
MarigoldRepels basil pests

Utilizing container gardening

Learning how to grow basil in containers is a great option. Basil makes a great addition to an indoor herb garden. Choose a pot with drainage holes and fill it with a high-quality potting mix. Place the container in a sunny spot, and remember that potted basil may require more frequent watering.

Encouraging pollinators

Basil flowers attract pollinators like bees and butterflies, which can benefit your entire garden. To encourage pollinators, allow a few basil plants to flower, while continuing to pinch back the rest for leaf production.

Regular harvesting for continued growth

Frequent harvesting helps stimulate new growth and keeps your basil plants healthy and productive.

Harvest leaves as needed, starting with the larger leaves at the bottom of the plant, and working your way up.

Avoiding common mistakes

When learning how to grow basil from seed, it’s important to avoid common mistakes. Overwatering, planting seeds too deep, and exposing seedlings to cold temperatures can hinder growth. Pay close attention to your plants and make adjustments as needed to ensure a successful harvest.


Growing your own basil from seed is a rewarding and enjoyable process. With a little care and attention, you’ll be able to enjoy a continuous supply of fresh basil throughout the growing season. 

Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just learning how to grow basil from seed, the tips and techniques outlined in this guide will set you on the path to a bountiful basil harvest. So grab some seeds, roll up your sleeves, and start growing your own basil today!

FAQ: Grow Basil from Seed

Should I soak basil seeds before planting?

Soaking basil seeds before planting is not necessary, as they germinate well without pre-soaking. However, if you want to speed up germination slightly, you can soak them for 4-6 hours in warm water before planting.

Can you germinate basil seeds in a paper towel?

Yes, you can germinate basil seeds using the paper towel method. Moisten a paper towel, place the seeds on it, and fold it over. Place the towel in a sealed plastic bag and keep it in a warm, well-lit location. Check daily for germination and transplant seedlings once they develop.

How many years do basil seeds last?

Basil seeds can remain viable for up to 5 years if stored properly. To maintain their viability, store them in a cool, dry, and dark location, such as an airtight container in a refrigerator.

How do you collect and save basil seeds?

To collect basil seeds, let the flowers dry and turn brown on the plant. Harvest the flower spikes and place them in a paper bag. Gently crush the dried flowers to release the seeds, then separate the seeds from the chaff. Store the seeds in a cool, dry, and dark location until you’re ready to plant them.

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