Basil is a tropical herb that has been used in cooking for centuries.
Today it is a popular condiment in Mediterranean cuisine and is cultivated by gardeners great and small both indoors and outdoors worldwide.
The strong fragrance of basil comes from its essential oil, which is used for its soothing properties.
Native to Southeast Asia, basil grows well in warm climates. It is easy to grow and takes only a few weeks to be ready for harvest.
This makes it a great addition to your garden if you’re looking for new ways to spice up your cooking or just want to add this deliciously fragrant herb to the greenery of your garden space.
With a bit of love and attention, you will have fresh organic basil to add to your favorite spaghetti sauce, salads, and pesto.
How long does basil live? Basil is an annual – this means it will last only one growing season. Plant it in the spring, and you’ll be able to harvest fresh leaves all summer. The key is to keep it in a sunny spot and water regularly. If you do this, it should thrive and continue to produce fragrant foliage all summer.
Read our complete guide below if you want to have a fresh supply of organic basil on hand all year round.
There are several varieties of basil out there, but we are going to focus on sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum) because that is the typical variety used in cooking.
Basil Plants’ Natural Life Cycle & Lifespan
As we stated above, basil only lasts for one season; it needs to be replanted every year. You can propagate it from cuttings or by seed. (Learn how easy it is here.)
Below we have answered some of the most frequently asked questions about the lifespan of basil plants.
Basil Growing Cycle
This tropical herb grows during the warm season, usually starting from early spring to the end of summer.
Sow your seeds just before the last frost, so the soil remains thawed for germination. Basil plants will typically sprout within 5-8 days.
Then, they will continue to grow for the next 4-6 months.
At plant maturity, basil starts to flower and produce seeds (learn how to stop flowering and prolong leaf production here) until it eventually dies off about a month before the first frost.
How Long Basil Plants Live?
The basil plant’s lifespan differs depending on how you take care of it.
If it is grown inside where there is less threat from cold winters, it may survive for six months.
However, if grown in the ground, basil lives for about four to five months in warm, sunny conditions.
Can Basil Survive All Year Round?
The basil plant does not survive all year round. Basil plants that are grown outside typically die off with the first frost because they cannot withstand the cold weather.
However, you can save the plant for a few more weeks by bringing it inside where you can maintain a warmer temperature.
In either scenario, your basil will start flowering and seeding as soon as the weather becomes too unfavorable.
Does Basil Do Better in a Pot or in the Ground?
This hardy herb grows well in both pots and in the ground.
Planting the basil plant in the ground means it will survive until winter, but eventually the plant will die as soon as the temperature dips below 50℉ (10℃).
You may find growing it in a pot the better option as you can easily relocate it when temperatures drop.
Keep in mind that the pot needs to be at least 8 inches deep and should be placed in a warm, sunny place.
Having trouble with yellowing basil leaves? Visit our basil troubleshooting guide to correct this issue.
Do Basil Plants Do Better Inside or Outside?
Basil thrives in places that receive 6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day, making it an appropriate plant for your garden.
It also grows well indoors as long as it is kept in direct sunlight for a few hours every day.
In colder areas, you will want to keep the plant inside to protect it from dipping temperatures.
Basil also does exceptionally well when grown hydroponically. Learn how to do it here.
Growing Conditions: Getting the Most From Your Basil Plant
Like most other plants, basil requires good soil, ample sunlight, and regular watering to thrive.
Here we have covered all the requirements basil plants need to stay healthy, happy, and full of flavor.
Basil needs a moist soil that drains well. A light compost mix is excellent for gardens because basil doesn’t do well in overly rich soil.
For pots, an organic blend (like this highly rated mix) is recommended.
The recommended pH level is around 6.5.
To ensure moist soil for your basil plants, you need to water them 2-3 times a week. Basil growing in pots requires more frequent watering.
To promote healthy root growth, water deeply at least once a week. Also, make sure you water in the morning and pour water directly at the base rather than spraying on the leaves.
Basil loves sunlight; plant it in a place where it receives 6 hours of sunlight each day. However, if you live in a hot climate, it will also grow well in partial shade.
Unlike most plants, basil isn’t too fond of fertilizers. Instead, simple compost soil and a small amount of cottonseed meal should suffice.
Discover the joys of making your own compost here.
For potted plants, a light nitrogen fertilizer once a month should be enough. Remember that for edible plants, an organic fertilizer, like this performance blend, is best.
Basil is a hardy, warm-season annual plant. Generally, it will grow best when temperatures are between 70 and 90℉ (21-32℃) during the day and above 50℉ (10℃) at night.
Basil grown in higher temperatures produces more essential oils, resulting in a stronger aroma.
There is no specific time to harvest basil leaves. However, you can start pruning as soon as your plant starts growing leaves.
Pinch off a few top leaves once your bush grows 2 to 3 sets of leaves. Start weekly harvesting after it grows 6-8 inches tall.
The more you harvest, the bushier your plant will become.
Is Basil a Perennial?
Sweet basil, the edible herb that most people grow at home, is not perennial. It has to be replanted every year.
There are other varieties of basil, such as purple basil and Thai basil, which are perennial in their native environment. They last for two or more seasons.
Does Basil Die After Flowering?
Yes, basil starts flowering when it reaches maturity. It is also called “bolting.” This is the way plants prepare themselves for reproduction.
Once the basil flowers, it produces seeds and dies shortly thereafter.
Basil plants are an excellent addition to your garden. They are easy to grow and require minimal care for maximum benefits.
You can plant them in a pot or the ground, and they will thrive as long as there is direct sunlight for a few hours every day.
However, if you want to keep your basil growing strong and healthy, make sure it has good-draining soil, receives regular watering, and is planted in a sunny spot.
We are confident you will enjoy garnishing your summer dishes with this tasty herb by following our comprehensive guide on keeping your basil plants healthy.