15 Unknown Basil Facts: For Better Growth and Use

Growing basil is not easy, especially if you do not live in a sunny area of the world. However, if you know some of the secrets of this fantastic aromatic herb, your life can get quite easy. Here 15 of the most asked questions (intermediate level growers) on growing basil.

Is Basil an Acid Loving Plant?

While basil can grow in a pH range of 5.5 — 8.5 (neutral is 7), it prefers more acidic soil, growing best with a soil pH between 6 and 6.5, as discussed by the university of Clemenson. Most vegetables prefer the same PH range, so it is not exactly correct to say that basil prefers acidity any more than the rest of your potted plants.

A common strategy for increasing the acidity (lowering the PH) of your soil is to add lime (that powder did from limestone) a couple of weeks prior to planting your basil. Another alternative is to use peat moss that, over time, will break down, getting the overall growing medium more acidic.

However, remember. If your soil is neutral is perfectly fine, and your basil has all needed to thrive.

Is Basil a Vegetable?

Basil is an herb, and herbs are a subset of vegetables, much like stone fruits are a subset of fruits. Nutritionally, basil does not provide the fiber or protein than other vegetables, such as asparagus and spinach, do.

However, basil is not commonly eaten like a vegetable, and I would not go so far to say that you can skip on your broccoli because there was basil in your pasta sauce. Remember, basil, different from some vegetables, cannot be fried as it will wilt and test horribly. It is a very delicate herb.

Is Basil a Bug Repellant?

It was found that basil does emit an aroma that deters mosquitoes. Definitely, it does not repel aphids as everyone that has grown basil (especially indoor) can know. The basil leaf is also toxic to mosquito larvae, and when placed next to water will discourage mosquitoes from laying eggs there.

Mosquitoes use their senses to follow prey, and strong aromas disable these. Certain volatile compounds are naturally produced by herbs, which cloud the senses of mosquitoes. The mosquitoes fly away from these aromas in order to regain their senses. The University of Valencia explains that basil produces four volatile compounds that act as repelling aromas for mosquitoes.

To deter mosquito larva from water, it is not even necessary to chop the leaf— the aroma from the oils on the leaves is enough to deter pests alone.

Is Basil a Perennial?

No. Basil is an annual plant, meaning it only lasts one season. Read closely here: annual does not mean one year, it means one season. In the case of basil, a growing season outdoors can last up to six months, and typically lasts up to four months in a pot.

If you want to have basil indoors year-round, you will have to start a new plant a few times a year. Moreover, remember the

Is Basil Deer Resistant

Deer don’t like basil smell as the aroma produced by the plant is too strong for them. They stay away from it. Deer will occasionally eat the flower or butt of a basil plant, even though they will not eat the leaves.

Here a tip: avoid planting on the yard with deer around. Use your deck with some containers. It is less likely for them to go there for your plants.

Is Basil Flower Edible?

Basil flowers are edible and milder in flavor. They are a popular garnish for salads— but make sure you try one before throwing it on. Indeed, it is not uncommon (depending probably on the stage of the flower) to be bitter and distasteful to some.

One of the most common uses of basil flowers is for olive oil? Curios? Check the video below.

Making basil infused olive oil - Diffusing basil flowers

Is Basil in Pizza Sauce?

Generally, basil is not used in pizza sauce despite the fact that, nowadays, there are countless variations with a few of them, including basil (or other herbs).

What you need to remember here is that pizza sauce is just the name given to the tomato-based sauce that is placed on top of the pizza before going into the oven. If you did a great job with the dough and condiment on top, pizza sauce could be as simple as a pressed fresh tomato. Do not believe it? Check Gennaro Contaldo (an expert Italian chef quite well known) helped by James Oliver spreading simply squashed tomato (nothing more) on top of its pizza.

Midnight Margherita Pizza in Naples | Jamie Oliver & Gennaro Contaldo | Jamie Cooks Italy

Of course, you can find countless recipes of “passata” (Italian name for tomato sauce). The most common do include onion, salt, pepper, and basil. This was the same sauce also used for pasta.

Is Basil Related to Anise?

Basil is not related to anise despite their similar taste. There are many strains of basil, and some do have strong licorice, or anise, flavor. The most commonly anise-like basils are Thai basils.

Most basil used or referred to in recipes is sweet basil, or Genovese basil, which has a sweet taste and spicy aroma. This can be interchangeable with common basil in cooking, but Thai basil is distinct in its licorice flavor.

Is Basil a Cool Weather Crop?

Basil is not a cool-weather crop as it is native from India. Nowadays, it is quite commonly grown also in the Mediterranean region. Basil thrives in warm and slightly humid weather. Basil can grow comfortably in temperatures between 90°F (32°C) and 50°F (10°C).

Some varieties can grow in climates as low as 43°F (6°C). Cool-weather will slow growth and limit leaf production, so if you are looking to use your basil often, keep it warm. It is important to mimic day and night temperature fluctuation when growing basil. The herb will be stunted if temperatures remain constant around the clock. At night, shift temperatures to between 64.5°F (18°C) and 71.5 °F (22°C) for ideal growth.

Is Basil a Creeper?

Basil is not a creeper plant. Indeed, it presents a strong stem that thickens over time (especially at the base) to sustain the weight of all the leaves and, differently from mint, it does not produce any horizontal runner.

Basil grows vertically, much like a miniature tree, rather than laterally, like a vine. Mint, as an example as it can easily use its runners to colonize areas outside the pot itself.

Is Basil a Companion Plant to Tomato?

Although many gardeners are ready to swear on the benefits of growing basil near tomatoes, the reality is that not enough research was found to prove it. More precisely, in other aspects such as space, watering was found to have even more influence than the companion plant used, as discussed in this university study.

Hence, generally, do not expect your tomato plant to have a better flavor or grow larger with basil nearby.

However, basil and tomato plants do not interfere with each other. This is because they have similar soil, watering, and light requirements making them perfect companions. Great news if you have a small garden.

In addition, basil is way more sensitive to intense direct light than tomato. This is where the taller tomato plants with its larger leaves can offer shade to the shorter basil plants allowing them to grow even in areas where otherwise might risk sunburn and struggle.

Is Basil Dangerous to Cats?

On the contrary, basil is one of the few herbs safe to grow with house cats. Cats are prone to chewing on herb leaves, and this habit will not be harmful to basil. If eaten in larger quantities, the only drawback is the insurgence of diarrhea.

Indeed, as discussed by Texas A&M University, basil extracted oil is toxic to cats. However, don’t be scared. The oil of an herb is a concentrated version of it obtained by steaming (in a complex way) hundreds of basil leaves to extract its juice. Hence, a few basil leaves will not harm your kitty.

Does Cutting Leaves Harm Basil?

Despite being a bad practice, harvesting basil leaves directly, if in moderate amounts (less than a third), will not harm the plants. The best way to harvest the leaves is to cut a basil stem (no more than half of it) just above a pair of leaves, taking away both leaves and a bit of stem.


Indeed, such cutting stimulates the production of a plant hormone that promotes growth. What you will see, after cutting above a node (the place where a pair of leaves is formed), is the formation of two new side shoots, hence doubling, over time, the number of leaves available. This is the real secret of making your basil bushy over time.

Is Basil Stem Edible?

The stem of a basil plant, if green and still flexible, is edible, especially if blended or boiled. However, it can be a bit of a mouthful.

Because the stems are so rich in fiber, they are very difficult to chew — the best strategy for using the stem is to mix it into a paste that can be used in a recipe, so that the stem is not being eaten entirely raw.

Also remember that older is the stem (those at the bottom of the plant) closer to wood it becomes, and so, I would totally avoid them. However, if you have in your pesto mi a few stems (an inch or less) that come out when you property harvest basil, then it is totally fine.

Is Basil a Heavy Feeder?

Basil can thrive successfully in the majority of the available potting mix due to the presence in them of fertilizer. If the growing medium is particularly poor (no additional fertilizer is present), organic fertilizer for your basil (with very low NPK) is more than enough.

Ideally, you want a 10-10-10 or less.

Want More?

What about 21 tips to grow massive basil indoors? Undecided about planter? Check the full basil planter guide (size, material and more explained). What about the best potting soil for your herbs?

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A young Italian guy with a passion for growing edible herbs. After moving to the UK 6 years ago in a tiny flat, it was impossible to grow herbs outside. So I start my journey in growing indoor and so I decided to share my knowledge.

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