How To Prune Basil the Right Way? Keep it Growing

Pruning basil to make is not only useful to get some fresh leaves for your plates but it also improves the plant’s overall health.

In general, basil should be pruned with a clear cut just above a node, ideally leaving one-third of the stem. Pruning keeps basil healthy but stimulates its growth. If the cut is performed correctly, that node will produce two side shoots increasing the plant foliage over time.

Hence, what do you need to do and why? Check for more

Should You Prun Basil?

Basil plants, as well many other herbs, thrive with cutting. This might sound counter-intuitive. Indeed, why cutting a plant (but in the right way) can make the planter healthier?

A pruned basil will grow more strongly and healthier as a survival strategy. Indeed, in its natural environment basil stems can get cut by strong winds, animals, etc… Hence, in this case, the plant “reacts” by branching out generating new stems and leaves. These are the solar energy collector that allows the plant to recover the loss?

Do you want to know even more?

Basil plants have a plant hormone called auxin. This is normally exchanged with all the potential side stems. Such hormone makes such side stem dormant. However, when the main stem is cut (in the appropriate spot) such hormones do not reach the upper side shoots anymore. This will allow such “dormant” side stems to grow becoming new brunches.

A relatively simple and ingenious way basil plants (as well others) can multiply themselves!

Every time one stem of the basil plant is pruned, in a week or so, will produce 2 side stems. This will double your yield in that branch every time you prune it! Hence, if you keep pruning your basil plant frequently during its growth you are on the way to success in your basil growth adventure.

For more check the guide below

Growing Basil From Zero to Hero

How To Prune Basil To Keep it Growing?

Pruning basil the right way

The best spot to cut the stem of a basil plant to develop side brunches and become bushier is just above the plant node. This will prevent the hormone from reach the side shoots that can waken up.

Basil grows back after cutting doubling its branches, but only if above the stem.

If notice carefully, on each node, there is a pair of fully grown leaves and also a pair of very small leaves or super tiny branches. These are the branches that the auxin is preventing from growing.

Hence, the cut should be done (either with your fingernails or a pair of kitchen scissors) just at the top of the node. If you cut the stem far from the node (for instance in the middle of two pairs of leaves) what is going to happen is that the stem will simply stop growing.

Should You Pick The Basil Leaves Rather Than Pruning?

Taking out the basil leaves is not an alternative to pruning. Removing the leaves without cutting the stem will reduce the energy available to the basil (through photosynthesis) and slow down the growth of the plant.

There will be no new shoot on the stem from which the leaves have been taken out and the plant will slowly die.

That’s why I would never recommend just pinching out the laves. Spend a few seconds more and cut the whole stem at once!

Should You Pinch the Basil Flowers?

Basil flowers should be removed at the first occurrence in other to increase yield, and maintain intact the leaves’ flavor.

Basil is an annual plant that will go to seed after a season. When the first buds start appearing, the oil content will change and the basil leaves will become bitter.

This phenomenon can be delayed by removing the buds just when they start forming. You can identify them because they are tiny capsules at the top of the stem with small stars shaped green spikes. Ideally, you want such buds to not appear at all. That’s why it is important to prune the basil regularly through stem cutting.

Multiply Your Basil Plants Through Pruning: The Trick

Perhaps you do not know, or you did not think about it. However, pruning basil is a fantastic idea to multiply even more your basil plant. How? The stem that you take out from the plant can be used for cloning (and the good news is that you can take almost all the leaves out of it).

Once the basil has been pruned you end up with a stem full of leaves from the mother plant. What you should do is:

  1. Remove all the bottom leaves. Leave just two pairs of leaves at the top (these are the youngest and stronger ones);
  2. Place the stem in water to cover the nodes from which you extracted the leaves;

For more check the full propagation by cutting guide

Clone your basil for endless harvest

I hope you enjoyed this quick guide and do not hesitate to write to me in case something is unclear.


Pruning basil is what every gardener does to increase yield, make the plant bushier, and promote even plant health.

Cutting should be done just on top of a node in the stem. Avoid cutting between two stems and, even worse, avoid pinching the laves only.

Basil flowers should be cut at the first sign to increase the lifespan of the plant and avoid the leaves getting bitter. is part of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites like mine to earn advertising fees by promoting good quality products. I may receive a small commission when you buy through links on my website

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