Basil, sweet

Common name: Basil, Sweet

Scientific name: Ocimum basilicum

Family: Lamiaceae

Uses: Aromatic, cosmetic, culinary, and medicinal.Dried basil is used for its fragrance in potpourris and sachets. It also is used in herbal bath mixtures and to add luster to the hair. Fresh or dried basil is used in cooking to flavor Italian, Mediterranean, and Thai dishes. Fresh leaves are used in tomato and pesto sauces. Basil is good with veal, lamb, fish, poultry, white beans, pasta, rice, tomatoes, cheese, and eggs. It also is used in vinegar and for tea. Basil is said to have some medicinal qualities.

History: Basil originated in India, where it was regarded as a sacred herb. The name comes from the Greek basileus meaning

Description: The plant has leafy stems and thin, branching roots. The two-lipped white flowers are 1/2 inch long and grow in racemes at the top of stems. The leaves are 2 to 3 inches long, opposite, and ovate with entire margins. They are yellow-green to dark green, depending on soil fertility. The tiny seeds are dark brown.

Plant type: Annual

Hardiness: Hardiness zones are not applicable to annuals.

Height: 12 to 24 inches

Width: 12 inches


Soil: rich, moist, well-drained soil with a pH of 6

Pests: Japanese beetles


Cultivation: Basil must have warm conditions. For best results, sow in late spring or early summer. It is susceptible to cold and frost, and to drastic temperature change. Pinch the centers as the plants grow to ensure bushiness. Basil can be grown in pots but does not survive indoors.

Companion planting: Basil attracts butterflies and insects to the garden. It stimulates the growth of companion plants, especially tomatoes and peppers. It is said to repel white flies. Basil and rue do not do well when grown near each other.
Propagation: Seeds, cuttings, or transplants.

Flowering period: July to August

Flower color:


Garden notes: We planted basil in large massings near smaller groupings of summer savory. The basil flower buds were pinched off during most of the summer to prolong the life of the plants by delaying flowering. This made the plants very bushy and full. We let the basil flower just before the summer savory so that both bloomed at the same time. This produced a nice effect. Our basil attracted Japanese beetles for about three weeks early in the summer. To keep the plants looking nice, we pinched off new growth as it was damaged by the insects.