How To Care For Basil Plants Indoors

Sold all over the world, it’s undeniable that basil plants (known botanically as Ocimum basilicum) are among the most popular herbs we grow. 

And you don’t even need a garden to grow this versatile herb, either. Basil can bring another element indoors, with its aromatic leaves bursting with flavor.

While basil is very easy to grow outdoors, it’s a little more difficult when it comes to growing it indoors.

As this plant is so readily available and usually affordable, it’s definitely worth a go.

Interested in growing basil indoors? Here’s what you need to know.

What You Need To Know About Growing Basil Indoors

When it comes to growing basil outdoors, it’s extremely easy as long as you give the plant plenty of warmth, and enough water, but this plant often falls prey to all sorts of pests, especially when grown in a greenhouse.

And it is relatively short-lived, too. 

Growing basil indoors is usually easier in the fact that you are unlikely to get pests on it, and warm conditions are easy to achieve, but this is the extent of the advantages of growing it indoors.

Growing basil indoors can extend its lifespan, if you can manage to get this plant to be happy indoors.

If you don’t have the outside space, growing it indoors is a good option.

Where Should You Grow Basil Indoors?

Sweet basil hails from the tropical parts of Central Africa, and also stretches to Southeast Asia, too. 

As such, it needs warm and comfortable temperatures in order to grow properly, so keep it out of drafts, and away from sources of heat. This should be easy to achieve indoors.

As you might imagine, this plant soaks up a lot of direct sunlight in its native conditions, so you’ll either need to put it on a Southern-facing windowsill, as close as you can get, or under a decent grow light.

You could also summer it outside during the summer, which will give it a boost thanks to the superior rainwater, air circulation, and increased light levels. 

For winter, it’s a good idea to put this plant under a grow light, as it’s unlikely that the plant will get enough sunlight indoors during winter.

Basil plants that don’t get enough sunlight will start to stretch towards the light in an attempt to improve the situation, and the growth that the plant does put out will be pretty flavorless and poor.

In very dry rooms, it’s worth increasing humidity by putting your basil plant on a tray of pebbles and water, making sure that the water can’t wick up into the soil.

Avoid any of your plants in an attempt to increase humidity, as this only invites fungal problems.

Ideal Soil For Basil

A generic houseplant compost mix will work for this plant, provided that you add a little perlite to help sharpen up the drainage.

Always use a plant pot with drainage holes for basil, and though you can buy cheap grow kits for basil with pots without drainage holes, your basil plant will not last long in one.

You could even use terracotta pots, which don’t retain a lot of water compared to plastic pots, and the contact between the clay and roots makes for a healthier plant.

It’s worth noting that when you buy basil from a supermarket, there are far too many plants packed into one flimsy container.

They’ve been grown as fast as possible, using lots of fertilizer, and both of these things wear out plants pretty quickly, so it’s a good idea to repot or divide your basil as soon as you get it.

When To Water Basil

Basil plants like lots of water, but only around the surface of the soil, avoiding splashing the leaves, as excess moisture on the leaves and stems creates fungal problems.

Try to keep your basil plant hydrated at all times, but not so much that the soil remains soaked all the time.

Try to avoid letting your basil plant get so dry that the leaves start to droop, as this can damage the plant, and it will only recover so many times.

Make a habit of feeling the soil every couple of days. When the first inch or so feels dry, give it a good watering.

If your basil plant is too dense, it might be worth watering it from the bottom, so you don’t get excess moisture on the leaves, but don’t leave the plant sitting in water for long, as this can cause rot. 

Tip the excess water out of the tray or saucer once the surface of the compost feels wet.

Should You Feed Basil?

It’s worth feeding basil, as it grows quickly. But it’s worth being careful about the fertilizer you use for herbs and other edible plants.

Houseplant fertilizer, in this case, is not a good idea. Instead, choose an organic fertilizer suitable for edible plants.

Herbs do best with a slow-release fertilizer, such as fish emulsion (which can be a little smelly), bone meal, or blood meal, though a liquid seaweed fertilizer also does the trick.

If you’re using a liquid fertilizer, use half the recommended amount, and this will help stop root burn.

How To Propagate Basil

Basil is very easy to propagate, and it also means you get lots of plants for free, also acting as backup plants just in case something happens to the main plant. 

There are a couple of ways of doing it, too.

Dividing Basil

The most cost-effective way, not to mention the easiest, is to buy a basil plant at your local grocer, and then divide it.

As basil plants are sold crammed in their pots, it’s very easy to take them out of their original pot, and divide them at the roots, potting them up separately.

Taking Stem Cuttings

If you prefer, you could take stem cuttings instead of dividing a whole plant. Just make sure that you take healthy growth, and put them straight into water or soil in a warm place to root.

Propagating Through Seed

Maybe you’re particular about the kind of basil you want to grow, and it’s not one readily available in your supermarket, or you just want to raise basil from scratch.

It’s easy enough, provided that you have a tray with holes, some compost, and something that can act as a clear lid.

Start this off in spring, keeping the soil moist but not wet, somewhere warm and bright.

A Note On Toxicity

Basil plants are considered safe for cats and dogs, but you may still want to keep these plants out of reach to stop your pets from munching on them!

Final Thoughts

Basil is a great plant to grow indoors, provided that you get the conditions right. It’s worth taking cuttings regularly and putting them back in the original pot to reinvigorate the growth, too.

Just make sure you keep basil somewhere warm and with direct sunlight, not allowing the soil to dry out more than halfway. 
If you prefer, you can grow basil plants outside or in a greenhouse. Some people prefer to grow theirs in the same pot as tomato plants, swearing that the flavor infuses with the fruit, but that’s something you’ll have to experiment with!

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