How to Grow Basil Indoors, Because the Fresh Herb Makes Every Meal Taste Better
Basil is one of our go-to’s in the kitchen: This pungent, sweet-smelling herb brings fresh flavor to pasta dishes, pizza pies and, well, just about everything. Seriously, it’s hard to think of a dish that doesn’t benefit from a sprinkling of the stuff. (Bonus: Basil is also a known stress-reliever, so every whiff can deliver a dose of calm when you need it.) Sadly, the generous bushels we buy at the store seem to wilt and go brown in the blink of an eye and, as a result, we end up wasting about as much basil as we actually use. Fortunately, there’s no need to resign yourself to the inferior dried variety of this delicious herb—just grow your own. Seriously.
We got the dirt on how to grow basil indoors, straight from the plant-care pros at The Sill, and it turns out that you don’t need to have a green thumb to do it. Here’s exactly what to do.
What You Need to Grow Basil
You don’t need to invest in any fancy supplies to grow an indoor basil plant. In fact, the shopping list is so short you won’t even need to write it down, because all you need is the plant itself, some well-draining potting soil and a planter or other container with drainage (i.e., a pot).
Stock Up on the Essentials:
How to Repot Basil
Store-bought basil plants can survive for a couple weeks in their original container, but your favorite herb will stay fresh for months if you move it to a roomier home that better accommodates its growing roots. For best results, the gardening experts recommend you pick a pot with drainage holes that is at least 8 inches deep and 1 to 2 inches larger in diameter than its current container. When transferring your plant to a new container, any indoor potting mix will do the trick—but when the job is done, be sure to “give the plant a thorough watering—allowing excess water to escape from the drainage holes—and then set it in a spot where it receives bright direct to indirect light.” (Note: Read on for more information on ideal location and conditions for your potted pal.)
Growing Basil from Seed
Of course, repotting a plant isn’t necessary if you intend to grow basil from seed. Instead follow these expert tips so your seeds can germinate and successfully sprout:
- Plant more seeds than you need in case some don’t do so well.
- Don’t plant the seeds too deep: The seed packet should have guidelines for the ideal depth but the “general rule of thumb is to plant seeds two to three times their size beneath the surface of the potting mix.”
- While a mature basil plant only needs to be watered once a week, the seeds should be watered more often (two to three times per week) to aid germination.
- Once your seeds start to grow into a mature plant, prune “early and often” (as described below) to encourage growth.
How to Grow Basil Indoors
Growing a basil plant indoors is a reliable way to keep your kitchen stocked with garden fresh flavor, and the foolproof process requires minimal effort. Once you have repotted, keep these pro tips in mind, and your new plant is sure to thrive.
1. Find a Sunny Spot
The kitchen seems like an obvious spot to store your tasty herbs—that’s where you will be using them, after all—and the windowsill there might be a great choice. If you don’t have a window in your kitchen or it doesn’t get a lot of light, the basil pros suggest that you set convenience aside. “Basil does best in bright, indirect light, with a few hours of direct sun,” they explain. Any sill will do, provided there’s plenty of light, but “windows with south or southwest exposure are ideal.” Finally, keep in mind that the whole plant needs to catch some rays—rotate the pot on the regular and your basil will be living its best life.
2. Aim for a Consistent Climate
Good lighting isn’t the only criteria for keeping your indoor herb garden alive: Basil prefers mild weather—ideally 70 degrees—so aim for climate control (much easier on this scale) when picking a spot for your plant. Bottomline: Keep your basil away from air-conditioning, heating units, drafty windows and any other place that’s prone to significant temperature fluctuations.
3. Water Your Basil Plant Weekly
You don’t need to be a plant-whisperer to know that an herb garden needs water to thrive, but it may come as a relief to hear that basil is pretty low-maintenance. Give your plant a drink of tepid (room temperature) water weekly and you’ll be golden. If your indoor garden isn’t too bulky to move, gently water your herbs in the kitchen sink so they can drip dry.
4. Prune Your Plant
Brown leaves are bad news—if you notice any, pluck ‘em off so they don’t spoil the rest of your basil plant. But you can and should trim your basil plant before you see signs of sickness: Our gardening gurus recommend that you “regularly harvest or pinch off the outer, mature leaves to help the plant grow more compact and regularly.” That’s not a tall order, though, since you’ll already be doing that every time you make a delicious, herb-studded meal. Note: If you pull off a bit more than your recipe requires, store the excess leaves properly and they will live to see another day.
Now that you know what to do, scoop up a basil plant and get your growing on—your plant and your palate will thank you.