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basil seeds planting in pot

How to Grow Basil Indoors from Seed: A Complete Guide

Basil is one of the easiest plants to grow. It isn’t picky and will grow almost anywhere, in anything. Including in a pot in your home! Basil is the perfect indoor container plant. It looks beautiful while growing, spicing up whatever room may host it. It is an excellent addition to so many meals, so having it at your fingertips is an invaluable convenience.

It also can have awesome health benefits, reducing inflammation, fighting bacterial infections, and improving digestive health, to name a few. This complete guide will teach you how to grow basil from seeds, in a container, indoors, covering how to plant basil seeds, care for your basil plants, and harvest basil.

Table of Contents

What You Will Need

  • Basil seeds
  • Pot
  • Soil
  • Water
  • Organic Fertilizer
  • Common Gardening Tools

Can You Grow Basil Indoors?

Yes, you can absolutely grow basil indoors! The growing process, minus a few key differences, is very similar to growing basil in your garden.

healthy basil plants in pots ready to harvest

For starters, growing basil indoors means that you don’t have to base its growing schedule on outdoor temperatures. As long as you keep your home between 60-75 F, it is at an ideal temperature for basil.

Although the outdoor temperature might not affect your basil, the amount of sunlight your basil gets will. If you want to grow basil during the winter, you can probably still be successful in doing so if you live in a place with sunny winters. If you don’t, you need to consider alternatives.

One is growing your basil under florescent lights. Keep in mind though that your basil needs to be exposed to 10 hours of fluorescent lighting a day, to have an amount of light equivalent to 6 hours of sunlight.

Another alternative is using a grow light. The grow light should be positioned a few inches above your basil seedling. As the plant grows, raise the light. If the plant starts to look leggy than you should move the light closer. If the plant starts to develop white spots on its leaves, move it away.

Level of Difficulty: Is Basil Easy to Grow from Seed?

Basil is one of the easiest plants to grow, and that goes for growing it from seeds as well! Growing basil from seeds is so easy that you can actually sow basil seeds directly into your garden or container.

single basil seedling sprouting from soil

The only reason you would ever need to start basil from plants or seedlings is if you were trying to reduce the time between planting and harvesting.

Otherwise, even if you are a beginner gardener, growing basil from seeds is simple and rewarding.

When Should Basil Be Planted?

If you are growing basil outdoors, you should plant it no earlier than 2 weeks after the last frost. Basil is very sensitive to cold weather and will die if exposed to frost.

However, if you are growing your basil indoors in a pot, you can plant it literally whenever you want to. June? Sure. October? Why not? December? Go crazy!

Just keep in mind that it will take 6-8 weeks for your plant to be ready for harvest, so if you have big basil plans on a certain date, plan accordingly.

How to Grow Basil From Seed Indoors

Step One: Prepare For Planting

Pick out a spot for your basil that will receive at least 6 hours of sunshine a day. If no such spot exists in your home, set up your grow light or fluorescent light situation.

basil seed starts in container

Choose which type of basil you want to grow. Whether it’s sweet basil, Thai basil, Genovese basil, or another kind, whichever basil plant you choose will have its own unique look, taste, and purpose.

Also, pick out your container. Basil grows well in most containers, being an extremely low-maintenance and easygoing plant.

If the wide-range of container possibilities is paralyzing you, the “ideal basil pot” is about 15 inches in diameter and 12 inches deep.

Pro Tip: Feel free to get creative with your basil container. It can be grown in anything from a classic pot to a suitcase, laundry basket, kiddie pool- the possibilities are endless.

Step Two: Start Your Seeds

You may be wondering, “Should I soak basil seeds before planting?” You can, but your plant won’t suffer if you don’t. Soaking seeds leads to them germinating faster, so if you are eager to harvest, go for it, however, if you don’t, there won’t be a negative outcome for your plant.

So how do you soak basil seeds? The night before planting, fill up a bowl with warm water. The water should be firmly warm: cold water will do nothing for the seeds and hot water will traumatize them.

Pour the seeds in and let them soak. After a few hours, remove them from the bowl. The next morning they will be ready for planting.

Step Three: Plant Your Seeds

Fill up your container of choice with a rich, loose potting soil. The soil should have a pH between 6.0 and 7.0 and be fertilized with organic fertilizer before you add the seeds.

Fill the container up to 1 inch from its rim. Distribute the seeds evenly over the soil. Then, cover them with ¼ an inch of soil, keeping in mind that basil seeds need sunlight to properly germinate.

Once you have planted your basil seeds, water thoroughly. The seeds will take 5-10 days to germinate.

Step Four: Care for Your Basil

Water your basil plant every day in the morning, applying water to the plant’s base. The top inch of soil should be kept moist, but there should be no standing water.

healthy basil plants in a container

Once leaves start to appear, thin out plants so they are at least 6 inches apart from each other, using scissors to clip them at the soil line.

Rotate plants as they grow to keep them from heavily favoring one side

Pro Tip: Make sure to check your basil plant for mold. If they develop mold it means they are not getting enough sunshine or are too close to other plants.

Step Five: Pinch Your Plants

The flowers that grow on basil plants can be a pleasant, pretty surprise. But you do have to pinch them off. Why? Because they can change the hormones of basil plants causing the leaves to lose their flavor. After you remove the flowers, in as little as a day, the leaves will regain their full flavor.

Once your basil passes 4 inches in height, you also need to pinch off its top branches. This causes more side branches to grow, which will eventually lead to a taller plant, encouraging your basil to make stronger stems and leaves.

Pro Tip: Basil is a hardy grower, so be wary of the need to re-pot the plant if it gets out of control.

Step Six: Harvest Your Basil

Once your plant surpasses a height of 7 inches you can harvest its leaves. The more frequently you harvest the basil, the more leaves it will produce.

To harvest, gently remove leaves by pinching them off at the stem, right where the pairs of basil leaves sprout off. Where you harvested the basil, 2 more leaves will start growing, leading to twice the amount of leaves being ready for harvest next time.

Pro Tip: NEVER cut the central stem. It will not grow back.

Step Seven: Enjoy!

After raising it from a seed to a blossoming plant, you deserve to enjoy your basil. Basil is an awesome addition to tons of recipes, bringing flavor to Caprese salads, pizza, lasagna, pesto, cocktails, and so on.

For the most flavor, harvest your basil 5-10 minutes before using it in a dish. If you end up with more basil than you can handle, an easy way to store it is by using it to make pesto and then storing that pesto in jars.

harvested basil in large metal bowl

Conclusion

Growing basil indoors is an excellent project for beginners and advanced gardeners alike.

Basil is super easy to grow, and a beautiful decorative plant, a delicious addition to so many meals, and a nutritional powerhouse. You can also use these tips for growing basil outside or in your garden.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and learned everything you needed to know to successfully grow basil from seed. If you liked it, be sure to share, and comment with any thoughts or questions below!

This complete guide will teach you how to grow basil from seed, covering how to plant, grow, and harvest basil in indoor pots.

5 Tips for Growing Basil in Containers

The Spruce / Lacey Johnson

Basil is one of the most useful and beautiful herbs you can grow. There are so many different types of basil with more appearing every year. Try curly basil, Dark Opal basil, and the traditional Genovese. The tiny leaves of the bush basil are very tasty as well as lovely to look at.

There are as many uses for basil as there are types. You can put basil in bouquets, tisanes, soups, and almost any fish dish. It also dries and freezes well so you can have the herb to use all winter long. The reason to grow buckets of basil is classic pesto, which freezes well in small jars, or ice cube trays.

Basil is not the easiest of plants to grow. Here are some tips which will help you grow beautiful, bushy basil.

Find a Sunny Spot

finding a suitable spot for basil to growThe Spruce / Lacey Johnson

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The Spruce / Lacey Johnson

Basil needs a warm and sunny spot to thrive.   Six to eight hours of direct sunlight is perfect, though if you live in a really hot climate, you may want to give your basil some afternoon shade. For basil to take off, the soil and air need to be fairly warm, so don’t rush putting out your plants in the spring. Wait until about two weeks after your last frost before putting out your plants and don’t forget to harden them off.

Choosing a Container

various container options for basilThe Spruce / Lacey Johnson

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The Spruce / Lacey Johnson

You really can grow basil in almost anything.   All kinds of containers will work, including a kiddie pool or even a laundry basket. Basil likes room so air can circulate around the plants. It also doesn’t like to dry out completely, so you should use a large pot. You don’t want to crowd your plants, though if you are making your pot for looks as well as function, you can put them closer than the recommended 12 to 18 inches apart. Try them more like 6 to 8 inches apart. Basil is prone to fungus, so keeping airflow between plants is important.

Make sure your pot has plenty of drainage and that you use high-quality potting soil. Basil doesn’t like to be too wet, so you want to keep your soil moist, not soggy. Try using fabric pots like the one in the picture above. For a more finished look, you can put the smart pot in a larger vessel.

Start from Seed

basil sprouts from seedThe Spruce / Lacey Johnson

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The Spruce / Lacey Johnson

Basil is incredibly easy to start from seed.   You can direct seed or start your seeds inside about a month before your last frost date. Note that you will want to set them outside about 2 weeks after your last frost date. Basil needs some light to germinate, so don’t plant the seeds too deeply—only 1/4″ deep. Temperatures around 70 F are perfect, but you have some flexibility with the temperature. Plants will germinate for 5 to 10 days.

Transplant carefully when the plants have 3 to 4 sets of leaves.

You can also root basil in water. Take the stem of a plant and put it in a clear vase or glass of water. When roots appear you can transplant out (after hardening off) into your pot.

Feeding and Watering

watering potted basilThe Spruce / Lacey Johnson

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The Spruce / Lacey Johnson

Basil is picky about water. It doesn’t like to be too dry or too wet, so make sure not to let your pot dry out because if you do, your basil may be toast. To know if you should add water to your pot, stick your finger down into the soil about up to the second knuckle. If the soil feels dryish, add water.

Mix in an organic fertilizer to the potting soil when you plant. Before you do this, make sure to read the label on your potting soil to make sure that it doesn’t have fertilizer already in it. Add a diluted liquid fertilizer every couple of weeks.

Harvesting and Storing

harvesting and freezing basil in ice cube traysThe Spruce / Lacey Johnson

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The Spruce / Lacey Johnson

It is important to pinch your basil back often for it to grow bushy instead of tall and lanky.   Start pinching from the time it is about 4 inches tall, taking off the top leaves.

To store basil, make a ton of pesto, which you can freeze in jars. You can also make a slurry by blending basil with a little olive oil, which you can then make into ice cubes.

Basil is one of the most useful and beautiful herbs you can grow. Learn how to successfully grow it in containers with these helpful tips and tricks.