A short answer to the question, is basil a perennial plant? Will be no, it’s an annual plant. Every season you must replant this herb. However, you can grow basil plant as perennials in USDA zones 10 and above. (1) In simple words, you can grow basil plant all year around in tropical climates or in climates where you don’t have frost.
With the first frost your basil plant will start to die. Even if you manage to keep indoors, it’s unlikely to grow all year around.
Is basil plant annual or perennial? It depends on the climate and locality you’re living right now. If you’re from frost-free regions then you can expect basil to grow more than two years.
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Difference Between Annual and Perennial Plant
Perennials are referred to plants that grow throughout the year, normally lives for more than 2 years. Whereas, life span of annual plant (including germination, flowering and harvesting) lasts only for one year.
Annual herbs grow from seeds. The seed germination, appearance of blossoms and production of seeds takes place in a year and then they die. These seeds are used for next generation of annual herbs.
Perennials grow, bloom and its upper stem dies after the season. However, plant grows back from the same root in the next season. Unlike annual herb, you don’t have to replant every year. Life span of perennial plants depends on plant variety; however, the average maturity level is 3 to 5 years.
Apart from these two, there is third classification known as biennials. Life cycle of these plants completes in 2 years. Stems, leaves and roots starts developing in first year. In the next spring or summer plant starts flowering and die.
Which basil is Perennial? (Basil Varieties)
Prominent for its flavor, sweet basil is the most common type found in the market. If you prefer seedlings to grow basil, then may have to stick to 1-2 varieties. Growing basil plant from seeds is the best way to try different varieties in your backyard.
Lime basil, Thai basil, sweet basil, Boxwood basil, holy basil, purple basil, greek basil and perennial basil. (source)
You can grow Greek, pink and white basil perennials all year around. (2) However, purple basil doesn’t come under perennials and it doesn’t grow all year around.
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When Can I Plant Basil?
Basil is known as king of summer herbs, as it grows in warmer climates. If you’re living in tropical or warmer climates, then just go ahead and plant the basil seed in the garden. Select the location where the plant is fully exposed to sunlight.
Starting sowing seeds in your garden 6 weeks before the end of the last spring frost. Check your location frost dates here.
How to Grow Basil All Year Around?
Growing basil all year around depends on soil condition, climate condition and water condition. If you live in warmer or tropical region then you can go ahead and plant basil in your garden.
However, you need to follow few ways to keep basil plant alive. Growing basil indoors is the best way to protect the plant from dying from colder weather.
Plant the basil seedlings in a container and place it under sunlight in day time. In colder climates you can easily shift it indoors. Indoor or container gardening is the best option if you want to grow basil in winter season.
“As mentioned, basil is the king of summer herbs. So they need warmer climate to survive. They don’t survive frost, but can be grown in winter if you plan to shift them indoors.”
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How to Grow Basil Indoors in Winter?
Remember below mentioned few important steps and you can easily grow basil in colder climates too. A small mistake can cost you the life of your basil plant. Don’t forget that this herb needs warmer weather condition to survive.
As you’re growing indoors, soil is an essential part of your gardening. Slightly acidic soil that drains well fits perfect to plant basil indoors. Make sure that soil isn’t soggy, but should be able to retain moisture.
Potting mix with good amount of organic matter will go fine with the basil plant. You can try heat mat in colder seasons, which can help to keep the soil ideal for basil plant.
Choosing the Container
Small container can turn into a growth barrier of your basil plant. Even the high percentage of organic matter and regular watering will not help the herb.
Choose a large container, but it shouldn’t be too heavy that it becomes hectic to shift it. Material made of high durability and light weight will be perfect for your indoor plants. Normally, indoors pots are made of clay, plastic, fiber glass, cement or stone. Choose wisely depending on your preferences.
Best Spot for Basil Plant
Location of your plant is an important aspect to grow healthy plant. Any place where you’re sure that the plant is exposed to sunlight for longer time will work. Window facing south or south west will be ideal, because the basil gets about 5-6 hours of sunlight. Window facing north will not work, due to poor sun exposure.
If your place has less to zero sun exposure, don’t worry you can try grow lights. These artificial lights will help the plant in photosynthesis and enhance its growth. Unfortunately, you interior lights have little influence on indoor plants.
You can get fluorescent lights from local store or from Amazon. Before that am sure you want to know more about this artificial light, read on this article.
Temperature for Basil to Grow
Ideal temperature for basil plant is about 65 to 70 degree Fahrenheit. This is the average temperature needed for indoor plant to grow.
Growing Basil Indoors (Seed Germination, Seedlings and Harvesting)
If you skipped above points, please go through them they are really essential.
Now, that you’re ready with the right container, soil mixture and the best spot to place basil indoors. Let’s now sum-up in four fantastic steps.
#1 Fill the container will potting mix (higher amount of organic matter) and the right soil that is available for you.
Purchase the seeds from local store. You can also skip this sowing seed step and go ahead with purchasing basil seedlings. Sprinkle the seeds on the surface of the soil or sow them ½ inch deep into the soil.
Water gently using plant mister.
#2 Now, place the container facing window, where the plant gets maximum sunlight. Rotate the plant to avoid leaning in one direction. If you’re using grow lights, place them above the plant and set alarm so that the basil plant gets 14 hour light exposure.
#3 Regular watering is essential, however avoid soaking wet. If you find the seedlings crowded blocking the sunlight to reach the soil, then use scissor to snip the extra seedlings.
#4 So, how long does it take to grow basil from seed? It takes one month to enjoy the aroma of this herb. After two months of planting basil in container, you can start snipping basil leaves and impress your family with home grown basil leaves. More you cut the leaves, fast the plant produces new leaves to harvest.
Just like other indoor plants, if you see pale green leaves, then use organic liquid fertilizers like comfrey tea.
To improve basil plant yield, it is recommended to prune basil plant leaves after the plant reaches 6 inches in height.
Pests and Diseases
Like other herbs, basil plant too has problems. Fusarium Wilt diseases results in stunted growth, yellow leaves, dropping of leaves, brown spots on stems and twisted stems.
Bacterial leaf spot is another disease that shows signs of black spots on leaves and streaks on stems.
Yellowing of leaves, which is caused by downy mildew is the new diseases that can be seen in basil plants.
Rotting of roots, deficiency of nitrogen, slugs, aphids and thrips are other common basil plant problems that you may have to face while growing basil plant indoors. (3)
Basil is an annual plant, but you can grow it as a perennial plant based on your location. If you follow above mentioned steps, then you can grow basil plant indoors (winter season).