Have you ever purchased a potted basil plant from a grocery store? These are inspiring to keep in the kitchen for culinary flavor, but they never seem to last very long at all.
Basil is not a tough plant to grow, but it does better in some specific and special growing conditions.
A tiny pot will not sustain a basil plant for any length of time, regardless of how much care and attention you give it.
How do you keep basil alive?
The best way to keep a basil plant alive is to provide it with good soil, the right light, adequate water, and plenty of room to grow. Basil does not like to be crowded, so repot or transplant any small grocery store Basil plants if you want them to survive and thrive.
1. Give Basil Space
You should know that typically potted basil contains more than one seedling, so they can crowd each other out in no time.
Transplant and thin them out, allowing at least 12 inches between each one. You could also eliminate the weaker plants in this instance.
Ideally, basil does best in a 4-inch pot but make sure there are no more than three plants contained in the pot.
Remember that even those small potted basil plants from the grocery store contain upwards of ten to 20 plants inside!
Allow ample space and even a tiny pot of basil from the grocery store will do just fine and thrive.
2. Divide and repot
The trick to dividing plants is to treat them gingerly to prevent harming the basil’s roots. First, loosen the soil around the roots and avoid handling the plant’s foliage and stems as much as possible.
Get rid of any brown roots from the plant before transplanting, as these are a sign of overwatering and not fit to repot. Healthy basil roots are white.
If you notice that your roots are brown, you may need to reassess the soil as it may not be draining properly for the basil to thrive.
Repot the divided plants in 4-inch pots, ideally, and fresh, enriched potting mix.
3. Give Basil Light
If you decide to transplant your basil plant outdoors, make sure that you choose the right spot. Do not plant it in the shadow of a large structure, like a tree or your garage.
Plant the basil in a spot that gets full sun daily for 6 hours at the very least.
If transplanting to live indoors, consider a sunny window or artificial light sources for all of your sun-loving herb plants.
4. Do Not Crowd Basil
It is integral to give basil plants plenty of space to grow properly. As mentioned, ideally this equates to around a foot between each plant that you transplant outside.
When using a pot, do not go with anything smaller than four inches.
When planted too closely together, basil will vie for the nutrients in the soil, which can compromise the growth and hardiness of all.
5. Pinch and Pick Often
There is some debate regarding how often and how much to pick and pinch from basil plants. Experts indicate that regularly plucking the leaves from a basil plant encourages more to grow.
Make the plant bushier and fuller by trimming back the main stem or trunk of the plant.
If you see flowers budding or blossoming on your basil plant, pinch these off, too. Flowers mean the plant is going to seed and the basil will taste bitter.
6. Keep Basil Damp
Basil does best in damp soil that drains well. Depending on the weather, you probably will need to water your basil plants every couple of days.
Check the soil with your finger to make sure it is not too wet or soggy, as this can lead to root rot.
If the soil’s damp to the touch, wait to water until it has dried out a bit.
7. Supplement the Soil
Supplement the soil of your basil with blood meal or cottonseed soil to increase nitrogen and loosen up the soil.
Basil likes soil that has a pH of between 6.0 and 7.0.
8. Make Sure It is Warm
Basil plants like to be warm, and they need to be protected from cooler temperatures. During winter months– even in mild climates- bring basil inside the home or a greenhouse.
Basil does best in temperatures around 80 degrees Fahrenheit, but not so well in temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
They have no tolerance for temperatures that dip below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Low temperatures may not kill your plant, but they can quickly turn the leaves brown.
For the same reason, make sure to store your fresh cut basil on the counter or pantry, but never in a refrigerator.
Frequently Asked Questions About How to Keep Basil Alive
Can you make grocery store basil plants thrive and last?
The potted basil plants that you see in the produce department of your supermarket are intended for short-term use and do not have longevity unless you repot them. These small potted varieties are intended to be used in cooking, right away.
Should you let your basil plant flower?
If you allow your basil plant to grow flowers, the herb will have a bitter taste when harvested. Pinch back your basil plant to prevent these white flowers from growing- and if you notice small white flowers budding, pinch them off quickly.
When should you pinch a basil plant?
Use your fingers to pinch back leaves on your basil plant starting when the plant reaches about six inches in height. Never use scissors or a knife. The more leaves that you pinch from your basil plants, the more leaves that will grow.
The next time you bring home a basil plant from a grocery store or market, you know to transplant it right away if you want it to stay alive and thrive.
Provide your basil with plenty of sunlight, water, and enriched soil- and allow ample space for airflow.
Use these tips to keep your basil healthy and hardy- and to enjoy fresh basil anytime!
Marcel runs the place around here. He has a deep passion for houseplants & gardening and is constantly on the lookout for yet another special plant to add to his arsenal of houseplants, succulents & cacti.
Marcel is also the founder of Iseli International Commerce, a sole proprietorship company that publishes a variety of websites and online magazines.