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Grow a Basil Plant Indoors

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 5 10

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is a fragrant herb and one of the easiest to grow indoors. Grow a basil plant indoors and it takes only a while before you are able to enjoy the fruits (or in this case, leaves) of your labor. For me, it took only two to three weeks to harvest my first few basil leaves.

Even if you live in an apartment or do not have a garden, it is possible to grow basil on your windowsill. I started dabbling in container gardening late last year and the very first plant I started with was basil. From a single container of basil, my collection has grown into more than a dozen pots, cups, and jars of basil plants sitting on my balcony, windowsills and rooftop. My balcony is sheltered and only receives partial sunlight in the morning but the basils are growing well and they provide me with enough leaves to cook a breakfast of scrambled eggs with basil every morning.

Grow Basil Indoors in a Pot

What you need to grow a basil plant indoors

  • Containers, preferably with holes at the bottom
  • Potting mix (no garden soil, please)
  • Windowsill or anywhere that gets a fair amount of sunlight
  • Basil seeds or cuttings

Get this easy starter kit that comes with everything

Simple Garden Junior SGJR-3PC-MUST Oregano, Basil and Cilantro Herb Garden Kit, Mustard
Amazon Price: $18.99 Buy Now
(price as of Aug 10, 2013)
Besides basil, this starter kit contains cilantro and oregano seeds. There's a soil block you can use and tiny containers that will fit on a windowsill. Also comes with instructions.

Knowing when to water your basil plant

Anyone, even children, can grow a basil plant indoors. It is extremely easy to do this and requires no skill. All you have to do is to remember to water your plants. One of the numerous reasons that you can easily grow basil plant indoors is because the plants tell you when they need to be watered! If your basils are lacking water, the leaves droop down and they feel softer to the touch. This does not mean that your basil plant is dying. Once you water them, the droopy leaves spring right back to their vibrant, lively state.

Beginners who grow the basil plant indoors tend to overwater their plants. Because it’s not as hot or sunny indoors, your container basil plant does not need as much water nor does it need to be watered every day. When I started my first pot of basil, I overwatered it and its leaves ended up growing small and leathery. Even after I stopped overwatering that particular pot of basil, it never recovered and the leaves remain stick-thin and unsightly. Since it’s easier for basil to recover from under-watering than overwatering, it is better to play safe and wait for your basil’s leaves to droop before giving it any water.

A final point on watering your basil plant is to make sure you water it near the soil and avoiding splashing water or soil on the leaves. Basil can get black or brown spots on their leaves if you water from a height and splash soil onto the leaves.

Watering too troublesome? Try this

Prepara Power Plant Mini
Amazon Price: $39.99 $31.40 Buy Now
(price as of Aug 10, 2013)
The prepara power plant mini allows you to grow any plant including basil indoors without having to remember to water your plant, use soil, or worry about bugs. Just put in seeds, water, and nutrients and wait for your indoor basil plant to grow.

Fewer pests and diseases when you grow a basil plant indoors

When you grow a basil plant indoors, there are fewer problems with pests such as slugs and aphids. Just check your plants when you water them and pick off any bug you see, although there shouldn’t be many if you grow the basil plant indoors.

Once, I mistakenly thought my basil was infested with bugs because there were multiple white spots on its branches. However, they were neither bugs nor bug eggs. The white spots turned out to be aerial roots and right now, a few of my basil plants are lined with such roots on their branches. This is a photo of the plant. Notice the cluster of white or yellow spots on the stem.

Basil Plant Indoors - Aerial Roots

The problems of indoor basil plants tend to originate from overwatering (e.g. root rot). Various fungi may also harm your basil plant and these conditions are made worse by overwatering.If you simply follow the tip above to wait for the leaves to droop before watering your basil, you should have few of these problems.

Growing basil plant indoors from cuttings

Basil is easy enough to grow from seed but if you want to speed up the process, you could take a cutting off an adult plant and root it. A cut piece of basil grows roots very easily even if you haven’t done this before, you can easily start a basil plant indoors with a cutting.

How to grow basil plant indoors from a cutting

  1. Snip off a healthy-looking branch of an existing basil plant. The cutting should be about 3 to 4 inches long.
  2. Remove the bottom leaves on the branch, leaving only four leaves on top.
  3. Place the cutting in a jar of water and put the jar in a sunny place. You only need enough water to cover part of the stem. Don’t get your leaves wet.
  4. Wait for your cutting to grow roots. It normally takes just two or three days but I like to wait longer until the roots get to about 1 inch.
  5. Plant your newly rooted basil cutting in a pot and water well.

Although I’ve never had a basil cutting not root, if you are worried that it will fail, just take a few more cuttings and root them all at the same time. You can use the same jar. In case one doesn’t root, you still have a couple of backups.

Some people have mentioned that you need to change the water in your jar daily but I never had to do that. However, if your water is evaporating fast enough, you should top it up so that your cuttings are always in water.

Why you should grow basil indoors from cutting

  • Using a cutting from an established plant allows you to know what exactly you will be getting. For example, if the parent plant is healthy and pest-resistant, that is what you will get from the cutting because it is an exact clone.
  • There’s no need to wait for seedlings to germinate or worry about unviable seeds.
  • Dying basil plants can be saved by snipping off a healthy branch to root and regrow
  • Basil cuttings make great gifts. Just snip off a branch, plop it in water, and after a few days, you’ll have a rooted basil cutting ready to put in a pretty pot as a home-made gift.
AeroGarden Classic 7-Pod with Gourmet Herb Seed Kit, Black
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(price as of Aug 10, 2013)


Mar 20, 2013 4:27am
Basil plant is useful for reducing pain, swelling (inflammation) and controls pest inside house. also helps to reduce diseases. Thanks for sharing such a informative article.
Mar 20, 2013 6:42am
Thanks for reading and commenting. I'm glad you found the article informative.

I agree it's very a useful plant and I've read somewhere that basil repels mosquitoes too. In any case, even without its other benefits, basil makes many soups and dishes taste better so it's always handy to have fresh ones around for cooking.
Apr 14, 2013 1:34am
Congratulations on this feature article. It is well-written with really good advice. I love basil and most enjoy using it as a garnish on pizza. Thumbs up!
Apr 14, 2013 4:39pm
Thank you for the kind words :)
Apr 15, 2013 3:42am
Great post, I put basil in many many recipes!
Apr 15, 2013 5:08pm
Thanks, basil is such a versatile herb. I've been using it recently in many recipes too, most soups seem to taste better when you throw some basil in it :)
Apr 15, 2013 9:19am
good article
Apr 15, 2013 5:09pm
Thank you!
Jun 10, 2013 11:54am
I definitely agree about the benefits of taking cuttings rather than starting from seed. I always have much more success this way.
Jun 10, 2013 5:22pm
Yep, with seeds, the older they are, the less they seem to work and there are so many other factors that could affect their germination rate. Cuttings on the other hand are much more reliable! :)
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