University of Maryland Extension


Basil (Ocimum ssp.)


basil seedlingsbasil in garden
Photo: Missy Corley
Basil Seedlings


Basil is an attractive annual, about 18 inches tall, that has deep green, fairly broad leaves. The flowers are small, white, and appear in spikes. There are several species of basil cultivated but sweet basil is the most popular type grown for culinary purposes.  


Basil grows easily from seed planted after all danger of frost has passed. Pinch stems to promote bushy, compact growth. Avoid lush growth as it may reduce flavor. If planted in rows, thin to 12" between plants and 18" between rows. 


Green leaves can be picked about 6 weeks following planting. It is best to cut leaves for drying just before flowers open.


Spicy-scented basil leaves are one of the most popular of all herbs used in cooking. Cooks favor basil for tomato dishes in either fresh or dried form. 

Types of Basil

Sweet basil – The most common and popular type of basil. Select cultivars that are resistant to downy mildew.

Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) – Used in Indian and Thai cuisine. Herbal medicines are made from the leaves, stems, and seeds.

Bush basil – Smaller, rounded leaves, and grows in a rounded form.

Purple basils – Bronzy-purplish foliage. Mostly used for decorative purposes and garnishes.



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