How To Prune Basil: How & Why To Prune?

So, you purchased a new basil plant, and you want to know how to prune it to maximize its productivity. Y

You have come to the right place. In this article, we are going to cover all the basics. From the best time to prune your basil plant to how you go about pruning and more. 

Well, let us get right to it. 

How to Prune Basil

Why Does Basil Need To Be Pruned?

Pruning is one of those tasks that most gardeners dread, or at least avoid until the last minute. However, pruning can often make it easier for you to grow your basil plants.

It can help improve branch development and plant health. And if done properly, there’s no real harm involved in pruning a basil plant — except perhaps to your pride.

If you’ve been using the “leave them be approach,” though, you might want to think about switching things up, so you can get as much production out of your basil plants as possible. 

Basil has an amazing ability to self-seed. That means if you keep your basil cuttings alive through several seasons under artificial light, they’ll eventually produce seedlings of their own.

This process can take years — sometimes even decades! But if you wait too long before cutting back your basil plants, they could become big and unruly and hard to manage.

The good news is that this doesn’t have to happen to you if you do all the pruning correctly.

In fact, once you know how to prune basil, you’ll find yourself doing it regularly — which will give you a leg up on the competition.

When Should You Prune Basil?

You don’t have to wait until the end of the season before starting to prune basil.

There are actually two main times when you should consider pruning: during spring growth (March-May) and during fall harvest (October).

The primary reason for pruning is to encourage improved air circulation around the plant, which will increase its overall size and quality.

For example, if you leave some basil branches on your plants, they can act as sun shields. 

When all the leaves on top of the plant have dried off, you may need to start removing these extra leaves to give sunlight into the base of the plant where the new growth sprouts are.

In addition, pruning helps stimulate increased root development and encourages more flowering buds to form.

Step-By-Step Guide On How To Properly Prune Basil Plants

Pruning a basil plant may seem a bit mad, you are cutting off healthy parts of the plant instead of letting it grow wild.

Step-By-Step Guide On How To Properly Prune Basil Plants

But the truth of it is that by pruning a basil plant you are promoting growth and your basil plant will actually produce more leaves in a shorter amount of time. 

With that in mind, let us take a look at how you should prune your basil plant. 

Step 1 – The first step is to get a pair of sharp scissors or garden shears. make sure that they are sharp and not overly cumbersome because these plants are not very big, so miss-cuts can quite easily happen. 

Step 2 – Your first job is to look for two big basil leaves that are attached to a stem. These leaves should be on opposite sides of the stem and should be growing out of the base. 

Step 3 – Once you find one of these leaves you can cut the middle stem just above these leaves. Make sure to leave about half an inch of stem above the leaves if you can.

If you have cut the right spot you should get a bunch of small leaves growing out of the cut eventually. This should result in two new stems instead of just one. 

Step 4 – Now that you know what to look for you can cut a few more middle stems until your plant is at the desired size. If you continually do this throughout the growing season you will end up with a healthy and very productive plant.

Just remember not to cut the leaves that are growing at the bottom of the basil plant as they act as a healthy base for your basil plant. 

How Do You Store Or Preserve Basil Cuttings?

Now that you are regularly trimming your basil plant, you probably have quite a few bunches of these leaves around. So, how can you preserve or store them for later use? 

Curious? Well, let’s dive right in shall we?

RELATED: How To Propagate Basil: What You Should Know

Storing Fresh Basil – Plastic Bag

A very popular method for storing fresh basil leaves is to store them in a plastic bag and put them in the fridge. 

You can do this by removing all the leaves from the stems. Next, you will need to wash and dry the leaves carefully. We recommend using a salad spinner or a paper towel to dry the leaves off. 

Now all you need to do is wrap the basil in a dry paper towel, place the leaves and the paper towel in a plastic bag and seal it. Now your basil should be usable for a week or two. 

Storing Fresh Basil – Bouquet

Much like a bunch of flowers, basil will last longer if you put the fresh leaves in water. All you need to do is trim the stems a little before you put them in a jar with just an inch or two of water in it. 

Once the basil is in the jar you will need to cover the top with plastic, cling film or a thin plastic bag will do. 

Now all you need to do is leave your basil in an area that will be at room temperature and replace the water every couple of days.

You can use the basil at your leisure, just make sure not to put the bottle in the fridge as these plants do not do well in the cold. 

Preserving Basil – Drying

If you would like to preserve your basil instead of storing it freshly you can try drying the leaves. It is actually quite simple to do. 

Start by removing the leaves from the stems. Then wash the leaves with cold water before you carefully dry them. 

Next, put your oven on a very low setting, we recommend 200 degrees Fahrenheit and place your basil on a baking sheet that has been lined with oven-safe parchment.

Place the basil on the top rack and allow it to bake for two to four hours. You will know they are done when they look dry and crumbly.

Before you store the basil, make sure that it has cooled completely. 

Frequently Asked Questions

It is time for us to answer a few of your most burning questions. Below you will find a few of your most frequently asked questions concerning basil plants. Enjoy. 

How do I Make A Basil Plant Bushier?

If you want to make a bushier-looking basil plant you can try using a variety of different methods. Some people like to wrap their basil plants in a blanket while others use newspaper.

A third way to promote bushiness is to stuff the soil around each basil plant. When stuffing the soil you are basically creating space for the roots to take over and develop.

By doing this you will end up with fuller-looking basil plants that are definitely bushy. 

How Do You Maintain A Basil Plant?

Maintaining a basil plant can be as simple as keeping it watered and making sure it gets enough sunlight. To water properly you simply put a saucer under your basil plants that has been filled with water.

Water should flow through the plants slowly and then drain back into the saucer, preventing any excess moisture from dripping onto the floor.

With that said, when it comes to maintaining a basil plant there are many things you can do. One key thing to consider is fertilizing your basil plants.

What type of fertilizer you choose depends entirely on what kind of life cycle you’ve chosen for your basil plant. There are many types of organic fertilizers available which you can buy at most local retailers or online.

How Do You Pinch Basil Leaves To Promote Growth?

Pinching basil leaves to help them grow bigger is something that all home growers are familiar with. It’s a great idea before planting seeds and starting to see how much growth you might be able to get out of your basil seedlings.

For those who prefer to start from scratch, pinches should be done at regular intervals once the basil plant begins producing flowers. Remember to pinch off only a bit of basil leaf so that you don’t lose too much of your crop.

Most often we pinch our basil plants when they start to bloom. This is because pinching encourages basil plants to produce faster and stronger.

Should Basil Be Picked From The Top Or The Bottom?

When picking basil it’s important to know from where within the leaf you’re selecting. The top of the basil leaf is typically considered to be the best part to eat.

However, the lower areas tend to be larger and firmer than the top. Although both parts have their merits, it’s always recommended to consume the top parts first since they can sometimes have fewer seeds than the lower leaves.

Where Can You Grow Basil Plants?

Basil isn’t just used as a herb; it also works well for food production. Many gardeners keep basil plants outside during the summer months to give them access to full sun.

After the heat of the day, it is common for basil plants to go dormant. As long as it doesn’t rain too hard on your basil plants they won’t need anything more than a few hours of direct light a day.

Once the weather turns colder and snow starts falling you’ll want to move your plant indoors where it can receive more light.

If you live in cooler climates, you may find yourself needing to give your basil plants more time outdoors in order to survive winter. 

In general, temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit are ideal for growing healthy basil plants.

If you notice any signs of damage to your basil plants such as wilting, dark spots, or browned leaves you can try moving your pest control measures indoors.

Final Thoughts

We hope that you enjoyed learning about how to prune a basil plant. It really is a very simple process. So much so that even a novice gardener can easily do it. 

We wish you luck in your gardening endeavors. Goodbye for now!

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