How To Grow Basil In Pots For Indoor Or Outdoor Harvests

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I love growing my basil in pots. I love growing basil everywhere! I have a bunch of plants growing in my raised garden beds and around my homestead. Their flowers are excellent for attracting native bees. Once they produce seeds, I broadcast them throughout the garden. Not all seeds sprout, but each seed that does is a delightful bonus.

Beautiful and fresh italian basil plants growing in a large pot.

Potted basil also has tons of little-known benefits. So today, we will explore everything there is to know about growing basil in pots. Here’s how to get fresh basil at your fingertips.

Let’s grow!

The Benefits Of Growing Basil In Pots Vs. Inground

Several basil plants in pots growing on a bright sunny windowsill.

Growing basil has many benefits. It’s a beautiful plant, for one. I almost love its flowers more than the leaves! Growing basil in pots also has unique advantages you can’t get with garden-grown basil. They are as follows.

Soil Control

My favorite part of growing potted basil is your complete control over the potting soil mix. Basil prefers nutrient-rich, well-draining soil. You can provide the perfect growing medium in a container without much expense or ongoing fuss.

Indoor Cultivation

Pots are a great way to grow herbs inside and grant a headstart for the growing season. You can also grow potted basil inside with grow lights year-round. Either way, basil is tremendously aesthetic and adds a pleasant fragrance to your home.

Plant Location

You get to choose the position of the pot. Should you grow it on your front porch or in your kitchen? Too cold at night? Move it indoors. Nice day? Move it to the patio.

Fits Anywhere

You can fit a pot with basil anywhere by choosing the right container size for your space. A small pot on the balcony. And a massive basil pot just outside the kitchen door. Or a few along your patio, driveway, flower garden, piazza, or front yard.

Related – 10 Delicious Tips For Growing Cherry Tomatoes In Pots!

Growing Perfect Potted Basil In 7 Easy Steps

Woman gardener showing off some beautiful basil growing in a pot.

Growing basil in pots can be tricky. But it’s tremendously straightforward if you follow our 7-step process. It almost always works!

1. Choose A Basil Pot

Basil plants grow surprisingly tall, and their roots grow wide. So, we need a basil pot with at least a 2-gallon capacity. A good size is 10 to 16 inches deep and 12 to 16 inches wide. Terracotta pots work well and are a great choice. No matter which pot you choose, ensure it has a drainage hole.

2. Fill The Pot With Soil

Fill the pot with a fresh, nutrient-rich potting mix. Loamy soils, nutrient-rich soils with a pH of around 6 and 7.5, are excellent for basil plants. You can also use slightly silty or sandy soil.

And you have a third option. You can make a homemade potted basil growing medium. Mix coconut coir (or peat moss), aged compost, and vermiculite in equal parts.

3. Sow The Seeds

Plastic seed container holding fresh basil seeds atop a wooden table.

Sow two to seven basil seeds in each pot. Carefully spread soil over the seeds and cover them with roughly one-quarter inch of soil. You don’t need to bury them that deep.

4. Watering The Seeds

Potted basil plants dry out fast. But it’s easy to displace the seeds when watering. So be careful! Keep the basil pot’s soil damp but not soaked. Regularly monitor the soil, and only add water when dry. Aim for one inch of water weekly.

5. Put The Seeds Somewhere Warm And Sunny

Place your basil pot in a warm, bright, and sunny location. Your basil plant requires at least six hours of sunlight daily to flourish and thrive. A bright, sunlit, south-facing window or a sunny porch balcony works perfectly. You can also place your basil pot around outdoor garden spots, walkways, flower gardens, patios, decks, or anywhere with warm temperatures and sunlight.

6. Thin The Basil Seedlings

A lovely row of baby basil plants growing in pots.

Wait for your basil seedlings to grow to approximately two inches tall. Then, remove the weaker basil plants so that only the healthiest seedling remains in each pot. Thinning the weak basil plants will give the remaining seedlings space to grow and thrive.

7. Harvest The Yummy Basil Leaves

Here’s the best part. It’s time to harvest basil leaves! Well, not yet. We must wait for the basil plant to reach around six or seven inches tall. Then, it’s ready to harvest. Gather your scissors!

Pinch the topmost basil leaves. Pinching the uppermost leaves prevents flowering, which we don’t want. But don’t remove more than one-third of the plant at a time. Harvesting in small batches every few weeks helps encourage your basil plant to grow ample leaves and become thicker, bushier, branchier, and fuller.

Follow the 7-step process above for a generous harvest. We also have more basil-growing tricks and insights to share.

They are as follows.

Related – How To Harvest Basil Without Killing The Plant!

Potted Basil Growing Requirements

I almost love basil’s flowers more than its leaves!

Potted basil is easily one of the best plants for beginners. Basil is also beautiful and handy in the kitchen! But basil also has a few quirks all herb gardeners need to know. Consider the following growing tips, regardless of which variety you choose.

Choosing The Right Pot

Basil plants can be temperamental, despite most gardeners telling you how easy it is to grow. However, with the correct setup, your plants will thrive.

It all starts with a good pot. Basil plants have impressive root balls that can happily accommodate a three-gallon pot. The pot for adult basil plants should be at least one foot deep and wide or slightly heftier if you want your basil to grow and stretch.

Multiple seedlings can germinate together in a bigger pot, but you’ll have to pay close attention to how fast they suck up moisture. Check with your finger before watering. If the top one to two inches of soil are dry, it’s time to water. If it’s moist – they’re fine.

And remember drainage holes! Proper drainage is vital for plant health when growing basil in pots. Drainage holes help any excess water escape and prevent the soil from waterlogging or drowning the sensitive basil roots.


Baby basil seedlings growing in biodegradable peat pots.

Your basil plant needs at least six hours of bright sunlight daily to thrive, so choose a sunny spot. A south-facing window is perfect for indoor basil, as it provides maximum bright light. If you don’t have a south-facing window, look for another bright and sunny spot with access to plenty of rays.

If natural light isn’t available, you can also grow basil using grow lights. Position the grow lights a few feet from the plant to ensure it receives plenty of light without getting burnt. (Follow the instructions for whichever grow light you use.)


Temperature and airflow are also vital factors to consider. Basil requires warm temperatures to grow, so try to achieve a temperature of at least 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 23 degrees Celsius) before planting. Good airflow can help prevent garden pest infestations, so choose a location with adequate ventilation.


Choose a high-quality potting mix that is well-draining and has a neutral pH of 6.0 to 7.5. Avoid using heavy garden soil, which can compact and suffocate the roots.

Related – How To Grow Plants In Glass Pots – In 8 Easy Steps!


Basil plants have a shallow root system and need sufficient space to spread their roots and absorb necessary nutrients from the soil. Plant one to two basil plants per container. Grant each plant ample room to grow and prevent overcrowding.

When planting basil in pots, a container with a diameter of at least 12 inches is ideal for one plant. For two plants, try something more spacious. A container with a diameter of 24 inches is perfect. The space between each plant should be at least 12 inches to ensure optimal lateral root growth and prevent nutrient competition.

Planting Depth

Carefully transplanting baby basil plants at the correct depth.

Sow basil seeds approximately 1/4 inch deep in moist soil. (One-quarter of an inch.) The planting depth is crucial, as the seeds will struggle to emerge from the soil if they are too deep or may get dried out or dislodged if too shallow.

Gently cover your basil seeds with soil and water them sparingly. Overwatering can lead to damping off, which might kill newly sprouted seedlings. After watering, you can cover the container or pot with plastic wrap or a dome. A plastic wrap or dome helps ensure your soil keeps warm and moist, which allows better germination.


Water your potted basil with around one inch of water weekly. Prevent the soil from drying completely to avoid sacrificing the quality of the harvest. Water the basil plants consistently and monitor the moisture levels carefully. 

Using a watering can or a bottle with a gentle spray nozzle makes it easy to control the water level needed.


Basil grown in pots requires occasional fertilizing to compensate for the limited access to nutrients in the soil. Add fertilizer or compost into the top layer of soil every four to six weeks, as basil plants are eager feeders.

Using a fertilizer designed for herbs can help provide the necessary nutrients for healthy basil plants. Before fertilizing, it is essential to ensure the soil is moist and not dry. 

A balanced, water-soluble fertilizer with a formula like 10-10-10 or 5-5-5 is perfect for potted basil. 10-10-10 and 5-5-5 means the fertilizer contains equal parts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

Organic options like fish emulsion, aged cow manure, or compost tea are also excellent for feeding potted basil. They provide nutrients gradually and improve the soil structure over time. Always follow the instructions of the fertilizer you use, but for potted basil, new fertilizer once every four to six weeks is what to expect.

Avoid fertilizers high in phosphorus. Phosphorous-dominant fertilizer can lead to excessive flowering and less leaf growth.

Related – 13 Tastiest And Best Tomatoes For Containers And Pots

Our Favorite Basil Cultivars

There are many dozens of delicious basil cultivars. But the following are arguably the three best for container growing.

Thai Basil

Healthy Thai basil plant growing in a medium-sized plastic pot.

Thai basil is a yummy herb prized for its full-bodied taste and aroma. It also looks lovely, with markedly pointed leaves and purplish-red stems. Its flavor profile includes potent notes of licorice, spicy anise, and cloves. It has a zesty, peppery aftertaste.

  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 9 to 11
  • Flavor: Strong, licorice-like flavor with hints of anise and cloves.
  • Culinary Use: Essential in Thai, Vietnamese, and Laotian cuisines. Perfect for yummy curries, stir-fries, sandwiches, soups, and salads.
  • Appearance: Narrow, pointed leaves, often deep green or purple with reddish-purple stems.
  • Days To Maturity: Harvestable in around 60 to 80 days.

Lemon Basil

Healthy green lemon basil plant growing in a huge terracotta pot.

Lemon basil is an enjoyable herb with a potent citrusy aroma and tangy flavor. It has bright green leaves, often with deep purple veins. The leaves produce a lovely lemon scent. Lemon basil also adds yummy lemon zest to sandwiches, salads, beef, dressings, rice, salmon, seafood dishes, and teas.

  • USDA Hardiness: 9 to 11
  • Flavor: Tangy, citrusy flavor with hints of lemon.
  • Culinary Use: Adds a lemony twist to salads, pork, dressings, seafood dishes, beef, and teas.
  • Appearance: Bright green leaves, sometimes tinged with purple veins.
  • Days To Maturity: Ready for harvest in approximately 60 to 70 days.

Greek Bush Basil

Brilliantly green Greek Bush basil plants growing in pots.

Greek Bush Basil is a stout and fragrant basil cultivar. It grows smallish round leaves that form a thick and bushy plant. It has a sweet and full herbaceous flavor similar to classic sweet basil. We love Greek Bush basil for pesto, pasta, salads, garnishes, grilled pork, and as a flavorful seasoning.

  • USDA Hardiness: 9 to 11
  • Flavor: Sweet, aromatic flavor similar to sweet basil.
  • Culinary Use: Ideal for pesto, salads, soups, garnishes, pizza, and as a flavorful seasoning.
  • Appearance: Small, round leaves forming a dense, bushy plant.
  • Days To Maturity: Typically ready for harvest in about 60 to 70 days.

Each of these basil cultivars offers unique flavors and aromas, making them fantastic choices for pot cultivation. Their adorable sizes and adaptability to container growth also make them a delightful project.

Related – How Often Should I Water Herbs Indoors, Outdoors, And In Pots?

Planting Basil From Cuttings Or Transplants

Fresh basil propagating with long healthy roots.

Planting basil from cuttings or transplants is an excellent way to cultivate this fragrant herb. The following tips make the process a piece of pumpkin cake.

Taking And Propagating Cuttings

Choose a healthy basil plant with stems that have at least four to six sets of leaves. Cut a four to six-inch stem from the top of the plant using a sharp and sterilized pair of garden or kitchen scissors.

Next, remove the lower two sets of leaves from the cut stem, leaving the upper leaf sets intact. Leaving the upper leaves will encourage the stem to produce new roots.

Place the stem in a jar of water. Ensure that only the stripped portion of the stem is submerged. Let it sit in a warm and bright spot, changing the water every few days until you see small roots forming after a week or two.

Once the roots are about an inch long, it’s time to transplant the cutting to your pot. Use a pot that has drainage holes and fill it with moist, nutrient-rich soil. Create a small hole in the center of the soil and gently place the cutting in it. Ensure that the roots are covered. Water the soil after planting, and keep it in a sunny spot with at least six hours of sunlight daily.

There are a few critical growing factors that can impact your basil cuttings. Remember that the two main variables are the humidity and temperature of the room. Cover the basil pot with a plastic bag or plastic dome while the plant begins to grow. Doing so can help maintain a warm temperature and high humidity.

Caring For Transplants

After planting, water the basil’s base twice weekly, and check the soil’s dampness by sticking your finger one inch deep into the potting mix. It’s essential to maintain moisture levels. But never overwater them, as their roots will root.

Pruning is also a little-known yet frequent problem area for new basil transplants. Pruning encourages better leaf growth and prevents legginess. Prune your basil every few weeks by pinching off the top leaf pairs. This process encourages bushier growth and promotes more abundant production of leaves.

How to grow basil in pots.


We can’t thank you enough for reading our guide about how to grow potted basil!

I love growing basil inside and outdoors. And sometimes, I let it flower so the native pollinators can go wild.

What about you?

  • Do you grow basil in your garden? If so – do you let it flower so it can attract bees?
  • What’s your favorite way to enjoy basil flavors?
  • Have you ever grown potted basil? Or will this be your first time?
  • Do you like sweet basil or savory basil more?
  • What’s your favorite basil recipe? Have you ever tried fresh basil pesto?

We love brainstorming with fellow herb and basil growers. So, we hope to hear from you!

Thanks again for reading.

Have a great day!

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