Basil is a delicious herb that’s used in many recipes and is especially popular during the summertime. Basil plants do need some attention though because they can grow to be quite large, which can make them tough to keep in small spaces. This article will give you pointers on how to prune basil so it stays at a healthy size and doesn’t get too leggy.
Why you need to know how to trim basil
There are plenty of great reasons for pruning back basil plants. Here are my top three:
This is the best reason to trim your basil! I can’t get enough of the basil harvest and clip branches for cooking almost daily in the summer. We make pesto, chop the leaves for sprinkling over pasta and pizza, toss them in green salads, and add citrusy basils like lemon basil to fruits salads.
To stimulate growth
I know, I know, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to remove part of a plant to make it grow, but trust me, this is the best way to force your basil to grow big and bushy. When you clip basil stems back to a fresh set of leaves, you force those leaves to grow, doubling the basil produced on that stem. And as those stems grow, you can pinch them back and double their production – it’s exponential!
To remove flowers
Eventually most basil plants produce flowers. The flowers are very attractive to bees but basil plants that are allowed to flower slow down their vegetative growth. That means fewer leaves. A sneaky way to get around early-bolting basil is to grow a variety that is slow to go to flower. Everleaf is one of my favorite basils and flowers up to eight weeks later than other varieties. Emerald Towers is also very slow to flower. Or, you can plant a variety like Pesto Perpetuo which is sterile and doesn’t produce flowers at all.
What is pruning?
Pruning is the process of removing dead, dying, or diseased leaves, stems, or branches from a plant. It is also done to shape a plant, encourage growth, or prevent overcrowding.
3 Easy Steps To Pruning Basil
- Your basil plant’s central stem will grow in pairs of leaves. Find the point where big leaves are growing; search for two tiny, fine leaves near (usually above) those large leaves.
- Cut and remove the main stem above the small leaves and leave 1/2 inch of the stem.
- Repeat the process. Wait two or three weeks to cut the plant again, to encourage growth.
Pruning basil is a great way to keep your plant healthy and encourage new growth. With a few simple tips, you can prune your basil plant like a pro. Remember to remove any dead or yellow leaves, cut back the stems by about one-third, and trim off any flower buds that appear. By following these steps, you’ll have a beautiful and bountiful basil plant that will provide you with fresh herbs all season long.