Basil - Ocimum basilicum

Sweet Basil © Karen Jackson 2013

Fig. 1 

Sweet basil 

Ocimum basilicum

© Karen Jackson 2013

Fig. 2 

Cinnamon basil 

O. basilicum ‘Cinnamon'

Spicy Globe Basil © Karen Jackson 2013

Fig. 3  

Spicy Globe basil 

O. basilicum

Christmas Basil ©

Fig. 4 

Christmas basil 

O. basilicum

Purple Basil © Karen Jackson 2013

Fig. 5 

Purple basil 

O. basilicum var. purpurescens

Common Names

Sweet Basil, Common Basil, Italian Basil, St. Josephwort, Albahaca

Lamiaceae (mints)

8" to 10' (20cm to 3m) depending on the cultivar

Opposite, light green

Small, white and arranged in a terminal spike


USDA Nutrient Content of fresh basil pdf

USDA Nutrient Content of dry basil pdf


A cool season crop in Florida; plant in the early spring or fall

Light Requirement

Full sun to part shade, with protection from the harsh afternoon sun

Cold Tolerance

Cold damage will occur at 50°F (10°C)

Reading Material

Basil from the Clemson University Cooperative Extension  pdf 5 pages


Annual or half hardy annual. A strongly aromatic herb with a great diversity of cultivars and flavors.


Tropical Asia. Ocimum, derives from the ancient Greek word, okimon, meaning smell, referring to the striking nature of basil’s fragrance, and basilicum, is Latin for basilikon, meaning kingly/royal in Greek


In warmer climates it is a perennial. Basil is suitable to grow in containers. It likes water and well drained soil.


Here are a few of the many cultivars:

Bush basil

Ocimum minimum. A bushy plant with smaller leaves than Sweet Basil.

Camphor basil

O. kilimandscharicum. Can grow into a 10' (300cm) tree, the leaf aroma is similar to camphor.

Clove/African tree

O. gratissimum (clove chemotype). This tropical basil can grow into a 5'-6' (150cm - 180cm) small tree. Leaves have a strong clove aroma as well as a basil flavor. This is not a cultivar, but one of several chemotypes of O. gratissimum having different signature fragrances.

Greek basil

O. minimum. Smaller leaves then Bush Basil with a more upright growth pattern and quite suitable for using whole sprigs for flavorings.

Holy basil, Tulsi

O. tenuiflorum. A sacred plant of the Hindu religion, native to India and previously called O. sanctum with a strong clove fragrance.

Purple-leaved basil

O. basilicum var. purpurescens. Named varieties include 'Purple Ruffles' and 'Dark Opal'. Traditionally sold as a flowering bedding plant having light purple flowers and dark purple foliage, it can also be used as the other edible basils.

Sweet basil

O. basilicum. This is common basil with wrinkled leaves, white flowers and growing to about 2' (60cm).




Spacing: 1 foot apart, depending on the cultivar


Basil likes water and well drained soil


Seed: Keep moist and in a dark or light area until germination, many cultivars taking 8 to 14 days; approximately 70 days to harvest

Sowing Depth: ¼ in. (6 mm)

Plant spacing: 1 in. (30 cm)

Transplant when seedlings are about 6 in. (15 cm)

The germination medium should be damp before it is placed in the container. Fill the container to within about 1/2 inch of the rim. Seed should be scattered uniformly across the surface at the rate of 10-20 seeds per square inch, or sown in rows. You may choose to give each seed more space, depending upon seed size and length of time small transplants will be left in the container. Seeds sown too thickly will result in excessive competition among plants and spindly growth. Cover with a thin layer of germination medium. Finely pulverized sphagnum moss has fungicidal properties and would be ideal for covering seed if it is available. Basil seeds will germinate in either dark or light conditions. The ideal temperature for germination will vary depending upon the plant cultivar. However, most seeds will germinate very well within a range of 70-80 degrees F. Basil requires a media temperature of 70 degrees F for germination. Once the seed germinates, the basil transplants require a daytime growing temperature of 75 degrees F, and a nighttime temperature of 65 degrees F. 1

Cuttings: Place in water, a 4 in. (10 cm) stem, without flowers, lower leaves removed; pot up when the roots have formed


Promote a bushy habit by pinching growth points; cut off flowers when they appear preventing seed formation and encouraging good leaf production


Pick younger leaves as they contain more oil in the morning when the essential oils are at their strongest and before the heat of the afternoon sun. Tender leaves may be used fresh or dried along with the flowers.


Basil is subject to a variety of pests which include Japanese beetles, grasshoppers, slugs, aphids, spider mites, whiteflies, cutworms and nematodes, and diseases such as Downy Mildew (Peronospora  Leaf Spot (Colleotrichum sp.), Bacterial Leaf Spot (Pseudomonas cichorii), Fusarium Wilt (Fusarium oxysporum).


Leaves: Thai, Vietnamese and Italian cuisines. Pesto, serve with tomatoes, use to flavor vinegars and teas.
Leaves: traditional medicine
Leaves: potpourri, perfumery, essential oils.

List Of Growers and Vendors


1 "What conditions are necessary for starting basil from seed?" eXtension Foundation. 5 Sept. 2008. Web. 21 Jan. 2014.


Fig. 1,2,3,5 Jackson, Karen. "Basil Series," 2013. JPG File.
Fig. 4 Basil Cultivars. N.d.  Trade Winds Fruit Exotic Seed Catalogue, California. Web. 4 Jan 2014.

Published Sept. 2013 KJ. Last update 13 July 2014 KJ
© 2013 -
about credits disclaimer sitemap updates