While endless basil seems like a dream to many of us, a basil plant’s life cycle will only allow it to live for a few seasons. Whether grown indoors or outside, proper care and a firm understanding of a basil plant’s life cycle will help to keep you harvesting basil for as long as possible!
How long do basil plants last? Basil plants are considered a tender annual herb, so they will only last for about one year. If grown indoors, you can keep them growing for longer than outside, and in warm climates, they will grow longer through the fall if healthy and established.
The life cycle of a basil plant is simply broken into four stages of growth. To understand how long basil plants live indoors and outdoors and the plant’s different stages of growth, keep reading for information and tips on how to help your basil plant thrive!
In most cases, all plants will grow and die following a determined lifespan. Beginning as a small black seed, basil is mostly green, leafy growth that will flower in its later stages. Basil grown indoors or outdoors will follow the same life cycle, but its lifespan will differ based on where it is grown.
How Long Basil Plants Live Outdoors
In climates with mild winters that don’t experience freezing temperatures, basil will grow from spring into fall for a total of about 4 to 6 months. If growing in warmer climates, the plant will produce well into the fall months if healthy.
Basil Plant Lifespan Indoors
Basil can survive slightly longer if grown indoors, around 6 to 8 months. If growing in warmer climates, you may be able to grow it year-round if your sun exposure allows.
Stages of Basil Growth
Caring for basil plants from germination all the way to the end of the growing season is a fascinating journey filled with rewards. Below, you’ll find a complete explanation of each growing stage you can expect.
Basil will sprout from seed after 1 to 2 weeks and begin growing its first leaves and branching stems.
Adolescent Herb Stage
Usually, after 2 months, the plant will have grown enough leaves to begin harvesting. It is important not to harvest more than ⅓ of its leaves in this stage to prevent it from becoming stressed.
Mature Herb Stage
The basil plant will mature, and its stems will become woody after 3 or 4 months. Bountiful harvestable leaves are on the plant, and there is usually more basil than you can use at this point!
As the seasons change and the plant matures, it will reach the last stage before the end of the season. It will begin flowering to produce seed and then begin to die after it has successfully flowered.
When Does Basil Flower?
Basil will flower when the daylight hours become reduced in the fall or if it becomes stressed by temperature or nutritional deficiencies. It will flower naturally after a few months once it becomes mature enough to reproduce, but if it flowers during the first few months of growing, this is most likely a sign of stress.
Does Basil Die After Flowering?
Basil doesn’t die immediately after flowering, but it will begin putting less energy into growing leaves and instead will grow abundant flowers to reproduce. Once the basil plant has flowered enough to reproduce, it will begin to die.
Does Basil Grow Back After You Cut It?
Harvesting basil may seem like it will hurt the plant, but it will actually promote more growth if done correctly! Use the large new-growth leaves from the outer edges of the plant first to refocus the energy into the two side shoots directly below.
If you cut basil back far down its stem, it will most likely have a difficult time regrowing. In many cases, it will try to grow new branches, but the stress of the cut will cause it to flower and die shortly after.
Can Basil Survive Winter Indoors?
Basil is not hardy enough to be grown outdoors in freezing winter climates, but it can be grown indoors during these months. Bring your potted basil plant indoors before temperatures drop below 50℉, and ensure it receives maximum sunlight since the daylight hours are minimized during this time.
How To Keep Basil From Flowering
Basil will flower because of its natural growth cycle, but you can remove its flowers to trick it into thinking it never flowered! To keep your basil growing usable leaves rather than flowers, harvest your basil from the newest growth that has matured to harvesting size. This will force the plant to grow more leaves before anything else.
What To Do With Basil Flowers
Since basil flowers are edible and share the same strong aroma as basil leaves, they will add a refreshing boost to salads, hot steeped tea, and table potpourri, or they can be used as a garnish to any dish!
How To Harvest Basil Seeds
To harvest basil seeds, wait until the plant has finished its flowering cycle. Harvest the entire basil plant when you can tell its seeds have formed, and allow the branches to dry in a safe place. Once they have dried, gently shake the branches over a newspaper or a cookie sheet with edges to collect the seeds as they fall off.
Are Basil Flowers Edible?
Yes, basil flowers are edible. As small as they are, they can add a light basil taste to any dish! Use them in hot teas, salads, and potpourri; add them to your pesto; or try them as a garnish on any dish that goes well with basil for a pop of flavor.
Can You Use Basil Flowers in Pesto?
Basil flowers make a great addition to pesto! They have a strong fragrance and taste, and since they are tender, they blend easily and add nothing but flavor to your pesto.
Observing your basil plant’s growing habits is key to growing basil for as long as possible. The best tips are to remove flowers when possible, don’t harvest too much of your basil plant at once, and give it some care with fertilizer every few weeks to keep it thriving!