How to trim basil plant without killing it: the best tips

As you know, one of the most popular spices is basil. It can be consumed both fresh and dried. Quite often, salad dressings are prepared on its basis, using olive oil. Read more about how to trim the basil plant without killing it in this article.

Basil features

Before proceeding to study the question, of how to trim the basil plant without killing it, you should familiarize yourself with the characteristics of the plant. The basil plant belongs to the mint family. It is in demand in cooking. There is information that the young basil plant is used in Greek churches to make holy water.

In total, there are about 60 different types of basil plants. All of them require no experience to grow. The most popular types of basil plants include:

  1. Purple. It has a spicy taste reminiscent of clover. Ideal for preparing dishes related to Italian and Asian cuisine.
  2. Brown. It has a hint of cinnamon, and the bushes of the basil plant are covered with beautiful lavender flower buds.
  3. Lemon. As the name implies, the culture has a lemon flavor. Bushes can be up to 20 inches tall.
  4. Sweet. This type of basil plant is the most sought-after. Has a classic taste.
  5. Thai. It has a pleasant licorice flavor and is ideal for Asian dishes. The leaves have an attractive purple hue.

Growing basil

There are a few rules to follow when growing basil. If you do everything right, then in the future, your basil plant can be used to prepare culinary masterpieces. Popular tips include:

  1. Light your basil plants 6-8 hours a day. If there is not enough natural light, then additionally use lamps.
  2. When growing outdoors, wait until the frost is over. The air temperature should not fall below 50 ℉. Otherwise, the basil plants will die.
  3. Drought must not be allowed. Water the plant when the soil dries out. Be careful not to get water on the leaves. Otherwise, basil dries out under the influence of sunlight.
  4. For fertilizer, you can use fish emulsion. After all, it has a lot of nitrogen, which is necessary for the basil plant.

Cultivation can be practiced both in containers and on open ground. The principles of cultivation do not differ. Read more about harvesting basil below.

What tools are needed to prune basil

When the harvest basil is ready, you can harvest basil without killing the plant. It is allowed to pluck the leaves with your hands. However, it is best to use special tools to harvest basil. This prevents damage to the bush. The easiest way to use scissors for garden work.

They do not allow basil plants to be damaged. You can use both expensive and cheap tools. This does not affect the quality of harvesting basil. Pruning basil shears can be used if the bushes are small. After all, basil plants do not have dense stems, and cutting them is very simple.

However, there are a few tips that are relevant during the harvest of basil.

Right time

You can prune basil when the bushes are 6-8 inches tall. This is the perfect time to harvest basil leaves. Bushes should not be more than 8 inches high. To find the optimal time, it is better to use a tape measure or ruler.

You can harvest basil when a few leaves have formed between the main stem. In the case of an upright stem, you can cut it to grow and form a bush. If flowers have already begun to appear on the bushes, they should also be cut.

This directs all the energy of the plant into leaf growth. You must understand that the growth rate of basil is quite fast. Therefore, you have to cut basil often.

Leaf inspection

When a few leaves have formed on the bushes, it is possible to harvest basil crops. Leaves should be light green to dark green. The optimal length is 2-3 inches.

Keep in mind that leaf size can vary depending on the type of basil plant you are growing. If yellow or brown leaves form, they should be cut off and discarded. They are not suitable for consumption. Harvesting leaves that are deformed, sick, or wilted is forbidden.

Harvest basil without harm to the plant

If you prune basil incorrectly, the bushes gain height. There are several methods for properly harvesting basil leaves without killing the plan.

Harvest basil in small quantities

In this case, it is enough to pinch a few leaf plates when they bloom in the spring. You have to remove healthy leaves that are on top of the bush. Leaves should be plucked 0.25 inches higher than the knot. Remove leaves from different bushes so that they are all uniform.

Avoid trimming a leaf node. Otherwise, the stem becomes empty due to the lack of new growth. At the site of damage, the likelihood of encountering numerous diseases increases, and you risk losing the entire crop.

Remember to use sharp pruning tools. As already mentioned, it is better to opt for sharp scissors. It is better to use small tools so as not to accidentally touch the stem.

Harvesting basil leaves in large quantities

If you plan to cut a lot of leaves, then you have to properly plan all the work. The slightest mistake negatively affects the health of the bush. Try to stick to the top-down approach. That is, most of the leaves are cut off at the top, and the smaller part is cut off from below.

You cannot empty the entire bush. Otherwise, growth slows down or even stops. You should always leave a few pairs of leaves at the bottom of the stem. This stimulates growth. You can also cut the entire stem a few inches off the ground.

If you plan to cut the entire stem basil plant, do so at a distance of 3 inches from the ground. It is recommended to remove, stepping back 0.25 inches from the nodes. This promotes the formation of small new shoots. You need to cut the stems from the outside, leaving the inner ones. So, the basil plants look neater.

Harvest basil without killing to boost growth

The proper pruning basil plant leads to the fact yield of the plant is several times higher. Try to cut the leaves regularly. There are several tips for harvesting basil without killing the plant.

Pruning stems that have grown

First, look at the plants. Cut basil long stems. Remove a few stems, and cut them down to just up to half. This encourages the growth of new shoots. Cutting is carried out at a height of 3 inches from the ground.

Pruning bush stems

Trim the stems around the edges to let in more sunlight. Pruning basil is carried out to the bottom pair of leaves, from where new leaf buds depart. The central stem needs to be pinched up to half, stepping back 6 inches from the axils of the leaf blades.

The cut basil must be made over a pair of leaves. Be careful not to let the stem become bare. Thanks to this, the bushes are compact and dense.

How to collect basil seeds?

Consider in detail the rules for collecting basil plant seeds:

  • Inflorescences of plants that have already faded are cut off. As a rule, they are already dry inflorescences with a brown tint.
  • They are placed in a sufficiently dry and ventilated room, they must dry completely.
  • Dried inflorescences are crushed, and rubbish is removed.
  • Basil seeds are placed in special fabric bags or paper bags. This is done so that during storage, the seeds cannot become damp.

Seeds are stored at room temperature in a fairly dry place. After that, they remain viable for about 5 more years.

Storing basil plants

You need to understand that it is not always possible to use the harvested basil crop immediately. In such cases, you must think about how to save it for a few weeks. For more details about the storage methods of the basil plant, you can read below.

Dried basil

First, you need to collect the leaves of the basil plant, then rinse them. Spread harvested basil out on a baking sheet and put them in the oven at 95 degrees Fahrenheit. You have to periodically open and close the door to let the steam out.

You can also use an electric dryer to dry basil leaves. Some housewives prefer to use the natural method. To do this, the leaves are left in a ventilated area, where there is no sunlight. There should be no vegetables nearby.

Once the basil leaf is dry, place it in an airtight container or bag. Storage is possible for several weeks.


Many people like to freeze fresh leaves. This significantly increases the shelf life. Will basil be stored in freeze? Yes, you need to throw fresh basil leaves into boiling water, and leave for a few seconds. Then put them in a large bowl filled with ice and leave for 2-3 minutes.

After you have to dry the leaf plates on a paper towel, and then put them in the freezer in a bag with a zip fastener.

Formation of ice cubes

Will basil be stored in ice cubes? First, you have to wash the collected fresh leaves. After drying grind. To speed up the work, you can use a food processor. Then place the chopped basil plant in an ice cube tray and pour in some olive oil. It must cover the greens.

Send the form to the freezer. After, the basil cubes must be folded into a bag and sent for permanent storage.

Adding to olive oil

You can also toss a few basil leaves in olive oil. You get a pretty good dressing for salads and second courses. There is a fairly simple method for preparing such a dressing. Send the leaves in boiling water for 5 seconds, then send them in ice water.

When the leaves have cooled, they need to be dried on a paper towel. Place the basil plant with olive oil in a food processor and season with your favorite spices. Pass the mass through a sieve, and send it to a glass jar. You must preserve basil mass in the refrigerator.

You can also make basil vinegar. To do this, send the dried basil plant to a bottle of white vinegar.

Storing basil in salt

You can dry basil leaves and mix them with salt. You get an excellent mixture for preparing salads and other dishes.

Compound oil preparation

Many housewives like freezing special oil. To do this, basil is mixed with garlic, oil, and lemon juice. You can use the oil right away, or store it in the freezer.

Shelf life of fresh basil

You need to understand that the shelf life depends on how exactly you store basil leaves. If you dry the basil plant and grind it, the shelf life will vary from 1 to 4 years. It will keep freezing basil for 6-12 months.

Basil oil should be stored in the refrigerator for about 30 days, and freezing basil, the shelf life increases to six months. If you leave the greens at room temperature, then you can preserve basil for no more than 10 days. Spoiled preserved basil becomes bitter.


When it comes to pruning and storing basil plants, people face numerous questions.

How do you trim basil so it keeps growing?

It is recommended to remove healthy leaves that are on top of the bush. Leaves should be plucked 0.25 inches higher than the knot.

Does basil regrow after cutting?

Yes, after pruning, the leaves can recover. If you do everything right, then two basil stems will form in place of one stem.

How far can you cut back basil?

It is recommended to trim only up to half of the stems. This allows the bushes to develop. Basil flowers can’t form, otherwise, the fragrance of the leaves is lost.

Do you pick basil from the top or bottom?

Harvesting should be carried out according to the “top-down” technique. More leaves are picked at the top of the stem, and a minimal amount at the bottom.


As you can see, harvesting basil leaves is not difficult. You need to wait for the basil plant to ripen and then prepare a sharp tool.

Read also: Oregano vs basil: differences and similarities 

Elizabeth Martin

I am one of the best chefs and I work in a very famous Washington DC restaurant. My main hobby is to complement different dishes with fresh herbs. Almost all of them are grown in my house.

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