Holy Basil Growing Guide
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Holy Basil Growing Guide

What is Holy Basil?

Holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) is a plant that is native to India. Holy basil is also known as tulsi or tulasi. Holy Basil is one of the most popular and often used medicinal herbs that you’ll find. This variety is said to be both calming and energizing. While not used as often as sweet basil in culinary dishes, Holy Basil is a common ingredient in Thai cuisine. It has a slight peppery taste similar to cloves or licorice; for medicinal uses it to often used in teas. Holy basil leaves have a spicy, lemony flavor and are used widely in food in Southeast Asia, such as in stir-fried dishes. Holy Basil has an aromatically fragrant, clove-like taste. The plant is attractive for butterflies and other pollinators, yet is deer and rabbit resistant.

How to Start Growing Holy Basil

You can start seeds indoors and transplant holy basil outdoors 2 weeks after last spring frost. Sow thinly in a lightweight, sterilized soil mix. Cover the seeds lightly and press firmly into the soil. Water after planting. When watering, keep the soil moist but not soggy. Expose the seedlings to direct light for at least 5 hours or fluorescent light for 12-16 hours per day.

If starting outdoors, also wait 2 weeks after last spring frost, sow in rows and cover. Press firmly into the soil and water after planting. Thin holy basil 8-20 inches apart.

Did You Know?

Holy basil has been historically used in India in Ayurvedic medicine to balance the chakras.

Our Favorite Holy Basil to Grow

Holy Basil Plant Spacing

In-Ground Planting

Row Spacing - 18 to 24 inches

Plant Spacing - 12 to 18 inches

Planting Depth - press firmly into the soil

Raised Bed Planting

Row Spacing - 18 to 24 inches

Plant Spacing - 12 to 18 inches

Planting Depth - press firmly into the soil

Holy Basil Soil, Irrigation, & Fertilizer

Soil Requirements to Grow Holy Basil

  • Silty, well-draining soil
  • pH between 5.6 and 7.5
  • Rich in organic materials
  • Good quality compost added to the soil

Holy Basil Irrigation Requirements

Holy Basil plants need at least 1 inch of water per week. Using drip irrigation is always recommended to be sure that your plants are getting moisture directly to their root system. If you’re using conventional overhead watering techniques, try and use something like the Dramm Watering Can and water and fertilize at the base of the plant to keep moisture off the leaves.

Raised Bed Fertilizer Schedule

Several Weeks Before Planting

Test your soil at your local extension office.

At Time of Planting

After adjusting soil pH to 5.6 – 7.5, mix 1 1/2 cups per 10 ft. of row or ¼ cup per plant of Hoss Complete Organic Fertilizer with your soil.

2 Weeks After Planting

1 cup Hoss Micro-Boost Micronutrient Supplement with 5 gallons of water. Each plant gets 1 quart of the solution next to the plant stem. Repeat every 4 weeks.

4 Weeks After Planting and Every 4 Weeks

¼ cup Hoss Complete Organic Fertilizer per plant evenly spread around plant.

In-Ground Fertilizer Schedule

Several Weeks Before Planting

Test your soil at your local extension office.

At Time of Planting

After adjusting soil pH to 5.6 – 7.5, mix 1 1/2 cups per 10 ft. of row or ¼ cup per plant of Hoss Complete Organic Fertilizer with your soil.

2 Weeks After Planting

1 cup Hoss Micro-Boost Micronutrient Supplement with 5 gallons of water. Each plant gets 1 quart of the solution next to the plant stem. Repeat every 4 weeks.

4 Weeks After Planting and Every 4 Weeks

¼ cup Hoss Complete Organic Fertilizer per plant evenly spread around plant.

Holy Basil Pest & Disease Protection

Insects

Organic Controls

Horticulture Oil
Aphids, Flea Beetle, Whiteflies, Spider Mites, Thrips

Bug Buster-O
Aphids, Flea Beetles, Whiteflies, Moths, Armyworms

Monterey BT
Caterpillars, Cabbage Loppers

Take Down Garden Spray
Aphids, Flea Beetle, Whiteflies, Moths

Diatomaceous Earth
Cutworms, Ants, Slugs

Sluggo Plus
Slugs

Treat as needed using label instructions.

Common Diseases

Organic Controls

Complete Disease Control
Gray Mold, Leaf Spots, Anthracnose, Powdery Mildew

Treat as needed using label instructions.

Harvesting, Preserving, and Storing Holy Basil

When & How To Harvest Holy Basil

Harvest holy basil early in the morning before the day heats up for the best flavor. Use clean pruning tools or scissors to cut the basil so you don’t transfer any disease to the plant. Wipe the blades off with alcohol. Using clean tools, snip off the desired portion of the leaves and stems from the holy basil plant. Don’t snip off more than half the plant so it can regrow additional leaves you can continue to harvest in several more weeks. Pinch off any discolored or damaged leaves.

Storing & Keeping Holy Basil

Store any fresh holy basil you don’t plan on using immediately in a glass of water. The freshly cut stems of the basil will store well placed in the container of water and stored on a kitchen counter for a couple of days. You can also dry it by tying several bunches together with some twine and hang them upside down in a cool, dark, and well-ventilated area. Once dry, smash the leaves up and store them in a container. Or, freeze the holy basil by removing the leaves from the stems and placing them in a food processor and chopping them up. Once chopped, add water or oil to the mixture, pour into ice cube trays and freeze for future use. Dried or frozen holy basil will keep for around a year.

Come See Our Holy Basil!

Holy Basil Growing Tips & Tricks

A Fast Grower

Holy Basil grows very fast, so you can harvest leaves from your plants several times per week, removing up to 75% of the leaves each time.  On average, you can harvest 15 to 25 cups of leaves per plant each summer. In the fall, when night time temperatures are predicted to go below 50⁰F, harvest the remaining leaves.  Basil will not survive below 50⁰F.

Medicinal Uses

Holy basil has multiple medical uses, including protecting against illness, lowering blood sugar, easing joint pain, and lowering cholesterol. Please consult your physician before using.

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