How and when to prune basil


Ocimum basilicum or popularly known as basil, is a small aromatic herb with an annual cycle whose height does not exceed one meter. It is characterized by its wide and aromatic leaves, widely used both in the kitchen and to prepare homemade medicines. It is known that this herb has been used for thousands of years, having emerged from Central Africa and Southeast Asia. In this post, we will take the time to explain how and when to perform basil pruning.


Note: Please note that the advice given here is general, this blog is consulted from many countries in the world, with totally different characteristics, what not all tips will be adapted in the same way in all cases. Once you finish reading the article it will be necessary to analyze all the information and apply what you have learned in the best way. If you have any questions, remember that you can contact us to make your inquiries.

1. Interesting facts about basil plant


Before analyzing how and when to prune basil, we will begin to see some of the most interesting facts about this herb. I assure you that you didn’t know more than one of the ones we’ll see next.

  • It is said that in the immediate vicinity of the tomb of Christ, and after his resurrection, a large number of basil plants grew. For this reason, some Greek Orthodox churches use it to prepare sacred water and decorate altars.
  • As a result of being considered a sacred herb, in ancient times women were forbidden to care for or collect it.
Basil plant
Basil plant
  • Some tribes in Africa believe that it can provide protection against scorpions.
  • In the area of ​​Western Europe it was previously known as the devil’s weed. Having been used in rituals to scare away witches.
  • Continuing with the data of antiquity, it is said that in the rituals of love if the woman placed a basil branch as an ornament on the head, it meant the satifaction of the courtship of the man.
  • It has many medicinal uses, including; increases the secretion of milk in mothers, relieves skin irritations, is diuretic, is sedative, helps with acne problems, has aphrodisiac properties, etc.

And what do you tell me, did you know all these curious facts? I bet not. Well, we can start on the main topic of the publication.

2. Tools needed for pruning basil


Basil pruning is not a complicated task, it is so simple that you can do it without the help of any tools. In general, only your hands will be enough to trim. In the same way, it never hurts to have some basic tools such as the following:

  • Shears.
  • A pair of gloves.

Some pruning in basil are much easier to do only with your hands, although the use of scissors will give you a tidier cut.

In case you are going to use scissors to trim basil, do not forget to disinfect the blades before starting the task. This will prevent the possible spread of diseases and / or pests.

2.1 Needed care of pruning tools

If you want to extend the useful life of your pruning tools there are some basic care.

  • Use the right tool for a job and avoid twisting or straining it.
  • Clean and oil tools regularly by wiping an oily cloth on blades and other surfaces.
  • Keep cutting edges sharp by regularly using an oilstone.
  • Wooden handles should be varnished or regularly treated with linseed oil to keep them from cracking or splintering.

Carry out the previous care on a regular basis and you will be saving good money on tools. 🙂

3. Why prune basil?


Almost all the plants in your garden need to be pruned, but the reasons why they need it vary from one to another. In the case of basil, I can name three very important reasons:

  • Maintain the general health of the herb.
  • Ensure a good amount of leaves during the season. And extend this harvest as long as possible.
  • Make sure the taste of the leaves is at its peak.

In case you do not prune, you will have very tall and lanky plants with poor leaves. It will also begin to bloom, something that does not favor the taste of the leaves.

You may also be interested in knowing about pruning:

4. How and when to prune basil plant


As we said, pruning this aromatic herb is simple, but it is necessary to know some keys to do it correctly. Especially if what you are looking for is to have a good harvest of its leaves to be able to enjoy them in the kitchen.

We will analyze here three prunings that are essential to ensure that we have a healthy basil and at the same time we can harvest its leaves as long as possible. These pruning are:

  • Cleaning pruning
  • Pruning to make it bushy.
  • Flower pruning.

Since they do not have the same purpose and must be carried out differently, we will analyze each of the previous prunings separately.

4.1 Cleaning pruning

If you check the information on the internet on how to prune basil, you will notice that everyone focuses on pruning to increase grass production, and in no case will they talk about cleaning pruning. They probably don’t consider it important, but this pruning will help you keep the plant healthy, so you can’t forget it.

There is nothing complicated in cleaning pruning. It is enough to periodically check the basil and cut all the diseased elements, attacked with pests or dried.

If you find diseased branches or leaves or strongly attacked by a pest, do not hesitate to cut. In these cases, try not to leave pruning waste near other plants in your garden, get rid of them. Otherwise, it will help to spread the disease or plague.

4.2 Pruning basil to make it bushy

We arrive at the most important pruning you should do if you want to increase the production of leaves during the season. If carried out correctly, it will not only increase the amount of the crop, but will extend the production time and will have bigger and tastier leaves.

As you have noticed, basil develops in groups of leaves, in general you can begin to perform this pruning when the plant exceeds 6 inches in height, or at least it has three or more groups of leaves. Before that, it is better to let it develop freely.

Once the appropriate size has been reached, pruning consists of cutting the stem just above a group of leaves, half an inch from the junction of the leaves with the stem. At the meeting point between the leaves and the stem, you should see other small leaves, from which two new stems will be generated.

Pruning basil plant
Pruning basil plant

If you cut those two new branches in successive pruning, two more will come from them, and so on. So you make your basil more bushy.

As I told you before, this pruning should begin when the plant measures approximately 6 inches and should extend throughout the harvest season. Do not be afraid to cut, this herb develops quickly, to the point that you can perform this pruning every 15 days. Try to prune the entire plant constantly. Don’t cut some sheets arbitrarily every time you need them in your kitchen. Remember that it has many uses, you can even dry or freeze them.

If you do the pruning according to the instructions it will also help you to prevent the plant from blooming, something quite unpleasant since at that time the leaves lose their original flavor, becoming more bitter and soft.

4.3 Pruning basil flowers

While it is true that it is better not to allow basil to develop its inflocences, it is true that it often happens. If that happens, and if you want to continue harvesting some leaves during the season, you should prune them.

How to prune basil flowers
How to prune basil flowers

You must cut the inflocences, with scissors or with your own hands, just below the pair of leaves that develop next to the spike.

You will see that in the following days the plant will reactivate producing more and better leaves. Although, as I warned you, the leaves may lose their flavor to some extent, in addition to being smaller. With this pruning it is possible to prevent the plant from completing its natural development cycle, thus extending its useful life.

5. Basil pruning video


To finish the article, we have selected a super useful video about pruning basil (Garden Answer channel). In it you can check more graphically everything seen so far, I do not doubt that it will be very useful. 🙂

You may also be interested in knowing about pruning:

With this we finish the publication, if you have any questions you can contact us.

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