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How to Grow Ocimum Plants

Guide to Growing Basil, Sweet Basil, Holy Basil, and Tulsi

The Ocimum species Basil is one of the most used and best loved of all culinary herbs. It enlightens many an Italian dish, going a treat with tomatoes.

The plants are ideal for use in a herb garden and typically grow to a height of about 40 to 60 cm. Members of Ocimum have green, purple, or bluish green leaves and flower in the summer.

In addition to Basil Common names for Ocimum used in herb gardening include Golden Basil, sweet basil, and Thai Basil.

Sweet basil

Thai basil

If growing Basil for culinary use then the leaves should be removed before flowering has occurred for the best taste. Basil is best used fresh, but can also be frozen or dried.
To dry Basil, first remove the leaves and dry them in a dark place. By frequently removing leaves and tips you can prolong the herbal life span of the Ocimum plant. It can even be took inside in the winter, and as long as it receives five hours of sunlight and is given an occasional feed fresh basil can be harvested throughout the winter.

Ocimum basilicum
Ocimum basilicum by Blumenbiene.

Ocimum Growing and Care Guide

Common Names: Basil, Sweet Basil, Holy Basil, Tulsi, Thai Basil.
Life Cycle: Half hardy annual, hardy annual.
Height: 12 to 50 inches (30 to 125 cm).
Native: Europe, Asia.
Growing Region: Zones 4 to 10.
Flowers: Summer.
Flower Details: White, purple, lavender. Small. Terminal spike. Racemes
Foliage: Blueish-green, purple, reddish, green. Ovate. Fragrant.
Sow Outside: Surface. First sowing: start of spring. Second sowing: Summer. Spacing 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 cm).
Sow Inside: Use peat pot. Germination time: one to six weeks. Temperature 65°F (18°C). Five or six weeks in advance. Transplant outdoors about a month after the last frost; temperature should not drop below 65°F (18°C).
Requirements: Full sunlight. Good drainage. Soil pH 5.5 to 6.5. Rich soil. Summer feed. Regular watering. Pinch tips when plants reach 6 inches (15cm). Harvest leaves before flowering occurs.
Family:
Closely Related Species:
Miscellaneous: Ocimum tenuiflorum (Holy Basil) is named Tulsi in Hindu, this translates to “the incomparable one”. The plant is worshiped and is considered to be Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, and companion of Krishna.

How to Grow Basil (Ocimum Plants)

It is probably best to start growing Basil and other Ocimum plants off indoors, so this about five weeks before mid spring. Seeds of Basil should be sown on the surface in the light and at a temperature of 10 to 15 degrees Celsius (about 65 degrees Fahrenheit). It should take anything from one to seven weeks to germinate the seed.

Once ready transplant the basil into your herb garden in the spring at about 25 cm apart; ideally Basil should be grown in sunny areas that have a rich soil (pH 5.5 to 6.5).

Caring for Ocimum plants such as Basil in your Garden

It is easy to care for Basil and other Ocimum; when the plants reach about 12 cm pinch back the growing tips of the Basil plant to encourage bushy growth. They should be watered frequently to keep the soil moist, and cut back by about a third to a half in the summer before flowering can occur.