Ocimum basilicum
Common Name: sweet basil 
Type: Annual
Family: Lamiaceae
Native Range: Tropical Asia
Zone: 2 to 11
Height: 1.50 to 2.00 feet
Spread: 1.50 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: June to frost
Bloom Description: Magenta
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Annual, Herb
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Fragrant
Tolerate: Rabbit, Deer


Sow seeds indoors in early spring. Transplant seedlings or purchased plants outdoors once the threat of frost has past. Grows best in full sun in moderately rich, evenly moist, well-draining soils. Apply mulch to help retain soil moisture. Pinch out centers to encourage bushy growth. Intolerant of frost. As frost approaches, root cuttings in water and pot for winter use.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Ocimum basilicum, commonly called sweet basil, is a herbaceous annual or short-lived perennial native to tropical regions of Africa and Asia. It is cultivated worldwide for use as a culinary herb. Plants are variable, ranging in size from 6" to 2.5' tall with ovate to oblong, glossy, fragrant leaves oppositely arranged on square stems. Terminal flower spikes reaching 4-8" tall emerge in summer. The small, white to purple flowers are attractive to insect pollinators.

Genus name comes from the Greek name okimon for an aromatic herb, possibly this one.

Specific epithet means princely or royal.


Slugs and snails can be problematic. Basil may be skeletonized by Japanese beetles. To control, remove beetles by hand. Basil downy mildew is a potential foliar disease. Pesticides are not recommended for use by home gardeners to control this disease. Plant resistant varieties, remove and destroy any infected plants, avoid overhead watering, and increase airflow around basil plants to help prevent this disease.


As a seasoning herb in many vegetable and meat dishes, or as a key ingredient of pesto and other condiments.