How to Grow Basil Indoors A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Grow Basil Indoors: A Step-by-Step Guide

Imagine having fresh basil at your fingertips, whenever you want it, right in the comfort of your city apartment. Growing basil indoors is not only a great way to add greenery and fragrance to your living space, but also an easy and cost-effective way to enhance your culinary creations with homegrown herbs.

In this step-by-step guide, we’ll show you everything you need to know on how to grow basil indoors – from selecting the right variety and preparing the perfect soil mixture, to proper care techniques that guarantee a bountiful harvest.

Key Takeaways

  • Growing basil indoors is a cost-effective way to have fresh herbs year-round, with control over growing conditions and potential health benefits.
  • Key factors in planning and preparation for growing basil indoors include choosing the right variety, selecting the right container and soil, providing proper drainage and fertilization, and using effective germination techniques.
  • Proper lighting and temperature play important roles in successful indoor basil gardening. Consistent watering and pruning are also essential for healthy plants that produce fragrant leaves all year long.

Benefits Of Growing Basil Indoors

Growing basil indoors has several benefits, including having fresh herbs year-round, being cost-effective, offering control over growing conditions like soil quality and pest control, and providing health benefits.

Fresh Herbs Year-Round

Growing basil indoors allows urban dwellers, like those living in high-rise apartments in Toronto, Vancouver, or Montreal, to enjoy fresh herbs year-round. With limited space and no outdoor garden access, nurturing an indoor basil plant not only enhances your living space with lush greenery and improved air quality but also provides a continuous supply of flavorful herbs for cooking.


Growing basil indoors is a cost-effective way to always have fresh herbs on hand without breaking the bank. Unlike buying pre-packaged herbs from the grocery store, growing your own basil ensures you only pick and use what you need, which ultimately saves money in the long run.

Additionally, with no transportation or packaging costs involved in conventional herb purchases, indoor gardening proves to be more budget-friendly and environmentally friendly.

Control Over Growing Conditions

One of the biggest advantages of growing basil indoors is the ability to control growing conditions. With limited space and no access to an outdoor garden, it can be challenging for apartment dwellers to grow certain plants successfully.

However, with indoor gardening methods, you can manipulate everything from temperature and humidity levels to light intensity and soil quality. For example, you can place your containers in areas that receive optimal sunlight throughout the day or invest in artificial grow lights that mimic natural light cycles.

You also have complete control over what fertilizers or pesticides (if any) are used on your plants.

Another aspect of controlling growing conditions is being able to troubleshoot problems easily as they arise. Since pests and diseases are common issues when growing plants indoors, having a good understanding of plant care basics will help equip you with valuable knowledge on how to manage these problems effectively without resorting to harsh chemical treatments.

Health Benefits

Growing your own basil indoors can provide numerous health benefits for you and your family. Basil is known to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial properties that help boost the immune system and protect against illness.

Additionally, growing basil indoors means you have control over the quality of soil and water used in cultivation. This allows you to avoid harmful pesticides or chemicals that may be present on store-bought herbs.

Lastly, tending to indoor plants like basil has been shown to reduce stress levels and promote relaxation. It’s a great way to connect with nature even if you’re stuck inside all day working from home in a busy city like Toronto or Vancouver.

Planning And Preparation

Planning and preparation are key to successfully growing basil indoors. From selecting the right variety of basil to providing proper drainage and germination techniques, this step is essential for ensuring a healthy and thriving plant.

Choosing The Right Basil Variety

When it comes to choosing the right basil variety for your indoor garden, there are several options to consider. Here are some of the best basil varieties for your urban apartment:

  • Sweet Basil: This is the most common variety of basil and is perfect for beginners. It has a classic flavor that is great in pasta sauces, pesto, and other Italian dishes.
  • Thai Basil: With its anise-like flavor, Thai basil is a must-have herb in any Asian-inspired dish. It’s also great in soups and curries.
  • Lemon Basil: As its name suggests, lemon basil has a citrusy flavor that pairs well with seafood dishes and salads. It’s also great when used as a seasoning for chicken or pork.
  • Holy Basil: Known for its medicinal properties, holy basil has a spicy taste and is often used in Indian cuisine. It’s said to help reduce stress levels and promote relaxation.

No matter which variety you choose, make sure to select one that will thrive in an indoor environment with limited space and light.

Selecting The Right Container And Soil

Choosing the right container and soil is crucial for growing healthy basil indoors. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  1. Pick a container that is at least 6 inches deep and has drainage holes.
  2. Opt for a porous material like terra cotta or ceramic to allow for air circulation.
  3. Use nutrient-rich potting soil with good drainage properties.
  4. Incorporate organic compost into the soil to improve the texture and structure of the mixture.
  5. Avoid overwatering by ensuring the container has proper drainage.
  6. Consider using a self-watering system or adding a layer of gravel or sand at the bottom of the pot to enhance drainage.

By following these steps, you can ensure your basil plants have a suitable home to thrive in while also making the most out of your limited indoor space.

Providing Proper Drainage And Fertilizer

Proper drainage is essential for growing basil indoors. Planting the herb in a container with holes at the bottom allows excess water to flow out, preventing root rot and disease.

It’s important to use well-draining soil that retains moisture without getting waterlogged.

Fertilizing can also make a big difference in growing healthy basil plants. Use an organic fertilizer every two weeks during the growing season to promote growth and prevent yellowing leaves.

Fish emulsion or compost tea are great options for indoor herb gardening since they’re gentle on delicate roots and won’t burn plants. Remember not to over-fertilize since this can lead to foliage burning and poor taste in culinary herbs like basil.

Germination Techniques

Basil seeds can be started indoors on a sunny windowsill or beneath grow lights. Here are some of the germination techniques you can use:

  • Sprouting Seeds: Soak basil seeds in water for 2-4 hours before planting to help speed up germination.
  • Warm Location for Seed Germination: Basil seeds need warm temperatures (between 70°F and 80°F) to germinate effectively.
  • Moist Soil Mixture: Fill seed trays or small pots with a moist soil mixture that is rich in compost and perlite.
  • Covering the Seeds: Cover the planted seeds with a plastic bag or dome to retain humidity and warmth, which will encourage faster germination.
  • Natural Light for Indoor Plants: Once the seedlings have emerged, move them into natural light, placing them near a south-facing window or under grow lights.
  • Watering Seedlings: Water seedlings once their soil feels dry to the touch but avoid overwatering as it can lead to fungal growth.

Planting And Caring For Basil

Transplant seedlings or sow seeds in well-drained, nutrient-rich soil with proper spacing and cover with humidity for germination; provide natural light or grow lights, water regularly but avoid overwatering and prune often to promote bushy growth.

Transplanting Seedlings Or Sowing Seeds

To grow basil indoors, you have two options: transplanting seedlings or sowing seeds. Follow these steps for each option:

Transplanting Seedlings:

  1. Choose a container that is at least 6 inches deep and has drainage holes.
  2. Fill the container with moist soil mixture, leaving about an inch of space at the top.
  3. Gently remove the seedling from its original container and loosen any tangled roots.
  4. Place the seedling in the new container and add soil mix around it, pressing down gently to secure it.
  5. Water thoroughly and place in a sunny location.

Sowing Seeds:

  1. Choose a container that is at least 6 inches deep and has drainage holes.
  2. Fill the container with moist soil mixture, leaving about an inch of space at the top.
  3. Sprinkle basil seeds evenly over the soil surface, then cover them lightly with more soil.
  4. Cover the container with plastic wrap or a humidity dome until germination occurs (usually within 7 – 14 days).
  5. Keep soil mixture moist but not waterlogged during germination period.
  6. Once seedlings appear, remove plastic wrap and move to a sunny location.

Proper Lighting And Temperature

Basil plants require adequate lighting for healthy growth. Being sun-loving plants, they thrive in bright natural light or under grow lights to ensure optimal photosynthesis.

A good rule of thumb is to provide at least six hours of direct sunlight per day or 12-16 hours of artificial light for the best results. Moreover, maintaining an optimal temperature range between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit is critical for indoor basil growth.

Investing in a simple thermometer can help monitor room temperatures, ensuring your plants are thriving under optimal conditions. With proper lighting and temperature control indoors, you can enjoy fresh herbs throughout the year without worrying about seasonal limitations or adverse weather conditions.

Watering And Pruning Methods

Basil plants require consistent moisture to thrive indoors, but overwatering can lead to root rot. Here are some watering and pruning tips for growing basil indoors:

  1. Water your basil when the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch.
  2. Use room temperature water and avoid splashing water on the leaves.
  3. Drain excess water from the saucer after watering to prevent standing water.
  4. Prune your basil regularly by pinching off the top few sets of leaves to encourage bushy growth.
  5. Remove any yellow or wilted leaves or stems promptly to prevent disease spread.
  6. Avoid pruning more than one – third of the plant at a time as it may stress the plant too much.
  7. Consider harvesting some of the larger leaves for culinary use as you prune, which will also help keep the plant compact.
  8. If your basil is getting too leggy, you can pinch off the top few inches of growth and transplant it in fresh soil or propagate it in water.

By following these simple watering and pruning methods, your indoor basil plant can stay healthy and productive year-round!

Fertilizing And Pest Control Tips

Basil plants require nutrients to grow healthy and strong, especially when grown in containers. Here are some tips for fertilizing your indoor basil plant:

  1. Opt for organic fertilizers such as compost, animal manure, or fish emulsion.
  2. Fertilize your basil once a month during the growing season, following package instructions for correct dosage.
  3. Avoid over – fertilizing as this can damage your plant.
  4. Water your basil thoroughly before adding fertilizer to prevent root burn.

As with any indoor plant, pest control is also essential for keeping your basil healthy. Here are some tips for controlling pests on your indoor basil plant:

  1. Identify the pest first before choosing a treatment method.
  2. Use natural remedies such as neem oil or insecticidal soap to avoid harsh chemicals in your home environment.
  3. Practice good hygiene by keeping the growing area clean and removing dead leaves regularly.
  4. Use sticky traps to capture flying insects such as thrips or fruit flies.

By following these tips, you can help ensure that your indoor basil plant stays healthy and free of pests throughout the growing season.

Harvesting And Using Basil

Once your basil plants are mature enough to harvest, you’ll be able to enjoy the fresh aroma and incredible flavor of this popular herb. From pestos and sauces to salads and cocktails, there are endless ways to use basil in the kitchen.

Harvesting Techniques And Preservation

To ensure that your basil plant continues to produce fresh herbs, it’s important to harvest the leaves regularly. Here are some tips for harvesting and preserving your basil:

  1. Harvest in the morning: The oils in basil are most concentrated in the morning, so it’s best to harvest then for optimal flavor.
  2. Pinch off the top leaves: When harvesting basil, pinch off the top leaves just above a set of lower leaves. This will encourage the plant to grow more branches and produce more leaves.
  3. Use sharp scissors or shears: To avoid damaging the plant, use clean, sharp scissors or shears when harvesting.
  4. Preserve with oil: One easy way to preserve your basil is by packing fresh leaves into a jar and covering them with olive oil. This will keep them fresh for several days in the fridge.
  5. Make pesto: Basil is a key ingredient in pesto sauce, which can be frozen or refrigerated for later use.
  6. Dry your herbs: Another way to preserve your basil is by drying it out. Hang a bunch of stems upside down in a dry area with good air circulation until they are completely dry, then store them in an airtight container.
  7. Freeze for later use: You can also freeze fresh basil leaves by packing them into ice cube trays with water or oil and freezing until solid. Then pop the cubes out and store them in a freezer-safe container for later use in soups, stews, sauces, and more!

Culinary Recipes And Uses

Basil is a versatile herb that adds flavor and aroma to many culinary dishes. Here are some easy recipes and ideas for using your homegrown basil:

  1. Homemade Pesto: Blend fresh basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese in a food processor until smooth. Serve over pasta or as a dip with bread.
  2. Caprese Salad: Layer fresh sliced tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil leaves on a platter. Drizzle with balsamic glaze or olive oil and seasoning to taste.
  3. Tomato-Basil Soup: Sauté chopped onions and garlic in olive oil until soft. Add canned crushed tomatoes, chicken broth, and fresh basil leaves. Simmer for 20 minutes before blending until smooth.
  4. Lemon-Basil Chicken: Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper before searing on both sides until browned. Add lemon juice, white wine, chicken broth, minced garlic, and fresh basil to the pan before letting it simmer for 10 minutes.
  5. Herbed Butter: Mix softened unsalted butter with chopped fresh basil and other herbs like parsley or chives to add flavor to bread or vegetables.

Remember to always harvest your basil regularly by removing the top two sets of leaves from each stem to encourage bushier growth!

Companion Planting With Other Herbs

Growing basil indoors can be even more fun when you pair it up with other herbs. Here are some excellent herb companions for your indoor basil garden:

  1. Chives
  • Chives make an excellent companion plant for basil since they repel aphids and protect the roots of nearby plants from nematodes.
  1. Mint
  • Mint is another great herb to grow alongside your basil, and it also makes a refreshing addition to any drink or dish.
  1. Rosemary
  • Rosemary helps deter pests like bean beetles and cabbage moths and can enhance the flavor of your basil in dishes like pasta sauces.
  1. Thyme
  • Thyme is another herb that pairs well with basil, both in terms of taste and growing needs. Plus, thyme’s antiseptic properties help to prevent mold growth.
  1. Parsley
  • Parsley is another excellent companion plant that adds flavor to savory dishes, while its strong aroma can deter pests like carrot flies.

So, if you’re looking to increase the yield of your indoor herb garden while enhancing the flavor of your basil, try planting these companion herbs alongside it!

Common Problems And Solutions

If you encounter pests, leggy stems, or other issues while growing basil indoors, don’t worry! Our step-by-step guide provides practical solutions to common problems so that you can keep your basil thriving all year long.

Pests And Diseases

One of the challenges of growing basil indoors is dealing with potential pests and diseases that can harm your plants. Here are some common problems you may encounter:

  1. Aphids: Tiny green or black pests that suck on plant juices and cause wilting. Remove them by spraying your plants with water or using insecticidal soap.
  2. Whiteflies: Small, flying insects that feed on plant sap and cause yellowing leaves. Control them by using sticky traps or introducing natural predators like ladybugs.
  3. Fusarium wilt: A fungal disease that causes yellowing leaves, stunted growth, and wilting. To prevent it, avoid overwatering your plants and make sure they have good drainage.
  4. Root rot: A fungal disease that causes brown, mushy roots and can be fatal to basil plants. Prevent it by using well-draining soil and avoiding overwatering.
  5. Spider mites: Tiny pests that spin webs on the undersides of leaves and cause discoloration. Control them with insecticidal soap or neem oil.

By being aware of these common pests and diseases, you can take proactive steps to keep your indoor basil thriving all year long!

Overwatering Or Underwatering

Basil, like many indoor plants, is sensitive to both overwatering and underwatering. It is essential to maintain consistent soil moisture levels without letting the plant’s roots sit in standing water. Here are some tips to avoid overwatering or underwatering your indoor basil:

  • Check the soil moisture level regularly by inserting a finger into the soil up to the first knuckle. If the soil feels dry, it’s time to water.
  • Water deeply but infrequently, allowing excess water to drain away from the pot’s bottom. Don’t let the pot sit in standing water for more than 30 minutes.
  • Consider using a self – watering planter or placing a saucer beneath your container with pebbles or stones on top of it to elevate your pot above any standing water.
  • Provide proper drainage holes at the bottom of your pot and use light and porous potting mix such as perlite or vermiculite that helps drain excess moisture while retaining enough water for basil growth.
  • On hot days or when growing basil in an air – conditioned room, mist the leaves frequently with clean tap water or place trays of water nearby.

Remember, too much moisture can cause root rot, while too little can result in wilted leaves, so keep an eye on your basil plant’s condition and adjust watering accordingly.

Leggy Or Thin Stems

If your indoor basil plant has leggy or thin stems, it may mean that it isn’t getting enough sunlight. Basil requires at least six hours of sunlight per day or supplemental grow lights if natural light is insufficient.

To encourage strong and bushy growth, you can also pinch off the tips of the basil shoots regularly, which will force the plant to branch out. Another possible cause for leggy stems could be overcrowding in the container.

Make sure to give each plant enough space by transplanting them into larger containers as they grow. Remember to water your basil plants evenly and consistently but avoid overwatering as this can lead to root rot and other problems.

Adjusting Humidity Levels And Air Circulation

Proper humidity levels and air circulation are critical to a successful indoor basil garden. Basil thrives in a humid environment, but too much humidity can cause disease and mold growth.

To achieve optimal moisture, place a tray of water near the plants or use a humidifier, especially during winter when indoor heating can dry out the air. Good air circulation is also essential to prevent stagnant air and promote healthy plant growth.

One major benefit of growing basil indoors is that it allows you to control the growing conditions, including humidity levels and ventilation.


Growing basil indoors is a fun and rewarding experience that can enhance the taste of your favorite dishes while adding natural beauty to your home. By following these step-by-step instructions, you can create a thriving indoor herb garden full of deliciously fragrant basil plants all year round.

Remember to choose the right container, provide proper lighting and temperature, fertilize regularly, control pests naturally, and harvest with care.


1. What are the ideal conditions for growing basil indoors?

Basil thrives in warm and sunny environments, so it is best to keep your plant in a room that receives at least six hours of sunlight per day and has a temperature between 70-80°F. In addition, a well-draining potting mix and consistent watering will help ensure optimal growth.

2. How often should I water my indoor basil plant?

It’s important not to over-water your basil plant as it can cause root rot. Watering every few days is typically sufficient, but be sure to check the moisture level of the soil by sticking your finger an inch deep into the soil before watering again.

3. Can I use fertilizers on my indoor basil plants?

Yes, you can use organic fertilizers like fish emulsion or compost tea once every two weeks during the growing season for added nutrients.

4. How do I harvest my indoor basil plant without damaging it?

To harvest your basil leaves, pinch off individual leaves from each stem near the top of the plant using clean fingers or scissors. Be sure not to remove more than one-third of total leaves at any given time and avoid cutting too close to where new growth appears along stems so that they continue producing foliage regularly throughout their lifespan indoors.