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Ocimum basilicum

Phonetic Spelling
OH-sih-mum bass-IL-ih-kum
Description

Ocimum basilicum, commonly referred to as sweet basil, is an herb in the mint family. Native to the tropical regions of Africa and Asia, sweet basil prefers full sun and moist, well-drained soils. 

Ornamental varieties often have showy purple foliage, making them perfect for containers. Plant in a bed or window box to create contrasting colored foliage. Miniature varieties are also available which are great for mass plantings along the edge of flower beds. 

Sweet basil is easily transplanted and should be done so after the last frost. It is best pruned by pinching the tips of long stems and any flower buds. This promotes the basil to take a branching bushy form. The edible leaves are great in soups, stews, and other meat dishes. 

Pests, Insects, and Other Plant Problems: Aphids, Japanese beetle, and Fusarium wilt.

 

VIDEO Created by Elisabeth Meyer for "Edibles, Bulbs, and Houseplants" a plant identification course offered in partnership with Longwood Gardens.   

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Vegetable Garden and Pollinator Plants
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Anise'
    Ornamental flowers with purple-tinted leaves. Fragrance and taste is similar to anise. 2'-2 1/2' tall.
  • 'Cinnamon'
    Flowers and stems are purple in color. Strong cinnamon fragrance. 2'-2 1/2' tall.
  • 'Genovese'
    Larger leaves than traditional basil. 2' tall.
  • 'Purple Ruffles'
  • 'Queen of Sheba'
  • 'Siam Queen'
    Large leaves with purple flowers and stems. Flavor resembles spicy licorice-mint. Winner of the 1997 All American Selection.
'Anise', 'Cinnamon', 'Genovese', 'Purple Ruffles', 'Queen of Sheba', 'Siam Queen'
Tags:
#purple#fragrant#white#sun#full sun#partial shade#fragrant flowers#annual#edible plant#perennial#white flowers#container plant#purple flowers#pink flowers#purple leaves#fragrant leaves#edible flowers#lawn#herb garden#moist soil#fast growing#herbaceous#well-drained soil#full sun flowers#perennial flowers#summer flowers#full sunlight#bracts#herbaceous perennial#edible landscaping#small flowers#annuals#annual flowers#purple stems#sunshine#summer interest#edible garden#edible leaves#naturalized area#green leaves#edible#forb#annual herb#herbaceous annual#perennials#container#ascending#part shade#container vegetable garden#pink#ebh-vh#ebh#herb#flowering#flower#sun tolerant#non-toxic for dogs#flowers#moist#non-toxic for cats
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Anise'
    Ornamental flowers with purple-tinted leaves. Fragrance and taste is similar to anise. 2'-2 1/2' tall.
  • 'Cinnamon'
    Flowers and stems are purple in color. Strong cinnamon fragrance. 2'-2 1/2' tall.
  • 'Genovese'
    Larger leaves than traditional basil. 2' tall.
  • 'Purple Ruffles'
  • 'Queen of Sheba'
  • 'Siam Queen'
    Large leaves with purple flowers and stems. Flavor resembles spicy licorice-mint. Winner of the 1997 All American Selection.
'Anise', 'Cinnamon', 'Genovese', 'Purple Ruffles', 'Queen of Sheba', 'Siam Queen'
Tags:
#purple#fragrant#white#sun#full sun#partial shade#fragrant flowers#annual#edible plant#perennial#white flowers#container plant#purple flowers#pink flowers#purple leaves#fragrant leaves#edible flowers#lawn#herb garden#moist soil#fast growing#herbaceous#well-drained soil#full sun flowers#perennial flowers#summer flowers#full sunlight#bracts#herbaceous perennial#edible landscaping#small flowers#annuals#annual flowers#purple stems#sunshine#summer interest#edible garden#edible leaves#naturalized area#green leaves#edible#forb#annual herb#herbaceous annual#perennials#container#ascending#part shade#container vegetable garden#pink#ebh-vh#ebh#herb#flowering#flower#sun tolerant#non-toxic for dogs#flowers#moist#non-toxic for cats
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Ocimum
    Species:
    basilicum
    Family:
    Lamiaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Annual
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Tropical Africa and Asia
    Play Value:
    Fragrance
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Rabbits and deer
    Edibility:
    Leaves and flowers in tea, as flavoring
    Dimensions:
    Height: 0 ft. 4 in. - 3 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 0 ft. 4 in. - 1 ft. 2 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Annual
    Edible
    Herb
    Herbaceous Perennial
    Perennial
    Habit/Form:
    Ascending
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    12 inches-3 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    10b, 10a
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    Purple/Lavender
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Fragrant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Lipped
    Flower Petals:
    Bracts
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    The small white flowers are lipped in shape. They are arranged in whorled racemes with bracts at the base. Some ornamental varieties have spikes of showy purple flowers. Blooms in late summer.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Purple/Lavender
    Variegated
    White
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Fragrant
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Leaves are bright green and are attached directly to the base of the stem. Simple leaves and opposite in arrangement at right angles to each other. Ovate in shape with smooth margins and slight bulging between the veins. 1/2"-3" in length. Very fragrant. Ornamental varieties may have purple or variegated leaves.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Purple/Lavender
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Cross Section:
    Square
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    Stem is thin and hollow and has a branching tendency. The cross-section is square in shape.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Lawn
    Naturalized Area
    Landscape Theme:
    Edible Garden