When to Start Pruning Basil

If you complain about the growth of your basil plant that it is too thin or not bushy at all or the leaves taste bitter, then it is high time you focused on pruning your basil plant.

When the plant is almost 6 to 8 inches tall, you can start to prune your basil plant. Besides, there should be at least 5 to 6 sets of leaves on the plant when you have planned to prune it. You don’t need to prune smaller size plants.  

Pruning your basil plant is important as the more often you prune the plant, the bushier and leafier it will become. That’s why in this article I am going to give you some interesting information for pruning your basil plants. Let’s dig in deeper!

Pruning Basil
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The top 3 reasons for which you need to prune

You may wonder that why you need to prune your basil if there are so many hassles in doing this. Well, there are many great reasons for pruning your basil, but here I am mentioning the top 3 of them-

1. For a better harvest

You need to prune your basil for getting better harvest. Surely you need plenty of basil for making delicious pesto or just sprinkle some of them over your pizza or pasta. You can get 15 to 25 cups of leaves from each plant per season if you prune your basil regularly. So, for getting more harvest and a bushier basil plant, you need to prune it. 

2. For growth stimulation

Pruning your basil will force it to grow bigger and bushier. Clipping basil stems back to the certain fresh sets of leaves, you force them to grow. When you cut the stem into two, you are doubling the growth of the plant. You can cut the stem again and again when they are mature.

3. For removing flowers

If you allowed basil flowers to grow on your plant, it may hamper the growth of your plant. There will be fewer leaves on it as well as the leaves will start to taste bitter because of flower blossoms.

For avoiding this problem, you can plant some slow to go to flower varieties of basils such as Everleaf, Emerald Towers, or Pesto Perpetuo. You can get these varieties of basil seed or basil seedlings from the nearby garden center. On the other hand Genovese basil, lemon basil or Thai basil are some basil varieties that bloom quickly. 

The right time for pruning your basil

Basil is one of the easiest annual herbs to grow around your home or in your garden. Without pruning your basil, it will grow slim, tall and begin bolting. But before growing basil, you need to know when it is the right time for pruning basil or how you are going to do that. Cutting the basil too soon and you can lose an important leaf vital to the plant’s growth, Or else cutting too much can also hamper the plant growth. 

When you prune the basil, you are cutting off the central stem allowing the plant to split off. By cutting the central basil stem you will get two center stems that will double the number of leaves. But if you prune too soon, the plant will not receive enough energy.

Generally, basil is considered a resilient plant, so even if you cut it back a bit earlier than the right timing, it should grow back normally. But make sure it is not too early.

The best time to prune your basil is when it reaches around 6 inches (15 cm) tall. At this height, it would be able to survive heavy trimming. Or else, you can prune your basil by looking at the set of leaves it has grown so far. Each leaf on the plant represents an additional source of food which means the more leaves it accumulates, the more prepared it is to replace what has been lost.

Once your basil grows its fifth or sixth set of leaves, it can be cut back. The leaves usually taste better when they’re younger, but if you wait for your basil to grow more than three sets of leaves on each stem, the plant will become stronger.

It will be too late to cut back your basil when it’s about to bloom or already has. When there are flower buds in the plant, the plant is about to finish its life cycle. Blooming usually indicates the time of reproduction or the last stage of life for flowering plants. Besides this, basil leaves become bitter and less flavorful when the plant starts to develop flowers. That’s why pruning is very important for basil when you want to enjoy delicious basil for as long as possible.

Since basil is a fast-growing plant, you’ll be able to prune every two weeks once it is fully established. Prune your basil plant more often regularly to get leafy and bushy basil plants.

How you can prune your potted basil just by following the 5 steps

To get fresh basil for cooking, you can grow basil in containers and put it near a window in the kitchen. By this, it can get the sunlight and water properly without creating too many difficulties for you, right? But you can’t escape the basil cuttings thinking that it’s in the container. 

To get a bushy, multi-branched plant, you need to know the correct pruning process. So, here are 5 easy steps that you can follow to prune your basil properly.

1. Wait until your basil is 6 inches tall or has 5-6 sets of leaves

You certainly wouldn’t want to prune your plant too early. Your basil plant needs to be at least 6 inches (15 cm) tall before you start pruning. This will ensure that there are 5-6 sets of leaves coming from the stem of the plant.

Having at least 5-6 sets of leaves is important because you want to have 1-2 sets of leaves left when you cut it. These leaves are essential for converting sunlight into energy for your basil plant.

2. Identify the central stem

A basil plant is made up of one tall, center stem with sets of small leaves growing out of each side. The central stem will be the thickest one in the middle. Cutting the main stem will yield two new stems growing from it. But be gentle while handling your plant as basil is very sensitive and can bruise easily.

3. Cut the central stem 1⁄2 inch (1.3 cm) above the fifth set of leaves

Once you’ve identified the central stem, count the set of leaves from the top of the stem and move your way down the plant until you reach the fifth set of true leaves. Now, make an angled cut about 1⁄4 inch (0.64 cm) to 1⁄2 inch (1.3 cm) above the spot where two leaves are growing.

  • Be sure there are at least 1 or 2 sets of leaves left at the bottom of your stem as these leaves are needed for the continued growth.
  • Always use scissors or pruning shears to cut the stem. Never use your fingers, as this may harm the plant.

4. Cut flower blossoms as soon as they start to form

If you notice flower blossoms in your basil plant, clip them off immediately using fingers. Flower growth is a sign that your basil plant has switched from growth mode to reproductive mode. This is good when you want to plant more basil seeds.

But if you want your current basil plants to get bushier and continue growing, you’ll need to cut those flowers off with gardening clippers. To prevent blooming from reoccurring immediately, move down the stem a few sets of leaves before cutting.

Besides that, Stressed basil plants begin to flower sooner than those given plenties of sunshine, well-drained soil, and consistent moisture. So, aim to keep your basil happy so that it keeps producing leaves, not flowers. But for most types of basil, you’ll inevitably see flower buds forming by mid-summer. 

5. Repeat pruning every 1-2 weeks

Make sure you prune your basil plant throughout the summer season. This will ensure maximum growth and more basil for you! Wait at least 1-2 weeks before trimming again, to avoid cutting too much of the stems.

Few last words for you

For growing up healthy basil plants you need to prune them regularly. There are several types of basil and you can choose your favorite one for your summer garden. Pruning your basil will ensure a bushy and leafier basil plant as well as fresh good basil. Just know the right time and right process for making some happy basil plants. Well, I have shared the easiest ways so that you can get the right time and process. So take care of your basil and happy gardening!