How To Harvest Basil Without Killing The Plant

How To Harvest Basil Without Killing The Plant

Basil is a famous western food. It is used as an ingredient in pizza, as an herbal spice for pasta and other dishes, as a unique flavor added to salads, and so on.

Basil is not only good for cooking, the basil as an herb also has a wide range of health benefits and is rich in minerals, nutrients and antioxidants. Traditionally, basil has been used as a herbal medicine, especially in the treatment of snake bites, common colds and other cases of inflammation.

It is important not to harvest the basil the wrong way whether you need it for food or medicine.

Try to get into the habit of removing leaves from plants on a regular basis, even if you don’t actually need them, because it’s better for your plants in the long run. After all, you can store the harvested leaves at any time for later use.

You can start picking its leaves after 50 to 75 days or when it grows to about 6 to 8 inches tall. In other cases, start harvesting once the plant has grown at least 6 sets of leaves. You can choose to harvest basil at any time of the day according to your needs, but it is strongly recommended to harvest the basil in the early morning when the leaves are succulent and more fresh.

Unlike other herbs and plants, basil can actually be harvested anytime you want and need it, because regular harvesting prevents flower production, which can cause basil leaves to grow in large numbers. However, it may be very sensitive in the cold season, and it may even react negatively to light frost and even die completely.

Related: How To Harvest Watermelon Step By Step Guide 


You may want to cut the whole plant about 3 inches off the ground before it is wilted and killed by frost.

You can take advantage of using the stems as compost for other plants.

In addition, if you want a sufficient supply of basil leaves and seeds, you may need to grow two different basil plants for two different purposes. The first is mainly to harvest vegetables, while the other is to harvest seeds. The only difference is that you will let the latter bloom.

Remember that, the more frequently you harvest, the greener and more fertile your basil plants will be.

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Depending on the number of leaves you want to harvest, two different techniques can be used to harvest basil.

The traditional method of harvesting the basil in small quantities is to pluck its leaves directly, while for large harvests, you may want to trim it or cut off part of the plant stem.

Remember to always measure your plants before harvesting. It should be at least 6 inches high and not more than 8 inches.

Related: How To Harvest Onions And Garlic 

Harvesting in small quantities

If you are harvesting the Basil in small quantities to decorate a vegetarian pizza, you can pluck the basil leaves directly from the plant. You can use scissors or just your fingers, which is more convenient for you. However, when doing so, make sure not to tear or damage its stem.

When you pick a leaf, you can also take this opportunity to pinch the root that meets the stem to promote thicker growth. It is also recommended to perform the same treatment on its buds.

However, if you are harvesting in larger quantities, cutting off the entire stem of the plant is another way to harvest more basil.

Work your way from top to bottom, reducing the total height of the plant by one third. This process is called pruning and has been shown to accelerate the growth of basil.

Don’t forget to pinch or cut about a quarter of an inch above the leaf node. If you do it properly, you can expect another good harvest in just a few weeks.

Frequently asked questions

Below are some of your frequently asked questions about harvesting basil:

Do you pick Basil from the top or bottom?

Basil is best harvested from the top to bottom up to 1/3 of the total Basil height. Cut right above the Basil leaf pair rather than allowit a stub.

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Do picked Basil leaves grow back?

Picking Basil the right way not only makes your Basil to regrow but also increases leaves production. If you harvest basil leaves, they can grow back and double their production.

How do I make my Basil bushy?

You can make your Basil bushy by cutting Basil stems to about 0.25 inch above the leaf sets. Also, prune your Basil in the same way about 2-3 weeks. This pruning helps prevent flowering. You can also manually remove the flowers.

Related: How To Harvest Amaranth Leaves And Seeds

How long will a Basil plant live?

Basil is grown as biennial plant. This means that Basil takes 2 years or seasons to complete growth cycle. However, some varieties of basil can grow longer than 2 years.

Should I stop my Basil from flowering?

If you planted Basil mainly for its leaves, it is good to stop them from flowering. This is because removing the flowers helps double leaves production.

Read also: How To Harvest Asparagus Step By Step Guide 

How often should Basil be watered?

Regular watering is recommended for Basil. However, avoid overwatering your Basil plant. Ensure that you water your Basil about 1-2 days every week.


It is advisable to prune the basil every week or every two weeks to make the whole plant healthier.


1. “Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) Productivity and Raw Material Quality from Organic Cultivation” retrieved from here

2. “Influence of Harvesting Age and Genotype on Growth Parameters and Herbage Yield of Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) at Wondo Genet, Southern Ethiopia” retrieved from here

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