Learn how and where to prune your indoor basil plants so they stay healthy and continue to grow under lights.
It has been about two months since I planted a trio of basil in the Click and Grow Smart Garden. I’ve harvested the basil twice now, so I thought it was time to do a demo so you can see exactly how I did it.
- Sharp kitchen scissors
- Paper Towel or cloth
- Small bowl or container to hold the harvested basil leaves
- Glass with water to store any cuttings.
Where To Trim Your Basil Plants
The first thing you’ll do is identify good places to make a cut. When I’m looking at my basil, I check for a few things:
- Where do I need more room in the garden, to prevent overcrowding?
- Which plants need to be cut back to promote bushier growth?
- Remove any damaged leaves for overall health.
Make Selective Cuts So Each Plant Gets Light & Air
If you take a look at the pictures above, you can see that my Genovese basil in the center is crowding out the Dwarf basil on the right side of the garden.
This poor little guy is getting knocked over. And he’s not getting enough light. So this is the first place I cut to make sure each plant is getting enough light.
Trim Taller Plants To Promote Bushier Growth
The next candidate for a trim was the lemon basil that had grown too tall too fast. I should’ve trimmed it a while back. Since we have limited space, we want the plants to grow out not up.
For these cuts, it is best to find a place where the stems have already started branching out.
It’s even better if you find one where two baby leaves are coming out on either side of the branch. This is what we call a leaf node.
That is the perfect place to cut because you know that your basil will continue to grow from these new leaves.
Will Basil Continue to Grow After Pruning?
Yes, when you cut basil just over a leaf node, it will sprout new stems and leaves just below the cut.
Here is an example of how my lemon basil grew after a similar cut about a month ago. New stems will form on either side where you saw the leaf nodes. And those stems will continue to put out new leaves for harvesting.
Pruning Damaged Leaves
You can see that some of the leaves have burned where they touched the light. This happens when you forget to make regular trims. Just remove the burned leaves, and all will be well.
As I was harvesting leaves, I also removed any leaves that had brown edges. As you saw earlier, this can happen when your plant grows too close to the light. But it also happens if your basil wasn’t receiving enough water, or was crowded out by other plants.
Use this Time To Rearrange Plants Based On Indoor Growing Habits
I also repositioned my basil plants since the Genevese was so big, that it crowded out the dwarf basil causing it to grow a little crooked.
I put the Dwarf basil back on the left-hand side next to the lemon basil, which is growing more vertically and shouldn’t crowd it out as much.
I’m hoping that he’ll straighten out and grow straighter up toward the light. I trimmed the lemon especially severely, so it will grow bushier this time. It has strong stems, so it should be able to support a bushier plant.
What To Do With Your Harvest
The last step of harvesting basil out of your indoor garden is to either use it in a recipe or store it for future use.
I like to grow any extra basil on in a jar. Just because you need to prune your basil doesn’t mean you have to use it right away. If you take a look at the photo below, you’ll see that I’ve got two pretty big basil plants growing from previous harvests.
The one on the left is from about the April trim, about a month ago. It’s growing just fine and continues to stay healthy even a month later. The one in the middle is from today’s trim.
I do find that hydroponic basil roots out very quickly. It also seems to grow a little faster and stays healthier than when I take cuttings from basil previously grown outdoors. I believe this is because it’s already accustomed to living inside and getting its nutrients from the water instead of from the soil. But this is based on my own observations only.
And that is the last step of our how-to guide. Don’t be afraid to prune your basil just because you don’t have a use for it right now. As you can see you can keep the plants healthy and continue to harvest leaves months after cutting them away from the main plant.
For detailed steps for growing basil cuttings in water, follow this tutorial –> How to Grow Herbs in Water. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Make sure to remove the bottom leaves.
- Only stems should be in the water. Leaves will make the water moldy.
- Put the stems in a glass jar or vase.
The roots will grow fast. You can see how healthy and big the leaves are growing on my window sill. If given enough sunlight, your basil plant will even grow on to flower like this one.
If you let it flower, this is a signal to the plant that it is reaching the end of its growing cycle. The leaves will stop growing, and the plant puts all its energy into producing seeds.
Shortly after that, the leaves will start to lose their flavor and can become bitter. So, in this case, make sure you’ve harvested what you want for cooking. I like to keep a few just for their beauty.
A Few Final Tips When Pruning Your Indoor Basil Plants
Don’t trim more than 2/3 of the plant, or it may not recover. I trimmed my lemon basil pretty severely, so we’ll see how it reacts.
A good rule of thumb is the trim early and trim often. This keeps your basil healthy and full. This is essential when growing indoors. We have limited vertical space due to the nature of the grow lights, so you will get bigger harvests if you let your plants grow out instead of up.