How Do I Keep My Supermarket Basil Plant Alive?

You picked up another pot of basil at the supermarket or garden centre – and as usual, it didn’t survive long? Annoying, but unfortunately predictable. Because if the plants are as close together as in the supermarket herb pots, it is rarely possible to have more than two harvests. But that doesn’t have to be the case. With our tips on propagation by division, the harvest time can be significantly extended. We also tell you what is important when it comes to care. And best of all: our tips are also available as video instructions. GardenFlora editor Achim Werner tells you everything you need to know.

Keeping a supermarket basil plant (Ocimum basilicum) alive and thriving at home is quite achievable with the right care and attention. Here are some tips to help you maintain a healthy and productive basil plant:

1. Choose the Right Location:

  • Basil thrives in bright, indirect sunlight. Place your basil plant near a sunny window or under grow lights if you’re growing it indoors. Outdoors, select a location with morning sun and afternoon shade.

2. Adequate Watering:

  • Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Water the plant when the top inch of the soil feels dry. Basil prefers regular, even moisture.

3. Well-Draining Soil:

  • Ensure the pot or container has good drainage to prevent waterlogged roots. Use a well-draining potting mix.

4. Proper Pot or Container:

  • Choose a container with drainage holes to prevent water from pooling at the bottom. Basil is also suitable for hanging baskets or larger pots with multiple plants.

5. Pruning and Harvesting:

  • Regularly pinch or prune the growing tips to encourage branching and prevent the plant from becoming too leggy. Harvesting leaves frequently promotes bushier growth and prevents flowering.

6. Fertilization:

  • Feed your basil plant with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer at half-strength every 4-6 weeks during the growing season (spring to early autumn).
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7. Pests and Diseases:

  • Monitor your basil plant for common pests like aphids or spider mites. If you notice any pests, gently wash them off with a stream of water. Be vigilant for signs of diseases like downy mildew or basil fusarium wilt, and promptly remove and destroy infected leaves.

8. Prevent Flowering:

  • Basil plants tend to go to seed (flower) as they mature. Flowering diminishes leaf production and flavor. To prevent flowering, keep the plant regularly pruned and harvested. If you see flower buds forming, pinch them off immediately.

9. Adequate Space:

  • Give your basil plant enough space to grow and spread its leaves without overcrowding. Crowded basil plants can lead to poor air circulation and increased risk of disease.

10. Temperature and Humidity:

  • Basil prefers warm temperatures between 70-80°F (21-27°C) and moderate humidity. Avoid exposing it to cold drafts or extreme temperature fluctuations.

11. Repotting:

  • As your basil plant grows, it may outgrow its pot. When the roots become crowded, transplant it into a slightly larger container with fresh potting mix.

12. Companion Planting:

  • Basil is known to repel certain pests and is an excellent companion plant for tomatoes and peppers. Consider planting it alongside these vegetables to improve their growth and flavor.

13. Overwintering:

  • Basil is sensitive to cold temperatures. If you live in a region with harsh winters, consider overwintering your basil indoors or starting fresh from seeds or cuttings in the spring.

Remember that basil is an annual herb, which means it has a finite lifespan. However, with proper care and regular pruning, you can extend the life of your supermarket basil plant and enjoy fresh, aromatic leaves for an extended period. Additionally, consider taking cuttings and rooting them in water to start new plants and keep your basil supply going.

Bought basil goes to seed – what now?

Basil is always a little treat – how practical when you can harvest, process and serve it fresh as needed. But how can this be done as profitably as possible – preferably over many weeks – and does it even work with the spontaneously bought supermarket basil, which by now already looks quite damaged? Or is it perhaps more worthwhile to sow basil? Don’t despair – ask the professionals!

Separating basil from the pot: This is how it works

Separate the plants from each other and carefully pull apart the well-rooted root ball. Make sure that the plants keep as large a root ball as possible. If they are too close together, simply leave two or three basil plants together and plant them as a tuff.

Important: Shorten the plants to two to four leaves each afterwards. This way the seedling can put its energy into root formation.

Now place the plants in a balcony box at a distance of five by five centimetres. Plant the individual basil plants a little deeper so that they develop additional roots. Now water vigorously, then keep the substrate evenly moist. If there is a risk of frost at night, it is better to place the box on the windowsill, in a cold frame or in a greenhouse. During the day, however, basil prefers a sunny and wind-protected spot outdoors.

Care measures

After about three weeks, new leaflets have grown. Around six weeks after planting, the nutrient supply of the substrate is exhausted and liquid fertiliser is applied weekly. In this way, you can turn the purchased basil pot into a whole box that will provide spicy leaves until frost.

Harvest basil correctly

When harvesting, do not pluck off individual, lateral leaves, but cut off the entire upper shoot tips of the plant just above a leaf axil. This will encourage branching and the resulting side shoots will produce even more of the aromatic leaves. Thinning out and cutting off just above the leaf axil also reduces the risk of fungal diseases.

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Long harvest with full flavour

During the summer you should also harvest the basil shoots regularly so that the flowering is delayed. Otherwise the leaves will develop a tart, slightly bitter taste and also become tougher.
Do you prefer to grow basil in a pot or sow it?

Clearly, sowing gives you a wider choice of varieties. Sow basil from March to May on the windowsill or in a greenhouse at a temperature of at least 20 degrees Celsius. In June, basil seeds also germinate outdoors. The seeds of the light germinator are only pressed on. As soon as the seedlings crowd each other, they are planted out in a sheltered, sunny spot outdoors or in the greenhouse.


  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

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