Gardening: How to Care for a Basil Plant from the Grocery Store

Basil is a great culinary ingredient that can be grown and cared for at home. Doing it right will leave you with a bountiful plant and a fulfilled soul. Here’s how to go about it.

By Cookist

Basil is a culinary garden herb used because of its fragrant leaves with high concentrations of essential oils. It comes in a wide variety, with sweet basil being the most common and widely used in food worldwide.

Basil is native to warm, tropical climates. It can be grown indoors, but it does best outdoors in hot, dry conditions. Keep reading to learn more about caring for a basil plant.

Picking the best basil plants from the grocery store

When shopping for basil plants from the grocery store, go for bigger plants that are bushy, vibrant, and have healthy growth. Avoid plants with leaves that look wilted or drooping, indicating the basil plant is dehydrated.

Check the roots in the pot and make sure the plant is not root-bound. Signs of healthy roots mean you can re-plant the basil plant at home.

Avoid buying plants with signs of whitefly or other aphid infestation, as these will spread to your other plants once you get them home.


How to care for basil plants

The basil plant you purchase from the grocery store will come packaged in a plastic cover, with the plant itself in a small pot. A common way people take care of basil plants like this is to place the plant in a saucer of water on a windowsill where it can get plenty of sunlight. Then, water the basil plant every few days to keep it hydrated.

This is a viable way of caring for a basil plant for immediate harvest and use of the leaves, but it will only keep the basil plant alive short term. This is because the plant’s pot is seeded with many basil plants — not just one.

It gets too crowded for them all to grow and thrive in that single pot as they run out of space and nutrients and ultimately die after about a week or two.

If you want an abundance of basil for many months, it is important you divide up the stronger, healthier basil plants and then pot them individually to allow them to flourish.

To divide them you will need:

  • 1 basil plant from the grocery store
  • Small, separate pots
  • Potting mix
  • A warm location to place your new basil plants — somewhere with direct sunlight

Follow these steps: 

  • Remove the basil plant from the pot and separate the plants by tenderly pulling apart the root ball. Try only to hold the root/soil part of the plant so you don’t damage the stems or leaves.
  • After you’ve exposed the inside of the root ball, look for plants that look the healthiest and largest, as these are the ones you will want to plant individually.
  • Continue to pull apart each larger basil plant and plant in its pot. Remember to always plant basil at the same level that it was planted in its original pot, as basil stems are delicate and can’t be planted too deeply.
  • Place your newly potted plants in a warm, cozy place with direct sunlight.
  • When you want to harvest some basil leaves for cooking, remove the top sets of leaves from the top of the plant down to encourage the rest to grow out.
  • If you’re planting your individual basil plants together in a larger or outdoor pot, make sure you leave enough space between each plant for it to grow — 8-10in of space is enough.

How to keep your grocery store basil plants thriving

  1. Water your basil plants well
  2. Harvesting your basil plants
  3. Keeping bugs off your basil plants

Good luck!

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