Basil not bushy...

kissingfrogs2003July 26, 2011

I also posted this in herbs but thought my container peeps who have been so helpful in the past might have some insight...

I have had these basil plants for a few months (upper right pots). They are producing good leaves but don't seem to be getting bushy. I "pluck" leaf pairs frequently and there are quite a few little leafs in places where I plucked, but nothing substantial. I also try to leave at least 3 pairs of leaf on each stem when I pluck so the plant still has a source to take in nutients.

They actually seem to be getting taller rather than bushier...


I will upload more close up pictures soon...

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If I'm seeing it right, it looks like multiple starts in each pot, three in one and maybe four or five in the other. I wouldn't expect them to do much except try desperately to grow up and away from the neighbors. One plant per pot, and I think they'll bush out nicely. A single common sweet basil plant should produce at least as lushly as all those in that large pot. You might still be a able to split them up.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 12:17PM
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could I do two or three in the large one? and one in the smaller?

I have limited space and can't afford enough pots for one in each...

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 5:07PM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

How big is the pot? From here it looks to be maybe a 6"?

I agree, they seem over crowded and stretching for the sun.

I would only plant one in it. If you can't afford more pots, than maybe try to recycle milk jugs and such.

That crowded, they are not going to grow to their full potential.

Last summer I had basil in the ground get to be 2' tall and just as bushy. It can get huge, but needs the space to do so.

Like they are, they will be fighting for food, water and light, and not really grow right.


    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 5:42PM
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Oh haha I meant afford the space...not the pots :)

It is a 10 inch pot. Here is what everything looks like after I moved stuff around...will they be ok (at least for a while) like this? I really don't have room for more pots....

these have 3-3-1 stems respectively

these have 2-3-2 stems respectively

all together everyone say (mozzerella) cheese!

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 7:03PM
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red_chucks(5 (Chicago))

My experience is that pinching or cutting the plant promotes bushiness; pulling the leaves off an uninjured stem does not. I am no expert; I can't say why.


    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 7:18PM
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I had three basil plants in a planter. They looked happy and appeared to have enough space but they just weren't growing very quickly. The week I moved them to individual containers, they doubled in size. They just like to be on their own. :D I think you'll find that you'll get a bigger harvest from one plant in each container than three.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2011 at 8:03PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

They are also a full sun plant, and will not fill out if not enough sun. Al

    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 10:05AM
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susan2010(6 Massachusetts)

Pinching the growing tips will result in bushier plants.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2011 at 11:55AM
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ykerzner(9 TX)

If you could put one or two basil plants into a pot at least 10" in width (18" is best), you would produce more basil than 10 plants with several in each pot the way you have them now. I have two genovese basil plants in a 10-gallon container. For some reason they are flowering like mad, so need to be pinched every day.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2011 at 12:07PM
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opal52(z7b GA)

ykezner, try giving your plants a hard cut back. They should recover fairly quickly and it should help delay the flowering for a while. You may want to try it on one plant only to see if it suits you. This works for me and extends the harvest life of the basil plant.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2011 at 12:40PM
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Wow that pic is inspiring!!

How do you know where to pinch? I always wonder how many leaves to leave on the plant...also should you pick off pairs or just one leaf here and there?

I am beginning to think I have been doing this all wrong...

    Bookmark   July 30, 2011 at 4:24PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Here is a dwarf basil I bare-rooted a few minutes ago. You have to realize that to me, everything is a potential bonsai & I can't resist pruning things into little trees. :-) Last weekend, this plant was a little larger than softball size. I reduced the foliage mass dramatically - so much that all the remaining leaves were interior leaves and etiolated to the point of being almost white. I put it on the bench in the shade so the leaves would get accustomed to brighter light, and moved it to full sun today. When I saw your post, I decided to finish the pinching. I just wish I'd taken a 'before' photo so you can see to what degree the plant was reduced:

Here it is after I stuck it in a pot. A few of the basils are perennial, but I have no idea if this one is. I'll likely stick it in a plastic pot and give it to the folks at Mathaei Botanic Gardens when it turns cold.

You can maximize 'bushiness' by pruning every branch back to 2 leaves. From those 2 leaves, you'll get 2 branches each. When those branches get about 4 pairs of leaves, prune them back to 2 leaves. This keeps the plant from blooming and preserves flavor, as well as keeping the plant compact.

I'll try to remember your thread & post a follow-up pic in a couple of weeks. Have fun!


    Bookmark   July 30, 2011 at 9:05PM
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ykerzner(9 TX)

Tapla - that is the most amusing pruning of a basil plant I've ever seen, truly the work of a bonsai master.

Opal - Thanks for the advice; will do as soon as the top half is harvested for pesto.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2011 at 1:36PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Lol - wait until the framework starts to flesh out in a week or two and it really starts to look like a tree. I should have started on it earlier, but I've been soo busy this summer.


    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 9:20PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

Al, you are fascinating! Who else would try to bonsai a basil plant? I usually grow 5 or 6 basil plants in a 12 inch pot and pinch off the tops regularly. Generally, I start pinching after the plant has four sets of true leaves and then again each time it has three more pairs of leaves. They do indeed grow two new branches each time and get quite bushy in spite of being crowded in the pot. When/if they start flowering, I cut them way back to about four inches high and make a simple pesto from basil, olive oil and garlic. From one pot I can get at least enough basil to make a quart of pesto. I freeze it in half cup containers. Then, I add things like Parmesan and pine nuts to it when I defrost it for using.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2011 at 10:50PM
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