Herbs,  Gardening,  Plants

How to Prune Basil for Larger Yields


What could probably come tight to the fragrance of basil in the summertime? Just rubbing a leaf and keeping it to your nose can grant you visions of pasta. Basil reigns as my preferred herb to have in the garden because it’s super easy to grow, and it usually seeds, so I have volunteers popping up the next spring. And if you’re worried that basil is tough to grow, there’s no need to dread. I can guide you through the entire process of growing basil from seed,  pruning, watering, and finally serving it up in sweet and savory dishes. Basil is one of the toughest and most comfortable to grow herbs for the summertime garden.

How to Prune Basil for Larger Yields
How to Prune Basil for Larger Yields

How to Prune Basil

Whether in a container or in your garden, basil can provide a fantastic harvest with just one plant. And not only do these wonderful plants give you fresh basil leaves but at the outcome of the season, when your plant produces small white flowers, you’ll be implementing the pollinators in your garden with a sufficient food source. But before we go there, let’s discuss a vital element for abundant basil. Knowing how to prune basil will give you the greatest results. 

Why Prune Basil?

My basil plants haven’t regularly been rich growers. After a few years of skinny, tall basil plants, I realized there must be something I’m avoiding. Other basil plants on tv all appeared large, but I was stuck with thin plants. Possibly more extra fertilizer was the trick? No, though they did surely grow bigger. And despite my watering and hovering, no changes other than length were happening.

Lastly, when examining about pruning as help for different summer growers (like tomatoes), I got the idea of pruning basil. And wow! What a difference a little pruning can make! Just some snips each plant makes the difference among one group of pesto and enough pesto to share with the neighbors. Trust me; your neighbors want you to prune your basil plants. Pruning is advantageous for all varieties of plants, including blueberries and tomatoes. Pruning provides plants an opportunity to concentrate on producing more of what you’ll use, and less of what you don’t need.




So how do you go from paltry to robust with your basil plants? Even if your thumb is closer to black than green, It’s quite simple! And I’m going to show you how:

Pruning Basil Instructions

1. Ideally, you’d start pruning when your basil plant is still pretty small, with only one or two stems (6-8 leaves) off the main plant. If you’ve waited a bit longer, I would suggest not pruning down near the base, but rather on a higher stem. First, find a stem that has a leaf on each side and leaves growing in “the middle.”

2. A good set of pruning shears, cut the middle growth close to its base. What you’re doing here is encouraging the plant to focus on those two side branches by getting rid of what was in the middle. It’s all about distributing the plant’s energy where you want it to go. The same is true for many plants in the garden, including tomatoes.

3. Use the basil that you’ve pruned off for a lovely Caprese salad or a bright pop to the top of your next pasta meal. If the stem portion you’ve cut off is long enough, you can put it in a small container with water and root it. Then you’ll have more basil plants! In the meantime, those two leaves you left behind will grow and flourish. You can see below one of the stems I pruned about a month ago. Both of those side leaves are now growing leaves of their own, and your harvest has almost doubled simply because you pruned with one tiny snip.

4. You can repeat this pruning process with several stems, but don’t go crazy, especially if your basil plant is a little larger. You don’t want to shock the plant, so start with pruning two stems, and then in a week or two prune a bit more if needed. On average, I only prune my basil plants two or three times during the season, and as you’ll see in my video below, my basil plants get pretty large. There’s plenty of basil for me and my friends and neighbors!

The tiny basil plant that we bought at our local plant sale has now blossomed into a full and productive plant, and this is really with only one pruning so far. You can also have rich compost to the soil around your plant to encourage growth as well. With our basil cuttings, we’ve had several Caprese salads, and my food processor is begging me to make some pesto, and of course, basil is easy to dry and use later.

I’d love to know your favorite uses for fresh basil, and if you’ve found pruning helpful for you as well. Happy Gardening!


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