How to Prune Basil – Different Methods (With Pictures)

Basil can be pruned in different ways depending on how you want to harvest it, if it has suffered damage, if it has been thinned due to lack of light, etc., and in this article, we explain how to prune basil.

Basil is usually pruned at the time of harvesting the leaves or flowers, and it is rarely pruned for any other reason than this or a sanitary renewal of the plant in case it suffers any damage.

How to Prune Basil – Gradual

Always remember to prune your basil using sharp, disinfected shears.

When basil is grown in home gardens, the necessary leaves are usually harvested fresh for use in cooking, leaving the rest of the plant to continue growing.

In this β€œpruning” method, only the necessary parts are cut. Whole stems can be pruned – leaving about 4β€³ (10 cm) uncut – or individual leaves.

We recommend cutting stems instead of leaves, to encourage the plant to renew itself. Harvesting only leaves greatly worsens the appearance of the basil and hinders the emission of new stems.

how to prune basil

How to Prune Basil – Total

When you want to harvest the whole basil plant -for drying, as a gift, etc-, you should β€œprune” the bush about 4β€³ to 6β€³ (10 to 15 cm) from the ground, usually before or at the beginning of flowering.

Depending on the weather and the soil, full pruning can be done once a month or as little as twice a month during cultivation.

The use of nitrogen fertilizers – such as nettle slurry – after pruning favors vigorous regrowth and shortens the time between cuts.

Renovation of Basil

Occasionally, basil can be attacked by pests and diseases, or suffer damage due to cold, drought, crushing, etc. that causes part of the plant to die or dry out.

In these cases, it is advisable to prune the affected parts as soon as possible, or the whole plant if the damage is very serious, clean the soil around it to improve aeration and provide fertilizer to stimulate regrowth.

If the cause of the damage has subsided – and the damage has not been lethal – the basil will regrow strongly.

Other times, the basil plant was growing in a less luminous place than it should, and the stems grow too long and weak; the basil no longer stands upright.

When this happens, it is necessary to prune the entire plant to about 4” (10 cm) from the ground and put it in a brighter place so that the problem does not recur.

pruning basil plant

Aesthetic Pruning

If what is desired is that the basil has a form with high ornamental value, then it is convenient to favor the formation of new stems leaves that cover the empty spaces, at the same time that the longest branches are shortened.

To achieve this, the tips of the longest stems should be pruned frequently, and those that look unpopulated should be cut a few inches (centimeters) above the ground.

This pruning will make the basil take on a more rounded and compact shape, which will be very pleasing to the eye.

Learn more about How to Plant Basil.

About Henry Morgan

We are the Morgans, Henry, and Julia, both agronomists from the University of Michigan, where we met. We are experts in putting our hands in the soil and developing organic foods and improving production processes for decades. Likewise, we have worked for companies such as Mondelez International, BASF, Monsanto, etc. currently in our role as science writers for as well as advisors in promoting large scale food growing in urbanized areas. In this website, we share what we are most passionate about, gardening and farming. Enjoy and see real photos on our website.