How to Trim Basil

Learn how to prune basil so it will thrive all season long.

How to Trim Basil

Growing basil seems easy, right? Those plants in the grocery store always look so perky and fresh. It's impossible to resist bringing one home!

However, you might be disappointed to find that those plants don't fare so well in your care. Improperly watering and pruning basil can cause its leaves to thin out or turn brown. That's just not going to work if you want to enjoy caprese salad, fresh pesto, or craft cocktails all summer long!

Luckily, we've learned some great tips for making sure that your basil plant stays healthy.

One of the most important things is to learn how to trim basil properly. It turns out that just cutting off leaves wherever you want isn't the best way to do things. In fact, pruning basil the right way can ensure that it grows even more leaves. How great is that?

Read on to learn the right way to prune basil, plus some other great tips for keeping your plants healthy and happy all summer long.

How to Trim Basil

  1. Look for a place on your basil plant where there are two large leaves and each large leaf has a small leaf growing on top of it.
  2. Using scissors, cut the stalk about .5" above where these leaves are growing.

How to trim basil

By doing this, you will encourage those two little leaves to grow into two new stalks. That means your plant will grow even more basil leaves!

Here are some other "dos" and "don'ts" for trimming basil.

How do you harvest basil without killing the plant?


  1. Use scissors to trim basil! Pinching off leaves with your fingers can damage the plant.
  2. Prune basil every 2-3 weeks throughout the season.


  1. Don't cut basil leaves off from the bottom of the plant. These leaves absorb the most sunlight and help your basil grow. Start at the top of the plant instead.
  2. Don't cut off just any basil leaves when you harvest for a recipe. Use the method above every time you remove leaves from your basil plant.

Basil plant

Other Tips for Harvesting Basil

  1. Save the basil leaves if you don't plan to use them right away. Dry them or freeze them for later use.
  2. Do harvest basil in the early morning, if possible. This is when the leaves are the juiciest.

What about the flowers on the top of basil plants?

If you prune your basil regularly, you probably will not see it start to flower. But, don't worry if you do! These flowers are easy to handle.

Simply trim off any flowers from the top of your basil plant.

You don't want the plant to flower, because it diverts energy from the rest of the plant--draining growing potential from the leaves.

Other Tips for Growing Basil

Here are a few more things you can do to ensure that your basil is the healthiest it can be!

  1. Make sure it stays warm and gets plenty of sunshine. If you plant your basil early in the season, consider planting it in a pot that can be pulled inside if you see frost in the forecast.
  2. Keep the soil moist (but well drained). Basil doesn't grow as well when the soil gets dry.
  3. Make sure your pot is big enough for the plant. I've started basil plants in little pots--about 5" in diameter--and they died quickly. A larger pot will allow your basil to thrive!

Watering basil plant

What are your best tips for taking care of basil? Let us know in the comments below!

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