How to grow and care for Thai basil

Thai basil is closely related to sweet basil, with decorative purple stems, striking flowerheads and an unexpected licorice flavour that’s perfectly matched to Asian cuisine. Ornamental and edible, Thai basil is decorative, delicious and definitely worth growing this summer.

Name: Thai basil, oriental basil, Asian basil, licorice basil (Ocimum basilicum, var. thyrsiflora)

Plant type: annual herb

Height: 40–45cm

Climate: prefers tropical, sub-tropical and warm temperate climates, but can be grown during the warmer months in arid/semi-arid and cold temperate climates, when frost is unlikely.

Soil: plant in a soil enriched with compost and decomposed manure.

Position: full sun, and also part shade in tropical and sub-tropical climates.

Flowering and fruiting: N/A

Feeding: regular applications of a seaweed solution help to keep plants healthy and productive.  

Watering: water regularly, especially during hot dry weather.

Appearance and characteristics of Thai basil

Closely related to sweet basil, Thai basil has slightly smaller foliage, striking purple stems and matching decorative flower heads. More intense in flavour than sweet basil but with a hint of licorice, Thai basil is a powerful addition to summer salads, as well as an attractive addition to the herb or kitchen garden.

Uses for Thai basil

Thai basil is a highly decorative herb that’s equally suited to the ornamental garden or the vegie patch. The purple stems and flower heads make an attractive addition to the summer garden. An annual herb, Thai basil is best harvested regularly and used fresh in salads, soups and rice paper rolls.

How to grow Thai basil

  1. If growing Thai basil in pots, select a premium organic potting mix with the Australian standards tick.

  2. Choose a self-watering pot to maintain optimal moisture and provide protection against frost.

  3. Grow indoors on a sunny windowsill, or outside in full sun protected from cold weather. If growing in a garden bed, improve soil prior to planting with compost and decomposed manure. Plant in full sun or part shade.

  4. Protect plants from snails and slugs while young, and apply a seaweed solution to improve plant vigour and resistance to frost and pests.

Caring for Thai basil

Although regular watering is essential, once established, Thai basil is easy to grow. Harvest regularly to extend your harvest and to help delay your basil from running to seed.   

Thai basil prefers a moist soil, so enrich with compost and manure, water regularly, and mulch to reduce water loss through evaporation. Always water the soil and not the foliage, especially in hot weather.

Pruning and harvesting Thai basil

Harvest regularly to promote compact growth and to prevent your Thai basil running to seed. An annual herb, plants should be cut down at the end of the growing season. The leaves can be dried for use throughout the year.

Diseases and pests

Snails and slugs can attack young plants. Protect with organic snail pellets or by using a snail and slug trap. Avoid overhead watering, especially during the day. If aphids become a problem, spray with Neem or Eco-Oil to prevent further damage.

How to propagate Thai basil

  1. An annual herb, Thai basil is best grown from seed sown in punnets or trays before being transplanted out into the garden.

  2. Start seed indoors for 4 weeks before introducing to the outside environment for 2 weeks prior to planting. Thai basil is best grown in spring or early summer in most climates.

  3. To collect your own seed, let your Thai basil flower and then collect the flowers as soon as they start to brown.

  4. Dry flowers inside in a warm location. Once dry, crush over a bucket or dish and sieve the contents to separate the seed from the chaff (dried flowers and leaves).

  5. Store seed in an envelope clearly marked with the name and the date collected.

If you like this then try

Vietnamese mint: a moisture-loving Asian spreading herb that’s at its peak during the warm months.

Lemongrass: popular in Asian and Indian cuisine, this strappy herb loves moist soils. 

Coriander: a delicious annual herb perfect to grow from seed this summer. 

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