Native to India and Asia, there are over 40 basil (Ocimum basilicum) varieties to choose from for your home garden. You can plant it to add color to your landscape and/or grow it for culinary reasons. I personally have chosen four for my small herb garden. If you decide to plant basil in a container, be sure to keep it well watered. They come in different colors, fragrances and tastes. Basil is a warm season annual and you can plan to start planting after danger of frost has passed.
Here is what I planted in my herb garden this year. As I plant more next year, I’ll add them to this list.
Dark Opal Basil
(Ocimum basilicum ‘Purple Dark Opal’)
As I planted the purple basil from seeds, germination was terrific, but the seedlings had a struggle to survive. It provides a beautiful copper-purple color to your garden. It has a slightly spicy flavor and is used in salads or infused oils. Its also used in fresh and dried floral displays and arrangements. Though I haven’t tried it yet, I hear it can be used in pesto as well for a different presentation of color.
Purple basil prefers full sun with most and well drained soil. It can grow 18″ to 24″ inches tall. Use 12″ to 18″ spacing. You can plant it in a container or directly in your garden
Basil Sweet Semi-Dwarf
This variety is mostly used in Italian dishes, pesto as well as soups. We use this fresh basil in our sauteed vegetable dishes as well. Some varieties include Genovese, Italian Large Leaf, Lettuce Leaf and Napoletano. Its big leaves are easy and fast to grow to make pesto to use or freeze. Its also a great herb to dry to be used in your dishes year round.
Semi-dwarf sweet basil prefers full sun with most and well drained soil. It can grow 24″ to 30″ inches tall. Use 18″ spacing. You can plant it in a container or directly in your garden. Harvest only the top leaves often to encourage plant growth.
(Ocimum basilicum ‘Cinnamon’)
This variety is best cooked fresh in fruit, Asian or Italian dishes. It is smaller and the leaves are darker and narrower than the semi-dwarf variety. When you pick the leaves, it has a cTnnamon smell as well as taste.
Cinnamon basil prefers full-part sun with most and well drained soil. It can grow 18″ to 30″ inches tall and 12″ to 18 inches wide. Use 18″ spacing. You can plant it in a container or directly in your garden
(Ocimum basilicum ‘thyrsiflora’)
Thai Basil has a stronger flavor than sweet basil, but also has a hint of licorice taste. It is a pointed leaf that is about half the size of sweet basil that makes a pretty garnish. It is mostly used in Asian and Thai cuisine.
Thai basil prefers full sun to part shade with well drained but moist soil. This plant grows to 12″ to 24 inches in height and width. Use 12″ to 18″ spacing in a garden, herb bed or flower bed. It also makes a great container plant.