Basil is not only a popular culinary herb, but it also makes for a fantastic garden display. Flower colors of whites, pinks, and scarlets are observed on the most popular basil varieties. These basil flowers grow in multitudes on long stems, and their petite size makes a dainty addition to gardens.
Why does basil flower? Basil grows flowers for reproduction purposes. The flowers contain pollen that attracts pollinators like bees, butterflies, and beetles. These pollinators then spread pollen to other basil flowers, fertilizing them. These fertilized flowers will then grow seeds as part of the reproductive cycle.
Understanding why basil plants flower is not only interesting, but it can make you an even better gardener (it also helps on trivia night!). We have outlined the most common questions on this topic, so read on below to find the answers.
Flowers on Basil Plants – What To Know
Basil flowering is a totally normal and healthy part of the life cycle of the plant, but there are certain ways to manage this annual phenomenon in order to prolong the harvest season just a little bit longer.
Understanding Basil’s Life Cycle
Basil produces flowers as a way to add genetic diversity to its offspring and to create seeds for the future. This is a method of reproduction employed by the majority of plants around the world.
Does Basil Die After Flowering?
Basil grown in cold climates is an annual plant, so it will go through its entire life cycle from germination and growth to flowering, seed production, and death all in one year. In warm climates, basil, especially Asian basil varieties, may continue to grow for another year or two.
When Does Basil Flower?
Normally, basil in any climate will begin to flower in mid to late summer. This occurs when the plants have soaked up plenty of sun and have the strength to put energy into flower and seed production.
What Triggers Basil To Flower?
Basil flowering is triggered by a combination of sunlight hours and temperature. Plants have an internal clock to understand what season it is and when to begin getting ready for certain stages of their lives.
Can You Stop Basil From Flowering?
To stop basil plants from going to seed, you can trim them back at the first sign of flowers emerging. These flowering stalks will appear as tender green shoots with lots of small buds.
However, you cannot stop the natural cycle of basil wanting to grow flowers. Your best bet is to prune the top of plants in spring to delay the inevitable as long as possible.
Can You Eat Basil Flowers?
Yes, you can safely consume basil flowers, but we do not recommend it. Once basil begins to grow flowers, its chemical makeup will begin to change, and the plant will become gradually more bitter. It will still be fine to consume, but it won’t taste very good.
Catching basil flowers early may make them more palatable, but it depends on individual plants. Our best solution to deal with basil that has gotten away from you and produced flowers is to dry them. They make wonderful dried displays that keep for months.
Is Basil Still Good After It Flowers?
Once basil begins to end its life cycle, the entire plant, including the flowers, leaves, and stalks, will become bitter. For this reason, it is best left for collecting seeds or for composting.
If you’re wondering whether basil is still safe to eat, then, yes, basil is still edible after flowering is underway.
What To Do When Basil Flowers
In most cases,you will catch budding flowers in time to pinch them off. This will keep your basil tasting as flavorful and sweet as it was.
An even easier method to stop flowers is to pinch off the tops of plants during the growing season, just to make sure you keep a step ahead of the plants.
What To Do With Basil Flowers
Of course, the number one answer for this is to make more basil plants! Flowers equal seeds and seeds equal plants. Plants that have already grown in your specific garden climate will produce seeds that are adapted to the growing conditions.
This means that your plants will be even healthier the following year. Collecting your own seeds also means you can choose seeds from the strongest plants, giving you the best chances at a bumper crop next year.
Remember that basil flowers taste best when they are young and tender. Instead of letting them mature on the plant, harvest them, and put them to use in a few homemade delights. These are our go-to favorites:
- Homemade Basil Tea
Flowers can make a really delicate brewed tea. Simply place fresh or dried flowers into a teapot or mug, add a teaspoon of honey if desired, and add hot but not boiling water. Let stand for about 7 minutes, strain, and enjoy.
- Oil or Vinegar Infusions
It would be a shame to hide the pretty structure of basil flowers and buds, so why not place whole stems into a jar or bottle and add organic olive oil or vinegar?
These infusions will impart subtle basil flavors into your infusions. They also look fantastic! If you want to get even more creative, you could add some chive flowers, whole garlic cloves, or whole dried chilies. They will make great gifts, especially when you can say that the contents are homegrown.
- Dried Herb Mixes
While drying means that your herbs lose a little bit of their aroma and potency, it can still be a good way to preserve basil for long periods of time. Simply dry basil flowers in the sun, a dehydrator, or a conventional oven on a low setting, and then crush them in a bowl and store them in jars.
You can also mix dried basil flowers with dried rosemary, thyme, and sage for an authentic Italian herb mix. Or why not make an herb-infused salt for a delicious roast vegetable, salad, or meat seasoning?
How To Delay Basil Flowering
Delaying flowering on basil plants can be achieved through some simple methods. First, plant your basil early in the season so that the cooler temperatures give it time to grow before the heat signals it to start producing flowers.
If growing in pots, you can move your basil into partial shade for a few hours a day so that it is removed from the intensity of the sun.
Pinching off the top of basil plants in spring will not only delay flowering, but it will also give you larger, bushier plants.
Can You Use Basil Flowers in Pesto?
Yes! Young basil flowers can definitely be added to pesto in moderation. Always try a little bit before adding it to recipes to make sure it still has a good taste.
Does Basil Reseed Itself?
Basil can indeed reseed itself but only in climates that receive small amounts of frost. Because this herb is a lover of warmth, the seeds will not withstand cold winters. Your best bet is to collect and dry seeds yourself for next year’s crop.
Can I Split My Basil Plant?
If you have two or more basil plants growing very closely together, you can gently separate them while they are still young, but an individual basil plant can not be propagated by dividing. However, you can root cuttings from your basil plants. An organic rooting hormone can be a great help.
As you can see, there’s a lot more than meets the eye when basil starts to produce flowers. As a gardener, it always pays to be more informed about the plants you’re growing. This gives you the opportunity to increase production and to utilize plant products that would normally be considered “waste”.
We hope this article has been informative and that it prepares you for your next basil growing season.