Bush Basil Care: Tips On Growing Bush Basil Plants In The Garden

Close up of a bush basil plant with three white flowers growing out of it
(Image credit: Nahhan)

Basil is the “king of herbs,” a plant that has been used in both food and for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Its rich and varied flavors and delightful smell have continued to make it a popular garden and potted plant. Of the many varieties you can choose for your garden, bush basil plants are compact and showy and have smaller leaves than sweet basil with a concentrated punch of flavor.

What is Bush Basil?

Basil comes in so many varieties that it can be hard to choose just one or two for a limited space. Sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum) is fairly common, a tall herb with large, glossy green leaves. Bush basil (Ocimum minimum), sometimes called dwarf basil, only grows to about 6 inches tall (15 cm.) and is compact and bushy with smaller leaves. While both are annual plants, bush basil may survive the winter in milder climates.

For culinary purposes, bush basil vs. sweet basil is a matter of taste. The leaves of both plants are used in similar ways, like in sauces or in salads. The flavor in the leaves of bush basil is more intense than sweet basil, so you get more bang for your buck. It is because of this strong flavor; you’ll often see bush basil called “spicy globe” basil.

Growing Bush Basil in the Garden or Containers

Bush basil care is simple, making this tasty and fragrant plant easy to grow even for those without a green thumb. Since it’s shrub-like, compact, and bushy, growing bush basil in a pot is a great choice. It can even be used to create a low hedge in a garden. It will grow well and easily whether you choose a container, or you put it right in the ground.

Bush basil prefers rich soil, so find a good quality potting soil, or use a fertilizer to enrich your soil. Choose a full-sun location that drains well, water your plant regularly, and it should grow well. As it grows, harvest leaves as needed. Pinching it back will actually help it grow more. If you see flowers starting to grow, pinch them off. A flowering basil plant loses its flavor.

How to Use Bush Basil Plants

The leaves of the bush basil have an intense flavor, so you don’t need to use as many as you would with other varieties. Otherwise, you can use your small leaves exactly as you would with sweet basil. Bush basil leaves go great in anything Italian, like pasta dishes and tomato sauces. You can use the leaves in salads and with vegetable dishes. Basil even tastes great in drinks, like lemonade, iced tea, and cocktails.

Bush basil plants are easy to grow, the leaves taste great, and they look nice both in containers and gardens. They make a great choice for any garden, yard, or windowsill.