Another Basil Question

Michael AKA Leekle2ManE - Zone 9a - Lady Lake, FJanuary 21, 2013

Last summer I purchased some basil at a local flea market. I got about 4-5 months of use out of the mother plant and several cuttings. The benefits of this lovely little plant has been two-fold as I'm sure most of you know. First, it made for fresh herbs for cooking... big 'Duh!' there. Second, it made working in the garden very pleasant as a gentle breeze filled the area with the scent of basil. I enjoyed the smell so much, I planted cuttings all around my yard so that no matter where I was, I could go, "Oops!" and 'accidentally' bump a basil plant to get infuse the area with its scent.

I had a few cuttings and the mother plant in-ground on the northwest corner of my house, knowing full well what was coming with the winter, but I made sure I had cuttings growing inside. Today, I was out cutting the blackened stems of all the in-ground basil that got nailed by frost back in December. Even cuttings growing along the south wall of my house got hit. But when I got to the mother plant, I noticed that not all of it was blackened. While all the cuttings were black from being killed off, the mother plant's main stem and most of it's branches are greyish-brown. Being in Florida, we've only had a few frosts, with the worst one getting down to 28F. But I'm wondering, does the greyish-brown color of the mother plant suggest that it could come back in time? Or does basil generally die completely in a frost?

Thank you in advance for any information.

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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

I live in the frozen North. Frosts (of any kind light or hard) and tender plants like basil, tomatoes, etc. do not mix. Bring in or cover (only if the frost is to be light) any tender plants if there are frost warnings. If only the tips or tops of a tender plant was frosted, it can survive. But annuals generally give up the ghost if frosted too hard. But you can protect your "mother" plant from additional frosts and see how it does.

FYI - In my experience, basil does not do well when the temperatures drop below 50 F on a regular basis. It stops any vigorous growth and begins to get rather sick looking. I know. I get to see this each fall.


    Bookmark   January 21, 2013 at 1:35PM
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CA Kate

I live in a warm part of California, but never plan on having basil survive even the slightest cold. Besides that, IMHO, old basil plants don't provide the tastiest leaves.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2013 at 3:45PM
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Michael AKA Leekle2ManE - Zone 9a - Lady Lake, F

Okay. I won't keep my hopes up. But since I don't have immediate plans for this spot, I will leave the mother plant there. If it comes back... Yay. If it doesn't come back... Yay. Free compost material.

On a side note: Even cutting the dead stems of the basil resulted in a very pleasant scent in the garden. I found myself not just cutting the stems from the roots but repeatedly cutting the stems and letting them drop into the mulch. For no more reason than to release the scent.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2013 at 9:59PM
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It probably won't come back. I'm in 9a, as well, but Texas, and we had 1 night that went down to about 29, and the basil is history. I plant lemon basil - it makes a great tea, and reseeds itself every spring, unlike other basils.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2013 at 9:49PM
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