Flowering Cinnamon Basil

spicymeadow(6/Canyon, TX)March 23, 2008

Hi! I just bought some Cinnamon Basil and it has some lovely flowers on the top... but I was just reading about it, and I have found posts that say you aren't supposed to let the plant go to flower! So now do I cut the flowers off or do I just let them go?

I would like for this to do well...

I know it sounds silly, but I've never grown herbs and am a bit clueless on the whole thing!

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Yes, with basil always pinch off the flowers as the appear. It's always best to stay ahead of them, kind of constantly pinching the tips off as they grow. Encourages them to bush out, and prevents those flowers.

Some say when they flower it affects the taste of the basil. But I've not found this to be particularly true to me. But my taste buds are my own, can't speak for others.

But yes, do pinch off those flowers of your cinnamon basil. Oh, and the flowers ARE edible. :-)

    Bookmark   March 23, 2008 at 11:38PM
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You can spend your entire life cutting off or pinching out the flowers of basils. The only real advantage in doing so is to encourage more leafy, bushy growth (it's a sort of pruning). I've never found that it alters the flavour of the leaves in any way. I use secateurs for baby basils, hedge-trimmers for mature ones. Just chop-chop, just below the flowers. No talent required.

And yep, you can eat the flowers. They'll taste just like the leaves, only milder.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2008 at 11:54PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Absolutely, no flowers shoud be left on as it will end there and not get bushy. If the plants have flowers they may be old, as young plants don't usually flower until they reach maturity. Zone 6 is Texas?

    Bookmark   March 24, 2008 at 2:12AM
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Gee, Ksrogers, my basil plants start flowering when they're only as tall as my little finger! And I've grown literally thousands of them. I find that basils flower very early, and very prolifically. I simply haven't got the time, energy or inclination to be chopping them off every day, so I leave them until the plant gets top-heavy and threatens to lift itself out of the ground with the weight of them (especially when it rains). Then I use the prunings as mulch.

You can just see one of my basils in the photo at the link below. It had been trimmed the same day as the photo was taken. It's on the right-hand side, right at the back. That's a 5ft fence behind it.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   March 24, 2008 at 9:57AM
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spicymeadow(6/Canyon, TX)

Thanks all for the tips... I hate cutting them off as they are so pretty, but I would like to have more than just the 2 sprigs in the pot so off they come today!

ksrogers - yes... up here in the Texas panhandle we are a zone 6! Yesterday, Easter Sunday, our high was only 41 degrees! Year before last it snowed a couple of inches in May... course, they say that in Amarillo, if you don't like the weather, wait around 15 min and it will change! Today, the high is supposed to hit 68! Go figure!

    Bookmark   March 24, 2008 at 11:34AM
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francescod(6b/7a VA)

When basil flowers, it stops producing leaves. Just pinching the flowers off does little but cause 2 more flowers to grow from where they were pinched. If all you want is flowers then this is a good strategy. To keep the plant producing lots of leaves to use in cooking you need to be a little more aggressive with your pruning. Under normal circumstances, don't be afraid to cut a basil plant all the way back to 2 pairs of true leaves (as measured from the ground). This will encourage stem and leaf growth. The plants won't look so great after cutting, but you will increase your leaf harvest greatly. During the summer when basil is at its best, you can expect to harvest this way at least every 2 weeks.

In your case, they are flowering way too early ie. the plant is too young. Cinnamon basil should get nearly 2 feet tall before beginning to flower. Shame on a nursery selling basil so early in the season! This poor growing and selling practice is probably what has lead to such early flowering. I don't even sow my seed until early March. It will be a challenge to get this particular plant to become a full sized "normal" plant. Try cutting the flowers off at least one pair of leaves below the flower, not right at the base of the flower stem. Hopefully this will reset the plants "flowering clock". Remove any flower buds immediately. Make sure the plant is getting 14 to 16 hours of light a day, use a grow light if your days are still short. You may want to buy some seed as a back up plan and sow directly in the ground after the last frost (not freeze) date in your area.

Basil is a heat loving plant that detests cool temperatures. It is best to not plant basil until the temperature outside has stabilized in the mid 50's F (a little later than tomatoes and about the same time as peppers/eggplant/okra). In my zone 6/7 area that is not until mid May or later. Planting too early can cause stunting, poor performance, early flowering and, in some cases, untimely death.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2008 at 3:26PM
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francescod(6b/7a VA)

daisyduckworth-there must be something about Australia. I've talked to herb farmers there that don't even bother to grow basil because they claim they flower too quickly. Have you tried 'Aussie Sweetie' (AKA Greek Columnar) a basil variety that doesn't flower as freely as most others.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 4:03AM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Someone wrote about a form of basil that has no flowers and doesn't bolt. Its not grown from seeds though, as far as I can recall, and was mentioned here last spring.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 10:03AM
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neil_allen(z5/6 Chi IL)

There are people who grow cinnamon basil for use as a cut flower. It also makes an interestting dried flower.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2008 at 4:34PM
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francescod(6b/7a VA)

ksrogers-the variety you are thinking about is probably the 'Aussie Sweetie' I mentioned in my last posting. It was introduced by my dad, Tom DeBaggio, in 1990 and is very similar to 'Greek Columnar'-it doesn't flower in some regions at all, sporadically in others. It was originally from seed brought over from Australia (probably originally via Greece by imigrants to Australia) but is propagated via cuttings to preserve its special characteristics.

Some others that are beautiful in flower and behave more like a perennial in that flowering doesn't stop the leaf production are 'African Blue' and 'Variegated African Blue'. Also, pepper basil Ocimum selloi (the leaves actually taste like a green bell pepper) will flower and still produce leaves.
'Pesto Perpetuo' is a recently introduced, patented variety that appears to be a variegated 'Aussie Sweetie' and has inherited the characteristic for few to no flowers.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2008 at 6:33PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Yes, thats the one. Pesto Perpetuo. I read it has been a very good performer and needs no cutting off of flower heads. Not sure who sells it, but suspect its a perennial and is only available as a plant. I have some blueberry bushes that taste like raspberries. My dad bought these from a grower south of Boston, many years ago. The grower had a blueberry named after himself called the 'Herbert'.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2008 at 8:48PM
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Yes, Pesto Perpetuo is the one I wrote about here last year, that someone (ahem) :-) didn't believe existed, stating that there wasn't a basil out there that didn't flower. Well, in fact there is.

I've had my PP plants indoors all winter, still growing and leafing out and they'll be ready shortly to go back outside (not before April 15 around here). It's been great because I've had fresh basil all winter long.

I love the Pesto Perpetuo plant. The flavor is wonderful and it doesn't require the maintenance of regular basil because it does not flower. I still pinch it back now and again to make it bushy though.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2008 at 9:35AM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Any info on where these can be purchased? Must assume its a rooted cutting, something like French Tarragon.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2008 at 10:41AM
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I bought my Pesto Perpetuo at my local nursery, which is one of several here where I live, but it's quite large and is well-stocked. I don't know if they ship, but they're online:


They just started carrying Pesto Perpetuo last year. I receive their newsletter, and was informed early last spring that it would be available. They had hundreds of them (little seedlings) in stock.

I would think it might start to become common stock in some of the larger nurseries in people's areas as it increases in popularity. I've yet to see it at any "garden center" of any local store like Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Home Depot, Lowe's, Ace Hardware, etc.

But if you've a local nursery, ask them about it. Perhaps they can order it for you.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2008 at 11:14AM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Thanks will do. Not many decent nurseries around here, and those that are, offer very few herbs. Thats why I ordered my French tarragon from Canada (Richter).

    Bookmark   March 28, 2008 at 2:22PM
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