Pruning young basil

links272(7A)June 2, 2009

Hi all. New to this forum. I was just wondering how soon you start pruning young basil plants. I have plants ranging from 3-7 inches. I have heard that you can "pinch" the tops. I have also heard that you can prune the stem just above the 2nd set of leaves. At what height do i begin this process? I just don't want my plants to be long and lanky. Thanks alot.

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I'll be interested in this, too. I have basil from seed for the first time. I would think that basil would get much taller than 3-7 inches before it's headed toward tall and lanky, but I don't know.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2009 at 5:46PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

3-7 inches are VERY SMALL plants. Don't cut any of yet, unless its Genovese type. The Genovese only grows to about a foot tall and is a small bush. Most of the rest grow to well over 2-3 feet tall. You need to see at least 6 sets of big leaves that are fully open before you start plucking off any. Be patient!!

    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 1:56AM
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lali(z9, Sunset z18, CA)

My sweet basil is a little bit above 7" tall, but very bushy. I've been trimming the flowers off the top and have already started harvesting some of the stems. I don't believe it's a Genovese type, but then again I bought this at a box store. Can you believe that I harvested at least 10 stems when this pic was taken? It was delicious with the pasta sauce.

Should I not be harvesting it already? I harvest the basil by taking full stalks off the plants? Should I only take the leaves and leave bare or semi-bare stems on the plant?


    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 2:16AM
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Thanks for the responses. I too have started my basil from seed this year. I also purchased a couple plants from Home Depot. They were about six inches when I bought them. They seemed a little thin so I cut the stem just above the second (of three) sets of leaves. At least half of my dozen or so plants are Genovese. They do seem to be shorter and bushier. T have some lemon, lime and large (lettuce) leaf basil. I have a few purple as well. My wife has been telling me to be patient like you say. I'll try to post a few pics. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 5:57PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

A 7 inch tall plant is quite small. I usually have plants over 2 feet tall. Genovese has a slender leaf and are smaller in size compared to the regular types. Once my regular basil gets to 2 foot it starts to form the flower buds. I guess yours is a type that is shorter in height. I do like to add a fertilizer from Gardens Alive. Its one blended specifically for herbs and helps to improve the herbs natural oils, taste, and smell.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 6:24PM
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You can harvest basil at any time there is enough to be useful, and still leave about 2/3 of the plant behind so that it can regenerate. If a seedling has just 6 leaves on it, you can take the top 2. You can pick the leaves off the stems, or take them stems and all - it doesn't matter, as long as you only take one-third of the plant at any one time, and leave it to replenish before harvesting again.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2009 at 7:10PM
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Thanks Daisy. I have started to prune all my potted seedlings. Some are actually getting quite tall...about 6-7 inches high. Its cool because a couple days later, in most cases, I am seing new sets of leaves emerge. Let me ask you since you seem to be quite in the know......... what do you thing about this I found at " Given good conditions, seedlings grow quickly. The plant hormone auxin is present in a seedlingÂs terminal bud and assists in growth by making cell walls more elastic. Auxin, however, suppresses growth at a seedlingÂs lower lateral buds. If you pinch out the terminal bud, and thus the auxin, side shoots will grow. This results in bushy, many-branched plants and eventually more flowers and fruit. Once seed­lings are 3 or 4 inches tall with a good supply of true leaves, I pinch them back."

This is only my second year in the herb garden. Although I pruned my plants last year and they seemed to do very well, I never really knew why it promoted further growth. Today I finally realized that the terminal bud is the very top of the middle stem on a plant. The more I learn the more I realize how much I don't know.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2010 at 6:53PM
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IMHO, you shoul leave basils (and a lots of other veggies) alone for a while.
The size of the top is proportional to the size of roots. The leaves and roots
coordinate a plant's growth and size. Too few leaves will yield small roots system,
too small roots will hav a nonsa-like miniture plant.
If you want a bigger plant, let it grow and establish a good root system first before pruning/harvesting.


    Bookmark   May 19, 2010 at 8:18PM
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