How to Grow Basil from Seed or Transplants

If you know all the little secrets to success with growing basil from seeds, then it’s going to be a piece of cake and a full of fun activity.

Keep reading, and you’ll know everything there is to know about basil and how to grow it from its seeds in this full guide.

Basil is a wonderful herb that exists in many different varieties that you can grow in your garden right now if you want!

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In this guide, we’ll make sure to include everything you want to know about this plant and how to grow it, you’ll then realize how easy it is to do!

We’ll also give you a step-by-step planting guide, so you have no time to guess what to do next, it’ll all be right at your fingertips!

Growing Basil from Seed

After you learn the tips and tricks to grow basil from seeds, you’ll be able to apply them to all the different types of basil as they all require the same steps.

Let’s get into and explore the types of basil!

Types of Basil Seeds

Before you start the process of growing basil, you’ll want to know the different varieties available to you, and you can decide which one you want to plant-based on your personal preferences!

grow basil from seed

The types that are most common are the following:

  • Genovese
  • Lemon Basil
  • Italian Large Leaf
  • Thai Basil
  • Purple Leaf

The color and flavor in these varieties may all be different, but they all require the same steps and instructions to plant.

What do they Look Like?

Basil seeds are oval-shaped, hard, lightweight seeds. They are small but not too small that they are tiny, and can range in color from dark brown to black.

Or better yet, here is a picture of what they look like:

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Recommended Basil Seed Starting Methods

If you live in an area where the weather is warm, then you can plant the basil seeds directly into your garden during the early days of spring.

Keep in mind that the seeds need warm soil for them to germinate.

In the case you live somewhere cold, it is best if you start the planting indoors, instead of directly putting them in the cold soil, in which case they may not even grow the way they should.

When to Plant Basil Seed

If you’re going to start the planting process indoors, then you should do so 6 to 8 weeks before the date of your average last frost.

when to plant basil

The timing can differ based on where you live and how cold it gets in that area.

In zone 4b, for example, the average last frost date is May the 15th. People here would start their indoors planting process at the end of March.

If you live in a warm area, then the outdoors planting (no indoors planting is needed) should start at about 2 weeks after the average last frost date. Around that time the soil would have gained some warmth.

Planting Basil Seeds

Although it is quite easy to grow basil from seeds, there are a few things you should do in order to make sure the seeds will actually germinate.

Before we move to how you can plant them step by step, we’ll first cover the things you should do in order to prepare the seeds for the planting.

Preparing for Planting

What you should do to the seeds before planting is pretty easy and straight forward.

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Soak them in warm water overnight to give them a good head start. This will help speed up the germination process.

How to Plant Basil from Seed (Step-By-Step)

The good thing about going through this process is that it doesn’t require any special equipment.

In fact, if you’ve ever planted anything from its seeds, chances are you already have everything you need at hand.

Here are the things you’ll be needing:

  • Seedling flat with a lid
  • Pre-moistened seed starting soil OR peat pellets
  • Seeds
  • Water
  • Heat mat (optional)
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Step 1: Filling the Trays with Soil

Fill the planting cells to the top with either seed starting medium, or seeds pellets. This all depends on your preferences.

Step 2: Figure Out How Many Seeds to Plant

This depends on the quality of the seeds you’re planting.  If you’re using old seeds that have a low germination rate, then you need at least 2 to 3 seeds per hole.

If the seeds are fresh, then only 1 seed per hole is enough.

Step 3: Plant the Seeds

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Since these seeds are so small, you can simply put them on top of the soil and push them inside with your finger.

Otherwise you can make a small hole in the soil, put the seed (or seeds) in there and cover it with soil.

Keep in mind that these seeds should only be about ¼” deep in the soil. So, don’t push them too deep in the soil.

Step 4: Add Water to the Seed Trays

Because the seeds are so small, pouring in water will most likely push them around or even push them down deeper.

To avoid this problem, simply pour water into the tray, and allow the soil to soak it up from the bottom.

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If there is any excess water that the soil couldn’t soak after 20 minutes, get rid of it by dumping it out. 

Step 6: Cover the Trays with Plastic

After you’re done with planting and watering the seeds, cover the seedling tray with a plastic lid to keep the soil moist and warm during the germination period.

Basil Germination Time

If all the right conditions are met, then the germination time wouldn’t take very long and would be quite quick. On average, it should take about 5 to 10 days for it to be over.

If it happens that the germination period of your seeds takes too long, that’s probably because they are too cold and don’t have the right warmth for them to germinate.

In this case, it is advised you start using a heat mat to speed up the germination process.

What Does Basil Look Like When it Sprouts?

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The first thing you’ll notice is a couple of leaves that grow first, these are called the “seed leaves”.

Any leaf that grows after that is called a “true leaf”. Those look like they are tiny basil leaves (as the picture above shows).

They would usually start growing a few days after the seed leaves have opened.

Basil Seedling Care Tips

The moment the seedlings start emerging, it is time you should start taking care of them.

But don’t worry too much, we’ve written a few things you should be doing for your seedlings to stay taken care of, keep reading!


If your seedlings are growing indoors, then they need a lot of light for them not to grow too tall and leggy.

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Right after the first seed sprouts, position your grow lights a few inches above the tray.

You can either buy the grow lights or make one on your own using a fluorescent light fixture and plant grow light bulbs.

The light should be kept 1 to 2 inches above the seedlings at all times and should be kept on for about 14 to 16 hours a day.

Don’t forget to adjust the height of the lights as the seedlings grow taller.


Basil seedlings need the soil to be moist at all times. Keep it dumb, but never allow it to completely dry out.

Also, don’t make the soil too watery and soggy. It is advised you water the trays from the bottom and not from the top.


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Once you see the true leaves, start feeding the basil seedlings with a weak dose of liquid fertilizer. Slowly start increasing the dosage to full strength as the seedlings get bigger.

Just make sure the fertilizer you’re using is organic because chemicals can harm the seedlings.

Once the seedlings are outside, start feeding them fish emulsion. These can be a little stinky, which is why it is recommended they are only used outside.

Air Circulation

After the seeds have germinated, give them some air to prevent mold growth, and to help strengthen the seedlings.

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Use an oscillating fan set on low over them. Do this for a short while every day, and gradually increase the time the fan is on until you start using for 14 to 16 hours a day.

Keep in mind that the soil will start drying out much faster after you remove the lid. Keep checking the moisture level once every day to make sure it isn’t too dry.


If you have planted more than 1 seed per tray, start thinning them out after they have grown a little bit. Look for the strongest looking seedling, and thin out the rest.

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Don’t pull them out of the soil because they may damage the other seedling you’re trying to keep. Instead, cut them off at the base using a sharp pair of micro-tip snips.

Repotting Basil Seedlings

Basil seedlings grow pretty fast, and they can easily outgrow their starter trays. This is why you should pot them up to give them more space.

Transplanting Basil Seedlings into Your Garden

When the warm spring season comes, it’s important you know how to carefully transfer the seedlings to your garden.

Transplant basil plant

When to Transplant

Wait until both the weather and soil have warmed up since the seedlings won’t tolerate cold temperatures at all.

You can wait and plant them a little later in the spring if the weather isn’t right yet.

Hardening Off

You can’t transplant your seedlings to live in your garden overnight, instead, you should harden them off and get them used to live outside slowly over a period of two weeks.

Place them in a protected, shady spot for a few hours a day. Then slowly start exposing them to the sun for a short while.

Increase that time gradually, and they’ll be ready to go outside after they can withstand being in the sun for the whole day.

Where to Plant

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You can either plant them in the ground or in a large container, it makes no difference. They like warm, sunny, locations.

Make sure the soil has good drainage

If the soil is poor quality, use some compost or worm castings, or even use a container potting mix.

You can also mix an organic fertilizer into the soil before you plant the basil seedlings. This should give them the nutrients they need to grow strong and healthy.


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Basil seedlings generally don’t need a lot of space. You should only space them about 8 to 12 inches apart.

The more space you give them the better it is since it will prevent some diseases such as powdery mildew thanks to the ample airflow.

How Deep to Plant Them

They should be planted a little deeper than they were in the container. Don’t plant them too deep, just deep enough to make sure the tender roots are completely covered.

How Long to Harvest Basil from Seed

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You can harvest the leaves at any time you want since we eat them and not the fruits they develop.

Just make sure you harvest and pinch the tops so it gets bushier when it grows back.

Another thing is that you should never harvest all the leaves, that way it may not survive for long. In case it starts to bolt, pinch out the flowers so the basil keeps producing all summer long.


We hope you have enjoyed and found this guide to be useful on how you can grow the basil from its seeds.