How to Prune Basil for Bushy Plants and Greater Harvest

thai basil in wood chips

Basil is absolutely one of my favorite herbs! I love the way it tastes, smells and is so easy to grow. It’s crazy how much basil leaves cost at the store considering how easy it is to grow all you’ll ever need. Growing basil from seed is very easy and stem cuttings will root in water in about 10 days. But the key to growing big bushy plants is understanding how to trim it!

Pruning Instills Growth

Pruning instills growth in a plant. Therefore with consistent selective pruning you can control the growth and form of your plants.

Bud of basil flower

Basil will slow down and stop growing when flowering so the first thing to do when pruning your plant is to remove the flowers. The flower bud will start growing at the top of each stem in the middle of the leaves as indicated in the image to the left. (click the image for larger view) Clip off all the flowers if you want your basil to keep producing new leaf material to harvest. We plant many of the same kind as well as several different varieties so that we can allow some plants to flower. Basil flowers are wonderful for attracting pollinators and other beneficial insects. The small flowers will attract braconid and parasitic wasps which do a great job at policing the garden for pest insects that might otherwise harm your prized vegetable and herb plants.

Harvest Basil Often

Where to prune your basil

Cut just above nodes

Constant harvesting of leaves should be done and with a purpose. Prune the stem just above the leaf node pairs as indicated in the picture to the right. (click the image for larger view) Leave as little of the stem above the nodes as possible. This stem portion called the internode, will die back to the node so if it is left longer than necessary it can be a place to harbor disease. If desired, longer stems can be harvested, the bottom leaves stripped and then place the stem in water. Roots will develop along the stem in about 10 days or so. Basil will grow fine in that glass of water right on the counter in a well lit room or sunny windowsill.

There have been many years that I have taken cuttings from my basil plants very late in the season just before I let all the plants go to flower so I can collect some seed. I keep the cuttings on the counter throughout the winter which allows me to continue to harvest some leaves. I also take cuttings from the cutting to extend the longevity. Then in the spring I plant the cutting into the garden. I will admit adding some hydroponic nutrients into the water while on the counter provides much better results.

The video below shows how and where I prune our basil plants. Use these techniques to create big bushy plants which will allow for much great harvest than letting the plants grow naturally.


Now that you have viewed how to prune your basil plant be sure to be proactive and prune consistently. These pruning techniques work for many different types of plants too, especially peppers.

Check out the micro tip pruner on Amazon I use to get into narrow places and make precise cuts!

Borage is another great herb to grow in the garden, read more about it here.

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