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I Tested Every Method for Growing Basil in Florida – Here’s My #1 Pick

As a longtime gardener and basil lover living in sunny Florida, I’ve tried just about every technique for Growing Basil in Florida that can withstand our hot, humid climate. After years of experimentation, I’ve finally narrowed down the very best method for cultivating abundant, flavorful basil that thrives all summer long.

Believe it or not, Growing Basil in Florida is not the easiest herb to grow in this state. Our intense sun and heat, along with heavy rainfalls, can wreak havoc on more delicate basil plants. But have no fear – with the right approach, you can enjoy homegrown basil just as much as gardeners in cooler climates.

Basil Basilico Ocimum basilicum albahaca (Thai Basil)
Image Credit: Castielli

Can Basil Grow in Hot Climates like Florida?

The short answer is yes! When it comes to Growing Basil in Florida, basil is a heat-loving plant that can absolutely thrive in hotter environments like Florida. If you’re wondering how to choose the right herbs for your garden, this Herb Growing Guide can be a great resource.

Basil originated in tropical regions of Asia and Africa, meaning it’s well-equipped to handle hot and humid conditions. Most varieties actually prefer daytime temperatures between 70-90°F and grow best when nights stay above 60°F.

While basil can tolerate heat, it does need adequate water. Dry soil and extreme heat above 90°F can cause basil leaves to scorch, wilt, and dry out. Luckily, regular rainfall usually keeps Florida soil moist enough for basil during the hot summer months.

The key is choosing the right basil varieties and caring for them properly. With the proper growing strategy, Floridians can harvest basil all season long.

Is Basil Hard to Grow in Florida?

Growing Basil in Florida has its challenges, but it’s certainly not impossible. While many herbs thrive in our climate, basil is a bit more finicky.

Too much sun can burn the leaves, while too much rain can cause fungal diseases. Intense summer heat and humidity also bring pest problems like aphids.

However, the biggest issue Florida gardeners face with basil is bolting. When temperatures climb above 85°F, basil begins rapidly flowering and going to seed, which ruins the flavor and yield. Once basil starts bolting, the plant is pretty much done for the season.

So basil does require a bit more observation, care, and protection to flourish in Florida. But armed with the right tips and techniques, you can successfully grow abundant basil crops all year long.

How Long Do Basil Plants Live in Florida?

When you’re Growing Basil in Florida, it’s good to know that basil is an annual plant, meaning it completes its entire lifecycle in one growing season. However, Florida’s long warm season provides a very long basil growing window.

I Tested Every Method for Growing Basil in Florida - Here's My #1 Pick

With proper care, a single basil plant can live and produce leaves for 5-6 months in Florida. Most gardeners can harvest basil from early spring through late fall by starting plants at different times.

Here are the general lifespans for basil grown in Florida:

  • Basil started in spring and lasts 2-3 months before bolting in the summer heat.
  • Basil planted in early fall lasts 3-4 months until the first frost.
  • Basil grown during winter can be produced for 5-6 months and may last until the following summer.

No matter when you plant it, basil will grow vigorously and provide ample harvests for several months. Proper maintenance and preventing bolting are key to maximizing each plant’s productivity.

What is the Best Type of Basil for Florida’s Hot Climate?

When choosing basil varieties for Growing Basil in Florida, select types that have excellent heat and bolt tolerance. The best options include:

Sweet Basil

Sweet Basil

The classic Genovese sweet basil still does quite well in Florida’s heat. Opt for slow bolting varieties like ‘Pesto Perpetuo’, ‘Eleonora’, or ‘Amazel’ for longer harvests.

Thai Basil

Thai Basil

With its distinct licorice-anise flavor, Thai basil handles heat extremely well. The small, sturdy leaves add great flavor to Thai and Vietnamese dishes.

African Blue Basil

African Blue Basil

This beautiful purple basil has a spicy, camphor-like flavor. The hearty, compact plants resist bolting very well in heat.

Holy Basil

Holy Basil

Used in Ayurvedic medicine, holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) thrives in hot, humid climates like Florida’s. It has a spicy, minty taste perfect for Thai food.

Spicy Bush Basil

Spicy Bush Basil

As its name suggests, this basil variety adds a punch of heat along with classic basil flavor. It also produces leaves late into the season.

Stick to these bolt-resistant varieties that can keep growing even during Florida’s hottest months. Avoid sweet basil cultivars like ‘Italian Large Leaf’ that bolt quickly in heat.

8 Tips for Growing Flavorful Basil All Summer Long

I Tested Every Method for Growing Basil in Florida - Here's My #1 Pick
Growing Basil in Florida

If you’re interested in Growing Basil in Florida, follow these methods in your own backyard to encourage maximum basil growth and flavor:

1. Start basil from seed indoors.

It’s easiest to get basil established by starting from seed 6-8 weeks before your last spring frost date. Sow seeds in small pots using seed starting mix. Place them on a sunny window sill to germinate at 70-80°F.

Once sprouted, move to a sheltered outdoor location or mini greenhouse to harden off. Transplant seedlings to the garden after all danger of frost. This gives basil a head start to mature quickly.

2. Plant in well-draining soil in partial sun.

Basil thrives in nutrient-rich, well-draining soil amended with compost. Clay and heavy soils can cause fungus issues. Meanwhile, sandy soils dry out too quickly.

Although basil needs sun, too much intense afternoon heat can burn leaves. For best results, plant in a spot with 4-6 hours of morning sunlight filtered by trees. Dappled sun prevents scorching.

3. Space plants 8-12 inches apart.

Give basil adequate room to grow bushy and robust. Plant seeds or starter plants 8-12 inches apart in all directions.

Closer spacing creates competition for resources, causing plants to grow leggy and bolt sooner. Proper spacing results in full, hardy plants.

4. Apply mulch to retain moisture and cool roots.

Spread 2-3 inches of organic mulch like pine straw around plants to maintain cool, moist soil. This prevents water loss and heat stress while suppressing weeds.

5. Water basil at the soil level to keep roots constantly moist.

Unlike many herbs, basil hates dry conditions – especially in Florida’s heat. Consistently water plants at the base to keep soil damp but not soaked.

Install drip irrigation or self-watering containers to automate watering. Drought stress causes bitter flavors, stunted growth, and bolting.

6. Use shade cloth to block the afternoon sun.

Drape a 30-50% shade cloth over plants during intense mid-day sun to avoid leaf scorching. Remove the cloth in cooler mornings and evenings to maximize sun exposure.

You can also grow basil under taller vegetables and fruit trees so it benefits from dappled sunlight.

7. Pinch off flower buds to delay bolting.

Check each stem carefully and pinch off any emerging flower buds. This redirects the plant’s energy into more leaf growth instead of flowering.

Catching flowers early can prolong harvests by several weeks. Just don’t expect plants to last once temperatures exceed 85°F.

8. Fertilize monthly with compost or organic fertilizer.

A monthly feeding schedule with compost or organic fertilizer can go a long way in Growing Basil in Florida. But remember, over-fertilizing can lead to excessive foliage and fewer aromatics.

Follow these tips, and your basil should flourish in Florida’s climate!

My #1 Method: Growing Basil in Containers

After much trial and error in my garden, I’ve concluded that the absolute best way to Growing Basil in Florida is in containers. Here’s why:

  • Containers allow moving plants to optimal sun exposure and shade as needed. Place in the morning sun, then move to afternoon shade.
  • Basil roots stay cooler and moisten in containers. Daily watering keeps soil consistently damp.
  • Portability makes it easier to bring plants indoors if extreme summer heat strikes.
  • Containers prevent invasive spreading via roots and self-seeding.
  • Quick drainage in containers prevents root rot issues.

Basil thrives in 5+ gallon pots or other vessels like window boxes. Use potting mix amended with compost for drainage. Site containers in part sun protected from harsh afternoon rays.

Water daily, allowing the soil to dry slightly between waterings. Feed with diluted organic fertilizer every 2-3 weeks. Prune plants often to encourage bushy growth. And monitor for flowering buds to pinch off.

If cared for properly, container basil will reward you with huge yields all season long!

Enjoy an Abundant Basil Harvest

I Tested Every Method for Growing Basil in Florida - Here's My #1 Pick

Growing Basil in Florida isn’t necessarily automatic in hot Florida. But with the right variety of choices, planting methods, and care, you can harvest platters full of delicious, aromatic basil leaves.

Basil fills out garden beds and containers with bold colors and textures. And nothing beats the flavor of homegrown basil added fresh to your favorite recipes all summer and fall.

Once you discover the best-growing practices for your area, you’ll be hooked on reaping bountiful basil harvests. So get ready to put that flavorful Florida basil to use in marinara sauces, pesto, sandwiches, salads, and more!

Conclusion

Although growing basil in Florida’s intense climate presents challenges, the results are well worth the extra effort. Follow the tips in this article to keep your basil thriving through heat, humidity, and rain. With the right methods, Floridians can cultivate robust, flavorsome basil just as well as any other region. Homegrown basil adds its distinctive aroma and taste to so many dishes. I hope these guidelines give you the confidence to successfully grow basil yourself and enjoy summer-long harvests.

FAQs

What are the best fertilizers for Growing Basil in Florida?

Organic fertilizers like compost, fish emulsion, worm castings, or compost tea provide the ideal nutrition for basil without the risk of burning. Use 1/2 strength recommended rates every 2-3 weeks.

When should I harvest basil?

Harvest basil just before it flowers for peak flavor. Cut stems above leaf nodes so they regrow. Harvest in the morning after the dew dries for the best aromatics.

How do I dry basil for storage?

Wash and dry basil leaves thoroughly. Lay single layers on trays and dry in the shade. For whole leaves, dry for 2-3 days. Crumble-dried leaves to store in airtight containers.

What pests attack basil?

Aphids, whiteflies, spider mites, and thrips commonly infest basil. Use row covers, insecticidal soap, neem oil, or pepper sprays for organic control. Cut off badly infested parts.

Why are my basil leaves turning yellow when growing basil in Florida?

Yellow leaves often indicate overwatering. Allow soil to dry slightly between waterings. Insufficient nitrogen can also cause yellowing. Apply organic fertilizer if nitrogen deficient.

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