How to Tip Prune Basil

August 5, 2011 · 18 comments

Maybe you’re not a super green-thumb gardener, but this year, you planted a few basil starts, and they’re growing. Congratulations! Once established, basil will grow prolifically if allowed lots of heat, light, and water. A single plant can grow over two feet tall and almost as wide.

Preventing a basil plant from flowering is the key to controlling and promoting healthy leaf production. In the photo above, you can see a green flower forming in the center of the top leaf corona. Once a plant starts to flower, energy is moved away from foliage growth and toward seed development, slowing or ending your opportunities to harvest the herb’s leaves. The flowers also taste bitter, and should be avoided in cooking.

When plucking sprigs of basil, always choose leaf clusters in the uppermost reaches of the stem. Look for the junction of the main stem and two side branchlets (called a “node”).

Gently pinch off the stem just above the node. This will allow more sun to reach the understory shoots, promoting healthy growth and making the whole plant fuller and broader. When the plant is young, clip off the stem about two nodes down from the top. If your basil starts to get lanky, prune it back to a node lower down in the plant to stunt flowering and encourage regrowth.

Pesto fans rejoice!

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

marni August 5, 2011 at 4:16 pm

We just read this aloud as a family, thank you so much! Basil is the only plant flourishing in our “backyard” slab of concrete during these hot summer months. Yay!!


Ana August 5, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Thanks Camille! This is really useful, I’ve pulled a few basils because it didt really know what to do.


Camille August 5, 2011 at 10:52 pm

No problemo, ladies.


Sasha August 12, 2011 at 9:44 am

Super helpful tips! Our new apartment has a balcony and we are thrilled to FINALLY have some outdoor space to grow some herbs and such – Basil is definitely on our list! This post will come in handy once we get some potted 🙂


Camille August 12, 2011 at 9:26 pm

Gosh, in Florida you could probably grow basil year round. How cool! Tip pruning basil will postpone flowering for a while, but eventually it will peter out, so plan on having successive plantings, so you can keep your supply up.


Patty-Jean August 16, 2011 at 6:46 pm

Thanks! I was just looking over my Basil, thinking, I bet there is better strategy in helping this along then just pulling a leaf here or a leaf there. Thanks Thanks!


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Lena Bjessmo February 27, 2017 at 11:58 pm

Hello Camille,

My name is Lena Bjessmo and I work as an editor at a publishing company in Sweden. It´s a publishing company that produce teaching materials. At the moment I am working with a book in biology for upper secondary school. One of the chapters is about the physiology of plants, and in this chapter there is a part about hormones that stimulate and inhibit growth. The plan is to have a photo with fingers that pinch the top of a plant beside of the text. I have searched but not found an adequate photo at the image agencies. Soo I started too google around, and then I found your nice photo along with the text “How to tip prune basil” (the first of the photos).

Now my question is if it is possible for us to use your photo. If so we shall of course write your name in the image list of the book and if you want I can send you a book then it is ready : )

Kind regards

Lena Bjessmo


theresa February 26, 2018 at 11:11 pm

Super glad I found your blog! Very helpful! you are an angel! 🙂 Go Green!’:)


Arthur September 7, 2021 at 4:43 pm

Thanks for sharing great tips!


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