Stop Your Basil Plant Flowering: What to Do!

trimming for basil plant flowering

When you get a whiff of fresh basil, what comes to mind? If you answered, summer, I’m right with you! Basil is up there with tomatoes and watermelon as one of the signature tastes of the summer season.

I think basil is one of the most worth it plants to grow in the garden because once it gets going you can return to the plants again and again for harvesting. But, the key to continual harvests is –  you don’t want your basil plant flowering.

Luckily, that’s a pretty simple task if you know exactly how to harvest basil to encourage the plant to keep growing it’s tasty little leaves. Let’s dive in and learn some simple steps to take!

basil seedlings

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First, let’s back up a little bit and talk about…

Growing Basil From Seed

Basil is an annual herb, which means it needs to be re-planted every season. It’s also very sensitive to frost (it can be damaged at 38 degrees F), so even in warm weather areas like AZ and CA, your basil may get killed by a winter temperature dip.

I do not recommend growing basil from seed directly in your garden. Basil needs warm soil temperatures to germinate and it loves very hot weather. I find that my newly planted basil grows pretty slowly until the summer temps get into the 80’s. 

So, you should start your own basil plants at home in late winter or plan to purchase seedlings from your local farmers market or nursery in spring.

I have an extensive article with plentiful tips for growing basil, including favorite varieties, where to get seeds and plants, and how and when to plant it in your garden.

And if you’re feeling excited about starting seeds this year, but aren’t sure where to start, check out my Masterclass – Super Easy Seed Starting.

what to do when basil plant flowering

How to Cut Basil: Trimming Techniques

Once the weather heats up and basil starts growing quickly, you should be able to harvest from the plants once or twice a week (or more if you’re only taking a few leaves) all throughout the season until your first frost.

One of the best tips for growing basil is to stop your basil plant flowering. The way to encourage the plants to continue to grow new basil stems and leaves is to just keep harvesting!

When harvesting, take a close look at your plant and cut right above the spot where there are two small leaves.

Leaving these leaves sets the plant up to grow two more stems that you’ll be able to harvest in a few weeks. You can cut your basil plant down pretty aggressively if you always cut at this point.

how to harvest basil

Just make sure enough leaves remain so the plant can photosynthesize. Sometimes, I run out to my garden while I’m cooking and harvest just a few stems to use in a recipe. But, when I want a large amount to make pesto or another sauce for freezing, I’ll go through the whole patch and harvest as much as possible.

To harvest, you can use regular household scissors like I’m doing in the photo above.

I also keep these clippers and these harvest scissors by my kitchen door for quick missions out to the garden while I’m cooking dinner.

Again, the best way to encourage your plants to grow new leaves is to continually cut off the flowers it keeps trying to push up. Once plants flower and go to seed their energy shifts away from leaf production and towards reproduction. Basil also has a tendency to turn bitter in taste when you let it flower.

If you’re out in your garden and you notice a few basil flowers, but don’t have time to harvest, you can pinch off the flowers as a temporary solution stop your basil plant flowering until you get around to trimming the plant.

butterfly on flower

Basil Plant Flowering? What About the Pollinators?

If providing food for pollinators in your garden is important to you, that is one thing to take into consideration when you’re deciding whether to remove the basil flowers. I have plenty of other flowering plants to keep pollinators fed and happy in my garden, so I prefer to consistently remove the basil flowers to encourage continuous growth.

One option could be to allow the basil to flower toward the end of the season, when you’re satisfied with you harvest amounts. Or, plant a few extra basil plants just for the pollinators! Just know that as soon as you allow basil plants to flower their leaf and stem production will pretty much cease.

basil pesto

What to Do With Too Much Basil

Storing Basil
Basil doesn’t like cold temperatures, so if at all possible try not to store it in the fridge. I like to keep it in the garden until right before I’m going to use it.

If you do need to store some for a while, it’s better to keep it on the counter in a jar with water instead of in a bag in the fridge. Covering it loosely with a plastic bag will help it last longer.

Preserving Basil
When the summer season arrives, you might find that you’re basil plants are going bonkers and you have more than you can eat fresh. This is when I go through the bed and do a big harvest so I can spend some time preserving a taste of summer for winter cooking and eating.

There are several options for what to do with too much basil, but my favorite is to make some herb sauces and freeze them for later. In this article, I share my favorite recipes and the best methods for how to preserve basil.

Basil plant flowering? Now you know exactly what simple steps to take to prolong the delicious summer harvest. This season, make sure you wander past your garden beds on a regular basis to check on your basil and snip off those pesky flowers as soon as you see them. Happy gardening!

basil plant flowering

Additional Resources for Growing Herbs

My free mini-course, Getting Started  Growing Herbs in Your Garden, is a small taste of the below Masterclass. The mini-course features 5 videos and worksheets to help you:

  • Learn why growing herbs is SO easy and worth it!
  • How to choose which herbs to grow in your garden.
  • Where to plant your herbs so they’ll be successful.

Start watching here.

My how-to video series, All About Gardening with Herbs: Your Guide to Growing, Harvesting, Cooking With, & Preserving a Bounty of Herbs, is my most popular class! If you’re ready to delve more deeply into the wondrous world of growing your own herbs, find out more here.



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