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Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs


Other Common Names Include:

Common Basil, French Basil, St. Joseph Wort, Royal Basil and Royal Herb.

Latin Name: Ocimum basilicum or O. sanctum (sacred basil)

Plant Family: Lamiaceae

Close Relatives: Mint, perilla, thyme

Uses and Markets: Culinary (e.g. flavouring, pesto); Industrial (e.g. personal care products) Different varieties or growth stages are preferred by different ethnic groups.

Sweet basil Purple basil
Production Life Cycle in Ontario


Hardiness Zone


Special Notes


Propagation method

Most commonly by transplants from seeds; Less commonly by direct seeding.

Greenhouse Seeding/Propagation Dates

Late March to Late April.

Field Seeding Date:


Field Transplanting Dates

Late May, early June.

In-row spacing

30 cm

Between row spacing

60 cm

Optimal Soil temperature at planting



No current Ontario fertility recommendations exist. Research and recommendations from outside Ontario do not necessarily apply to Ontario growing conditions. Research from Mississippi and Iran has shown optimal yield at 50 to 100 kg/ha N with a decrease in essential oil concentration as nitrogen rate increased. Click here for phosphorus and potassium application guidelines and for more information on specialty crop fertility.

Soil type

Well-drained soil (sandy or loam).

Soil pH


Special requirements for growth habit


Optimal Temperature Range


Temperature sensitivity

Frost sensitive.

Irrigation requirements

Irrigation required under normal Ontario conditions.

Days to harvest

60 days

Specialized equipment:


Harvest Scheduling

Multiple harvests from the same planting. Typically, basil is harvested twice – once just before flowering (leaving at least four sets of leaves) and again just before re-flowering.

Hand harvest or machine harvest

Hand Harvest (fresh). Machine harvest – sickle bar mower (large plantings for dried basil).

Quality parameters/grades

No established grades. Quality is determined by the market.

Additional Harvest Notes


Post harvest
Special handling/curing

Harvest during cooler parts of the day to reduce moisture loss and cooling costs. Remove field heat as soon as possible after harvest.

Storage Conditions

Relative humidity (RH): 95% (fresh leaves)

Temperature: 10-15°C

Air Exchange: N/A

Duration: 1-2 weeks

Specific pests observed on this crop in Ontario (observations based on limited experience with this crop)

Insects and Invertebrates: Japanese beetles, aphids, leafhoppers, two-spotted spider mites, and tarnished plant bug.

Diseases: Downy mildew (Peronospora belbahrii), alternaria leaf blight, sclerotinia stem rot (Sclerotinia sclerotiorum), colletotrichum leaf spot

Other Potential Pests: The following pests have not been observed on this crop in Ontario. However, they are either significant concerns for closely related plants in Ontario, or are reported on this crop in other production areas. This is not a comprehensive list of all potential pests. Not all of these pests will necessarily survive Ontario’s climate, but could potentially survive in a protected environment (e.g. greenhouse, storage facility).

Insects and Invertebrates: Cabbage looper, mirid bug and cutworms, slugs, snails.

Diseases: Powdery mildew, botrytis blight (Botrytis cinerea), crown and root rots (Rhizoctonia solani, Pythium irregulare), bacterial blight (Pseudomonas spp., Xanthomonas spp.), tomato spotted wilt virus


Disease pressures can be reduced through proper site selection and by promoting good air movement through the canopy. To date the following pests have been the most significant in Ontario: downy mildew, Japanese beetles, colletotrichum leaf spot, sclerotinia stem rot. All varieties tested so far are highly susceptible to downy mildew except spice varieties. Only pest control products registered specifically on “basil”, “Crop Group 19: Herbs and Spices Group” and “Crop Subgroup 19A: Herb Subgroup” can be applied to this crop.  For more information on Crop Groups, refer to the Pest section.  Always refer to product labels, and follow all directions specified on the label, before applying any pest control product.  For more information, consult an OMAF and MRA specialist. For pest control products registered on this crop refer to OMAFRA Publication 838.

Basil downy mildew begins as yellowing of sections of the leaf confined by the veins Powdery spores develop on the underside of leaves infected with basil downy mildew Sclerotinia stem rot causes whole plants to collapse Japanese beetle on basilJapanese beetle damage on basilSymptoms of colletotrichum leaf spot on basil
Additional Notes


Ontario Research Projects Used to Create This Profile
  1. Filotas, M. and S. Westerveld. 2010. Evaluation of basil varieties for susceptibility to downy mildew. OMAFRA Simcoe Resource Centre, unpublished.
  2. McKeown, A.W., C.J. Bakker and J. Schooley. 1998-2002. Herb Demonstration Garden, University of Guelph Simcoe Research Station, unpublished.
  3. Saude, C., M.R. McDonald, and C. Bakker. 2011-present. Identification and management of basil downy mildew in Ontario. University of Guelph, Simcoe Research Station, unpublished.
  4. Westerveld, S., Elford, E., Filotas, M. and J. Todd. 2010-present. OMAFRA herb demonstration garden. OMAFRA Simcoe Resource Centre, unpublished.
  1. Biesiada, A. and A. Kuś. 2010. The effect of nitrogen fertilization and irrigation on yielding and nutritional status of sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum L.). Acta Scientiarum Polonorum - Hortorum Cultus 9: 3-12.
  2. Davis, J. M. 1997. Basil. North Carolina State University:
  3. Government of Saskatchewan. (Unknown Year). Basil Production in Saskatchewan.
  4. Hamasaki, R. T., H. R. Valenzuela, D. M. Tsuda, and J. Y. Uchida. Crop Production Guidelines: Fresh Basil Guidelines for Hawaii. (Unknown Year).
  5. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Foods and Rural Affairs. (Unknown Year). Basil.
  6. Sarab, M.D., Badi, H.N., Nasri, M., Makkizadeh M. and H. Omidi. 2008. Changes in essential oil content and yield of basil in response to different levels of nitrogen and plant density. Journal of Medicinal Plants 7: 60-70,129.
  7. Sharafzadeh, S., M. Esmaeili, M., and A.H. Mohammadi. 2011. Interaction effects of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium on growth, essential oil and total phenolic content of sweet basil. Advances in Environmental Biology, 5:1285-1289.
  8. Verma, R. K., L. Rahman, A.K. Kukreja, R.S. Verma, A. Singh, A. Chauhan, S.P.S. Khanuja. 2008. Effect of nitrogen and plant population density on herb and essential oil yield of Indian basil (Ocimum basilicum). Journal of Medicinal and Aromatic Plant Sciences, 30:34-39.
  9. Zheljazkov, V.D., Cantrell, C.L., Ebelhar, M.W., Rowe, D.E. and C. Coker. 2008. Productivity, oil content, and oil composition of sweet basil as a function of nitrogen and sulfur fertilization. HortScience 43: 1415-1422.