If basil hasn’t been clipped, it will bloom in the summer in either purple or white. Basil is still edible when it blooms, but the flavor is frequently softer or even harsh. Trim the top leaves of the basil plant every two to three weeks throughout the summer to stop it from blossoming.
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Why Basil Displays Flowers
If basil isn’t frequently clipped, it will bloom and is an edible annual herb.
Basil will produce gorgeous purple or white flowers (depending on the variety) if let to mature. These flowers are decorative as well as a favorite of bees and other pollinating insects.
If you are growing basil for culinary use, it is ideal to trim basil before it flowers as this will encourage greater growth of the aromatic leaves for cooking. However, once the basil starts flowering, the leaves tend to have less flavor and emit a weaker perfume.
After the basil blossoms are gone, it focuses all of its efforts on generating seeds that you may gather and plant the next year (although different basil varieties can cross pollinate so there is no guarantee the seeds will be the same variety of basil to the one you are growing).
Is Basil Safe to eat After Flowering?
Both the flowers and the stems of basil are safe to eat, however the stems frequently get woody and lose their flavor. The flowers, on the other hand, have a mild and pleasant flavor and are frequently used in pesto or as a garnish on salads.
It is usually better to clip basil to stop it from flowering if you are growing it for culinary purposes. Alternatively, you can grow basil from seed in a timed succession (sow basil seeds once every two weeks in the spring) so that you have a lot of plants with plenty of leaves in the summer.
However, if properly maintained and pruned, a basil plant can yield wonderful leaves all summer long. Also, keep in mind that sensitive basil plants die off after the first frost, so make sure you utilize all the leaves before the plant dies in the winter.
(Read my post to find out how to correctly water basil plants, and if your basil is starting to wilt, read my article to find out how to save wilting basil plants.)
How to Stop Basil from Flowering (for more edible leaves)
Regular pruning of basil prevents the plant from becoming lanky and drooping, and it also allows light to reach the lowest leaves, making the plant bushier and producing more leaves overall.
Basil can be pruned easily and without special tools, just pinch the stems off before using them in a recipe to keep them fresh.
To ensure a healthy harvest of leaves and that light can reach the lower leaves, I always pinch off the top two leaves of each stem in order to increase each plant’s output.
(To discover an effective method to stop slugs from eating basil, read my article.)
It is recommended to prune your basil plant once every two weeks during the summer to keep it bushy and full of leaves and to avoid it getting lanky and blooming.
As the essential oils are at their highest concentration in the morning, this is the perfect time to prune basil.
Simply remove any budding blossoms with a pair of pruners to shift the plant’s energy toward growing leaves.
Watch this excellent YouTube video to see exactly how to prune basil to prevent it from flowering:
(Read my post on how to save a basil plant from death.)
- If basil plants are not routinely clipped, they will bloom. Eatable and secure to consume are the flowers and leaves. The flower heads yield seeds that can be saved and planted the following year.
- If you are growing basil for culinary use, it’s crucial to prune flower heads because basil leaves often taste mild or bitter after flowering.
- When the basil plant is about 8 inches tall, prune or pinch off the top leaves. In order to prevent basil from flowering and to encourage the growth of leaves, trim it every two to three weeks throughout the height of summer.