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Overwintering Basil – This is how it works best

Overwintering Basil - This is how it works best

Native to tropical regions, basil does not tolerate frost. Hibernation in the open air is therefore doomed to fail. Irrespective of this, knowledgeable hobby gardeners bring the basil through the cold season under certain conditions. This how it works.

Targeted selection of varieties creates the best conditions

It is a well-known fact that store basil can only live for more than a week if properly cared for. Hand-sown herbal plants already have a much more robust constitution. However, only a few basil varieties are suitable for perennial cultivation. Promising candidates are these:

  • Green-leaved African Basil ‘African Green’ (Ocimum kilimanscharicum basilicum)
  • Garden basil (Ocimum kilimanscharicum x basilicum)
  • Red-Blue African Basil ‘African Blue’ (Ocimum kilimanscharicum basilicum)
  • African tree basil (Ocimum gratissium x suave)

This is how hibernation succeeds

If you cultivate basil in pots in the garden and on the balcony, bring the plant into the house in good time before the first frost. Ideally, the resettlement takes place when the temperatures permanently fall below 10 degrees Celsius (50F). With this care you can bring the royal herb through the cold season:

  • set up in a sunny, warm window seat at temperatures of 15 to 20 (59-68F) degrees
  • pruning is not mandatory
  • water regularly, preferably from below
  • continue to fertilize organically every 4 to 6 weeks

If basil finds these conditions, the plant will provide an aromatic harvest even during the winter. If you cut back entire shoots to the next leaf axil, the basil will continue to thrive and develop a branched habit.


The robust African shrub basil survives the winter even in a dark location at temperatures of 10 to 12 degrees Celsius (50-53F). In this case, the plant stops growing in order to be watered little and not fertilized. Placed in a brighter and warmer location from March, the basil will sprout again.

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