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Can Basil Grow Close Together

Spacing needs of plants vary depending on factors such as the variety, mature size, root growth, nutrition, and sunlight needs. When planting a new crop, you may not be familiar with its spacing needs. Basil is one of the most loved and used culinary herbs. It’s easy to grow, can be grown in containers, and many varieties don’t take up a lot of space. All these perks might make you ask, can basil grow close together?

Yes, basil can grow close together. However, seedlings can experience stunted growth if the roots compete for minimal resources.

Reasons to grow basil together

Space – It can be tricky getting a decent harvest out of a small space. Even when there is space to spare, you might be trying to maximize every inch. Due to its ability to grow closer, basil is well suited for growing in containers, in small outdoor spaces, or even tucked under plants as companions such as tomatoes.

Growing indoors – If you’re growing basil indoors, you’re probably growing them in pots. Growing a single plant per pot may not be practical. Depending on the size of the pot and the variety of basil, you can grow multiple plants in one pot.

Separation Anxiety – You’ve started a bunch of seeds together, and now the crowded seedlings need to be separated. Separating seedlings can be tedious. Not everyone has gentle, steady hands that won’t damage tiny seedlings. While planting the entire group of seedlings together isn’t the solution, you can certainly separate the large clump into smaller clumps. With just a few seedlings in each clump, it can be repotted, transplanted, and left growing together.

Pest resistance – Some gardeners use basil to protect other plants from pests. Doing so sometimes requires a tight border of basil plants around the plants that need protection.

What happens when basil gets planted too closely

Stunted growth – While basil plants don’t mind growing together, they can still be affected by being planted too closely. One symptom is stunted growth which can cause the plant to slow down growth or stop growing. The plant may appear dwarfed and begin looking sickly. 

Crowded – Many plants growing too close will compete for light, space, and nutrients. Eventually, the stronger plants will cause the weaker plant to struggle and die off by using up all of their resources.

Things to consider when growing basil together

Growth pattern –Basil varieties with large leaves and bushy growth shouldn’t be planted too tightly as large leaves may shade out other plants, and bushy plants push others out of the way. Varieties like Greek Columnar have tall, upright, and compact growth patterns.

Mixing varieties – If mixing varieties, try to plant basil of similar height and growth patterns. This way, one variety doesn’t take over the other. For instance, African Blue Basil grows small leaves, but the overall plant has a large spread and grows into a big round bush. It would probably grow into the space of a Genovese basil growing next to it. Genovese basil does not grow into a bush and has delicate leaves. While they can certainly be planted next to each other, closely planting them isn’t a great idea.

Location- When planting basil closely, choose a location with lots of overhead sunlight for most of the day, so all plants have equal access to the sunlight without competing for it.

Container or area size – Growing basil together doesn’t mean in a tight space where the roots don’t have room to grow. Don’t cram many plants into a small pot. Provide them with a spacious pot that is wide and several inches deep.

Pruning and harvesting – Though it encourages growth, regularly pruning and harvesting basil can help shape plants and control their size. 

Pests – While basil plants are often used to deter some garden pests like flies, pests like aphids and beetles think basil is delicious. Other pests like nematodes affect basil through the roots by causing damage which affects its uptake of water and nutrients. The downside of planting basil closely is that when one plant gets a pest infestation, it will eventually make its way through nearby basil plants.

Disease – Like pests, diseases in closely planted basil will make their way to nearby plants. Basil diseases like Fusarium Wilt and Downy Mildew can spread through spores. There are disease-resistant basil varieties. 

How close is too close?

The general recommended spacing of basil is between 8 to 16 inches apart. Seed packets usually provide a guide on how far apart space plants are. Those boundaries can be pushed a little, and many plants will do just fine when planted a few inches closer than suggested.

Have you ever brought a basil plant home and realized that more than one plant is growing in the pot? Some basil varieties grow well when two or even three plants have such close stems that they are touching each other. Any more plants than that will become crowded. Planting basil tightly without leaving adequate space for spreading roots is also too close.

If basil shows signs that it isn’t doing well because it’s planted too closely, you can attempt to gently dig it up and replant it right away. Preserve as much of the roots as possible to increase their chance of survival.

Basil varieties that grow well planted closely

The following are a few basil varieties that don’t mind being planted as pairs (of the same variety)

Genovese – This is a standard basil variety sold in nurseries and even grocery stores. These usually come with multiple plants growing in one pot.

Lettuce leaf basil – Despite having some of the largest leaves seen on a basil plant, Lettuce leaf basil grows well in pairs.

Italian large leaf basil – This sweet basil is almost always seen growing in multiples.

Other great basils which don’t bush out and grow similar to the popular Genovese basil variety are Sweet basil, Emily, and Mammolo. 

Finally, keep in mind to water your basil well. Provide enough light and nutrients to keep your closely planted basils happy, so they don’t have to compete for limited resources.