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Can Basil Grow Without Leaves

Are you an overzealous harvester who accidentally cut too many leaves off your basil plant, leaving

it bare? Perhaps you have issues with pests who also enjoy tasty basil leaves. Or the plant

dropped its leaves after a few rough days without water or bad windy weather. Whatever the

reasons, you may be asking, can basil grow without leaves?

Sadly, there’s a small chance basil will grow without leaves; more likely, it will not.

The reason why basil will most likely not grow without leaves is that plants need leaves for

photosynthesis. It’s the only way plants can make their own food to live and grow.

This might bring other plants such as fruit trees that lose all their leaves but come back year after

year. The difference is that those trees or plants can undergo a process called dormancy.

They shed their leaves to conserve energy, hunker down for cold weather, and then regrow new

leaves when they warm up again. If a fruit tree loses leaves during the growing season,

it too might struggle to grow, much like a bare basil plant.

When can basil grow without leaves

Whatever small chance basil might continue to grow without leaves depends on new leaves that

may have been forming at the nodes. If a basil plant is stripped of all large leaves, but some tiny

leaves were emerging at the leaf nodes, it might be able to recover. Unfortunately, leafless basil

stems cannot be propagated.

The other more promising time basil plants can grow without leaves is if the basil is from a

perennial variety growing in a mild climate. Most basil plants are annual. They live from spring

to early fall. The cold will eventually freeze the water in the stems, and basil dies off. It does not

reemerge the following year.

However, in areas with mild winter temperatures, some types of

basil withstand getting cut all the way down with no leaves and will regrow for at least one more

gardening season. Some of these varieties include African blue basil and Thai basil.

Pruning and harvesting basil

If you tend to remove too many leaves from your basil plant when harvesting, read on for proper

techniques to prune and tips to harvest basil plants.

How to prune basil plants

  1. Examine the upper part of the main stem.
  2. Using a cleaned cutting tool, cut them off the plant about half an inch above the leaf node. In
  3. The space where the large leaves are connected to the stem, two smaller leaves emerge. This
  4. Is the leaf node.
  5. Cut off any flowers to prolong leaf production. 

Tips for harvesting basil

  • Harvest basil leaves regularly to encourage more growth. Basil leaves can be frozen or dried for later use.
  • Always harvest from the top of the plant first unless you need more and are going to harvest whole stems. Don’t regularly harvest whole stems as this will keep basil plants small.
  • Harvest just above leaf nodes where smaller leaves are growing. These are the leaves that will replace what you have harvested.
  • Do not strip the plant bare. Leave some leaf nodes and large leaves behind. All plants need leaves to photosynthesize. Leaving some vegetation behind will give you something to come back to.

Proper basil plant care

Sunlight – Provide basil plants with at least 6 hours of sunlight every day. Basil will grow in pots

and hanging planters if you don’t have an inground location with adequate sunlight.

Nutrition – Unlike plants that produce fruit or tubers, adding compost to soil should provide

adequate nutrition for basil. If the plant is beginning to look pale or isn’t performing as well as it

used to, a small amount of liquid fertilizer will help.

Water – Keep the soil moist but not wet. Water basil when the top layer of soil dries out. Wet the

soil and not the plant leaves. Avoid splashing dirt onto leaves and rinse any splashes

immediately. Basil plants can be affected by soilborne diseases and excess moisture caused by

wet leaves. Mulching plants will keep the soil moist for longer and prolonged periods between watering as

well as create a protective barrier between the soil and plant leaves.

Pest control – If insects begin to eat up basil leaves, products like insecticidal soaps and oils can

help kill pests. Larger, more visible pests like beetles can be plucked off the plant.

Disease control – At the first sign of disease, such as dark spots, immediately cut off and discard

infected leaves to avoid spreading to other plants.

Tips to keep basil plants healthy and full

  • Water regularly, without leaving the soil overly wet and soggy. Water when the top layer of soil has begun to dry out. Wet soils can cause basil roots to rot.
  • Prune basil regularly to stimulate new growth and keep flowering at bay. Flowering will slow down growth and alter the taste of the leaves. Eventually, no amount of pruning will stop the plant from flowering. Pruning is not only great for growth but also for plant health. It can help increase airflow and reduce humidity. Humidity can encourage the growth and spread of basil diseases.
  • Always clean cutting tools before and after pruning or using on other plants. This will stop the spread of any potential diseases.
  • Use a soil and compost mix to plant basil in. Basil does not grow well in heavy or very sandy soils.
  • Though quality soil is usually all basil needs to grow well, fertilize lightly when the plant looks pale.
  • Grow several basil plants at once so harvests can be rotated and avoid rummaging one plant.

If the weather will still be warm for several weeks after you have lost your basil plant, it’s not too

late to start new seeds. You can grow basil in pots so the plants can be moved indoors if

temperatures begin to drop. Basil plants are fairly easy to grow indoors, so don’t be intimidated

by the idea.

Finally, choose high-yielding basil or large leaf basil varieties to provide an abundance of leaves for

harvesting. Some of these include Dolly, Lettuce leaf, and African Nunum basil.

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