Basil Plant Flowering: Why and What to Do?

Basils plants are wonderful herbs to grow at home. But why do they flower and what should you do about it?

Is your basil plant starting to produce purple flowers? If it is, it is affecting the flavor of the leaves on your basil plant. The little flowers must be removed.

Today, I’ll go over why this happens and give you a few pointers on how to avoid it.

Why Do They Flower?

Plants develop flowers in order to produce seeds and reproduce. This occurs in all plants, but it is referred to as bolting when it occurs in herbs. Plants bolt in response to various environmental stressors.

In hot, humid conditions, basil plants go into overdrive. They will begin to sprout purple flower stalks every day.

These blossoms are lovely, but they also indicate that the plant is slowing down and shifting from the growth phase to the reproduction phase. Foliage and leaf output is decreasing, which is bad news for people who want to harvest leaves for their recipes. Furthermore, the leaves frequently get more bitter.

Bolting doesn’t mean that you’ve done something wrong; it’s simply a natural process. However, if you want the plant to continue growing leaves, you must do something about the flowers.

Very green and fresh basil leaves

How to Prevent It from Happening

Unfortunately, once a plant starts bolting, there is no stopping it.

The only thing you can do is avoid it in the first place: watch for hot-weather spells, water evenly, harvest frequently, and detect the signs of bolting.

Heat is one key reasons for herb bolting. As previously stated, heat is a stressor that will cause your basil plant to bloom.

You may not be able to control the weather in general. You can, however, be prepared and diligent in your efforts to protect your basil from hot temperatures.

To accomplish this, you’ll need to assess your specific microclimate and make landscape changes to allow our plants to thrive.

pots of homegrown basil plants

Identify Microclimates

You’re probably already aware of the specific places in your garden that are constantly moist, are buffeted by strong winds, or are heavily shaded. Elevation, geography, and the number and size of trees on your land all have an impact on the unique growing conditions of your garden. These are referred to as microclimates. As the name implies, they can refer to relatively small portions of the garden. Examine your yard at different times of the year to get a sense of the particular microclimates you have.

Land to the south of a low wall, your house, or a garage, for example, may be slightly warmer than adjacent areas. These southern exposures absorb the sun’s rays. They also serve as a windbreak, which usually helps keep the soil cool and dry.

If you live in a snowy area, you should be aware of how the snow melts. The areas of the yard where the snow melts the slowest have the coldest environment, which is great for producing basil.

Use Sun Shades

If you don’t have a suitable location that can provide some shade during the hottest part of the day, shade cloths can be used to shield your basil plants from the sun, just as a floating row cover can protect them from insects and cold.

Shade clothes come in different grades of thickness and block different amounts of light. Which one you should choose will depend on how hot it is, how much shade you require, and how much shadow your plants can withstand.

The majority of gardening shade fabric is meant to filter out 30 to 75 percent of the sun’s rays. Depending on the amount of shade supplied, the shade fabric can reduce the temperature around covered plants by up to 20 degrees.

Backyard vegetable garden with  different plants

What to Do If Basil Has Already Bolted

Just because your basil has bolted doesn’t mean you can’t use it anymore.

Although the flavor of the leaves may be noticeably weaker or even bitter compared to the traditional sweet fragrance of younger leaves, it is still safe to eat after blooming.

Basil blossoms and stems are also edible. The blossoms have a mild, pleasant flavor and can be used as a garnish on salads or in pesto. If you plan to harvest the stems, test them first to make sure they have not become woody.

After bolting, you can still encourage the plant to expend some energy on leaf expansion rather than seed production. As soon as flower buds appear, snip or pinch them off. Harvest the leaves right away while they are still available.

Basil plant sprouting in the house garden
Alaine Connolly
Alaine has been working way too hard in horticulture since 1992, beautifying golf courses, resorts, and hotels. She is a part time landscape designer who works full time caring for a 28,000 square foot public garden. At home, she maintains her own 400 square feet plot. Alaine lives in northern Illinois - zone 5b.
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