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19 Types of Flavorful Basil for Your Garden


For many of us, winter is for flipping through seed catalogs and plotting out our gardens. I love to squeeze in extra patches of basil wherever I can because I can never have enough. Plus, there are so many different types of basil to experiment with in the kitchen! 

A quick note about hardiness zones listed in this article: most basil varieties can grow as perennials in zones 9-12, but anyone in zones 5+ can grow basil as an annual. While it thrives in full sun, it appreciates afternoon shade in extremely warm regions with harsh summers. 

Genovese basil has gorgeous, textured leaves that droop just slightly at the ends. When pruned and harvested regularly, these plants can grow to three feet tall and will bush out heavily with side shoots. 

Keep it from going to flower by pinching out the center growth point whenever you can. This will keep energy focused on the root system, and the plant will keep sending out more shoots rather than reproducing. 

Lemon  

A close-up reveals lemon basil leaves and stems, showcasing intricate details. The edges display a subtle serration, adding texture to the greenery. In the blurred background, a lush abundance of basil leaves further enhances the sensory experience.
Growing lemon basil provides a local alternative to scarce lemons in North America.
botanical-name
botanical name


Ocimum basilicum citriodorum
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun to partial shade
height
height


8-16 inches
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


9-12

Since locally grown lemons are hard, or impossible, to come by in most parts of North America, growing lemon basil is a great alternative. The citrusy and sweet flavor profile is perfect for olive oil and vinegar blends, fish dishes, dessert muffins, and summer pasta dishes

You’ll notice the height is a bit shorter than most other basil plants. This variety has a compact bush growth habit so you can easily grow this variety in containers in small spaces, patios, or even apartment patios. If left to bloom, flowers will be a gentle white.

Dark Opal  

A close-up of dark opal basil leaves, showcasing their rich, deep purple color. The intricate veins run across the leaves, adding a stunning contrast and texture to the overall appearance.
With its striking dark purple leaves, dark opal basil is ideal as a garnish.
botanical-name
botanical name


Ocimum basilicum ‘Dark Opal’
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun 
height
height


16-18 inches
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


9-12

This variety offers an awesome mix of mostly dark purple and about 10% green leaves that are slightly ruffled, perfect to use as a garnish. The flavor of dark opal basil is quite intense, so it should be showcased thoughtfully in pasta dishes, soups, or desserts. 

Plant in slightly rich and well-draining soil. Dark opal will mature in 70 days and can be used as cut flowers as well as for culinary purposes. 

Pro tip: Allow a small amount of the plants to flower, and use the red and purple flowers as a garnish on plates or as cocktail/mocktail floaters. 

Sweet Thai

Sweet Thai basil's tall, purple blooms stand out majestically against a sea of vivid green leaves. The backdrop of blurred greenery enhances the overall aesthetic appeal and tranquility of the scene.
Ideal for simmering broths, this hardy basil boasts a robust flavor with a strong fragrance.
botanical-name
botanical name


Ocimum basilicum var. thyrsiflora
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun to partial shade
height
height


12-24 inches
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


9-12

This hardy type of basil holds up well when cooked and is perfect for adding to simmering broths. The fragrance is strong, and the flavor adds an intense kick of spicy, savory anise

In Thailand, Thai basil is called Horapha, and in Vietnam, Hung Que.  This is a popular variety to add to pho, Thai pesto, and curries. 

Cinnamon

Cinnamon basil leaves, lush and aromatic, create a rich visual tapestry. Their deep green hues intermingle with the striking deep purple blooms, forming a captivating contrast that adds both color and texture to the garden landscape.
With its warm, slightly minty, and anise-flavored leaves, cinnamon basil enhances various dishes.
botanical-name
botanical name


Ocimum basilicum ‘Cinnamon’
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun 
height
height


18-30 inches
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


9-12

The flavor of cinnamon basil includes, well, cinnamon, but it’s also slightly minty with a side of anise. Its flavor is warm, and while it’s great for tossing into fresh salads, combined into pasta dishes or chicken marinades, for something a little more unique, cook this down with homemade apple sauce and jams. 

Or better yet, substitute this for ground cinnamon in pie recipes or make a holiday whipped cream by blending heavy cream with basil leaves until it turns to the right consistency. You can also muddle the leaves for use in a summer mojito or margarita the way they do in Mexico. 

Cinnamon basil leaves are two inches long with strong veining, and the plants feature very dark violet flowers. Harvest for use in mixed bouquets. It’s a great source of vitamins A, C, and K. 

Lime

Lime basil leaves, with their lush green hues, bask in the warm embrace of radiant sunlight. The delicate veins on each leaf catch the light, casting intricate shadows that dance in the sunlit garden.
The leaves of this basil can be muddled to make a refreshing drink in the summer.
botanical-name
botanical name


Ocimum x citriodorum
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun 
height
height


12-24 inches
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


9-12

Lime basil looks similar to lemon basil with slightly darker leaves. Add it to any dish you want to intensify with a citrusy flavor, like fish or soups

Quick to mature in just 60 days from transplant, you can start harvesting leaves one at a time as needed once the plant has established. 

Pro tip: Muddle some leaves and add them to fresh salted water in the heat of a summer day for a delicious way to get hydrated quickly. 

Sweet

A close-up of sweet basil leaves and delicate white flowers. The glossy leaves shimmer in the sunlight, showcasing a rich green hue. The small white flowers add a touch of elegance, creating a harmonious blend of color and texture.
Originating in Asia and thriving in tropical climates, sweet basil holds diverse cultural significance.
botanical-name
botanical name


Ocimum basilicum
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun 
height
height


16-24 inches
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


9-12

Unless you have an experienced basil palate, you will likely not taste the difference between sweet basil and Genovese basil. As a cultivar of common basil, ‘Genovese’ has a more earthy, peppery flavor and less sweetness than sweet basil, which leaves a sweet anise and clove taste on your tongue. 

Sweet basil originates in Asia and can be found growing in the tropics globally. It’s called the king of herbs for a reason; it is used in different ways by many cultures.

Italian Large Leaf

A close-up reveals the intricate details of Italian large leaf basils, their emerald green hues enhanced by the glistening water droplets. Bathed in sunlight, these basil leaves exhibit a rich green hue that enhances their visual appeal.
When planting this herb, consider spacing to prevent diseases like downy mildew and fusarium wilt.
botanical-name
botanical name


Ociumum basilicum ‘Neopolitan’
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun 
height
height


24-30 inches
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


9-12

Large-leaf basil is a type of Genovese that has uniformly massive leaves, almost four inches long each. More bang for your buck! The flavor is sweet with notes of anise. 

Basil is susceptible to downy mildew and fusarium wilt. Look for updated versions each season for a strong resistance package against these diseases. If you’re companion planting with another summer crop, space them appropriately so they have room to spread out. 

Amethyst

 In a blurred brown pot, an amethyst basil plant flourishes, its deep purple leaves gracefully unfurling. The rich hues of the foliage create a striking contrast against the earthy backdrop, adding a touch of elegance to the botanical arrangement.
With its striking purple hue, Amethyst basil enhances both garden aesthetics and culinary creations.
botanical-name
botanical name


Ocimum basilicum ‘Amethyst’
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun 
height
height


16-20 inches
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


9-12

One of the most attractive basil types, this variety is an intense purple, almost black. It looks stunning in the garden and on the dinner plate.

Amethyst basil boasts an intense, sweet basil flavor, and when cooked fresh, the flavor is the most potent. Add it to pasta dishes, desserts, and soups, or float it on a cocktail to make a statement. 

Watch for slugs on young plants in the early season. Days to maturity is 74, a bit longer than some others, but worth the wait. 

Lettuce Leaf

A sunlit lettuce leaf basil is featured in close-up, revealing its green hue under the warm sunlight. The delicate leaves showcase a distinctive crinkled texture, adding a visually appealing and textured element to the overall composition.
Highly crinkled lettuce leaf basil boasts a mild flavor suitable for caprese.
botanical-name
botanical name


Ocimum basilicum ‘Lettuce Leaf’
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun to partial shade
height
height


16-18 inches
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


9-12

Lettuce leaf basil has highly crinkled and large leaves, almost the size of a hand. 

Its flavor isn’t as spicy as some others, making it a great option for caprese or as a spin on traditional lettuce wraps. It will hold shape and dressings well if you throw it into fresh salads alongside cherry tomatoes and cucumbers. 

The growth rate of this variety is fantastic, and germination is high as well. Space basil plants at about a foot, or add one plant per container

Cardinal  

Lush green cardinal basil plant with magenta leaves at the center, creating a striking contrast. The magenta hue intensifies as it radiates from the plant's core, showcasing a visually captivating and unique botanical arrangement.
Cardinal basil boasts medium-green leaves and magenta flowers.
botanical-name
botanical name


Ocimum basilicum ‘Cardinal’
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun to partial shade
height
height


Up to 24 inches
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


9-12

They say we eat with our eyes first, right? Cardinal basil is such a beautiful type of basil you may not even want to harvest it! This variety is great as a filler in a cut flower garden.

The medium-green leaf shades and magenta flowers have a robust, sweet, and spicy flavor, so a little goes a long way to accent dishes. Cut extra? Add them to a vase for a unique summer centerpiece.

Holy

A detailed close-up captures green holy basil leaves, their serrated edges and delicate veins illuminated by sunlight. The blurred background accentuates the abundance of these holy basil leaves, creating a visually rich and calming composition.
Popular in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, Holy basil is often featured in teas.
botanical-name
botanical name


Ocimum tenuiflorum
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun to partial shade 
height
height


2-5 feet
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


10-12

This herb is part of the Lamiaceae (mint) family, like all basil, and is sometimes referred to as the Queen of Herbs or tulsi basil. The three types of holy basil include Vana, Rama, and Krishna.

The flavor profiles of holy basil are much deeper and earthier, including notes of clove, lemon, and licorice, as compared to the warmer, sweet flavor of Genovese basil. It can be pressed into a healing oil to treat skin ailments, relieve respiratory conditions, and lower blood pressure. 

Holy basil makes a light and lovely tea that’s used often in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. Studies show that it can relieve stress, improve memory, and help us fight off infections. 

‘Serrata’ 

A serrata basil plant, with lush green leaves, flourishes in nutrient-rich, dark soil, showcasing its robust health and vitality under the nourishing environment. The glossy foliage of the serrata basil catches and reflects sunlight.
With unique ruffled leaves, this heirloom basil resembles loose lettuce, ideal for garnishing.
botanical-name
botanical name


Ocimum basilicum ‘Serata’
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun 
height
height


12-14 inches
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


9-12

This heirloom type of basil has been around for many years. It has unique bright, light-green, ruffled leaves and grows low to the ground, looking more like a loose lettuce head or cabbage than basil, making it great for garnishing dishes

It has strong South Asian spice, perfect for dishes like stirfry, fried rice, and braised eggplant. 

The plant is strong, compact, and so pretty it can be used as an ornamental. 

‘Purple Ruffles’

A thriving Purple Ruffles Basil plant flourishes in rich brown soil, showcasing a blend of green and deep purple leaves. The lush foliage reflects the plant's health and vitality, creating a visually captivating and dynamic botanical display in the garden.
This has distinct purple and ruffled leaves that grow upright.
botanical-name
botanical name


Ocimum basilicum ‘Purple Ruffles’
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun 
height
height


18-24 inches
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


9-12

‘Purple Ruffles’ is exactly what you’re thinking it might be: purple and ruffly! Leaves grow in an upright manner, which may be confusing for some gardeners at first because it almost seems as though the plant is stressed. 

The flavor is similar to sweet basil with hints of anise and cinnamon. Use it in the kitchen as you would Genovese basil. 

Start seeds indoors on a heat mat set to 70-80°F (21-27°C) to get high germination rates in mid to late spring. Adding a fan to the area will help the soil from forming mildew, but just remember to keep an eye on the moisture levels. Use good-quality cell trays like these from Epic Gardening. 

Greek  

A Greek basil plant, with lush green leaves, flourishes in a black pot, basking in the warm embrace of sunlight. The blurred backdrop reveals a serene sea of grass, emphasizing the plant's thriving vitality.
Ideal for small spaces, the Greek basil is perfect for container gardening and outdoor patio decor.
botanical-name
botanical name


Ocimum minimum
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun 
height
height


8-12 inches
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


9-12

This dwarf type, often called bush or fine leaf basil, is great for container growing and small space herb gardening. Leaves are just a ½ inch long, and the growth habit is mounding, perfect to be used as an outdoor patio decor. While it’s more hardy than most other basils, it will not survive where winters are cold. 

The flavor of Greek basil is a perfect blend of sweet and spicy. Typically, it’s added to tea or salads, but its clove notes can lend themselves well to sweet dessert breads, as well.

Transplant Greek basil plants out only once the soil has warmed to above 60°F (16°C) and space them at two feet. They’ll mature in just 60 days from transplant. 

French

A close-up reveals the vibrant, deep green hue of French basil leaves, showcasing their rich and luscious texture. The glossy surface of the leaves catches and reflects the ambient light.
Preferred in French cuisine, this basil is traditionally used in pistou.
botanical-name
botanical name


Ocimum basilicum ‘Marseilles’
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun 
height
height


About 20 inches
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


9-12

A globe type of basil, this heirloom is preferred in French cuisine and is believed to be the best in France. It has small to medium-sized leaves that have a classic basil flavor, never bitter. 

Traditionally, it’s used to make pistou, which in Provençal means “pounded.” The sauce is similar to Italian pesto made by smashing up garlic, basil, pine nuts, pecorino, and olive oil and is often used as a marinade. Lemon balm or mint is added to keep the bright green color bright and fresh. 

Throw some in a container and position it near entrances or outdoor play areas to help keep the mosquitoes away. 

Summerlong  

A thriving basil plant stretches its green leaves toward the sky. The sunlight highlights the varied leaf sizes, creating a visually appealing pattern that adds depth and character to the sumptuous basil plant thriving on the ground.
This is a quick-maturing, compact herb with a flavor similar to sweet basil.
botanical-name
botanical name


Ociumum basilicum 
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun 
height
height


6-12 inches
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


9-12

If you want a quick-maturing and compact option that doesn’t skimp on flavor, ‘Summerlong’ Basil is your guy. Add it to a container, among other herbs in a cutting garden, or companion planted with summer crops. 

Plants mature in 30-60 days from transplant and are slow to bolt. The flavor is comparable to sweet basil, so use it in the same ways you would in pasta dishes and pesto. 

Japanese

Towering brown stems reach skyward, showcasing the elegant beauty of a Japanese basil plant. The green leaves, with their serrated edges, add a touch of intricacy to the basil plant.
Also known as shiso, Japanese basil offers a versatile flavor profile resembling cinnamon.
botanical-name
botanical name


Perilla frutescens var. crispa
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun to partial shade 
height
height


1-3 feet
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


10-12

Ok, so technically, Japanese basil isn’t basil botanically. However, shiso is a cool thing for gardeners to add to their summer lineup and a creative herb to use in the kitchen. Most plants will have a majority of serrated green leaves with about 25% red leaves that are large and droop down slightly.

Shiso flavor is very versatile, with notes of cinnamon, mint, and cloves with a kickback of cumin. Try substituting it for regular Italian for a unique pesto and use it in a light summer pasta dish, or add it to fresh Vietnamese veggie rolls.  

This plant is deer, heat, and drought-resistant as it is native to Asia. Space plants at 12-18 inches or grow them in containers. Leaves will drop after the plant flowers. 

‘Green Ruffles’

A close-up captures the rich, emerald hues of Green Ruffles basil leaves. The crinkled textures unfold, hinting at the herb's aromatic potency and adding a visual symphony to the kitchen garden.
This basil has large, heavily crinkled light to medium-green leaves.
botanical-name
botanical name


Ocimum basilicum ‘Green Ruffles’
sun-requirements
sun requirements


Full sun 
height
height


12-18 inches
hardiness-zones
hardiness zones


9-12

Similar to ‘Purple Ruffles’, this interesting-looking herb looks more like a serrated, wilted lettuce. In fact, ‘Purple Ruffles’ was made by mixing ‘Green Ruffles’ with dark opal basil. Its light to medium-green leaves are large, almost five inches, and heavily crinkled. The plant will remain on the shorter side. 

Its flavor is light and sweet with hints of cinnamon, licorice, and slight citrus. Pair it with fresh tomatoes or fish. 

General Tips on Growing Basil

  • Lay off the nutrients, especially nitrogen. Too much will affect the flavor.
  • Feed plants with a liquid seaweed extract one to two times during the season.
  • Keep it well-watered.
  • Ensure proper sunlight and airflow for best performance.
  • Grow compact varieties in containers if desired.
  • Basil plants can be brought inside for the winter if properly cared for.
  • They will not tolerate extended periods of below 50° and cannot handle frost.
  • Try propagating new plants from cuttings!

Final Thoughts

There are so many more basils than you can probably imagine and it’s time we start using more of them in the kitchen! Most types and varieties of basil are fairly easy to grow as long as they have full sun and well-draining soil.



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