Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The trials of the Thai basil

These are two basil plants. Both are Thai basil and both looked alike when I bought them at the farmers market. I planted one on the edge of the terrace, in full sun. I planted the other (above, on the right), in this big pot on the terrace floor, with the clematis and fennel and verbena and gloriosa lily (it's very cosmopolitan in there) where it receives direct sun for only 2-3 hours, but at the hottest part of the day.

The plant in full sun suffered. It folded its leaves, turned pale, didn't drink the water I offered it, and wept, except its tears were dry. Classic heat stroke. The basil on the terrace floor grew, at least two inches in that unhappy week, while the other sat, stunted and panting.

So I moved the hot one and planted it next to its brother. This is where I have always planted the Thai basil, and by August it is usually about three feet tall. I'm beginning to think that basil in general prefers some shade. Even my mottled basil plants are beginning to look a little tough and are trying to thwart me every day by pushing out flowers, which I nip off. The purple basil is fine, protected by its purpleness. And the lemon basil, in the shade of the fig tree, shows no signs of exhaustion.


  1. Suggestive of the ominous drought upon us. Between water and none, how about some shade? How hot are those pots? Basil in their little clay pots, 100, 105, more degrees? And then the low, low humidity that comes with these western air flows. Give me shade!

  2. I have to keep my basil in the greenhouse against the cold - where is does very well. I planted Thai basil this year - and its growth is pretty pathetic.

  3. My Thai Basil is loving the northwest weather-a few hot hours of afternoon sun with morning and evening shade. Tarragon is thriving in these conditions as well.

  4. Basil loves light shade and rich, moist soil, unlike the oreganos, thymes and rosemary that crave that Mediterranean dry heat. Took me a few years to get that.


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