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I have 2 basil plants that are in 8 inch diam. pots. They were outside but were doing poorly so around the middle of the summer I moved them inside. They are now thriving! I generally harvest a few leaves at a time while cooking and I cut back any branches that get too tall. The lower stems are starting to turn woody but the plants are still growing well.

How long can I continue to do this? Will a be able to harvest a consistent small amount of basil forever or should I take all the leaves and make pesto at some point (like I would have done if they were planted outside)?

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This will depend on whether your plant is an annual or perrenial (e.g. African Blue or East Indian cultivars). –  Lisa Dec 20 '11 at 3:01
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up vote 5 down vote accepted

One cannot give an exact time frame for a plant's survival. If you live in a cold place, the plant will die when temperatures start dropping, otherwise, it can live year round. The most important thing is to not let it bolt. A bolted plant looks like in this question. You can read through the advice given in Best conditions for basil and try to follow that to keep it alive.

Note that regardless of where you are located, a basil kept indoors should stay alive assuming it does not exposed to the cold or the very hot and it gets all the other general requirements (sun, water, etc). Bolting (flowering) is caused by adverse conditions (the plant thinks it is going to die soon) - remove those conditions (e.g. winter) and it should live for many years.

Once it has gone to flower and to seed, one option is to wait for the seed to form and dry. Then brush the seed off with your hand and let it fall so that it seeds itself. We've kept basil growing outdoors for quite a few years like this (any plants still alive are killed by the winter frosts, but the seed germinates in spring)

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