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I let my basil grow from seed, and I very seldom trimmed it. My aim is to understand the plant life cycle, so I did it on purpose.

The plants are so arranged: Three vases sitting in a larger, long vase which I keep constantly with 1cm of water with an upside down bottle. Water gets to the plants through the drain holes of the internal vases.

The first vase has two plants. Both are in good health. Large leaves but no flowers. Thick main branches, almost wooden at the base. They seem resistant enough to stand without the glass of the window they normally rest on.

The second vase is really crowded, having 5 major plants plus 5 minor ones. They are also rather close to each other (I did not trim the seedlings). This vase has the greenest leaves (dark green) but not at the base, where they are pale green, almost yellowish. It's also badly wilted, but it's also the one where the flower seems to be extremely well developed.

The third vase contains five robust plants as well. It's the one in the best shape of all the batch. A couple of flowers are emerging, and the leaves are green (not a strong one, but decent) and perfect consistency.

The plant receive sunlight for a part of the day, they are indoors, at the window.

My main questions, arising from the second vase situation, is the following: is letting basil loose without trimming a bad move for the plant health? I am of course aware of bolting (which I am trying to achieve to experiment and hopefully get seeds) but provided you cut the flowers and nothing else, can the plant stay alive without trimming or is there a limit where the plant can't sustain itself anymore and wilts ? It may be just overcrowding, but I want to know first.

Second question is: will this strategy give me seeds ?

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I don't generally trim my basil in any way (only prevent it from bolting) and it is perfectly healthy. I guess the reason I am posting as a comment and not answering (as I guess is why others haven't answered) is because of the title— I honestly don't know if it'll die. I don't think it will and mine hasn't. –  Lorem Ipsum Apr 28 '12 at 16:29
    
@yoda: I think you are giving a perfect answer. The pointis that the plant will not die if it grows too much. Do you provide some support ? they are getting so big I have the feat they will crash under their own weight. –  Stefano Borini Apr 28 '12 at 18:00

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I don't generally trim my basil in any way (only prevent it from bolting) and it is perfectly healthy. You don't need to support it either, because by the time it grows big enough for the weight of the leaves to matter, it would've matured enough that the lower stems start to harden and become woody.

I don't think your plant will die directly as a result of not trimming (mine hasn't), but you need to be aware that it can cause certain other problems that could contribute to a decline in health:

  • A very high density of leaves can reduce the penetration of sunlight to the inner and lower leaves. These leaves could eventually turn yellow, and not contribute to food production, thereby straining the plant.
  • Similarly, increased leaf density could increase moisture retention in the interior of the shrub, leading to a higher likelihood of fungus growth, rot, etc.

That said, it would take an extraordinarily dense basil shrub for it to even be an issue. If you're using basil normally for your culinary needs, it should be sufficient to keep it in decent shape, without any special trimming.

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