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I'm wondering how to keep my basil usable for cooking as long as possible.
Bought this today from the shop:

Fresh one

On the label it says "Keep in the light and water daily", but I'm not sure if I should remove that plastic thing, so maybe it could breathe better. I've read some 'basil storage' posts around the internet like this, but none referred to basil in soil.

I've had another one for like 2-3 weeks, which died in the last couple of days, because I forgot to water it lately. This one:

dead one

So, should I remove that foil around it? Will it help prolong its lifetime?

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The basil sold in these pots are in fact a dozen or so little seedlings grown just long enough to develop a few leaves. The plastic sleeve serves two purposes: Coralling the small plants which would otherwise tend to lean in all directions, getting easily tangled with plants from other pots and thus protecting them from mechanical damage during transport and in the stores. It is simply a packaging, not a "mini-greenhouse".

When you bring one of these pots home, the first thing to do should be to remove the foil. If you leave it on, you encourage damp conditions within that encourage the growth of fungi and are not healthy for your plant.

Next, put your pot in a saucer so that runoff from watering doesn't make a major mess. (You could use a cache pot, but that's purely for decorative purposes.) Within the next few days and weeks, some of the smaller seedlings will die, succumbing to the overcrowded conditions in your pot. Remove all stems that appear shriveled, blackened or "fuzzy".

When harvesting, always pinch the top pair or two of leaves, this encourages new growth as opposed to long, lanky bare stems and it lengthens the time until the plants start to bloom.

Basil will do very well outdoors1 if you transition it slowly - these seedlings are comparatively weak and fragile and need hardening off if you try to do so. You could even remove the whole cluster of plants from the pot and plant them further apart. This should allow the plants to mature better and get way larger that in the pot. But if you just want a few leaves for your kitchen and are little inclined to fuss about your basil, just use it up and get a new one.


1 Note that basil is an annnual and absolutely not frost hardy. So planting or transitioning it outdoors is a spring/summer project, not one for a scandinavian autumn. I added this information for general reference, not for this specific pot.

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    Sweet, I was looking exactly for this kind of advice. Stephie saves the day. I would love to plant it outside, but as I live in a block of flats without my garden, I don't see that happening. – Alex Sep 25 '15 at 17:51
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    If you put them in a larger pot so the seeds can fall into the soil rather than on the floor you will have an ever ready supply of basil. Let half of the plants go to seed and keep the other half trimmed for harvesting. – Escoce Sep 25 '15 at 18:17
  • Thank for your advice @Escoce! I'll research about the cost of a larger pot. – Alex Sep 25 '15 at 18:38
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    Just a few dollars $15-ish for say an 18 inch pot, plus a few more dollars for a bag of soil. Of course you could get a fancy glazed pot for a few dollars more. Just make sure it has good drainage and buy the saucer that comes with it. – Escoce Sep 25 '15 at 18:41
  • If you find your Basil is doomed, cut off the leaves, chop them up and freeze in ice cube trays or the like. It'll keep its fresh basil flavor that way, rather than just look sad, wilty and dead on your windowsill. – Wayfaring Stranger Sep 27 '15 at 2:28
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Your basil is toast. Sorry...basil is a tender annual in most areas of the world. Where was this plant when you purchased it? Indoors or out of doors? This guy looks as if it went through a freeze after you brought it home. That or no water or fried by the sun through the window... but I realise you are already sensitive to watering. It is pretty late in the year to plant out of doors in the garden. Takes time to acclimate and one freeze will kill your plant or set it back where producing enough fresh leaves to use in cooking is nill. The dried leaves could be used/saved! Not the same as fresh of course. These plants are sold to be used in cooking right away. You might be able to keep them useable for 2 or 3 weeks unless it was earlier in the year and you could plant in garden or put pot out for more sunlight. Definitely take the froofroo off...the florist's shield that you show as well as those funky foil pretty things that the entire pot sits in. You do not want the bottom of the pot to sit in a saucer or foil pretty thing full of water!! Try growing your own from seed! Very easy, works pretty well indoors with lots of light. I'd even have a grow light as fresh basil is such a treat. Have you tried Thai Basil? This plant I see in your second picture just is not going to come back. Go ahead and try but I'd also try growing from seed with a grow light and access to real sunlight. Careful putting any plant in sun in a window until it is hardened off or was grown in the sun in a window. Find out how your plant was cultivated, what conditions it is used to and you have to slowly acclimate it to your environment. This is NOT a house plant that will last for months/years anywhere (unless tropical, subtropical conditions and not allowed to go to seed, annuals, once they are allowed to seed are programmed to die...happily. They've done their job, made babies/seeds).

  • Thank you for taking time to write! A lot of new information to me. I bought it from a supermarket (indoors). I took the foil off and watered it, i'll try harder to not forget to water it everyday. I'll keep it next to a window, so it can get some light. Nope, can't plant it outside, I have no garden. You're saying that I can do something with the one that died? What exactly? I was planning to throw it out. Nope, didn't try Thai Basil. Is it more tasty? Yea, I live in Denmark, pretty cold, not sure it would survive much outside anyway. And I know nothing about gardening. – Alex Sep 25 '15 at 20:33
  • Stormy, the second picture is another plant that OP killed by not watering a while ago.... – Stephie Sep 25 '15 at 20:41
  • Save the leaves for cooking and then throw the plant out and get another or try growing from seed. If you are a big time cook and want fresh basil, you should be able to keep a good succession of plants going. If the leaves of this plant are as crispy as they look, I'd just put them in a plastic bag and freeze. Basil where I live is very short lived, too! Even when there is lots of heat, sun and time Basil starts putting out flowers/seed and it takes a bit of work to keep the flowers trimmed off. To be a gardener, one needs to garden and make mistakes...grins! – stormy Sep 25 '15 at 20:46
  • Is Stephie correct? The second picture is of an earlier plant that you had and the first picture is what you HAVE? Thanks Stephie...!! – stormy Sep 25 '15 at 20:47
  • If the first picture is what you are working with, no problem! I'd keep it in the soil and pot it is already in, get the plastic off for sure, water deeply yet ALLOW TO DRY before watering deeply again. These guys need moisture but too much and they'll have root rot. Use a saucer but toss the extra water out of the saucer immediately. Notice the weight of this pot when newly watered and water is coming from the bottom. Then notice the weight after you've allowed to dry for a day or two...should be very light. If not, allow to dry a bit more. Keep using the leaves especially the very top – stormy Sep 25 '15 at 20:52

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