How to grow Citrus Basil

Citrus basil is a flavorful herb that can be easily grown in a sunny location with well-draining soil.

Grow Citrus basil

As you stand in your kitchen, ready to prepare tonight’s dinner, you gaze at the assortment of herbs and spices on your countertop. But your eyes keep returning to the small pot of citrus basil sitting in the corner.

You take a deep breath and inhale the herb’s refreshing scent, and suddenly you’re transported to a summer garden, surrounded by the fragrant scent of citrus and fresh herbs. The aroma of citrus basil is so invigorating that you can’t help but smile. If you have never used citrus basil, you should give it a try. for those that have you may be wondering how I can grow this. Let’s explain.

What is citrus basil

“Citrus basil” refers to a variety of basil with a citrusy aroma and taste, with a flavor profile that combines the traditional sweetness and spiciness of basil with a zesty lemon or lime-like tang.
This variety is a hybrid of sweet basil and African basil, and it’s a popular herb used in many culinary dishes, including salads, soups, pasta dishes, marinades, and dressings.

Besides its culinary uses, citrus basil has various potential health benefits, including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, improved digestion, and stress relief. It’s also a rich source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A, C, calcium, and iron.

Citrus basil can be grown in pots or on the ground, requiring plenty of sunlight, well-draining soil, and regular watering. The leaves can be harvested throughout the growing season, and they’re best used fresh, although they can be stored in the fridge for a few days or frozen for later use.

Botanical nameOcimum basilicum citriodorum
Name (Common)Lemon Basil, Citrus Basil
Native toIndia
Sun levelsFull sun for at least 6 hours per day to thrive.
USDA zones 4-11
SoilWell-draining soil with good aeration and a pH between 6.0 and 7.5.
Plant sizeGrows to be about 12-18 inches tall and 8-12 inches wide.

Propagation of citrus basil

Propagating citrus basil can be done through various methods, including seed propagation, cuttings, or the division of established plants.

Seed propagation
Seed propagation involves sowing seeds in a well-draining soil mix, keeping the soil moist and warm until the seeds germinate. Once the seedlings are established, they can be transplanted into individual pots or the ground.

Cuttings are another popular method of propagating citrus basil. Cuttings are taken from a mature, healthy plant and planted in a well-draining soil mix.

The cuttings should be kept moist and warm until they establish roots, which usually takes a few weeks. Once the roots are established, the plant can be transplanted into individual pots or the ground.

Division of established plants involves separating a portion of an established plant with its roots and transplanting it into its pot or the ground. This method helps rejuvenate an overgrown plant or create other plants from a single plant.

Regardless of the propagation method, citrus basil requires a warm and sunny location, regular watering, and well-draining soil to thrive.

How to grow Citrus Basil step-by-step instructions

  1. Choose a location: Citrus basil requires full sun for at least 6 hours per day, so choose a spot in your garden that receives plenty of sunlight. It also requires well-draining soil, so make sure the soil in the area is loose, crumbly, and well-aerated.
  2. Prepare the soil: Mix in some organic matter, like compost or aged manure, to improve the soil’s texture and nutrient content. Citrus basil prefers slightly acidic soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.5.
  3. Plant the seeds or seedlings: If starting from seed, plant the seeds in the prepared soil, about 1/4 inch deep, and cover lightly with soil. If using seedlings, dig a hole in the soil large enough to accommodate the root ball and gently plant the seedling, ensuring the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface.
  4. Water regularly: Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Water the plants deeply once or twice a week, depending on the weather and soil conditions. Avoid getting water on the leaves, as this can lead to fungal diseases.
  5. Fertilize: Apply a balanced fertilizer every 4-6 weeks to encourage healthy growth and robust flavor. Be careful not to over-fertilize, as this can lead to excessive foliage growth at the expense of taste.
  6. Prune: To encourage bushy growth and prevent the plant from becoming too leggy, pinch off the top leaves when the plant reaches 6-8 inches tall. Also, remove any flowers as they appear, as this can reduce the plant’s flavor and fragrance.
  7. Harvest: Citrus basil can be harvested once it reaches about 6-8 inches tall. Harvest by snipping off individual leaves or by cutting the stem just above a pair of leaves. Regular harvesting encourages the plant to produce more foliage and prolongs the plant’s lifespan.

Following these simple steps, you can grow healthy, flavorful citrus basil in your garden.


Citrus basil grows best in well-draining soil with good aeration and a pH between 6.0 and 7.5. It prefers a rich, fertile soil that is high in organic matter. Before planting, you can mix in compost or aged manure to improve the soil’s texture and nutrient content.

It’s important to avoid soil that is too heavy or compacted, as this can lead to poor drainage and root rot. If the soil in your area is naturally heavy or clay-like, you can add perlite or sand to improve drainage.


Citrus basil requires consistent moisture to grow, but it’s important not to overwater it. It’s recommended to water deeply once or twice a week, depending on the weather conditions and soil moisture level.

The soil should be kept evenly moist but not waterlogged, which can cause root rot and other problems. It’s best to water the soil directly and avoid getting water on the leaves, as this can promote fungal diseases.

During hot, dry weather, it may be necessary to water more frequently to prevent the soil from drying out. Overall, citrus basil requires moderate watering to thrive.


Citrus basil, like most herbs, requires plenty of sunlight to grow and thrive. Ideally, citrus basil should receive at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight daily. However, if you are growing your citrus basil indoors or in a location with limited natural light, you can use artificial lighting to supplement its growth.

When it comes to artificial lighting for growing citrus basil, a full spectrum growth light is recommended. Full spectrum grows lights provide a range of wavelengths that mimic natural sunlight, essential for plants to carry out photosynthesis and develop properly.

LED grow lights are a popular choice for indoor herb gardening. They are energy-efficient, long-lasting, and can be adjusted to provide the optimal amount and intensity of light.

In terms of positioning the grow light, it should be placed a few inches above the citrus basil plant to ensure it receives adequate light without getting too hot. The light should be turned on for 12-16 hours each day and off for 8-12 hours to mimic natural light cycles.


Basil in bowl

Harvesting basil leaves at home is a simple and rewarding process. Here are the steps you can follow:

  • Choose the right time: The best time to harvest basil leaves is in the morning after the dew has dried but before the day’s heat. This is when the leaves will be at their most flavorful and aromatic.
  • Identify the right leaves: Look for fully grown leaves but still need to flower. The leaves should be plump and green, with no yellow or brown spots.
  • Use clean and sharp tools: Use clean and sharp scissors or garden shears to avoid damaging the plant. Please avoid using your hands to pick the leaves, which can bruise the plant and affect its growth.
  • Cut the stem: Cut the stem just above a pair of leaves. This will encourage new growth and keep the plant looking full.
  • Remove any damaged leaves: Remove any damaged or yellowing leaves from the plant, as they can attract pests and disease.
  • Rinse and dry the leaves: Rinse the harvested leaves under cool running water to remove dirt or debris. Pat them dry with a clean towel or paper towel.


Storing basil leaves properly can help keep them fresh and flavorful for extended periods. Here are some steps to follow:

  • Rinse the leaves: Before storing, rinse the basil leaves under cold running water to remove dirt or debris. Pat them dry with a paper towel or clean kitchen towel.
  • Trim the stems: Trim the stems of the basil leaves to remove any excess length, but avoid removing too much of the stem, as it can cause the leaves to wilt more quickly.
  • Choose a storage method: There are a few different methods you can use to store basil leaves
  • In a jar of water: Place the trimmed stems of the basil leaves in a jar of water, similar to how you would store fresh flowers. Cover the leaves with a plastic bag and store them in the refrigerator. Change the water every few days to keep the basil fresh.
  • In a plastic bag: Place the basil leaves in a plastic bag, then seal the bag tightly, removing as much air as possible. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
  • In the freezer: Basil leaves can also be frozen for later use. Blanch the basil leaves in boiling water for 2-3 seconds, then immediately transfer them to a bowl of ice water to cool. Pat them dry, then place the leaves in a freezer-safe bag and store them in the freezer for up to 6 months.

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