How to Grow Genovese Basil (Complete Care Sheet)

Love basil? Then grow it!

Genovese basil is one of the most common types of basil you can buy from the grocery store, but why buy it when you grow it?

Even maybe organically? Save the premium cost at the supermarket and do it yourself.

Genovese basil is easy to grow. You don’t need to know anything about plants to grow them. Just give it some basic TLC and you’re good to go.

Once you get it started, it basically takes care of itself with minimal care!

Even if you’re a total beginner to herb tending, it’s not a problem.

Let’s dive in and learn how to grow and care for Genovese sweet basil.

Quick care guide: Genovese basil

Plant typePerennial herb (zones 10 or higher), annual (cooler zones)
Scientific nameOcimum basilicum L. — cv. Genovese
Other namesBasilico Genovese
Soil typeFertile, loamy, well-draining, nutrient-dense
Soil pH6.0-7.0 (slightly acidic)
Sunlight requirementFull sun, 6-8 hours daily
Bloom seasonSpring
ColorsGreen, lime green, white, yellow
Max height36 inches
Max width14 inches
Low temperature tolerance50F
High temperature tolerance85F
Ideal temperature range70-75F
HumidityModerate (50% or higher)
Watering requirements2-3 inches per week, 3 times per week, no soggy soil or drying out
Fertilizer requirementsLow, use full dosage in spring/summer, supplement with compost
Plant food NPK10-10-10 or 5-5-5
Days until germination5-14 days
Days until harvest50-60 days
Bloom time60-80 days
Speed of growthModerate
Hardiness zonesAnnual: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.
10, 11, 12
Plant depth0.25 inches for seeds, plant same depth as original container if from seedling
Plant spacing5-10 inches
Plant withPotato
Don't plant withSage, cucumbers, other basil, rosemary, marigold, or fennel.
Propagation methodFrom seed or seedlings
Common pestsJapanese beetles, flies, whiteflies, thrips, snails/slugs, spider mites, aphids, and four-lined bugs
Common diseasesFusarium wilt
Bacterial leaf spot
Indoor plantYes, but requires strong source of light. Produces less yield indoors vs. outdoors on average production.
Outdoor plantYes
Grown in containerYes
Flowering plantYes
Beginner friendlyYes
Care levelLow (very easy for beginners)
Best usesPesto, seafood, soups, salads, fish, sauces, Italian

What’s Genovese basil?

Genovese basil isn’t as popular as sweet or Thai basil, but it can be used in nearly 100% of the same dishes as a substitute. Sweet basil is the reigning kind of herbs.

With its origins in Italy, this preferred basic cultivar has sweet, large leaves. It’s good for warmer zones because it doesn’t bolt easily.

The taste profile changes from sweet to bitter over time.

You can pick the right time to harvest depending on the flavor if you want.

Let it age if you want it more bitter. Pick earlier in the season if you want it sweeter. It’s “customizable” basil!

They’re good for container growing, garden beds, or even indoor growing. They do well in full sun with their spicy scent.

Is Genovese basil a perennial?

These herbs are commonly grown as perennials but can be grown as annuals as well. It depends on the hardiness zone and local climate of your area.

If you’re in the right zone, it can be grown as a perennial.

But if not, annual basil it is! You’ll need to replant it every few seasons anyway to maximize the flavor.

It gets more bitter with time. It’s largely raised as a perennial that’s frost resistant in the right temperature ranges.

It does need warm, sunny weather to thrive. Cooler conditions below 55F will damage it by reducing yield or damping off.

Is it easy to grow?

Are you kidding? Genovese basil is one of the easiest herbs to grow out of all the basil types.

It’s set and forget once you get it going. This traditional Italian herb can be easily cultivated indoors or outdoors with minimal care.

If you’re a beginner and you’re new to growing edibles, this is a good choice. Basil can be used for endless numbers of recipes and it’s handy to have it right there in your kitchen.

Just pluck as needed. It’s that simple.

Types of basil

There are many different types of basil cultivars on the market. It’s easy to get lost in the world of herbs.

For Genovese basil specifically, here are some similar strains you may find in your local nursery:

  • Italian large leaf (large, tender leaves)
  • Sweet basil (popular)
  • Thai basil
  • Lemon basil
  • Dark opal basil
  • Napoletano basil
  • Cinnamon basil

How does it compare to Sweet basil?

Genovese basil has quite a bit of noticeable differences compared to other basil types.

Here are some of them:

  • Genovese basil is more aromatic than other basil types
  • The plant produces a sweet, minty taste profile
  • The leaves are big, shiny, and almond-shaped rather than small
  • The flavor of Genovese basil can be used in the recipes you know- including pesto, poultry, fish, eggs, beverages, smoothies, vinaigrette, seafood, pasta, sauces, salads, soups, and other Italian favorites

It’s very similar to Sweet basil out of the entire bunch, but not exactly. You need to try it first.

What does it taste like?

Genovese basil tastes like a sweet clove with a minty aftertaste. You can get notes of cinnamon, anise, cloves, and some mint.

The taste is only half the pleasure. It also smells amazing when you touch the leaves. It’s not nearly as bitter as other basil varieties if picked earlier in the growing season.

This allows it to recipes where people complain that the basil is just too bitter.

Genovese can be a suitable substitute for basil with a minimal bitter profile.

How to propagate Genovese basil

Genovese basil leaves ready to be eaten.
This is Genovese basil. Can you tell the difference from Sweet basil?

Propagating Genovese basil is an inch. It can be planted by seeds or seedlings, similar to most other herbs like parsley or eggplants from cuttings.

The seeds will produce identical plants to the original plant came from, so you need not worry about weird hybrids or basil combos.

From seed

Start seeds early indoors a few weeks before spring. This will give your basil a headstart for the season, but you can start later if you’re in a warmer zone.

Use seed starter trays or plants in individual pots.

Use a high-quality, well-draining potting mix. Use organic potting mix if you want to go organic. Sow each seed 0.25 inches deep. Space them 1” from each other.

Water generously then cover with a humidity dome. You only need to sprinkle a bit of substrate over each seed to cover them.

This isn’t important so don’t worry about it. Some people firmly press the seeds into the soil and just leave it at that.

So they’re flexible plus forgiving of rookie mistakes.

Consider successive growing by starting one batch after the other 1-2 weeks apart. This will give you basil to eat all season long as they’ll become ready to pick one batch after the other.

Germination occurs when temperatures are above 50F indoors. Warmer temperatures will facilitate quicker generation. Ideally, temps should range between 70-80F during germination.

Thin to the strongest plant per compartment if growing in starter trays. Germination typically occurs within 1-2 weeks.

Continue monitoring for fungus or rot.

When plants are at least 5 inches tall, pinch out the growing tips on the second pair of leaves. This helps make it compact and bushy rather than tall. But it’s really your call.

Move to a larger container or to your garden when they’ve reached 6 inches. If the container-grown basil, put the pot outside for a few hours each day to harden them off.

Then move them permanently after a week or so.

From cuttings

Starting from seedlings isn’t lazy. It’s getting a head start!

When you buy pre-grown Genovese basil from your local nursery or garden center, you save yourself the time and hassle of growing it from seed.

While seed starting may be rewarding, some people don’t have the time to do it or they’re not in the right zone.

Regardless, you pay a premium for it but you get the germination part done.

Plant seedlings into larger containers immediately after quarantine.

They should be given fresh, new potting soil that you plan to use consistently. This will reduce plant shock if you decide to change the soil when you give it its “real” container.

Use a high-quality, well-draining potting mix. It should be organic if possible with peat moss, vermiculite, or perlite. This will help retain the moisture.

The pot should have multiple drainage holes in case one gets clogged. You can put a layer of pebbles so it doesn’t clog easily.

The pot should be at least 2 gallons with 8” diameter and deep. 3-gallon buckets are the minimum I would suggest.

Unlike other basils, Genovese basil doesn’t need a huge space. Sweet basil requires at least 5 gallons that need 3 gallons. Lime basil can grow in 2 gallons.

Genovese is in the middle with 3 gallons minimum container size.

This provides the Genovese seedlings room to grow the extensive roots they need to produce those tasty leaves.

Plant the seedlings into the new potter at the same depth as the original container. The pot should be terra cotta, stone, or some other porous material. This helps insulate the temperature swings.

Plastic is cheap for starters. But it swings quickly when the temperature rises and falls. So there’s a tradeoff. If you choose plastic, opt for brighter colors or wrap it with burlap. This will help insulate it.

Continue to water or mist the seedlings. Monitor for pests or rot. Keep the humidity high at 50%. Put it in full sun for at least 6 hours a day.

When seedlings get 5 inches or higher, you can move them to the garden.

But first, acclimate them by exposing them to the outdoor sunlight for smaller periods of time over a week. This gets them used to it so they don’t get shocked.

Plant them in your garden bed or keep them in their pots after hardening off.

When to plant

Genovese basil should be planted a few weeks before spring.

If you’re in USDA zones 10 or higher, you can sow directly into the garden if soil temperatures remain above 60F without possible dips. For cooler zones with temperatures that aren’t tolerable, you’ll need to sow indoors first.

Generally, Genovese basil seeds should be sown indoors 4-6 weeks before the last frost date in your zone.

They need to be indoors until they’re about 5” in height before they can be moved into your yard. When temperatures remain above 70F, they can be safely hardened off for garden planting.

When to move to the garden

To help maximize the basil’s growth, wait until the ambient temperatures outside are constantly above 50F. Leave them inside your house until then.

The plants should be at least 5 inches in height. They should be hardened off as well so they can adapt to the elements outside.

Plant them successively in rows to get the most out of your harvest. Row planting is good for maximizing space in tiny gardens.

How to grow Genovese basil

Genovese basil propagation.
Basil is easy to grow once you get it started. It’s one of the easiest, beginner-friendly herbs IMO.

This section covers everything you need to know to care for it so you can get the most yield possible.

Note that your mileage may vary depending on where you’re located. But it serves as general guidelines for proper care so you can get an idea of what’s involved to grow this basil.

Hardiness zone

Genovese basil thrives in USDA hardiness zones 10 or higher. It’s hardy cooler weather when grown in these warmer zones.

If you’re growing in a lower zone, that’s OK. Just provide ample protection from the elements by adding mulch, row covers, or using a greenhouse.

Or you can just grow it in a container and then bring it indoors when the temperatures drop. Indoor growing is also an option if your location is consistently below 60F.


Use rich, fertile, well-draining soil. Get organic soil if possible. Basil doesn’t need a lot, so you can maximize flavor without spending a ton on bulk soil.

The soil must drain well or else you’ll risk rot at the root level. Some soils are made for edibles.

If you’re growing your Genovese in a pot or container, switch to moisture-retaining soil. Supplement with peat moss, perlite, vermiculite, or coconut coir.

This helps prevent dry outs. You can put a saucer under it to help increase humidity. Refill as needed. container-grown Genovese need more water compared to garden-raised basil.


The soil should be slightly acidic to neutral. Aim for a pH value of 6.0-7.0. If your soil has a pH that’s too high, bring it down with natural limestone.

You can find this at your local nursery or home improvement warehouse.


Give your plants enough distance from each other. Genovese basil requires 5 inches of space between each plant. This will eliminate nutrient competition.


Plant each seed 0.5 inches deep. If using seedlings, plant it just as deep as the plant you bought in its original potter.


Genovese basil prefers warmer, moderate temps. The outdoor temperatures should be 70-80F on average for it to thrive.

It can tolerate temp dips down to 60F for a few days, but extended periods of cold weather or extreme dips below 55F can kill or halter leaf production.

Basil doesn’t tolerate temperatures below 50F because the leaves are succulent.

If your zone is prone to temperature dips at night, consider using plant wraps, mulch, compost, or bring it inside if potted. If you’re growing indoors, use a heat mat or HVAC.


Genovese basil prefers moderate to high humidity. This is usually above 50% humidity ambiently. You can adjust it by using plant saucers underneath the potter if necessary.

Regular misting will help increase it as well. If humidity is too high, prune the leaves to help bring it down or water less often.

Pruning helps increase the evaporation rate, which reduces humidity. Too high of a humidity level will lead to rot or fungal problems. So don’t go crazy with it. It needs to be around 50%.

If outdoors, regular watering will increase the humidity. Water in the daytime rather than nighttime. This will provide humidity in the afternoon when it needs it.


Genovese basil produces the most yield when given what it wants. Sunlight.

Provide at least 6 hours of direct, full light daily. If you’re growing indoors, it needs a full spectrum grow light that makes it constantly grow those big dark green basil leaves.

Otherwise, outdoor planting in a bright sunny area does the trick. The light should be early morning light.

They do need some shade throughout the day or else they’ll burn if it’s too hot. If you’re in an area with extreme heat, especially in the summertime, you’ll need to accommodate by providing artificial shade.

Plant food

Sprinkle in some bone meal to help supply nutrients to the Genovese roots. Use organic plant food and feed as directed.

Use a balanced fertilizer every month. Liquid fertilizer works well. For indoor basil, you can feed it every other month.

Basil grown indoors require less fertilizer compared to garden-raised ones. Overfeeding can lead to nutrients in the soil column which can bring pests.

They don’t need much plant food. If your soil is good quality, it should be enough to feed it supplemented with 1-2 doses of fertilizer.


Water your basil every other day, 2-3 times per week.

The soil should be moist, but never wet. Don’t let it dry out between watering sessions. Aim for 2-3” of water per week. Adjust for rain or heat.

Use distilled water if possible. Basil doesn’t like chlorinated or fluoridated water.

For container-grown basil, water more often. The soil dries out quickly compared to garden-planted basil. Use a water meter or soil meter to help monitor the water levels.


Basil needs little pruning. The only thing you need to trim back are spent flowers, buds, or damaged foliage. Cutting it back for the winter is recommended to prevent pests if you plan on winterizing it. Cut flowers before they grow to encourage leaf production.


Use compost regularly in your garden beds or containers. It helps provide nutrients to the root system to develop strong runners.

You can also use leaf litter, hay, straw, or manure. Pretty much anything that’s organic matter will do fine.

Basil flowering

Genovese basil sprouts some gorgeous white flowers when it’s time to bloom.

These herbs are open pollinated, which allows the seeds to be identical to the original plant. The flowers are tall, white, and easy to pollinate.

No hand pollination is needed. Birds, bees, and butterflies will come in to do their work if grown in the right zone.

Can you eat basil flowers?

Yes, you can harvest and use the basil flowers. They have a much stronger taste and scent, so not everyone will like it. The flowers should be used only when necessary, as a substitute for basil leaves.

How to grow Genovese basil in containers

Genovese basil can be grown in pots.

Just make sure you provide a 3 gallon or bigger pot. It should be 5-8 inches wide. Plant 2-3 basil plants per container if it allows. Give them at least 5 inches of space. Container growing requires the same level of care as soil growing.

But you’ll water more, feed less, and generally get fewer leaves compared to soil sowing.

But it gives you the ability to move it anywhere you want. Too hot? Cold temperatures? Move it to your kitchen for a while.


Genovese will bolt when temperatures are too hot. When it bolts, it’s too bitter to eat. The texture is also ruined. Harvest before it shows signs of bolting.

If it does, you can harvest it for seeds for next season so you don’t waste the grown plant!

Can you grow basil indoors?

This particular basil produces foliage with the sweet flavor when grown outside in the sun. However, you can temporiarly grow it indoors if it gets enough sunlight.

Note that indoor grown basil will have less sweet flavor, smaller leaves, bitter taste, and possibly less yield.

Indoor grown basil will require more watering, less plant food, and more misting. Otherwise, the care is very similar to outdoor grown basil.


If you wanna keep your Genovese basil producing those tasty, tender leaves, pinch or prune the edible flower buds.

This will force your plant to focus its precious energy on growing the leaves- which is what you’re gonna eat. The leaves are about 2-3″ in length with a sweet fragrance.

If you let it flower, it’ll waste energy producing them, which means less harvestable basil. Use sterilized pruners then cut the stem below the buds.

If you cut it above, you’ll need to cut it again a few days later. Why waste time?

Harvest when the plants are about 6-8 inches tall. Use sterilized pruners to nip the stems right above the second set of true leaves.

Cut the longest stems regularly. This helps make your basil more bushy. It also helps encourage more leaf growth.

For all season harvest, succession plant! Start one batch after the other in rows so you can keep harvesting throughout the summer. Harvest frequently to encourage more bushy production.

Harvest the largest leaves from the bottom up. They should be dark green, firm, and shiny. There’s no right or wrong time to harvest.

If you do it a bit earlier, they’re sweeter. Wait a bit if you want them bitter.

Collecting seeds

You can collect seeds to plant more next season if you’re growing annually.

Just let a few plants flower naturally and then collect the seeds from them. Dry them off and store them in an envelope.

For higher germ rates, plant immediately the following winter. Genovese basil is open pollination, which means they produce exact plant progeny.


Use your basil immediately upon harvest. This is a cut-and-come-again herb, so you just need to cut it whenever you need to use it. Fresh is ideal.

Genovese basil should be used right away. It can only be stored for up to 48 hours in the fridge before it gets mushy and disgusting.


Genovese basil doesn’t need special care. If you’re growing within zones 10 or higher, it can be left outside for the winter season.

If you anticipate dips in temperature under 50F, supplement with mulch or compost around the roots to help insulate it.

You can also use row covers, greenhouse storage, or just put it inside your garage or something if potted. For lower zones where the winters are just too harsh, harvest the seeds. Replant for next season.

Companion plants

Did you know Genovese basil can help naturally repel pests?

Planting them with your vulnerable fruits or veggies can act as a pest repellent.

Pair them with your tomatoes, peppers, carrots, or even your celery. It serves dual purposes by spelling insects and enhancing the flavor profile of nearby edibles.

Some perfect companion plants for basil include:

  • Potato
  • Cilantro
  • Borage
  • Celery
  • Oregano
  • Beets
  • Borage
  • Broccoli
  • Chives
  • Coriander
  • Chamomile
  • Tarragon
  • Parsley
  • Catnip
  • Peppermint
  • Onions
  • Garlic

Don’t plant with

Whatever you do, avoid planting basil with other herbs. Don’t plant next to rue, sage, cucumbers, other basil, rosemary, marigold, or fennel.

If it’s in the same family, avoid planting them together. It makes them compete for limited nutrients in the soil column, which can severely impact the overall yield.


Genovese basil has a few handfuls of bugs that aren’t unique to it. Some of these include Japanese beetles, flies, whiteflies, thrips, snails/slugs, spider mites, aphids, and four-lined bugs.

Most of these stem from overwatering or overfeeding.

Limit your watering regimen by reducing it by 25% and see if pest activity clears. If not, consider using an organic or natural insecticide safe for fruits/vegetables. Never overfeed your plants.

Manually remove leaves that are infested. Spraying them down can help remove them as well. Insecticidal soap or neem oil may be required.


Genovese basil is hardy against most pests and infections, but there are a small handful that you should watch out for:

  • Fusarium wilt
  • Botrytis
  • Bacterial leaf spot

These are commonly caused by excess moisture in the soil. Use fungicide spray if reducing watering doesn’t help. Never water the leaves of your basil. Only water the base. Watch for yellowing leaves, leaf drop, or brown spots on the foliage. If you notice this, prune them off, reduce watering, and eliminate plant food.


It’s basil. You can do everything with it. And then some.

Genovese basil is a delicious substitute for other basils. You can use it in your favorite recipes or when you’re cooking something that could use a bit of zesty flavor.

The following are just a small sample of popular recipes that call for Genovese basil:

  • Pasta
  • Soups
  • Salads
  • Crab
  • Fish
  • Lobster
  • Pesto
  • Sauces
  • BBQ
  • Breads
  • Basil oil

Commonly asked questions about Genovese basil care

This last section includes questions from readers often asked about this herb. You may find it handy for your benefit.

If you have specific questions, post a comment using the form at the end of this guide! Let’s go.

How long does it take Genovese basil to grow?

Germination time is anywhere from 5-14 days depending on your local conditions like temperature, humidity, and sunlight. The harvest time is up to 60 days. Warmer conditions with full sun and plenty of water make it quicker to produce.

How do you make Genovese basil bushy?

You can make it compact and bushier by regularly pruning the buds. Cut below the bud right at the stemline. This encourages basil to grow wide rather than tall. You can get a fuller-looking plant this way.

What is the difference between Sweet basil and Genovese basil?

Telling the difference is simple. Look for the distinguishing features to easily tell sweet vs. Genovese basil:

  • Sweet basil has smaller foliage than Genovese basil
  • Genovese basil is flatter with dark greens
  • Sweet basil is lighter in color
  • Genovese is shinier than sweet basil, which is duller in its luster and colors
  • The taste of Genovese is minty and peppery while sweet basil is well…sweet
  • Genovese smells much stronger compared to sweet basil, which has less of a scent

Note that Genovese is considered to be a sweet basil type. It’s a variety that has a floral scent with a zesty taste.

Are coffee grounds good for basil plants?

Coffee ground is safe for basil and can put some extra nutrients in the soil that basil will benefit from consuming.

However, you should use it sparingly and only when it actually needs it.

f your basil is small, drooping, or the harvest yields are reduced, consider supplementing some coffee ground as fertilizer.

Note that you shouldn’t add other fertilizers when using coffee grounds.

Overdoing it will create excess nitrogen in the soil which can lead to leggy or tiny leaves. It may also bring in pests seeking food sources.

Does growing basil require full sun?

Yes, Genovese basil requires at least 6 hours of full sunlight per day for maximum yield. Plant in a part of your garden that gets bright direct sunlight in the morning.

Don’t plant somewhere with scorching hot afternoon sunlight. This can cause burning.

Use a strong, bright grow lamp for plants if you’re growing indoors. Indoor basil will generally have fewer leaves with duller flavors compared to garden sown basil.

How do I keep my basil plant healthy?

How do you tell if basil is overwatered or underwatered?

The easiest way? Get a water meter. It tells you the exact soil saturation if it’s moist or not. (See Amazon.)

This will give you the exact soil saturation levels so you can water as needed. You can also just dip your finger in the top 1-2 inches of soil and feel the moisture.

If it’s near dry, it’s time to water. Don’t overwater but don’t let it dry out either.

Over-watering basil will result in wilted or pale green leaves. They may be yellow or brown. Drooping or wilting leaves or odor from the basil is also a sign of overwatering.

Root rot or bugs may infest it. Under-watered basil will be wilting or drooping. Crispy, browning/yellowing, or dropped leaves are also common.

Genovese basil harvest time

Genovese basil is ready to harvest between 50-60 days after planting. If you’re planting from seeds, add 2-3 weeks to your harvest time.

You’ll know when it’s ready because the plant will have those dark green leaves. Each basil should have a branch of 6-8 leaves.

Harvest everything except the first set of true leaves. This encourages new leaves to form. Note that you can’t really harvest basil too early.

Genovese is sweeter the earlier you harvest it. If you want a more bitter flavor, then you can wait it out.

Further reading/references

Enjoy growing your Genovese basil at home!

Spaghetti with Genovese basil.
Spaghetti with Genovese basil.

You now know the basics of growing and caring for Genovese basil.

It’s really just giving it water, sunlight, and harvesting on time. That’s it. It takes care of itself.

Genovese basil is a rewarding herb perfect for beginners. It doesn’t require a whole lot of care to make it thrive and it pays you back with gorgeous greens all season.

Do you have any questions for me? Post a comment and let me know.

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