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Perennial Basil; a Beauty for Bees and a Hardy Edible Plant (Ocimum sp.)

b2ap3_thumbnail_perennial-basil.JPGPerennial Basil is our ultimate bee-attracting plant; it is covered with bees throughout the day, every day. The ‘buzz’ around this plant is well-warranted, it smells divine and is one of the strongest plants we grow. It has an amazing growth rate and, if pruned regularly, makes a fantastic, good-looking, and edible addition to your garden.   

Perennial Basil and attracting Bees in your garden 

The absolute main attraction of the Perennial Basil is that the bees absolutely love it. We grow a few in every one of our gardens for this very reason! A study of ‘Plants and Pollinating Bees’ lists Ocimum americanum as one of the main bee-attracting plants, receiving some of the most bee visits. For full study visit here

Perennial Basil as Edible Plant

The taste of Perennial Basil is similar to Sweet Basil, but with a stronger, more spicy flavour. Younger leaves have the best flavour, and can be harvested at any time. The good thing about the Perennial Basil is that it can be harvested year round, whereas Sweet Basil is seasonal. This would make a great alternative for when Sweet Basil is not available. 

It can be used in similar ways to Sweet Basil, as some people have mentioned it as being better in Pesto, giving a deeper, spicier flavour. I have yet to try Perennial Basil Pesto, but am looking forward to giving it a go once I get myself some Pine Nuts. Blend it up with some oil, garlic, salt & Parmesan Cheese - Yum!

Since this plant produces so many delicious edible leaves, any leaves you won’t be using can be dried like traditional Basil by hanging up in bunches. It will keep very well with your other spices in the pantry!

What does Perennial Basil look like?

Perennial Basil is a vigorous shrubby, multi branching plant to about 1m tall and 1m wide. Leaves are bright green, small and oval. Foliage is very fragrant, especially when brushed against, or crushed between fingers. Flowers are on long stems and cover the entire plant. Flower colours are purple and white.

Growing Perennial Basil b2ap3_thumbnail_perennial-basil-with-bees-5.JPG

Perennial basil is one of our strongest plants. It will happily grow in pretty well any position, from full sun to part shade. I have good hopes this plant would perform well as an indoor plant also, as long as it receives plenty of light. It may become a bit leggy in shady positions and indoors, just make sure you prune your plant regularly. 


Perennial Basil needs to be pruned regularly to look nice. Without pruning it will become a very unruly shrub. I recommend pruning twice a year, in autumn and spring. Cut back by approximately two thirds to encourage beautiful new growth and lots of flowers. 


Perennial Basil will look best in fertile soil with plenty of mulch on top. Regular applications of organic fertiliser will keep it looking in top condition.

Cold weather and frost

The Perennial Basil plant will grow best in sub tropical conditions but can be grown anywhere as long as it is protected from direct frost. A deep layer of mulch makes a big difference and can make the difference between a plant thriving in cold weather, and perishing! It protects the ground from freezing (which is the main reason why plants die in frost; if you can stop the ground getting cold most plants will do very well!) and also keeps the sun off the ground and the good organisms in the soil.

Medicinal use

Perennial Basil has been used for medicinal purposes around the world for 1000’s of years. It is described, for example, for: toothache, colds, coughs, migraine, nose bleeds, fever, indigestion, diarrhoea. Mainly as a tea or brew, but also the juice from the leaves. Leaf paste is sometimes used for skin parasites. It is described as possibly being effective as a mosquito repellant. Please note this is general information only, and not to be used as health advice; contact your doctor for diagnoses and care.

Essential oil is produced from the leaves and flowers.

General information

Perennial Basil belongs to the genus Ocimum and is a member of the Mint Family (Lamiaceae). Over 60 varieties of annuals and perennials belong to this genus, and are native to tropical and subtropical regions around the world. Perennial Basil is native to regions in Tropical Africa and Asia.

Common names:

Perennial Basil, Lime Hair Basil, Hoary Basil, Hairy Basil, American Basil, Spicy Basil, Lemon Basil, Rosary Basil, Wild Basil

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