Basil and the bees: perennial basil - The Community Leader and Real Estate New and Views

Photos by Kat Pearson.


Are you looking for something that flowers all year round, brings in lots of bees, has minimum pests and diseases, is low maintenance, and best of all, is easy to start again if you do happen to kill it? Well, do I have a plant for you!

Perennial basil. Smells fabulous, is always smothered in flowers and bees, home and birthplace to many an alien-looking praying mantis and super easy to grow from cuttings.

I will concede some people probably aren’t terribly excited about being surrounded by bees – understood. Though for the record, I brush against the perennial basil, thick with bees, surrounding my washing line all the time and I’ve never been stung; they’re far too busy collecting pollen.

As always common names can be a little confusing, and there are a few plants called perennial basil. The one I’m referring to is a cross between Ocimum basilicum and O.kilimandscharicum. It’s also very similar to African blue basil and I use them both interchangeably in the garden. The leaves are small and very strongly scented. You can eat it like sweet basil, but I generally find it too strong and am happy just to smell it as I walk by.

Untended, plants will grow to 1.5m high – but beware, it’s not the most structurally sound plant when it gets this tall and a good heavy shower of rain will have it flopping over and snapping stems. If it does, prune it hard and it will re-shoot, or you can prune (or hedge) it every few months to keep it more compact. If you want more plants, simply snip off a semi-woody stem, stick it in the ground and keep it damp. Voila!

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