How do I keep basil plant from getting taller?

I have what once was a dinky grocery store basil plant. I’ve had it for about 5 months now and I “harvest” the leaves regularly. I’d like it to become fuller, but in the last few months or so, it has been getting taller, and the leaves come in sparsely.

About a month ago, I tried tearing off the apical meristems, and it didn’t seem to do a darn thing.

Anyone know how to keep it like I like my men? Short and fat?


Just trim it? I am no expert but I have had many of them and they are pretty hardy. I don’t see what is wrong with shaping it like any other plant.

I grow lots of it and I just pinch the tips to make them bushier. I start them from seed and use it all to make pesto every year so I’ve never tried to grow them for more than a year, or indoors. That might make a difference.

You need to “top it”, which means you cut off the top 1/3 of the plant to promote bushy growth.

But it also sounds like your plant is reaching, meaning it is stretching up to get more light. If this is an indoor plant, you can put a plant light on it to prevent the reach. Also, have you repotted it since you got it? It could be root bound which would explain the sparse leaves. Fresh soil and a bigger pot works wonders on root bound plants.

I keep it in a south-facing kitchen window over the sink. It gets lots of sun and water.

How often do you pinch the tips, Karyn? Just whenever it starts to get tall? I figured I pinch once and that oughta do it, but it’s getting a bit unruly now!

I’ll also take your advice in making more pesto.

I have repotted. Maybe 4 months ago. It was in the store pot and looked much better once I gave it some care, but was still dinky. I repotted and it really flourished. Do I need to fertilize?

I apologize for not having a green thumb and the touch of death. I’ve even killed cacti and bromeliads. I suck.

That could be a sign of inadequate light. Many plants go spindly if kept in the dim.
When mine get too tall, I just lop off the stem to an inch or so above a pair of leaves. New branches come out at the leaf bases.

Thanks everyone!

I’ll give it a trimerooney, some fresh soil and scalp it for some pesto.

I don’t think it’s going to get any more light unless I move further north (I think).

Thanks again!

perhaps you can treat it like a Bonsai Tree by trimming the roots now and then. You need to lookup Bonsai Tree Care to learn how to do it.

In addition to trimming the basil plant back as needed and making sure it has as much light as possible, look at whether the plant is getting too much water. Most herbs don’t need or want a lot of water (or fertilizer). Try watering only when the top layers of soil have dried out.