16 Types of Basil YOU Can Grow [+ Health Benefits & Uses]

by Chenell | Last Updated: May 11, 2021

It’s the time of the year to start planning the garden and figuring out which seeds to buy. Basil is one of those herbs I always find myself buying, but before this year, I had no idea there were so many different types of basil!

That always comes with the endless amount of choices you have when it comes to each plant variety. Basil is no different, there are so many basil varieties it is almost mind-boggling to try and pick just a few to grow in the garden or even raised beds.

Which ones are good for pesto, what about for pizza and Caprese salad?

Health Benefits of Basil Varieties

Known to the scientific world as Ocimum Basilicum, most types of basil have lots of health benefits. The herb is often used in herbal teas, ayurvedic medicine, and in many eastern cultures for medicinal purposes.

Nutrient Dense

Basil contains all kinds of nutrients – including carotene, vitamins A, B6, C, as well as calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron. It’s often used as an essential oil and aromatherapy to help with nerves, mental fatigue, nausea and more.

Antioxidants

Antioxidants help fight free radicals that can cause damage to cells and increase risks for things like cancer, diabetes, heart disease and even arthritis.

16 Different Types of Basil You Can Grow

With so many different types of basil, it’s hard to choose just one variety to grow. Do you want basil that’s better for pesto, or tastes great in tea?

This list, while not comprehensive of all basil varieties, will help you decide which ones to plant in your herb garden.

African Blue Basil

african blue basil
Image from GrowJoy

Best known for: This type of basil is know for it’s purple flowers that bees and other pollinators love!

Flavor: African blue basil has a flavor scent of camphor, but overall has a mellow, rich flavor. It can be used anywhere else you’d use basil in the kitchen.

How well it grows: African Blue Basil grows extremely well, and some people say it grows better than most varieties of basil. Pollinators seem to love the purple flowers it produces. Can grow up to 3-4 feet tall in some places. This variety of basil is sterile and unable to produce its own seeds, so it can only be grown from plant cuttings.

Day to Harvest: 65 days

Sun requirements: Grows best in full sun, and in a spot with great soil drainage.

Where you can buy it:

Cardinal Basil

cardinal basil
Image from Johnny’s Seeds

Cardinal basil is a beautiful plant that can even be used as an ornamental. It’s a natural deterrent for pests as it does have a spicier aroma to it.

Best known for: Cardinal basil produces a burgundy color stem (how cool!) and grows in tightly packed leaves that range from a burgundy red (like the bird) to a magenta color.

Flavor: This type of basil has leaves that are a bit spicier than “regular” basil with a slight anise/licorice taste. Makes an incredible tasting pesto.

How well it grows: Slow to bolt, but also slow to grow so it needs a long season if you want to use flowers

Time to harvest: 30-60 days

Sun requirements: Full sun

Where you can buy seeds:

Cinnamon Basil

cinnamon basil
Image from Johnny’s

Cinnamon basil (AKA Mexican Basil) has dark green leaves and stems the color of cinnamon. It is a cultivar of Thai Basil, but while it looks similar, the flavors are quite different.

Best known for: This type of basil is known for its cinnamon flavor and it’s cinnamon colored stems. In addition to normal basil uses, some chefs add it to cookies and pies because it adds that extra flavor.

Flavor: Cinnamon basil tastes like, you guessed it, Cinnamon! It’s used quite a bit in Asian and Indian dishes because of its strong flavor.

How well it grows: Cinnamon basil can grow up to 30 inches tall

Time to germination: 65 days

Sun requirements: Full sun (6-8 hours a day)

Where you can buy seeds:

Dark Opal Basil

dark opal basil
Image from groworganic.com

Best known for: Dark opal is a type of basil is best known for it’s deep purple leaves, often used by chefs to add some nice color to a dish. The entire plant, including stems are a nice deep purple color.

Flavor: Dark opal basil has a sweet, anise flavor. It’s great for adding a red color to basil vinegars, but also used as a garnish and in salads.

Time to Maturity: 75-90 days

Sun requirements: Full sun (6-8 hours a day)

Where you can buy seeds:

Holy Basil

Best known for: Holy basil is often grown for religious and traditional and Ayurdevic medicine uses, as well as being used for essential oils. it is also called “Tulsi” because of its religious uses.

Flavor: Holy basil has a peppery flavor, sometimes called “hot basil” because of the taste. It often has flavor notes of mint and licorice, as well as some clove flavor.

Time to harvest: 70 days

Sun requirements: This type of basil, as with most, requires full sun, and moist but well drained soil.

Where you can buy seeds:

Genovese Basil

Best Basil for Pesto

Genovese italian basil
Image from Rare Seeds

Genovese is also known as Sweet Basil and is great for growing basil microgreens.

Genovese basil is a cultivar of sweet basil, and is one of the more popular basils you’ll find in the kitchen. It is most commonly used in pesto and Genoese sauce, which is made with beef, white wine and slow cooked onions.

Best known for: It’s wide variety of culinary applications, most known for making pesto

Flavor: Aromatic and has a “traditional” basil taste

How well it grows: Genovese basil is very easy to grow and will provide flavorful leaves for a while as long as the basil flowers are pinched.

Time to harvest: 60-80 days

Sun requirements: Full sun

Where you can buy seeds:

Greek Basil

Small Green Leaves, Great for Garnishes or as an Ornamental

Greek basil is also known as “Dwarf Greek Basil” because it only grows to about 8 inches tall.

Best known for: Greek basil provides small green leaves that are great for topping off salads and other microgreen-type uses. It is often used as a topiary since it grows in a compact way and does quite well in containers.

Flavor: Sweet yet savory, and almost tastes like clover

How well it grows: Grows well and produces small leaves on the dome shaped plant. Grows to about 8 inches tall, making it a very short variety.

Time to maturity: 55 days

Sun requirements: Full sun with adequate drainage

Where you can buy seeds:

Italian Basil

large leaf italian basil
Image from Eden Brothers

Also known as Large Leaf Italian basil or Sweet Basil, Italian basil is native to Europe and has been a common herb found in American gardens since the 1700s.

Best known for: This type of basil is known for being used in pesto and in many Italian dishes. This variety is also great to use as a dried basil.

Flavor: Fresh aroma with a bit of a peppery flavor, almost like it comes from the mint family.

How well it grows: The plant grows to around 18 inches or taller if the conditions are right./

Time to harvest: 75 days

Sun requirements: Full sun, with well-drained soil

Where you can buy seeds:

Lemon Basil

lemon basil
Image from Eden Brothers

Lemon basil is a cross between basil and American basil. Also known as Lao basil, Thai lemon basil and hoary basil, Lemon basil is believed to be native to Asia and commonly used in Laos cuisine.

Best known for: Lemon basil is often used in Indonesian and Thai dishes because it adds a hint of lemon scent on top of the distinct basil flavor.

Flavor: Distinct lemon flavor that is enhanced when minced or briefly cooked

How well it grows: Lemon basil can grow to 20 inches or taller under the right conditions.

Time to germination: 60-75 days

Sun requirements: Prefers full sun and well drained soil. Should be watered when the top part of the soil is dry.

Where you can buy seeds:

Lettuce Leaf Basil

Lettuce leaf basil
Image from rareseeds.com

Best known for: It legit looks like lettuce leaves! These leaves are huge (6 inches) and packed with nutrients. The leaves are large enough to make basil leaf lettuce wraps.

Lettuce Leaf Basil is great if you’re looking for a high yield of basil leaves considering they are 2-3 times as large as leaves from other varieties of basil. I’m a big fan on this type and will be ordering seeds for my herb garden this season!

Flavor: Mild basil flavor, not overpowering

How well it grows: Grows great, but can take a bit of time to harvest as the leaves are much larger. This basil variety does well when heavily picked.

Time to harvest: 85 days

Sun requirements: Full sun, well drained soil

Where you can buy seeds:

Lime Basil

lime basil
Image from Urban Farmer

Best known for: Lime basil has lighter colored leaves than other basil varieties, but the leaf and stem smell like limes. It might be that flavor, but this plant does better with pests the way another basil variety might.

Flavor: Fragrant, sweet, with a mild citrus flavor – like limes! Does great when paired with lemon basil as you’ll get double the citrus flavor in a more robust way.

How well it grows: Can grow to 20 inches or taller if sown in the right conditions. This variety is more tolerant of heat than sweet basil.

Time to harvest: 60-75 days

Sun requirements: Needs full sun and soil with good drainage.

Where you can buy seeds:

Thai Basil

Sweet Thai Basil likely originated in Africa, but it’s been grown for so long that fact cannot be verified. This basil variety is quite bushy and produces deep green color with dark purple basil flowers.

Best known for: Thai basil is known for its deep purple basil flowers, and sweet licorice taste, and is often used in curry and Thai cuisine.

Flavor: A great addition to any curry, Thai Sweet basil has a licorice, almost anise flavor that does well in Thai dishes.

How well it grows: Can be a little challenging to grow, and takes a little bit longer than regular basil does. It would be a great idea to start seeds indoors as it is very sensitive to frost.

Time to germination: 60-75 days

Sun requirements: Needs full sun but can do well in part shade.

Where you can buy seeds:

Related Post: How to Grow Thai Basil

Purple Ruffles Basil

purple ruffles basil
Image from Johnny’s

Sometimes these varieties of basil don’t have very creative names. This one is exactly what it sounds like, basil with ruffled but purple leaves 🙂

Best known for: Being used as an attractive garnish to a dish because of the unique leaf shape and color.

Flavor: Like many other types of basils, it has a slight anise and licorice smell. You can often get a hint of cinnamon as well.

How well it grows: Grows well and produces pink to purple flowers as well as the iconic dark purple leaves. Purple ruffles basil often slower to bolt than many other types of basil.

Time to harvest: 85 days

Sun requirements: Full sun and warm weather

Where you can buy seeds:

Green Ruffles Basil

green ruffles basil
Image from Seedaholic

Same story as the purple ruffles, they couldn’t think of a better name 🙂

While the ruffles are green, this basil often produces purple flowers.

Best known for: It’s 3 inch green ruffled leaves- this plant is quite beautiful to look at.

Flavor: Has a mild basil flavor, but is sweet and often has cinnamon and licorice notes as well.

Time to germination: 60-80 days

Sun requirements: Full sun and great drainage, as root rot is generally one of the common problems for basil plants.

Where you can buy seeds:

Spicy Globe Basil

spicy globe basil
Image from Renee’s Garden

Best known for: As its name suggests, this one grows in the shape of a globe, which makes it great for container gardens, window boxes, as well as growing in pots. It has small leaves that pack a big punch of flavor!

Flavor: Spicy and strong flavored basil

How well it grows: Spicy globe basil grows as bush basil to around 12 inches in diameter.

Time to harvest: 70 days

Sun requirements: Full sun

Where you can buy seeds:

Summerlong Basil

Yep, it grows all summer long 🙂

Best known for: Being able to grow most of the summer season, this basil is very slow to bolt and has bright green, shiny leaves.

Flavor: Typical of most basils, Summerlong basil has an anise/licorice flavor that holds up with as garnishes or pesto.

How well it grows: This is one of the better performing basil’s you can grow in your herb garden. It grows most of the season and takes a long time to bolt, which is great for producing larger yields.

Time to harvest: 90 days

Sun requirements: Full sunlight required for the healthiest plant.

Where you can buy seeds:

basil types
Chenell lived in a big city for 9 years and loved it. But ever since she was a little kid watching her grandfather raise cattle and pigs, she's always wanted to live on a farm. Once the pandemic hit, she bought a house with her partner on an acre and half of land and started planning a 50 foot by 50 foot garden....with no experience. This site is the place where you can follow along as this millennial tries to learn to grow her own food (and eventually make her own avocado toast).