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Does Basil Need Direct Sunlight?

Basil is a beautiful herb to grow, and one that can give you great satisfaction, both on a personal level and in the kitchen. With just a little care, you can have endless juicy leaves to add to your dishes! 

Do basil need direct sunlight? To grow and thrive, a basil plant needs an average of seven hours in the direct sunlight. Basil plants also perform better and grow stronger when provided with warmth and shelter from the elements. However, if you live in highly hot climates, you should move your plant in the shade during the hottest hours.

Now you know the basics that can help you keep your plant alive for longer. However, there is a little more your basil plant needs to be at its healthiest. Let’s find out what is the best environment for your new addition to the herb collection!

Does Basil Like Sun or Shade?

Basil is one of the most loved herbs worldwide, especially in Mediterranean countries, where this ingredient is one of the all-time favorite ones for a family meal. However, its origins date back to over 4,000 years ago, and it has been part of the culinary traditions of African and Southeast Asian countries for millennia. What do all these areas have in common? A few things, but mostly the climate! Indeed, basil plants need warmth and sun to thrive. 

If you have just bought basil seeds, the best time to plant them in a pot is six weeks before the last frost of spring. Keeping them indoors during this time allows them to enjoy most of the summer sun once they sprout.

During its life, your basil plant won’t need too much caring or attention. However, there are a few things that your baby basil really cannot do without, such as sun, warmth, and shelter from the natural elements. 

If you are looking at moving your sprouting basil outdoors, you will need to wait until outside temperatures have reached at least 10 degrees celsius. However, the ideal conditions for your plant to thrive sees a climate with an average summer temperature of 24 to 28 degrees celsius. The warmth they need does not only refer to the outside weather, but also to the soil and air temperature. 

Ultimately, basil plants prefer direct sunlight, and they thrive when left outdoors to soak in the sunshine for a minimum of six to eight hours per day. However, this indication varies depending on where you live and on the characteristics of your climate zone. If your area boasts soaring temperatures throughout summer, you might need to consider setting your basil plant in the shade, at least during the hottest hours of the day.

Can Basil Get Too Much Sun?

Basil plants show little resistance to cold climates but, to compensate for it, they can thrive in temperatures as high as 32°C! However, high temperatures and sharp, direct sunlight can have detrimental effects on the health of your plant.

Soaring heat can produce a stress-like reaction on plants. Indeed, they feed on moisture and water, and, as the temperature rises, they have to fight harder to keep these liquids inside their leaves. Basil, similarly to other herbs, tends to be subjected to transpiration. If this starts to happen, your plant’s leaves become weaker and more prone to the risk of pests infestations and diseases. 

If inadvertently, you leave your basil plant outside or exposed to scorching, direct sunlight for long periods, some of its cells will deteriorate, causing your plant to die eventually. At the same time, if you are growing your basil from seeds, they will need much longer to sprout at high temperatures. The ones that will eventually germinate might be up to half of the number of original seeds you planted. Be sure to water your basil seeds properly.

To check if your basil plant is suffering from exposure to too much sun, analyze its leaves. If they are drooping, some of the possible causes could be related to too little watering or pests. However, the leading reason for your plant to be in poor health is too much direct sunlight. One of the most common symptoms of such a condition is a discoloration of the leaves’ edges.

Does Basil Need the Sun to Grow?

Similarly to other plants, basil sprouts need a combination of fresh air, sunlight, and fertile soil to grow and thrive. Indeed, your basil plant will source its sustainment through photosynthesis. This term indicates the process through which plants can absorb energy from the surrounding water, sun, and air gasses.

As you look at your basil plant soaking in the sun, it is using the holes on its leaves and stems to take in vital carbon dioxide from the air. At the same time, the roots will be absorbing water and minerals from the soil. This moisture and compounds then circulate across the stems and leaves of the plant. These two elements, alongside the light energy from the sun, are the essential factors your basil plant needs to perform photosynthesis.

The energy deriving from the sun rays has the power to break down both the carbon dioxide and water molecules. The main outputs of this process are glucose (sugar) and oxygen. The chloroplasts (cell structures contained in the leaves of your basil plant) turn the glucose into energy and release the oxygen into the atmosphere.

This process is at the core of the outstanding growth of each plant. Faster growing plants, such as basil, need more sunlight to create new stems and a multitude of leaves throughout the season. 

Will Basil Grow in Indirect Sunlight?

As we have seen, your basil plant is more likely to prefer sunlight and fresh air compared to indoor environments. However, sometimes growing a plant outdoors is just not in the cards, whether this is due to the lack of a balcony, garden, or facilities. Yet, basil plants can thrive indoors, but they need enough exposure to indirect sunlight and fresh air. If you are trying to get your sprouts to live in a container on your windowsill throughout summer, you should keep in mind the nature of basil.

  • Firstly, some other culinary and medicinal herbs don’t need as much sunlight. The amount of exposure to the sun rays needed depends on the natural growth rate of your plant. Basil, whether you are growing it inside or outside, needs at least 7 hours of sunlight. 
  • Secondly, while indoors, you might notice that your plant is not growing as much or as fast. This difference might relate to the size of the container, the availability of fresh air, and soil composition, aside from the amount of sunlight.

Ultimately, if you believe you won’t be able to guarantee a happy life to your indoor basil plant, you could opt for other alternatives, such as garlic, horseradish, and oregano. These herbs tend to grow at a slower rate and naturally derive from a colder climate. This feature can help you keep them alive while hosting them within your kitchen area.

Final Thoughts

Basil plants, similarly to many other herbs, need an optimal combination of light, sun, and fresh air to grow and thrive. Historically, basil derives from warm climates such as the ones found in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Mediterranean. Indeed, basil can thrive in temperatures as high as 30-degree Celsius but has a low tolerance to colder climates.

If you are looking at cultivating a basil plant for culinary reasons, you should consider whether you can supply it with at least six to eight hours of sunlight per day. Basil plants can also live indoors, but you should expect a reduced growth rate.

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