Name: tulsi, holy basil, sacred basil, Ocimum sanctum, Ocimum tenuiflorum.
Climate: tropical, sub tropical, warm temperate, cold temperate if protected from frost.
Soil: moist and free-draining.
Position: full sun, or part-shade in hot areas.
Foliage: aromatic and spicy, green or purple in colour, depending on variety.
Feeding: liquid fertiliser every couple of weeks.
Watering: regular watering.
Tulsi has hairy green and purple to red leaves with deep veins and a strong scent. Tiny white to purplish flowers are produced on tall spikes in summer. Both the leaves and the flowers are edible. Tulsi is a sacred plant in Hindu culture and many Hindus grow it in front of their homes in traditional earthenware pots.
Tulsi is a fabulous culinary herb and is said to settle the stomach and clear the mind. It is often used in Thai cuisine, where it is prized for its spicy, pungent flavour. It’s also used in Ayurveda as a treatment for many different ailments.
Once your plant is over 30cm tall, you can harvest the leaves with a pair of scissors and use them fresh or dried. Tulsi is widely used as an essential oil, a herbal tea or as an alternative to coffee. The dried leaves can even be used as an insect repellent.
Give your tulsi a regular watering once a week during summer. Try not to get water on the foliage as this can cause fungal disease and leaf spot. Don’t let the soil or potting mix dry out. For strong growth and great tasting tulsi, a regular feed with a liquid seaweed extract will keep your plants strong and healthy.
Snails and slugs are the main pests to look out for. Leaf spots and mildew can be a problem and are best treated with an organic fungicide. Always follow the instructions on the label carefully. If the soil is moist, but your plant is wilting, it may be infected with fusarium wilt. Destroy infected plants to avoid this fatal disease from spreading.
Constant tip-pruning throughout the year helps to promote bushier and more compact growth. Just make sure you only remove the tips, as pruning too far down the stem could kill the plant.
Tulsi is a tricky plant to grow from seed so cuttings are the best bet.
After applying fertiliser, delay harvesting for a few days and rinse well before eating. If using products to deal with pests, diseases or weeds, always read the label, follow the instructions carefully and wear suitable protective equipment. Store all garden chemicals out of the reach of children and pets.
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