The 9 Smallest Basil Varieties (Smallest Leaves and Plants)

There are many varieties of basil, and one of the easiest ways to tell them apart is to look at the size and shape of their leaves. Some basil varieties have large leaves, and some have tiny leaves as small as a quarter of an inch in diameter.

Basil varieties with small leaves are great for decorative purposes. As with all basil varieties, trimming them promotes growth, so the small leaf varieties can easily be pruned and shaped into bushes of whatever shape you want while you still get to harvest and enjoy fresh basil leaves continuously.

I have done some research for this post and found the nine basil varieties with the smallest leaves, which I will cover in this article.

I have arranged this post so the varieties with the smallest leaves are at the top since these are generally the best for making dense basil bushes. However, all the small leaf varieties I mention in this post will work great for that. Just keep in mind that basil varieties with small leaves generally don’t grow very tall either, but I have also included the height of each variety so you can see that too.

The 9 Basil Varieties With the Smallest Leaves

Minette Basil

Leaf sizePlant height
1/4-1/2 inches (0.6-1.25 centimeters)10-12 inches (25-30 centimeters)

Often called Minette dwarf basil, Minette basil grows into a charming little shrub that looks excellent in an herb garden.

Minette basil works exceptionally well in an outdoor herb garden, either directly in the ground or in a pot or container. Besides looking beautiful as it forms a small but dense and compact shrub, it also works great as a companion plant since its flavor and aroma ward off certain pests such as mites and aphids.

Spicy Globe Basil (Greek Basil or Bush basil)

Leaf sizePlant height
1/2-1 inches (1-2.5 centimeters)6-12 inches (15-30 centimeters)

Spicy globe basil is also known as Greek basil but is also often called Bush basil because of its small leaves and tendency to grow as a small and dense bush.

I am growing this basil variety right now and I like it so much that I just planted it in three more pots before writing this article. I use it as a companion plant for tomatoes (meaning I grow it right underneath some of my tomato plants where it helps by warding off certain pests), but I also grow it just by itself.

Spicy globe basil is a perfect choice if you want to have a small and dense basil bush that will only grow denser and denser as you trim it and harvest leaves from it.

As the name indicates, Spicy globe forms a globe-shaped basil bush which makes it perfect for growing in pots or containers on a sunny windowsill, but it will also grow just fine outside.

Boxwood Basil

Leaf sizePlant height
1/2-1 inches (1-2.5 centimeters)Up to 12 inches (30 centimeters)

Boxwood basil got its name because of its visual similarity to a boxwood shrub which is a popular shrub that is often grown for decorative purposes and often used in landscaping.

Unlike the Boxwood shrub, Boxwood basil is excellent in the kitchen. The taste is sweet and spicy at the same time, and it works great in pasta, pesto, or salads.

Boxwood basil has a very characteristic look compared to most other basil varieties. It looks almost like a small tree or dense shrub with just a few central stems.

Boxwood basil is excellent for decorative purposes but also works incredibly well in the kitchen.

Pistou Basil

Leaf sizePlant height
1/2-1 inch (1-2.5 centimeters)6-8 inches (15-20 centimeters)

Pistou basil is another compact basil variety with small leaves. Unlike many other basil varieties, Pistou basil begins to sprout many leaves already as a seedling.

Pistou basil has the smallest plants of any basil variety I was able to find when I did my research for this post. The plant usually doesn’t grow taller than 8 inches (20 centimeters), and the leaves are also tiny.

Pistou basil is ideal for growing in small pots as it does not grow very large and forms a small and dense bush.

The taste is similar to the more common Genovese basil but usually milder, so it works great in almost any dish.

Summerlong Basil

Leaf sizePlant height
1-2 inches (2.5-5 centimeters)Up to 12 inches (30 centimeters)

Summerlong basil grows into compact and tight bushes densely covered in bright green leaves that are slightly larger than the leaves on the varieties I have covered in this post so far.

Summerlong basil is a slow-bolting variety that matures in between 60-90 days. I have to assume that is why it got the name ‘Summerlong’, but unfortunately, I could not find that information.

Like the other small-leaf basil varieties I have covered in this post so far, Summerlong basil is excellent for both decorative purposes and cooking.

Thai Basil

Leaf sizePlant height
1-2 inches (2.5-5 centimeters) 12-18 inches (30-45 centimeters)

Thai basil is one of the most popular and well-known basil varieties.

Thai basil is perfect as an ornamental plant. Beautiful purple or red flowers start to appear when it begins to bloom, which creates a perfect contrast to the dark green leaves.

Compared to the common Genovese basil, Thai basil has a more pungent taste, sometimes with a hint of licorice. Its excellent taste makes it a popular herb in Southeast Asian cooking.

Christmas Basil

Leaf sizePlant height
Up to 2 inches (5 centimeters)10-12 inches (25-30 centimeters)

Christmas basil has a very recognizable taste and smell that many people compare to mulled wine mixed with pine.

Even though it has slightly larger leaves than the varieties I have covered so far, Christmas basil deserves a spot on this list. Compared to most other basil varieties, the leaves are smaller and the plant does not grow as tall.

Christmas basil is long-lived and can often last until Christmas, so this combined with its pleasant taste and smell makes it well deserving of its name.

Holy Basil

Leaf sizePlant height
Up to 2 inches (5 centimeters)Up to 24 inches (60 centimeters)

Holy basil is native to India, where it is also called Tulsi. The plant got the name ‘Holy basil’ for its many medicinal properties and health benefits.

Compared to the varieties I have already covered in this post, Holy basil can grow quite tall. It can reach heights of up to 2 feet (60 cm), but the leaves are still relatively small compared to many other varieties.

When Holy basil, or Tulsi, flowers, it grows purple or pink and sometimes almost white flowers which look excellent and attract bees which are great for your garden.

Lemon Basil

Leaf sizePlant height
Up to 2 inches (5 centimeters)24-36 inches (60-90 centimeters)

Lemon basil is a member of the Citrus basil variety. It got its name for its citrusy taste.

Lemon basil is primarily grown in northeastern Africa and southern Asia but can be grown practically anywhere it can get 6-8 hours of sunlight and warm temperatures in the summer, just like most other basil varieties.

Lemon basil spreads a pleasant citrusy aroma in your garden or home. It is best to grow it outside since the plants can get quite large, but it can also be grown indoors in a sunny spot.

I recommend reading this post (link opens in a new tab), where I have made a complete list of 22 basil varieties and compared the average plant height and leaf size of all of them. I also cover how much space you need to grow them and how to make sure your basil plants are not too crowded.

Read My Complete Guide to Growing and Caring for Basil

I have written a thorough guide where I cover all parts of growing your own basil including choosing a variety, sowing the seeds, the best growing conditions, pruning, propagation, harvesting, storing, solving various problems, and a lot more. You can find the article on this link.


My name is Anders, and I am the owner and writer here at Gardening Break. Gardening has always been a big part of my life. As a child, I would watch and learn as my parents worked in our garden or as my grandfather worked in his greenhouse. As I have gotten older, gardening has become a bigger and bigger part of my life. I have grown to enjoy it more and more, but I am also starting to realize just how much there is to learn about gardening, which is why I created Gardening Break in the first place; To share all the useful tips and tricks I learn along the way. You can read more about me and my mission with Gardening Break by following the "About Us"-link at the top and bottom of every page.

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