You can grow basil really well in both pots and directly in the ground, but there are some differences, and one way might be better suited for you than the other. I wrote this article to help you figure out which of the two ways is best for you.
Potted basil is easier to care for than basil in the ground since it is less exposed to pests and diseases and more isolated from other plants. Basil in the ground requires less maintenance than potted basil, however, and is great for attracting bees and other pollinators to your garden.
These are some but not all of the differences. I have made a table to give you an easy overview of the advantages of both ways to grow basil to make it easy for you, so keep reading.
Does Basil Grow Better in Pots or the Ground?
If you are choosing between a pot or the ground for growing basil and you already have a preference, then you should probably just do that because basil can grow just fine in both. But if you don’t have a strong preference already, there are some differences you should know about to make the decision easier.
To help you decide between growing basil in a pot or the ground, I have made a table with a side-by-side comparison of the advantages of both ways.
|Advantages of growing basil in a pot||Advantages of growing basil in the ground|
|It is easier to grow basil in a pot||The plants can often get bigger in the ground|
|The plants are isolated from other plants||The plants can grow faster in the ground|
|The plants are less exposed to pests and diseases||The plants usually have more room to grow|
|You can move it around to adjust how much sunlight and rain it gets and reduce its exposure to bad weather||The plants can get stronger in the ground|
|It is easier to control how much water it gets||The plants require less watering in the ground|
|You have full control over the soil content and pH||The plants cannot get rootbound|
Look at these advantages to each way of growing basil and decide which ones mean more to you. I personally prefer growing basil in a pot because I can move the plants around to give it more or less sunlight based on what it needs, and I can move it out of heavy rain and other bad weather and even indoors when needed (although indoor vs. outside is another thing I discuss in this post).
Sure, the plants can often grow bigger and faster in the ground, but you can make up for it by growing your basil in a very large pot because the primary reason it can grow bigger and faster in the ground is that there is more room for the roots to grow. I recommend using a pot that is 12 inches (30 cm) or more, but 8 inches (20 cm) will also be fine.
The larger root systems allow the plants to obtain water and nutrients from the soil more efficiently, allowing it to grow better, but since a pot is a much more isolated growing environment than the ground, potted basil needs more frequent watering than basil in the ground.
If You’re Still Not Sure
If you’re still not sure if you should grow basil in a pot or the ground, then I recommend using a pot, but more important than anything is that you get started, so do whatever seems easier to you. In my opinion, growing it in a pot is definitely easier because you can avoid many issues you might otherwise have to deal with.
If you choose to go with a pot, just make sure it is sufficiently large, or the plant can end up getting rootbound which essentially means there is no more room for the roots to grow. I have a post (here) about how to save a rootbound basil plant. I recommend using terra cotta pots since they are breathable and have good drainage. I always use some like those.
Below, I cover some of the things you should consider when choosing where to grow basil, such as how much sun and rain there is and how suited the soil is for growing basil.
Things to Consider When Choosing Where to Grow Basil
There are some things you have to consider when you are choosing a spot for your basil, regardless of whether it is in a pot or the ground.
When choosing where to grow basil, make sure the spot gets 6-8 hours of sunlight per day and that the soil is nutrient-rich and well-drained. You should also make sure the plants have enough space. For potted basil, use 8-inch (20 cm) pots or larger. Basil in the ground should have 12 inches (30 cm) of space on all sides.
You should also consider how your climate is. For example, if you get a lot of rain, it is much easier to keep potted basil plants happy than basil in the ground since you can move it out of the rain when it gets too much. The same goes for sunlight since both too little, and too much can cause the plants to die.
If you have a potted basil plant, but you actually prefer to have it in the ground (or want to move it to a bigger pot), you can transplant it, which essentially means moving the plant to another place. I explain how you do that below.
Putting Potted Basil Into the Ground (7 Easy Steps)
There are several reasons you would want to move a potted basil plant into the ground. For instance, if the pot is not so large, the plant’s growth and production will be limited, so moving it to the ground can give it the space it needs to thrive and grow and produce leaves much faster.
Moving a plant from one place to another is called transplanting, and you can use it to move basil (and other plants) from one pot to another or into the ground. I have a step-by-step guide on how to transplant basil on this link, but here is a summary.
These are the steps to transplant basil into the ground:
- Get a basil plant, a hand trowel, and water
- Dig a hole that can fit the plant and its roots
- Remove the basil plant from its pot
- Gently loosen the roots but don’t remove the soil
- Place the basil plant in the hole
- Fill the hole with soil around the plant
- Pour water on the soil but not on the leaves
Transplanting can be an excellent way to do your basil plants a favor, but avoid doing it too often as it can stress them. Don’t worry about doing it once to give your plants more space though. They will love you for that.
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.