Posted by: John Stolzle, Jefferson County Extension
I feel that the positive benefits and entertainment value that come with experimenting and growing plants indoors far outweigh any negatives. An indoor garden can grow 365 days/year, it can provide fresh herbs at a moment’s notice, and can transform (in my case) a drab apartment setting into something a little more lively. Lately I have been experimenting with pruning and pinching indoor Basil with the goal of boosting my plants’ productivity. What I’ve learned is that I have a lot to learn.
Indoor plants will often grow tall and spindly in search of light; pruning can discourage this type of growth and encourage a plant to grow bushier rather than taller (something ideal, imo, in this situation). This type of pruning can be accomplished by pinching off plant growth above a node, the location where leaves and branches attach to a stem. I have been actively removing the smallest leaves and apical, upward most, growth to shape my indoor Basil.
|Basil Pruning - past, present, and future?|
In the image above: I’ve labeled a node; the red X’s mark where I pinched off new growth at nodes some weeks ago and the plant branched outward; the purple arrows are locations where I might pinch off the plant again in the future.
This method has been very effective in encouraging the plants to branch out. But, I didn’t think about the structure of the plants before I started. I didn’t have an image in mind or an overarching strategy, I just pinched away apical growth here and there. The Basil, growing upwards, hardly able to support itself in the first place, has become quite top heavy due to my interference.
One day, one of the plants fell over (following image). I decided to just leave it, until I needed to use some Basil. Time went by and when I looked again I was surprised to see how the plant had adjusted to its horizontal orientation.
|A fallen Basil plant adjusting to its orientation.|
I would say, “don’t do exactly what I’ve done”. In the next image you can see that I’ve created a messy jungle of wild Basil growth, because I didn’t start with any idea for cultivating structure and just pinched off growth above nodes! I need to think in more of Bonsai manner.
|An untidy tangle of Basil growth.|
- I have learned that CSU extension has a document with many interesting uses for herbs - I'll likely try some of the ideas on this page: https://extension.colostate.edu/docs/pubs/foodnut/09335.pdf
- A great deal of information on Herb Gardening can be found here: https://cmg.extension.colostate.edu/Gardennotes/731.pdf
- If you are interested in indoor herb gardening, I would recommend this brief Plant Talk overview: https://planttalk.colostate.edu/topics/annuals-perennials/1056-indoor-herb-garden/
- As well as this short video (~4:30) on herb gardening: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfstPHmDLXA&index=23&list=PLF923A9DD3BD61E42
- And here is a great write-up for many types/varieties of Basil (from the University of Vermont): https://pss.uvm.edu/ppp/articles/basil.html
..And, I will say that I have had luck using a similar strategy with indoor Lavender, but that's a whole different story!
If you are interested in indoor gardening, you may also appreciate these other posts in this indoor blog series:
Best of luck in your gardening endeavors!