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How to Grow Tulsi: The Superpower Salad Herb

Growing Tulsi (Holy Basil) Is Super Easy!

A few years ago, I joined a community garden and planted a 4-foot by 8-foot plot. A friend has a local nursery, so I picked up some plants to get started with and used seeds for the rest. One of the plants I purchased was a goji berry bush. To be honest, I am not the best community gardener. I have problems incorporating regular visits to the garden into my weekly schedule.

Getting Everything Planted

A few weeks after I got everything planted, I noticed another plant growing like crazy next to my goji berry bush. I tried to cut it back, so the goji would have room to grow.

The leaves tasted like a spicy mint and the flavor was very pleasant.

The Takeover

As the weeks went by, this crazy plant literally took over and smothered the goji berry bush.

Every time I would go to my plot, I would cut it back. It kept thriving. Then, it started to flower. It had tiny whitish-purple flowers on a long stalk. I brought a few of the flowers home so I could research and identify the plant.

You May Also Enjoy: “How to Identify Plants Quickly”

It turned out to be holy basil or tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum).

When I harvested my garden plot, I decided to bring the tulsi home to see if it would grow. It lasted a while with a lot of flowers. Then it died completely, or so it seemed. The tub was on my front porch, and I left it there throughout the winter.

Annual Revisits

When the weather started to warm again, I saw the green leaves of the tulsi start to sprout out of the soil in the tub.

The Harvest

We have been harvesting tulsi for the last 8 months. It is delicious in our salads. It adds a spicy, minty flavor similar to regular basil.

The Many Benefits of Tulsi

In India, people have been growing tulsi for its medicinal properties for more than 3,000 years. Holy basil is considered a sacred plant in Hinduism.

In traditional medicine, tulsi is used for:

  • Stress
  • Digestive problems
  • Treating colds and fevers
  • Treating allergies and infections
  • Strengthening the immune system
  • Treating hair and skin disorders
  • Dental health
  • Repelling insects and treating insect bites

Tulsi is very important in Ayurveda and naturopathy, because the plant is loaded with antioxidants, phytonutrients, essential oils, and vitamins A and C, which have been known to help manage diabetes and high blood pressure. If you use a few tulsi leaves regularly, it will help the body function properly in general.

It is known to have antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. It is considered an adaptogen (a substance that helps the body adapt and function optimally).

Besides adding it to salads, the leaves are easy to make into a tea.

Add It to Your Garden

There are more than 100 varieties of tulsi. If you have a warm, sunny place in your garden or on your porch or windowsill, consider adding a tulsi plant. It is perfect in a container garden with other sun-loving herbs. It is easy to grow and requires very little care.

In the late spring or early summer, when the temperatures in your area are around 70°F, sow seeds outdoors. If you want an early start, sow the seeds indoors in a sunny window.

Put the tulsi seeds on top of the soil and lightly press down for soil contact. Spray the seeds with water or compost tea. Keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate in about 1 to 2 weeks.

For a bushier plant, pinch the top of the tulsi plant when there are 4 to 6 pairs of leaves.

Harvest Tulsi

Harvest the tulsi leaves throughout the growing season. As the plant gets bigger, use a pair of scissors to cut the larger leaves or to cut an entire branch.

Use the fresh leaves the same day or they will fade. Or, dry the leaves by collecting the branches and placing them in a dry place away from direct sunlight. Move the stems around about 3 times each day until the leaves are crisp and easily crushed.

What Do You Think?

Do you have tulsi in your garden? How do you use it? Let us know in the comments below!

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(This is an updated version of an article that was originally published on August 2, 2017. The author may not currently be available to respond to comments, however we encourage our Community members to chime in to share their experiences and answer questions!)

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This post was written by Karen the Newbie Homesteader

COMMENTS(32)

  • Connie says:

    You never mentioned what you eat! Do you eat both the leaves & flowers or either one?

    1. Karen the Newbie Homesteader says:

      Connie, we just eat the leaves. The stalks and flowers are too tough to put in salads.

  • Connie says:

    Sorry Karen! I just saw it…leaves of course!

  • Navin says:

    I use tulsi every day.I put 11 leaves in making my morning tea.We in India have it all the year round.Some years when it is extremely cold it dies out.,out but when spring comes the seeds which fall off after flowering,sprout again.The leaves,as well as the seeds are harvested to be used in medicinal preparations.

  • jackie Seward says:

    Nothing works as well as tulsi to take the sting out of any insect bite. Wad up a couple of leaves and rub into bite. A few years back a visiting friend was stung by a huge bee & she shreiked “I’m deathly allergic !!” We had the bite tamed down in a matter of minutes. The people of India believed that tulsi cleared the air in one’s home of bacteria etc. They had large pots they kept on their porches and brought them inside to the bedrooms at night. It’s Texas hardy and reseeds itself generously.

  • Isobelle says:

    I do have Tulsi in my garden. I thrives, with very little attention. I have found that if you trim the flowers down then the leaves grow larger. I do not trim all of the flowers – leave some for the bees as they seem to enjoy harvesting necter from the flowers.

    I use this Basil in preference to the other one not only in salads but in stews, soups, scrambled eggs and also in any tomato dishes.

  • Victoria Lou says:

    I keep Tulsa by my front door and pick a couple of leaves as I go out and chew on them for the medicinal qualities and also to sweeten the breath.

  • s says:

    Where can I get the seeds for Holy Basil?

    1. Karen the Newbie Homesteader says:

      You can find organic tulsi seeds to purchase on Amazon. I’m sure there are many distributors for this popular plant’s seeds.

  • Ann says:

    Is there a cold-hardy variety or should it be taken inside for northern winters?

    1. Karen the Newbie Homesteader says:

      Tulsi really thrives in warmer weather, but if it is growing in a container, you can bring it inside and put it in a window that gets plenty of sun.

  • Awesome! Its actually awesome piece of writing, I have
    got much clear idea on the topic of from this
    piece of writing.

    1. Karen the Newbie Homesteader says:

      Thanks!

  • sslaird1963 says:

    Now I know what to expect of Tulsi and how to start it; I think I was covering the seeds and not getting anywhere. Thanks!

  • Adelia says:

    I have 3 very tiny tulsi plants in my kitchen window. They are less than 1/4 inch tall but are growing. I will be repotting them and putting them out on my balcony probably for a short time before first frost when I will bring them back in. Any help or advice on growing them will be much appreciated… are they a plant that can winter outside in Missouri or do I need to bring them in? Weather here can dip below -4 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter zone 6.

  • Karen the Newbie Homesteader says:

    Adelia, they are not likely to make it through a Missouri winter, but should be fine if you bring them inside to a sunny window before it gets cold there.

  • camper_01 says:

    I have Tulsi in my garden, love the aroma it brings. I didn’t know what or how to harvest it. I will now be picking leaves for tea and maybe more. I have a few plants in grow bags and some in my community garden plot. will it over winter in the bags which I keep at my condo?

  • Karen the Newbie Homesteader says:

    It just depends on the temperature. If it gets down to freezing, probably not.

  • Didi Meier says:

    I’ve got my Tulsi in pot’s, currently inside as we have winter in Australia.
    Usually the leaves in salad or snacks, older leaves and flowers in tea, stem in compost.
    I do have some pests crawling on the stem and eat the leaves, looks like small slugs
    about 2 – 5 mm long and black. I’ve tried different soap mixes, but they keep coming back.
    They like it too. Any suggestion what it is and how to get rid of? Thanks.

  • Karen the Newbie Homesteader says:

    You will have to check with a local gardening shop about the “slugs.” Usually plants attract things to eat them when they are not as healthy as they should be. You may need to change the soil you are using or give them more light or nutrients to resolve the issue. If it is slugs, your garden shop may carry traps or other methods to handle them.

  • tanyalaird says:

    I’ve tried several adaptogenic herbs without any noticeable effect. But the very first day I tried tulsi, my sleep was more sound. I’m totally sold on it. I purchased seeds a few weeks ago, waiting for spring in Australia so I can plant them. I hope mine thrive as much as Karen’s. I can propagate plants from cuttings, division, layering, etc, but give me a packet of seeds and I’m a dud gardener.

  • camper_01 says:

    Wonderful day,
    I have had Tulsi in my community garden plot for 2 years now, I love the scent it has. Now a days I pick some leaves to use in my morning tea or as my tea! It is such a magnificent plant, I want to plant it everywhere, and bring it’s blessing to many. I will be soon making my first herbal decoctions and or oils. I look forward to exploring herbs, beginning a new path in my 60’s.
    Always stay curious.

  • gennywu says:

    Tulsi is also excellent for attracting bees. My plant is a hub for native bees and keeps them buzzing happily all summer long in my garden. It is an excellent plant if you need to attract pollinators.

  • Lin says:

    When I dry the tulsi – can I dry the flowers along with the leaves to use in tea or do I need to snip them off when I harvest it? Thanks!

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