Basil is handsome enough to star in your ornamental garden. Use the broad-leafed, taller forms as foundation plantings with petunias or short marigolds and zinnias in front. The colorful purple basils—‘Dark Opal’, ‘Purple Ruffles’, tiny-leafed purples—and the bicolored ‘Genovese’ and ‘Silver Fox’ add wonderful contrasts and fragrances. Try shorter basils—‘Spicy Globe’, ‘Genovese’, ‘Dark Opal’ and lettuce-leaf—as seasonal borders or low hedges.
Basils also lend themselves, albeit somewhat unwillingly, to container culture. Most basils get quite large in the garden. It takes a sizable root system to support that top growth. Potted basils require at least a 6-inch container. Choose a container size as you would a pair of shoes for a growing child—a bit big. The container may be of any material as long as it has drainage holes in the bottom to minimize soggy soil and consequent root rot.
Sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum). This familiar basil is great for pesto and preserving. It’s attractive in pots, but grows vigorously and needs repotting often. Numerous cultivars with different flavors are available.
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