Holy basil with ripe seeds

Few houseplants can match Tulsi for both fragrance and beauty. Tulsi, also referred to as sacred basil or sacred basil, is a perennial in tropical and subtropical areas, but it can be grown indoors year round irrespective of your climate.

Indoors and Outdoors

Each year we plant a huge patch in our vegetable garden and harvest well before harvest first frost to dry for winter teas. Unlike other yearly basils which blossom and then become bitter, tulsi is proven to blossom and keep flowering, providing forage for the bees and odor for your garden.

If brought indoors for the winter, tulsi will keep right on blooming and liven up any space with its sweet odor.

Growing Tulsi From Seed

Tulsi seeds should be started indoors 6 to 12 weeks before the last frost. Since tulsi is a tropical plant, it requires warm temperatures to germinate and should be held in a location that is at least 70 degrees. If your property is particularly cool, think about using a seedling heat mat to warm soil temperatures.

The soil should be kept continuously moist, but not soggy. Seeds will germinate about 3 months after planting.

The plants are extremely frost sensitive, and shouldn’t be moved outdoors until a few weeks after the last frost date. Even then, don’t forget to give them an acclimation period to harden off by bringing them inside into a sheltered place at night for a week or so before eternally planting outside. Cold frames are also a fantastic option.

If you are growing tulsi indoors, make certain the plant has ample sunlight in a south-facing window for at least 4-6 hours of direct sunlight every day.

Growing Tulsi From Cuttings

Tulsi also easily grows from cuttings. Use a pair of garden shears and cut a tulsi stem from an established plant. Remove all the blossoms and many the leaves. Place the cutting in a glass of water on a sunny windowsill. Make sure it’s kept always warm, and change the water every few days to prevent mold or stagnation. The cutting should take root in a couple weeks.

Tulsi Plant Care

Once your tulsi plant is established, it requires continuously warm temperatures to flourish. Tulsi is hardy in zones 10 and 11, and could be grown year-round from the very hottest regions of the US that never find a frost. For the rest of us, tulsi could be grown as an annual outside, or as a perennial houseplant.

      • Hardiness – Tulsi is hardy to zone 10, and can’t deal with any frost. Ideally, temperatures would stay above 50 degrees for optimum growth.
      • Sunlight – In ideal conditions, tulsi requires at least 6 hours of sun daily. It can endure part sun conditions, with as few as 4 hours of direct sunlight every day.
      • Soil – Most balanced potting mixes are acceptable for growing indoors.
      • Fertilizer – Tulsi requires fertile soils to flourish, especially if you’re regularly harvesting leaves for tea and seasoning. Be sure to supplement with compost to ensure adequate fertility. To the soil with an inch of rich compost every 6 weeks. The best fertilizer for tulsi plants is a balanced 10-10-10 liquid fertilizer and may be applied every couple of weeks for indoor plants.

When to Harvest Tulsi

How long does it take to grow tulsi? Since tulsi is a perennial, it is ideal to continuously harvest modest amounts of this herb to permit for continued growth.

You can start to harvest tulsi when the plant reaches about a foot in height. Pinch back the growing tips to help promote a bushy plant habit, which will increase yields. Tulsi plants should be ready for harvest about 40 days after germination and do best with lean periodic harvests. If harvested lightly, by single branches or leaves, a tulsi plant could continue to produce for many years.

In India, tulsi bushes can reach 4 to 5 feet tall at the extreme summer heat, but inside or in more temperate climates, they remain small and bushy, growing no larger than 1 to 2 feet.

Types of Holy Basil Plants

There are a surprising number of sacred basil varieties, each with their own distinctive characteristics. Since tulsi has been grown in India for medicine for centuries, there has been plenty of time for unique cultivars to grow. The three main varieties include:

Rama Tulsi

This variety has light green leaves and purple flowers and smells strongly of cloves. The flavor of the variety is mellower than others, but although it’s stronger smelling leaves. The mild flavor makes it versatile as an after meal tea, and it is used to promote healthy digestion. Rama tulsi is also referred to as green foliage tulsi.

Krishna Tulsi

A purple leafed variety, krishna tulsi a milder assortment of holy basil. It develops more slowly, and it is believed that the slow growth contributes to the accumulation of stronger, spicier and more pungent tastes. The flavor is peppery and clove like, and the warm hot tea it generates is used to treat respiratory ailments among other things. Krishna tulsi is also referred to as Shyama tulsi and purple foliage tulsi.

Vana Tulsi

Considered the best tasting, Vana tulsi is truly somewhat harder to find. The leaves come in two tones, with the upper leaves light green and the lower leaves on the plant arriving in darker green. The taste is more lemony, unlike the peppery and clove flavored different varieties.

How to Use Tulsi

The most common method to use tulsi is in a tea. The tea has a natural sweet taste that reminds me of lemon balm with a small hint of clove. A brand named Organic India sells numerous tulsi tea blends, each blended to bring out various medicinal qualities of the tulsi plant.

Make tulsi tea by steeping about a tablespoon of the herb in 1 cup of near boiling water for 15 minutes. Bring the water to a boil and allow it to cool for a few seconds before pouring over the tulsi tea leaves. Boiling water will push the volatile chemicals and also you won’t get as much taste on your final tea. Strain the tea and revel in plain or with a sweetener. Honey works especially well if you are taking tulsi for respiratory troubles.

Beyond tea, tulsi is traditionally used as a spice and it is sprinkled on foods to improve the taste in much the same manner that Italian or avocado basil is used.