All About Ornamental Basil

Basil is one of the most cherished summer herbs. Fortunately, its use does not have to be reserved for vegetable gardens and kitchens. With incredible variety in form, color and flower basil makes an excellent outdoor container plant.

Clients with restaurant patios or other culinary interests may be especially delighted with this particularly useful ornamental. Basil is very aromatic and can add a delightful scent to an outdoor dining experience.

Care Needs

Keep in mind that basil thrives in bright light and heat. This is an ornamental edible best reserved for outdoors and summer. Basil also likes plenty of water or it can get droopy. Don’t pair it with plants that prefer dry soils and keep their containers moist. Basil can handle some neglect and will recover quickly when properly cared for. This herb can also be significantly cut back and will happily and quickly produce new growth.

Basil flowers are also beautiful and edible. However, if you are growing the basil primarily for using the leaves in culinary dishes, your should keep the flowers cut back. This will ensure the best flavor in the leaves.


Basil primarily comes in green or purple varieties. Sweet basil is the most common garden variety. It produces a tall, stalky plant with large bright green leaves and small white flowers.

There are compact varieties that grow in a smaller more ball-like or egg-like shapes. The Rotary Botanical Gardens Horticultural Blog points out two outstanding compact varieties of basil. ‘Pluto’ is one variety that grows only eight inches tall and wide, forming a tight ball. It has compact green leaves that are still excellent for use in cooking. This plant would be  attractive planted singularly in a smaller container or as a smaller accent plant in a large container. ‘Pesto Perpetuo’ is a small Greek variety that grows in a column shape. It also has tight compact leaves that are variegated with light green and white.

Thai basil varieties often produce beautiful dark purple flowers that are stunning against lighter green leaves. These varieties tend to grow a bit taller and bushier similar to sweet basil. Thai basil has a more licorice scent and taste than sweet basil.

Cinnamon basil has a sweet cinnamon scent and flavor. It also has lovely purple flowers and green leaves. It would be a nice addition to dining patios and other areas where a strongly scented plant is welcome.

There are several purple varieties. ‘Dark Opal’ is a very popular purple basil variety. It has very dark purple leaves that are slightly shiny. It also has purple bracts, with slightly lighter purple flowers. It can grow 18 inches tall. ‘Dark Opal’ can add interest to a large container arrangement with its attractive foliage. ‘Sweet Petra Dark’ is also a purple variety suggested by The Rotary Botanical Gardens Horticultural Blog. It has very dark, slightly ruffled leaves.

Attractive Arrangements

With all the different scents, colors, sizes and forms of basil available, you can easily find a variety that will work well with your container arrangements. Keep in mind when you place your containers that basil thrives in full sun and plenty of heat. This ornamental herb will grow and thrive all summer long, making your summer containers full and attractive. What are your favorite varieties of basil for container arrangements?


“The Ornamental Side of Basil.”  The Rotary Botanical Gardens Horticultural Blog. <>

Basil List.” Romona’s Basil Garden. <>

“Basil ‘Dark Opal’ Seed.” Local Harvest. <>

“Types of Basil.” Growing Basil, A Guide. <>

Photo “Purple Basil” courtesy of anneheathen.

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