African Blue Basil Bridges Perennial Gap
Fabulous in Summer Heat
Two summers ago a friend presented me with an African Blue basil. Over time, it has become one of my favorite flowering plants. It’s low maintenance, easy to propagate, a prolific bloomer and perfect for the scent garden. Brushing against the stem or leaves releases a fragrant aroma.
African Blue basil thrives in the heat of summer.
Botanically known as Ocimum kilimandscharicum x basilcum, a cross between African basil and basil ‘Dark Opal’. This cross resulted in a sterile hybrid that does not produce seed. As a gardener, you don’t need to worry about volunteers sprouting in surprising places. However, African Blue basil is easily propagated by cuttings. I’ve shared rooted plants with gardening friends. I am amazed how grouping several African Blue basil creates a colorful impact.
African Blue basil is a living laboratory, inviting a multitude of beneficial insects. I’ve seen honey bees, native bees, wasps and a variety of butterfly species. Predatory insects, such as the assassin bug, take the opportunity to hunt on this plant as well.
While all parts of this basil are edible, the flavor is stronger than other basil varieties. African Blue basil is typically grown for its foliage and ornate flower shoots.
Grow African Blue basil in containers or in ground on well-drained soil. These are not small plants so allow plenty of space. At 3-4 feet tall and 2-4 feet wide, semi-upright flower shoots are pink with a dark purple calyx. Flower shoots exceed 10 inches with reports of 18 inches being common. This annual provides interest when your North Florida perennials aren’t blooming.
Clip stems at 1-2 feet in early summer for compact branching. African Blue basil prefers 6 plus hours of direct light daily. This annual is hardy from spring till first frost. The typical winter in North Florida will probably kill off African Blue basil, even with protective frost cloth. Gardeners may find African Blue basil in garden centers and online. Let me know how it goes and what is growing in your yard by clicking in ‘response box’! ~ Enjoy & Happy Gardening!
Submitted by Susan Howell, Nature Coast Master Gardener