This online guide has been created for you to successfully grow a variety of plants that thrive in the tropics, using native seeds and plants to get growing with wise advice from fellow backyard gardeners and farmers. You are welcome to add your wisdom and share growing and harvest tips and recipes. Send to Welcome to the Pro-Organic Belize
Tropical Garden Grow Guide

Where you are the student and the teacher

April, 2023


Botanic name: Ocimum basilicum
Ocimum micranthum
Plant type: Culinary and healing herb
Sun exposure: Partial to full sun 
Soil preference: Loamy soil with compost mixed in
pH: 6.4

Submitted by Mary Loan


Basil is a culinary and healing herb with many varieties that grow well in the tropics, including sweet basil, cinnamon basil, dark opal basil, green or purple ruffles basil, holy (tulsi) basil, minimum basil, and licorice basil and tulsi varieties. All have a sweet, pungent, warm spicy aroma and flavor.


Ocimum basilicum is the classic sweet basil with broad soft green shiny leaves, Ocimum micranthum is the local basil that produces many small dull green leaves.  All basils have flowers which produce seeds.


Basil is a culinary and healing herb of the mint family, most are short-lived perennial plants that grow well with little care in the tropics.


Basil prefers loamy soil with compost mixed in, but adapts to a wide variety of soils, including rocky garden soil


How to grow: Direct seed or transplant.  Once local basil is established in your garden it will self-seed.

Basil can also be reliably propagated from cuttings from a mature plant that is placed in a jar of water until roots appear.  Be sure to water basil to ensure healthy growth, especially in the dry season.  Plants generally grow to be from one foot to 3 feet tall and can grow up to 3 feet across.  Basil is a good companion plant to grow with tomatoes.


Insect, animal and disease control: The pungent volatile oils in the basil plant act as an insect repellent.  If mealy bugs appear they may be washed off with a mild soapy water. Cutworms can be picked off the plants and placed in a jar of water.


To harvest: Pick leaves from the plant, pinch back the flowering tops to help keep your basil plants bushy.


Health benefits: Basil leaves can be picked, crushed and applied to help relieve the pain of insect bites.   Basil is a good source of vitamin K as well as iron, calcium, vitamins A and C, manganese, potassium and flavinoids.  A tea made from a handful of basil leaves steeped in 4 cups of boiled water until cooled is used to help relieve colds, nervous conditions and constipation.  Essential oil made from basil is useful to quell viruses.  A few drops added to bath water makes a soothing bath.  A basil seed from the tiny leafed basil dropped in the eye is said to help collect debris in the eye.  It is advised to leave the seed in the eye for about one hour, then flush it out with fresh clean water.  Holy or tulsi basil is used as a herbal adaptogen to calm anxiety and as an anti-depressant.


Recipe:  Basil is the main ingredient in pesto.  Here is a simple versatile recipe adapted from the Veggie Planet cookbook:


2 cloves garlic

½ cup any kind of nuts or sunflower seeds

½ tsp. Himalayan or sea salt

2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves (preferably a variety with wide shiny leaves)

¼ cup olive oil

a dash of cayenne pepper


Grind the garlic, nuts and salt in a food processor.

Add the basil leaves and process until minced.

With the machine running slowly pour in the olive oil until blended into a paste.

This recipe makes about 1 ½ cups of pesto.


I like to add a few drops of lemon juice and about ½ tsp grated lemon rind.

This recipe can be divided and stored in snack sized zip lock bags in freezer until ready for use.





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