Question: How much should I prune basil? Will basil regrow after cutting? -Todd M.
Answer: Trimming or pruning your basil plant is necessary to keep it healthy, and as long as it is done properly, it will not prevent your plant from growing. The opposite is actually true—regular trimming and pruning helps keep your basil plant growing strong and helps it grow in a bushier, more compact shape.
Begin pruning basil plants once they’ve reached a height of six inches. Use clean hands or clean, sterilized scissors or gardening shears. Always pinch or cut cleanly through the stem, never ripping or tearing your plants, as tearing them can cause damage and put the plant at risk for disease. Harvest the leaves to use in the kitchen or elsewhere by making your cut a quarter of an inch above the node where a leaf meets the stem, about three inches from the base of the plant. Just don’t remove more than 30 percent of the plant’s foliage at a time, and don’t take the large leaves that grow at the base of the plant, removing instead from the newest sprouted areas. Those large leaves at the base are responsible for a large percentage of photosynthesis, the process the plant uses to get its energy, due to their larger surface area.
Also make sure to remove the flowers of your basil plant as soon as possible after they begin to form. If your plant is permitted to begin the flowering process, it will begin focusing all its energy on reproduction, first producing more flowers, then creating seeds, and eventually dying. Removing the flowers as soon as you see them will help encourage your plant to keep making the tasty leaves you use in the kitchen and also delay the end of its life cycle that the flowers signal.