Types of basil: 14 aromatic & tasty basil varieties

Types of basil: 14 aromatic & tasty basil varieties

Basil has become one of the most popular culinary herbs. We will show you the wide range of basil varieties that you can plant in your own garden.

To a lot of people, basil (Ocimum basilicum) is just a light green plant with large, curved leaves that is often sold in supermarkets. Contrary to this belief, the amount of basil varieties is actually enormous, and they come in a lot of colours. In addition to the classic green-leaved basil, there are varieties such as red basil or black basil with dark red or green-white to green-purple leaf venation. The differences in smell and taste between the different types of basil depend on the individual composition of the plants’ essential oils. You might have heard that basil is always an annual plant – but this is not necessarily true. Some types of basil are perennial, but only if they are overwintered in frost-free conditions. In addition to basil being a great culinary herb, other species and hybrids of the genus Ocimum can be cultivated in the garden for ornamental purposes – for example, the holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum).

Popular basil varieties

In the following, we list some of the most popular types of basil and their characteristics:

  • ‘Albahaca basil’: grows up to 90 cm tall; aromatic basil variety with purple tinged leaves
  • ‘Chianti basil’: very aromatic variety; grows up to 50 cm tall; impressive intensely red leaves
  • ‘Cinnamon basil’: gentle cinnamon note; grows up to 30 cm tall; remarkable red-violet stems
  • ‘Italian Large Leaf basil’: peppery aroma; particularly large leaves; very vigorous
  • ‘Napoletano basil’: widely considered one of the best varieties; strongly curled, large green leaves; peppery aroma
  • ‘Pesto Perpetuo’: exotic white variegated leaves; grows up to 70 cm tall; perennial if overwintered properly
  • ‘Lemon basil’: characteristic lemon aroma; leaves are flat and smaller than those of traditional basil
  • ‘Thai basil’: basil variety with aniseed taste and smell; particularly popular in Asian cuisine

For a rich basil harvest, not only the type of basil matters, the right substrate is equally as important. Special potting soil for herbs will guarantee the best soil conditions for your basil plant.

Small basil varieties

Are you looking for a low-growing basil for your garden bed or are you somewhat tight on space and only have a windowsill available? A small, compactly growing basil plant is the perfect solution for you:

  • ‘Aristotle basil’: low and compact-growing basil variety; grows only about 20 cm in height; exudes an intense scent of cloves; fine and densely branched leaves
  • ‘Piccolino basil’: grows very compactly and has small leaves; maximum height about 30 cm

Perennial bush basil varieties

Basil does not have to be an annual plant. Several bush basil varieties are perennial if you can guarantee a frost-free hibernation. As the name suggests, bush basils grow in a compact bush form. Some of the varieties are hybrids of different Ocimum species:

  • ‘Greek basil’ (Ocimum basilicum var. minimum): compact and low growth; blooms rarely and very late in the year; long period of harvest; very robust; can even be grown as a small tree
  • ’Mammoth basil’ (Ocimum basilicum ‘Mammoth’): very vigorous growth with large leaves; tolerates light frosts
  • Ocimum canum x basilicum ‘Wild Purple’: shrubby growth and intensive purple-coloured foliage; grows up to 60 cm tall
  • ‘African blue basil’ (Ocimum kilimandscharicum × basilicum ‘Dark Opal’): robust and persistent; red-veined leaves; grows up to 100 cm tall

If you are interested in growing unusual basil varieties, you can learn how to cultivate red-leaved basil in this article.

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