Basil is a magnificent herb. It has great health benefits, a wonderful aroma, and is a popular herb in many cuisines.
Basil is a common herb to grow via traditional methods, and hydroponically. Its popularity not only derives from the fact it is a delicious herb, but it is very easy to grow, especially hydroponically.
In fact, growing basil hydroponically has vast advantages. It’s met with higher yields, and it’s excellent for urban use, i.e., if you lack garden space. Moreover, as it’s a controlled environment — you can grow basil and maintain an excellent standard of quality year-round.
We’re going to give you an overview of how to grow basil hydroponically. It’s easy to learn, but as each plant and species is different, it’s important to do thorough research before deep diving. With that said, let’s get to our herb!
Also Read: Best Vegetables To Grow Hydroponically
One of the best reasons to grow basil hydroponically is that all the varieties can be grown hydroponically.
There are over 150 varieties of basil, so you have a lot of choices, depending on your needs for the herb. A few common varieties of basil are Genovese basil, sweet basil, and lemon basil.
However, while you can grow any variety of basil hydroponically, some varieties are better suited to hydroponics.
The American Society for Horticultural Science states that cultivar selection has more impact on the yield, compared to what hydroponic system you decide to work with.
Now, when it comes to picking a hydroponic system — this could work in great favor of those who only use a particular type of system. Even so, it means that although you can use any variety of basil, you should be more specific about the variety.
The American Society of Horticulture Science states that sweet basil, lemon basil, and holy basil are likely to bring a bigger yield. Other contenders are Thai basil and bush basil.
Growing Hydroponic Basil From Seeds And Saplings
Now, your first step is going to be deciding how you’re going to grow your hydroponic basil.
Germinating seeds is a favorable option if you’re just starting out, and you want to cut down on expenses. It’s easy to germinate basil seeds, but you have to be careful with temperature accuracy.
Be sure to keep your temperature at 75 degrees Fahrenheit (23.89 °C). It typically takes 3 to 10 days to germinate.
If you have basil plants that are growing well, this is probably going to be the best and least expensive method for you.
Your saplings will form roots within about 7 days. Be sure to space your saplings around five to six inches apart. This ensures that the basil is receiving good airflow and can grow well.
If you’re completely new to hydroponics, you may want to buy your basil from the store.
This method is the quickest because you just have to place them into your hydroponic system. It will obviously add up in expenses, depending on how large your hydroponic system is.
One option would be to buy some basil plants and then take saplings from them.
The Best Hydroponic Systems For Basil
Another great aspect about growing basil hydroponically is that basil can pretty much grow in any hydroponic system, making it a versatile option.
In my opinion, the best hydroponic system for basil is Deep Water Culture (DWC) and Nutrient Film Technique (NFT).
With DWC, you place your basil into rafts. The rafts then float on top of the water, which should contain a nutrient solution. This system requires a water pump to circulate the water, and an air pump to keep the system aerated.
NFT has a simpler design. Your basil will be planted in slopped channels, while the water — again, mixed with a nutrient solution, will act as a reservoir.
Generally speaking, basil will grow hydroponically in whatever system, or layout you have. You just want to ensure that you can have easy access to your basil so that you can harvest and prune the plant regularly.
The Best Medium For Hydroponic Basil
Although your basil will grow in water, you still need a medium to provide physical support for the plants.
On average, the best medium to grow basil hydroponically is Rockwool blocks. Rockwool will usually come in cubes. We recommend these: Rockwool Starter Plugs. To learn more about using Rockwool for growing plants see our article here: Using Rockwool In Hydroponics
If you prefer, I also recommend lightweight expanded clay aggregate (LECA). In short, they are basically clay pebbles made from a kiln. It’s a very inexpensive hydroponic medium.
Generally speaking, LECA is a safer alternative for beginners, as Rockwool can be a respiratory, eye, and skin irritant. Rockwool is still safe to use, providing you have the right equipment to handle it.
Nutrients For Basil Hydroponics
A lot of beginner hydroponic growers use a general nutrient mix for all of their plants. This isn’t really recommended. Every plant has its own nutrient composition, therefore you need to think about plants on an individual basis.
Now, calcium and potassium are an integral part of growing basil hydroponically. They take up to 50% of the nutrients needed for growth. They are absolutely vital and have to be well maintained. Calcium and potassium have a direct link with the flavor and the oil of basil.
Nitrogen is also a critical component of basil’s nutrient composition. It’s crucial in yielding leaves, so you have to ensure that you maintain the levels. Magnesium works to yield essential oils, which add to the unique flavor and aroma of basil.
If you’re a beginner, and really cannot afford a specialized nutrient mix, get a mixture high in nitrogen and supplement the mixture with Cal-Mag. You will not yield the most fantastic bunch of basil, but it still should be of a decent quality.
See our guide to picking the best hydroponic nutrients
Light Conditions For Basil Hydroponics
Lastly, the lighting.
Hydroponic basil generally performs well with high light levels, but it does not require intense light.
Given that you only need basil in its vegetative stage, most hydroponic growers often just use T5 fluorescent lighting and have no need to switch lighting throughout the process.
However, you do need to ensure there is enough warmth and sunlight — so if any of those pose a problem i.e., in winter conditions, use an LED grow light.
Lastly, you need to ensure your plant gets between 14-16 hours of light each day, to encourage productive growth.
See our guide to picking the best hydroponic grow lights
PH level should be around 5.8 – 6.2. To measure PH we recommend the Bluelab pH Pen Pocket Tester. To see our other top picks and to learn more about PH meters and what to consider when buying one check out our full buying guide: Choosing The Best PH Meter & Tester
We hope you’ve found our article on how to grow basil hydroponically useful. Whether you’re just starting out in the world of hydroponics, or you’re a professional — you can successfully grow basil.
All it takes is getting the right hydroponic system, and ensuring that you meet all the requirements for that specific plant.