The First Thing You Should Do with Potted Basil from the Grocery Store

updated May 22, 2020
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Potted grocery store basil on the kitchen table
Credit: Joe Lingeman

Ever walk by those little potted basil plants in the produce section … only to go pick up a plastic clamshell full of herbs instead? I get it. Maybe the potted version seems like something that will, for sure, die under your watch. Or maybe the price (usually around double that of the clamshell) is a bit of a deterrent? Or maybe the ready-to-use stuff just seems easier? Again, I get it. But I think you really should buy the potted version!

For one, the plant will stay fresher for longer. A few stems of basil will turn black and wilt-y surprisingly quickly in the fridge, but a small plant means you’ll have fresh basil for weeks on end. So even though it’ll cost you more money upfront, you’ll get far more usable basil this way. Also, basil is one of the easiest herbs to grow indoors. (It loves heat, so a sunny windowsill is the perfect place to store a small plant.)

Read more: The Easiest (Annual) Herb You Can Grow Indoors

Credit: Joe Lingeman

There’s just one thing you should do as soon as you get it home from the grocery store: Check to see if the basil plant needs water. Do this by poking your finger into the soil and checking for moisture. If the soil is quite dry, remove any wrapping from the pot and place it in the sink. Run water from the faucet directly on top of the soil at a gentle stream, making sure to soak the soil. Allowing the water to run assures that all of the soil will be moist and gives it the best chance at holding some water. Then, place the pot on a sunny windowsill or ledge. Be sure to place it on a small plate to catch any water that drains.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

As with most container plants, you’ll need to continue to water regularly (probably once every two or three days) and make sure to keep the soil just-moist. Do not let the soil dry out between waterings, and don’t overwater either — you don’t want it soaking wet, just damp. Aim to water your basil plants in the morning; the warmer they are, the happier they are. If you water them at night, their root system will cool down and stress out the plant.

One other key thing you can do right away with your grocery store basil starter? You can repot it! Often times, these small grocery store starts are actually multiple plants in one pot. To make space for the basil to grow and potentially increase your harvest, you can break apart the plant at the root ball, and repot the starts into multiple small containers. Use a pot that is at least four inches deep and fill the pots with enough potting soil so that it’s flush with the top. Put one or two basil plants in each pot. Trim any very long root systems to about three inches long and plant them into the potting soil, making sure you don’t cover too much of the stem. (Basil stems are delicate and will rot if planted too deeply.)

Which have you reached for more recently? A clamshell package of basil or the potted plant?