How To Grow Hydroponic Basil (Ultimate Guide)


Hydroponic farming is an alternative agricultural practice where nutrient-rich water is used to cultivate plants instead of soil. Basil, or Ocimum Basilicum, is one of the most widely grown herbs worldwide and can be cultivated using traditional techniques. However, as a top candidate for hydroponic growing, basil is commonly grown indoors and outdoors using hydroponics systems.

Here’s how to grow hydroponic basil:

  1. Select a suitable species of basil.
  2. Lay the groundwork for the hydroponics system.
  3. Measure the conditions of the system.
  4. Start your basil seeds.
  5. Transplant your basil seedlings using the best technique.
  6. Maintain your hydroponic basil.
  7. Harvest the basil.

You can grow hydroponic basil from seeds or cuttings using various hydroponic techniques, including NFT and DWC hydroponics. Read on to learn more about the hydroponics technique used to grow basil, the proper way to harvest it, and tips for maintaining optimal hydroponic basil growth.

1. Select a Suitable Species of Basil

You can grow hydroponic basil from seeds following the same steps as any other hydroponic herb. The overall cultivation process is straightforward and can be used for small-scale hydroponics farms and larger systems.

However, you must carefully measure, control and maintain the conditions of the environment from start to cultivation.

Basil belongs to the mint family and is related to common culinary herbs like oregano, rosemary, and thyme. All species of basil will thrive in hydroponics systems, but the type you choose should be suitable for your needs. 

Mainly, you should ensure that the variety of hydroponic basil you cultivate has a reasonable growth rate and yield, high disease resistance, and good flavor.

You can grow Genovese basil, Italian large leaf basil, and various other species of basil from seeds in hydroponics. However, many hydroponics farmers favor Genovese, Italian large leaf, Asian, and Citrus basil for their systems.

2. Lay the Groundwork for the Hydroponics System

Starting a successful basil hydroponics system necessitates that all aspects of your farm be optimally designed. Consequently, getting your plant life off to a good start means more than just sowing the basil seeds. Before you even consider introducing basil seeds to the system, you will need to make sure you have laid the proper foundation.

The hydroponics system can consist of a tank, pipe, bowl, or bucket with some water in it. However, you can also get a fully functional hydroponics system like the SereneLife Smart Starter Kit Hydroponic Herb Garden (available on Amazon.com). This system is suitable for small-scale hydroponics and comes with LED lights and intelligent sensors to help you grow your basil efficiently. 

Your system must have enough essential minerals to keep your basil healthy and lay the proper foundation for the cultivation of hydroponic basil. Similarly, the environmental conditions of the system, pH, temperature, and dissolved oxygen levels must be perfect.

3. Measure the Conditions of the System

You may finally focus on starting your basil seeds once you have established appropriate conditions in the system. While the planting method is critical, ensuring favorable parameters for the system is also crucial for hydroponic basil to grow.

In general, it’s best to keep the system’s pH neutral (between 5.5 and 6.5). Basil’s nutritional requirements are simple since it’s only eaten when in a vegetative state. However, you’ll need a nitrogen-rich nutrition solution and a fertilizer with minerals like calcium and magnesium in small amounts.

The latter part of this article explains how to maintain your hydroponic basil and also discusses the appropriate levels at which your hydroponic basil system can thrive.

4. Start Your Basil Seeds

Like those cultivated in traditional farms, hydroponic seeds need sufficient water, dissolved oxygen, and the appropriate temperature to survive. When exposed to the best conditions, water and oxygen are absorbed via the seed coat, and the seed will then germinate into a plant.

There are two main ways to start hydroponic basil seeds:

  • Direct sowing
  • Starter plugs

Direct Sowing

Planting basil seeds directly in your system is known as direct sowing. Direct sowing is used for systems that have the hydroponic system already optimized for plant life. This approach works well in a media-based hydroponic system where the media, such as pebbles or sand, may assist seed growth.

To directly sow hydroponic basil, simply push them down into the top dry layer and allow them to sprout normally. Be sure to spread the basil seeds evenly over the grow medium.

Keep in mind, some seeds germinate better than others when sown directly, so it’s better to scatter several seeds in anticipation that some may fail. The main advantage of direct sowing is that it removes the need to transfer your plants onto a grow bed, reducing the chance of root damage.

Furthermore, because this approach necessitates vigorous seeding, disseminated seeds will require frequent trimming when they bud, and you must pluck off excess to avoid congestion. Overcrowded plants will be undernourished, and early malnutrition can make a plant weedy and sickly for the rest of its life, so be careful to remove surplus and wilted plants to offer plenty of space for your basil.

Starter Plugs

Growing your seeds in soil or a separate grow system before placing them in your hydroponics system is a great way to start your hydroponic basil. 

To use starter plugs, simply make a tiny hole in your hydroponic growth medium and carefully insert the seedling inside once the seeds have reached the desired size. Afterward, carefully close the plug with your grow material.

You can use stakes or ropes to protect the young basil plant from toppling over and hold it in the system until the roots emerge through the plug. While various starting plugs are available, compacted peat and paper towels are the most popular since they are inexpensive, clean, and simple to get.

5. Transplant Your Basil Seedlings Using the Best Technique

Transplanting seedlings into your hydroponic system is one of the best choices if you want to assure the success of your basil. Transplanting is the process of bringing germinated seedlings into your hydroponic system from a different location. This procedure is usually stress-free and may be completed in a few simple stages.

You can transplant your hydroponic basil seedlings using the following steps:

  1. Make space for the seedling you wish to transplant. This step entails creating adequate room for the seedling to maximize its chances of survival. Be sure to leave enough room for the seedling to grow without competing for nutrients.
  2. Rinse the seedling well. This step is optional; however, it’s a terrific technique to speed up the growth of your seedlings. Rinsing your plant in a solution of water and fertilizer considerably improves the development of the roots and the rest of the plant.
  3. Place the seedling in the growing medium. Place the seedling in the area you’ve created for it, taking care not to harm its roots throughout the transplanting process. Cover the roots with the medium around the crop after you’re satisfied with its placement.

The transplanting process can cause some damage to the roots of plants, and you can use rooting compounds to aid regrowth. Keep in mind, you cannot transplant basil that has been started by direct sowing.

The techniques used to grow hydroponic basil are media-based hydroponics, deep water culture (DWC), and nutrient film technique (NFT). These techniques are discussed in detail in the latter part of this article.

6. Maintain Your Hydroponic Basil

After you have planted your basil seeds, you still have to look after them. These plants require good care from the moment they’re started to the moment you’re ready to harvest them. Careful measurement, control, and maintenance of all the conditions in your farm, including pH, light, nutrient levels, and dissolved oxygen levels, are necessary to ensure your hydroponic basil thrives. 

7. Harvest the Basil

Basil starts growing about 7 to 10 days after planting; however, it takes three to four weeks to reach harvestable size. You can harvest the whole basil plant or part of the leaves when you harvest your hydroponic basil. The process of harvesting just the basil plant leaves is known as pruning.

Pruning hydroponic basil is a great way to avoid the need to restart the planting process after the herb has matured enough. In addition, regular pruning is a great way to help a hydroponic basil increase its total yields. In particular, cutting off the hydroponic basil’s top encourages it to develop horizontally rather than vertically, increasing shoot growth.

How To Grow Basil From Cuttings

Cuttings, also known as clonings, are a method of growing basil plants under hydroponics. It entails taking a slice from another growing basil plant and using it to seed your hydroponic system. Healthy stems of the plant with many leaf nodes are the best parts of the basil to remove.

Here are the steps required to grow hydroponic basil from cuttings:

  1. Select a suitable species of basil.
  2. Lay the groundwork for the hydroponics system.
  3. Measure the conditions of the system.
  4. Prepare the basil cutting.
  5. Transplant the basil.
  6. Maintain your hydroponic basil.
  7. Harvest the basil.

Growing hydroponic basil from cuttings is very similar to starting the plant from seeds, and the only difference is the cutting stage of the process.

How to Prepare the Basil Cutting for Hydroponics

You must set up the hydroponics system as highlighted in the preceding section before preparing your basil cutting for hydroponics. Verify that the level of essential minerals is high enough before placing the cutting into the system, as cuttings may not grow if the amount of nutrients is low.

The following are the steps to prepare basil cuttings for hydroponics:

  1. Prepare a nutrient solution for your basil cutting. Pour distilled water into a clean bucket or big basin to make the nutrient solution. Then add modest amounts of nutrients and monitor the solution’s pH, temperature, and vital parameters.
  2. Snip off new growth from a basil plant. Look for healthy stems with numerous leaves at nodes. You should snip 3 to 4 inches (7.62 to 10 centimeters) of the new stem midway between the node and the plant’s main stem.
  3. Remove the leaves from the cutting. Remove the lower leaves off the parent plant’s stem, leaving only the tiniest leaves at the top.
  4. Place the cutting in the nutrient solution for a week. Place the cutting in a sunny position, such as a windowsill or beneath an Ultraviolet lamp. A container filled with the prepared nutrient solution is sufficient to hold the cutting.
  5. Maintain the system until new roots start developing. To limit the possibility of rot and assault by microorganisms, you must replace the fertilizer solution regularly.
  6. Transplant the plant into your hydroponics farm. The cloned stem should be producing new roots after about a week, and you may transplant as usual.

Note: It’s best to take care when transplanting developed cuttings into hydroponic farms, as their roots can still get damaged during the process.

Suitable Types of Basil for Hydroponics

Basil is an excellent choice for hydroponics since it proliferates and responds well to this agricultural method. You can harvest hydroponic basil in just three weeks using a suitable hydroponics technique in the right circumstances. However, much like any other plant, certain species appear to do better under hydroponics, and some are faster-growing, while others are slower-growing.

The most commonly grown types of basil cultivated using hydroponics are:

  • Genovese basil: Genovese basil is distinguished by its cupped leaves and characteristic pesto flavor. It’s the most common culinary basil variety with hundreds of variants available.
  • Italian large leaf basil: Although Italian Large Leaf basil is noted for being prolific and bushy, it doesn’t reach as high as Genovese basil. Its thick, durable leaves have a lighter green color and a sweeter taste, making it ideal for meals that call for fresh basil.
  • Red and purple basil: These cultivars’ red and purple foliage are distinctive. The red leaves have ruffled leaves and proliferate, while purple leaves have the typical Genovese leaf form.
  • Asian basil: This is also known as Thai basil and has hotter flavors than regular basil. The leaves are prominent, the plants grow very tall, and most of them multiply fast.
  • Citrus basil: The flavor and scent of these cultivars are somewhat lemony. The hue of their leaves is a silvery green.

Experienced and amateur hydroponic farmers mainly prefer the Genovese basil and Italian large leaf basil species because they are fast-growing and easy to manage.

Genovese basil, Italian large leaf basil, Purple basil, and Asian basil

Hydroponic Techniques Used To Grow Basil

The nutrient film technique (NFT), deep water culture (DWC), and media-based technique are among the most prevalent methods used to develop hydroponic Basil. Basil may be grown using practically any hydroponics technique as long as there is adequate water flow and no possibility of water stagnation.

The following are the most common hydroponic techniques you can use to grow basil:

  • Media-based hydroponics
  • Deep water culture (DWC)
  • Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)

However, many hydroponic farmers use media-based hydroponics for small-scale hydroponic basil farms and prefer the deep water culture (DWC) technique for larger systems.

Media-Based Hydroponics

Basil plants may also be grown in media-based hydroponics systems in containers filled with a growing medium that nourishes their roots. Water is pumped from a tank or another source to flood the grow beds and provide nutrients to the plants regularly. If you don’t want to use a pump, you can manually add water to the system, instead.

The medium serves as a biological and mechanical filter for the water used in hydroponics while also supporting the plants. You may use this approach to cultivate plants with deep roots, such as vegetables, fruits, flowering plants, and root crops. The plants are typically placed vertically above the tank to reduce space.

The media bed method is perfect for beginners and backyard gardeners. It’s inexpensive, simple to construct, and works well for small-scale farms. Plus, it doesn’t require additional filtering.

Deep Water Culture

Basil roots are suspended in nutrient-rich, aerated water utilizing floating rafts with holes in the deep water culture method, also known as the raft or float method. This method is widely used in large-scale hydroponics systems with a significant agricultural area. 

Plants are grown in materials like rock wool before being placed in pots that fit into holes drilled into a floating polystyrene raft.

Polystyrene rafts are commonly utilized in deep water culture hydroponics. Polystyrene insulates the water and inhibits light, preventing algae growth. An air pump aerates the water to ensure the roots of the plants have enough oxygen to assimilate the nutrients.

Since the technique uses more water, the deep water culture system is the most stable hydroponic farming method for plants, as it decreases the danger of water shortages. Furthermore, a raft may support plants with a more extensive root zone than the nutrient film approach (NFT).

Other benefits include the ease with which basil plants may be harvested and the rafts’ reusability. Commercial firms widely use this approach because of the large grow beds and additional filtration. On the other hand, the technology is easy to scale and ideal for large-scale, high-yield operations.

Nutrient Film Technique (NFT)

Basil plants can be grown in long canals constructed of PVC pipes using the nutrient film method (NFT). The roots of the plant dangle from the holes and into channels, receiving nutrients from the surrounding water. At all times, a thin layer of water runs along the canal, transporting nutrients and oxygen.

In this method, plants with a bit of root mass that don’t require assistance to grow –such as basil and other leafy greens – can flourish. Comparatively, larger fruiting plants may be too heavy for the canal, and their roots may obstruct it.

Nutrient films are appropriate for compact spaces and may be put vertically or horizontally. Due to the material’s longevity, the canal utilized in the nutrient film method is commonly PVC.

How To Maintain Optimal Basil Growth Using Hydroponics

Maintaining a hydroponics system is an integral part of the hydroponic basil farming process. You must check and control essential conditions in the system’s water as often as possible to ensure the system’s environment is at optimal levels. If the basil is to thrive, your hydroponics system must always be suitable enough for the plant to live.

You can maintain basil grown using hydroponics by measuring and controlling the following conditions:

  • Water temperature: Keep hydroponic basil at a temperature of 65 to 75°F (18 to 24°C) throughout the growing phase by insulating or heating the system as needed. You can measure the water temperature with a thermometer.
  • pH: You must keep the pH level of your system at values of 5.5 to 6.5 to help the plants in the farm thrive. Using pH meters like the Extech PH100 ExStik pH Waterproof Meter (available on Amazon.com) can help to measure the system’s pH, which can be easily read from the LED display screen.
  • Light: Your plants do not require a lot of light and can grow under ordinary fluorescent lamps, while LED lighting is more efficient and cost-effective. Provide 12 to 14 hours of quality light to your basil plants every day.
  • Water quality: The leaves of a basil plant can turn brown and curl downward due to inadequate water levels or poor water quality. Be sure to check on your water quality as often as possible.
  • Dissolved oxygen levels: Air pumps like the VIVOSUN 317-1750GPH Commercial Air Pump and air stones like the VIVOSUN Air Stone (both available on Amazon.com) can help to improve aeration in hydroponics. These air pumps and stones are recommended to help verify that your hydroponics system has sufficient amounts of dissolved oxygen and help your basil to grow well.
  • Humidity: It is worth noting that basil needs a lot of moisture (40 to 60%). To keep your plant’s leaves from withering, you may need to sprinkle them with some water a few times every day.
  • Space: Plants should be spaced 9 to 12 inches (23 to 30 centimeters) apart, thinning and trimming as needed. This practice ensures you provide them with plenty of space to stretch out.

Key Takeaways

You can grow hydroponic basil from seeds or cuttings. Both methods are very similar, and you can use whichever is suitable for your needs. Hydroponic basil grown from seeds can also be started by direct sowing or using starter plugs, and all species of basil are ideal for hydroponics.

The hydroponics techniques used to grow basil include media-based hydroponics, deep water culture (DWC), and nutrient film technique (NFT). You must maintain the conditions in your hydroponics farm by measuring and controlling all the requirements to enable your hydroponic basil to thrive.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of TheGrowingLeaf.com, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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