Tulsi Plant (Ocimum tenuiflorum), also known as holy basil, is a species of basil used in India by Hindu religious ceremonies, its spicy and refreshing fragrance and tiny colorful flowers makes this a useful houseplant. Tulsi Plant grow 2 to 3 feet tall, have furry gray-green leaves and bloom in the summer, producing spikes of small pink flowers.
Other Names for Tulsi— Ajaka, Albahaca Santa, Bai Gkaprow, Baranda, Basilic Indien, Basilic Sacré, Basilic Sacré Pourpre, Basilic Saint, Brinda, Green Holy Basil, Hot Basil, Indian Basil, Kala Tulsi, Kemangen, Krishna Tulasi, Tulsa, Manjari, Ocimum sanctum, Ocimum tenuiflorum, Parnasa, Patrapuspha, Red Holy Basil, Sacred Basil, Sacred Purple Basil, Shyama Tulsi, Sri Tulasi, Suvasa Tulasi and Tulsi Patra.
Kinds of Tulsi Plants
Rama Tulsi Plant or Bright Tulsi is an advanced leaf variety and can be found in parts of China, Nepal, India, and southern South America.It is used to boost healthy digestion and has a milder flavor than other tulsi but stronger scent when the rama tulsi leaves are crushed.
Krishna Tulsi Plant or purple leaf Tulsi can be found in many parts of India, but this dark purple variety is harder to find than the greener. It is especially useful for treating respiratory infections, ear infections, and skin problems.It grows slower than other varieties, which may contribute to its spicy, pungent flavor and odor. Purple leaf basil is also less bitter and astringent than other tulsi.
Vana Tulsi Tulsi or Wild Forest holy basil is the most difficult variety to find, it grows around the foothills of the Himalayas. It is the tastiest and beneficial in all the tulsi. It has light green upper leaves and dark green lower leaves.
How to Sow Seeds
Sow seeds outdoors in late spring or early summer, when the temperature range around 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius). For an earlier start in spring, sow the seeds indoors in a greenhouse or on a sunny windowsill.
Place the tulsi seeds on top of the soil and tamp them for good soil to seed contact, cover the seeds with 1/4 inch layer of compost or soil. Water the seeds with a sprayer and place them where they receive part morning sun. Keep the soil constantly moist until the germination, which will take around 1-2 weeks.
When the seedlings have grown two or three sets of true leaves carefully transplant them into individual containers or outdoors, taking care not to disturb the roots.
Requirements of growing tulsi is similar to common basil
Tulsi grows well in loamy and fertile soil with good drainage, pH level around 6 to 7.5 is optimal.
Holy basil thrives in full sun but grows in partial shade too, at least four hours of sunlight a day is required.
Water the plant when top one inch of soil is dry. Do not water during rain. Reduce watering by the winter to prevent diseases.
Tulsi Plant Care
It is important to pinch tops of Tulsi plant when they are forming four or six pairs of leaves, this will make the plant grow bushier. Even the flower buds need to be removed when they appear. It grows more lush and full when seed production is prevented.
It is also important to remove the faded, wilted or discolored leaves to encourage the growth of new foliage. Regular removal of old leaves and flower buds keep the plant healthy.
Apply balanced liquid fertilizer once in every couple of weeks. Replacing top two inch layer of soil with compost every year or in six months is also beneficial.
Prune Tulsi as needed throughout the year to control its size and promote bushier and more compact growth. Remove no more than half of the growth of stem while pruning.
Move Tulsi plant indoors in the winter if you live below USDA zone 10, place the plant near a bright sunny window, where the temperature is kept above 50 F (10 C). Move the plant again outside after all the dangers of frost are passed.
Pests and Diseases
It is generally pests and diseases free. However, when grown in poor conditions it might be attacked by some common pests like mealy bugs, aphids, spider mites and sometimes whiteflies. For treating pests use organic pesticide or insecticidal soap.
How to Harvest Tulsi
Reap the aromatic leaves of your Tulsi plant throughout the growing season. Once your plant reaches 12 inches in height, take a pair of scissors and depending on your needs, cut large single leaf or cut whole branch.
Use fresh leaves on the same day you harvest because they fade quickly.
Store your Tulsi harvest for future use by drying out the leaves. Collect branches in a basket and place them on a dry place away from sunlight and toss the stem 2-3 times every day until leaves becomes crispy and collapses when you crush.
Tulsi (Holy basil) Benefits
Tulsi has antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, immune-stimulating and adaptogenic (stress removal) properties. It supports body’s natural defenses against germs, stress and disorders of various kinds.