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Genus Ocimum (Basil)

Ocimum Ocimum basilicum Photo/Illustration: Jennifer Benner
OH-sih-mum Common Name: Basil
The genus Ocimum is comprised of three dozen species of aromatic annuals and evergreen perennials and shrubs in the mint family grown for their scented, flavored leaves and, sometimes, for their colorful flowers. They are native to hot, dry areas of tropical Asia and Africa. Grow in an herb or vegetable garden, in containers, or in a border.
Noteworthy characteristics: Aromatic leaves and flowers, often with culinary uses.  
Care: Ocimum can be very susceptible to frost, so grow in a warm, sheltered site in full sun. It needs light, fertile, well-drained soil and ample water during dry periods. Pinch off flowers so that plants put their energy into leaf growth.
Propagation: Sow seeds where they are to grow in early summer, or in early spring indoors at 55°F.
Problems: Aphids may attack plants. Also susceptible to a number of bacterial and fungal leaf, stem, and root diseases.

Species, varieties and cultivars for genus Ocimum

Ocimum × citriodorum 'Pesto Perpetuo' Ocimum × citriodorum 'Pesto Perpetuo'
('Pesto Perpetuo' basil)
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

'Pesto Perpetuo' basil not only produces copious amounts of leaves for cooking but also is easy on the eye. It has creamy white variegated leaves and a columnar habit. It does not flower, so nothing will detract from the foliage.

Ocimum basilicum Ocimum basilicum
(Basil, Sweet basil)
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Hardiness Zones: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

The herb of kings combines superbly with roses. Different cultivars vary in leaf shape, scent, and color, from green to deep purple, with blue, white, burgundy, or pink flowers.