African Blue basil flower bud
Flowers & Herbs, Garden of Eatin'

African Blue Basil

One of my favorite herbs sits in my perennial herb bed, and it’s a basil. Yep, a perennial basil. I never even knew such a thing existed until I found my African Blue at a nursery. It flowers almost year-round with pretty purple and lavender buds on long stems, but never bolts and tastes just as lovely as it looks and smells.

African Blue basil (Ocimum kilimandscharicum x basilicum “Dark Opal”) is a sterile hybrid of an East African camphor basil and a standard garden variety called Dark Opal. Propagated only through cuttings, African Blue survived an unusually cold and wet winter outside in my zone 10b (Sunset zone 24). Though its growth slowed for a couple months, it perked right up in spring and thrived into a wild-looking shrub.

Considered a tender perennial, it probably won’t live through frost, but overwinters well if grown in a container indoors. And since it just likes to grow and grow, it benefits from as large a container as you can give it.

African Blue basil is a perennial that flowers year-round

New foliage starts out a deep purple but as the leaves mature, they become bright green, retaining only flecks of purple. The herb has a strong, earthy basil flavor with a mellow camphor scent. If rosemary and clove had a basil baby, it would be African Blue.

African Blue basil leaves

African Blue basil flower stems

Since this breed of basil doesn’t go to seed, you can let the flowers bloom all they want, and the plant will still keep going strong for many years. If you want a bushier basil, you can pinch it off and use the edible flower stems as a soup or salad garnish… float them in a glass of iced tea… or sprinkle the buds over roasted potatoes.

Some of my blooms grow over 10 inches tall and I arrange them all over my house in fragrant mini bouquets.

African Blue basil flower arrangement

I have to admit that I’m rather spoiled now. I pick fresh basil in my garden year-round. It’s a kitchen gardener’s dream!

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  • Mel

    Hello, I know I am very late on this post, but I hope it still gets seen. My mum very kindly bought me my first African Blue basil in spring. Currently, the bees and I are enjoying eating it, but I am looking for some help on how to overwinter it. I live in the Netherlands, in zone 8. We usually have mild winters, but cannot guarantee a few frosts. Would it be better to overwinter it in the house, or in an unheated greenhouse? Finding info in my zone for this plant has not proven all that easy, so I hope that someone can advise me.

    • I’d overwinter it in the house, as I don’t know how warm an unheated greenhouse would be in the middle of winter. My own basil has never been subjected to temps under 45-50F, so I’d say that’s a safe range.

      • Mel

        Thank you. And in the house, it is less likely to be a bit neglected over winter. I’ll give it a go.

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  • Maileilani Sueko Kealoha

    I have one of these and it got huge! I think it split during a storm and I thought it was done for…but it just grew more stems and got even bigger. I love this plant because it attracts bees and butterflies.

    • I’ve rooted and planted so many cuttings of my basil all over my yard. It’s so beautiful and fragrant and yes, a huge bee attractant!

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  • Oliverden80219

    I now have a African basil plant that is now in its 7 Th year. The first fall it looked so wonderful and big I decided to dig it out of the garden and pot it into a 16 ceramic pot.It has continued to do very well and each spring it goes back out on the patio. Living in Denver I won’t take a chance of trying to leave it outside because of frost.

    • It’s very easy to root as well! I’ve taken several clippings from my first basil plant, and now have a bunch growing around my garden.

  • AshleyWaterstradt

    How awesome! I’m on the hunt here in Washington now! 

  • Amy@GreenGardenista

    Your Basil photos are beautiful. I’ve never heard of African Blue Basil before.  Where did you find it, or order the seeds from?

    • Thank you Amy! I found the basil at my local nursery in Los Angeles, but you can also order online from Richters in Canada. This basil produces sterile seed, so the only way to grow is through cuttings or starter plants.

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