Clove Basil (Ocimum gratissimum)


Clove basil or bush basil, Ocimum gratissimum, is a large-statured, potent, perennial basil. This plant grows up to eight feet tall and wide and lives for multiple years. The leaves, flowers and seeds are edible, and are used medicinally to aid in digestion, soothing sore throats and skin irritants, as well as to relieve headaches, fever and common sicknesses. The leaves are used as insect repellent and natural disinfectant, and are commonly made into an essential oil.

Clove Basil. Ocimum gratissimum Leaves and FlowersClove Basil. Ocimum gratissimum Leaves and flowers 2


Clove basil is usually propagated from woody cuttings. Seeds can be sown, but germination rate may be very low.

Clove Basil. Ocimum gratissimum Woody Stem

Woody trunk


This plant is pretty much carefree and will grow in light shade or full sun.


Leaves are used in soups and stews; they are typically added during cooking, and again at the end of preparation, lightly cooked for garnish. Hand tearing the leaves, instead of cutting with a knife, allows the leaves to retain their color and not turn brown. Leaves are also used as a tea. Flavor is almost exactly like the spice, clove.

Where to obtain planting materials

Ask a friend growing clove basil for some cuttings.

My Garden

I’m always on the lookout for new-to-me herbs, spices and vegetables. Clove basil came to me while visiting some friends’ farms on the northern end of the island. I get really excited when I find large, strong, and fast-growing plants to add to my repertoire. These plants play an important role in covering soils and aiding in complexity within ecosystems. At this point, I really enjoy mixing clove basil, coleus, cassava and Plectranthus barbatus together with trees in a nice perennial polyculture. All of these plants can be cut back at any point for mulching to feed the tree and all provide numerous beneficial activities. Multi-diverse, multi-strata systems follow nature as closely as possible; it seems logical to follow her example!

Clove basil grown with: cassava, sweet potato, taro, pigeon pea, sugarcane, roselle, coleus, ti, kava, turmeric, Plectranthus barbatus, banana, cocona, comfrey, edible hibiscus, Xanthosoma brasiliense, and kukui

Happy Gardening!

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