Growing Basil & Rosemary In Malaysia

From my first time tinkering with rosemary back in 2008, I’ve definitely come a long way with growing herbs. Plenty of failure along the way and now over 4 years on since my last herbs planting post, I can tell you one thing. Both my basil and rosemary survived! BUT the rest of the herbs were not so lucky. The rosemary and basil are not the first generation because they’ve been propagated many times (especially basil).

As for the rest of the herbs like thyme, oregano, mint, dill, etc… I ain’t giving them up. Right now, I’m busy playing experimenting on growing fruit and vegetable from seeds. This will be on another post.

My tips on growing basil & rosemary successfully in Malaysia

Note: The basil I have is called sweet basil

Basil and rosemary love full sun. You can plant them all year round in Malaysia and they will thrive. They grow really slow in sheltered or shaded area. I water them once a day in the morning or if I forget/lazy, evening will do too. If the soil is really dry, I might water twice a day but mostly once a day is enough as both basil and rosemary are hardy plants. If it has been raining, I don’t water them. I use organic soil or organic compost soil. And I dig the soil (to loosen them) every 1-2 months for better air and water circulation. I rarely fertilize my basil and rosemary plants and when I do, I use organic fertilizer.

Diseases on basil and rosemary:
So far, there is only one type of bug that attacks my basil (but not all the time). It’s a black bug, minuscule in size and they usually hang out in group on the leaf. Usually in this case (lightly attacked), I first try using water to wash them away. If they persist or when the leaf can’t be saved anymore, I’ll nip the leaf so that it doesn’t affect other leaves. I don’t use pesticide/insecticide.

As for my rosemary plants, they’ve been attacked by a type of white powdery infection and root rot when I placed them in shaded area. For the white powdery problem, I will remove the affected leaf. I don’t encounter both problems anymore once they’re out in sunny spot.

Harvesting basil and rosemary:

Plump leaves. Okay maybe not as plump as store-bought basil but that’s because I rarely use fertilizer. πŸ˜›

I normally harvest basil leaves in large quantity (to make pesto) when they are at their plumpest stage. How to know when they are at their plumpest? I guess by experience. Other time, I’ll just pinch a couple of leaves (near the top or mid section of the plant) for making salad, drink or pizza.

Flowering Basil Plant
Flowers on basil.

I noticed that once the basil starts to flower for quite awhile, the leaves will start shrinking in size. I’m guessing the vitamins are being snatch up by the flowers. If you would like to harvest basil seeds (for future planting or making basil seeds drink), let the flowers mature. Or else, pinch the flowers off so that the leaves can continue grow larger. I usually identify the flowering stage as turning old stage. Because no matter how many times I pinches the flowers off, my basil leaves never grow larger like in its plumpest stage. So what I do is I start propagating and get rid of the old basil plant.

A healthy rosemary will have its leaf perks up. Yeah mine not that good-looking but hey at least they’ve live for over 4 years. πŸ™‚

For rosemary, they can be harvested anytime. I usually choose young stalks (at the top) for cooking and avoid thick hardy stalks. I guess the young stems are more aromatic. My rosemary plants never flower so no comment. Although they never flower, they grow into a big large bush. You can trim them from time to time. I had two rosemary plants in two large pots previously but I have uprooted one to plant a new rosemary plant (also by propagating).

Propagating basil and rosemary:
I propagate both basil and rosemary via cutting method. It’s a very easy method but I don’t always achieve 100% grow rate but I have more success in propagating basil than rosemary. In one year, I usually propagate basil by cuttings between 30-40 times. That’s because I have 5 pots of basil (hehehe); three in sunny spot and two in the shade. The ones at shaded area act as my guarantor. πŸ˜‰ But why do I need so many pots? Because one pot is not enough to make pesto and the growing rate is different for each plant. Ohh btw, each pot contains about 4-5 basil plants.

As for rosemary, I’ve only propagated about twice or thrice in the past four years. That’s because rosemary is a perennial herbs. They live very long. Actually so is basil but as I mentioned above, once basil starts to flower I will uproot them.

Once you cut the stalks of basil or rosemary, you can put them in the water and let them start rooting. I always skip this method (=lazy of waiting). I plant them straight in the soil. πŸ™‚

Here are my methods for propagating basil and rosemary:

Choose A Young Basil Stalk For Cutting Choose A Young Rosemary Stalk For Cutting
Choose a young basil or rosemary stalk for cutting.

Young Basil Stalk Young Rosemary Stalk
Although it says cutting, I don’t cut it with scissors. Just nip it simply with your fingers will do. They’re soft. πŸ˜‰ Remove leaves from the lower stem.

Plant Young Basil Stalk
Plant the stalk into the soil and pad on the soil around it so they are not loose.

Rosemary & Basil From Cuttings
Now, all you have to do is wait for nature to take its course. At first they may look limpy and lifeless. Rosemary cutting will take quite a while to get accustom to the new surrounding. It will be months before you start seeing real progress. As for basil, they also need time, but usually within 1-2 weeks, you will see progress.

Something extra:
Not sure if you know that basil is called selasih in Malay. When I found out it’s selasih, I went ah-ha! I’ve heard, seen and even drank biji selasih (basil seed) drink before. My favorite air bandung has biji selasih in it. To make basil seeds drink, the basil seeds need to be soaked in water and after a couple of minutes, you’ll see that it has developed a translucent outer skin just like chia seed. Add them to your drink then.

You can check out my previous herbs and gardening related posts here:
1. Potted Onions & Rosemary Plus Last Survival Plan For My Cupressus Goldcrest
2. Meet Missy Rosemary
3. Buying Herbs @ Sungai Buloh
4. Rosemary & Sweet Basil Not Looking Good
5. My Healthy Basil, Skinny & Fatty Roselle Plant
6. Herbs Hunting & Plants Photos @ Sungai Buloh
7. My Herbs & Roselle Plant

I hope you will find my basil and rosemary growing tips useful. What I’m hoping is that more Malaysians will start growing their own herbs. Do share with me your herbs planting know-hows.

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  • Reply foongpc June 10, 2016 at 12:00 am

    Thanks for sharing! This might come in handy if I decide to do some basil planting in future. LOL.

  • Reply Dawn June 10, 2016 at 9:54 pm

    Love rosemary plant…gives out a great scent passing by the plant….those were the days πŸ™‚

    I used to plant dill and it was also a disaster. Maybe I over watered it, too much sun or both.

    • Reply Che-Cheh June 10, 2016 at 11:00 pm

      Ahh dill, I still don’t have a clue why they died. Haha Same goes with thyme, oregano and mint.

  • Reply Lol September 19, 2016 at 5:57 pm

    Where do u get the Rosemary n basil in the first place ?

    • Reply Che-Cheh September 19, 2016 at 6:21 pm

      Hi LOL, I got it from Sungai Buloh. I’ve seen both potted plants selling at Jaya Grocer and Village Grocer too.

  • Reply may October 24, 2016 at 7:25 am

    hi, I am looking for sweet Basil seeds.. that is how I stumbled upon your page :).. would you know where I can get them? I am in kl. thank you

    • Reply Che-Cheh October 24, 2016 at 11:49 am

      Hi May, I don’t know the exact place to get sweet basil seeds but you can try Ace Hardware or visit KL’s plant nursery. Some nurseries sell packet seeds as well.

  • Reply Daniel Yeoh December 21, 2016 at 5:37 pm

    I would like to share my experience propagating Rosemary from cuttings. I bought a packet of Cameron Highlands Rosemary from Jaya Grocer last year. It was about RM2.50 per pack. I wanted to use all for my lamb but I decided to save a couple of stalks for decorations. Mom told me to plant the cuttings. She asked me to remove the lower leaves for about 2cm then dip the end in a jar of honey than put it in a glass of water overnight. The next day, I shove it in a pot of soil and since then I have never ever have to buy Rosemary again! Just to share. Hope it’ll helps!

    • Reply Che-Cheh December 21, 2016 at 5:55 pm

      Thanks for sharing your story Daniel. Honey eh? Hmm πŸ™‚

  • Reply Lorraine Romano January 22, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    Honey is an excellent alternative to propagating new plants. Works like rooting hormone. However, sometimes you may also find it attracts the ants/other bugs to start making nest in the soil and the cutting will die of infestation before rooting. Just sharing.

    • Reply Che-Cheh January 23, 2017 at 1:40 pm

      Hi Lorraine, thanks for the tip!

  • Reply Simon Tan November 4, 2017 at 6:25 am

    I am searching for Rosemary seeds or plant in Malaysia…where can I get it.

    • Reply Che-Cheh November 4, 2017 at 9:38 am

      Hi Simon, you can get rosemary seeds from online sites. For the plant, you can get it from plant nurseries (ask your gardening friends if they know one or try Sungai Buloh-I have a post about it) or supermarket (Jaya Grocer, Village Grocer). If you’re feeling adventurous, you can buy rosemary cuttings from supermarket (intended for cooking) and plant it in soil directly or put them in a glass of water for them to grow root. I usually put in soil directly.

      Good luck with your rosemary adventure!

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