Basil, ‘Cardinal’, Ocimum basilicum ‘Cardinal’
Cardinal basil is named for its reddish-purple flower clusters that resemble celosia. It also has attractive burgundy stems on plants that reach 24-30 inches tall. Harvest and use the green leaves as you would any other culinary basil.
We grow this one because it is substantially easier to grow and more carefree than the traditional Sweet Basil. It has withstood colder temperatures (down to near-freezing in our zone), hotter temperatures (in our SW Florida gardens) and a tremendous amount of just plain old abuse!
Cardinal doesn’t need to be pinched out to make it branch. It will send out new branches all by itself, although the occasional pinching out the topmost new growth makes it branch faster. If you fail to pinch out the flowering stems, you will be rewarded with quite a show when that wine-red cluster actually blooms. The wine-red part is not the blossom… you will get small blue to lavender flowers peeping out of each little cup on that pretty head. To call it striking is a gross understatement! And your amazement will continue when you taste the leaves below that lovely crest of color. Unlike ordinary basil which turns bitter and inedible if the flower stalks are left on the plant, Cardinal remains tasty and the leaves remain a good size.
If you forget to water Cardinal once in a while, it may wilt but it won’t be forced to bloom. A good soaking will get it back into shape quickly. We don’t recommend neglecting it completely but the occasional slip in your normally good gardening practices doesn’t trigger the end of your basil world.