Keep your Basil alive: Common reasons basil is dying

Basil is one of those herbs you can add to almost anything and it fits well. But sometimes, no matter what you try, the plant just slowly wilts away, here I want to take a closer look at why this happens, how to prevent it and everything important to know about basil to make it thrive.

How do you keep Basil plants alive? First, make sure you give your plants enough water (daily) and sunlight (more than 6 hours of a day). Too much competition can weaken basil plants, use a big pot with nitrogen-rich and well-drained soil to make sure they get all the nutrients needed. If your plant is still wilting, check if you over-water your plant and look for any visible indications for diseases like Basil Downy Mildew or Root rot. Infected plants need to be removed otherwise improving the growing conditions might bring your wilting basil plant back to life.

Now, let’s start with a more detailed look at what basil plants need to grow well.


Know what Basil needs to grow:

Let’s first take a look at what basil requires to thrive if one of these conditions is not met, it’s not uncommon for the plant to die.

  • Temperature: Basil is a plant that really thrives in warm weather, it can’t be grown outside until temperatures rise beyond 55°F(13°C) and grow best in 70°F(21°C). Plants exposed to colder conditions will grow very slowly or die off.
  • Water: Basil needs lots of water, make sure to always keep the soil moist. It’s best to lightly water your basil plant every day. Make sure your plant is grown in well-drained soil, standing water will damage the plants’ roots, but more to this later.
  • Light: Basil loves light, and require full sun. If growing indoors use the south side of your house and make sure your plant has at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. Keep an eye on your plant if you keep it directly next to a window, sometimes this can cause scorches.
  • Pick your Basil: Picking is important to stimulate plant growth and thin out the plant so all the leaves have maximum sun exposure. Don’t be afraid to pick a little bit more than you usually use, you can freeze it for later use.
  • Fertilizer: Basil is a heavy feeder, requiring some fertilization from time to time. It’s important to use a fertilizer with a high nitrogen component, as Basil will need a lot of it to grow and produce healthy leaves.
  • Space: Growing too much Basil in a small pot will make the whole plant likely to die off, make sure you give your Basil plant enough space to expand. One great way to thin out your Basil plant is by making cuttings, which you can then use to make more Basil plants for yourself or to give away.
  • pH: Basil likes to grow in slightly acidic soil with a pH around 6-7.

Growing Basil in Pots will require some extra care but is not much different from growing it in a herb bed. Here are some important things to remember, when growing Basil in Pots.

Re-pot regularly: It doesn’t matter if you grow from seed or buy an established plant from a supermarket, it’s important to re-pot the plant so it can expand to its full width. The pot supermarket basil is delivered in is far too small for that many plants so make sure to thin out the weaker ones and give the rest a bigger pot, generally speaking, the bigger the better.

Give them enough sun: As mentioned before, Basil needs a lot of sunlight to grow. If you don’t have at least 6 hours of direct sunlight consider moving the pot around during the day or use a growing lamp.

Water daily: Plants in pots need in general more water, be sure to water the basil whenever it’s dry. During the hot months of the year, this can mean watering it twice a day.

Use well-drained soil: It’s important to give the water a chance to escape your pot, otherwise, the roots of the plant will rot. Emerged roots also can’t transport any oxygen, this will cause the plant to suffocate.


Storebought Basil

After taking a look at the requirements I also want to briefly touch the problems with store-bought basil plants.

Often overcrowded: Store-bought Basil has a lot of plants in a very small pot, if not re-potted the plants will usually be very weak, as they compete against each other. It’s important to thin out newly bought basil and give it a bit more space to establish a better root system.

Change Soil: Another important step when buying basil plants is to give them new soil. Often the soil that comes with them is very poor, with just enough fertilizer to get them to you house. Once the nutrients in the soil run out your basil plant will start to wilt.

Hard time adjusting: Basil plants are normally grown in a greenhouse, taking them out of those surrounding and placing them into your house forces them to adjust, which they not always survive. To work around this issue you can use a small growing box, or alternatively, grow your own basil from seeds.


What causes Basil to die

Fungal diseases: There are a couple of different fungal diseases Basil is prone to get. Let’s start by looking at Basil Downy Mildew, caused by a kind of water mold called Peronospora belbahrii, and is quite common in most states. BDM can be diagnosed by looking at the leaves, normally it shows itself with pale green-yellowish spots and later black points (sporangia) causing the leaves to turn brown. The infected leave will die after the fungus released its spores, killing of the plant in the process. So far there are very few resistant sweet basil plants, the only one I could find is Amazel, to reduce the chances of getting this disease keep your plants leaves dry, and avoid very humid warm conditions. Basil thrives in these situations but so does the fungus.

Plant infected by Basil Downy Mildew

Another Fungal disease often seen on Basil is Fusarium Wilt, which will cause very distinct black/brown stem cankers. Due to a lack of sap, the stem will wither and collapse, this kills young plants very rapidly. You can pretty much forget about this disease if you get a resistant basil plant, which becomes more and more common.

Root rot: This is another very common cause for wilting in basil plants, to prevent root rot use well-drained soil and let the plant absorb all the water before taking out the watering can. Root rot usually only develops when the plants are not properly watered. You can easily check for this disease by looking at the roots of your plant, soft brown roots indicate the presence of this fungus

Root rot killing of this small awa’ plant

Pests: Some pests also love basil plants these include: Japanese beetle, grasshoppers, cutworms, aphids, and slugs. Pest damage is very obvious and can be avoided by removing any pest by hand or preventing them to get close to your plant (for example with a water barrier).

Here, is a link to another website looking at another few less common diseases which basil might attract.


Additional Basil growing tips

I actually never use this indoor Basil plant, so it grew a little bit out of hand
  • Avoid flowering: Flowering will make your basil test very bitter, to avoid this simply prune back your plant regularly and cut away any flowers before they can mature.
  • How to make basil cuttings: Simply cut a Basil stem under the 3. branch of leaves (from the top). Remove the lower leaves and place your cutting in a cup with water under a growing light. Once the Roots are established start to pot them individually.
  • Destroy infested plants: Infested plants can cause the disease to spread, you need to remove any infected plants and the soil they grow in immediately.
  • Avoid buying basil plants: Another big point to reduce the chances of catching any disease is by using seeds instead of buying grown plants, growing from seed is pretty easy and will give you a much stronger and more resilient plant.


Related Questions

How do you revive a wilted basil plant? First, check if the soil is moist and if not give it some water, should the soil be moist, check if too much water is trapped in it. Next look for any diseases your plant might have if you can’t find any renew the soil and add some fertilizer to your plant. Pruning is another important step to help your plant recover.