Basil is an ideal herb to grow in your kitchen or herb garden, and generally has a reputation for being easy to care for. They can be regularly pruned and propagated to ensure a continuous supply of fresh basil, as long as you can keep your plants healthy. If you’re having trouble and your basil dies, this article will help you identify the cause and fix your plant.
Why is my basil wilting? The two most common causes of basil dieback are overwatering and underwatering. Temperature stress, lighting problems, disease or pests are also common causes of basil wilting or death. Basil is typically an annual plant, so individual plants typically last only one growing season.
This article covers each of the common reasons why basil is dying. It will explain what to look for to identify the problem and show you how to fix your basil.
Basil requires consistently moist soil, but does not do well when its watering needs are not met. Too much water can be even more harmful than too little water. In fact, reviving a plant under water is usually much easier than reviving a plant with excess water.
Overwatering is the most common cause of basil death. Although basil likes constant access to water, its roots don’t do well in wet soil. In well-draining soil, there are many air spaces that allow air to circulate around the roots. In moist soils, water fills these voids and deprives the roots of oxygen, which is necessary for their survival.
Without oxygen, the roots stop working and the basil can’t get the water and nutrients it needs to survive. Very quickly your basil will wilt and if you don’t identify the problem quickly your basil may not survive.
Keep in mind that overwatering can occur from more than one regular watering. Anything that reduces aeration to the roots or causes the soil to remain moist will cause the same problem. Factors include;
- Sow in a container without drainage holes, or one in which drainage holes are inadequate.
- Use of soils with poor drainage.
- Plant basil in a large pot. It will take a long time for the soil to dry out, and the roots will be deprived of oxygen for a long time.
- Water your basil without checking the soil to see if it needs water.
What does overwatered basil look like?
Overwatered basil will initially develop paler yellowish leaves, often starting from the bottom leaves upwards. Wilting of the leaves soon follows, and you may notice an unpleasant odor in the soil. The soil will be moist, and if you take the plant out of the pot, the roots will be soft and brown or black.
How to help basil that has wilted from overwatering
If you catch a problem early, it’s best to stop watering and let the soil dry out. Make sure your plant is in the correct pot and soil. Once the soil is dry, you should continue watering, but check the plant every day or two, and only water when the soil surface is dry.
If your plant is severely wilting, or if the roots are smelly or soft, then you have root rot and the chances of the plant surviving are pretty low. Otherwise, you can promote plant health with soil vigor microbial inoculant if necessary.
This is perhaps the easiest problem to solve. If you forget to water your basil and the soil is dry, your plant will be very wilted and look very sad. You may see crispy brown leaves and some foliage, and the container will be a breeze to lift.
Fortunately, they often bounce back nicely, even when the basil appears to be wilting. Water the basil well to revive it. Place it in bright indirect light rather than full sun, and water your plant whenever the soil surface feels dry to the touch.
Once the plant has revived and grown new leaves, you can return it to direct sunlight and resume normal care.
Avoiding overwatering can be difficult, but developing the habit of checking your plants’ water needs every day or two is a good strategy to avoid it. Alternatively, you can use a self-watering container or even grow your basil in a smart pot to automate the care process.
Basil is not cold hardy and will generally suffer greatly if exposed to frost. Even temperatures below 10°C can stress the plant and cause it to wilt. Cooler temperatures can also increase the risk of overwatering due to reduced plant water needs and less evaporation.
If your basil is grown indoors, it will rarely have temperature problems unless your plant is placed next to a drafty window. When growing basil outdoors, make sure all risk of frost is gone before sowing the seeds or moving the plants outdoors.
Sometimes lighting issues can cause basil to die. If you’ve chosen basil for your herb garden, it’s easy to forget the importance of providing optimal lighting for your plant.
Basil prefers full sun, so south or west facing windows are ideal. Full sun is great for most of the year, but can be too much in the heat of summer, so watch out for scorched or crisp leaves, which should be a cue to move her away from the window.
If your basil is dying due to a lighting problem, low light is a much more likely cause. Low light will cause slow, leggy growth and new leaves will be smaller or stunted.
Your basil reacts to lower light by redistributing chlorophyll in the leaves to capture as much light as possible. Because of this, the leaves may look more vibrant than usual and you may think your plant is the picture of health.
However, prolonged low light will soon cause yellowing of the leaves, darkening of the lower leaves, leaf drop, and eventually cause the basil to wilt or wilt.
If you can’t provide direct sunlight to your basil, then bright indirect light is the best option. If you raise your hand into an area of bright indirect light, your hand should cast a shadow with a fuzzy edge. If there is no shade, the light is probably insufficient for your plant.
While there are several problematic diseases that can affect basil, there are only two that will cause basil to die or wilt.
Fusarium wilt is a group of soil-borne fungal diseases that affect many ornamental and edible plants. This fungal infection attacks the plant, blocking the vessels, preventing the transport of water and nutrients through the plant. Symptoms include stunted growth, wilting, yellowing of the leaves, fungal growth on stems and leaves, and stem rot.
If your plant has fusarium wilt, the only solution is to protect your basil with Trianum Shield by Novobac and be careful not to infect other plants. I would advise dumping out the soil and thoroughly sterilizing the container before growing anything else in it.
Promoting Plant Health with Soil Vigor Microbial Inoculant
Root rot is a disease caused by a collection of bacteria and fungi that cause similar symptoms and have a common cause. The anaerobic conditions in your basil soil weaken the roots and allow opportunistic organisms to attack the roots of your plant.
Root rot can often be devastating and cause the basil to die, but early infection can sometimes be cured. Root rot and overwatering go hand in hand, so if you notice any signs of this, check your plant thoroughly.
Repotting the plant and removing any affected roots is essential, and care must be taken to water conservatively after transplanting to give the plant a chance to recover.
Indoors, the biggest culprits are aphids and spider mites. Outdoors, slugs can also be a big problem and are a common cause of basil dieback. Aphids and spider mites are also sap-sucking pests.
You may notice spots on the leaves where the plant has been attacked, and a severe infestation will cause the plant to die from dehydration or infection by opportunistic diseases due to a weakened plant.
Spider mites are very small and can reproduce quickly. Look for threadlike cobwebs between the leaves and look closely at both sides of the leaves for insects. Aphids are larger and should be easy to spot.
There are numerous treatments that can control insect infestation.
Why is my basil stem turning brown?
Brown stems can be a sign of bacterial or fungal diseases. If the stem is wet or soft, then your plant is in big trouble and you need to take action quickly to save it.
If your basil is healthy, a brown stem may be a sign that it is becoming woody. A woody stem will be stiff and less flexible than younger stems. Older basil will usually develop woody lower stems.
How do I revive my basil?
The solution depends on the cause of the basil dieback. Before attempting to revive your plant, you should carefully examine your plant and its growing conditions.
Basil wilt from lack of water will usually recover quickly once you start watering properly, but it may be more difficult to revive your plant from other causes.
How long will Basilio live?
Most types of basil, including those most often grown around the home, are annuals and only live for one growing season. Basil usually lives between 6 and 9 months. So if your basil is dying, be aware that it may be the end of its normal life.
How to repair dying basil by propagating new plants
The good thing about growing basil is that it spreads very easily. You don’t have to worry about your basil dying when you can take a few cuttings and propagate them in soil or water.
Young basil leaves tend to have the best flavor, so it’s a good idea to propagate basil every few months so you always have a fresh supply of basil on your windowsill.