How to Bring Your Basil Plant Back to Life

Basil is an excellent herb to grow in your kitchen or garden and is known to be low-maintenance. It is an annual herb best known for its use in the Italian dish pesto and Thai, Indonesian, and Vietnamese cuisines. As long as your plants are healthy, they can be pruned and propagated regularly to provide a steady supply of fresh basil.

I’ve been growing basil for years and have always wondered why it dies so quickly. Wilting and browning from the bottom up are all symptoms of a severe problem. So, what should you do?

How Can I Revive a Dying Basil Plant?

Revive Basil Plant

I remember learning that basil is a simple herb to grow, so I was shocked to discover how many tiny details I had overlooked along the process.

Overwatering and underwatering are the two most prevalent causes of basil plant dying. Basil plants also wilt or die due to temperature stress, lighting issues, illness, or pests. Since basil plants are mainly annuals, each plant only survives for one growing season.

This article will review the most common reasons your Basil plant is dying. It will explain what to look for to identify the problem and how to revive your Basil plant.

1. Watering Problems

Overwatering is by far the most common cause of dying basil. When basil is overwatered or grown in poorly drained soil, the fungal disease can cause root decay and rot, also known as “damping off,” which eventually kills the plant.

Wilting leaves, darkening stems, and spongy, smelly roots are all signs of overwatering. Allowing the soil to dry out (but not bone-dry) between waterings is an effective strategy.

Buy a suitable planter with drainage holes, or mix some perlite into the soil to manage root rot and water drainage. Per volume of potting mix, I recommend one-third perlite.

Though less common among novice gardeners, underwatering can result in drooping, wilting, and stems drying out and turning darker in color. Basil plants can die from severe underwatering.

Basil underwatering is far easier to recover from than overwatering. You need to re-water the plant!

2. Fungal Infections

Soil-borne fungal diseases attach to basil root systems and cause root rot, turning the leaves yellow. Dig the plant up to examine the roots. If they are brown or slimy, your basil has root rot, and you should discard the plant and start over.

The fungal infection is the same thing that can happen if you have downy mildew. Small yellow angular spots appear on the upper leaves, while greyish mildew forms on the underside. As the leaves curl and wilt, they turn yellow, then brown. Remove any infected leaves and treat the remainder with an organic fungicide containing copper.

3. Lighting Conditions

When I started growing my basil plant, I overlooked the importance of lighting, and Basil plants need consistent light to grow and thrive.

So, if you’re growing basil indoors, make sure it gets enough sunlight. However, when I left my basil leaves too close to the window, they became crispy.

Keep an eye on the state of your basil and move it away from the window if the leaves appear to be getting too crispy from overexposure to sunlight.

Some of the most obvious signs that your basil plant is suffering from a lack of light include Stunted growth, Overly vibrant leaves, Yellowing, and increased leaf droppings.

4. Small Container

As the basil plant matures, its roots can become quite extensive, and the roots of potted basil plants will grow to a depth of at least six inches. As a result, as your basil plant grows larger and larger, it may be necessary to transplant it.

A small container may restrict the root development of the basil plant, contributing to the plant’s stunted growth later on. If roots begin to poke out of the drainage holes, the plant container becomes too small.

5. Too Much Fertilizer

Excessive fertilization or fertilization at the wrong time can easily cause dying basil in general. This will result in salt buildup, which will dry out the plant despite regular watering.

Plants do not absorb all of the mineral salt ions found in inorganic and synthetic fertilizers. Instead, they remain in the soil, where they slowly accumulate as fertilizer salts. More fertilizer increases soil salinity, which can kill plants.

Basil requires little fertilizer in general, especially just before the summer season. In the case of excessive fertilization, the best solution is to replace the soil with new soil. This will remove the fertilizer that has accumulated in the soil.

Another solution for salt buildup in basil and in any plant is to flush or leach the soil with running water.

6. Wood Rot

Root rot is a disease caused by bacteria and fungi with similar symptoms and a common cause. Anaerobic conditions in your basil plant’s soil weaken the roots and allow opportunistic organisms to attack their bases.

Root rot is often fatal, killing your basil plant, but early infection can sometimes be treated. Overwatering and root rot go hand in hand, so if you notice any of these symptoms, thoroughly inspect your plant.

Repotting your plant and removing all affected roots is critical, and you should water sparingly after repotting to allow the plant to recover.

7. Weather Fluctuations

Cold drafts are deadly for basil plants. As basil is a tropical plant, any cold snap will stress the plant, and this stress may result in translucent spots on the leaves. For outdoor plants, cover them with frost protection fabric in colder weather. For indoor plants, move out of cold drafts and into a sunnier spot. If this is still a problem, invest in grow lights.

8. Wilting 

Fusarium wilt is one of the most common diseases I’ve encountered while growing basil. My sweet basil plants, in particular, have suffered the most.

This is because some fungi interfere with the water-transporting channels in the stems of basil plants. As a result, the plant becomes dehydrated and frequently wilts.

Fusarium wilting is commonly characterized by root rot and darker stems.

Fusarium wilt is incurable and one of the most lethal diseases to a basil plant. As a result, I recommend removing the plant from the soil to avoid infecting other plants.

9. Garden Pests

Basil plants, especially those grown outdoors, can also die if too many pests eat away at the leaves and stems. Several garden pests will enjoy eating the basil plant leaves, such as slugs and aphids.

Since you will likely be harvesting the leaves once the basil plant matures, it’s vital that you leverage natural remedies, such as food-grade diatomaceous earth, to prevent the leaves from being laced with harmful toxins and chemicals.

Key Takeaways

  • A dying basil plant is usually caused by dry soil from underwatering, the pot being too small, and the soil drying out too quickly in the sun and in high temperatures. Basil requires consistently moist soil to avoid wilting, browning, and dying.
  • Overwatering is usually the cause of basil leaves turning yellow. The basil’s leaves become yellow and droop as a symptom of stress due to damp soil, which inhibits root respiration and lowers the roots’ capacity to absorb the water and nutrients the plant needs. Take the time to learn how much water your plant needs.
  • Fungus attacks can discolor stems or cause dark streaks or blotches, whereas bacteria attacks cause dark spots.
  • Place the dying basil in the shade to shield it from windy conditions, keep the soil moist but not saturated, and remove any brown leaves to help it recover. If the basil is wilting due to the drought, it should perk up and recover after a good watering.
  • A primary strategy is prevention. Purchase disease-free plants. When potting, repotting, or transplanting, use clean soil and pots.
  • Also, take your time to provide your indoor basil plants with the proper growing conditions, and inspect them frequently for any of the problems listed here.


Why Is My Basil Plant’s Stem Turning Brown?

Brown stems may indicate bacterial or fungal illnesses. If the stem is moist or squishy, your plant has a severe issue, and you must act quickly to save it.

Browning of the stem might indicate the beginning of woodiness if the basil plant is somewhat healthy. A woody stem will be rigid and less flexible than younger stems, and it is usual for older basil plants to have woody lower stems.

Will Basil Live a Long Time?

Most basil plant varieties, including those most frequently cultivated at home, are annuals, meaning they only last for one growing season. Typically, basil plants survive for six to nine months. So, if your plant appears to be dying, keep in mind that it may simply be reaching the end of its expected life.

Growing basil in your kitchen or garden can be a gratifying and enjoyable experience. The leaves are full of flavor and go well with various dishes.

If you’ve been struggling to keep your basil from dying too frequently, I hope you’ve figured out why it’s been happening.

Figuring out the right conditions for basil to grow and nurturing it will help it continue to produce tasty herbs.

You’ll be able to identify problems better and reverse any adverse effects once you know more about the possible causes of basil death.

The most effective way to keep your basil from deteriorating in the first place is to use preventative measures. I hope you feel more confident about the various methods for preventing basil from dying and keeping it healthy for longer.

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