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Why is My Basil Dying? What Should I Do?

Why is My Basil Dying? What Should I Do?

It is undeniably satisfying to have a thriving basil plant on hand when you want to pop a few leaves into a meal or drink.

Yet, for many, growing herbs can be tricky, especially when they show signs of distress and you’re unsure of the cause.

Fortunately, beautiful, fragrant basil is easy to grow and look after if you equip yourself with the knowledge to maintain its optimum health.


Why is my basil dying?

If a basil plant is dying, overwatering or underwatering generally cause this. Overwatering deprives the basil of the nutrients due to lack of oxygen to the roots, while underwatering causes wilting or crispy, dry leaves, and an inability to grow. Other factors that negatively impact a basil plant’s health include temperature shock, inadequate light, or disease.


Signs of Basil Dying from Overwatering

Although they enjoy consistent moisture, overwatering can be dangerous for basil plants, and when severe enough, can lead to root rot.

Signs that a basil plant is overwatered include paler or yellowing leaves from the base upwards, soggy soil, which may emit a displeasing smell, and soft black or brown roots.

Luckily, if caught early, your basil can make a full recovery.

When a basil plant is overwatered, air cannot circulate between the roots, and they become deprived of the oxygen needed to transport nutrients to the rest of the plant.

Reasons for this may include poorly draining soil, insufficient drainage holes in the pot, or prolonged standing in saucers of water. Before watering basil, always check the moisture level of the soil with your fingertip.

If a basil plant is dying due to overwatering, the best step to take is to avoid watering it for a day or three to let it dry out completely.

Place it in a spot that receives plenty of bright, indirect light and when watering resumes, make sure it is only once the top layer of soil is dry.

Ensure the soil is draining well and consider repotting or propagating the plant if it is not.


Signs of Basil Dying from Underwatering

If a basil plant starts to look sad and wilted, it may just be suffering from a bit of neglect. Underwatering is not good for basil but is it’s easily fixed.

You can diagnose underwatering by checking if the soil is dry with your fingertip and looking for dry, limp leaves or leaf drop.

Naturally, the best way to cure underwatering is to give your basil plant a dose of water. Keep the recovering plant in bright, indirect light until it starts to look rejuvenated and shows signs of new growth.

After that, it can be moved back into direct sunlight but should be checked every two or so days to make sure the soil remains moist.


Incorrect Temperature and Light Conditions for Basil

If watering practices are not the cause of your basil’s ill health, it may be worth it to look at the temperature and light levels in its growing environment.

Basil is heat-loving and grows best in temperatures of 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (27 to 32 degrees Celsius). It may succumb to temperature shock at anything below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius).

Together with this, basil needs an average of 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day to thrive.

Therefore, if a basil plant is dying, wilting, or simply not growing, it should be moved into a growing environment where it can thrive. The chances are that this is enough to reinvigorate the plant.


Causes Why My Basil Plant’s Diseased

Pests and diseases can critically endanger one’s basil if they are not prevented or dealt with immediately.

The problem pests to look out for on basil plants are spider mites and aphids, which can quite literally sap the life out of plants, causing dehydration, infection, and eventual death.

These critters are also somewhat unappealing if you use your basil for culinary purposes. Treatments such as organic pesticides or insecticidal soaps can help eradicate a pest problem.

Diseases like Fusarium Wilt and root rot can also potentially end the life of a basil plant.

Fusarium Wilt is a fungus identifiable by rotting stems, wilting leaves, and fungal deposits on the plant. It attacks a plant’s root system and blocks the flow of nutrients.

Root rot, which is the end game of overwatering, has similar symptoms.

Unfortunately, in both cases, it is better to get rid of the basil before the disease spreads to other plants. If healthy stems exist, consider propagating them to save what you can.


Frequently Asked Questions about Why My Basil’s Dying


How do I propagate basil?

Basil is easy and rewarding to propagate. Just take some healthy cuttings and place them in clear glass containers so that you can monitor growth. Change the water regularly until you see new roots growing (between two and four weeks) and then transplant cuttings into pots with well-draining soil.


How long does a basil plant live?

A basil plant’s life span is directly correlated with the care you give it. In ideal conditions and with proper care, basil plants can live for over two years, both indoors and outside.


Should basil be pruned?

Pruning encourages new growth and redistributes the plant’s energy reserves to keep it productive, so it’s definitely a yes with pruning your basil. This is especially necessary when transplanting basil, and a plant can be cut back by as much as half of its spread.



Basil is such an excellent plant to have around due to its beautiful scent and many uses.

It grows well and fast and, when giving a chance, can be very rewarding both in terms of its harvest and its easy propagation.

As with most things, the best cure for dying basil is prevention, so simply check your basil plants every few days to make sure they are happy and healthy.