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Overwatered Basil — Here’s What it Looks Like & What to Do

Overwatered Basil — Here’s What it Looks Like & What to Do

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Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is a species of herb that is a member of the Lamiaceae family.

Basil is a popular garnish and cooking ingredient and is often used in Italian and Asian cuisines. 

It also has many medicinal uses, both presently and historically. Essential oils made from Basil are thought to be high in antioxidants and have cancer-preventing qualities. 

A plant this versatile is a very important part of most herb gardens, so if you believe that you are overwatering your basil plant you will want to take action immediately. 

In this article, I’m going to tell you all about the symptoms of an overwatered basil plant, the factors that cause this, and tell you how to fix it.

So read on to find out more!


What does an overwatered basil look like?

Overwatered basil will have leaves that are pale and wilted. The roots may also feel mushy and rotten when touched. To fix this, adjust your watering schedule or repot your plant. Look out for other factors that can cause this, such as the wrong soil or pot or your plant not receiving enough sunlight.


Symptoms of an overwatered basil 

If you are overwatering your basil, symptoms will mostly appear in the foliage. In the early signs of overwatering, you may notice that the usually bright green leaves have become paler and will eventually begin to turn yellow and wilt downwards.

The soil will be very soggy and moist to touch, and you may even notice a foul smell coming from it.

If you were to push back some of the soil around where the root ball should be, you may also be able to visibly see and feel mushiness and rot on the roots. 

Consistently overwatering your basil can lead to root rot, which can be fatal to your plant.

It is therefore important that you can identify the factors that are causing your basil to become overwatered so that you know what action to take to fix this. 


Factors that cause an overwatered basil

You might think that the only cause of an overwatered plant is, well. giving it too much water. But, this isn’t entirely true. Many other factors can contribute to your plant suffering from overwatering, even if you are watering it as recommended. 


Wrong choice of soil

Basil plants have a preference for soil that has well-draining qualities. If the soil is too heavy, for example, if you use a clay-soil mix, then the water will not drain as quickly as needed, which can lead to the water getting stuck in the soil. 

I would even suggest adding horticultural sand or gravel into your soil, to ensure that your basil gets the maximum amount of drainage that it can.


Wrong choice of pot

If your pot doesn’t have adequate drainage holes, it will also contribute to the effects of overwatering. 

Basil plants need pots that have multiple drainage holes in the bottom so that any excess water can easily escape. 

Without this, the water will become clogged in the soil and will harbor around the roots, leaving your basil at risk of fungal diseases such as root rot.

When watering your basil, I would suggest placing a drip tray underneath and letting your basil sit in it for around 15-20 minutes after watering before you discard any excess water. 


Inadequate amount of sunlight

If your basil doesn’t get enough sunlight, this can contribute to overwatering, as the water won’t be able to evaporate at a quick enough rate. 

Often, the mistake that is made is plant owners thinking that their basil needs watering again because the topsoil has become dry or moist to touch when in reality the soil below this still has an adequate amount of moisture.

Basil plants need at least 6 hours of sunlight a day, which might mean that you need to move your plant around your garden or home to ensure that it gets an adequate amount of sunlight throughout the year. 

In the cooler seasons when there isn’t as much warmth, you should water your basil less frequently. 


Treating an overwatered basil



Extreme cases of overwatering in Basil are best treated by repotting the plant entirely. This is considered a last resort but should be done if your plant is experiencing major symptoms and has shown no signs of recovery. 

To repot your basil, start by removing your plant from the soil. The root ball is very fragile and should be handled with the utmost care to avoid your basil going into shock. 

Once you remove your basil from the soil, try and remove as much of the wet soil from the roots as possible. 

Although it might seem counterproductive, you should then rinse the roots under a steady stream of water, it is vital to remove all traces of the previous soil before replanting, in case any infection or disease such as root rot has been harboring in it.

Depending on the extent of the overwatering, it could be possible that some of the roots have become brown mushy. 

These should be removed with a sterile pruning tool to increase your plant’s chances of survival and prevent any from infection spreading to the rest of the plant.

Finally, you can repot your basil into fresh soil, in a thoroughly sterilized or new pot. 


Let the soil dry

Mild overwatering can be treated by simply letting the soil dry out. Move your plant into a warm area, but not into direct sunlight. 

Your basil mustn’t be watered again until the soil is completely dry. 

Often, gardeners make the mistake of watering their plant again once the topsoil is dry to touch, not taking into account the moisture that could still be in the soil below. 

Even if the top few inches of the soil are dry, the rest of the soil could still be wet. Ensure that you only water your basil again after the bottom soil has become moist, but no longer soggy.


Pruning the leaves

If your plant is suffering badly from foliage damage as a result of overwatering, the first course of action should be to prune off any of the affected leaves. 

Doing so will help to aid your basil in its recovery, as this will stop your plant from using vital energy and nutrients on the dying foliage.

Unlike other species of herbs, damaged basil leaves won’t recover from any sort of damage. Remove them with a clean pruning tool, cutting from the stems of the leaf but avoiding the main stems of your plant. 


Frequently Asked Questions about overwatered basil


What type of water is best for basil?

Basil plants aren’t too fussy when it comes to water type, and are not very pH sensitive. You should only use room temperature water when watering your basil plant, and never water that is too cold or too hot. 

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