Watering a basil plant isn’t a challenging experience but needs to be done properly to minimize the risk of serious damage. For example, it is possible to overwater your plant and cause root rot and even death. Thankfully, the guidelines below should give you the information that you need. Use each of the suggestions to keep your basil healthy and avoid long-term root rot problems.
How Much Water Does a Basil Plant Need?
Basil likes a moist atmosphere and typically needs at least one inch of water every week to grow properly and stay healthy. However, there are many factors that can affect how much you water your basil. Healthy basil should have somewhat droopy leaves that don’t show any signs of under or overwatering. Beyond that, soil type and density can also affect how often you water.
First, if you notice the leaves wilting (bending in on themselves), you should water the basil as soon as you can. Typically, this symptom will occur a few hours after it gets low on water and doesn’t mean your plant is dying. Plants are usually a bit harder than that, thankfully, and your basil won’t die when its leaves start wilting. However, it could start dying if you leave it free of water.
Water the plant slowly and with at least one inch or so of water to keep it healthy. If you’re watering indoors, pay attention to the holes at the bottom of the pot. If water starts coming out, you’ve watered a little too much. Your basil should be okay but use a little less water next time. That’s because your soil might be a little looser and let water pass through it more easily.
Typically, basil needs fairly rich soil that is well-aerated to thrive. You want to avoid sandy or clay-rich soil, as these aren’t incredibly compatible with basil. They won’t kill your plant, but you must be careful about how much water you add. As a result, you need to master the finger test to make sure you give your basil the appropriate amount of water when watering.
Stick your finger as far as you can into the soil around the base of the basil. Does it feel damp all the way down, or does it start to feel dry as you get deeper? Remember: wet soil on the surface doesn’t necessarily mean the plant’s roots have enough water. If it feels dry, add a little water slowly. If the water starts to pool on the surface, you need to aerate the soil around the plant’s roots.
Do You Water Basil From the Top Or Bottom?
Typically, most people will water basil from the top by pouring water from a can onto the soil around the plant. When you’re growing basil outdoors, you won’t have much choice but to water from the top unless you planted them in pots or suspended gardens. However, indoor basil may be watered from the bottom. If you’ve never heard of this method, it is a good idea to discuss it now before making any suggestions.
Bottom watering consists of placing water in the base of your planter and setting the pot on top of the base. This approach gets water to your basil’s roots more quickly and also minimizes the amount of water you need to use every week. After all, the water won’t have to absorb through many inches of soil and can go directly to the roots. Is this approach a good choice for basil?
Top watering is usually better than bottom watering for basil because basil’s roots tend to be sensitive to overwatering. Bottom watering may increase this risk by exposing the roots to a higher concentration of water. That said, a careful approach with more limited watering may work, but, in general, top watering is usually a safer bet. We’ll talk more about the dangers of overwatering below.
The video below is really helpful:
Should You Water Basil Every Day in Any Circumstance?
Basil does not generally need to be watered every day because it needs just one inch of water a week. Many people feel comfortable watering their basil no more than once a week to get great results. The only time you might need to water every day is during extremely warm seasons when rain is scarce, and the ground tends to dry out more quickly than normal.
For example, basil can wilt in temperatures between 90-100 degrees Fahrenheit and may dry out more quickly than normal. If your basil is experiencing these temperatures and is in direct sunlight, you should try to water your basil more often. Every day may still be a bit too much, though this will depend on how quickly the water dries up in the soil.
If you’re concerned, perform the finger test every day before you water your basil. If your finger comes up dry, water your plant and check against it the next day. You may find yourself watering your plant every day in these circumstances. Indoor plants rarely need this kind of attention, however, as you can easily move them to a cooler room and avoid drying them out as quickly in the sun.
Can You Over Water Basil?
Yes, overwatering basil is possible and is a real problem. Too much water will cause a variety of problems, most specifically a disease known as root rot. Root rot occurs when water wears away and destroys the roots of a plant, leaving it open to various infections. At its worst, root rot can kill your basil. As a result, it is important to know when you are overwatering this plant.
How Do I Know If My Basil is Overwatered?
Healthy basil naturally has a slightly droopy look that turns slightly inward at the leaves. This appearance indicates healthy and happy basil, but many amateur gardeners mistakenly believe that their plant is wilting. As a result, they may end up watering their basil and causing it more damage. Ironically, too much water may cause your basil to wilt, which could cause more watering.
Watching for a handful of specific symptoms may help to minimize your risk of a dead plant. First, your basil is likely to start wilting even though your soil is damp. This reaction indicates that your plant has too much water and is struggling. Do not water your plant at this point but, instead, follow the tips that we outlined below to get a better idea of what you need to do here.
Next, look for yellowed leaves that may fall off of your plant and a darker color along the stem’s surface. These problems indicate that your basil has far too much water and maybe in trouble. Even worse, you might notice bumps on the leaves (edema) or blisters and even see a green algae growth on the soil’s surface. You’ve definitely overwatered your basil if you notice these symptoms.
How Do You Save an Overwatered Basil Plant?
If you’ve overwatered your basil plant, you’ve potentially triggered its death. However, you can bring your basil back from the brink of destruction. Stop watering your plant if you’ve overwatered it, and let the water naturally dry out. Take your plant to a shadier place or put a shade over it if it’s outside. Overwatered plants are more prone to drying out dangerously because they cannot transport water easily in this state.
Now, try to loosen up the soil and the plant within the pot by tapping the pot or aerating the soil. Doing so helps to open up air pockets that may help the roots dry more quickly. If possible, you may want to tip your pot to pour out any extra water that may be lingering on the surface. This step is smart because it can help your plant get rid of the extra water more easily.
In severe cases, you may need to carefully remove the plant to expose its roots and the soil to the air. Don’t break apart the dirt around the roots just yet but slide the whole dirtball right out of the pot. Hold the plant with one hand while you perform this task and hold it upside down to help the water move more easily. Brush away old soil around the roots and break up the dirt around the roots. Toss out the old soil and put in fresh potting soil into which you can plant your basil.
Identify brown or rotting spots on your roots and carefully clip them away from the plant. Try to cut away only as much as is necessary, or you could seriously damage the plant. Your healthy roots should look white and firm: the rotting ones are soft and brown or black. Cutaway these unhealthy roots and save the healthy ones. Don’t worry: your plant will grow more roots to replace them.
Lastly, trim away any damaged or dying leaves and put your basil plant back into the newly potted soil. If you do this process soon enough, you could save your basil plant. If you notice that the plant looks fairly rotted and unlikely to be saved, just throw it away. Saving an outdoor basil plant follows a similar process but is rarer because most people underwater outdoor plants as opposed to overwatering.
How Do You Water Indoor Basil Plants?
First, know that you only have to water your basil plant once a week in most cases. Schedule a day where you water your basil with the one-inch mentioned earlier. However, you should also check your basil’s soil regularly throughout the week. If you find that the soil gets drier earlier than expected, you may need to water it more often. A little experimentation is necessary here.
You can either top or bottom water your plant, using a little less water than normal if you do use the bottom watering technique. Watch the linked video above to get a feel for how to handle the bottom watering process. There should be no water pooling on the surface, as this may indicate overwatering. Instead, the top should be damp and the rest of the soil to the roots about the same dampness.
Generally, basil needs relatively little fertilizer and does best with a general liquid option. No more than two feedings per month are necessary for basil. You may even need less if you start to notice any signs of root rot or general damage to your plant. As needed, make careful adjustments to your watering and feeding schedule: all basil plants have different reactions.
Hey, I’m Joey. I’ve been cooking since I was a little kid and love everything about it. You can find my writing about food, kitchen appliances (such as blenders) and much more. Thanks for stopping by!