Growing herbs can be immensely rewarding, as well as delicious. After all, seeing a garden full of thriving plants makes everyone happy. Herbs can be fussy, however, so you might find yourself asking questions like “why is my basil plant wilting, and what can I do about it?” Read on to learn why this might be happening, and what you can do to salvage it.
Why is my Basil Plant Wilting? What’s Wrong with It??
There could be a few different reasons why it’s keeling over. After all, there are over 150 basil species, and they can all be temperamental in different ways. Italian Genovese basil will look and taste quite different from Thai basil, but they’ll both behave in similar ways.
In the same vein, there are some common issues that basil plants tend to suffer from. Let’s take a look at a few of them to determine whether any of them might be the culprit.
It’s Not Getting Enough Water
The number one reason why basil plants wilt is because they’re dehydrated. These plants need constant moisture, and will flop over dramatically if they don’t get enough. Poke your finger into the soil to see whether it feels damp or not.
If it isn’t moist right down to your knuckle, it needs more water.
Try to get on a regular watering schedule so the soil never has a chance to dry out. Remember that if you’re growing it in a container, you’ll need to water it more often. This is because potting soil can compact quite easily. Give it a bit more aeration with added perlite, and add vermiculite or peat moss to retain moisture.
It’s Getting Too Much Water
Yeah, basil needs a lot of water in order to thrive, but too much water can make its roots rot. This tends to happen when you’ve planted basil in soil that doesn’t drain well. It’s a regular occurrence in containers, since soil tends to compact in them quite easily.
Don’t grow your basil in small pots! If you buy basil seedlings, transplant them into the ground or large planters as soon as possible.
Once again, use your finger to see how deeply and thoroughly water has saturated the soil. If you poke a finger in deeply and you feel wetness all the way down, you may be over-watering. Oh, and if you pull your finger out and it’s covered in wet mud, that’s WAY too much water. Let it dry out a little bit, then aim to water it every few days and you should be fine.
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Have you ever seen aphids before? They’re teensy little insects that suck the sap (and by extension, the life) out of plants. Normally they’re pale green or white, and semi-translucent, but they can be yellow or orange as well. Aphids tend to find many succulent herbs quite delicious, and can be very fond of basil.
If your plant is drooping badly, check the leaves and stem to see if these bugs are present. You can get rid of them with insecticidal soap, or by introducing ladybugs into your garden.
The Plant Needs More Sun
Basil needs a lot of sunshine in order to thrive properly. Quite often, basil plants that are sagging sadly are doing so because they aren’t getting enough sunshine.
If your basil is in a pot, make sure you move it to the sunniest spot available. Alternatively, if you’ve planted it right in the ground, watch it over the course of the day to see if it gets enough light. If it’s being shaded out by taller plants or trees, transplant it gently to another location.
Your Basil May Have a Fungal Disease
Are you familiar with fusarium wilt? It’s a soil-borne pathogen that affects the plant’s vascular (vein) system. In simplest terms, this disease breaks down the plant’s vein walls until it’s no longer able to support itself. It can’t draw nutrients, and its entire plant loses structural integrity.
It’s difficult to determine if this pathogen is present in soil without a lab test. You can, however, observe all the plants in that area to see if they’re exhibiting similar symptoms. If so, it’s likely that the soil is contaminated.
This pathogen can stay in the earth for a long time, and wreak havoc in the future as well. As a result, the only thing you can really do is burn the affected plants to keep the pathogen from spreading. Then dig out the soil from the entire area, and dispose of it in a designated treatment location. You can find this by contacting local landfill sites and asking their advice.
After that, treat the entire area with an organic fungicide, and don’t plant anything there for at least two years. Then and only then, fill in the area with new, clean soil.
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Give Your Basil Plants the Best Conditions Possible
If you want to grow strong, healthy basil plants, offer them ideal conditions to thrive in.
Make sure you plant them in large containers or deep beds so they have plenty of room to stretch out their roots. Make sure the soil is loose and well-draining, with a high concentration of perlite or lava rock, as well as vermiculite. This will provide aeration while also maintaining the moisture that basil needs so desperately.
Plant them in the sunniest spot possible, so they’ll get at least six hours of direct sunshine.
Additionally, try to grow locally cultivated species whenever possible. They’ll be ideally suited to your own growing environment, and thus will have the best chance of thriving. If you can’t find locally grown plants, try to find seeds from cultivars that grow in the same zone as you do. For example, French cultivars like Marseilles or Pistou are ideal for moderately temperate climates. In contrast, Tulsi (Indian sacred basil) and Mexican cultivars thrive in hot, zone 10+ gardens.
Whichever cultivar you choose, enjoy it! Basil is one of the most delicious, versatile plants around, and adds extra flavor and brightness to every dish.