Basil Plant Wilting? (Solutions That Actually Work)

  • Date: June 22, 2022
  • Time to read: 12 min.

Basil – you’ve probably eaten it in a meal at some point without realizing it. It’s an attractive plant, tastes great, and is a popular choice for houseplants. The problem is, basil can wilt pretty easily. This can be from a number of things, including excessive heat, too much or too little watering, or diseases. 

If you have a basil plant, and you’ve noticed that it wilts more often than it should – we’re glad you’re here! In this post, you’re going to learn all about why your basil might be wilting, and what you can do to help. 

Basil Plant Wilting (Solutions That Actually Work)
Basil Plant Wilting? (Solutions That Actually Work)

Some of the issues we’re going to look at are pretty common, while others are probably less known. So, if you want to give your plant the best chance possible, read on. You’re bound to find something useful in this post.

Why Does My Basil Plant Keep Wilting?

Before we get into why your basil plant might be wilting, let’s briefly go over what wilting actually means. The term is used primarily to describe plants, flowers, or leaves, when they become limp. No doubt, you will have noticed that a lot of plants look super droopy on a very hot day – that’s wilting! 

About Basil Plants

There are a few important things to know and understand about basil plants before we can understand why they might be wilting. We’ll break down some important information below, so you can refer back to it easily when you’re done reading the article.

  • Soil preference – does well in rich soil with compost. The pH should be between 6.0 and 7.0 to get a healthy basil plant.
  • Sun / shade preference – does well getting full fun for at least 6 hours every day. Partial shade is acceptable, especially if you live in a very hot and dry area.
  • Fertilizer preference – fertilizer for basil should contain phosphate, potassium, and nitrogen. A 12-12-12 or 10-10-10 formula is ideal for these plants.
  • Watering preference – these plants prefer their soil to remain moist, so they should be watered weekly.
  • Repotting preference – after the initial transplant after purchase, a basil plant does not need to be repotted as they are typically used up before then.

The Causes of a Wilting Basil Plant

Wilting can happen for a number of reasons. Thankfully, every reason has a solution, so you don’t need to worry too much! As long as you take action to remedy the situation as soon as you know what’s going on, you should be able to save your plant.

You Aren’t Watering Your Plant Often Enough

Why this is an issue: Basil plants need a lot of water in order to be healthy, when they don’t get enough, the leaves will quickly start to wilt and the plant will deteriorate. 

Basil plants typically have a lot of large leaves and soft, rather than woody, stems. These leaves need a lot of water in order to thrive, and you will quickly notice when you aren’t giving them that.

Even if a plant is neglected for a short time, you will know. This is especially the case if you live in a hot area. 

When the soil in the plant pot has dried out too much, you can be sure that the plant isn’t getting the water it needs. If you notice that this is the case for your plant, give it a generous soaking of water.

You don’t need to be stingy with this – as long as the excess water is able to leave the pot, you can water until you notice water dripping or leaving from the bottom of the pot. 

If you’re worried about your basil wilting in the heat of summer, don’t worry! The best thing you can do is place it in a shaded area around noon, or the hottest time of day.

This will allow the plant to recover from the temperatures. When it looks fully recovered, feel free to put it back into its sunny spot, but water it frequently to stop it from happening again.

The best thing to do is: Add some mulch around the plant’s base to help it retain a little more moisture. This will also give the plant vital nutrients. Be sure to water your plant frequently – at least once a week. 

When you should notice an improvement: You should notice your plant is fully recovered after around two days if the issue was due to lack of watering.

Your Plant is Getting Too Much Moisture

Why this is an issue: When any plant gets too much water, it becomes susceptible to root rot, which leads to the plant wilting.

Overwatering a plant that doesn’t have good drainage will result in root rot, which can kill plants. While these plants like to have soil that is always slightly moist, the soil should never feel soggy. If it does, you should double-check that there are draining holes at the bottom of the pot. 

Having a watering schedule can be helpful if you are prone to overwatering (or under watering) your plants. Basil typically likes to get a good soak weekly, but this can change in the summer and winter. Because of moisture in the air during winter, you may need to wait longer between waterings to prevent too much liquid from destroying the plant.

The best thing to do is: Ensure that your basil is planted in well-draining soil, and make sure there is at least one draining hole at the bottom of the pot. Refrain from watering the plant for 1-3 weeks, depending on severity, to allow the soil to dry out.

When you should notice an improvement: one or two weeks, depending on severity

The Plant Pot is Too Small

Why this is an issue: If pots are too small, the water will dry out too quickly, which will result in the basil wilting. Larger pots allow the plant to retain more moisture.

We already know that too much or too little moisture in soil can quickly lead to basil wilting. In this case, when basil is in a pot that is too small, the soil tends to dry out a lot quicker, leading to the plant drooping. When you have a basil plant, it should be planted in a plant pot that is around 12 inches across. 

The pot material is also important in this case. Terracotta is a great option for these plants. Why? Because terracotta doesn’t heat up like metal or plastic does! When a plant pot heats up too much, it encourages water to evaporate, which is exactly what basil plants don’t want.

Keep your basil in a large terracotta plant pot, and be sure to water it every week to get a super healthy plant.

The best thing to do is: Repot your basil into a pot that is larger, but not too large. If a pot is too large, then there may be too much water, which will lead to root rot.

When you should notice an improvement: an improvement should be seen within a week of repotting, though this might depend on how well the repotting process went, and how the plant reacted to it. 

Your Plant is Wilting After it Flowered

Why this is an issue: This is only an issue if you intend to use your basil plant for cooking.

There’s nothing wrong with your basil plant wilting after it has flowered. When your basil flowers, it attracts bees and smells great, which is great, unless you want to use the leaves for cooking purposes. After a basil plant has finished flowering, it will stop producing new leaves, or go to “seed”.

If you have a basil plant that will last more than a season, you can prevent it from flowering by pruning it regularly. Again, there’s nothing to be worried about if you noticed that your plant did flower and is now wilting – it’s a natural process. You can prevent it from happening, if you wish to, though. 

The best thing to do is: If you would like to continue to use your plant for cooking, you need to prune it frequently. Do this by cutting off top leaves to allow the lower leaves to receive more light. This will prevent it from seeding.

When you should notice an improvement: If you regularly prune your basil, you should not notice any wilting happening on account of it flowering. If wilting does occur, it will be due to another issue listed in this post.

Severe Temperature Fluctuations

Why this is an issue: Temperature fluctuations will cause the plant to experience stress and droop.

Basil is sensitive to temperature changes, even if the tip isn’t very severe. If the plant has been enjoying mild temperatures for a number of weeks, then there’s a cold snap, it is likely to wilt. This is because the plant goes through stress with the temperature change, which can lead to leaves curling or wilting.

Temperatures don’t need to dip below freezing for your basil to feel the effects. In fact, even moving your plant from an indoor location to an outdoor one can trigger a stress response, no matter the time of year.

If you notice your basil being negatively affected by the change in temperature, prune the browning, curling, or wilting leaves as soon as possible.

The best thing to do is: If you’ve noticed that your basil is wilting or has curling leaves after a dip in temperatures, prune it. Get rid of all the unhealthy leaves, and promote new growth by cutting them off. Pruning is an important part of keeping many plants healthy, and basil is no different.

When you should notice an improvement: it may take 1-2 weeks for the plant to look like itself again and new leaves to fill it out.

The Plant Was Recently Repotted or Moved

Basil Plant Wilting
Basil Plant Wilting? (Solutions That Actually Work)

Why this is an issue: Wilting might be due to the change in temperature (as mentioned above), which is often associated with transplant shock.

If you recently bought your basil from a gardening center or supermarket and planted it, it probably didn’t go as expected. Why? In garden centers and supermarkets, temperatures are typically regulated pretty well.

The plant is used to that temperature, so when you plant it in your own garden, which likely doesn’t regulate temperature, it gets stressed.

Changes in humidity, frequency of water, and of course temperature, all contribute to this. It’s normal, but there are things you can do to ensure the plant has a good chance of thriving.

You should ensure that it is planted in full sun, has well draining soil, gets enough water, and is protected from the elements.

This is because these are the conditions the plant would have lived in while in the garden center. When you can replicate that, your basil should thrive.

The best thing to do is: Replicate the conditions that plant was in when it was in the garden center or supermarket – plenty of sun, well-draining soil, plenty of water, and protection from the elements.

When you should notice an improvement: 1-2 weeks is a reasonable amount of time to expect your plant to perk up once these changes are implemented.

Temperature Are Too High

Why this is an issue: When temperatures are high, more water is needed for the plant to thrive. This is often paired with the plant not getting enough water.

Basil plants do well in high temperatures, they do come from tropical regions of South East Asia and Africa, after all. However, this is only the case when their soil remains moist at all times.

If their soil dries out while experiencing high temperatures, they will wilt very quickly. The stress of not having access to water will cause leaves and stems to wilt in a matter of hours.

When this is the case, you should make use of mulch and add a layer around the base of the plant. This will help keep the plant moist, but also cool. Be sure to water it more often when the temperatures soar, too. In the summer months, you might need to water your basil plants several times a week, depending on where you live. 

If you live in a place with very hot summers, you should always keep a close eye on your basil (and all other plants, too). When you notice signs that they are wilting, or the soil is visibly dry, give them a good soak. The best time to water your plants would be in the morning, so that they are prepared for the heats that they will experience come midday.

The best thing to do is: Ensure plants are always well watered at all times, but their soil must not be soggy. If the soil looks dry, water the plant and allow the excess to drain. Do some premeditated watering to avoid your basil from wilting in the heat in the first place.

When you should notice an improvement: If your basil plant is wilting from heat, watering them should yield visible results within the hour.

The Plant Hasn’t Been Pruned in a While

Why this is an issue: Basil plants can begin to wilt under their own weight after not being pruned. This can put strain on the plant to get nutrients everywhere they need to go.

Since basil typically grows pretty quickly, it also requires constant pruning. This is usually pretty easy, because most people have basil so that they can cook with the leaves. All you need to do to prune basil is cut off leaves (and hopefully use them), and the plant should always look healthy. 

Growth can happen especially quickly if you are fertilizing the plant when it is required. When this happens, the plant can actually begin to suffer from the weight of itself. Since there are no woody stems to keep it upright, the soft stems become weak, which puts the whole plant at risk. 

Prune the top leaves from the plant as and when you want to cook with it. If you aren’t using as much basil as you once did, you still need to keep up with the pruning. 

The best thing to do is: Regularly prune your basil. Simply cut off leaves when you want to use them in cooking. If you do not prune your plant for some time and notice wilting, get rid of all leaves that are beginning to droop.

When you should notice an improvement: in a maximum of two weeks, you should notice a tremendous improvement in your basil plant.

To Summarize

As a quick summary, we will briefly go over the eight reasons why your basil might be wilting, and how you can remedy the situation. Let’s take a look at it all below:

  • Not enough water – without enough water to sustain its large leaves, basil plants will quickly begin to wilt. Give them a generous soak of water to remedy the issue. The plant should perk up within the hour.
  • Too much water – too much water can cause root rot, which can kill the plant. Allow the soil to dry out by waiting before watering it again. Make sure the plant is in well-draining soil and there are drainage holes at the bottom of the pot to allow excess water to escape. In severe instances, you may need to re-pot the basil. You should notice the plant looking better in one or two weeks.
  • Plant pot is too small – small pots cause water to be soaked up too quickly. Move the basil to a larger, 12 inch pot and ensure it is watered regularly. You should notice a positive difference in a week.
  • The plant recently flowered – flowering will happen if you don’t regularly prune the plant. Cut off basil leaves often to prevent pruning.
  • Temperature fluctuations/dip in temperature – temperature fluctuations will place stress on the plant. Try to keep temperatures consistent to prevent this from happening.
  • Basil was repotted – this will cause stress. Replicate the plant’s prior environment to see an improvement within a week or two.
  • Temperatures are too high – high temperatures will try the plant out, so water it frequently. You should see results on the same day of watering.
  • Plant hasn’t been pruned – pruning can put stress on the plant and cause wilt. Frequently prune it to avoid this issue.

Final Thoughts

Your basil could be wilting for a number of reasons, but this list should cover them all! If you’ve noticed that your plant is wilting a lot, check to see if any of these are a possible cause. Once you identify the reason for the wilting, solving the problem is pretty easy. Good luck!

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