Why Does My Indoor Basil Keep Dying?

Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 08:33 pm

In the supermarket, basil in pots entices with crisp, fresh leaves and aromatic fragrance. Hardly arrived on the windowsill of the kitchen, the Mediterranean kitchen herb wilts after a few days and dies. For a long time, this circumstance was considered a botanical mystery and caused basil lovers a great headache. Expert scientists and experienced amateur gardeners have now managed to solve the mystery. Read below why basil in the pot from the start has little chance of a long life. With the help of a few gardening tricks, the harvest period can be extended at least beyond a week.

Extreme stress in transit

The lush appearance of potted basil at the weekly market or in the supermarket belies the factual condition of the plant. In truth, the culinary herb is weakened in its substance because it was subjected to high stresses on the long transport route.

  • The substrate contains hardly any nutrient reserves.
  • During transportation, unfavorable light conditions prevail.
  • Minimal water supply and low temperatures are hard on the basil.

Why Does My Indoor Basil Keep Dying?

The suspicion that producers were knowingly planting basil in inferior or even contaminated soil, which had been implied for years, could be refuted. Neutral special laboratories carried out random soil analyses, all of which showed no harmful components whatsoever. It is rather the debilitation that is to be named as the essential cause for the short shelf life of the royal weed.

Immediate measures at home

Consequently, the basil from the store holds up with the last strength when it arrives at the end consumer. Who now unceremoniously placed at the window and dignified with minimal attention, hardly longer than 1 week will enjoy it. In contrast, with a little more attention, the life of this herb plant can be noticeably extended:

  • Pot out basil and separate into 3 parts.
  • Plant in nutrient-rich substrate, such as compost-based potting soil.
  • Adding a little sand or perlite will increase permeability.

Experience has shown that the mullein is much too crowded in the pot. With the help of a division the hobby gardener reduces the competition for light, water and nutrients considerably. No more than 5, maximum 10 shoots should be cultivated per pot. The volume of a planter should not be less than 30 cm in diameter. In the course of scientific experiments, visibly more vital and greener herb plants actually presented themselves after 5 days.

Why Does My Indoor Basil Keep Dying?

Lack of light is fatal

Basil is native to the sun-drenched regions of the Mediterranean. Its need for light proves to be correspondingly high. While this requirement is met in the growers’ greenhouses, inadequate light conditions on the windowsill lead to crisis. Accordingly, the location must be chosen carefully.

  • Full sun for as many hours a day as possible.
  • Temperatures around 20° Celsius and higher.
  • Cold drafts should be avoided at all costs.
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This statement is again supported by experiments conducted by experienced specialists. Here it turned out that basil can tolerate unfavorable light conditions for about 5 days before the negative effects are visible. After that, the herb plant rapidly degrades.

Watering with tact

With regard to water balance basil is quite sensitive. A soggy root ball is just as harmful as a substrate that is too dry.

  • Keep basil constantly moist.
  • Water as soon as the surface of the soil has dried.
  • Only use room-warm water for watering.
  • Never water over the leaves, but directly onto the substrate.
  • Do not leave water in the saucer for a long time.

If the lack of light and incorrect watering behavior come together cumulatively, the life expectancy of the king weed is reduced to less than 1 week.

Tip: The method of immersing the root ball in a container of water for a few minutes as needed has proven successful

If a recreational gardener wants to implement the research results meticulously, he takes the water supply according to a precise schedule of time and quantity. Watering at the same time each day, at a dosage of one-tenth the volume of the pot, has been found to be optimal.

Do not starve basil

Unlike most herbs, basil is characterized by a markedly high demand for nutrients.

  • A special fertilizer for nutrient-demanding herbs from a specialty store is ideal.
  • Compost alone does not cover the nutrient requirements.
  • Grained cattle manure is recommended as an organic fertilizer.
  • Easier to dose is guano in liquid form.

In connection with the choice of an adequate fertilizer, it should be noted that basil requires only little lime. Additional gifts should be dispensed with altogether, as there is a sufficient amount in tap water.

Proper harvesting preserves the vitality

All care measures come to nothing when the basil starts to bloom. The flowers themselves are also considered extremely tasty; at the same time, they herald the end of the herb plant. If you want to keep the king herb alive as long as possible, you should prevent it from flowering as much as possible or at least delay it. This is easily achieved with the help of the right harvesting technique.

  • Do not just pluck off individual leaves.
  • Harvest entire shoots, just above the leaf axils.
  • Do not leave visible buds on the stems.
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The more regular the harvest, the bushier the mullein will thrive. If the entire stand of leaves is ever needed in the kitchen, the plant will sprout again even after complete pruning. Provided that at least one dormant eye remains on the herb.

Think about propagation in good time

Of course, there is nothing against using a basil until it dies, and then acquire a new specimen. Of course, then the procedure starts all over again. On the other hand, it is more advantageous to propagate the resuscitated royal herb in the phase of its highest vitality. In this way, the hobby gardener ensures seamless access to crisp, rich kitchen herb. The work is quite uncomplicated by means of cuttings.

  • Cut healthy, leafy shoots to a length of 10 cm.
  • Completely defoliate the lower half.
  • Place cuttings in a glass of water, preferably willow water.
  • Allow to root in a warm, bright place.

Experience shows that a new root system will have formed after 10 to 14 days. Then the herb lover first inserts the little plants into 9-cm pots filled with low-nutrient herbal soil-sand mixture. The delicate roots must not be damaged in the process. While the young basil eagerly root the growing containers, keep them constantly moist. Ideally, they should spend this phase under the protection of an indoor greenhouse. Alternatively, plastic bags placed over them create a conducive microclimate. If the cuttings sprout again, the propagation is successful. If it becomes too crowded for them in the propagation pot, the knowledgeable gardener transplants them into a tub, which is now filled with nutritious substrate.

By the way, propagation of cuttings from cuttings, as offered by retailers, succeeds in the rarest cases.

Windowsill is considered a weak point in the cultivation.

By nature, basil is laid out as an annual plant. On the windowsill, however, the life expectancy is reduced to a maximum of 2 to 4 weeks, even with the most loving care. Thus, the location in the room crystallizes as a sore point in the cultivation; may it be sunny and warm. If a recreational gardener really wants to enjoy the benefits of the royal herb for a long time, only one measure comes into consideration: get out into the fresh air. On the balcony or terrace, the potted plant feels at home in a sunny to semi-shady, warm place. Ideally, the basil is protected from rain and cold drafts. If possible, the blazing midday sun should not reach the leaves and shoots, because in this case there is a risk of sunburn. Otherwise, there is no difference from the care on the windowsill.

Herb bed provides premium basil

Why Does My Indoor Basil Keep Dying?

Leisure gardeners, who at the same time consider themselves demanding gourmets, have known it for a long time: Basil of the highest quality thrives only in good garden soil in the open air. Even the strained potted herbs from the supermarket have here the best prospects to develop their full potential over a long time. The planting time begins in mid-May, when the icemen have said goodbye.

  • In a suitable location, loosen the soil and weed thoroughly.
  • Enrich the soil with sifted compost and horn shavings.
  • Pot out and divide basil.
  • Make planting holes 25 cm apart with drainage.
  • Plant the regal herb slightly deeper than it was in the pot.
  • Water well and mulch if necessary.
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If there is a tomato house in the bed, experienced gardeners add the basil. On the one hand, the kitchen herb receives here a first-class rain protection, on the other hand, it drives away pests from the tomato plants with its aroma.


The veil is lifted around the mystery of why basil dies at home. Savvy experts and knowledgeable amateur gardeners have found answers to this question that has been pressing for years. The apparently splendid appearance on the supermarket shelf belies the true state of the kitchen herb. It is highly stressed, devoid of any nutrient reserves. The most important measure at home is to divide the densely packed root ball. After that, it is necessary to keep the royal weed in a sunny location constantly slightly moist and regularly supply it with nutrients. Of essential importance is the targeted delay or prevention of flowering. This can be achieved by regularly harvesting whole shoots instead of individual leaves. The hobby gardener achieves a significantly longer shelf life if he takes the plant out into the fresh air. If his efforts are successful, he should not miss the timely propagation.


  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

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