Why Supermarket Basil Dies So Quickly And How To Prevent It


Basil is one of the most popular kitchen herbs and can be found on many windowsills. No wonder – it goes well with a variety of dishes, such as pasta, soups or pizza. If you buy a small pot of basil in the supermarket, the plant quickly dies. Can the right care prevent this?

Basil is a true kitchen herb classic. In addition to the taste benefits, the plant has an antibacterial property. However, if you buy basil in the supermarket, you will not have something from the spice plant for long. With proper care and a sunny location, the plant can last up to a year.

Why does basil from the supermarket die so quickly?

Pots of herbs from the supermarket are designed for prompt consumption and are grown accordingly. So their leaves should be harvested shortly after purchase. In addition, many plants come to the store already attacked, they had to survive, for example, a period of cold during transport. So it is not surprising that they die. By the way, the same applies to parsley from the supermarket.

How to increase the life span?

Also, in the supermarket pots are planted too many seedlings. Since basil requires a lot of nutrients, in one pot should be planted only five shoots. To increase the life of basil, you can make a division of seedlings. With a detachment, you will prevent a large part of the roots from being torn by compressing the soil too much, thus sparing the plant.

The right location

Being native to the south, basil likes the sun and the warm temperatures that come with it. A sunny place by the window would be ideal. However, if you want to use the culinary herb for a longer time, a window place is only suitable to a limited extent. The terrace, balcony or even a garden and a sheltered location offer better living conditions. Especially in the summer you will notice such a rapid growth.

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Make sure to use a nutrient-rich soil, such as quality potting soil. Herbal soil should not be used because of its nutrient deficiency. Also make sure that the soil is particularly permeable to water. You can achieve this, among other things, with sub-amounts of sand.

Accustom the plant slowly to the sun. This should be done from around mid-May, i.e. after the Ice Saints. Only from a temperature of 20 ° C it feels comfortable. Basil stops growing below 12°C. If you have a tomato house, basil fits perfectly with it, not only because of the similar living conditions, it also saves tomatoes from infestation of tomato woodworm and powdery mildew.

Supermarket basil often deteriorates quickly due to a combination of factors, including handling, storage conditions, and the nature of the basil plant itself. Here’s why it happens and how to prevent it from wilting too soon:

1. Poor Storage Conditions:

  • Supermarkets often store basil in refrigerated sections, which is not ideal for this herb. Basil is sensitive to cold temperatures, and exposure to anything below 50°F (10°C) can lead to chill damage, causing the leaves to turn black and wilt. Refrigeration can also cause moisture to accumulate on the leaves, leading to decay.

2. Cut Stems:

  • Basil is typically sold as cut stems in supermarkets, which means it has been separated from its root system. This lack of a continuous water supply can cause basil to wilt and dry out rapidly.

3. Ethylene Exposure:

  • Ethylene gas, which is naturally released by some fruits like bananas and apples, can accelerate the wilting of basil. Supermarkets often store fruits and vegetables together, exposing basil to ethylene, which can lead to rapid deterioration.

4. Time Since Harvest:

  • Basil starts to lose its freshness and flavor shortly after being harvested. If it has been sitting in the supermarket for an extended period, it may already be on its way to wilting when you purchase it.

To prevent supermarket basil from wilting quickly, consider the following steps:

1. Select Fresh Bunches:

  • When choosing basil, select bunches with vibrant, green leaves. Avoid any bunches that appear wilted, yellowed, or damaged.

2. Check for Roots:

  • If available, choose potted basil plants that still have their roots intact. These plants will have a longer shelf life, and you can harvest fresh leaves as needed.
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3. Avoid Refrigeration:

  • If possible, avoid purchasing basil from the refrigerated section of the supermarket. Look for basil displayed at room temperature or, ideally, in an outdoor market.

4. Use a Plastic Bag:

  • If you need to store supermarket basil in the refrigerator, place it in a plastic bag with a paper towel to absorb excess moisture. Seal the bag, leaving a small opening for some air circulation. This can help reduce the effects of chill damage.

5. Remove Leaves from Stems:

  • When you get home, remove the basil leaves from the stems. Stems tend to wilt faster than leaves. Store the leaves in a container or plastic bag in the refrigerator with a slightly damp paper towel to maintain humidity and freshness.

6. Keep It Dry:

  • Basil is sensitive to excess moisture. Avoid washing it until you’re ready to use it, as moisture can accelerate decay. Instead, give it a gentle rinse and pat dry when you’re ready to cook.

7. Avoid Ethylene Exposure:

  • Keep basil away from ethylene-producing fruits. Store it separately or in a location where it won’t be exposed to such gases.

For the freshest basil, consider growing your own at home. This allows you to harvest leaves as needed, ensuring the utmost freshness and flavor in your culinary creations.

Properly care for basil

Basil is very sensitive to rain. The problem is that the sunlight concentrates in the raindrops on the leaves and burns them. Here’s what you should keep in mind when watering basil:

  • Regular watering.
  • It should always be watered directly onto the soil, not from above the leaves into the pot.
  • For even better well-being of the plant, you can also immerse the pot in water for a few minutes once a week. Then let the excess water drip off. Waterlogging will cause mold to form.
  • The water should be at room temperature.
  • The plant should never dry out completely.
  • Add liquid fertilizer to the water once a week if the plant is in a pot. In the open air about every 6 weeks.
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Potted plants generally need to be supported with the help of a fertilizer, as the soil in the pot is low in nutrients. Therefore, even basil from the supermarket should be fertilized regularly. Organic fertilizers are best suited for this purpose.


Pruning plants back promotes a successful harvest. During the growing season in summer, the herb should be cut back regularly.

Note: Mistakes can also be made when picking basil leaves. Learn how to do it correctly in this article.

Frost protection

In winter, basil should be brought into the kitchen. If the plant gets plenty of light and is in a warm place, it should survive the winter months just fine.

Pests and diseases

It’s not just people who enjoy the spice plant; slugs, aphids and spider mites also like to nibble on the leaves. Sprinkling coffee grounds around the basil plant in the bed keeps slugs away. Lubricating soap or curd soap dissolved in water helps against aphids. If small dots are seen on the basil leaves, the plant is probably infested with spider mites. To get rid of the mites, first shower the plant. Then spray twice a week with a mixture of 250 ml of canola oil and one liter of water.


  • 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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