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How to Bring a Dead Basil Plant Back to Life (Yes, it’s possible)

Dead basil plant revived back to life

Basil is a popular herb and the plants are not particularly sensitive. However, any plant can be affected by things in the environment, or the way it is treated, and wither and die. If you notice your basil plant dying, take note of what may be wrong and how to bring it back to life.

Related To: Ways to Speed Up Basil Plant Growth | Ways to Tell your Basil Plant is Over Watered | How to Grow a Bushy Basil Plant | How to Prevent and Control Basil Plant Pests | How to Tell When Your Basil Plant is Ready for Harvest! | How to Fertilize Basil Plants for Your Best Harvest Ever | Ways to Propagate Basil Plants | How to Transplant Basil Plants | Reasons Why Your Basil Plants are Wilting | How to Cover Basil Plants | Ways to Prevent Basil from Bolting | How to Prevent Downy Mildew on Basil | What does Flowering Basil Mean? | How to Harvest Basil Seeds | How to Fix Woody Basil Stems | How to Check Basil for Bugs | How to Treat Downy Mildew on Basil

Reasons for Basil Dying

A dying basil plant in a small pot.

The most common reason for a basil plant dying is to do with water. The plant can either be overwatered or underwatered. There are other factors, though, that can affect the health of your plant.

Water

A man's hand watering basil in a pot.

We all want to make sure a plant gets the water it needs to grow. We also want to make sure we remember to water our plants. It is possible to be over-eager, though. Basil plants are very sensitive to the amount of water they get. It is also simply human to fail to water a basil plant too little.

If a plant is underwatered, the stems and leaves are simply not getting enough water or nutrients because there is not enough water in the soil for it to absorb. The stems and leaves will begin to dry out. The leaves turn yellow at first, then will turn brown and eventually fall off.

An overwatered basil plant can show the same symptoms as an underwatered plant. This is because when there is too much water in the soil around the plant’s roots, they become waterbound and basically drown. Because of the amount of excess water, the leaves cannot get enough water and will wilt, turn yellow and eventually die.

Light

Basil plants are sensitive to light and need at least 6 – 8 hours of bright sunlight a day. They can stand outside in direct sunlight, but will also do well in indirect light. Basil plants grow well inside, as long as they are placed next to a window that gets a lot of light. Growing them on the kitchen windowsill is a really good option.

Temperatures

A pot of basil plant in an outside temperature.

Basil plants can tolerate quite a wide range of temperatures. They can live quite well in higher temperatures, even up to 90 °F (32 °C). They are less tolerant of lower temperatures and will be damaged by temperatures below 50 °F (10 °C). There are some cultivars that can manage temperatures down to 43 °F (6 °C).

Diseases

There are a few diseases that can attack basil plants. These usually cause damage to the leaves and some of them fall off.

Fusarium wilt: This disease causes stunted growth and yellowish leaves. Young plants may have the disease, but the symptoms only show once they reach about 6 inches (15 cm) in height. After this, the stems may begin to turn brown and even twist, and the leaves will fall off suddenly.

Bacterial leaf spot: The signs of this disease are usually brown and black spots appearing on the leaves and brown streaks on the stems. It is especially dangerous in young plants, particularly seedlings.

Gray mold: A grey fungal growth on stems and leaves will appear. The affected leaves will die and fall off. If the disease takes hold of the stem, the plant could die.

Downy mildew: The leaves of the plant will begin to go yellow, usually from the middle vein outwards. Then, light grey, fuzzy patches will begin to show on the underside of the leaves. In humid conditions, these can turn brown.

Pests

A damaged basil plant attacked by Aphids.

There are various bugs that are attracted to the taste of a basil plant. A few of these are found more commonly on plants:

Aphids: Aphids are tiny, whitish-green insects that form clusters under the leaves of the

Whiteflies: These are small, yellowish bugs with white wings. They cluster on the underside of the leaves of the plant. You will recognize an infestation by this and by the leaves drying up and falling off. There may also be mould that appears on the leaves.

Nematodes: These are tiny worms that attack the roots of the basil plant. The symptoms of their presence include swellings or knots. You will not see these easily, but they may be the cause of your basil plant wilting and eventually dying.

How to Bring Basil Back to Life

Of course, the best way to avoid your basil plant dying is to look after it correctly in the beginning. This means making sure it gets the correct water and light, and doesn’t get too cold.

However, things happen and your plant may not get quite the care it needs, or it may contract a disease, or be attacked by pests. Any of these may begin to kill your basil plant.

Luckily, there are things you can do to bring your dying basil plant back to life.

Underwatering

If your basil plant is dying because it hasn’t been getting enough water, then don’t think suddenly watering it a lot will bring it back to life. Don’t flood it all at once, or you may very well overwater it and drown the roots.

Begin slowly and soak the soil around the plant. Make you give it a good, solid soaking. The water will need to reach the roots. After this, water the plants every day, making sure the soil stays damp, but doesn’t become muddy at all.

After a few days, you’ll be able to leave the plant without watering for a few days. Keep an eye on it. When the soil dries out, it will need to be soaked again. The water must reach down to at least one inch (2.5 cm) below the surface.

Overwatering

Water is being poured heavily on basil plants.

When a plant has been overwatered and is dying, it isn’t as easy to resurrect as if it has been underwatered. It is, of course, much easier to add water to soil than to remove it. In fact, to save a basil plant that has been overwatered and the roots have begun to drown, you need to remove the plant from the wet soil and replant it.

If the plant is in a container, this is easier than if it is growing in the ground.

If your basil plant is growing in the ground and is overwatered, you must remove it, roots and all so that you can replant it. When you do this, dig around the plant at least two inches (5cm) beyond the spread of the leaves. Make sure you dig at least a foot (30 cm) below the plant, because there will be a deep root system.

If the roots of the plant have turned mushy and dark, they have begun to rot. Remove the roots that have already died, then leave the plant for a day to dry out a bit. During this time, the soil in the original spot may have begun to dry out, so you can replant the basil in the same spot. It would be advisable to choose another spot.

Prepare the soil properly and plant the plant carefully, making sure you water it correctly.

If your basil plant is planted in a container, you must remove the whole plant from the container. Gently shake off the soil and remove any roots that may be rotten. Leave the plant to dry out for a few hours. In this time, make sure the container dries out too.

Repot the basil plant in the original container, but using new potting soil. Make sure you soak the soil when you have just planted it. Then, water it correctly, keeping the soil damp, but never too wet.

It is easier for a plant in a container to become waterlogged than one in the ground.

Light

A basil plant in a pot near a windowsill.

Another reason your basil plant may be dying is it hasn’t been getting enough of the correct amount of light. This is more likely to happen if the plant is in a container indoors. If it is outdoors, you should already have looked carefully at the light in that spot.

If your indoor basil plant is not getting enough light, move it to a place right next to a window where it will get at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight, even through a window, every day. This will be a step in the right direction to resurrecting the plant.

Temperature

When it comes to the way temperature can affect, even kill, your basil plant, prevention is better than the cure. Make sure the plants are growing in the temperature range that will suit them. The most common problem is frost, so it is usually a matter of keeping the plants away from the very cold.

If your plant has been affected by frost and the leaves are beginning to go yellow, then the only cure is to make sure they are protected and warm enough. This may be as simple as bringing them inside in winter. It is easier to do this with plants in containers, but you can uproot and replant basil plants outside and replant them in containers in winter.

Keep in mind the amount of light the plants need and put them near a window, or even under lights.

Diseases

A yellowish unhealthy basil plant in the garden.

There are very few fungicides that work on basil plants, so when it comes to diseases, preventing the diseases attacking your plant is definitely easier than curing them once the disease is killing them.

Fusarium wilt: The fungi that cause this disease come from the soil. They are usually introduced by seeds that are contaminated, or infected soil may be moved, releasing the fungi. If Fusarium wilt has really taken hold of your basil plant, it is likely to die.

As soon as you see symptoms, assume the plants have been affected and get them out of that soil. This may mean uprooting a plant completely and moving it to another bed, or it may mean repotting the plant with new potting soil mix.

Bacterial leaf spot: This disease develops mostly in humid areas, so keep your basil plant in a relatively drier area. If you suspect any symptoms of Bacterial leaf spot, then move the plant immediately to a drier area. However, if you see even the slightest symptom, treat your plant with a fungicide, or organic equivalent.

Gray mold: Again, this disease also favours high humidity. It also likes to enter the plant via any open cuts on the stems or leaves. Keep an eye on the plant. If you see any symptoms of the disease, act quickly by removing any infected leaves and spraying the plant with an organic fertilizer.

Downy mildew: To help to control, prevent or even cure your plant from this disease, make sure that it isn’t in a humid area. There are very few fungicides that could treat Downy mildew, so if your plant shows symptoms, then find one that will work and spray the plant with it.

Pests

Aphids: Perhaps the best way to get rid of aphids on your basil plant is to introduce ladybugs into your garden, because they are their natural predators. However, this is not always easy to achieve or control. You can also spray or wash your plant with Neem oil, or an insecticidal soap. Make sure you get right under the leaves, where the insects gather.

Whiteflies: Fortunately, it is quite an easy process to get rid of whiteflies on your basil plant. Make up a solution of dish soap and water and wash the leaves carefully. It is most efficient to spray the solution onto every part of the plant.

Nematodes: To kill the nematodes affecting your basil plant, you will need to get at the roots. If the plant is in a container, this means taking the whole plant out of the pot. Gently shake off the excess soil. You should be able to remove any nematodes you see. Leave the plant in the direct sun for a few minutes, which can also help to kill some of the nematodes. Repot the plant in potting soil that is rich in organic matter.

If the plant is in the ground, you can remove it and treat it in much the same way.  Learn about the 15 main plant pests to watch out for.

Conclusion

The lesson to learn about basil is to make sure the plant gets just enough water and light, is kept in a warm, dry place and (hopefully) free of pests and diseases. Be vigilant, so that you can prevent damage. If, however, your basil plant is dying, it can be saved, just about all the time.