Basil Problem

raeolyte(9B FL)June 5, 2005

I keep a small basil plant on my kitchen windowsill and for some reason, the base of it turns brown and then the whole thing wilts and dies. I have bought about 5 new plants so far and this keeps happening. What am I doing wrong? Please please help me! I love using my fresh basil in my cooking!

Thanks in advance!

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ltcollins1949(9a TX)

Well since I don't grow herbs indoors, I'll just take a guess.

Is it getting lots of direct sunlight? Basil really needs lots of sunlight to grow.

You say the base of it turns brown. Are you talking about the stem or the leaves turning brown? It is not unusual for lowers leaves to yellow, turn brown and fall off.

Also, you might be keeping to soil too wet. I would water thoroughly, let it just start to dry out (not completely) and then water again. Make sure it is in a well drained pot.

And since you live in Florida, if you can I would put it outside to grow, i.e. in the ground or in a pot that gets sunshine and fresh air. You will find that you will have much better results with growing basils.

Right now I have about 50 basils growing (different varieties) in my yard, with a few in pots. I'm just waiting for a while to plant the rest in the ground. I'm running out of beds, so I'm trying to see about getting another new bed prepared.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2005 at 1:47PM
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Sounds like too much watering &/or perhaps a soil mix that isn't well-draining enough.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2005 at 3:20PM
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(a) it's indoors
(b) too much water and not good enough drainage
(c) too small a pot

In short, it's confined to a prison without proper access to sunlight; it's not allowed to stretch its legs; and it's being drowned and starved. All at the same time. Poor wee basil! Given those conditions, I'd probably die too. Hopefully faster than your basil.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2005 at 10:54PM
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Vera_EWASH(z5 EasternWA)

LOL Daisy! You sure are to the point!! LOL


    Bookmark   June 6, 2005 at 12:05AM
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LOL! No point in beating around the bush, eh?

    Bookmark   June 6, 2005 at 2:49AM
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I got my basil two weeks ago. It had a brown base already. I water them everyday. It stays outside in the full sun, in the same small container I bought it. Should I transplant it so the plant could stretch its legs? If so, How could I do it? I was thinking about cuting the plastic and transplant the basil and all the soil that cames with the roots to a clay larger pot. Is it good?
I know the sun is good enough and that the water is right since all leaves are green and there are many babies. But I do not like the small plastic container.
Thank you.

I also would like to say that I appreciate this forum. It is a great source of information. Thank you all!

    Bookmark   June 16, 2005 at 1:01PM
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ltcollins1949(9a TX)

If you have a place to put it into the ground, good sunlight and drainage, then I would do so.

Otherwise, put it into a, preferably, clay pot, just a size or two larger. If it is root bound, break up the root ball and then transplant it into the new pot. Don't put it into a pot that is too big, otherwise you will encourage root growth, and you want to get the leaves growing.

If needed, you might want to give it a little fish emulsion.

That is what I would do.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2005 at 5:35PM
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I grow basil in the ground. I grow basil in pots. I'd never try to grow basil indoors on a window sill. That seems too unnatural for basil. The leaves facing the window would get pressed up against glass and the leaves facing the room would not get enough sun. What a shame for such a noble plant to suffer like that.

I find that the tall, leggy basils do not produce very well in containers. They do okay, but need a lot of attention regarding water and Miracle Grow type fertilizer, and then you get salt build-up in the container soil. The smaller bushy types like Globe or the small leafed varieties from Lebanon and Jordan seem to do better in containers.

Whenever you see one of your container plants begin to suffer, simply do as Ltcollins said ... loosen the root ball and plant it in the ground and side dress with 10-10-10.

For container growing, I suggest trial and error selection of varieties and almost daily care regarding watering. Prune off all spotted or yellowed leaves and prune the tops at least once every two weeks or whenever they flower. Fertilize with 20-20-20 every couple of weeks.

Regards, Bill

    Bookmark   June 18, 2005 at 9:05AM
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whitejade(z5 MI)

I have grown basil indoors in pots for many years and I find that they DO tend to run out of root space pretty quick if the pot's not at least 8 inches. It may not even look like there's a problem, but there's something about basil roots that needs plenty of "space".

The basil I grow indoors is pretty strictly for winter smelling - you know, when you brush your hand on it and get to smell that incredible fragrance in January? I have grown good basil indoors but it's never going to yield the amount of cooking material you might like. It just seems to suffer for "ground" unless it's IN the great outdoors ground. There are some plants that I find are more wild this always amazes me how easily basil will root in water and how easily it comes up from seed, lending it to container growing with ease ...except, it also really likes that root-run space and the breeze blowing and the sun shining on it heavily to be truly least this is what I've noticed.

I laughed to read about the person who is going to create a bed for the basil seedlings still left out - I am so similar - I always tell myself not to start so many basil seeds, since each and every one tends to germinate! So even going easy on that this year I have about 10 seedlings that look absolutely woeful, waiting to be placed "somewhere" - and I have already placed many in the yard already. We are doing lettuce leaf , mini , and Genovese basils this year...just about everywhere you look :)

    Bookmark   June 18, 2005 at 10:37AM
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ltcollins1949(9a TX)


Well, I do live on an acre of land, that is slowing being taken over with herb beds. And the reason for this, besides the fact that I LOVE HERBS, I also teach herb classes to gardening groups and have done so since 1999, and I hope to continue to teach. And in March 2005, I appeared on our local ABC network to discuss herbs, . . .just 90 seconds, but hey it was fun!

That is why I plant so many varieties of basils, and all herbs for that matter. I have the room and the need to continue making beds for my herbs. Really, I would rather have herb beds than turf! No mowing, just weeding!

I take either the potted basils or cuttings to the gardening groups to show them all of the different varieties of basils, and which ones make for better culinary use (culinary is my favorite) vs. other uses. Did you know that the liquor Chartreuse has basil in it, and the men's cologne Brut also has basil in it? And growing conditions is a subject that I need to know in order to teach "basil growing". Unless we get a hard freeze down here, about every 5 to 7 years, basils are a perennial rather than an annual which is great.

And I also supply herbs to a chef-friend of mine that has a restaurant here in Rockport, AransaZu. He uses lots of fresh herbs, and when he gives his monthly cooking demonstrations, when needed, I supply the herbs to him for the demonstration.

And according to Basil An Herb Lover's Guide by DeBaggio & Belsinger (a must book for basil lovers), they state There are 30 to 150 basil species, (depending on who's counting), . . . .

Hey do you want to start growing more basil? I say grow, grow, grow, . . . !

    Bookmark   June 18, 2005 at 12:14PM
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Jade: Yeah, it's rediculous how easy it is to find yourself overrun by orphan basil starts, huh. I adopted four planter wells on the walkway just to find a home for some of mine.

Collins: Do you grow Sacred Basil? I read where folks in India keep it in their atriums and it grows perennially into a huge scrub. Are you familiar with that variety? If so, start a thread to discuss it ... or especially to educate some of us regarding the variety.

Regards, Bill

    Bookmark   June 18, 2005 at 1:32PM
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ltcollins1949(9a TX)

Yes, I have some information about Sacred Basil (Holy Basil, Tulsi Basil) which I will get posted on another thread.

Do I grow it? well, . . .I have one that says "holy basil", but I will have to do more research on the subject to see if it is also considered "sacred basil". See discussion about the subject as follows:

From several discussions that we have had in our herb group, there appears to be questions about whether the Sacred Basil and the Holy Basil are one and the same, while others are saying that they are two different species.

And while I have done research on the two (or is it one?) there even seems to be some disagreement even by the herb experts. So far I have researched DeBaggio & Belsinger, Bown, Hill & Barclay, and Rickters, and they have different ideas about the two.

I am supposed to write an herbal article for a gardening magazine, and I guess that this discrepancy might be a good subject.

So I will get back with you on the subject, but suffice it to say that basil ocimum basilicum has been used for at least 2,000 years.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2005 at 8:00PM
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Yes, I was referring to Tulsi when I said sacred basil. I did not know there was controversy regarding holy vs sacred. From now on, I will refer to it as Tulsi to avoid confusion. Thanks for the tip. I would really like to see more about the plant.


    Bookmark   June 18, 2005 at 9:52PM
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Thank you ltcollins1949 for the help. I have successfuly transplated my Basil (Genovese) for a larger container. I cutted the top parts of all the branchs. But not drastically, I felt bad because the basil is still 7 inches tall. I think he is small for drastic prunning. But, I do not know and I would love some tips. Now, There are some small leaves (1 inch) growing on the bottom of the plant and with few growing until the top. There is a head forming in a new branch that is also 1 inch small and close to the bottom.
I used organic soil and hummum full of organic matter in the new container. My question now is if it is growing as it suppose to be or if I should give it some food. My friend gave me a 12-10-5 fertilizer that is not organic. It is slow release little color (green, red and white) balls, the brand is vigoro and I do not know if it is good to use in plants we are going to eat (even though it says tomato, vegetable and herbs). If I suppose to use some fertilizer, should I use the one I have or buy an organic one? Thank you!

    Bookmark   June 20, 2005 at 10:37AM
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I have had success using large (14" or so) pots both clay and plastic. The plastic had no holes in the bottom so i drilled 5 quarter inch holes in each one. I use good quality potting soil and keep them in full sun. I do not water everyday. They look like trees by august. That means lots of pesto. I have also tried to bring them indoors in the fall.. That did not work at all.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2005 at 11:21AM
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When basil grows as a perennial, how do you keep it from going
to seed and losing the good flavor?

    Bookmark   July 16, 2005 at 11:00AM
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ltcollins1949(9a TX)


I try not to let it go to seed, and I keep them pruned. If it does get woody, I either quit using it for culinary purposes and just let it grow, or if it looks bad, I pull it out and plant a new one. I just pulled out a 6 year old African Blue that had just gotten too woody. I will plant another basil in its place as soon as it cools down a bit. In addition, I recently had surgery, and I can't do much in the way of gardening right now, so I'll have to wait to put a new plant in its place.

And you have to remember that I live on a salt water bay in zone 9, so we seldom get freezes. Maybe every 5 to 7 years. Also I do have a greenhouse that I can overwinter plants in if necessary.

But I do manage to grow basils as perennials. I just keep pruning them back. I have read and attended conferences about basils, and there are many different ways of pruning. The best that I have found is to prune back any flowers as soon as they start to appear to the first full complete set of leaves below the bloom. Sometimes if the basil has gotten away from me and is in full bloom, I will prune it back by about 1/3 the size of the whole plant. It just really depends on the individual plant and how it looks.

Like I said there are different ways to prune. Some people just snip off the flower, others take a more radical approach such as mentioned below which is a quote from The Herb Society of America:

Basil should be pruned when it has three to five sets of true leaves to promote branching and maximize growth. For the first pruning, cut the plant back to just above its second set of leaves. Material for freezing and drying or making oils, butters, pesto and vinegar should be cut throughout the summer from young leaves, since older leaves have less oil content and become tougher. Though basil is heat-loving and will grow strongly all summer, as soon as nights go below 50°F it shows signs of deterioration.

I grow many varieties of basils, but I don't use all of them for culinary purposes. For culinary I mainly use the sweet basil, Genovese, lettuce leaf basil, lemon basil and cinnamon basil. Sometimes I cook with spicy glove and Thai. I never use my African Blue, Holy Basil or Purple Ruffle Basil for culinary purposes, because I just don't care for the flavor. They are fine to use in cooking if you like the flavor, so I suggest you try for yourself.

Regarding keeping them from getting woody, well, . . .the ones that I have that are woody are the ones that I don't use for cooking. So if the flavor is off, it does not matter for me. Also if the ones you like for culinary purposes do get woody, I would suggest to just plant another one in place of the woody one.

    Bookmark   July 16, 2005 at 12:18PM
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crekha(Houston, TX)

I recently bought 6 of the holy basil (I am a Hindu from India), but onle of them dies yesterday. I did repot them in a bigger container, the stems are turning dark it lack of sun?
we do worship the tulasi, in the olden days, every house would have a special structure in the front holding a tulasi plant. Every morning after you bathe, you would circle the plant three times (it is a way of paying respect to it0.
I think that because of its medicinal value, the plant got its status...
Needless to say, I am really anxious to save mt remaining 5 plants...any suggestions?

    Bookmark   July 26, 2005 at 12:26PM
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Hello All

I have problem with my beautiful Tulasi plant. She was doing so good when I got her back from the east coast and she was flowering so well. I put some new soil ( Miracle grow) a liitle bit over her old soil, and now for the past 3 weeks, she seems to be having problems. Her leaves are turning brown at the edges and falling off!!! Im really very sad to see her in this way... is it the new soil? what should I do? Should I repott her?
Any help is appreciated

    Bookmark   November 4, 2006 at 11:34PM
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Hi.. IâÂÂm growing basil indoors under a florescent plant light. Reason being I live in Las Vegas Nevada and the temp get's way above what the plant can stand.. it's been 110 for the high in the last week. IâÂÂm running into a slight problem I think. Some of the younger leaves are growing really funky. Some look deformed. They are bubbly and wrinkly, some are folded or twisted. Something about it doesnâÂÂt seem right to me because the other leaves a very broad and open. Is this normal? One thing about the super wrinkled leaves is they smell very potent and a really green so I dunno what is really happening. Please if anyone has any ideas, suggestions or comments ect ⦠please go let me know. Thanks.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2011 at 8:05AM
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