Food Gardening Network

Growing Good Food at Home

Watering Your Basil Plants

Potted basil plant after watering

Watering basil can be one of the trickiest parts of maintaining your basil plants in a healthy state. Like all plants, basil needs water—but too much water can damage the plants. So, well-drained soil is key, and this can be challenging when growing in containers.

Water your basil when the soil starts to turn dry to the touch on top—you should be able to poke your finger into an inch of soil and feel moisture at all times. If the soil dries out, your basil will start to turn hardy, losing its color and fragrance. Sometimes thirsty plants will suffer the droopy effect, another visual sign to water your plants.

Always water your basil plants around the base of the plant, not directly on the leaves—watering the leaves may activate plant diseases and attract pests to the plants.

Caution on watering: Over-watering basil will deprive the plant of oxygen and the leaves will turn yellow, especially older leaves near the bottom of the plant. Affected leaves will droop and may even fall off, too—and, if not properly diagnosed, you might erroneously think drooping and yellowing leaves means the plant needs more water, and you’d be wrong! When the soil is always wet, your basil plant is probably getting too much water, or you might even have poor drainage. Layering the root zone with 2 inches of compost improves drainage, once the compost is worked into the soil. But, don’t till the compost into the soil, because you might damage the roots. Under-watering your basil may lead to wilting and browning of leaf tips. The tip can feel dry to the touch and break off if bent, a good sign that the plants need more water.

How often do you water your basil plants? Have you ever over-watered or under-watered your basil plants? Please tell us how you ensure that your basil plants get the right amount of water.

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