Why is my basil wilting? Common reasons why – and how to cure the problem

Experts address the basil-wilting problem – and offer care tips for an abundance of healthy herbs

Basil growing in a container
(Image credit: GettyImages)

'Why is my basil wilting?' – it's the question that many herb-growers may face at some point – as basil can be notoriously tricky to maintain.

While it is easy to see the appeal behind basil – its distinct flavors and aromatic scents make it irresistible – but wilting is one of the first signs of a problem. 

Knowing how to grow basil expertly is a great way to encourage a healthy crop, but wilting basil remains a common problem for gardeners of all levels. So, if this problem poses a threat to your herb garden ideas, this why it's happening and how to revive wilted basil.

Why is my basil wilting?

There are several possible reasons why your basil may be wilting, but the most common issues come down to irregular watering, root disease, or stress.

Basil growing in a container

(Image credit: Alamy)

'[If your] soil was left dry for too long, the herb could wilt in response to water stress,' says Melvin Cubian, a certified gardening expert from PlantIn. 'Overwatering can also produce similar symptoms after the roots fail to inspire oxygen or become infected with a fungal disease.'

The expert similarly warns against environmental-induced stress, like fluctuating temperatures, or transplanting stress, which could result in the plant drooping. 

Ronnie Collins, the founder of the Electro Garden, emphasizes how underwatering and overwatering are the most common reasons why your basil is wilting – adding that soil health is another key factor. 

'Soil that is too dry or too moist will eventually kill your basil plant if you don’t revive it in time,' he says. 

basil growing in the garden in a planter

(Image credit: Markus Spiske / Unsplash)

How often should basil be watered? 

As the experts suggest, knowing when to water your plants is one of the most impactful ways to stop your basil from wilting. But how often should you water this herb? 

'For basil planted in garden beds, irrigate the soil weekly but avoid splashing it on the leaves to prevent diseases,' Melvin says. Meanwhile, potted basil requires more frequent care than ground-planted basil. Melvin suggests watering 'approximately one to two times weekly' or as soon as the soil looks parched. 

Basil growing in a container

(Image credit: GettyImages)

Does basil like full sun? 

No, does not like full sun and it is important to be careful when placing your basil in direct sunlight. While it is impossible to grow good basil in the shade, the experts warn that it can get sunburnt, too. Therefore, finding a balance is key. 

'It’s necessary to choose a spot where your basil plants will receive from six to eight hours of direct sun daily, so a location with partial exposure will be great too,' Ronnie says.  

How do you revive wilted basil?

Knowing when and how to prune basil will ensure your healthy herbs last longer. But what about those that have wilted?  'First of all, you need to ensure that the drainage in the pots is good enough and doesn’t let the water pool in the pot,' Ronnie says. 

'You may either repot the plant with better drainage or simply aerate the soil carefully to improve water flow. And if you notice that the soil goes dry too quickly, you should add manure or leaf mold as a mulch layer to conserve moisture inside the pot better.'

Alternatively, Ronnie recommends another method that instantly revives wilted foliage. First, you should remove any unrevivable leaves (bruised and blackened) before submerging the wilted part of the plant into a container filled with icy water. You should leave the plant for 15-50 minutes, depending on how wilted it is. This will 'shock-treat the plant and bring it back to life,' the expert adds. 

Now you know how to prevent the plant from wilting, it's the best time to read up on when to harvest basil for a homegrown addition to your dishes. 

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.