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Growing Tips for Herbs: Why Is My Basil Dying?

By Stephanie Nelson

Tags: Growing Conditions, Common Herbs, Basil, Ocimum basilicum, Why Are My Herbs Dying, Garden, Tips, Q and A,

StephanieQ: Why are my herbs dying?   

A: Many readers have called and written our office with a common frustration: Why are my herbs dying? Here at The Herb Companion, we thought everyone would be interested in the answer.

Although finding a cure varies for each herb, I’ll do my best to touch upon common herbs and their growing conditions in this series. I will cover basil (Ocimum basilicum), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), mint (Mentha spp.) and lavender (Lavandula spp.) and on the final posting, I will take requests from readers about which herbs to address. Comment with your requests at the end of each blog post!   

Herbs can die for many reasons; a few being location, exposure to sun, amount of water and pests. Basil is an annual herb that is hardy and easy to cultivate. That being said, I’ve had my fair share of dead basil plants. 


Tips for Keeping your Basil Alive 

• If your basil is taking a turn for the worse, it may be because of the location. Pick a location that is sheltered from harsh wind and yields lots of sun exposure. Basil thrives in warmer conditions, especially in the summer months. Choose a site that receives at least six hours of direct sun each day. (Explore the Bountiful World of Basil)

• If your basil meets the location requirements and it is still not holding up, the cure may be in the soil conditions. Like most herbs, basil loves rich, moist and well-drained soil and the ideal pH range should be close to or around 6.0. Your local nursery or hardware store will have pH test kit that comes with a color chart.

• If the location is spot on and you’ve achieved a balance in the soil, it might be a temperature issue. Anything below 50 degrees is too cold for basil, and the herb will start wilting and turning brown.

• Keep in mind that the lower leaves which are closest to the soil may turn a yellow-brown and fall off. This is normal and healthy, due to the larger and higher up leaves soaking in the majority of the sun.