How Often to Water Basil?

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Who doesn’t love fresh herbs? Basil is a perfect accompaniment to many dishes around the world and can be grown right in your garden or inside your home. Learn more about how often you should water basil so it’s always fresh and ready when you need it.

How often to water basil: Basil has specific needs when it comes to water and prefers a slow, steady amount of water. Signs of both overwatering and underwatering include wilted leaves and discoloration. The stem may start to rot with too much water. Always use soil that drains well so basil roots have access to oxygen in the soil.

How do I know if my basil needs water?

Like most plants, basil holds water in its leaves and as the water source diminishes, the leaves become affected. If you see that your basil’s leaves start to droop, it means the plant needs more water.

The leaves may also become discolored and take on a yellow or brown tinge, especially around the edges. If water is not added, the leaves can start to curl around the edges.

As for the stem of the basil plant, this can start to sag as it uses up all the available water. If your basil is established and large, then the whole plant may start to fall over.

How often do you water indoor basil?

Basil prefers soil that is nice and moist. If it goes too long without water it might not be able to recover.

Aim for slow and steady with basil. Keep the soil slightly moist but not soggy. If water starts to drain out of the bottom, it means you have watered it too much.

For the most part, water your indoor basil every two to three days. In the summer, you may want to water more often, especially if you have your basil in a very warm or sunny area.

How often do you water outdoor basil?

Watering outdoor basil is harder to control so it helps if you have a system in place. Drip irrigation is the best as it provides a slow stream of water to your plants.

With drip irrigation, the soil around your basil gets water and the plant can absorb what it needs. It also ensures that the soil won’t dry out completely between watering, which will keep your basil plant nice and healthy.

How long can basil go without being watered?

Basil can only go about five days without watering. This is mainly because basil only grows in more northern climates in the summer, so it is always exposed to warm temperatures.

If basil goes for too long without water, it will start to bolt or produce flowers. Once this happens, all the growing energy is directed to the flowers and not the leaves.

Then, if the plant does not have water, the whole plant will dry out. A basil plant that is too dry will not come back to life.

Signs that you’ve overwatered your basil

Interestingly, the same signs you can use to tell if your basil needs water are similar to the signs of overwatering. This can cause a bit of an issue as you will need to look closer at the plant to see what affliction it is suffering from.

Too much water in a basil plant can cause the leaves to droop. They may also turn yellow or brown.

A sign of overwatering that is different from underwatering is the smell. Too much water can cause rot to set in with your plant, leading to a nasty smell.

The roots are the most likely to be affected by rot, so you may not be aware of the issue until too late. It’s only once the rot becomes too deep and the plant starts to smell that you may notice there is too much water in the container.

Finally, stunted growth is a major sign of overwatering. Even though basil needs water to survive, too much can overwhelm the plant and stop it from growing.

If your basil plant suddenly stops growing or looks unwell, investigate the soil further to determine whether it is too dry or too wet.

What causes overwatering?

Overwatering is a bit of a misnomer. You might be watering your basil the right amount but if the soil doesn’t drain properly, then this is where problems arise.

Also, be sure that the container you use has holes in the bottom. Place a tray underneath any indoor containers to prevent water damage from occurring.

When planting basil, be sure to use fresh potting soil that is light and airy. For outdoor planting, use compost and other organic material to ensure fertile soil that is loose enough for water to drain.

Another unexpected issue that causes overwatering is if you have a container that is too large. The more soil in a container, the longer it will take for water to drain, which means the roots of the basil plant are exposed to more water for longer.

Remember that basil is hard to overwinter so you will most likely only have a plant for one season. You don’t need to grow it in a large container as it won’t get big enough for all the space.  

Does basil need direct sunlight?

Basil loves sunlight. In fact, it will only grow if you have warm, sunny conditions.

Try to aim for six to eight hours of sunlight for basil. If you are able to protect it from the hot afternoon sun, this is beneficial but not necessary.

Just be careful if you are growing basil inside as most people will place the containers on a windowsill. While this will allow the plant to have access to more sunshine, sunlight can magnify through windows and make the area too hot for your basil.


Basil isn’t the easiest plant to grow so the more you know about it, the better the outcome. If you want to learn more about basil, we have plenty more articles that highlight how to grow and take care of it.

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