How to Keep Basil Alive Indoors? (Reasons It’s Dying & 8 Ways To Keep It Alive)

Keeping basil alive indoors is easy!

As with any indoor container plant, your basil will need sunlight, water, and nutrient-rich soil. Today I’ll share some in-depth information on growing this aromatic herb inside your home or office.

Is Basil a Good Indoor Plant?

Basil is an excellent indoor plant! The plants don’t take up much space, pruning consists of harvesting the herb for dinner, and basil doesn’t require much attention; aside from moist soil, sufficient sunlight, and well-drained soil.

It’s one of the easiest herbs to grow indoors. Its delicious flavor and versatility make basil a popular indoor/outdoor plant with cooks and gardeners alike.

With the proper care and conditions, basil can grow just as well as the herb is grown outdoors (if not better.)

Why is My Basil Dying Indoors? 

Two of the most common reasons basil dies indoors are overwatering and underwatering. However, various factors can negatively impact this delicious herb.

Watering Issues

Basil prefers (requires) consistently moist soil conditions, and they don’t fair well if the preferred soil conditions aren’t met. Too much water can be worse for your basil plants than not enough; reviving an underwatered plant is typically much easier than an overwatered one.

Overwatering

While basil appreciates consistent access to water, its roots struggle to cope with soggy and saturated soil.

Well-drained soil provides sufficient air space that allows air to circulate freely around the roots. When the soil is soggy, the water fills the air gaps depriving the roots of the oxygen that’s vital for their survival and success.

Without enough oxygen, basil’s roots stop working, and the plant can’t get the nutrients and water necessary for survival. It won’t be long before overwatered basil plants begin to wilt badly.

Remember that overwatering can be caused by more than watering your basil too much. Anything that reduces the aeration of the root or leaves the soil soggy can cause the same result. Including:

  • A planter without drainage holes or an insufficient amount of holes.
  • Planting in soil types that are draining poorly.
  • Using a planter pot that’s too large will cause the soil to take longer to dry out, leaving the roots deprived of oxygen for extended periods.
  • Watering without checking the soil’s moisture first.

Underwatering

All plants, not just basil, need water to drink and absorb the vital nutrients required to sustain a healthy life. We’ve all forgotten to water a plant or two, right? 

To fix the issue (if the plant hasn’t died yet), all you have to do is thoroughly water the plant. Then place it in bright indirect light rather than the required full sun.

Cold Damage

Basil is NOT a cold-hardy plant. In fact, they can suffer greatly when exposed to frost. Avoid temperatures below 50℉ (10℃) because it will cause your basil plant to stress and wilt.

However, when growing basil indoors, you should rarely have an issue with temperature unless the plant sits next to a drafty window. 

Lighting Issues

It isn’t uncommon to have herb plants like basil in the kitchen. However, it’s essential that they’re placed where they receive a decent amount of sun.

Basil prefers full sun throughout the year, except for summer. Your indoor basil should do best near a south- or west-facing window, but keep an eye on your plant during the summer as the leaves can become scorched.

Low lighting is the more likely cause of death for basil plants. Low light can cause slow and leggy growth, with new leaves being stunted.

Diseases

Very few troublesome diseases affect basil plants, and only two will cause your plants to die or wilt badly; Fusarium Wilt and Root Rot.

Fusarium wilt is caused by various forms of soil-borne fungal disease that affects numerous plants. Fusarium wilt attacks the plants, blocking their xylem vessels, which transport water and essential nutrients through the plant.

Root rot is caused by a collection of fungi and bacteria. Overwatering and root rot go together like PB&J. 

How to Keep Basil Alive Indoors? 

While growing basil indoors is easy, keeping the plants alive indoors requires various vital elements. When they’re outdoors, nature does much of the work.

Sunlight

Whether basil is growing outside or indoors, the plants require an ample amount of light– at least six hours of full sun daily, except during the high heat of summer. Make sure your basil is situated by a nice sunny window.

Artificial Lights

Using fluorescent bulbs will keep basil happy. However, the plants will need to be under the lights for about 12 hours daily.

Your basil plants should be 2 to 4 inches away from the lights. Be mindful to keep the leaves from touching the bulbs; otherwise, they’ll get burned.

Watering

Remember, your basil plants will do best with regularly moist soil. While outdoors, the plants will thrive with about an inch of water a week, but indoor plants might need a little more.

Once you can see that the top layer of soil has dried out a bit, give those fragrant babies a drink. To avoid overwatering, feel the soil to see if it’s moist. 

Humidity and Temperature

Your indoor basil plants should be somewhere in the home where the average temperature is 70℉ or higher, seeing as it’s from the Mediterranean region.

Avoid placing your plants anywhere they might be subjected to harsh cold breezes. Basil also likes a bit of humidity, so it’s an excellent idea to mist the plants occasionally, especially if your house is particularly dry.

If your basil plants need some added moisture, place the potted plant on a bed of wet river rocks. Doing so will increase the ambient humidity around the precious herb.

Fertilizers

I like to add amended soil with organic compost to my potted plants to ensure they get the nutrients necessary. Whenever I notice my plants aren’t experiencing much growth, I’ll feed them a natural liquid fertilizer once a week.

Of course, you’re free to use whatever type of fertilizer you prefer; it’s only my personal preference to avoid chemical fertilizer.

Maintenance and Pruning

Basil is a really hardy plant that requires little maintenance. Good air circulation, occasional watering, well-drained soil, and sufficient sunlight keep the hardy plant growing strong.

Harvesting the basil leaves is an effective pruning method. However, make sure you pick the leaves from the top down; cut off individual leaves of smaller plants, or snip the stems a few inches down for large plants.

Containers and Size

Your basil will need a container that allows sufficient airflow and excellent drainage. A fabric pot with high-quality soil will help your basil plants thrive indoors. 

Your basil should be planted in a 10 to 12-inch container. I’ve had the best results with a 12-inch pot.

Potting and Repotting Basil Plants

Basil is usually eaten or used before it’s time to repot the plant. If you’re starting from seeds, advance your seedlings from their starting tray after about two weeks into a four-inch pot.

Can I Grow Basil Indoors in Winter?

Yes, you can absolutely grow basil indoors in the winter. You will want to make sure that your plants are receiving the amount of light I talked about earlier.

It is also vital that the plants remain in a space of about 70℉ or more.

How Long Basil can Survive Indoors?

Basil is an annual plant that will only last for one complete growing season. When grown indoors, basil is at less risk of experiencing first and cold temperatures, allowing them to last about six months.

Eventually, the plants will do what’s natural for them and begin seeding between 5 and 6 months.

Basil is an excellent choice for cooks and gardeners alike. Growing the herb indoors is easy, and it’s always nice to have fresh herbs on hand.

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Elaina Garcia

Elaina Garcia began her writing career over six years ago. Her hands-on experience with farming, gardening, maintenance, and DIY projects extends beyond ten years. Elaina’s work spans from growing edible gardens and medicinal plants and how to use them to educational/informational books and dealing with predators on the homestead.

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