Make the most of culinary herbs and spices.

Basil QandA

I have a small but somewhat thriving basil in a plastic pot. It has recently started to wilt—but only one branch at a time. Do you know what might be happening? Thanks for any guidance you can provide! CR

There are several varieties of a disease called "wilt," some are bacterial and others are fungal. One symptom is the wilting and is usually accompanied by yellowing of leaves, which you don't mention. If this is the case, your plant probably won't make it and should be destroyed to avoid infecting surrounding plants. It could be a simple matter of overwatering, too. Make sure your plastic pot has a drainage hole in the bottom and use care to water thoroughly rather than frequently.


We have a well loved Greek basil plant that we have grown up on our window sill it very bushy and is seeming to become too big for its pot... can it be divided into two plants safely or does it need to be kept as one in a bigger pot? AP

Basil isn't a plant I generally think of as being divisible just because it is a single stemmed plant. If yours looks like it is more than one plant, you could try dividing it. Frankly, I would just transfer it to a bigger pot rather than risk hurting a plant that I love.


Hello! So I’ve had my basil plant for about a month now and about six of the sprouts are getting relatively big, and that’s exactly the problem. The seedlings that are under the big sprouts are pretty tiny and are starting to deteriorate. Another problem is the small seedlings under the big sprouts may also be too clumped together. But even having those ideas about what may be the problem, I still have basically no idea what is the real problem, and if I did know I’d probably have no idea how to fix it! It’s an outdoor basil plant so the problem may very well be that the big sprouts are overshadowing the small ones, so if that’s the problem could you tell me how to expose the small sprouts to more sunlight? Thank you so much for your website and please respond ASAP, thanks again! LAO

I'm not clear if you have a single plant or several. If what you are calling seedlings are attached to the main plant, you might consider snipping back some of the larger leaves to allow sunlight to reach those branches underneath. If you actually have more than one plant, they may just be planted too close to each other. You could thin the seedlings to allow 6 to 8 inches between them or, if they are large enough, dig them up and transplant at better spacing. Overcrowded plants makes them more susceptible to disease.


Hello, I recently purchased a small potted basil from my local grocery store. The instructions said that the basil was not repotable, but is there a specific reason why? If I were to repot it, will I be able to grow it with the right maintenance? Thank you! NP

If you are referring to a product called "living basil" that is sold with the root cube still attached but not actually in a pot, we have learned that some people have had success in trying to keep the plant alive by planting it in soil. (See the quote from Utsalady Farm below.) If you bought a plant that is actually potted in soil, I can't come up with a single reason why you couldn't transplant it.


Your website is very helpful!! After browsing the Q&As, I am thinking my basil plants may have fallen victim to scale. They have black and brown sesame seed-like lumps running up and down the stems, with very few on the leaves. Does this sound like an accurate diagnosis? They are on a second story screened-in porch, and are large plants grown from seed earlier this year--I hate to lose them. I have already fought an aphid epidemic that killed my tomato and pepper plants with the soap and water pesticide. The basil was only mildly affected. Is it most effective to scrape them off or to treat with alcohol? There is very limited information of scale on the internet, and I am seeing both methods, but again, info is incredibly limited, as are photos for diagnosis. Also, is this one of those diseases wherein both the plant and the soil need to be discarded? I would appreciate your input! Thanks so much! CK

People often ask about bumps on basil plants that are actually the spot where roots would emerge if given the chance, as when rooting in water. If your scale diagnosis is correct, you will probably be seeing "honeydew," a sticky film from the insects' excrement. This, in turn, encourages the growth of sooty mold. Most sources suggest scraping the bugs off with a fingernail or small soft brush--this would actually be a good way to test the scale vs. root bumps, root bumps won't fall off. Rubbing alcohol might be too harsh for tender basil plants. If you want to go that route, do a small test patch to make sure it won't hurt the plants. Lastly, scale is an insect, not a disease so it doesn't present a problem for the soil if you can eradicate the pest.


I am wondering if, like parsley and dill, the basil stems can be used and eaten in basil-rich dishes? Thanks. NGM

I discovered when writing "A Bounty of Basil: How to Preserve the Harvest" that the stems don't have the same good flavor as basil leaves do. You might taste the younger, tender stems and see if you like them before using but I would avoid the tougher stalk-like parts.


I’m having a problem. I’ve always been told to pinch off basil when it starts going into seed. But this season, for some reason when I pinch it off, the stem is turning woody and brown where I’m cutting it and it isn’t leading to any new growth. I’ve also been having issues with downy mildew and white flies, but neem oil is working on correcting those issues. What can I do to encourage new growth on this seemingly stubborn plant? Thanks! EH

It is really the flower buds that you want to pinch off way before they go to seed. If the plant has started to form seeds then it thinks it is done for the season. You might try giving the entire plant a 2-inch "haircut" to see if that might stimulate it to produce more leaves.


Hello, I bought fresh basil at the market. They were just stems no roots. I cut off the ends and put them in a glass of water on the counter to keep them fresh. They look like more leaves are growing. Will they root? Then, do I just plant them in dirt? How much water and sun do they need? thank you NJ

I suppose by now you have figured out if they will root--it doesn't take long. If they do, then yes, you can plant them in a nice potting soil or well-worked ground. Learn all about growing basil on the Basil Q&A Page.


I am growing sweet basil indoors in buffalo NY. I have a full spectrum t5 bulb with a open ended plastic tent covering it to keep in the heat. I keep the bulb on 16hrs and off 8 hrs. The plants are growing and very sturdy with good color and taste but: the leaves are small and tight together. How can I get the plant taller with bigger leaves? RM

I'm thinking maybe you have a variety of globe basil which has small leaves and maintains a low-growing habit.


Hi, I have a basil plant that was growing so nicely for over a year now. Couple months ago the leaves started to turn yellow, but it was (is) growing new ones that was green, so I wasn't concerned. Couple weeks ago I noticed some kind of sticky substance on it and spots of grayish fury like something. Almost like mice-fur. The plant looks like is is dieing. :( I have no clue what to do to save my plant. Please advise me! Thanks VKG

Your description makes me think you have a bad case of downy mildew, a fungal disease. The spores are not usually associated with a stickiness, however, so you may also have some sort of pest involved. Might be time to go shopping for a new plant.


Hello! My husband has grown a big beautiful basil plant out front in a pot that sits on a tall stand. Recently, a white thick web looking substance has started growing on the stems. Do you know what this is? Will this kill the plant? Lowes told us it was some kind of bug and recommended a product but that did not work. Please help! What can we do to get rid of the white stuff? CY

You might look into webworms or spider mites to see if that could be what it is. Oftentimes, just a strong spray of water will take care of a pest infestation. I think that's always the best, safest way to start the battle.


Hi, I was hoping you could help me. I have begun to grow basil for the first time. Basically all I did was open a packet of seeds and throw them into a flower pot that’s about 20cm wide/round. The seeds have germinated and have started to grow into about 1cm high little stems. So now when I look into the flower pot all I see is green (which is the large amount of stems with little leaves growing off them). My questions is, can I just leave it how it is and continue to grow it in this pot or am I supposed to separate the stems and grow each one separately? I’m afraid that if I separate them they will all die. I hope someone can help me. AD

Now is the time to start "thinning out" the plants. This means you need to pull out some of the sprouts (they are edible) to give the remaining plants room to grow. Sounds like you have way too many in there right now so you will want to be sort of ruthless. I would pull out as many as necessary to leave about 15 in the pot. Later, you will want to narrow it down even more to about 5, after you see which ones are the healthiest.


I have been given dried basil which has leaves at the bottom then seed leaf pods at the top...I am thinking I just use the leaves at the bottom and not the stem or seeds. DR

I think I would go with just the leaves as well, but you could taste the seed pods and, if they have good flavor, would be edible as well.


Hi there! My son and I both buy basil plants from the grocery store. Mine thrive for months on end, but his always develop brownish and silvery streaks on the leaves and die quickly. I'm house-sitting for him now and closely examined his latest plant. When I shook it, loads of tiny grey/brown bugs fell off. They do not fly and are almost microscopically small. These have to be the source of the problem, but why does he have them and can he get rid if them? His nearby parsley and thyme plants may have the same problem. Many thanks! A, London, England

It is difficult to identify a problem without seeing it in person. I recommend that you take the plant, bugs and all, to a local nursery or greenhouse where an expert can give you good advice.


Hi, hope you can answer my question. For the first time I've managed to grow something! I've got a few Thai basil plants grown from seed and they've been doing well until now (4 months old approx) I may have been overwatering sometimes, as the leaves had turned greyish/speckled in the past- now they've all turned like this, but I found very tiny/ brown/rusty coloured bugs on all the leaves-how can I get rid of them, or is it too late? (the plants have been kept indoors) I have'nt treated them yet with anything. Thanks (I live in Spain, if that's a help) ES

Congratulations on your initial success. Now I have homework for you. I suspect the grayish speckling may be downy mildew and the bugs are aphids but you must do the research to see if I am correct. An easy way to do this is go to Google Images and put in your search words. Tons of photos you can compare will pop up and you can follow the correct one to websites that will help you decide how to treat the problems.


I live in California and have grown basil before, this year my lovely, bushy basil plant has been infected by a leaf miner. My question is, can I eat the leaves with the squiggly line damage??? I don’t see any bugs or anything on the leaves… I washed the leaves and pinched of some of the more unappetizing ones. But a lot of the leaves still have the squiggly lines and I want to use them. What is the answer??? Thank you! MB

I wouldn't eat them. The leafminers make those tunnels as a place to lay their eggs. The larvae emerge after a couple of weeks and get into the soil. I just think that makes the tunneled leaves rather unappetizing.


Hello, I just purchased and planted a rather big Italian basil plant. Today I made pesto (same recipe I always use) but it is very bitter. Is there a way I can sweeten the pesto so it's not bitter? Is there anything I can do to the plant to take the bitterness away? Thank you, LC

The general consensus is that basil leaves get bitter as the plant ages. I don't think there's any way to change the plant, some varieties are more bitter than others. You might try adding just a pinch of sugar to the pesto that you make from it.


Hello, I grow basil every year and I am a bit confused. When flowers start I always cut them off so the plant continues to grow??? I have followed suit with this from the advice of a friend for years and never questioned it. Now I do. PLEASE advise. Thank you, Best regards, SL

By snipping the flowers from basil you can extend the life of the plant a bit longer. This is because it is an annual plant's job to grow leaves, flower and put out seeds all in one season. It can't produce seeds if it's not allowed to flower so you can sort of fool it into producing extra foliage.


Hello, I have a very basic question. I bought a sweet basil plant from the farmer's market yesterday, and I am keeping it inside in my sunny kitchen window (outside is not my property). My question is how often should I water my plant? Thanks, RL

 All plants should be watered when the top couple of inches of soil have dried out. It's a mistake to water plants on any type of schedule as needs change at different times in the growing season.


I bought my first basil plant, but I live in an apartment with limited locations for the plant. I have had the plant on the patio that is east facing, but the leaves are turning lighter green. The only other option would be to keep it indoors at a north facing window (which does get light longer). Which would be the best location to try and keep it healthy? Thank you! EB

Unless you keep the apartment quite cool, I think I would go for the window location since basil does like its light.


I planted seeds early inside and they sprouted with little plants of pairs of leaves only about a half an inch for a total pair. They have not grown any bigger or taller in about 10 days and they have no flavor - I am truly wondering if this is even Basil.... what do you think? I recently moved them into a larger growing area to start keeping outside more often now at least during the day, lots of sun and enough moisture, they don't look bad or like something is wrong - just that they don't seem to be basil. The leaf I sampled had no flavor like it was just another plant and they aren't curved or shriveled like in the picture or like I have bought plants before.  Maybe I just have to wait a lot longer? :o) I googled and found your site... what a great site. Thank you. S

Most basils take 60-70 days to go from seeds to harvest so you might just need to wait a bit longer. I am wondering, however, if your temperatures are warm enough. Basil is a heat lover and won't thrive in conditions under 50 degrees (F). You could do a Google image search of "basil seedlings" to confirm that your plant is what you think it is.


Hi. I am growing sweet basil, lemon basil and Thai basil around the same area. Can they cross pollinate? NP

Good question. I had to look it up and found the information at the Clemson University Extension Office's website. Basil cultivars will indeed cross-pollinate. To prevent this, they should be planted 150 feet apart. You may already be aware that this is only an issue if you want to save the seeds.


I purchased a Basil plant in a grocery store and kept it alive inside over the winter. I was easily able to grow 2 new plants from clippings. Recently I noticed what looked like fine sawdust on the leaves. I noticed a few white flying insects We washed the leaves off with soapy water and they appeared clean for a few days, but droopy. Now the white stuff is coming back. Any Ideas on diagnosis and treatment? EAM

You might want to Google "whitefly" to see if this is your problem and find a treatment that works for you. To be even more sure, consider contacting your local Master Gardener office for their help.


Last year, a seller at the semi-annual sale at the Virginia Arboretum said she had a terrible time growing Thai Queen Basil, and would not attempt it again. I put my self to the challenge and have started with seeds, proper starting mix, light close to the tiny seedlings etc., etc., even a fan on now and then. But they are already very difficult: tiny, extremely fragile, slow-to-grow, and very few seeds have actually germinated. Any clues? Thanks for all the info. I hope you are still posting. DH

Sounds like you are doing everything right. You don't mention temperature but I do know that basil likes to be warm. Basil seeds are viable for about 10 years, so it's probably not old seeds but maybe you should try a different brand.


I have been successfully growing basil in an aerogarden for 4 months. I’ve pinched so they are nice and bushy. The top leaves are healthy: dark green and firm. The lower leaves have become a lighter green and limp. Sounds like overwatering… but it’s an aerogarden! Maybe nutrients? JF

Nutrient deficiencies usually affect the older leaves first so this could be a logical conclusion. I wonder too, however, if maybe the plant is so full that those lower leaves aren't getting enough light?


Hi, My basil plant is producing leaves, but it is growing "up" and leaves are not growing at the bottom of the plant. There is about 5 inches of exposed plant with all of the new growth at the top. Why is this happening? Why aren't leaves growing at the bottom? Thanks! KC

Usually when plants get "leggy" it is because they are reaching for light. You might try to get your basil into a sunnier location. You can also encourage it to turn more bushy by pinching back the new growth.


Hi, thank you for this helpful site. I have started my Thai basil from seed early spring this year and after just under a couple months my newly grown basil started to flower. I keep them inside in my sunroom to receive as much sun and keep them warm as possible. Is this normal? My sweet basil are still happily growing unlike the Thai basil. Thank you. DS

Sometimes a plant will flower when it is in distress. Maybe your plant isn't getting enough light and/or water. It also may just be that your plant is finishing its life cycle. One seed catalog says Thai basil takes 75 days to reach maturity.


I have recently grown sweet basil from seed. It has only been about 1 1/2 months. The plants look great, but the leaves taste bitter. I know most of the articles I've read say that if the basil plant flowers that it could become bitter. These are new plants. Could planting it near garlic chive or green onion have anything do to with it? Please advise if there is anyway that I can sweeten the taste of my plants. Thank you. JW

The only thing I can come up with is that the variety of basil you are growing is somewhat bitter. Perhaps it will get sweeter as it grows. I don't think it has anything to do with the plants around it.


What does mold on basil look like? I have dried basil and there are black spots on some of the leaves. Is this mold? thanks. JM

Mold on basil could be black or white. I think this is a case for "when in doubt, throw it out."


I have a basil plant, and it is growing great, except for the mushrooms growing around it. The mushrooms are leaving a black oil residue, and I am concerned to eat the basil if this oil substance gets on the basil. Is this normal? Is my basil still edible? WM

Mushrooms generally won't hurt other plants, they feed on decaying material in soil. I would go ahead and pluck them as I see them developing, but the basil should be okay after a good rinse.


Hi, My beautiful basil plant is no longer doing well. I had it outside for the summer but living in Rhode Island I had to bring it inside. Approximately 6 weeks ago, I brought the plant inside my home and placed it in front of a sunny window. It was doing fine until 7 to 10 days ago when it started to die. Some leaves have turned brown while others have become droopy. It all seemed to start when it grew flowers. I had read on a website that they needed to be picked or the basil would become bitter. After I picked them everything seemed to go down hill. It was a nice healthy bush with tons of leaves standing over a foot high. I'm so upset and need your help in keeping my basil plant alive. Please help ! GS

Could be the plant is just at the end of its life cycle, but I wonder if maybe you are overwatering it. Indoor plants don't need as much water and we have a tendency to overdo it when we bring them in. Even if the surface looks dry, check a couple of inches below the top before adding water.


Hello, No answer anywhere. I have wonderful basil in the garden this year and would like to know if the seeds are in the flowers, or if not where.  Howw do I get the seeds from the existing plants? And best way to insure indoor growth. Thanks, Verrrry Much. E

The seeds are in the flowers where they mature after the flowers die. Just leave them on the stalk until the little pods are starting to open. When you are ready to harvest, hold a paper bag under the seed pod and snip it off so that it falls into the bag. A couple of good shakes and the seeds will separate. Make sure they are completely dry before storing.


Can you please help me? what makes my basil get woody at the bottom of its stems? BF

Sounds like your plant is getting a bit old, this happens as a plant ages.


Hello! My basil plant was going very well outside & I noticed most of the leaves are now yellowing. I used some green & some slightly yellow leaves to make pesto but was told my pesto didn't taste the same. My questions concern using yellowed leaves. Is there any reason not to use or is there special uses for it? Also, what is the recommended use for basil plant tops? Thank you for your help. AB

Yellow leaves indicate they aren't healthy for some reason. If they are about to die and fall off, it stands to reason they probably haven't retained their essential oils that give the flavor. If by basil plant tops, you mean the flowers, they are a nice garnish or tasty tossed into salads. They would be pretty in a flavored butter. Please see "Compound Butters Rescue Plain Foods."


My basil is in pots on my porch. Nice and green and looks good. However, it does not have much basil flavor. What could affect the flavor? ET

Could you have used a fertilizer? This will sometimes cause herbs to grow quickly without developing the essential oils for flavor.


My Italian basil plants have a few slimy, milky substance on the leaves. No one seems to know what might causing this. Are the leaves still edible and how do I eradicate this unknown something? Thanks. LS

 Have you considered slugs? They leave creepy little trails where ever they have been.


I bought “Italian Basil” from a vendor I have never used before. While the plants are absolutely gorgeous, it has a distinct licorice taste that seems very strong. What is wrong? I’ve been growing basil for years and making pesto and freezing it for the winter and never had this happen before. RS

 I've noticed that licorice, or anise, flavor in basil before. It seems more prominent in dried basil to me. So many different varieties exist, it is difficult to say exactly which one you bought, but "Italian" is pretty vague. I don't think there is anything wrong, you just happened onto a variety with which you aren't familiar.


Hi there, This is the 5th time I've purchased fresh basil from the supermarket in a clear pouch with wet roots at the bottom. They look great. But after reading instructions were they suggest some light and place the roots in water the plant's leave start to wither, shrivel and die. The stems end up with a lengthy indentation and are some stems are keeling over. I suspect way too much water. Well after two days of that I decided to plant them indoors. I made drainage holes in a large peanut jug, dug the center, planted, pressed the sides down firmly and watered thoroughly and now have put her in the sunny window. What is the chance that they will recover? Thanks for answering my question. CDB

These basil plants with the root cubes still attached aren't meant to be planted so we will have to wait and see if yours takes off. The folks at Utsalady Farm say that their supermarket basils are fully mature plants ready for eating and that while some people were successful at planting them, others were not. They also recommend putting the root balls in water that covers only half, so you may be correct in the "way too much water" suspicion.


I use my fingernails to pinch off the flowers on my basil plant (they just keep coming!) and the main finger nail I use is getting a brown mark on the nail. I wash with plenty of soap as soon as I'm done, but it's not preventing the stain from getting darker. Any ideas on how to lighten/get rid of the stain? SB

Lemon juice might help. You could also change your tactic and use some snippers to get those flowers off the plant.


We just had a big rain storm after days of really hot weather. I just went out to my basil plant which has been doing very well, and there are very small purple and white colored things on all the leaves. At first I thought a bird dropped something on my plant but I touched them and they felt slimy. Could these be baby slugs? I don’t know how to get rid of them. There are several on every leaf. I did read that spraying with vinegar and water may help? If it does can the basil still be eaten? Any suggestions? DH

Could be tiny slugs or snails. If it is, they will likely disappear as the weather warms again. If they don't, I would suspect something else. You might want to pick a leaf and take it to your local garden center or master gardeners. I haven't heard about vinegar and water working, but you could set a beer trap to catch the slugs. This is a matter of filling a small bowl or tuna can with beer and burying it level with the ground. The smell attracts the slugs and they fall in.


Hello, I've been looking all over the internet for an answer but so far no luck! I have sweet basil growing in a large pot outside. I noticed that the tops were about to flower, so I pinched them all. Under the leaves, near the stalks where the flowers were about to grow was some sort of white/clear mucus. It really looked like spit, just a little thicker. What is it? I don't have a pest problem (as far as I can tell) and the basil seems happy. There is a cucumber vine that keeps invading the basil's territory, but it's nowhere near the top of the plants. Thanks! LD

Have you considered spittlebugs? They emit the sort of froth that you describe, but don't really do much damage to the plant. You could give the plant a good spray of water and that will probably get rid of them.


Hi there, What can I do to fight of little white flying bugs on my basil? I’ve heard about 1 drop of soap in a gallon of water sprayed on the plant. I don’t want to kill the plant. Any suggestions? Thanks! KL

I'm providing a link to the University of Illinois page about whitefly. If this isn't your pest, you can search their site and see if you can find out what it is.


I have basil plant with holes and black round things on the leaves. I cannot find any slugs or caterpillars. I researched this some and think the black things may be caterpillar frass. How can I rid my plant of this? BS

It is really important to identify the pest before you can do anything about it because each one needs different treatment. Continue to monitor the plant and look for the caterpillars at different times of day, even after dark. They may have moved on by now and you won't need to do anything.


After picking the basil and cutting it, the basil develops dark spots. I understand that I may be bruising the leaves. Any suggestions on how not to? LI

It's best to tear the leaves just before using them rather than cutting with a knife.


My basil plant looks like it has the start of scales. I am afraid to use a commercial insecticide because of coarse I will be eating it soon. I know my usual fix of soap and water spray will not work because of the hard shells they have. What can I do? Thanks, L

 Scale is hard to get rid of. I've had good luck getting rid of them by wiping the stems with a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol.


Wow I have stayed up way too late reading this site, but what great info! My basil has kind of beige bumps on it, mostly on the stem just under where a new leaf would sprout. They are very clustered, narrow all lined up. I have looked for hours today at insect egg pictures and can not find one that matches. I'm not even sure they are eggs, in some places it looks like part of the plant, how ever it also looks in some places like whatever it is, is causing a lot of damage. Please help! Thank you.

Glad you are enjoying the site! Did you consider aphids yet? That sounds like what it might be and they do like that tender new growth the best.


I just bought a beautiful basil plant at Trader Joes yesterday. I put a little water and stuck it outside because it said it needed full sun and I don't get much sun inside my house. This morning my plant was wilted and the leaves had brown spots. Should I have kept it inside? What can I do to save it? Thanks, VL

Your new plant may have gotten a bit of a sunburn. Some plants need to be "hardened off" when introducing them to the outdoors. This means to start putting it in full sun for just a few hours at a time, increasing the time by an hour or so each day. Your Trader Joe's purchase probably just arrived from a greenhouse so it hadn't seen full sun yet. I'm guessing it will recover with a bit of tender loving care.


Hey pinch of - my basil has black patches throughout. I live in Texas and it's mighty warm, but this is the first time this has happened. my penny royal also has the same. any thoughts? LD

There are many reasons that black spots appear on plants. Your best diagnosis will come from someone who can actually look at the problem. I suggest you take a sample of both plants to your local nursery or Master Gardeners' office to see if they can help.


My basil plants have turned yellow and brown spots, can you tell me why? LC

Sometimes leaves turn yellow when the plant is overwatered. This condition is also indicative of fusarium or verticillium wilt. Both are fungal diseases for which there is no cure.


I am growing Thai basil (from seed) in my kitchen window. The plants look beautiful they are around 3 inches tall. If you look close you will see there is some type of bug looks like a white aphid to me but really tiny? There are hundreds of them on the top and bottom. Where do they come from? This has never happened to me before with my basil. I have sprayed it down and pretty much removed all of the bugs. Do they live in the soil and how do I know they are all gone? I love having it growing in my kitchen but now I am thinking about moving it to the garden. I guess I am afraid of them being transferred to my outside garden. Any suggestions or info on this would be great. Also if they are an aphid I thought basil was supposed to repel them? Thanks. KS

Aphids love to feast on new growth so what could be better than seedlings? It seems most likely that they would have come from the soil, but it's hard to say. In large colonies some grow wings so they might have come in that way. Your spray of water is the best control, however, in the garden other good pests, like ladybugs and lacewings, will help, too. This is a positive argument for planting them outside. While basil is bothered by few pests, aphids are definitely one of them.


My basil plants are wilting and I notice the stems are turning black. I don't see any slugs. What's happening? JA

Slugs don't cause leaves to wilt, they cause them to disappear. Sounds like some variety of the fungal disease called "wilt." There isn't a remedy so you will probably need to get a new plant.


So glad to have found your site. I am growing my first garden this season including 2 basil plants. I am hoping to be able to keep some of it through the winter by drying or freezing. We make our own pasta sauce, among other things. What do you recommend about washing basil before you dry or freeze it? I notice the texture change as soon as I rinse it, even if I am using it right away, so I hope there is an easy solution for drying/freezing. Thanks! MG

I probably shouldn't say this out loud, but I don't wash herbs from my own garden before using them. I know I haven't sprayed them with anything and it rains a lot so they are already clean. If there is visible dirt you can brush it off.


I have a pot of basil on my porch every year that with pinching off, turns into a beautiful bush & provides much pesto. This year so far it is being eaten by red beetle type bugs that burrow in the soil. When I water the plant they all come running up out of the soil & I try to grab them all out of the pot. More come back & the plant is looking chewed up. Buy a new plant & start over or soapy water into soil? Will the plant recoup if I do get them to leave? BM

I didn't realize there were so many red insects until I started researching your question. You will need to figure out what the pest is before you can take action. I suggest you search "red insects" in the Google photos function to see if you can find a bug that matches yours. These photos will often take you to an article about management for that pest.


I am growing Thai basil (from seed) in my kitchen window. The plants look beautiful they are around 3 inches tall. If you look close you will see there is some type of bug looks like a white aphid to me but really tiny? There are hundreds of them on the top and bottom. Where do they come from? This has never happened to me before with my basil. I have sprayed it down and pretty much removed all of the bugs. Do they live in the soil and how do I know they are all gone? I love having it growing in my kitchen but now I am thinking about moving it to the garden. I guess I am afraid of them being transferred to my outside garden. Any suggestions or info on this would be great. Also if they are an aphid I thought basil was supposed to repel them? Thanks. KS

Aphids love to feast on new growth so what could be better than seedlings? It seems most likely that they would have come from the soil, but it's hard to say. In large colonies some grow wings so they might have come in that way. Your spray of water is the best control, however, in the garden other good pests, like ladybugs and lacewings, will help, too. This is a positive argument for planting them outside. While basil is bothered by few pests, aphids are definitely one of them.


Hello there, I have an indoor Basil plant that I bought potted at Trader Joe’s…I’ve had it a month and a half or so now, and today I noticed it had holes in many of the leaves, and upon closer inspection there was a green worm hiding on one of the stems. Where did it come from??!?! I don’t think it was there the whole time, the plant has been sitting on my sill indoors all this time. Is it still safe to eat the leaves that aren’t half eaten, or should I throw the whole thing away?!?!  Thank you for your advice! TF

The worm may have hatched from eggs laid on the leaves or in the soil, or it could have hitched a ride from the greenhouse where the basil was grown. Sounds like you have gotten rid of it so just keep your eyes open for others. The plant itself should be fine and completely edible.


Hi, I am a real basil lover! After many tries, I have finally gotten my basil to thrive located in my windowsill. I notice that the basil leaves on the top of the plant are much larger than the basil leaves on the bottom of the plant. When harvesting the leaves, does it have any effect on the health of the plant if I pick the larger leaves (top) before the smaller leaves (bottom) or vice versa? MBA

Your basil will thrive and become more bushy if you harvest the leaves from the top. Pinch clusters of leaves at a point where they emerge from the side stem or at other v-shaped joints.


Hello! I have a question for you about my basil plant. I live in Houston, TX and am growing a basil plant in a pot in my backyard. It is growing nicely, but I have noticed wormlike paths on some of my leaves. I have attached a picture so you can see it. What is it and how do I get rid of it? Also, are the leaves that do not have these squiggly lines still safe to eat? Thank you so much! CH

Our policy is not to open attachments so I didn't see your photo, but it sure sounds like leafminers to me. Pinch off the affected leaves and check the plant for eggs to prevent more damage. The unaffected leaves should be fine.


I am a first time grower of basil. I really like the taste and thought I would try to grow it on my own. Started from seed and the plants were about 2-3 inches tall, full of leaves and doing well. Overnight I only have stalks growing now, no leaves and they look bad. Can you tell me what is going on? Thanks. NA

This could be a common condition called "damping off," but it sounds more like a chewing pest to me. That leaves it wide open to anything from caterpillars to deer depending on where you live.


Hello, Please can you give me some tips on how to cover the bitterness in taste of the perennial basil in a pesto for example? Thanks, RF

Bitterness can be hard to mask, but you might try adding a couple of cherry tomatoes (as we do in our Cooking School Pesto recipe). Some people add a pinch of sugar to tomato sauces to prevent them from being bitter so you could try that too. One more idea would be to use less basil and more parsley in your pesto.


Hello. I love your website. I am a plant lover and decided to buy a boxwood basil plant to add to my garden collection. I don't know much about this type of basil but have learned from reading your website that I need to punch off the flowers that are starting to appear. Which is off because it is a new plant. My question for you is. How long can my boxwood basil plant live? Its not your normal basil as it grows in a tight roundish bush with tiny leaves. Anyways. If you could give me more info I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks. M from AZ

I wasn't familiar with this new offering from Burpee until you asked. The company lists it as an annual, meaning it should live for about a year. In your warm climate, however, it might live longer. The plant may be new to you, but if it is a good size it has probably been alive for some time.


Hi, Thanks for your help in advance. I have planted some basil seeds in a Flaired window box 5-3/4"h x 24" w x 10-1/2" d . I have used Potting Mix soil. I planted the seeds half an inch below the surface of the soil. first of all I wanted to know if the soil is proper for planting basil. secondly How long should I wait till I see some growth. It has been 3 days now. It seems like nothing is gonna happen. Thanks, SS

You might have more success with a seed-starting soil blend but, personally, I find that stuff difficult to work with. Basil seeds take a week or even two to germinate.


My basil plant has been flourishing with great leaves, and looks great, except for one thing. As of yesterday, there have been bumps that appear to be growing FROM the plant alongside the stems. They're of the plants colour, but they're along side the stems and follow all the way up...what is this? I thought they were bugs, but they seem to be a part of the plant....?

Sounds like maybe the plant is doing so well it's decided to spread some roots. I've seen this before. If you took a cutting and rooted it in water, the roots would emerge from these bumps.


Hi, thanks for your help. I live in San Francisco and just put some basil plants out in planters on our deck. I have found the upper leaves of the plants being eaten by something. I examined the plants and found a small, light brown, translucent winged insect about ½” long under a leaf. I can’t identify the insect, can you? jm

I found two insects that meet your description, Braconid Wasps and Lacewings, but they are both good guys who feed on the insects that damage our gardens. This is a good example of how the pest we see may not be the one causing the problem. Looking into what these two like to eat may give you other ideas as to just  who is eating your basil.


Hi. My question may sound a little different than most regarding basil, but I am interested in harvesting the buds from my basil plants (once they've formed), for their medicinal value. The plants are each about 7"-10" tall. My question is, are there any things I can do (besides using a higher phosphorus fertilizer) to increase bud production and/or size? Also, if I harvest the buds right before they are about to flower, would they still be free of seeds? Thanks, JP

Basil loves light and heat so it would help to give the plants as much sunshine as possible. The seeds don't form until after the flowers.


I planted basil seeds a week ago--Genovese, I believe. I've kept the soil moist, but have noticed coriander-sized white pods in my basil pots. I say pods because they squish when I squeeze them. I just want to be sure this is normal, that these pods are not fungus or some other kind of pest. Is this simply the seed germinating, and I didn't cover them well enough with soil? DG

The seeds germinating should look more like a sprout. I'm thinking you might be seeing slug eggs. They look sort of like little pearls. It might also be perlite in the seed starting mix although that is firm, not squishy.


I buy basil from grocery stores in the winter. After days in the refrigerator, the leaves get black spots. Are they still edible for use in pesto? Thanks for your help. God bless you. DJ

A few black spots would be harmless unless you see mold, but like I always say, if you find it icky, don't eat it!


I have a basil plant, which at first glance looks pretty healthy and full. However, I noticed that some of the leaves are quite shiny and a little sticky. Also around the outside of the pot is sticky. I haven't been able to see any bugs on it. What do you think is the problem? IR

Although it could be completely unrelated to nature, like something was spilled on the plant, a sticky residue is often associated with "honeydew," or excrement from a variety of bugs. Since the plant seems healthy enough, you might try just giving it and the pot a nice bath is plain water and then continue to monitor it for some sort of insect.


I read an article on your website by Sandra Bowens about freezing Basil. (see A Bounty of Basil) I have an AeroGarden in which I grow basil. After harvesting , I place the basil in a plastic bag and freeze it. I remove the bag from the freezer and quickly use a rolling pin to shatter the leaves & stems into small pieces in the bag! Can then be refrozen ready for use. Works very well! JL

Thanks for the hint. I tried this and I think it's a great idea. Now I have my own little bag of shattered basil in the freezer!


Hello, It is winter in California (end of January) and my basil plant has all gone to wood, like a tree that has lost its leaves. Will it come back in the spring? Or is it time to throw it out? Thanks, LR

If you scratch the stem and it is still green underneath I would say wait to see if it sprouts new growth. I haven't seen a plant do this but I've never grown basil in California, either.


Please help - I was given a beautiful Basil plant from a friend but now it is being eaten by something white and rectangle that is attached to the bottom of the leaves - how do I get rid of it?  Thanks. LS

My first impulse is to suggest you have a mealy bug infestation, but mealy bugs don't eat the plant, they suck the juices. If this is actually the case, you could try just washing them away with a good stream of water or wiping the leaves with a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol.


Hi. First of all, thank you so much for your informative website! I purchased 2 organic basil pots (many plants per pot) which I keep in a south-facing window where they get plenty of sunlight. I water them daily so that the soil is always moist. They have been doing very well, in fact I recently harvested enough basil to make a batch a pesto. I have noticed though that the edges are starting to brown on some of the leaves and other leaves have brownish-silvery spots on them. Also the leaves have lost their dark green color and the new leaves are a bit curly in shape. I have checked for bugs but don't see any. Are my plants lacking nutrients? Help PLEASE! Thanks so much . RT in Cleveland

The situation you describe could indicate a nutrient deficiency. You might try giving it a dose of plant food to see if that helps. If not, I suggest you take the plant to a garden center or your local Master Gardeners for a diagnosis. You might want to rethink your watering methods as well. It's best to let the top couple of inches of soil dry out before you give the plant enough water that it drips from the drainage holes. Best to water thoroughly but less often than a little bit more frequently.


Hi. My husband and I planted some Italian and lemon basil a couple months ago. They have been doing beautifully. Lately I brought them inside as the weather got quite cold and put them under a grow light in the kitchen. The weather picked back up and they are outside again. The lemon basil continues to look perfect, but there a few leaves on the Italian basil that are turning white. They do seem to be at the top of the plant. They are on a different spot on the balcony so they are getting more sun, is it possible they are getting too much sun and burning? HJ

Sun scorch usually causes yellow-to-brown edges on older leaves first. I wonder if you have powdery mildew? This looks like flour has been dusted on the leaves.


Hello. I started growing Basil in Spring and have been very surprised as to how well and healthy its been. However now that Autumn is here my Basil looks to be dying. It's an indoor plant. First I took it off the windowsill due to the coldness, yet it was still able to get sun. But now I feel I'm losing this fight. When I water it the brown leaves turn green and flourish, yet 1-2hrs later it's brown and dull again. What can I do to keep it alive? Thanks KC

Could just be that your basil is nearing the end of its life span (see "All About Basil"), however this changing leaf color is puzzling. You may have some sort of disease involved. Snip off a good sized stem and inspect the flesh inside. If if is discolored, you will probably want to give up the fight and start with a new plant.


Hi. I purchased a couple sweet basil plants and a Thai basil in the spring of this year. It was going well, but noticed half way through the summer, the stems began getting woody and the plant now produces few leaves and has also begun to flower. I learned from reading your website that this means it is nearing the end of it's growth cycle. My question is: Can I do anything to create a new plant at this point? We have a warm fall here in Charleston. I'd love to have fresh basil through the fall. If I need to wait till next Spring, what do I do to the plants in the meantime? LG

As you probably read, you can snip those flowers to extend the life of the plant. To make a new plant, you could take a cutting to root in water from one of the stems that isn't flowering. I haven't actually done this before but it seems like a good idea. I think I'll do it too and see if I can have an indoor basil plant this winter.


Hello. I have basil plants that have been doing well, but now the leaves are looking yellowish. The texture on the underside of the yellowish leaves is different, a little grainy. Is this more likely a pest or a lack of nutrients? What are your suggestions for how to help the plants? Thank you! JC

Without seeing the plant it is difficult to say. If you suspect a lack of nutrients, however, you might try a dose of fertilizer.


Dear 'A Pinch Of...', I have a bush of basil (a number of plants growing near each other). I've noticed that the older leaves are slightly yellow, with brown patches on them. The patches are fairly large (>3mm in 'diameter), irregular in shape (circular or rectangular usually) and some of the leaves are brown at the edges. The brown spots/edges do not always occur on the same leaf - one may have spots, another leaf may have edges or both. These afflicted leaves are found on every plant. I fertilize every few weeks with liquid fertilizer. The new leaves are a nice healthy green and the plant seems to be growing quite happily. I grow rosemary in another pot in the same conditions (I do leave it out overnight) and it looks amazing. Do you have any suggestions as to what the browning may be? Regards, MN P.S. Love your site. The Q&A was an amazing source of information.

The situation you describe could indicate a nitrogen deficiency and/or overwatering. Check the fertilizer to see if it is a source of nitrogen and pay special attention to water needs rather than just watering on a regular schedule.


Hi, I live in Brooklyn and had a wonderful big Basil plant until about a week ago when I noticed quarters of the leaves were yellowing a bit and underneath that yellowing is sort of a dark grey fuzz. It looks like eggs of some sort. It has been getting progressively worse too, but nothing is being eaten. Then today I just noticed that on one stalk of the plant there are bunch of very angular black bugs/beetles crawling around, but mostly hanging out in groups on the stalks and leaves. I cant tell if they are eating the grey stuff or if they are the culprits. I have looked on google for any leads on these bugs but haven't found a lead. Any idea what's happening? Thanks SB

Have you looked into aphids? They are much like you describe and they excrete "honeydew" that encourages growth of sooty mold.


Hi - basil plant doing very well. August is the month the plant is supposed to go into white flowering seed stage. Now what do I do with the white flowers? How long should I wait until they are some other color as one of your articles mentioned, brown or black or what ever. I would like to save some seeds and try another batch in the spring. Home is in Anaheim California. Thank you FW

If you want to save seeds you should let the flowers remain on the plant until they fade, then snip them and let them dry completely on a sheet of paper or in a paper bag to catch the seeds.


When I harvested my basil plants this week I discovered that slugs had eaten holes in almost every leaf. (I checked the plants at night and, sure enough, there were slugs.) My question is: If a plant has been infected with slugs, are the leaves still edible? I have read in your other posts that slugs leave a slimy trail, so I am thinking we shouldn't use the leaves. What do you think? PG

The leaves should be just fine after a good washing in cool water.


After reading through the Q & A’s, I believe my basil ‘problem’ is caterpillars – can you tell me what to do to get rid of them? Thanks! JMF

The most natural way to get rid of caterpillars is to handpick them when you see them. If you want to use something stronger, like BTK or another pesticide, you will need to identify what sort of caterpillar you have so you know what to use. Do keep in mind that butterflies are caterpillars first so you might want to share your basil with them.


Hi. My outdoor basil plant has some type of pest eating away at the leaves. Have tried the beer thing for slugs, without success. Today I found what I believe to be the insect poo on the underside of several leaves. It actually looks like a small black slug! Any ideas for me? Thanks! PKH

I have seen this thing you describe and I've been looking at Google images (insect frass) but can't seem to come up with a certain answer. Slugs are the likely culprit, however, because caterpillar frass is rather granular. You might try putting some sandpaper around the base of the plant or something else that is gritty on the slugs' undersides. Also be sure not to water the plant late in the day as the moisture will help attract slugs.


Hi great site!! I have two questions...I have grown beautiful bushy Basil every year in hanging plants on my deck. Last week I noticed lots of small brown mushrooms growing in the soil! Is this safe for the basil? Also is it safe to eat the Basil? Second Question I have just noticed that some of the stems at the bottom are turning a brown black colour and wilting the basil that is on that stem. What can be doing this? MS

The mushrooms aren't harmful to you or the basil as long as you don't eat them. They do indicate that you might be keeping the soil too wet which could also cause the second problem which may be root or crown rot.


Hi, Loved your site! I am wondering if you might know what eats basil (animal) I noticed 2 days ago that something had started eating the leaves (in full) & this morning when I checked the garden, all the leaves have been eaten off the stems! I have other veggies in the garden that have not been touched (broccoli, peppers, eggplant & squash) any suggestions? I have the garden fenced in & pretty much netted in on the sides, although I’m sure chipmunk, squirrels & field mice could find their way in. BC

Everybody likes basil! In addition to our four-legged friends you might want to look for caterpillars, some of them are voracious.


I hope you can help me. I have beautiful basil plants until about 3 weeks ago -- they are still looking healthy however, they have these really long almost grapevine like vines that are wrapping around the plants -- what caused this and what should I do?? Thanks so much, BK

Sounds like you have a weed. If you follow the vine to the ground you can snip it off there and the rest will die. To get rid of it for good you would also want to try to dig up the roots as best you can without disturbing the basil.


A chicken recipe that I want to make calls for 1/2 cup of fresh basil. I only have dried basil leaves. Can I use this and in what amount. The recipe calls for some chopped nectarines, vinegar, and some salt/pepper along with the fresh basil. The chicken has a cornmeal breading. Can you help me?

That helps to know what you're making. Fresh basil would be preferable in what sounds like a sort of salsa topping but you should get good results by using about two teaspoons of dried basil. The typical conversion of 1/3 to 1/2 as much dried as fresh would be way too much, I think, in this preparation.


I bought a huge pot of basil with three or four large basil plants. I transplanted it into a large pot and it was doing great. All of a sudden some of the plants are drooping and wilting, with brown stems at the bottom. I pulled a couple of them out and the roots look wilted. Should I pull the other bad ones out and hope for the best with the survivors, or transplant the whole thing into the ground? I love your site! KD

Do a bit of research into a fungal disease called wilt, either Verticillium or Fusarium, to see if this matches your problem. It probably couldn't hurt to transplant the healthy plants to fresh soil or in the ground. You might also be overwatering so let the plants dry out a bit between soakings.


I have healthy-appearing, prolific basil. Then, suddenly, the stems are turning black at the soil and 2 inches above the soil in about a 2 inch stretch. Any ideas what's causing this? MR

You don't say if the stems have also turned mushy which could indicate stem, crown or root rot. This can be caused by overwatering or poor drainage. Sometimes the main stems of a healthy basil plant will darken as they grow.


A friend of ours gave us a basil plant she had grown in her garden and it's now in a pot. It was healthy but now there is a brownish black coloration and withering from the base of the leaves from the stem; otherwise the plant appears to be healthy. Could you please tell me how to restore it's health or what this could be? Thank you very much. KK

It's hard to say what the problem is. It might be as simple as damage from transplanting. If it is something more serious like Verticillium or Fusarium wilt, you have probably lost the whole plant by now. If it still looks like it's growing well I would just pull off the darkened leaves and see what happens.


How long do Basil Plants live? Thank you RC

Basil is usually grown as an annual, meaning it completes its life-cycle in one season, but if you can keep it warm (above 50 degrees F) and give it plenty of light it may last for years.


Hi there....very nice site, I have about 30 purple basil plants and all are what I would call healthy however, they are slowly turning green from the lower leaves up about three quarters of the way, not yellow, they don't look deficient. They are in 4" pots, approx 10" plus or minus, very little bug kill and no real sign of any other problems. They are getting watered three times a day and needing it. I'm in Arkansas and it's 95 up and down. They have been growing from seed for nearly 11 weeks and up until the last week and a half have been deep purple. The aroma is as strong in the greener leaves as it is in the deep purple ones. Other then the loss of color I wouldn't know there is anything wrong. I'm guessing it's the small pots crowding the roots. They are trying to go to seed this week, pink flowers in the early stage on 20 percent of the plants....any ideas? DO

It's not unusual for a hybrid plant to revert to its original state, particularly when grown from seed. You sometimes see this with variegated leaves too. From what I understand, the best way to maintain the color of purple basil is to take cuttings and root them to get new plants rather than start from seeds. The heat is probably making the basil "bolt," or put out flowers so soon.


Hi-thanks for listening, I've always planted basil from seed every year. This year Chicago weather has been a little off. I planted too early and had to buy a couple of small planters from my local shop. One of the pots has a rose color coming on all of the leaves. From the stem outward. No visible bugs. I have a feeling it is on the way to being brown in a matter of moments. PS - Onions. chives, and tomatoes are doing great on the same patio. CG

This rose color may just be due to the type of basil it is. Many of varieties exist and they often have a purple or reddish hue.


I enjoy using lemon basil and my husband is growing it in the herb garden. Can you tell us more about it and perhaps a recipe or two? Thank you. DS

The name says it all as I'm sure you have guessed. You can use it just the way you would use plain basil as long as a lemon taste would not be out of place. Think of it especially for fish and vegetables. I'll bet a quarter cup of the leaves would be a delicious addition to the salad greens in our Shrimp and Spinach Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette Dressing. You might also try lemon basil in place of the lemon balm in our recipe for Snow Peas with Almonds and Lemon Balm.


Hi, I planted my sweet basil plant 2 months ago and it is growing nicely. My wife took a leaf to taste it and it tasted very bitter. Will this go away? Why does it taste so bitter? Thanks. SC

Bitterness in basil is generally associated with older plants that have been allowed to flower. It could also be the flavor of the variety that you have planted. You might want to try cooking with it to see if it retains that bitterness when combined with other foods. This is a good case for giving herb plants a little taste before you buy them.


Hi. I planted 2 basil plants outside in CT a couple of weeks ago. They look relatively healthy, but the leaves look brownish now—not spotted brown, just tinted brown. Is this a problem, and if so, what can I do? (It did get really cold a night or two but when there was a chance for frost, I covered the plants with plastic for the night). L

Cold weather is the likely culprit although the leaves may have been bruised somewhere along the way. I would just keep an eye on the new growth as the weather warms. The plant should be okay. The brownish leaves are edible but not appetizing so you might want to discard them as the plant gets bigger.


Good day to you. I have beautiful basil, and in the last 2 days, I have noticed small black spots, with a light colour around it. What could this be?? I live in the tropics, the Caribbean and with the heat I do water daily. This has not been an issue. Also, some of the leaves look as though they have created veins, a white colour running over the leaf. Hope you know what I mean. Looking forward to your reply. Best Regards, GA


Your spots may be a fungal disease called leaf blight. As for the veins, if I understand your description, it sounds like a pest called leafminers. I suggest you look into these two possibilities. The University of California's Integrated Pest Management Program website is a good place to start.


My new sweet basil plant has holes in the leaves and some eaten up. Is there something I can put in the potting soil or spray on the plant? Thank you for a response. BQ

You can't treat the problem until you have identified it. My first guess would be slugs and snails. The best way to discover them is to take a flashlight out at night and see if you can find the culprit.


Thanks in advance. I started planting basil, how can I kill bugs on my basil? There are lots of holes on the leaf. Please help. JA

First you have to figure out what's eating your basil. The other Q&A  on this page are a good place to start.


When I went to buy my basil plants the store had only 3 of the kind with which I am familiar - green basil. However, they also had something labeled "purple basil." Can I use this the same way I use green basil in salads, with tomatoes & mozzarella cheese or in pesto (purple pesto)? Thanks so much - I just found your web site and it is so helpful! KM

Basil is basil no matter what the color. Flavors may vary somewhat between different varieties. Give a leaf a taste and see if you like it.


Hi...I have a jar of chopped basil that is in preservatives. I opened it two months ago and keep it is still safe to use...if so, about how long can I keep that in the refrigerator? Thanks JK

If the jar doesn't have an expiration date on it and you are wondering if it's still good, you might want to go ahead and get rid of it. That's a restaurant mantra--when in doubt, throw it out.


Hi. I have a lovely basil plant which I have nurtured for over three years. The plant is about a foot and a half tall and bushy, with - until recently - lots of great big green leaves and plenty of new growth sprouting from the thick woody lower stems. It sits in a pot on a sunny kitchen window ledge. This week half the entire plant seems to have gone limp - the previously bright, firm leaves are soft, drooping and falling off. The new growth from the wood has also faltered terribly in the same way. I think it has been overwatered as bizarrely there was enough excess to drain off - presumably something has blocked the pot. My question is, what else can I do to save basil? Or is it too late to do anything? And is this actually nothing to do with the excess water and instead a sign that basil is coming to the end of its life? Please help! Thank you. ATK

You might want to remove the plant from the pot and check the roots. Sounds like it might be a case of root rot. If the roots are a nice white color, repot the plant and cut back on watering then see what happens.


Hi, I’ve noticed a lot of questions on your site asking about yellowing leaves on basil plants. My problem is not so much that the leaves are turning fully yellow, but that there are some leaves that have started to develop yellow spots on them. The spots seem to develop anywhere on the leaves – in clusters on the edge, or near the vine, etc. The plant still looks pretty healthy other than these spots. I’ve been checking the plant for any bugs, but can never seem to find any. What could be the problem? Thanks. ST

Rather than bugs, your basil may have some sort of a disease. It's hard to tell without seeing the plant. You might be able to head off the problem with a simple application of fertilizer; sometimes yellowing is a signal of a mineral deficiency.


Hello; I live in San Clemente, Ca and I've been using so much basil in my cooking lately that I decided to buy a plant. It's sweet basil and I've noticed the longer I have it the more curled up the leaves get....not to mention they're huge. It has a wonderful flavor. My question is this, if I keep pinching the plant back so that no flowers bloom will the basil stay this good or does it get bitter as the plant gets older? I've read about taking cuttings and rooting them to keep the same plant growing, but nothing about keeping the same plant. thank you and I really enjoyed reading your question and answers page, but I didn't see anything about this. JPH

Basil is an annual so the flowers signal your plant is nearing the end of its growth cycle, or life. You can prolong the lifespan by pinching off the flowers and it shouldn't get bitter but it will die off.


Hi, I have a beautiful potted Basil plant in my back yard, something is eating the leaves, I would like to bring it inside for the winter, What do I do? thanks, GG

It is helpful to bring it in through stages. Start by putting it into a warmer place like a garage or unheated room with good light for a couple of days before bringing it all the way indoors. Once inside, make sure it gets plenty of sun and resist the temptation to water it too much. Let the first couple of inches of soil dry out between waterings.


Hi, I have a question about my Thai Basil plant. It appears very lush and healthy; the leaves are nice and green, no holes, no bugs etc. The stems started to look a little strange though, the bottom several inches are woody and reddish, which swirls into a not as woody yellowish color section for the next next couple inches, then it goes back to woody reddish brown to the top of the plant. Is the yellowish part new growth or a disease or indication of something wrong with the plant? Thanks! JN

Basil plants will become a bit woody when they are getting older. Unless the yellow section is soft and mushy, I wouldn't worry too much, especially since the plant seems to be thriving.


I am finding this slimey stuff on the underside of the basil leaves, it is gross. Do you have any idea what is causing this? GMG

It is likely the tell-tale sign that slugs or snails are visiting your plant during the night.


Hi, I love your website. This summer I planted 3 types of basil, and I am hoping to plant more varieties of basil this next summer. How long does basil seed lasts before it loses its longevity and needs to be replaced? SD

Good question. I wasn't sure so I surfed around for awhile. The best answer I can come up with is 1 to 3 years. You can test for viability by placing a small amount of the seed into damp paper towels for a few days. If they begin to sprout, you know they are good to go.


I purchased a basil plant and was wondering if there was a possibilty that I was sold cut-off from an older plant. How can I know? F

Interesting food for thought. I'm not sure how you would be able to tell if your plant is a cutting or not. Any growers out there who would care to enlighten us?


Each year I grow basil in a pot on my deck in Massachusetts. Each year I have great success. I recently harvested some basil for pesto that was wonderful. However, yesterday I harvested healthy looking leaves to cut up for placement on a grilled pizza. I harvested the basil and chopped it immediately after harvest. Approximately 20 minutes later when I went to place it on the pizza it had started to turn a bit black in spots. Do you know why this happened? Thanks, DCM

You may have bruised it in the process of chopping or used a carbon-based knife. Basil is like lettuce in this respect. Many people recommend gently tearing the leaves rather than using a knife.


I'd picked over two pounds of unblemished basil, put it in the refrigerator for less than 24 hours and it wilted and turned brown. Is it safe to make pesto with it and what should I do to prevent this from happening again? PK

Your basil got too cold, most likely. Anything under 50 degrees and it's toast! It is safe to make pesto with although the color may not be as bright. A better way to keep basil is on the counter with the stems in water, as you do for flowers.


Hi, I have three beautiful basil plants in my yard. Lately they are turning yellowish. What does that mean and does it change the taste? I would like to know if it is bitter or will ruin my tomato sauce. Thank you, DN

Maybe your plants would like a dose of fertilizer. If the older leaves are yellowing first it could be a nitrogen or potassium deficiency; if the newer leaves are yellowing first it could be an iron shortage. The best way to find out if the leaves are bitter is to give them a taste.


Hi, I just read through your q and a and didn't see my question asked. Can you tell me how long basil lives? I have it growing in an aero garden so it should live as long as it possibly can. It's been growing since January and I still have to harvest it every other day. Also now that I'm thinking about it. Do you know of any food producing plants that live for years? Thank you! KL

Basil is an annual plant with a typical life cycle of one year but I have heard of plants lasting far longer than that in the right conditions. Most of our favorite herbs will last for years, like oregano, tarragon and rosemary. Other perennial vegetables are rhubarb, asparagus and artichokes.


This evening I picked a colander full of basil, trying to get what the bugs hadn’t touched. About an hour later, I began plucking and cutting (with scissors) good leaves off to wash. After washing the leaves and spinning them out in my salad spinner, I looked through the basil, and to my amazement, noticed purple splotches on almost every leaf. Either I’m going crazy, or those spots appeared after I washed and spun the basil! Can you tell me if this is possible? Thank you. MH

Basil is a tender herb and I'm afraid it sounds like you bruised yours up in the salad spinner.


Hi, Great basil Q&A website! Do you have others for other herbs? I grew some basil from seed, they've grown well in a small container with no drainage hole. I know there should be a hole, but the plants have been doing fine. There are about 5 plants, each about 6-8 inches tall, growing close together with some parsley next to it which is growing slowly. The basil leaves on the bottom have turned yellow, but that's only on the bottom. Why? Should I cut those off and transplant the plants to bigger containers with drainage holes? I'm afraid they're too close together. But I'm also afraid to break the roots if I try to dig them up and separate them. Advice? I live in Zone 7, I believe. Thanks!! TF

Check the Question Quick Find Page for other Q&A's by subject. As for the basil, the leaves may be turning yellow because the plants have "wet feet," a result of the lack of drainage. They sound like large plants that probably should be separated and repotted. Just use a gentle hand to pull the roots apart and make sure the new holes are wide enough to accommodate the root ball.


In 1910 my grandmother brought large leaf basil seed with her from Sicily when she came to the U.S. The seed was saved every year from the next Spring planting. After mom and dad have passed away it has been my job to continue the planting every year. I've been successful until this year. I planted over 300 seeds and 3 have germinated. I believe the problem was due to the lack of bees doing the pollination. I want to make sure to get good seed this year. How do you hand pollinate sweet basil? Thank you, PV

Talk about heirloom plants! If pollination had been the problem you wouldn't have gotten the seeds so it must be something else. Since you have done all of this before, I wonder what conditions might be different. Could be that the seeds were planted too deep or the temperature was too cool. They should be just barely covered with soil and needs at least 75 degrees or a little higher.


Hi. My basil plant has problems. Wherever I have pinched off anything, the stem has become split and unhealthy looking. Part of my problem is that I may be harvesting incorrectly. I was pinching off the top of the main stem. Am I supposed to be pinching off the stem of the individual leaves instead? I would really love to see a diagram or video to show where I should be cutting. But maybe it is a pest or fungus that is just attacking the plant at its weak spots. Thanks for any help. CB

Pinching from the main stem is fine and will help the plant become more bushy. You can also snip from the side leaves. The key is to use something sharp and take the clipping from just above a place where leaves are emerging on a stem.


Hi. I've been growing beautiful basil plants in a large indoor pot for the last couple of years. This year's plants are growing well but I recently noticed very small white bugs flying around the plant. They look like very tiny gnats. The basil plant leaves have what appears to be silvery brown spots all holes in the leaves just silvery spots. Is there something I can do? Should I toss the plant or is it still ok to use? Thanks! MK

Do the research to decide if you have whiteflies (see link above).  They are common on indoor plants. If indeed this is the problem you can try to catch them on yellow sticky traps or give the plant an application of insecticidal soap. If you use the spray, follow the directions for how long you wait to harvest.


Hello! I am new to gardening and am so excited to see the plants growing and my basil is doing well but on the two green basil plants I noticed little tiny black dots (I picked the leaves off and threw them out). Also some larger round grey spots which are about the size of a pin head. I was only watering once a week as we have been getting rain once a week so far...this climate is humid but not like Fl or Georgia. What are these spots? Can you recommend a Potassium based fertilizer? Love your web-site...thank you! VD

As usual, I can't really say what the problem might be without taking a look at it. I suggest you take a sample to your local master gardeners or a full-service nursery where they can better help you as well as make fertilizer recommendations.


Hi, I planted my basil one week ago in a raised bed garden. I just created the garden this year - put mostly organic compost for soil and used a 5-7-3 organic granular fertilizer (made by DR. Earth). The basil has lightened substantially in color- instead of the darker green, it looks more like lime green. And it is spindly and not producing many leaves. I thought I put plenty of fertilizer in the soil, but is this a sign that I need to fertilize more? Or is under/overwatering more likely the problem? Thanks! HA

Your basil may be experiencing transplant shock. The organic fertilizers are usually slow-release so I would give the plant a little more time to adjust. Make sure you water it thoroughly each time but let it dry out between applications.


Hi there. I just cut some basil which is growing outside in raised beds in our yard. There are white-ish beige dots all over the backs of the leaves. The plants otherwise seem healthy. What is this? Should we eat it or toss it? K

It's hard to say what this is without seeing it. Could be something as simple as salt or water residue or it could represent a fungal or bacterial problem. If all the leaves have this condition you will want to take a few leaves or a branch to a garden center or your local Master Gardeners for identification and help in treating. It is probably safe to eat but not particularly appetizing so I would toss them.


I have two basil plants in pots on my sidewalk, and in the past two weeks have been coming out in the morning to see many of the leaves half or almost completely eaten. I've tried sneaking up on the culprit at night and never find anything. I don't see any slug trails or bugs. What do I do? Help! I love my basil and want to save it, but there isn't really any other place to put them. AZ

Check the leaves to see if there are any tiny black pellets near the damage. This excrement will tell if you have caterpillars or maybe hornworms. It could also be that the slugs and/or snails are living in the soil and sneak out at night. If the pots are large enough you could set a beer trap: pour some beer into a bowl and sink it into the soil so that the lip of the bowl is level with the dirt. This attracts the pests and they drown themselves.


I live in Houston, Texas and have been trying to grow sweet basil from seeds on a west facing balcony. We are using fresh potting soil amended with composted cow manure. When planted in late March the seeds germinate in the normal amount of time and show healthy growth for about two weeks. After growing to about an inch and a half tall with two "baby" leaves, they just stop. We water each morning and they receive strong afternoon sun but grow no further. Eventually they die. What are we doing wrong? Thank you, SCC

This sounds like a fungal condition called "damping-off." The culprit is the soil. You could try several things: Use a sterile seed starting mixture to get the seedlings off to a good start, avoid keeping the soil too wet and/or try to increase the air circulation around the seedlings with a small fan. Make sure you are thinning the plants as they emerge also to allow for air circulation.


Hi - my husband and I recently planted a new herb garden outside in sunny part of our backyard (in CT). It has been about 2 weeks now. Today I noticed my sweet basil is getting slightly yellowish with a few brown spots on it. We water is with the hose every morning (a light sprinkle for about 3 minutes maybe). Is this underwatering? I see alot on your site about drainage but this is in a raised bed with brand new soil. I have not yet fed it anything...what do you recommend for that as well. Thanks for your help - A&C

I wonder if the temperatures are still dipping below 50 degrees (F) at night around there? Basil won't thrive until it is quite warm. It is better to water thoroughly and less often than briefly and everyday. This encourages shallow root growth. You could give the basil a light application of a liquid potassium-based fertilizer to get them going.


I am growing giant basil for the first time this year and the plants are huge, but they have leaf curl. Are they still edible? T. L.

Leaves that curl under, or even have an almost blistered appearance, are characteristic of some basils. You might want to try to find a picture of the exact type of basil you are growing to see if this is typical of the plant.


Hello, I've been reading the Q&A on your website but I haven't been able to find the answer to my question. I've had a couple basil plants in my window box (on the 4th floor of an apt building in Paris) for a few weeks now. I bring them inside at night because the nights are still a bit cold here, but recently I've noticed a bunch of tiny green insects lined up on some of the stems of the basil and they seem to have started eating one of the leaves. I haven't been able to find anything about them on web. Do you have any idea what I could do to get rid of them? Thank you! HN

Have you looked into aphids? Try searching on Google images to see if that's what they are are. If so, a strong stream of water is the best defense.


I think this may be a new question as I have read all the others. My basil has done very well, grown in a pot on the lanai here in central Florida since March. Lately I noticed that the undersides of the leaves have a powdery black substance on them and I have some yellowing but no real signs of insects. I have harvested the plant and frozen the leaves. I suspect that the plant is ready for the trash but what is the black stuff? Should I just throw away the plant and start over? SM

Sounds like your basil has a case of sooty mold. It is a fungal disease that is a result of the "honeydew" (excretion) from insects like aphids and scale. It doesn't really hurt the plant but if it is very thick, it could hamper photosynthesis. You can wipe off the mold with a damp cloth but do investigate for bugs as well.


I am trying to grown healthy basil plant in Florida. It is on our lanai facing east. I have never experienced problems with basil plants before but this year we are on our third plant. This is our 4th season growing basil in a pot in Florida so I am concerned. We have gotten all 3 from the farmers market. Great looking plants. They all flourished and then died quickly. The 1st had bugs and I tossed it and all soil out. I washed the pot and tried again. I may have over watered the 2nd and half of it died. I purchased another and only have been misting it with water, I did not repot but placed it in a larger container filled with new soil. It has been growing great but today I spotted small green bugs. I sprayed with water, a little dish detergent and cayenne pepper. After I found a small green worm on the stem. Help... Do you have an suggestions? I was told not to repot and not to overwater. I was also told not to put in the direct sun. What are your suggestions. Thanks. DM

I don't know about this leaving the plant in the original pot business, assuming it is a typical four-inch starter plant container. If it is going to grow into a healthy plant, those roots are going to need some room. Basil needs temperatures above 50 degrees (F), the hotter the better, although your afternoon sun may be quite intense. I can't identify the worms without seeing them but if you can, just pick them off and see if it helps. I know it's icky, get some gloves!


Firstly, thank you for taking the time to help people like me. I actually had a question about the edibility of basil varieties. I have two basil plants, One has the typical green leaves approx 1" by 2" and is roughly 2 ft high with white flowers on a stem measuring about 1/4" by 2.5 ". The other is very similar but has small leaves about 0.5" by 0.5". Someone told me that some varieties of basil are purely ornamental and shouldn't be used in cooking. Both plants have a strong smell of basil and have similar features. Can you please shed some light on my question? Many thanks, AG

I'm not aware of any variety of basil that is strictly ornamental. This season's seed catalogs are offering as many as twenty (or more) varieties some with large leaves and others quite small. I say, if they taste good, use them!


Hello, I found your website very informative. I have 3 pots of Basil wintering under a grow light. They were doing great and providing us with plenty of leaves for our winter cooking but just recently the leaves all turned brown and fell off. A few days later a powdery mildew appeared on my Rosemary, Sage and Thyme. I am spraying the R,S, and T with a diluted Lemon Juice solution. Is there anything I can do for the Basil plants? And am I doing the correct spray for the mildew? Thank You, Hi

Odd that your basil would kick the bucket like that so it's hard to say if the plants will recover. If you don't see any sign of new growth by now you probably won't. I haven't heard of treating powdery mildew (a condition that leaves a plant looking as if it is covered in white dust) with lemon juice. One reference suggests spraying infected plants with a solution of 1 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in 1 quart of water. Another suggests 1 tablespoon baking soda plus 2.5 tablespoons of lightweight horticultural oil in 1 gallon of water. I haven't tried either one so can't say for sure. You should also be aware that powdery mildew is often a result of poor air circulation that's sometimes caused by plant overcrowding.


Hi: I live in an apartment and have tried growing basil, with not much success. I love it so much, I like having it and other herbs in vases as they create a great fragrance – any tips on how to keep basil in a vase without it drooping? I saw one of your answers about keeping it in a vase with a plastic bag over the top, but was hoping to enjoy the fragrance and use it too. Cheers JW

A wonderful product has come onto the market in recent years. Bunches of basil with the roots still attached. Look for it in the produce department of your supermarket. Once you get it home you keep the root cube in a glass of water and it will stay lively for quite some time.


Dear Basil Expert, I have been growing Basil all summer long, with very healthy and hearty results. Now my basil plant has leaves that are shriveling up and turning black. What does this mean? Is it not getting enough sunlight now that it’s winter? (temperatures in Berlin now are in the 40s Fahrenheit, the sun never shines). Or maybe the terracotta pot where I transplanted doesn’t have enough holes and it’s not draining properly? I hope you can help! Thanks, KNR

Your black basil leaves indicate that the plant can't take your winter weather. Basil can't stand temperatures below about 50 degrees (F).


Hi, So I went away for Thanksgiving weekend, leaving my flourishing basil plant next to the window as per usual. However, my boyfriend made the mistake of closing the shade as he left the apartment, leaving my plant devoid of sunlight for 5 days! The leaves are not dried out (I had watered it the night before we left), but are very droopy. Anything I can do to speed the recovery of the plant? Thanks! H

Chances are good it will come around on its own. Just be careful that you don't overwater it in an attempt to help it revive. Allow it to dry out almost completely between waterings.


Hi. I have just discovered your website, which is great, and also that I am a budding, amateur, gardener. Basil! I have grown several sweet basil plants from seed and the same number of lemon basil. They are now covered in small green bugs and also what look like tiny threads of cotton. They live on my window sill next to a chilli plant and a bell pepper plant. Can you help me? the plants are starting to look wilted and the lower leaves are yellow. ps. how can lemon basil be used in cooking? Thanks DB (UK)

The cottony substance indicates the presence of mealy bugs but they are white and very difficult to see. The small green bugs may be feeding on the mealy bugs or they have moved in on a plant in distress. I suggest you isolate the affected plants and take a sample of the problem to a local nursery for help in identifying it. ps: lemon basil can be used just like regular basil in recipes where a citrus flavor would be an accent.


Great Q & A site! Here's one for you. I have a single basil plant growing in a pot on the window sill. Every morning I would notice a few droplets of water on the sill. I've even placed my hand over the droplets and felt small spritzes of water on my hand. This morning, I notices two long, skinny, brownish, grasshopper shaped bugs no larger than 1/4" long on the plant with small water droplets coming from their ends. I'm taking it that these critters are the source of the water. Amazing comparing the size of the insects and amount of water they put out. Otherwise, the plant looks fine. Any idea what kind of bug this is and is it harmful to the plant? Thanks, and have a great day. M

My first thought was spittlebugs but your description of the insect doesn't match. After doing some research, I'm not sure what your bug could be. Maybe you should talk to a local garden center to see if they know.


I have always had great success growing basil on my deck here in hot hot hot Georgia (it usually re-seeds itself each year!). We are in our third week of high 90’s and low 100’s. Prior to this heat, we had a very mild (high 70’s/low 80’s) and rainy summer. My basil does not like this. It is spindly and yellow green in many places, especially on the older stems. I am keeping it watered, but can’t get it back to the lovely shade of green that it should be. Any suggestions? BM

Yellowing older leaves and spindly growth can indicate a nitrogen and/or potassium deficiency. If you are watering properly, to the point where water drains from the bottom of the pot, then nutrients are washing away each time. You might try regular applications of an organic fertilizer.


Do bees eat basil?? I'm losing half my basil to some sort of bug. I can't see any of the usual suspects on or around the plants but I have seen a bunch of small black bees landing on the leaves. There were also two spiders in there (small; pale green). I've sprayed a soap/water solution (store bought) on the plants a few times this season but it didn't seem to help. I can't catch whatever it is in the act, but the leaves are definitely being eaten. Most are munched from the tips and/or edges but some others have holes chewed through the centers. Any guesses? Thanks, DM

I'm guessing that slugs and/or snails are sneaking into your garden after dark to nibble your tasty basil. Check my theory by sneaking up on them with flashlight.


Pinch, We love your basil column and tried the Ivory soap/water technique with much success! Also, our basil got very droopy at one point but watering them more perked them right up again. Now we have another problem. The stalks on our basil plants seem to be turning a reddish-brown, starting at the bottom and working their way up. What is it and is there anyway to save the plants? Also, is the basil still edible? We had a few with dark spots but just picked those off and threw them away. I had a similar issue of reddish brown stalk with our corn which was planted in an EarthBox container (one that is different from the container we used for the basil. We have about 5 basil plants about 3" apart each and the height is now about 12". We tend to water in the afternoon/early evening simply because we're not morning people. I don't know if any of the info above sparks an idea. We'd love your thoughts on the matter. I forgot to mention that we live in CT. Thank you! CC

This reddish-brown color may just be developing as the plant matures. It sounds like the plants are healthy otherwise so I would just continue to monitor them.


Hi I need help, I have looked and cannot find an answer to my basil problem. The plants where thriving and growing beautifully. then I noticed some of the leaves had tiny holes in them this was yesterday. Today some of the leaves have been eaten on the ends I noticed little black spots underneath some of the leaves. I do not know what that is or how to take care of them without using and insecticide that isn't poisonous so I can dry the leaves. CJT

It could be flea beetles but the little black spots don't agree with that theory. You might want to snip a branch and take it to a garden center or your local master gardener's office. Once you identify the pest you can decide if it needs to be treated.


I was pruning back my basil this weekend and noticed small brown nodes along the stems. Having read through your site, I think that my plants have scale. Are the leaves harvested from this plant safe to eat? I have removed the visible scale and used cotton with alcohol. Is there anything else I can do to preserve the plants for the remainder of the season? Also, I am growing the basil in a new pot in new soil on a balcony in Manhattan so I was surprised to find these bugs. I did not start from seeds, but from plants that were about 6 inches tall at when I bought them. Does this mean the plants were already infested? There were no noticeable signs until at least six weeks after they were planted. Is there any way to check young plants?

Thank you! SLG

The plants may indeed have been infested when you purchased them. The nursery where they were "born" would be a good source or when they were massed together with lots of other plants in the truck that took them to the store or even while they sat on the shelf at the store. It's important to take a good look at any plant you are thinking of bringing home but it is difficult to see some problems. I usually spray new plants with a strong stream of water once I have brought them home in hopes of knocking off any stowaways.


Hello! First of all, I wondered if there was a 2nd growth of basil after flowering. I don't like the strong taste of the leaves after flowering. I still have lots of leaves on my plants but won't use them now. If I cut it back will there be new growth without the strong flavor? I live in Southern Ontario. Also, I have been freezing basil and it works wonderfully. I buy ice cube trays specifically for this purpose. I pour olive oil in the tray to about 1/4 depth. I chiffonade the leaves and put enough on top of the oil and push down until the leaves are just covered with oil (so the leaves don't get black). Put them in the freezer until the oil solidifies. Then add more oil to cover the top and freeze again. If you add the oil all at once, the leaves float to the top. That's why the second layer of oil after the first freeze. I find that when I'm using basil over the winter, I tend to be using olive oil as well, so it's all ready to go. Thank you!

Thanks for another method for freezing basil. As for your question, the flowers are a basil plant's signal that its life span is nearing the end. If you snip the flowers as they form you may be able to extend that life a bit. It's hard to say what would happen if you cut it back since each plant is different but it couldn't hurt to try.


Thai Basil: Any recipes?? I planted it, now it’s growing like mad and I’m not sure what to do with it! Thanks. JR

Get yourself a Thai cookbook from the library and you will find plenty of ways to use it. Otherwise you can use it like any other basil, maybe just use a bit less because it is quite potent. I especially like to use it homemade tomato soup.


Hi. We are growing Sweet Basil in pots on our patio. The soil is a mixture of soil we collected from our compost pile and potting soil. We have done this before with excellent results, however, this year our basil is not only bitter to the taste, but it has a terribly sharp and bitter after taste. What could cause this to happen? could it be the compost used? Thank you for your help. LG

More likely it is the plant. You don't say if you are growing it from seed or if you bought the starts. There are so many different varieties, perhaps the ones you are growing this year are not actually sweet basil. Alternatively, basil that has flowered is said to take on a bitter note so be sure to pinch any flowers that form.


Hi. I used too strong of soapy water on my basil plants (which are in pots) to protect it from critters. What should I do now that the leaves have turned brown. (I washed the plants with lots of water, then the soapy water went into the soil). TX

I'm thinking you might want to buy new plants. You could wait, however, to see if new growth begins. To help things along you could replace the soil in the pots, knocking off as much dirt from the roots as possible.


Hello, Help! I'm growing basil in a container. Genovese variety. I put 10 seeds spaced apart in an 8 inch dia. pot next to a northeast facing window. I water them faithfully. After initial success and the plants being 3 inches high, green and looking good I now find them wilting and slowly sinking groundward. Are there too many plants too close together? Disease? I didn't think they'd be hard to grow. Based on this limited info, what can you advise? Thanks.

Could be a situation called "damping off." This happens to seedlings for a variety of reasons but they nearly all go back to too much moisture. You might want to try again with sterilized soil and fewer seeds. Make sure the soil is well-saturated  when planting and then just use a mister to apply water to the soil until the plants are well established.


I read your site with interest - about problems with basil - the fusarium wilt - as a result of contaminated soil. We planted 8 heirloom tomato plants, oregano, sage, and 3 varieties of basil --- The lemon and "purple" ones are fine - but the genovese one is nearly completely dead. They were all put in larger pots, with the same soil, on the same day - any other causes for this "wilting" problem? Thanks.

As usual, it could be a number of reasons. Maybe the roots were damaged during the transplant, maybe there is some sort of root or stem rot, it's really hard to say.


hi, I have sweet basil, mint, and some Italian parsley that I am growing this year. I started each in a peat tray and then transported them to the garden once they started to sprout. My basil was doing really well but then all of the sudden I noticed that the plants were dying, or at least one thus far has gone and disappeared. The edges of the starter leaves are a yellow brown, like they have been singed yet the actual basil is starting to come about but it seems that they are dying. I keep them well watered, once a day, but the soil does get awful dry by the time I get to watering them and I haven't checked the garden for potassium levels but everything else in the garden is really doing well with the exception of the basil. Do you have any suggestions as to what the problem may be. Thanks. 

I have two ideas. One is that the seedlings needed to be "hardened off." This involves exposing them to the elements for an increasing amount of time each day to help them adjust to the new environment. The other idea is that maybe your nighttime temperatures are still too low for the basil. They really like it warm so if your the thermometer is dipping into the fifties at night, it might be too early for them.


Hi, thanks for helping all of us Basil lovers! I am living in Thailand and trying to get large Sweet Genovese basil crop going as I love pesto! Started my plants from seeds then transplanted to large plastic pots. The plants initially did very well, healthy, large green leaves, good growth rates. Now some of the plants have slowed down their growth and all the leaves are rolling up (this included the new growth). The plant is not the bright vibrant green that it began as, more of a washed out green now. Plants receive 8 -10 hours of direct sun. Any suggestions greatly appreciated! Thank you

My first impulse is to suggest a nitrogen deficiency. A good indicator of this is if the older leaves are beginning to yellow and drop. The deficiency happens when plants have been around for awhile and watered properly to the point of water running from the drainage holes of the pot. Some of the nutrients go along with the water so occasional amending of the soil, side dressing it's called, is necessary.


Hello. My basil plant sits in a pot by a south easterly window where it gets the morning sun. It has grown very tall (15 inches / 40 c.m.) , and had very few leaves but now spring has arrived has lots of dark green ones. Despite been dark green, the leaves have a matt, bumpy texture . Many of them are concave or inside out, folded in zig zags or with curled edges. All the older leaves get crusty brown spots so I pick them off. Even some of the newly growing ones have brown spots. It's in the same pot of compost I bought it in last autumn at the supermarket. The compost is 7 c.m. deep and the pot is 12 c.m. in diameter. I've been fertilising it regularly over the last couple of months with baby bio (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, potassium). I put a few drops of it in with a cup full of water every day which I pour on the top of the soil. I've been keeping it moist. I can see white thread roots through the holes at the bottom of its' plastic pot. The plastic pot sits directly on a ceramic pot with a small hole in the middle. Do you have any ideas why the leaves have a strange wrinkly matt texture with crusty brown spots? Yours sincerely, TB

Yours could be a fungal or bacterial problem. It's hard to say without looking at the plant. You will get the best diagnosis by taking the plant to a local nursery or agricultural office.


Your site is VERY helpful :) I found an answer to 1 question but not the 2nd.. here goes... I have identified that my basil has scale :( But along w/ those little buggers, I've seen a clear sappy sticky water type thing on some of the leaves. The plant was grown from seeds, inside, on a window sill. I think I'm going to throw the plant out, because of the scale... but if I harvest what's left and some leaves have the sappy stuff on them are those ok to eat? Oh also when I wash the basil the sap comes off... Thank you for your time and knowledge :) AO

You're quite welcome. The "sap" is excrement from the scale, commonly called honeydew. Once washed, the leaves should be safe to eat but...


Hi. I have a small basil plant that is turning slightly yellow at the bottom. I have seen from your Basil Q&A that this indicates overwatering. My problem is that we are in the middle of summer in Australia and by the end of the day the plant looks very wilted until I give it some water. How do I balance the plants need for water and not overwater at the same time? Thanks J

Yellow leaves can sometimes indicate a lack of nutrients. Since you are having to water so frequently, you may be washing away those nutrients. You could try a regular dose of an all-purpose fertilizer during the growing season. Do make sure that you are watering properly, too. This means watering the plant until water runs through the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. Make sure the plant doesn't sit in this water; if it drains to a dish, remove and empty right way.


I'm a scholar and doing a project on the Basil. Right now, I haven't started, so I have to water it daily. The plant's leaves are wilting at the bottom and are really yellow. I know that's a sign of over-watering, thanks to your helpful website! It is beginning to grow black splotches everywhere. That's a sign of it being to cold. I pinched off many of the blackened leaves, wondering if it will improve the growth of my Basil. Will it? And this time of year in Southern California, it is dropping below 50 F. I am thinking of putting the plant indoors at night and take it back outside in the mornings and afternoons. Is that alright? Full of Questions, M.L.

That should be good for your plant until the temperatures are consistently above 50 degrees at night again. Just try to avoid any rough handling that might also bruise the leaves.


Hello. What a resourceful site for the non-expert gardeners!!! I have 3 basil plants in separate plastic terracotta pots. All three have internal drainage. Is this bad? Also, the stems of the plants have turned brown and are quite tough, almost like branches. What does this mean? Finally, I noticed that my basil leaves have small green dots along with lighter shades of green dots and some black dots. Are these leaves safe to eat? Thank you, J

I'm glad you are finding the site helpful. If your internal drainage is built into the pots for that reason it should be fine but if you mean that there really are no drainage holes at all, this is not a good thing. The browning and branch-like appearance of your stems is normal as the plant matures. As for the green dots, this may indicate cold and/or water damage. Basil doesn't like temperatures below 45-50 degrees F. and you should avoid wetting the leaves when watering. The dotted leaves are probably safe to eat but if other, more appetizing leaves are available, I think I would enjoy them more.


Hello. I read through your Q&A section but didn't get a clear answer for a problem. I live in MN and as it's getting cool here I just harvested all of my basil, but the leaves taste bitter. Some of them also have black spots on them. Are these problems related? Are they due to waiting too late in the season to harvest? I had nice sweet basil most of the summer. Or does the bitter taste happen if the plants are allowed to get small flowers on them? Thank you, JJ

Many folks swear that basil that has flowered becomes bitter but I think it depends more on the plant than the rule. The black spots may be a result of the basil getting too cool but it could be any number of other reasons as you have seen on the Q&A Page.


Great website. I have a basil plant that is being attacked by something! There are little black poppy-seed like things all over the leaves. I've noticed that there are also small flies in the soil who fly around the plant. My mint plant is suffering from the same menace. I've tried using a garlic-spray but that has failed. I want to eventually eat the plants. Do you have any suggestions? CM

The "poppy-seed things" are likely doo-doo from some sort of caterpillar. Check the plant carefully and hand pick any that you find to avoid spraying.


On your page All About Basil you may want to add the fact that people in at least the San Carlos area of Mexico (and possibly elsewhere, too) consider basil to be good luck. Some tuck leaves behind their ears and others even keep a leaf in their wallets!

Thanks for the info! I'll have to slip a leaf into my own wallet.


I live in south Florida and have my basil plant in my front yard (southern exposure). Recently I have purchased no less than 6 different plants (one at a time) and I repotted each one in a larger pot. Within two days, the leaves have holes in them and the plant doesn't grow. I throw it away and try again. Any suggestions? thank you.

Holes in the leaves could be caused by any number of insects so it's hard to say for sure which one. Perhaps next time you should buy your plants from a new purveyor and also get some new soil.


As I went over the different methods of preserving the basil leaves plant I was looking for something better than what I do. Actually, I think I like what I do better. Wash the basil and spin in my salad spinner then lay out the leaves on a towel to dry. Then I take about 4 or 5 leaves and place them on top of each other and roll and place them in a snack bag in the freezer. When I need basil for sauce a couple of rolls get chiffonaded and we have been doing that for a few years. Hope you like this method. DN

Thanks for sharing your way of making basil last through the winter. I'm going to have to try it out.


I have beautiful basil this summer, both red and green. I notice that some of the green basil has a red center. Do these plants cross pollinate? And as an aside, there is a wonderfully beautiful green spider with black striped legs who has made the green basil its home. H&AW

I'm so glad that you aren't "scared" of your spider. Not enough people realize that spiders are good for the garden since they feed on the bad guys. It is possible for basil to cross pollinate. To avoid this, plants should be about 500 feet from each other.


Hello. Great site! I have 3 flourishing basil plants and wondered why some of the leaves taste /look slightly different from one plant. They are all the same variety, or at least appear to be. (sweet basil) but some of the leaves on my biggest plant have started to become thicker, firmer, shiner, darker greener and I noticed they are stronger in flavour. Do you know why? thanks. D

If they are all indeed the same variety, I would guess there are differences in the soil and/or amount of sun that each plant is receiving.


Hi, I have been growing basil indoors from cuttings of another basil plant. I put the cuttings in a glass of water for about 2 weeks and saw roots growing, so I planted them in some soil. They were doing great, but I am now noticing that the leaves are curling under, making the leaves look long and thin. There are no bugs or markings on the leaves and they taste perfectly fine. Some of the leaves on the lower end of the stems are slightly yellow. Am I overwatering? Or exposing it to too much sun? Thanks! DK

Your plant is displaying symptoms of two possible problems. The curling leaves may indicate the cucumber mosaic virus but this is usually accompanied by mottled leaves. There is no "cure" for this and infected plants should be destroyed. But, the yellowing of the lower, older, leaves indicates a nitrogen deficiency or overwatering. Give your plant a dose of fertilizer, water it a little less frequently and see if it will recover.


Hi! This is a very informational website! I was not able to find what I was looking for. I don't have a green thumb, but took my chances last month at growing sweet basil. I have two sweet basil plants that I keep indoors in my kitchen window. Recently my leaves have became spotted and under my leaves have a web like thing attached with dark brown dots.... the dots have came off when I rinsed them under water and rubbing them off with my finger. I have attached a couple of pictures; one of the top with the white spots and the other of under the leaf with the dark brown spots, unfortunately I can't seem to capture the web like film thingy under the leaf. Could you please tell me what's going on with my plant and how to cure this? Thanks,T.K.

For safety sake, I don't open photographs from unknown sources, nothing personal. You may have mealy bugs or spider mites, both common to indoor plants. The best way to start is to do what you have done, wash them off and continue to monitor the situation. If they return, you might swab them with rubbing alcohol for mealy bugs. Be aware, if it is spider mites they can spread rapidly and get onto other houseplants.


I recently purchased a basil plant and placed it in my yard. My mother decided that it needed a physic and put dish soap into the dirt. Did that harm the plant. Do I need to purchase a new one. Did she kill it? Thank you

I suppose time will tell if she killed it. Some people use soap solutions as an insecticide but it is important to use a pure soap. Common additives will harm the plants. I doubt that the soap will harm you when you eat the basil but if the plant dies, you will know the answer.


Hello. Great site with lots of info! Thanks. Anyway, my sister had a basil plant growing in her yard and it was doing fine until one day she looked at the stem and it looked like there were hundreds of thousands of tiny egg or bumpy things exploding out from the inside of the stem... like it was splitting the length of the stem open. I've never seen anything like it and was unable to tell if it was a fungus or a bug infestation. There was no other sign of any type of bug and just a couple leaves with a hole in them. Nothing major though. We are baffled. Any ideas what this might have been? She pulled the plant and threw it out immediately in case it was eggs. thanks for your help. TK

Wow, sounds like quite a spectacle. I wish I could have seen that! I have never heard of such a thing and I checked through my bug book but there was nothing that hatched in the way you describe. I'll keep looking to see if I can come up with an answer.


I bought a basil plant from a grocery store about two months ago, and now it's dying. During the first month, the plant was very productive and bushy, but after that, strange spots started appearing on the leaves. The spots are slightly shiny but basically colorless except for very small dark green spots within the larger spot. I started giving the plant fertilizer, thinking the problem was a potassium deficiency. Unfortunately, the plant did not get much better, and the spots have spread to my other basil plant that I bought less than a week ago. What  am I doing wrong?

I'm thinking you've got a fungus but it is hard to say for sure. Can you take a few of the affected leaves to your local Master Gardener office or full-service nursery garden center? Seeing the problem in person will allow them to diagnose and then prescribe an effective treatment.


Hi, We are growing a large area of basil and have an abnormal wet season. Some of the stems from the roots up are going black and then affecting the leaves. I thought it may be a shortage of fertilizer but we have put the right amounts on. We live in Northern Australia Thanks ASK

Sounds like perhaps root or stem rot caused by your wet season or a lack of air circulation. I do wonder if your temperatures are dropping below around 10 degrees(C)? Basil hates cool weather.


What a great site! Helpful information, but here’s a stumper, at least for me. My basil has developed black/dark brown splotches that are various sizes, but generally ½ diameter. There is a cream colored spot in the middle of each splotch. There do not appear to be bugs on the plants, but here are little white spiders on some of the leaves. I cut back ½ of my plant last night and sprayed with an organic herb insecticide. I also removed the damaged leaves from the plant. This morning, there were more black splotches on the plant. What is it? I live in the west plains of Texas right now, and it’s been weeks since we’ve had rain. I water every evening after the sun goes away, and the temperature dips to about 80 degrees. KS

Although you give a good description of the problem, I can't find any diagnosis to match. One thing I do wonder about is doing all of your watering in the evening. Your dry Texas summer nights shouldn't really be a factor, but we Northern gardeners are always told to water in the morning so that plants have a chance to dry out before dark. Maybe you could try altering your schedule and see if that helps. Also, be sure you are watering the soil and root ball while taking care not to wet the leaves.


Thank you so much for your kindness in answering everyone’s questions, I have always grown indoor basil plants, I always use Miracle Grow potting soil. This is the first year that I had to put them outside because I couldn’t stand all the black bugs (like small fruit flies flying around the plants. How can I get rid of them so I can return the plants indoors? Thank you again for your generous time… M

Do a little surfing on the subject of "fungus gnats" to see if this is your problem. This should lead you to pictures and descriptions as well as a solution if this is your pest.


I read all the Q and A on Basil and didn't find my problem. I have basil planted in pot outdoors. The last few days, I have noticed the larger leaves have a strange squiggly pattern on them. It looks like a bug has done it. Do you know what this could be? Thanks for your help with this! E in Alabama

The answer to your problem is leafminers. See more information below.


Hi, I read through the Q and A on your site but didn't find what I was looking for. My basil plant is on the porch and looking great except for this. I have been finding leaves which are either completely eaten or partially eaten. I tried shaking the plant to see if any insects could be found and an insect resembling some type of beetle fell over on its back. Even though I only found one I am assuming that there are others. What can I use, which is not an insecticide to repel these pests? Thanks.......CMP

What you found could be a good beetle who is eating the real enemies. Keep checking to see if you can find the culprit. Could be slugs or snails, caterpillars or worms. Look for a library book or website that offers information about specific leaf damage, like nibbled at the edges or holes within the leaf, and the pest that does that.


I have grown basil with great results in another climate but we are now living on the coast and my basil plant has many green worms eating most of the leaves. The plants have been in my garden for about 2 weeks and I noticed a large number of these worms. I suspect they hatched after I purchased the plant as I noticed them first on some cutting I brought inside my house but now the plants outside are being vigorously eaten. Is there a way to kill these and save my plants? Thanks, DM

Hi, I live on the second floor and planted basil from seed in a small pot. It grew well, but today as I was thinning I was startled to see worms crawling about! They are not earth worms, but small brown sluggish looking things. I am disgusted and baffled. How did worms get on my second floor porch and into my basil pot? DWC

I'm grouping these two questions because the answer is the same even though the bugs are different. It is important to figure out what the worm is before you can begin treatment. Green worms could be any number of pests but you might check first into armyworms. I've had trouble with those in my herb garden before. Consider surfing the internet for photos of plant pests or check into resources at your library.


Hi! First, I have grown basil from seeds for the past few months. So far so good but this morning, I found a few white streaks (some sort of little paths) on some of the leaves. After some inspection, it seems to be a small worm (2-3 mm) sucking the leaf meat from inside of it. I removed the affected leaves right away but I am still curious to know what it was as I was not able to find anything on this. If it makes any difference, I live in the Netherlands. Second, I received a lavender plant as a housewarming gift. It is now drying and dying. I read that it requires some rocky soil (like the Mediterranean) and that it loves the sun. But every time I put it in the sun, it gets worse. I've watered it but it doesn't do anything, now I'm afraid to overwater it. Can I prevent its death? Thanks a bunch for your help! SC

The basil likely has leafminers, unsightly but not deadly. See the question below about the purple basil plant for more information. You will find some tips for growing lavender near the bottom of the "Lavender List, 2006 Festivals and Fun" article.


Yes I have been growing an African (?) purple basil plant for some years now and it has always done very well. Recently I noticed brown tracks in the leaves which look as if it is worms eating it. However there are no holes, simply brown squiggly tracks on most of the leaves. Please help as I have  had this plant for 6 some years and do not want to lose it. Thank you. AK

It is rather amazing that you have kept an annual alive for six years. If the squiggly tracks that you describe are rather continuous within the leaves then I would suggest you have a case of leafminers. The larvae tunnel through leaf tissue to feed. Eggs are laid in clusters on the underside of leaves. Although they don't do much more than cosmetic damage to larger plants, they are sort of yuckky for basil since it's the leaves we eat. Check for the eggs and pick off any leaves where they are present or that have been "mined."


Hello, I work in a cafe and we have a problem with fruit flies attacking our pastries and bagels. This is in a display case that customers see and they swarm up when we remove anything.... Some days are worse than others..... however, we heard that a basil plant will keep them away or something like that? Is this true. We have a basil plant now on top of the display case... should we try something else? thanks AS

I hadn't heard of this basil remedy but I did find mention of it on a few website. You might try strewing the leaves around in your pastry case to see if that repels them better than the plant on top. Bottom line, however, is to eradicate the bug from the establishment. Looks like they really like to breed in sinks. I learned about that and more from this University of Kentucky website.


Hello: Last year we had a stupendous basil plant in our back yard that provided us with amazing basil throughout the fall. We bought a basil plant this year at the same nursery and it is in exactly the same spot in our backyard (southern exposure), but this year the leaves are developing alot of holes. We are very worried. We love our basil. What should we do. Is this a bug infestation. Can we save our beloved basil. Is it safe to eat. Please tell us what we should do. Thanking you in advance for your help. Sincerely, BLR

This is a good lesson on crop rotation. It is a good idea to move plants around each year to prevent pest and disease infestations from really taking hold. Do some research to figure out what is eating your basil so that you can decide what to do. It might not be too late to try to relocate your plant to a place where you didn't grow basil (or mint or lavender) last year. Incidentally, I was having a lot of trouble with somebody eating my basil until the weather started warming up, now it seems to have subsided.


Hello, I have a potted basil plant in my window sill. I has been growing well but just this week I noticed there is are tiny white things which are not bugs on top of some of the leaves and also a sticky substance. They look like long flakes of dandruff. Any ideas? JS

Have you ever seen mealy bugs? They are often described as cottony but your description might suit them as well. They are also common to indoor plants. Do a Google search, maybe of photos to compare your problem. If it is mealy bugs, I have had luck with getting rid of them by brushing the plant with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol.


Hi, I just bought a sweet basil plant from a grocery store. The plant looks pretty healthy, but as I was cutting some pieces for cooking I noticed that the stems are black internally. This problem only occurs where the leaves attach to the stems. Should I be concerned? Is it still ok to eat? Thanks K (in California)

Something is certainly wrong there as a healthy plant should be green throughout. Check on the newest growth (near the top) and see if it is also black. If the problem is consistent, you might want to replace the plant as there is probably some sort of rot occurring that will only get worse. I think it is probably okay to eat the leaves by just pinching off the stems. Bottom line, if it looks icky, don't eat it!


Hi, I have a huge pot full of basil. I've noticed (actually you can't help but notice) that the leaves are turning white. They look as if they have been bleached. I've grown up around a summer garden of herbs and plants all my life and I've never seen this. thanks, CC brooklyn :)

This does sound unusual, as you say. Could be powdery mildew or maybe some sort of salt build up. You will get a more accurate diagnosis by taking a few of the affected leaves into your local full-service nursery or Master Gardener's office.


I have spicy basil growing in my kitchen window. We have southern light exposure, but not all day. I have notices some of the edges are darkening and wilting, but the major problem seems to be "see through" spots on a lot of the leaves. No holes - just not green. Please help!TWC

I wonder how you are watering your plant? The transparency could indicate water damage and the darkening and wilting could indicate either over or underwatering and even poor drainage. Make sure your plant is in a pot with a drainage hole, allow the top couple of inches of soil to dry out between waterings and then water at the base (not over the leaves) until water runs from the drainage hole. Never let the plant sit in water as sometimes happens when a plant has a saucer under the pot.


Is it okay to water Basil plants anytime of the day? I have been told that if I water them when the sun is out they will burn. J-JN

Sunburn in plants usually occurs when they are suddenly exposed to more sun than usual or they are experiencing a drought. It is always a good practice to water plants in the morning rather than the evening since moist conditions are preferred by most night creeping pests.


I've got 4 basil plants in two different areas and it seems as if it doesn't want to take off. The leaves are slowly turning yellow and the plants are not growing at all- can you tell me what I'm doing wrong?

Depending on where you are gardening, it is still a little early for heat-loving basil. Yellowing leaves are often a sign of overwatering so make sure that you let it dry out between drinks and give it a little more time.


I have a basil plant that is growing tall and spindly. It tastes fine but there are small holes in the leaves (which we don't eat) but when I shake the plant there are flying bugs that come out. They look very similar to lady bugs but are long and slender and a gold color as opposed to the deep orange or red of lady bugs. Also, lady bugs are more round. I read all the questions and answers and have not seen this problem addressed. B

Your basil is probably tall and spindly because it is not getting enough light or you need to pinch it back more often. Be sure to pinch back to a leaf pair when you harvest rather than just pulling off leaves. The bugs may be good or bad guys so it is important to identify them. See if you can capture one or two and take them to a good garden center or your local Master Gardeners' office to find out what they are.


HI, I have someone or something eating my basil.. I made a homemade dish soap and water spray and it turned the leave I tried it on black...why? What organic spray can I use to help my basil plants not get eaten? Thank you M

The soap you used may have contained chemicals that you weren't aware of or the mixture was too strong. It's best to use a pure soap and start with just a teaspoon to one gallon of water. The real problem, however, is that it is important to identify just what is eating your basil before beginning any treatment. Only then will you be able to determine the best method for managing the problem. Check the other questions on this page for descriptions of problems that other readers have experienced in the past.


I have 6 potted basil plants outdoors sitting on either the patio or ground. They all have developed brown spots on many leaves with additional places that look like they have been eaten by a bug or worm. The last 10 days have been more rain then sun. I sprayed a bug spray on them 4-5 days ago and it doe not seemed to have helped. Help ????? SD

You don't say where you are gardening but it could be that you have put the basil out too early. Temperatures under 50 degrees (F) will create the brown spots although it more often turns black. Stressed plants are more likely to attract bugs. It is important to identify a pest before you spray anything because each problem has a different solution.


I heard that there is a non flowering type of basil plant. Where can I get it? I get tired of snipping off the flower heads each week. My basil leaves are so small. How can I get bigger leaves? JO

I am not aware of any basils that don't flower but I'll keep my eyes and ears open--that's interesting. As for the size of your leaves, you probably have a globe-type basil. For larger leaves, look for a Genovese-type or Mammoth variety.

I found it!  Non-flowering basil varieties include: Ocimum xcitriodorum 'Lesbos,' also known as Ocimum xcitriodorum 'Aussie Sweetie' and Ocimum xcitriodorum 'Greek Column'


I found some black spots on my basil, I think is was some kind of disease, but after a closer look, and splitting the leaves at the spots I found something pretty interesting, I found small worms living between the layers of the leaves were the spots are. At first I thought they may be small caterpillars, but looking closer I realized there were actually worms (they range from very small to about up to 5mm long, mostly depending on the size of the leaves), they look like small fly worms, do you know what they are, and how to get rid of the way, I live on the Caribbean (Puerto Rico). Thanks JM

I am thinking that you actually have two problems. The black spots were likely caused by a bacterial infection and then the worms moved in to feed on the damage. Unless the damage involves a large number of the leaves, I suggest you remove and destroy the affected leaves and see if either problem comes back.


Hello: Just found your wonderful site while looking for info on my ongoing problem growing basil in our greenhouse. It’s been suggested that the sudden wilting of all the leaves on the plants might be due to fusarium wilt, which seems to be fairly common in our area. Can you tell me how to identify the problem for sure, and treatment? The plants are healthy and bright when they go into the soil, and grow for a short time, then wilt and stop growing. So sad! Thanks for any help you can offer. JN

You can verify fusarium wilt by looking at the roots of the wilted plants. See if they are discolored rather than the nice healthy white. The problem with this fungal disease resides in the soil and there is no cure. The only thing you can do is avoid planting members of that family, in this case it is Lamiaceae (formerly Labiatae) or mint, in that soil for 3 or 4 years. In the future be sure that your basil seeds are certified to be Fusarium-free.


I have found your site very helpful. My indoor basil plant has hard, woody stems at the base of the plant and normal looking, green stems at the top. Sometimes new green stems grow out of the old woody looking stems. Is this normal? JB

As long as your plant continues to be productive, I don't think this older part of the plant is anything to worry about.


Hi I'm growing sweet basil for the first time and they are doing well. I would like to harvest my basil to make pesto so I would like a lot of it, but I'm too scared to do it! Please could you let me know when and how to harvest the basil without killing the plants? I've looked on your website but I can't find the answer! Thank you. ES

You want to snip the basil stems at a point just above a leaf pair never taking more than half the plant at a time.


I grew my basil from seed using one of those indoor herb kits. It came with a little dried pellet of peat moss soil that poofs up when soaked in water. I have my basil in a very sunny window and water it just a little every day. The plants have two or three leave sets and they seem healthy... but there's a ring of white mold on the surface of the soil around the edge of the pot. Will the mold hurt the basil? Am I watering too often? Thanks! EP

First, make sure that the mold is really mold and not a salt crust that sometimes forms from watering frequently. If you can, gently remove the healthy plants from the pots and transplant them into a good quality potting soil. Hopefully, this will solve the problem but if it is a sign of one of the fatal fungal diseases, you'll know soon enough--the plants will die and there isn't a way to prevent it.


I recently repotted my basil plant that I grow indoors. Now it looks like its dying at the bottom but still growing new green leaves on top. The large stems look brown and dead and the leaves in the middle are yellowing. I founds some small, fuzzy insects stuck on the stems that leave a cotton-like residue, and scraped them off. Any thoughts as to what's going on?

I would say you have mealy bugs, a common indoor plant pest, from your description of a cottony residue. I've had success getting rid of these by rubbing the plant with a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol. You might also browse through the other questions for other discussions about basil problems.



Hello, I have a basil plant that has been growing well all year. In the past week or so, I have noticed these small brown oval bumps on the stem. Upon looking closer I realized that they seem to be some sort of bug and that they are now also on the bottoms of the leaves. Is my plant going to die? Do you know what they are? How can I get rid of them? I'd really appreciate any help you could offer. Thank you so much!! ~ L

Sounds like scale to me. First off, move the basil plant away from all your other plants, if possible, scale is communicable. Next, pinch off and destroy all the affected leaves then use your fingernail to scrape off the bumps on the stem. Follow this hand treatment with a spray of insecticidal soap according to the package directions. Keep in mind, scale is hard to eliminate, you may very well need to replace the plant.


Hello, Great website you have. I started growing my basil plant from seeds earlier this year. I began growing it indoors since it was too cold and then brought it outside for the summer. In September or so I brought it back in. It was looking alright until mid October and then I started noticing these brownish patches on the leaves. The brown spots also seem to dry out the leaves and they curl in. The plant itself looks wilted and unhealthy. I trimmed it down and started pinching off those leaves but it just hasn't gotten any better. In fact it just looks worse. In areas where new leaves are starting to grow the brown spots have just covered it and keeps it from growing. There are also lots of little black bugs that look like gnats but I'm not sure if they are harming it. I've been pretty good with keeping the plant watered and have been using Miracle Gro once a week. I'm also afraid of using the leaves in my cooking since I don't know what those spots are. Attached are pictures of the plant so that you can have a better idea of what I am talking about. Hope you can help. Thanks, A in NJ

I didn't download your photograph (no offense but you know we have to be safe these days). Sounds like a bacteria invasion, perhaps due to the warm, moist indoor environment. You might be able to save it with a copper-based treatment (ask at your local garden center for recommendations). If your basil has begun to flower, however, you should be aware that it has just about completed its life cycle. Basil is an annual. Might be time to plant more seeds.


I have basil growing in a pot on my patio. Many of the leaves appear to have been eaten, either around the edges or holes in the middle. Some leaves have circles reduced to lace, but not entirely eaten through. I brought the pot inside last week to trim it back, and left it inside for a few days to see what happened. There is more evidence of something eating it since it's been inside, so I'm assuming it is either some small bugs or something living in the soil. Earlier this year I found a fat green worm on another basil plant which is in a different pot on the patio. Could this be evidence of the same thing? I haven't seen anything crawling on this plant. What might be eating it, and what can I do? Thanks- E

Chances are good that you have a slug and/or snail problem. These tricky pests only seem to come out at night or on rainy days so they are hard to catch. They aren't as common to plants in pots but they will climb right up the sides. Try sinking a small saucer of beer into the soil next to the stem overnight. Slugs are attracted to the scent then fall in and drown. In the morning you will be able to see if that might be the culprit.


My sister gives me fresh basil from her garden in Massachusetts every summer. This year the basil plants had flowers on them. I hung the plants upside down to dry as I had always done. While drying, there was an unbelievable amount of little black bugs that looked like fruit flies on the plants. And they would fly away when I touched the drying plants. This is a first for me. Are fruit flies attracted to basil flowers or could it be some other kind of insect?. Can I use the dried basil? PQ

Fruit flies are attracted to rotting material so you might want to check your basil for bad spots. The completely dried and crumbled basil should be alright to use just be sure to check and make sure there are no remaining bugs on the leaves or in the flowers before storage.


Help. Is it ok to eat basil with black spots? Thinking that it was caused by much fall rain I have eaten some. it is bitter and does not seem to be basil. If this is a disease what to do and what to do with contaminated soil. I had two years of perfect and the past two years have been less successful. It does not smell like basil and some of it has black spots. Really appreciate you assistance. SG

I doubt that small amounts of the blackened basil would hurt you but, as you have realized, if it doesn't taste good, why eat it? Your basil may be finished for the season and the black spots are due to low temperatures. The spots could also be caused by fungus which can be eliminated with a seaweed spray or sulfur dust after infected leaves are removed and destroyed. If you have been growing the basil in the same place the last few years, this could also be a problem. Try planting it in a different location next year.


Hello - I bought a basil plant that was doing quite well until it started getting tiny black spots clustered on all the leaves. The affected leaves did not grow out to the normal large flat leaves, but remained curled and bumpy looking. Then I noticed a handful of small thin long brown bugs ( about 1mm long or less) and a large number of small white bugs (immature?). I was wondering if you know what these bugs are and if the black spots are areas they have eaten, or if they are eggs? Thank you!

Sounds like you have a serious infestation of aphids. They feed on tender new growth and emit a "honeydew" that turns into sooty mold and also attracts other insects. Sometimes you can get rid of them with a strong jet of water spray but you might need to apply an insecticidal soap or even neem spray.


Hello, We have two large basil plants on our porch, one Italian large leaf basil plant and one Genovese basil plant (right next to each other). A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that the stems of both plants have raised brownish-black spots all over them. At first glance, it looks as if small bugs are attached up and down the stems. However, when I remove the spots, the material is tough to pry off at first and then sort of breaks apart. Depending on how long the spot has been there, it either crumbles in my fingers (dry) or breaks apart a bit with a small indication of moisture inside the spot. I've also recently noticed that there are "new" spots on the stem that are smaller and light greenish-yellow, as if they are growing from the stem. They have also started moving towards the leaves. The plants are otherwise very healthy looking (and tasting), except that the main bottom part of the stem is turning brown. Wasps (bees) have also recently become very attracted to the basil. Help! Thanks very much for any insight you can provide. I'd really appreciate it! Best, JC

I suspect your plants have scale although this is a rather odd pest on basil. Parasitic wasps are one of the best defenses but scale, armored or soft, is difficult to terminate. It can be accomplished by scrubbing the infected areas. Since it is so late in the season, you might do well just to harvest the leaves that aren't affected and dispose of the plants before sooty mold sets in or your other perennial plants are infected as well.


Hello, My basil plants have done beautifully this year and I am wondering if I can transplant one and move it indoors for the winter and what would be the best way to accomplish this. I live in the Pacific Northwest and we have minimal sunlight during the winter. Any insight you can give me would be greatly appreciated. BB

Since basil is an annual, you can't expect your plant to last much longer than a season but since the season is so short where you live, you might be able to keep it alive in the house for longer than it would stay alive outside. You will have the best luck if you bring it inside before the temperatures start dipping much below 45 degrees (F) at night and put it in the sunniest window you can find.


Hello, I am growing basil indoors and it is growing very well except for these tiny black bugs that are eating up the leaves (please see attached pictures). They leave light brown spots on the leaves, often killing it. What can I do to get rid of them? Thank you! R

You have stumped me and my new bug book. Seems odd that you would have problems with pests on an indoor plant to begin with but obviously you do. Perhaps you could take your photographs and one of the spotted leaves to your local nursery and see if they can help identify the pest and the treatment.


Hi! I was cleaning my basil leaves and noticed these Small Black things on my basil leaves. They are hard & look like a cross between a poppy seed and a toasted sesame seed Any idea on what they may be? Thanks, F

I'm thinking caterpillar turds. I had a big problem with hornworms at one time and these small black specks were how I came to know they were around. I would think you would have a problem with them eating the leaves, however, so maybe it is seeds that are being broadcast from a nearby plant.


I bought 4 basil plants a few weeks ago. Three of them looked great and had many leaves. I cut each of them down as they were a bit high. I replanted them like I was told and watered them well. But not even a week went by and they started wilting. So my husband decided to "water" them, really water them again. One died, the others didn't. But now it is three weeks later and one died completed, no more leaves and one with a few leaves on are totally wilted. I tried a little bit of water, not much, it did not perk up. Why would they wilt? Not enough water or too much water.

Basil is highly susceptible to a disease called "Fusarium wilt." It is caused by forms of fungi in the soil and has no cure. Plants wilt and die quickly and the roots will be discolored. Infected plants should be uprooted and destroyed and you should avoid planting the same type of plant in that soil for at least three years.


I am growing two pots of sweet basil and one pot of lemon basil outside. This year, as well as last, the sweet basil has grown very tall and slender, not bushy at all. Also the plants are all turning yellow, as are the pepper plants I am growing in pots in the same place. What do you think is causing this? I am in Salt Lake City. Thanks. K

It sounds like your basil isn't getting enough light. Make sure it is getting at least six hours of sunshine and don't forget to pinch the leaves back often. This is what really encouraging bushiness. The yellowing could be from overwatering or a lack of fertilizer.


I have lots of basil growing, many leaves have black spots. I have read on some forums that this may be mold. How do I eliminate the mold? Is the whole plant diseased? Are the leaves dangerous if eaten? Regards, DMS

The black patches could be a type of the disease Leaf Spot, often caused by overhead watering or other moist conditions. The affected leaves should be removed. It could also be cause by fungus, as you suggest. A tell-tale sign of fungi is that the spots look more like spores. On basil, this is often Botrytis and usually proves fatal to the plant. Less ominous and easier to treat is a potassium deficiency. For this, just use a potassium-based liquid fertilizer on a regular basis.


Hello there: I wasn't able to keep up with my gardening this year. The basil flowered, so I cut all of the plants back, hoping to encourage new growth. I have two large bags of the trimmed basil in the refrigerator, but the leaves have a bitter taste. Should I just compost this, or will cooking bring out a sweeter taste? Thank you.

Hard to say for sure but to test your theory you could saute a bit of it in a mild oil and then scramble an egg into it. Taste it and see what you think.


I have a big pot of basil plants. I used Miracle Grow potting soil. The leaves have brown spots on the tip and it dries up and curls the leaves. Can you please help me? Thanx, VB

Most of the problems with disease in basil shows up as patches on the leaves rather than at the tips as you describe. I wonder if maybe these are just older leaves that are giving way to the new growth or perhaps you need to water more frequently? Pots tend to dry out quickly especially when filled with many plants. Make sure they have good air circulation as well. You could also take a leaf or two to your garden center and see if they can help you identify the problem--it's hard to tell without a visual inspection.


What is the best method for drying fresh basil leaves? Thanks.

You will find lots of information about preserving basil in the new article "A Bounty of Basil: How to Preserve the Harvest."


I have grown basil (Genovese & Sweet) on and off for years. Last season and this summer I have been getting more and more leaves, usually in the early months of growth that begin to brown slightly at the end of the leaf. This progresses quickly to dark brown and almost black in color and works its way from the tip of the leaf all the way back to the stem. Once the leaf is brown/black it is very dry and easily disintegrates when touched. It almost appears as if something has burnt it or dried it out. It affects some leaves but not all. I live in Colorado (very dry and very sunny). I water the plants every day or 2 and they are in planters outside. One that gets morning to late afternoon sun and the other gets direct sun from noon to dusk. The plants appear healthy except for this problem. Too much sun ? Can you suggest the cause? BK

I suspect it is too much intense sunshine. You might try moving them to a place where they get a good dose of morning sun and are a bit more shaded in the heat of the afternoon. Do keep in mind that basil doesn't tolerate temperatures much below 50 degrees (F), perhaps basil is being subjected to nights that are a bit too cold.


Love the site....I'm growing basil on my rooftop in terra cotta containers. I've been cutting from it all summer and have recently noticed little random white spots, on an otherwise, extremely healthy looking plant. Is this something to be concerned about? Is okay to eat? Or is my basil showing signs of bacteria or disease?

Without actually seeing the plant, I would guess the white spots are left from water drying on the leaves. If the basil plant is healthy and the spots don't move (like a bug!) it should be okay.


Hi, I purchased a pot of Genovese basil which did fabulously for a couple weeks. Then the top leaves began to curl so I replanted it thinking that the three basil plants in the pot needed more space. So far, the leaves in the upper portion of the plant is still curling. What can I do? Thanks, AYL

Looking at the photos of Genovese basil in a seed catalog showed that the leaves are rather curly or puckered looking. Take a look at this basil entry from the Johnny's Seed catalog. Unless your plant is wilting or unhealthy looking, it is probably just growing as it should.


Hello, I recently have planted some basil plants in my garden only to find holes and some leaves eaten. I believe the bugs are from the air. They look like gnats or stinging flies, what would you recommend to use to keep these off.....each day is a bit more and when I shake the plant there are quite a few little gnats (?) in there....I do not wish to use harmful chemicals at this point so I eagerly await your response.........thank you very much, JS

Maybe you have flea beetles. I found this article about them from Colorado State University. If this does not diagnose your pest, perhaps you could clip a leaf and take it to your local garden center for additional information.


I grow my basil from seed, the plants have never been outside and today I found tiny worms (they move like inch worms) dangling from the leaves by a thread. I also noticed holes in some of the leaves. I picked off all the worms I could find but I'd really like to know what the worms are called and how to avoid them in the future. Thanks, D from Nova Scotia Canada.

You wouldn't expect bugs on indoor plants but they may have arrived in the soil. Your worms are probably caterpillars which can be good or bad. The caterpillars that enjoy our parsley and dill will eventually turn into lovely swallowtail butterflies. Basil is not usually affected. The best way to identify your particular pest is to find a bug book at the library or check with your local agricultural office.


Hi. I bought a basil plant and after about two weeks (I still hadn't planted it) the leaves turned light yellow-light green. What could this be caused from? Thanks KB

Yellowing leaves are often a sign of overwatering or your plant may not be getting enough light indoors. Make sure the container has adequate drainage and the plant is getting at least six hours of sun each day.


Hi I am in North Carolina and have basil plants whose leaves are turning brown and looking as if they are getting blistered a bit. Is it a bug or a disease and what can I do about it, help!! What do I do, I use them in cooking all of the time. TB

I don't know if it is a pest problem, but something is making my basil leaves curly and deformed looking. The affected leaves are no longer flat, but "bubble up" and appear curly. I live in hot southern California desert. Can you help? NF

These questions are so similar, I'll answer them together. I've never seen or heard of this problem but maybe your plant is getting too much harsh sun. You could try relocating it to a place where it would get the more mild morning sun or a dappled sun exposure all day. Another thing to consider, NF, is that you may have a variety of basil with naturally curly leaves. There are many types of basil out there, not all of them are flat leafed.


Hello, I just love your site. I have a large patch of basil in my garden and it is growing strong but now the basil is starting to taste bitter if we deflower the plants will the bitter taste go away? BC

Honestly, I'm not sure. It probably would help to remove the flowers so that the plant can focus its energy more on the foliage. This will extend your growing season a bit as well.


Hello, I purchased basil two months ago and have been keeping it on my balcony in pots every since. The basil has been growing very good and has been providing many leaves for us to enjoy. Unfortunately this morning I noticed one of the plants is wilted. All the leaves are still green but some of them have fallen off. At the base of the soil the stem is brown and hard, there is also what appears to be a mold growing on it. Also there are what appears to be small white circles with black/brown bumps in the center. What is this, and if possible, how should I save my basil? Also what should I do to save my other two basils planted with it? They are in well drained soil and receive plenty of sunlight. There is also plenty of room for the soil to breath as my soil is damp and not wet. Sincerely, GS

My goodness, what alot of problems for one little plant to bear! You may have the dreaded fusarium wilt, a fungus that is spread through contaminated soil. This would not bode well for the others planted alongside it. It could also be root rot sometimes caused by high humidity or poor air circulation. I think I would just get rid of the plant in question and repot the other two in fresh soil.


Two days ago I starting hardening my indoor-growing basil by letting it sit outside most of the day. A lot of it has developed large, silver spots. What can I do to solve this problem? KL

The same thing happened when I put my new Thai basil plant outside. I think it is a sunburn. My plant seems to be recovering slowly and new growth is appearing healthy. When "hardening-off" new plants, they should be kept in the shade for the first couple of days and then introduced to small amounts of sunlight each day.


I have just planted my herb garden for the year. Something is already eating my basil. What should I do to stop this insect without harming my plants? SS

Herbs usually aren't bothered by pests but I have had trouble with slugs in my basil in the past. You can look for them during the night, early, early in the morning or on rainy days. Just pick them off, it's icky, I know! You can also set a trap for them by burying a bowl of beer so that it is level with the ground near your plants. They fall in and can't get out.


Hi, I bought a basil plant in the grocery store and repotted it in a large container, It has grown tremendously. I am finding black spots on the leaves surrounded by a white circle. What is this? I fertilize with Miracle Grow and pick off the flowers. What can I do to save my plant from these spots? PL

Your black spots may be a bacterial disease or a potassium deficiency. You might try a copper-based spray to control the bacteria that is sometimes caused by humid conditions. Basil plants also need a good bit of potassium so you might want to start using a potassium-based liquid fertilizer.


I've had basil growing indoors for quite some time now, but I think that it's on it's last legs. I read about the brown spots (fusarium wilt) and whitefly from other Q&A's which my plant seems to have. First question, how long does a typical plant last? Second question, what exactly is fusarium wilt? Looking forward your your reply! Thanks so much! OD

Basil is an annual which means it will usually last for about one year. Fusarium wilt is a fungal disease that often infects seeds and lives in soil. The disease stunts the growth of the plant as well as causing the wilt. If you suspect your plant is infected, discard the dirt along with the plant (but not in the compost pile!) to avoid spreading the disease to other plants in your garden.


I have a basil plant sitting on my kitchen windowsill in front of a window that is always open. It's been there since this summer. This morning, I noticed that there are a bunch of tiny black bugs crawling all over the soil and even on the windowsill and sink. What can I do to get rid of them, and prevent them from coming back in the future? I live in San Diego, CA, where it is pretty mild all year round. Thanks, SC

It's hard to say what this might be since so many pests are flying black ones and you don't say if they are doing any particular damage to the leaves. Perhaps you can call a local source, the like agricultural extension office or a nursery, because they would have better information for making an identification and suggesting treatment.


Hello! Your website is full of incredible tips, thanks! I have had my first indoor basil plant for about a month now and have had a few interesting things. I found a round green worm in it that was quickly discarded. The basil plant is flourishing and I have had all the basil one girl could eat. Just this week I have noticed that there are a ton of tiny tiny white moth-type bugs on the leaves and spots underneath the leaves. What happened??? I am scared that I need to throw the plant away. Is there any hope? The leaves are not brown or anything but I am worried to eat any basil! ha ha. I have no idea if spraying it with something will help...thanks!!

This pest could be whitefly which will literally suck the life out of a plant. You can control it with insecticidal soap spray which is safe for food crops. Talk to your local nursery folks, if possible, about the bug and this non-toxic remedy.


We chopped up (in a food processor) a lot of fresh basil- I was wondering how to convert fresh chopped basil to a measure of (1) fresh basil (unchopped) (2) dried basil ie.) how many tablespoons of fresh chopped basil would equal "say" 2 cups of "unchopped" basil leaves... also what would be the equivalent fresh chopped measure to dry measure. We are trying to make a Pesto Sauce & most of the recipes request 2 to 3 cups of fresh basil leaves, now that we have already chopped it up, I am "not" sure how much fresh "chopped" basil would equal 2 to 3 cups of fresh basil leaves (unchopped). thx! SM

Usually we use about 3 times more fresh than dried herbs so 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh basil would equal 1 teaspoon dried. As for the cups, I would suggest using half as much of the chopped fresh to cover for the air trapped in a cup of leaves.


After reading you Q & A section on storing basil......I am wondering if you can vacuum seal it.....please answer ASAP as I have a nice bush waiting for picking....... Thanks, MS

That would be for freezing, right? I haven't tried using a vacuum sealer for basil but seems like it would work. The best thing to do would be to try it with a small batch first.


I tried blanching my Basil as you suggested before I froze it, but it turned brownish. Did I do something wrong? Was the water too hot? Thanks, SL

Yours is the second letter I have received stating this problem and I apologize to anyone else who has had this experience. I'm going to remove the boiling water suggestion for now. I suspect that the basil leaves should be plunged into ice water after the boiling water to stop it from cooking. I am away from home right now but as soon as I am able, I will run some experiments and find the best way to freeze it. I'll post the findings ASAP. Meanwhile, I have had great success with making the basil ice cubes as a way to freeze the fresh herb.


I am growing my basil plant in the ground outside. I live in Arizona where it is very hot and the plant is doing great. The questions I have is how do I trim the plant. Right now it has leaves at the bottom, had white flowers on the tops of the stems which now have turned green. Do we cut them back or leave it grow tall with the flowers on top? Please advise. Thank you CJC

Basil should be pinched back on a regular basis to thrive and be productive. Pinch the stems from a place just above the leaf clusters. The flowers are usually pinched off as they sprout so that the plant will produce more leaves. Flowering signals the end of this annual's life cycle so you can prolong a season by stopping the flowers. You may find that because your flowers have developed so fully that the basil taste is somewhat bitter.


I have 3 basil plants on a balcony rail pot (the long type), which are about 20 inches tall. I recently noticed that they have yellow leaves, and many have holes in them, even the ones that are not yellow. First I thought maybe some bugs took a liking to them, but upon close inspection, it seems that tiny brown spots form, which enlarge to cause papery, brittle center, which then lead to the holes. I think this may be indication of some kind of fungus, as this area (SE Pennsylvania) has suffered weeks of torrential rain. But I am not sure, because there isn't any visible molding. Also, the lower stems (about 3-4 inches from the top) are all dark brown and hard, however, this may be unrelated, because I vaguely remember from my previous basil plants that they tend to do that when the stems get older. In general, the plants need help, but I am not sure what I should be doing. Any pointers are greatly appreciated! -Di

You are right about the lack of mold indicating it isn't a type of fungus. Probably the plants have developed a bacterial disease. These commonly occur in warm, moist weather. You might talk to your local garden center employees to see what sort of a spray or treatment they would recommend. One source I found suggests a copper-based spray for many bacterial problems with basil.


My basil was growing very nicely and I noticed it was being eaten by something. I don't know if it's insects or rabbits. Some of the leaves are totally eaten away, some have holes in the leaves and some are bitten on the edges. Help! I want to eat my basil not the critters. What can I do to get rid of either the insects or rabbits? Thank you.

I'm guessing it is insects because rabbits would probably eat the whole plant at one time.


I have a great basil plant that has new foliage growth underneath, and the more mature leaves about two to three inches up have holes. Is there a bug getting to it? I water it every other day; humidity in the 20%, temperature in mid 80's to low 90's. It is in a big pot with cilantro and garlic chives, and they are not holey. MK

Sounds like you do have a bug of some sort that likes your basil. I would suspect snails or slugs if you never see them. Check as early in the morning or with a flashlight at night and maybe you will catch them in the act. You might snip a holey leaf and take it to your local garden center to see if they recognize that particular type of damage.


I plant a basil garden each year in the second week in May in southern Ontario Canada. It has been an extremely wet spring but on occasion it has been sunny and warm. My entire garden is getting black spots on the leaves then they dry up and die. I am on a farm where there is alot of manure around the area. I see little shiny black bugs on the soil and on the leaves. I also see little bugs that jump and fly. I have sprayed with an insecticide (I try to be environmental friendly but I am desperate.) Is this an insect problem or is it to wet out or is the temperature to cool ? Day temps are averaging 60-75 and nights are 50-60.  B (the frustrated farmer)

Sounds to me like the black spots are more of a bacteria or disease problem. It may also just be getting a little too cool at night for your plants since basil won't tolerate much below 50 degrees F. It is always a good idea to identify insects before spraying. Some bugs are actually helpful at best or not really a problem. I found a wonderful book called The Texas Bug Book: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly that helps me figure out which ones are actually helping my plants or what to do to get rid of the ones that are doing my plants harm. Perhaps you could find something similar that applies to your area.


I was wondering if you can freeze fresh basil. I have a bet riding on this! Thanks, from an herb grower in Michigan.

I hope your side of the bet is that you can. Freezing is a common way to preserve basil. The leaves should be stripped from the stems and laid out on a baking sheet. Set in the freezer and then transfer to plastic bags or freezer containers after they are solid.  You can also chop the leaves, place them in ice cube trays along with a bit of water and freeze them this way. Thaw them in a colander, allowing the water to drain away, or just drop them right into soups and sauces.  Pesto freezes nicely as well.


Hi, Brown spots have appeared on my basil and I wanted to know what it is and how do I get rid of it?  Thanks, MJS

I can think of three potential reasons. 1) Basil is sensitive to being knocked around so maybe you have it in a spot where people or pets brush against it repeatedly. 2)Dark spots will appear on the leaves if water pools up and takes a long time to dry. Make sure you are watering from underneath or that any dew that collects overnight will dry off quickly by giving it plenty of morning sun. 3) Your basil has fusarium wilt. If this is the case, the plant is probably dying by now and should be destroyed. This sort of problem starts with the seeds and will infect the soil so when you get a new plant, put it somewhere else.


Good afternoon, I came upon your web site and the wealth of information that you offer - thank you for the service/support. I have a question for which I was unable to find an answer at your site: Is there a point beyond which basil no longer tastes like basil (more like peppermint, although it is not of the peppermint basil variety, or 'woody') if it is not picked in time? For the second year in a row we've planted the standard variety basil plants (both green and purple) and although we've enjoyed the herb to this point in the Summer, it now seems as though the same basil plant is yielding leaves that taste more like peppermint...last year the taste turned mid-Summer to a 'woody' taste. Basil was planted and is growing in pots - no other herbs present. Have we lost our minds or is this possible? Any ideas or suggestions? Any information you could provide would be greatly appreciated. A City Gardener in Toronto

Yours is an interesting question. Although I could not find any information to support my theory, I do have one. I suspect that as the plant matures the essential oils become more intense, changing the vague menthol bite into the peppermint taste you describe. My own plant has a much sharper taste now than it did earlier in the season. I also wonder if irregular watering could be the culprit for your plant's changing flavor. Be sure you don't let the basil go dry to the point of wilting but also make sure the pot drains well. Don't forget to pinch off the flowers to encourage foliage growth. I'll keep looking for a better explanation.


Hi, A while back I grew basil, thyme, marjoram and dill from seed. They are sitting in my kitchen window in full sun. All are growing well except recently I noticed that the basil stems, close to the soil are turning black. Not the leaves just the stems. I read an article earlier about the leaves turning black, but this has not happened. I was wondering what the problem might be and would they still be edible? The basil is about 6 inches above the pot. The leaves would be about an inch and a haft in diameter. Also this is my first time growing herbs. So I really don't know when they are ready to use. Should the leaves get bigger first? NV, Canada

That's terrific that you are having such success with growing herbs indoors. I don't think the black stems will render the basil inedible and may not be a problem at all.  The stems of my plant are quite dark but the plant is healthy. If the stems are becoming mushy as well as darkening, there may be a problem with root rot that is often caused by too much water or a container without drainage holes. You can pinch leaves from the plant any time now. Snip or pinch the stems just above a pair of leaves.  This will encourage more bushy growth as well as giving you a tasty seasoning for your next recipe.


Great Website!! Could you tell me how much dry basil you need to equal the same amount of fresh basil? I have a recipe that calls for 4 oz of fresh basil and I would like to use dry basil. Thanks!! AD

Generally, you use one-third to one-half as much of a dried herb to substitute for fresh. Since your recipe calls for so much fresh basil, it must be a central part of the dish, you may not get the same results if you use a dried version. Read more on this subject at "Fresh or Dried?"


If purchased fresh in the grocery store, what's the best way to store it for longer freshness. The store had it with the garlic, not in the cooler section with other vegetables/herbs. I love fresh basil, want to be able to keep it longer. Please advise. Thx. L

The most important thing to remember when it comes to storing basil is that the leaves will turn black if exposed to temperatures much below 50 degrees (F). If your basil comes in a package or container, leave it in that and store in the vegetable bin of your refrigerator. If it was purchased loose, wrap it in paper towels, then plastic. You might also try storing your basil with the stems immersed in water like flowers in a vase. Secure a plastic bag over the top with a rubber band and keep on your counter at room temperature. Basil does seem to have the shortest shelf life of the fresh herbs and the easiest way to ensure a fresh supply is to grow your own!


I bought basil in a pot, and kept it inside the kitchen , i notice that the leaves are getting dark. (why) THANKS R

Basil is easily bruised so make sure you don't keep it in a place where it might get bumped often.  I once described the problem of basil leaves turning black around the edges to a Master Gardener. She immediately recognized the problem as "betritis."  (I may not be spelling that correctly.)  Betritis is a soil borne pathogen that, unfortunately, cannot be treated in any way.


I planted basil, which is growing like crazy.  I have more than I can use or give away.  Can you tell me if I can freeze the leaves or dry them out and store to use as needed?  Please advise the best ways to do either, if this is possible.  Thank you.

You can dry your basil as described above, Basil will turn black if frozen without blanching so if you choose to do this, pour boiling water over the leaves in a colander and allow to dry first. To freeze, arrange the leaves in a single layer on a paper-lined baking sheet. After they are frozen, gather up and place in a bag or other freezer container.   Although I haven't tried it, a method of chopping the basil and freezing it with  water in ice cube trays has always intrigued me.  Then when you want to add it to a recipe, you just toss in a couple of the basil cubes.  You  might also consider making pesto and freezing this the same way.  I also made some wonderful basil oil once by barely heating olive oil and pouring it over fresh basil in an attractive jar.  Allow it to sit for a week or two and then use it for salad dressings or sauteing veggies.


I planted basil in a big pot outside and it is doing just great. But now I am getting flowers on it.  Can I still use it? V.C.

 You most certainly can.  You might want to pinch off the flowers so that the plant puts that energy into the foliage rather than seed production. For the healthiest plant, use it!  Trim back the leaves every now and then, but not more than one-third of the plant.  Check for a trio of great pesto recipes in the article "Endless Pesto Possibilities."


I would like to know what foods you would use basil in. We have grown a big pot of basil.

Basil is a great plant to grow, so lush and fragrant. It is also considered THE tomato herb so add it to any dish with tomatoes. Two classic uses for basil are pesto and a mozzarella salad. Be sure to look into two of this website's articles, "All About Basil" and "Endless Pesto Possibilities" for tasty pesto recipes. Try to get your hands on some Buffalo Mozzarella. Slice this creamy cheese into thick slabs and then do the same with a couple of perfectly ripe tomatoes. Arrange the two on a plate, slightly overlapping, then tuck in some basil leaves. Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil over the top, grind on some black peppercorns and sprinkle with a bit of Kosher salt. Be ready for one of the most terrific combinations of flavors ever invented!




Here's one that's full of our favorite recipes because we wrote the book! It is also full of information, helpful hints and ideas for using herbs and spices in your kitchen.

Plant it, grow it, eat it: this book shows you how! An old favorite recently updated for the way we cook today.




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