Let’s just cover some basic facts on basil plants, including knowing how often to water basil.
Watering Basil Plants: Moderation & Good Drainage
In order to make things clear right from the start, I will tell you that can kill your basil by not watering it for long periods of time just as easily as you can kill it by watering it more than you should without proper drainage. Both options are possible.
So, the first answer to how often to water basil is: do it in moderation.
I might have scared you a bit so let me reassure you that, in my opinion, growing basil is one of the easiest plants to grow. I’ll just go over some important facts about growing basil plants indoors/outdoors, including how often to water basil.
Of course, those who grow their basil hydroponically have no need for knowing how often to water basil since hydroponics entails the growing of plants in water with nutrients solution, there’s no soil to be moistened frequently.
There are two major things that basil plants thrive on: warmth and water. Let’s talk about watering basil plants first and just below you’ll find out all about that warmth that this herb loves.
How Often to Water Basil: At Least Once a Week
You might not like that there’s no absolute answer when it comes to how often to water basil but it actually depends.
The best way to go is by touch.
Just stick a finger in the soil, which should be cool and a bit moist at all times.
At the bottom of the pot, the same thing should happen – it should be cool and moderately damp.
Potted basil plants enjoy a moist soil. But never a soggy one. Just nice and moist.
If the top of the soil seems really dry to touch then it’s time to get that soil moist once again.
If you want to establish a schedule, water your potted basil at least once a week. Pour plenty of water until the saucer underneath the pot gathers the excess water. If you don’t want to make a mess, pour water over the kitchen skin until it starts to run out through the holes.
If it gets too hot
You can leave it alone for the rest of week, unless you notice that the soil starts getting dry at the top.
That might happen if the weather gets too hot, which is very likely during the summer.
Hot temperatures will lead to watering your potted basil plant about 3 times every 2 weeks.
It’s just about consistency but not about overdoing it.
This herb is quite resilient so, you shouldn’t fuss over it too much because it will be able to grow as long as the soil is not as hard as a brick. Just keep it moist.
And remember that your pot needs proper drainage (holes at the bottom and a tray to catch the excess water).
Outdoors, you will also have to water basil once a week, give it 1 inch of water and it will be enough. You can use a garden hose. If it rains, you’re saved from watering for a few days, depending on how hot it is.
Overwatering & Underwatering Basil
Overwatering will lead to:
- mildew and rot but you will have to excessively water it to end up there
- wilting – it can happen with a too-wet soil as well as with a dry soil
- yellowed leaves
- blisters, bumps on the leaves
- algae growth (green tinge on the soil)
Underwatering basil leads to:
- dusty, dull, pale leaves
- dry and brittle leaves the longer the soil dries out
- shrunken soil
- check the soil from below too, through the holes of the pot, it might be dry at the bottom and moist at the top, which means that the roots are not getting the needed moisture
When to Plant Basil
You can start indoors anytime you want. The best indoor temperature for indoor basil planting and growing is 70 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (21.1-32 degrees Celsius).
It needs quite a warm environment so, if you prefer living in a colder house, you’re better off waiting for the spring to arrive.
But it can tolerate even lower temperatures so, you should definitely give it a go even during the colder months.
Outdoors, basil is planted in May. It will thrive in a garden and you will end up having more than you need. You will definitely need to research some delicious pesto recipes. You’ll be making plenty of jars.
Planting Basil Indoors
- you can plant the seeds directly into the pot/container – there’s no need for germination in rockwool cubes
- ensure that the pot has plenty of holes at the bottom for proper drainage
- a good quality potting soil or potting mix works best for growing basil indoors or you can grow it in a soil with lots of compost (organic matter)
- try getting seeds that are fusarium tested
- plant the seeds 1/4 inches deep, 2-3 seeds per inch, and pretty nicely spaced out – you don’t necessarily need to plant them a certain number of inches apart because you can thin out the thinner seedlings
- germination should take place in 5-7 days
- when the seeds are germinating, you can use a sprayer/plant mister to keep the soil moist but don’t turn it soggy, just enough to keep it from drying out
- when the seedlings have 2 pairs of true leaves, you can start thinning out the weaker seedlings – the thinning out has the purpose of spacing out the newly grown basil plants to be 6-12 inches apart
- once the seeds start sprouting, keep the soil moist by watering it at least once a week
Give it Enough Light
Warmth is closely related to how much light a plant receives.
Basil needs at least 6-8 hours of bright sunlight.
In the garden, it will get about 10-12 hrs of sunlight per day and it will help it achieve its best growth. But, for the potted variety, that much sunlight can make it dry out.
Don’t worry, if you’re growing it inside an apartment that doesn’t have that much access to sunlight, you can use grow lights.
LED grow lights don’t consume much electricity, it’s what hydroponics systems use and it works without a doubt. It will be just like exposing it to sunlight. Get a full spectrum LED grow light, a smaller cheaper model will be perfect and run it for about 10 hours daily.
You Should Prune Your Basil Plant
If you prune your basil every 1-2 weeks then you will be overwhelmed by how much basil you will have in your garden.
Pruning basil is highly recommended whether you grow it indoors, outdoors or in a hydroponics system. The method really doesn’t matter.
The first pruning happens when the plant is 6 inches long (approx 15 cm) and it has 3-4-5 sets of true leaves.
Read my post on when and how to prune basil or watch a YouTube video, you will find plenty that explain things really well.
Pruning also has the very important role of keeping the plant from flowering. Flowering will change the flavor of the leaves and it will lead to the plant eventually dying. Basil is not a perennial plant, it’s an annual plant.
How I Revived my Wilted Basil Plant
The first time I planted my first basil seeds in a pot, I actually forgot about my basil plant. Well, not by intention, I just had to be away from home for a few days and my basil was in the sun during the summer.
When I came back my basil was completely wilted.
Just by intuition, I took the pot out from the sun and poured quite a lot of water over my potting soil. A few hours after that I watered it again to make sure that the soil absorbs the necessary moisture and it doesn’t just run out the drainage holes. And that’s how I revived my wilted basil plant. It really worked and quite quickly.
It also made me understand that this herb is not only delicious but quite resilient.
All in all, these are the most important facts about basil plants, including how often to water basil and how to plant it indoors.