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Why Is My Basil Plant Not Growing?

Basil requires specific growing environments to ensure that they can reach their full potential. Healthy basil should be bushy with plenty of large leaves, but it takes time to grow properly. If your plants are experiencing growth problems, there’s a high chance that you didn’t provide everything that they need.

Why is my basil plant not growing? There are several reasons a basil plant ceases to grow. These include the soil being malnourished or draining improperly. Another common reason is too much or too little water. You also need to check if there is enough space between the seeds.

Throughout this article, you’ll also learn the following information about why your basil is experiencing issues:

  • The main causes of growth problems
  • Why the leaves aren’t as plentiful or large as they should be
  • Myths attributed to basil plants
  • How you can fix common issues
  • Preventative measures

Reasons That Basil Won’t Grow Properly

Basil plants don’t take kindly to drastic adjustments. If you change the temperature too frequently, they won’t even sprout, much less grow lively leaves. There are quite a few explanations for a basil plant that stops growing, including the following:

  • Your basil plants might have a fungus problem. Most types of fungi thrive in the moisture, soil-rich environment that basil grows in. If you notice slimy, cloudy, or puffy soil, your basil probably has fungus living with it. Fungus can cause a wide variety of problems, all of which are bad for your plants.
  • Root rot is another common issue that prevents basil roots from growing at a quick pace. It causes roots to decay and decompose before they can absorb enough water to stay hydrated. The result is a plant that dies in a matter of weeks or even days if the condition is severe enough.
  • You’re adding too much water to your basil plant. If you notice that the top layer always has a film of water, then it’s a clear indicator of unintentional flooding. Remember that the surface level dries quickly, so you should only worry about moisture about one to two inches below the surface.
  • You’re not adding enough water to your basil plant. On the flip side, you could be dehydrating your basil by not allowing it to absorb enough water. Basil plants need more water than most other plants, so it’s important to ensure that they always have a high amount of moisture available.
  • The temperature of the soil isn’t where it should be. Basil can be sensitive to extremes, so don’t allow it to get too hot or too cold. It could either start to wilt and die or cease to grow all together. If you live in a climate with extreme temperatures, consider getting something to monitor and adjust it when you need to.

Why Aren’t My Basil Leaves Large?

Basil plants are intelligent in the sense that they intentionally seek everything they need. They’ll stretch towards the sun, grow down to reach moisture, and shrink when their needs aren’t met to reduce their output. You can use these signs as an indicator of what needs to be changed.

The size of basil leaves is a strong sign of health or lack thereof. If you notice that the leaves are vibrantly green and wide, then you’re doing everything correctly. However, wilted, shrunk, or otherwise misshapen basil leaves mean that you need to change something about their environment.

One of the main reasons that basil leaves don’t get as large as they should is due to the lack of sunlight. Since they’re not getting enough light, they won’t produce everything that they need to grow and get to the size that they’re supposed to. The good news is that you can quickly fix this problem by moving them to a place with more sunlight.

On the other hand, basil leaves will shrink if they have too much sunlight. As mentioned throughout this post, you have to closely monitor your basil plants while they grow. Their sensitivity causes problems left and right. If you left the plant in a sunny window, consider moving them out of the direct light for a few hours per day.

Lack of nutrients can also cause issues. Natural soil from the ground isn’t always enough to grow plants as they should. You might need to purchase fertilizer or use organic material from your compost pile to enrich the soil. This will open up the leaves and allow them to expand and open up significantly.

Finally, your basil leaves might not be large enough because it’s too cold wherever they are. Basil is naturally a Mediterranean plant, so they need warm weather to sprout and grow at a steady pace. If you live in a cold area or you’re growing it in an air-conditioned room with cold air, you should adjust the temperature for the plant.

Why Won’t My Basil Get Bushier?

Most of the reasons that your plants won’t get bushier are due to the same causes of the previous section. Small leaves can’t get bushy, nor can sparse roots. Your main concern should be providing optimal conditions for basil to grow and thrive in the environment that you’ve planted it in.

The bushiness of basil plants will let you know how well you’re doing. For example, your plant shouldn’t have two or three leaves that lay down to the sides of the stem. Instead, it should be filled with 10 or more leaves that are close together and stretching upwards. Bushiness is one of the many signs of a healthy basil plant.

Here’s a list of reasons that your basil won’t get bushier:

  • You’ve limited the roots from growing any more. If your basil is growing in a pot, you need to make sure that there’s plenty of space for the roots to expand and grow. Otherwise, it’ll end up being stagnant, preventing growth and bushy leaves. If you need to repot be sure to checkout our repotting a basil article.
  • There’s not enough water, soil, or fertilizer. Preventing your basil from getting everything that it needs will stop the leaves from growing bigger and more plentiful. Think about how much nutrition affects humans! The better food and more water we have, the better we turn out.
  • There’s not enough sun nearby. When basil doesn’t get enough sunlight, it tends to only grow a few leaves in an attempt to save energy. Once you open up the blinds and allow it to soak up the light, it’ll start to sprout new leaves from its stems.

As you can see, there are all sorts of reasons that your basil plant could be experiencing growth troubles. All you have to do is ensure that they have everything they need to grow in a healthy environment. Once every box is checked, you can rest assured that they’ll be perfectly fine.

Basil Growing Myths

Basil growing myths go back for countless years. If you’ve grown plants and studied their history, then you’ve probably noticed that basil is repeated time and time again. Since it’s been such an influential plant for many countries, there’s no surprise that it has plenty of myths and interesting facts.

Here are five myths about basil:

  1. Basil can be poisonous if you don’t wash it before you eat it. False! The only reason that you should wash basil before you eat it is to remove pesticides. If you’re growing basil at home inside, you don’t really have to worry about washing. That being said, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
  2. Basil is an easy plant to grow in most environments. Also false! As mentioned above, basil needs an environment similar to the Mediterranean. If you don’t have enough sunlight, warmth, and moisture, your basil plants will have a problem growing properly.
  3. Basil leaves all taste the same. This myth is far from true. Basil has tons of different varieties to try. Although they taste similar, there are distinct flavor differences when you’re growing them at home. You should also try to allow it to grow into large leaves before eating the smaller, less-flavorful leaves.
  4. All basil leaves grow to be large if you wait long enough. This statement is completely wrong. Some types of basil, including the supermarket micro basil, aren’t ever going to grow as large as most others. Remember to check the seed’s description before buying a pack.
  5. Basil needs sunlight from morning until night. If you follow this untruth, you’ll end up dehydrating and wilting your plant. While basil needs plenty of sunlight, you can’t expose it to direct light all day long. The leaves will dry up and turn yellow or brown in a matter of days.

How to Fix Growth Issues for Basil Plants

Whether you’re growing basil in a few pots inside or in a massive garden in your backyard, there are plenty of mistakes to make along the way. You can avoid these problems by following the preventative measures in the next section, but there’s still hope for fixing issues that are happening right now.

Here are a few solutions for common basil plant growth issues:

  • Try moving your basil to a different part of the garden or your house. Regardless of whether it’s inside or outside, a short transplant can change the growth problems immediately. Wind, fans, temperature issues, sunlight, and soil can all play a huge role in the growth process.
  • Switch to a better fertilizer. Some fertilizers come with ingredients that aren’t the best for basil. Since it’s so sensitive, it has very specific requirements. Try using Jobe’s Organic Fertilizer Spikes. You can push one into the soil near your plant and watch as it enriches the roots and leaves.
  • Till the soil. If the soil is composed of dense, dry dirt and rocks, you probably won’t have much success. Till the land to loosen everything up, creating a perfect environment for your basil. Remove your plant and put it in a pot, then replace it in the same spot once you’ve tilled.
  • Remove fungus from the soil. You can do this by making a spray with baking soda and water. Mix one teaspoon of baking soda with a cup of water, then spray the solution on the soil around your plant. The pH and abrasiveness of baking soda will remove the fungus and prevent it from coming back.
  • Transplant it away from other plants. You might have accidentally planted the seeds too close to other plants, causing the roots to tangle and die off. By removing the plant with its roots and moving it over even just a few inches, you can potentially fix all of its growth problems immediately.

How to Prevent Basil from Growing Slowly

The best way to fix a problem is to stop it before it can get worse. By using preventative measures when growing basil plants, you can avoid having to spend extra money or regrow new plants from seeds. Some of the most common mistakes are easily avoidable, so let’s check out five ways that you can keep your basil plants from experiencing growth issues below.

  1. Find the best place for your basil. This step is crucial to the longevity and overall health of your plants. If you can find a location that has everything you plant requires, then there’s no reason why you should run into any problems. Even if you do, you can use the suggestions above to fix them.
  2. Mix fertilizer with the soil. If you can use fresh compost, that’d be even better. Either way, fertilizer will act as a source of nutrition to promote high-quality growth for your basil plants. Ground soil isn’t enough for most plants!
  3. Don’t place too many seeds in the same area. Basil grows best without loads of other seeds that absorb its nutrients. If you pile up a bunch of seeds in one plot in the ground, there’s a good chance that your plant will grow too slowly (if at all). Spread them about 12 inches apart from each other. Check out how often you should water the seeds.
  4. Consider using pesticides if you have to. It’s never appetizing to think about having to use pesticides on edible plants, but bugs could spell the end of your basil. If you do end up using a pesticide, always wash it off thoroughly prior to consuming the leaves.
  5. Trim the leaves when you need to. If the leaves have grown all the way, it’s time to remove them. Large leaves will eventually start to wilt and decay right on the plant. By removing them, you’re freeing up space for new, lively leaves to start growing at a quick pace.

Does Basil Grow Faster in a Pot or Ground Soil?

Basil, like most other herbs, can grow in either a pot or in the ground. Most people prefer to use gardening pots since they’re portable and ideal for apartment living. You can grow basil almost anywhere as long as you’re in the correct environment.

Basil prefers to grow in the ground because it naturally spreads out much easier. Without the limitations of a pot, the roots can keep growing deeper to find more water and nutrients. It also allows the plant to reproduce more seeds, which is the primary function of all plants around the world.

However, gardening pots have huge advantages that are worth examining. For example, they allow you to limit the number of leaves that grow. Without endless soil to grow in, the plant will only produce a small amount. You’ll be able to contain the basil and prevent it from overtaking the rest of your garden.

It should be noted that basil needs a deep enough pot to grow properly. Too shallow of a pot won’t have enough space for the roots to stretch and grow, causing the seeds to stop sprouting. Make sure that the pot is at least three to four inches deep. The deeper and wider the pot, the more leaves you’ll be able to use.

In short, basil will grow quicker and fuller in ground soil, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use gardening pots. Many gardeners prefer to start planting seeds in pots until they grow big enough to be planted in the ground. This process prevents the plants from being overwhelmed or stepped on by animals.

Note: Basil grows very quickly under the right conditions. If you don’t have much space in your garden, make sure that you monitor the growth. It can expand and reproduce at an incredible pace if you let it overtake the whole plot.

Final Thoughts

Basil plants, like all others, need the correct conditions to grow properly. Remember that they need plenty of sunlight, warm temperatures, and a high amount of water to continue to thrive and produce large leaves.

Fungus, flooding, dehydration, and malnutrition can all be the cause of small or wilting basil leaves. These conditions can also prevent the seeds from sprouting in the first place.

Here’s a recap of the post:

  • Watch out for bugs and other invasive plants that could limit your basil’s growth.
  • Basil grows faster in the ground than in a pot.
  • Soak your seeds in warm water for 24 hours to germinate quicker.

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