How Often Should You Water Basil - Frequency & How Much to Water

Written by Ivy

Dec 28 2022

How Often Should You Water Basil - Frequency & How Much to Water

Basil may be in danger of wilting and eventual death if it is not given the proper amount of water. But how often should basil plants be watered?

The quantity and frequency of watering your basil will depend on a number of variables. However, you should typically water your basil every three to four days. These elements include the soil or potting mix your basil is planted in, sunlight, heat, rain (if plants are outdoors), and humidity.

Basil Watering Chart

Basil Environment
Watering Frequency
Outside in a Pot based on location, every one to two days.
Outside in the Garden depending on how often it rains, every 3 to 4 days.
Inside in a Pot After watering, empty every 4 to 5 days.
Basil Seedlings Bottom mist or water, every 1-2 days.

How Often Water Basil?

The first sign of wilting or when the soil begins to dry out just an inch below the surface should prompt you to water an indoor basil plant.

You are aware of how the soil, planter, and basil plant itself influence watering. When and how to water basil plants is the important question, though.

If you remember anything from this, please keep this in mind.

Basil plants should not be watered with a specific volume or schedule of watering. This is due to the fact that there are numerous factors that can affect how much water a basil plant needs.

How to Water Basil

You can water your plants incorrectly, believe it or not. The first rule of thumb for watering your plants is to water at the base of your plant instead of overhead. By doing this, disease incidence will decline.

Next, it is important that you water in the morning such as Thai Basil Plants. By watering in the morning, your plant won't go through the day being "thirsty" and possibly wilt. Additionally, this will give the stems and foliage a chance to dry out before the cool, humid night, which also aids in lowering the prevalence of disease.

Do not overwater. Similar to being underwater, overwatering can be detrimental. If a greenish haze (algae) begins to appear on the surface of your soil or potting mix, you may be overwatering. Your soil may appear to be dry at times, but it may only be the surface that has dried out. It seems strange, but the roots of plants actually need to breathe. Yes, they require oxygen just like you and I do.

In order for the roots to absorb the necessary amount of oxygen, the soil must contain enough air. If the soil is flooded for an extended period of time, then the roots cannot take in the proper amount of oxygen. If you consistently overwater your plants, they might end up collapsing and dying or the roots might rot away from disease.

A good rule of thumb is to water your plants in the garden when the top two inches of soil is mostly dry (the soil can be moist, but not soggy). How can I learn this the most effectively? In the soil surrounding your plant, stick your finger. It's time to water if the top two inches of soil are dry.

Where to Grow Basil

I'd like to briefly discuss the ideal conditions for basil growth before we get into watering advice for basil. This is crucial because, regardless of how carefully you water your herb, it won't matter if you aren't growing it in the right circumstances. No amount of water will help basil if it doesn't have the conditions it needs to survive. Here is an overview of Basil.

The mint family includes basil (Basilicum ocimum). It prefers warm weather and direct sunlight, just like other herbs in this family. The annual basil plant is delicate and sensitive to cold weather. Even a light dusting of frost causes the foliage to turn black. Wait until the threat of frost has passed before planting it outdoors. Mid- to late-May is the ideal planting time in my Pennsylvania garden.

Basil will not flourish if grown in the shade or in cool climates. It's ideal to have at least six hours of nonstop sunshine and high temperatures.

Let's talk about watering the plants now that you understand the ideal conditions for growing basil.

Don't wait until your plants are stressed or wilting to water. If rain is predicted, some people might decide to wait. Despite the fact that plants can recover from wilting, it is very difficult on the plant, and there is always a chance that it won't.

Signs That Basil Needs to Be Watered

Basil displays observable symptoms when it needs to be watered, like the majority of other plants. The entire plant appears wilted and frail, with drooping leaves and sagging stems.

Unfortunately, basil plants are already stressed when they start to show these symptoms. Stress makes plants more vulnerable to diseases like basil downy mildew and pest infestations. Additionally, they have a propensity to bloom too early (bolt). Since bolted basil has a slightly different flavor, most gardeners take every precaution to keep their basil plants from flowering. However, most gardeners also pinch off the flower buds as soon as they begin to develop. In this case, keeping the plant well-hydrated and unstressed is helpful. Knowing when to water basil so that the plants don't become stressed in the first place is the key to growing gorgeous, properly hydrated plants.

This may cause you to consider whether you ought to adhere strictly to a watering schedule for your basil. No, is the answer to this. The age/size of the plant and the environment in which it is growing are the two main determinants of how frequently, how much, and when to water basil. In the course of this essay, I'll discuss each of these elements separately and how they interact to affect basil watering.

The Best Time of Day to Water Basil

Consider watering your basil plants in the morning if you want to be a good gardener. You'll evaporatively lose less water. Basil will have time to dry off before dusk if you water it in the morning, as well. Basil suffers greatly from wet foliage at night because still, summer nights are ideal environments for the growth of various fungal diseases' spores.

Evenings are second-best for watering basil. The soil surrounding the plant's root zone should be the primary target of the water you apply to the plant in the evening. As much as you can, keep the vegetation dry.

Is It Better to Water Basil With a Hose Or a Watering Can?

Your basil plants won't care whether you water them with a hose nozzle or a watering can as long as you can achieve the desired result, which is moist soil. Having said that, keep in mind to maintain the highest level of dryness for the foliage to ward off illness. Basil shouldn't be watered using overhead sprinklers because there is no way to use them without getting the foliage wet. Use a watering can pointed at the base of the plant, drip irrigation, a soaker hose on the soil surface, or a hose nozzle pointed at the soil level if you have a choice. Obviously, you have no control over the rain, but you can try to influence how irrigation water is delivered.

What Kind of Water to Use

More attention should be paid to the frequency and volume of watering basil than the type of water to use. Tap water is acceptable, as is rainwater gathered in a cistern, barrel, or bucket. There is no need to water your basil with any kind of "fancy" water.

How Often Should You Water Basil

How Often to Water Basil Based on the Plant's Age

Basil plants' age/size, as well as their location for growth, determine how frequently they need to be watered, as was previously mentioned. Let's start by discussing how the age of the plant affects how often it needs to be watered.

Compared to fully grown basil plants, young basil seedlings need much less water. Basil transplants that have just been planted need to be thoroughly watered in. It works with a half-gallon of water per plant. When there hasn't been any rain in the following few days, give basil seedlings another quarter to half gallon of water. If too much water is sprayed on the sprouts all at once, they will quickly drown.

More frequent watering will be required as the plant grows. One inch of water (per square foot) per week is the ideal amount for mature plants. The typical basil plant has roots that spread out to a width of about two feet. It takes approximately 2.5 gallons of water applied to the root zone slowly enough for it to fully soak in and not run off in order to apply one inch of water to that amount of space (4 square feet) each week. Due to evaporative water loss, this amount must be raised in extremely hot weather.

How Often to Water Basil Based on Where It is Growing

Following that, think about the location of the plant when deciding how frequently to water basil. Basil plants growing in the ground need to be watered more frequently and with a slightly different method than basil plants growing in pots. Let's examine the unique factors for each location.

How Often to Water Basil Growing in a Pot

Compared to basil growing in the ground, basil plants in pots require more frequent irrigation. There are multiple reasons for this:

  1. Potting soil made with peat moss is lighter than garden soil and dries out more quickly. It also drains better. In comparison to basil growing in the ground, a basil plant in a pot requires more frequent watering. The potting soil won't dry out as quickly if you mix compost into it.
  2. The terracotta pot is one example of a pot made of a porous material. In other words, water is wicked out of the pot through the pores, hastening the drying of the soil inside. Advice: Terracotta pots will dry out more slowly than ceramic or plastic ones.
  3. Basil plants in pots frequently cover the soil with their leaves to protect it from precipitation. You'll need to water it more frequently if no rain falls into the pot.

Basil grown in pots needs to be watered more frequently when they are smaller because smaller pots dry out more quickly than larger ones. The best way to determine when to water is to stick your finger as deeply as possible (about a finger's depth) into the potting soil and feel how dry it feels. Additionally, you should pick up the pot to check its weight because dry soil weighs significantly less than wet soil.

It's time to water when the soil feels light and dry to the touch. Water the plant directly by holding a hose or watering can at the base of the plant. If the pot has drainage holes—which it should have!), it's impossible to add too much water. The extra will just run off the bottom. Instead of adding too much water all at once, overwatering potted basil happens when you water it too frequently. Don't water your pot again until the "finger test" and the weight of the pot tell you it's time. Smaller pots might require daily watering, whereas larger pots with compost in the mix might only require weekly watering.

How Often to Water Basil Growing in the Ground

Choosing how frequently to water basil that is growing in the ground is a little more difficult. The roots of basil plants that have a layer of mulch covering them will not dry out as quickly. Reduced watering requirements are achieved by adding one to two inches of shredded straw, leaves, or grass. It is also important to consider your soil type. Basil growing in sandy soil requires more frequent watering than basil growing in clay soil.

Having said all of that, I don't want to make it too complicated. The "finger test" works for in-ground basil, too. To determine whether the soil needs watering, stick your finger into it. A deeper, more thorough watering is much preferable to light, shallow waterings that encourage shallow root growth. You must deeply water plants if you want them to develop strong, independent roots.

One inch of water per week (per square foot) is the goal for mature basil plants. Plan to provide 2.5 gallons of water, slowly and deeply, once per week (if the plant is young or not yet established, break that into two watering sessions of 1.25 gallons twice a week) to apply one inch of water to the area a basil plant requires (roughly 4 square feet). Remember that the plant will need more water than that in extremely hot weather as well.

How Much to Water Basil When Growing Indoors

Basil plants don't need as much water as outdoor plants if they are grown indoors, preferably under grow lights to ensure that they get enough hours of sunlight. Basil plants grown indoors require less water, reducing the need for frequent watering. The "finger test" works like a charm here too, as does feeling the weight of the pot. For mature plants, one gallon applied once per week is usually sufficient.

Overwatering Basil Plants

Despite the fact that underwatering is much more frequent than overwatering, I still want to list some overwatering warning signs so you'll know what to look out for in case you go a little overboard. Sadly, basil root rot can happen if it receives too much water. Underwatering-like symptoms are those of overwatering. There may be yellow leaves at the base of the basil plant, and the leaves droop and wilt. Avoid letting water collect in a saucer beneath potted plants.

If you suspect overwatering is to blame, reduce the frequency of your waterings and make sure to perform the "finger test" before deciding whether or not to water.

Fertilizing Basil When You Water

Consider adding a liquid organic fertilizer once every four to six weeks to your irrigation water if you want to guarantee your best basil harvest ever. Useless bloom-promoting fertilizers should not be used. Instead, pick one with a marginally higher nitrogen content to promote the growth of green, leafy plants. You want your basil plants to produce exactly that for you. Use a watering can or bucket to combine the fertilizer and irrigation water, then apply the mixture to the root zone of your plants.

Proper watering is essential to your success whether you grow sweet basil, lemon basil, Thai basil, spicy globe, or any of the other amazing basil varieties that are now widely available. You'll be on the right track if you use these advice to decide how often to water basil.

How to Harvest Basil

You typically just take a few leaves of basil as you need them; there is no set time for harvesting it. However, regular harvesting will keep your basil bushy and less lanky. It will also aid in preventing your plant from setting seed.

Harvest basil regularly. Harvest consistently throughout the growing season even if you don't need it. For best results, aim to prune 1/3 of the leaves each month. While I use basil in many dishes in the summer, I also find that it freezes well in olive oil for use in the winter.

Snip the stem just above the point where two large leaves meet. When I harvest basil, I always have a pair of Fiskars snips hidden in my garden apron so that I can make neat and tidy cuts. Enjoy your harvest with a freshly prepared recipe of your choice!

Final Thoughts

If you've made it to the end of this article, then hopefully you've learned that basil is a luscious, leafy plant that LOVES WATER. Remember to consider a number of factors, including sunlight, heat, rainfall, and the substrate your basil is planted in. On average, you'll probably need to water your basil plants every 3 to 4 days.

Common Questions About Basil

How Long Does It Take for Basil to Grow from Seed?

In 7 to 10 days after planting, basil germinates. In 3 to 4 weeks, it is typically ready for harvest.

Why is My Basil Plant Wilting?

If your basil plant is wilting, there are a few potential causes. Start by examining the soil. Basil prefers slightly moist soil that is neither too wet nor too dry. Not drenched, but damp, is what you want the soil to be. Despite the fact that basil enjoys warm weather, a harsh midday sun can be unpleasant. If your basil plant only appears to be wilting during the hottest parts of the day, you might need to add some light shade.

How Much Sun Does Basil Need to Grow?

Basil benefits from at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight each day to grow. Following the sun's path in the area where you are growing this flavorful herb is a crucial part of understanding how to take care of basil. Your plant will grow big and gorgeous for several months of the year with the right amount of sunlight.

Is It Better to Plant Basil Indoors Or Outdoors?

Both indoors and outdoors, basil grows incredibly well and is a hardy herb. Anywhere that provides the right amount of moisture and sunlight will be ideal for the plant to grow. I love to tuck basil into my vegetable garden boxes and grow it both indoors and outdoors in containers. There are countless locations and ways to grow basil once you learn how to do it in a pot.