En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Care for non-native Basil

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
4 ratings

Tuesday - August 14, 2007

From: Charlotte, NC
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Care for non-native Basil
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

One of my Basil plants has leaves that are curling (shriveling.) I see no insects on any of the leaves. The plant next to this one is growing beautifully. Both are in large pots and are in the sun. What gives?

ANSWER:

The goal of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is to further the care and use of native North American plants. While Ocimum basilicum L. is not a North American native, having originated in the eastern countries of India, Pakistan and Tahiland and cultivated for almost 5000 years, almost everyone loves to have some around for the flavor it adds to cooking and the delicious fragrance.

Okay, we're going to play Plant Detective, and first we'll scare you to death with some stuff that probably isn't the problem. In fact, these diseases are much more likely to show up in a commercial growing operation, where cultural practices are not as easy to control and disease can quickly spread. So, take a look at this website on The Pests and Diseases of Basil. From your description, we really don't think any of these fungal diseases are affecting your basil. If you determine that one of them IS the problem, the recommendation is to quickly remove the plant and its soil from your property, along with any other plants of the mint family that appear similarly affected.

But let's be more optimistic and say just this one pot is having a problem, since you say the one next to it, in the same cultural conditions, is doing fine. So, maybe it's just that particular pot. Unfortunately, shriveled leaves can be attributed to too much water, too little water, too much sun, not enough sun-well, you get the picture. Is the pot being watered regularly, now that summer is truly upon us? Is it draining well? If the drain hole is plugged up, the roots could be sitting in a swamp in the bottom. Only swamp plants like their roots in a swamp. On the other hand, if the soil gets too dry between waterings, water will just rush through the dry soil without soaking in and go out the hole. Our basil on the back porch, even with daily waterings, seems to be drooping by the middle of the day now that real summer heat and dryness have come to Texas, even with regular daily watering. Is the plant in a plastic pot? Those things can get flaming hot in the sun, and really toast a little plant's roots. Maybe a little midday shade would make all your basils happier. Yellowed leaves toward the bottom of the bush mean it needs more sun and/or less fertilizer.

Okay, let's be honest, here. We really don't know what is happening to your basil. If it looks like it's surviving and doesn't have some dread disease, we'd suggest doing a little pruning to make it more bushy. To extend the life of a basil plant, the flowers should be nipped off as soon as they appear. Some trimming down and thinning out will give the plant less leaf surface to evaporate moisture. And, let's get real. Basil is an annual that will go home to its Fathers at the first frost. If it insists on being a prima donna and sulking no matter what you do for it, ignore it. It can be replaced.

 

More Non-Natives Questions

Apache Pine for Dripping Springs, TX.
July 02, 2014 - Is the Apache Pine tree a good choice for planting in alkaline soil with excellent drainage?
view the full question and answer

Recovery of damaged fuchsia plant in hanging basket
July 23, 2007 - I had a beautiful fuchsia plant hanging on my porch. The hanger gave way and the plant fell straight down into another flower bed. The fuchsia seemed ok. I put it back in the pot put up new strong ...
view the full question and answer

Problems with new transplant non-native weeping willow from Washington DC
September 10, 2012 - I replanted a very young BABY weeping willow tree and now it looks as if the leaves are drying up like it is dying. I know that it could also be in shock from the new transplant or it can be dying ...
view the full question and answer

Disposal of non-native invasive Houttuynia cordata
August 08, 2007 - I am a homeower in The Woodlands with a very difficult problem in my butterfly garden. I have an impossibly invasive weed that I cannot get rid of -- so much so that I'm thinking of just paving ov...
view the full question and answer

Bark splitting on non-native Royal Poinciana in tree in Merritt Island FL
August 10, 2010 - Information on splitting bark along the branches like an overstuffed sausage: A royal Poinciana tree, about 5 years old. The upper branches are doing this, although I'm afraid little splits or tear...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center