How Often to Water Basil: Quick Tips for Success

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A watering can next to a potted basil plant.

Basil has a spot in my garden every year, and while the crop is usually pretty reliable, I’ve noticed that it’s definitely not at its peak when I neglect proper watering. Overwatering or under-watering happens (life tends to be that way!), but if you want to enjoy those fresh, fragrant basil leaves in all their glory, it’s worth learning how often to water basil.

So how often should you water basil? When the top 1 inch of soil feels dry to the touch, the plant needs water. Typically, watering basil every 3-7 days is a good rule of thumb, but how fast each plant processes moisture varies greatly depending on the growing environment and stage of life.

In this article, you’ll learn basil water requirements for indoor and outdoor plants, as well as those that are just starting out as tender seedlings. I’ll also cover how to tell if you’re overwatering or under-watering your plant and the answers to some common questions.

Let’s dive in!

Key Points:

  • The amount of water basil plants need depends on where they’re grown.
  • Indoor basil typically needs water once per week.
  • Outdoor basil requires watering two to three times per week.
  • If you live in a humid climate, you don’t need to water your basil as often as in a dry region.
  • Basil requires 1-1.5 inches of water weekly, or a half or a full gallon of water weekly.
  • Watch for discoloration in the leaves or stems and changes to the soil’s consistency to monitor your basil’s water needs.

RELATED: You’ve spotted white blossoms on your basil- what’s going on? Find out why basil flowers and what to do next!

How Often to Water Basil Plants

Basil is a vigorous grower that prefers consistent moisture to produce abundant leaves. This means that the deeper levels of soil should stay slightly damp all the time, with just the top layer of soil drying out between waterings.

To gauge the soil moisture, stick your finger into the soil up to about your first knuckle. When your plant needs water, the soil will feel dry with just the very tip of your finger feeling dampness. If you feel any moisture higher up your finger, don’t water yet and re-check the soil in a day or two.

Depending on your basil plant’s environment, you may have to water more often or less often. Here’s a breakdown of basil water requirements in various settings:

  • Indoors
  • Outdoors in the ground or a container
  • In the seed/seedling stage

How Often to Water Indoor Basil

Make it a habit to check your basil plant’s soil 2 times per week- I usually end up watering indoor plants about once weekly.

In my experience, plants growing indoors need less water than those outdoors. This is because the indoor environment stays more constant, with no harsh sun beating down on your plant or wide temperature fluctuations. However, some people find that indoor plants have higher watering needs since growing indoors can be more stressful for a plant.

So check the soil moisture often and water when the plant needs it, keeping track of your findings. You’ll probably notice a pattern soon, and you can make a custom watering schedule off of that.

A closeup photo of a basil plant in the garden.

How Often to Water Outdoor Basil

I recommend checking the soil moisture about 3-4 times weekly and watering whenever the soil feels dry 1 inch deep. This might be once a week if you live in a humid climate or 3+ times weekly in drier ones.

Look to the weather to figure out how often to water your outdoor basil. During hot, dry weather stretches, I’ve had to water my basil daily. And in rainy periods, I don’t have to water at all.

And whether you have your basil planted in the ground or in a container also makes a difference. Container plants need more frequent watering since they are smaller and the plants don’t have access to the deeper levels of soil and groundwater. On the other hand, natural soil tends to retain more moisture for longer periods.

How Often to Water Basil Seeds

Growing plants from seed is a fun and economical way to garden, but young plants need their own care routine that’s different from more mature plants.

When you plant basil seeds, keep the soil moist but not pooling with water; I find that a spray bottle is a great tool to do this. Water them lightly once daily until they germinate, then switch to every other day or every few days. Give just enough water to keep the soil damp but not overly wet.

Once the seedlings are 6 inches tall and have several sets of true leaves, transplant them to their final planters. From there, the above advice applies for indoor or outdoor basil.

How Much Water Does Basil Need in a Week?

The average outdoor basil plant needs about 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week, and indoor basil usually needs 1 inch per week.

What that translates to in real-life terms is about a half gallon to 1 gallon of water every week.

Don’t forget to factor in rainfall for outdoor basil too. A rain gauge near your basil garden can help you keep track of how much water Mother Nature contributes.

I think Luke from MIGardener has a very helpful video outlining figuring out what an inch of water actually means:

Overwatered vs Under-Watered Basil

As long as you water as often as your plant needs it, you shouldn’t run into any trouble with over or under-watering. But the bast-laid plans can go off course, and there are physical signs that you’re watering your basil too much or too little.

Overwatered basil. Really, can you overwater basil? In the past, I’ve been guilty of thinking that it’s such a heavy producer that it will take all the water it can get. But the answer is yes, basil will suffer from too much moisture, with the key signs being wilting and sickly, yellowed leaves.

However, there can be other reasons behind leaf discoloration, so be sure to investigate for these other causes of yellowing basil leaves.

I’ve written a post about recognizing and treating basil overwatering, so stop by to get more details. But in short, if you think you may have overwatered, stop all watering for the next several days, only giving more when the top 2 inches of soil dry out. Increasing sun and air exposure can also help the soil dry out a bit faster.

Under-watered basil. Basil that’s too dry will also wilt (like overwatering), but checking the soil is an immediate answer for which problem is going on. If it feels dry several inches deep, your plant needs water.

Give it a good soak right away. The plant will likely perk up pretty quickly, but you may need to give water again in a few hours or the next day if the soil feels dry again.

Frequently Asked Questions about How Often to Water Basil

Unless the weather is very hot and dry, basil usually doesn’t need water daily. Instead, stick to one to two waterings per week or whenever the top 1 inch of soil feels dry.

Check the soil- if it feels dry, the basil plant may be curling its leaves in an attempt to prevent further moisture loss.

If the leaf curl isn’t due to under-watering, check the plant for signs of pests, particularly aphids or spider mites. Also, look for any discolored leaf spots that may indicate a disease.

While it isn’t necessary, you can regularly mist your basil plants to offer extra moisture, especially if you live in a dry climate. Aphids, spider mites, whiteflies, thrips and mealybugs prefer dry environments, so misting may also help keep insects from damaging your basil.

Final Thoughts

One reason I enjoy growing basil is its forgiving nature. Even if I mess up the watering routine, basil will usually bounce right back and keep on producing its delicious harvest. As long as you’re paying attention to your plant, you should be able to water it effectively by following the tips I’ve outlined here.

I’d love to hear from you! Are there any other questions you have about watering basil? Perhaps you’ve picked up some helpful strategies along the way that you could share. There’s no better way to learn than from each other, so please let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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