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Why Are My Basil Leaves Skinny And Flat? (Explained)

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Last updated on September 23rd, 2022 at 12:50 pm

People wait years while watching thousands of fresh leaves grow and drop from orange trees to get a single fruit from it. This, though, is never the case with people who plant Basil.

In a basil cultivators’ case, the Basil leaves are the long-awaited fruits of their labor even though they don’t have to wait so long.

So it becomes rather distressing when these anticipated leaves fall short of their requirement, turning out to be unattractively flat and pale.

Distressed, one may ask, why are my Basil leaves flat?

Flat, Skinny, or Hard Basil leaves result from a wide range of reasons, including; overwatering, insufficient sunlight, disease, pest infestation, a sudden change in temperature, and growing in a small container.

How these factors specifically affect the leaves of Basil are explained below. Please read on!

Why are Basil leaves skinny and flat?

Basil is famous primarily because of its immense herbal and nutritional value, benefits obtained majorly from the smooth and fleshy evergreen leaves of Basil.

Though void of spots and blights, basil leaves could sometimes lose their fleshy and attractive nature. So what could be the cause?

Growing Basil as a household plant and observing how fragile the entire plant body appears, some cultivators may presume that direct sunlight exposure may harm the plant, causing it to be scorched.

Acting on that thought could be why your Basil leaves have become skinny and flat.

The leaves of Basil, like all plants, do not just beautify the plant but are also involved in a lot of work to ensure the well-being of the entire plant.

In the case of Basil, the leaves trap energy from the sun and combine it with chlorophyll present in the leaves to synthesize (break down) carbohydrates to produce starch needed by the plant.

The point here is that, just as you do not need help identifying a non-functional factory with dilapidated structures.

It is basil leaves that barely perform any function due to insufficient sunlight. Their leaves grow flat, skinny, and pale.

A second reason why Basil’s leaves become skinny and flat is overwatering. Adequate water is a requirement for the Basil plant to thrive.

When the soil’s moisture content becomes excessive, Basil’s roots cannot take up nutrients like Phosphorus and Nitrogen to Basil leaves, keeping them green, upright, and fleshy.

Root rot is a disease resulting from excess moisture in the soil where Basil is planted. When root rot occurs in Basil, the earliest symptoms become visible on the leaves of Basil, making them pale and skinny.

After which, a change in coloration begins to occur.

Should I worry about skinny and flat Basil?

The flatness of Basil is not a natural order of growth. From the shoot of the basil plant to the flowering stages, there is never a time when Basil leaves ought to go flat and skinny, not even temporarily.

So, it would be best if you were concerned when your Basil leaves grow thin and flat.

A word of caution here is that you should only be concerned and not unduly anxious because this can be fixed if stitched in time, as we will see shortly.

Your concern would naturally emanate from a decline in flavor if used to prepare a meal or a loss of appeal if grown for commercial purposes. Still, there is more to this.

As earlier established, anomalies in the leaves of Basil are usually the earliest symptoms of more significant problems in the entire plant.

This occurrence could be a nutrient deficiency, pest invasion, or disease-related.

Any of which could lead to the death of the plant if prolonged. What, then, can you do to a stitch in time?

Stitching in time to revive Basil’s leaves could involve any of the following;
1. Provide adequate sunlight for Basil leaves. If Basil is grown indoors, ensure to place the pot in a good spot where enough sunlight can be obtained, preferably behind the sunniest window.
2. Use rich soil that drains water properly.
3. Use containers with adequate drainage holes.
4. Use suitable-sized containers. Small containers can restrict the plant’s growth and thus the health of leaves, while large containers limit the flow of oxygen to the plant’s roots.
5. Water the plant only to a hygroscopic level and not to the point of saturation.

Are Basil leaves skinny and flat because of pests?

Basil may be attractive and indispensable to many of us, but they are not conducive to habit pests.

Still, since pests are also interested in the juicy contents of Basil leaves from which we make our Basil tea, they thus become frequent visitors to Basil leaves.

Against all odds, some have even adapted to stick beneath the leaves, staying for more extended periods than expected.

The presence of these pests harms Basil in no small measure. One such effect is the flattening of Basil leaves.

When pests visit Basil leaves, their sole purpose is to feed on them.

Most pests feed not by biting and chewing the leaves but with proboscis to suck out the contents of the leaves, leaving them pale, skinny, and flat.

Pests could also lay their microscopic eggs on the leaves of Basil, and when the eggs develop into larvae which is a significantly rapid process, the larvae then derive their nutrients from the Basil leaves.

Thus, you can control pest action on the leaves of Basil by applying mild pesticide and doing so strictly at room temperature.

Are Basil leaves skinny and flat because of nutrition deficiency?

The absence of Nitrogen alone in Basil will cause the leaves to turn yellow, while the lack of Phosphorus will cause Basil leaves to turn Purple.

The above statement alone answers our topic question. So, yes skinny and flat leaves could result from a nutrient deficiency in Basil.

Nutrient deficiency in Basil is first reported by the leaves, which use most nutrients from the entire plant.

What if the leaves of your Basil remain quite green but grow skinny and flat?

This situation could most likely mean that there are only sufficient nutrients in the plant to keep the leaves green but not fresh and fleshy.

It could also be that there is a high level of chlorophyll in the plant, usually if it receives enough sunlight but still lacks specific macro or micro-nutrients.

Iron, a micronutrient, can also affect Basil leaves when completely absent even though other macro-nutrients like Nitrogen and Phosphorus are abundant in the plant.

Even when the required nutrients are available in the soil, the cold temperature can prevent the roots from taking these nutrients.

So ensure to keep the soil aerated and warm to keep Basil leaves fresh and attractive, as is its nature.


Basil leaves growing skinny and flat only reduces its economic importance of Basil rather steeply.

It is, therefore, necessary to take preventive and corrective measures to keep the leaves of Basil fresh and appealing.

Unless signs of stress are visible, the Basil plant should be exposed to as much sunlight as it can absorb, which will help keep them fresh and agile.


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