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Basil Root Rot | How to Fix Basil Root Rot? (Explained)

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Last updated on September 23rd, 2022 at 12:03 pm

It is not unusual to see a young Basil plant producing enormous leaves within a short period. This occurrence is regular for a healthy Basil plant.

Yet, we are kept in awe every time we dig up a little soil and observe the roots of Basil.

The roots of Basil are an unheralded hero in the plant kingdom, considering how such a tiny, threadlike, and fibrous structure could be capable of holding the entire plant structure firmly in the ground.

Yet, at the same time, it searches for and provides nutrients for the whole plant. How amazing! Still, like all heroes, the root of Basil also has its adversity. An outstanding one among these is root rot.

Basil root rot, also known as ‘damping off,’ is a disease that affects the roots of Basil, causing them to decay and become inactive. You can fix this stem rot by aerating the soil, transplanting the Basil, using resistant varieties, and other methods.

Let us look closely at Basil root rot, what it entails, and how to manage it.

Why are my Basil Roots Turning Brown?

Brown roots in Basil, a sharp contrast to the natural white and milky-colored roots of healthy Basil, indicate root rot in Basil, usually in its early stages.

As the rot increases, the root eventually becomes black and left unchecked, which could lead to the death of the Basil plant.

Two (2) primary reasons root rot occurs in Basil, giving the roots a brown coloration. The reason is; fungi infection and lack of oxygen in the roots of Basil.

One way fungi cause root rot is through ‘mycorrhizal fungi.’ These are fungi in a mutualistic relationship with the roots of plants.

Here, the Basil plant consensually provides food produced by photosynthesis to the fungi in its root.

In contrast, fungi use its super–active digestive enzymes to break down decaying organic matter in the soil to provide minerals and nutrients to the plant through its roots.

This mutualistic relationship with Basil becomes parasitic against Basil when decaying organic matter is no longer available to the fungus.

Since there is an unending amount of organic matter in the soil, this only occurs when the soil where you plant Basil is flooded by excess moisture, usually due to overwatering.

In this case, the fungi are coerced to feed on the only organic matter within their reach, and this happens to be the roots of Basil on which they dwell, causing root rot in Basil.

Other fungi only exist as resting spores in the soil and are activated for action only when the condition of the environment is suitable.

This suitable condition happens to be an oxygen-free and waterlogged environment. Thus, the root of Basil is infected by fungi when the moisture content in the soil is excessive.

Additionally, when the soil where you plant Basil becomes flooded, airflow into that soil becomes very restricted, sometimes even eliminated.

Therefore, when there is excess water in the soil, the roots cannot obtain oxygen which is vital for their health. Hence, they begin to rot/decay as a result of suffocation.

So, in a nutshell, excess moisture is the leading cause of Root Rot in Basil.

Now, we know the reasons, so what are the effects?

How is Basil Affected by Root Rot?

Though ideal, it does not always occur to cultivators to lift the soil to check the condition of Basil roots.

Even when some think about it, they are discouraged by the risk of damaging the roots themselves, considering Basil roots’ threadlike and fibrous nature.

Instead, they believe it safer to monitor the roots’ health by observing the plant’s overall health.

So, we will look at some effects that root rot has on Basil, and as we do, you may consider them as symptoms to look out for as you grow Basil.

The first signs of root rot in Basil begin in the leaves. When roots rot, their leaves start to change from their lush green color to yellow, brown, or black as the rot advances. The leaves eventually grow pale, flat, and skinny.

As root rot increases in Basil, the plant’s stem also becomes affected as brown or black spots are formed around the stem.

This occurrence causes the branch to become weak, and some leaves begin to fall off. The stem, at this point, shows no visible signs of growth. Thus, the plant becomes stunted.

While the effects on leaves may be rapid and sometimes go unnoticed, that is not the case when the stem becomes affected.

Yet, if allowed to persist, the rot will keep ravaging the plant and may cause the Basil plant to droop and die. Always remember that Basil’s roots are as crucial as the heart is to humans.

Just as a diseased heart also means a diseased body because the bodily functions are also affected, so does an infected root in Basil cause various irregularities in the plant.

So, if there are any anomalies other than the effects mentioned earlier when all growing conditions seem to be okay, you could have a Basil plant with root rot.

Can Basil Survive Root Rot?

Basil may be easy to cultivate, but it requires time and attention to grow this herb successfully. You, too, could testify to this fact.

That is why after investing much time and attention in Basil, the survival and productivity of this herb become paramount to the cultivator. Also, it is vital to even when diseases such as root rot infect it.

Basil can survive root rot!

The infection of Basil by root rot is not a Rubicon that you cannot reverse once crossed. No, you can restore the health of Basil.

However, left unattended, the survival of Basil with root rot is relative.

Yes, close to long, the condition remains favorable for the disease and could depreciate with a change in conditions, still dependent on how far the rot has encroached.

From the effect of root rot on Basil, we can discern three (3) distinct stages of root rot in Basil. These are;

1. Early-stage

Where chlorosis occurs, there is a change in the color of basil leaves.

2. Middle stage

The leaves begin to wilt, the stem develops brown and black, and the plant growth is stunted.

3. Late-stage

Where the Basil plant starts drooping.

In the early and middle stages of the rot, that is complete confidence that the basil plant will survive with proper attention and remedy.

When it enters the late stages, though, its survival capacity is reduced to a fifty percent (50%) chance which is still a good chance for Basil which grows fast. So how can you ensure this survival? 

How Do You Fix Root Rot on Basil?

Root rot is a progressive action. For example, when caused by fungi, they continue to feed on the root of Basil without any intervention from external forces.

Likewise, when caused by a lack of oxygen, strands of root continue to rot away as it uses up the trace amount of oxygen in the root. How, then, can you effectively fix root rot in Basil?

You can fix root rot by doing any of the following;

1. Drain Soil Properly

Having seen that excess moisture in the soil encourages root rot in Basil. It is only proper then that a reversed condition would prevent the decay from growing.

Where possible, you should cut off the affected strands of the root, and the soil pot is dried hard.

After then, you should resume watering immediately but with appropriate measures. This process is especially effective when the rot is in its early stages.

2. Use Rich and Good Draining Soil

Even when a cultivator appropriately waters Basil, the soil could still be waterlogged if the earth does not drain properly.

This occurrence would deprive the roots of oxygen and lead to root rot. Additionally, suppose the soil is rich in a large amount of organic matter.

In that case, fungi in the ground will be focused on decomposing these organic matter rather than the roots of Basil.

3. Aerate the Soil

A congested soil lacks oxygen, and this facilitates root rot in Basil. Planting a small Basil plant in a large pot is a common cause of congestion as the oxygen has a large surface area to cover before getting to the roots.

Perforating holes in the soil could facilitate aeration but do so with sterilized equipment.

4. Transplant Your Basil

If the soil pot or the soil it contains is no longer suitable or is the cause of the rot, it is essential to transplant your Basil plant after cutting off infected strands of the root.

To avoid reoccurrence, transplant to nutrient-rich soil treated suitably against fungi and disinfected the soil pot using a bleach solution.

5. Propagate From Stem

When root rot enters the final stages in a Basil plant, most of the roots are already affected. In this case, trimming off the affected root would take off the entire root, thus risking the plant’s survival.

Instead, you can fix the plant by propagating it again from the stem of the infected plant but in better soil.

Doing so will preserve your cherished variety while eliminating the rot,

6. Plant Resistant Variety

This functions more as a preventive than a corrective measure against root rot in Basil. Still, rather than propagating just any seed or stem from a friend, why not get a resistant variety from a renowned gardener, as this will ensure a smooth, disease-free generation.


As in every plant, the roots of Basil function as the human heart by providing and directing the transfer of nutrients from the soil to the entire plant, little wonder the whole plant is affected adversely when Basil is affected by root rot.

Yet, Basil can survive root rot. Remember, with proper attention; you can detect root rot in Basil, and using the guidelines in this article, you can effectively fix root rot in Basil!

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