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Why Are My Basil Leaves Hard? (Explained)

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Last updated on September 23rd, 2022 at 01:07 pm

Grooming Basil can be an exhilarating experience for you, especially if you’re a devoted gardener. However, there are times when your Basil plant may not be performing optimally.

In such cases, you may feel like giving up. One of the common problems you may encounter while growing basil plants is the toughness of the leaves. If you are rearing Basil as a spice, this could be frustrating.

Why exactly are your Basil leaves rigid?

Across all species, Basil leaves start getting tough when flowers develop on the plant and when exposed to outdoor conditions. There are a few other reasons your Basil leaves could be tough, including age and species differences.

Why Are My Basil Leaves Tough?

As aforementioned, the primary reasons Basil leaves are tough are when the plant starts flowering and is exposed to environmental factors.

Flowering in Basils occurs when flower buds bloom into full flowers. So if you’re asking why your Basil leaves are strong, you’re most likely grooming yours for the leaves.

So, how does that correlate to the matter on the ground? When flowers bloom on your Basil plant, it will assign a substantial amount of its nutrients, including water, to enable them to grow well.

This means the leaves no longer have unlimited access to all the water and other nutrients to stay fresh.

Flowers need a lot of water to stay healthy, and so do leaves. So when both grow on your Basil, it will have a few tough leaves, which you may be experiencing right now.

Another major factor that affects the softness of Basil leaves is environmental conditions.

The outdoor temperature is usually around 52 degrees Fahrenheit which is quite okay. However, when you grow your plant outdoors, it transpires.

This occurrence is regular, but it could quickly dehydrate when the temperature increases or your plant is not used to such temperatures.

Your Basil leaves develop a thick cuticle to prevent excessive transpiration in response to this. However, this cuticle will cause the leaves to be tough.

Furthermore, inadequate humidity could cause your Basil leaves to toughen. Humidity is the concentration of water vapor in the air.

The ideal daily humidity for including your Basil is 50 to 60 percent. Anything lower than that will cause your plant to have tough leaves, which would mean insufficient water to absorb.

What Are The Other Possible Reasons for Hard Basil Leaves?

Apart from flowering and environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity, there are other reasons your Basil leaves could be tough.

They include:

1. Age of the leaves

As with all plants, Basil leaves harden as they get older. This toughness is due to increased tissue density and cell wall fiber contents.

Young leaves are quite tender and have a higher water content because their fiber content is relatively low.

Cellulose fills older leaves mostly. Because it takes up space in the cell wall and comprises relatively dry matter, this event is why old leaves are harder than younger ones.

2. Species of Basil

Some species of Basil have leaves that get tougher more quickly. The smaller the leaves are, the faster they get tough.

Large leaves take more time to toughen because they need more water to be distributed across themselves than smaller ones, and this takes time.

And by the time a giant leaf begins to harden, it might have toughened a smaller one long since. But this rarely applies to particular plant species, including Basil.

The Italian Large Leaf Basil (Omicum basilium) has leaves that grow rather large but get tough quickly.

Some Basil species have leaves that remain soft for a very long time, even after maturity. For example, Greek Basil (O. basilicum var. minimum) has small leaves that are relatively softer than other Basil species.

Sweet Basil (O. basilium) also has short leaves, but they quickly get tough.

3. Inadequate water levels

Of course, I have been talking about how environmental and natural factors affect the toughness of Basil leaves. But despite this, it could be your fault.

When you grow your Basil in a green room, you need to water it so its leaves can stay fresh and soft. Leaving your Basil for too long without water will eventually cause its leaves to harden, curl and wilt.

4. The excessive temperature of UV lights

This also applies when you grow your Basil indoors without access to natural sunlight.

If the temperature of the UV lights you use as an artificial light source is higher than what your Basil needs, it will harden.

This process would be the same as it would be under intense heat from the sun.

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How Do You Keep Basil Leaves Soft?

So, knowing all these reasons why Basil’s leaves get tough, you must be wondering how to keep them soft. Below are some ways to keep your Basil leaves soft.

1. Pluck out the flowers

As I have established, flowers growing on your Basil plant share water with the leaves.

So if you want your Basil leaves to stay soft for longer, you should pluck out all flowers that have begun to bloom.

And if you can identify flower buds on yours, pluck them out too.

 2. In scorching weather, provide shade for your Basil

Sometimes, the heat becomes unbearable, not just for humans but also for plants.

If you provide shade for your Basil during these intense periods, you will prevent it from transpiring excessively without developing a thick cuticle.

3. Pluck out almost mature leaves

Plucking out leaves from your Basil plant will encourage new growth. This occurrence means that more unique, fresher, and softer leaves will grow as you pluck more leaves.

4. Water your plant

The importance of watering your Basil cannot be overemphasized. Daily watering of your plant will keep its leaves fresh and soft.

Indoor plants tend to lose less water than the ones that grow outdoors. Always ensure you do not overwater your Basil, as it could kill it.


There are several reasons why your Basil leaves could be tough. However, harsh environmental conditions and flowering influence this most significantly.

I have written some practical ways to keep your Basil leaves soft in this article. However, it would be best to start taking these measures to keep your Basil mild to your taste.


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