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Why Do Basil Leaves Turn White? (5 Reasons)

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Last updated on September 27th, 2022 at 12:12 pm

Basil, otherwise known as the great basil, is a plant that originates from Africa and Southern Asia. The plant basil is popularly used for cooking as a flavor for food. 

The most common reasons basil leaves turn white are nutrient deficiency, diseases caused by fungi, pest infestation, excessive sunlight, high temperature, and overwatering.

Five Possible Causes of White Basil Leaves?

If the leaves of your basil plant are changing to White, it is bad. You need to check for all or at least one of the following causes of whitening in basil leaves. 

Five causes of whitening of basil leaves are:

1. Nutrient deficiency

Nitrogen, Magnesium, Iron, Sulphur, and Potassium are major nutrients required for the healthy growth of plants in general.

This includes basils. If your basil is not getting enough of these nutrients, it will change its color.

Losing color/yellowing/whitening are the effects of the absence of these nutrients. 

To prevent such a cause, you must apply fertilizer to the soil before planting your basil and once every two weeks during its growing season.

2. Fungal diseases

Some fungal diseases that can cause whitening in basil plants are; 

2.1 Downy Mildew

The symptoms of this particular disease include chlorosis, curling of the leaves, and wilting. Chlorosis is the discoloration of the leaves of a plant.

To cure basil of downy mildew, you should buy a fungicide (specifically a fungicide labeled downy mildew) and spray the infected plant. 

2.2 Fusarium wilt

This disease manifests through the chlorosis of the plant’s leaves, wilting, and death. Unfortunately, there is no cure for fusarium wilt.

Once you discover that your basil plant is infected with fusarium wilt, remove the plant and disinfect the area the herb was planted in. 

3. Pest infestation

Pests such as aphids that live on the nutrients of the basil leaves dry up the plant and make it lose its color.

The pest sucks nutrients and water from the plant’s leaves. 

Nematodes are also pests of basil plants. They eat up the plant’s roots, reducing its ability to take in water.

You can handle insect pests by spraying insecticides. 

4. Excessive sunlight and high temperature

Sunlight and heat are good for plants, especially basil plants.

Basils, over the years, have adapted to high temperatures because of the climatic conditions of the nations they originated from. 

However, excessive sunlight and high temperatures are not good for the plant. They can cause the plant to lose more water and nutrients than is needed.

This leads to the whitening of the leaves of the basil plant. 

5. Overwatering

Ceramic Plant Pots with Drainage
Ceramic Plant Pots with Drainage

Excess moisture can lead to the rotting of the root of plants. If the root of a plant is destroyed, water, food, and nutrients can not be transferred across the plant. 

If you are planting your basil in a planting pot, it is advisable to use a pot with drainage holes so that excess water can be sieved out.

Cutting off already rotten roots is also acceptable to prevent the rot from spreading.

Is it normal for basil leaves to turn white?

Like every other plant, the basil plant needs proper care for high yield. Basil leaves will only turn white when they are not cared for or infected with a disease. 

Is it normal for basil leaves to turn white? No, it is not normal for basil leaves to turn white. 

If your basil leaves are changing to white or yellow, you should treat it.

Although, it is not uncommon to find people eating yellow or white-spotted basil leaves. Still, it is best to have healthy basil in your food. 

Why do Basil Leaves lose color?

Basil leaves naturally have a color of light green. This color can be lost, faded, or spotted for numerous reasons.

When the natural color of a basil leaf is lost, the leaves usually turn yellow, white, or pale brown.

Why do basil leaves lose color? Basil leaves lose color due to disease infection, under watering, low temperature or inadequate sunlight, excess salt, and soil type. 

A few of these factors mentioned earlier are specific reasons basil leaves turn white or black.

However, basil leaves also transform into other colors when the original green color is lost (as stated above).

Here are the explanations of some more reasons why basis lose color.

1. Underwatering

Every plant needs an adequate water amount to survive. Basils are also included in this fact.

A lack of water leads to the plant’s low functioning and thus a very popular symptom, chlorosis. 

2. Low temperature or inadequate sunlight

Sunlight enhances plants’ growth and creates products. Inadequate sunlight slows down that process and affects the growth of the pant.

Lack of sunlight leads to discoloration in the leaves of basils. Also, basils can not survive in low temperatures. Their leaves get dried up.

Basil plants survive better at a temperature of 25°C – 28°C.

Any temperature below 20°C will cause the leaves of the plant to turn yellow or brown and possibly lead to the death of the plant. 

3. Excess salt

The presence of too much salt leads to the dehydration of basil leaves. This is observed when the leaves turn white or dry.

When the plant is dehydrated, it can produce enough nutrients and food and thus can not fulfill its intended purpose. 

Excess salt usually exists in the soil due to over-fertilizing or the type of water used in watering the plant. 

4. Soil type

Basil plants excel in well-aerated soil. Such soil also allows the free flow of water. Neutral or slightly acidic soil is also perfect for a basil plant. 

Your basil leaves are losing color because the soil is not porous enough, and moisture accumulates. This leads to root rot and, thus, chlorosis. 

To prevent this, you should select suitable soil before planting your basil. Also, use organic fertilizers on your plant. 


The Basil plant has many varieties: sweet basil, Thai basil, lemon basil, holy basil, and African blue basil. All these varieties serve different purposes in cuisines. 

Cultivating a basil plant is demanding, but the end product is always worth it. Basil leaves easily lose color, but this condition can be avoided with the right care.

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