How Much Water Does Basil Need?

With its countless uses in cooking, health and wellness and its nutritional value, basil has become a very popular herb for many home gardeners to grow each year. But while basil can be fairly simple to grow, improper or insufficient watering can easily cripple your basil plants and ruin any chance of a successful harvest. So how much water does basil need?

Basil requires around 1 inch of water per week which is equal to 0.623 gallons of water (2.36 liters). However despite this specific amount, don’t get too carried away with the precision. As long as you keep the surrounding soil consistently moist, your basil will have all the water it needs to flourish.

While basil isn’t too difficult of a plant to grow, improper watering habits will sabotage a basil plant’s growth and cause it to wilt or even die in some cases. That said, there are some recommended guidelines to follow when it comes to watering basil.

How Much Water Does Basil Need?

Of course, the amount of water your basil plants should be receiving ultimately depends on factors such as its size, environment and variety. Each of these factors plays a part in determining just how much water your basil should be receiving.

Younger basil plants that are between 1 to 2 weeks into growth highly depend on frequent watering in order to properly develop. Water your basil at least every other day at this stage. As basil gets older, it becomes more drought tolerant, but should still be watered consistently. After the 2 week mark, water your basil at least twice a week or whenever the soil becomes dry.

When growing basil in a pot or container, the soil tends to dry up faster. Therefore, you will need to water the basil more frequently if you choose to grow it in a container rather than a regular gardening bed. Do a quick check up on your container or potted basil plants each day. If the soil feels dry, give the plants a quick watering.

While most basils need consistent watering, there are some varieties that are more drought tolerant than others. Varieties such as African blue basil can go longer periods of time without water. If you are looking for more of a hands-off approach to growing basil, drought tolerant varieties are the way to go. However do not make the mistake of confusing drought tolerant with never watering at all.

What will happen if Basil doesn’t receive enough Water?

Basil isn’t really a high maintenance plant. It can do fine with conservative amounts of sun and fertilizer. One area that can’t be overlooked when it comes to growing basil, is water. If the surrounding soil dries out, basil will begin to wilt and eventually die if it doesn’t receive water soon.

A Potted Wilted Herb On Table

As stated earlier, a quick watering whenever the soil feels dry is all you really need to do to maintain your basil and keep it from wilting and eventually dying off.

Can Basil receive too much Water?

While there has been plenty of emphasis on watering your basil and keeping the surrounding soil moist, overwatering your basil plants can be just as bad as under watering them. Overwatering basil plants can lead to stunted growth, root rot and yellowed leaves. The key is to have the soil stay consistently moist but not consistently drenched.

Other Factors that Affect Basil Watering:

As stated earlier, you should aim to keep the surrounding soil of your basil plants consistently moist. While only 1 inch of water per week can typically achieve that goal, there are some other factors that can cause your basil to require more or less than the 1 inch of water per week standard.


Soil drainage is one of the biggest factors that can determine how much water your basil plants or most any other plants for that matter should be receiving. Soil drainage simply refers to the process by which water runs through the soil. Growing basil in soil with poor drainage may end up drowning the roots resulting in root rot.

While basil likes to have consistently moist soil, soil with poor drainage will deprive the roots of oxygen and cause the leaves to turn yellow and die. On the other hand, materials with larger particles like sand allow water to pass right through it thus depriving the plants of water. However, materials like peat moss and cocoa coir can provide the best of both worlds. These materials are great to grow basil in as its mediums sized particles can hold enough water to keep the soil moist while allowing the excess to drain further down into the soil.

If you choose to grow basil in a pot or container, the type you use can also affect how well the soil drains. Growing your basil in a container with drainage holes allows the excess moisture to exit the container. This will help prevent your basil from becoming oversaturated.


If you find that the soil around your basil is constantly drying out and you have to keep watering it, vermiculite can help mitigate this problem. Vermiculite is a granular material that is often found in potting mixes however, it is also sold on its own as well. What makes it great for growing basil is that it is known for retaining moisture. In fact, vermiculite is so good at retaining moisture that it can absorb up to 4 times its size of water!

Adding vermiculite to your basil’s soil can have a variety benefits. In addition to retaining moisture, vermiculite also helps retain nutrients, loosens up the soil and can even repel fungus gnats and other harmful insects. Therefore adding vermiculite to your basil’s soil with will result in a healthier, more vigorous basil plant!

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Another factor that can play apart in how much water your basil will require is its environment. Drier environments with lots of sunlight will dry out the soil faster. If you live in a drier environment you may have to water your basil more often so that it doesn’t dry out. One way to mitigate this problem however, is to move your basil to a shaded area if possible. This will help keep  your basil from drying out as fast thus reducing the need for water.


Hopefully you now have a better idea as to how much water your basil needs. While many follow the 1 inch of water per week standard, as long as you aim to keep the surrounding soil consistently moist but not totally drenched you will be able to successfully grow plenty of fresh, basil from your home garden.

Related Questions:

How much Sun Does Basil Need? Basil is not very picky when it comes to sunlight requirements. 6 to 8 hours of sunlight a day is the recommended amount when it comes to growing basil. Basil performs best with full sunlight however, it can do just fine in shaded areas as well.


Is Basil a Perennial? Basil is an annual herb. After one season it is done growing and you will have to replant it next year if you want to harvest more fresh basil. After about 3 to 4 weeks of growing, basil leaves can be harvested and more leaves will grow in its place but after around 4 to 5 months, basil reaches the end of its life cycle.


Are Basil Flowers Edible? The flowers of a basil plant are in fact edible. The flowers taste similar to basil leaves but are usually milder and bitterer. Because of this, basil flowers are often used as a garnish for dishes or for adding to vinegar.

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