I received a potted basil plant a bit over a year ago as thanks for some computer work. Not knowing how exactly to grow it, I kind of let it overgrow, including not nipping it in the bud at first. It started getting sickly and spindly, and its roots had basically filled the pot. So I took a cutting and replanted it in the pot, planting the rest out in my front yard to see how it would do.

The outside plant withered and died (we had some weather fluctuations), but the inside one was sprouting pretty nicely and then, recently, my wife decided to make a dish and removed all of the leaves. The remaining stem has stayed green, but there's been no sign of regrowth of leaves in the week or so after.

Is it likely to recover? Or should I just start over from scratch?

Later edit: I ended up tossing the remaining stem, but I kept most of the soil for a transplanted tomato plant from work. Much to my surprise, a circle of basil sprouts have popped up. I am guessing that, at some point, a flower fell and reseeded, and these sprouted once the main plant was no longer giving them the "hold" signals.

  • 1
    This is the time of year to buy a packet of seeds. The stuff is easy to sprout, and with a little care will grow like a weed in a pot set outdoors. Sprout indoors though, Robins like the cotyledons. Jun 5, 2015 at 11:09
  • Thank you, @WayfaringStranger. I have not had luck finding friends willing to give me their clippings, so I'll probably go with that. Jun 5, 2015 at 11:57
  • What a nice surprise on the basil seedlings. I suspect you're right about the seeds.
    – michelle
    Jul 8, 2015 at 12:55

2 Answers 2


Unlikely to recover - not impossible, but unlikely, and waiting to see if there's any regrowth will take some time. Given you might want some basil between now and Christmas, its probably best to get another plant. And instruct your wife to always leave some leaves on the plant next time... or buy two plants so its easier to leave some leaves in place and still have enough for culinary use.

  • Thank you. She hadn't seen the issue since "there's still green on it", not to mention that she mistook a small weed on the side (I grabbed some of the dirt from outside when replanting it) for a new basil plant. Jun 3, 2015 at 16:04
  • Ah well, she'll learn, we all make mistakes! But all herbs need some leaves left on during the growing season, as you probably know...
    – Bamboo
    Jun 3, 2015 at 16:15
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    My ex wife destroyed plants too w/ explanation "that's what they are for". What you can do is tell her not to pick leaves but to cut sprigs off, always leaving a node of leaves behind on each branch. If you cultivate it that way from the beginning, it will get very bushy.
    – Escoce
    Jun 3, 2015 at 21:12
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    @SeanDuggan , Enscoce mentions a good point: Basil should be cut from the top down to the next or second node because a) two new stems will emerge from there and the plant gets bushy instead of lanky and b) you will automatically pinch off any flower buds, extending the time before flowering which, at least in some breeds, can influence the taste negatively.
    – Stephie
    Jun 4, 2015 at 6:56
  • @SeanDuggan Here's a bit about harvesting basil gardening.stackexchange.com/questions/16201/…
    – J. Musser
    Oct 1, 2015 at 17:47

If you happen to have some really bright fluorescent lights, or else less bright ones surrounded by mylar, you might try what worked for my leafless Georgescu Chocolate pepper plant and later my leafless Red-seeded Citron watermelon plant. Basically, I just put the stems right next to the bulbs (within a couple inches), and they grew new shoots. Apparently, the stems must still be able to use light without leaves, to some degree, but it's not as apparent when the light isn't super bright.

Here's a description of my setup in case there are other variables important to this:

My personal setup has mylar blankets draping around the sides of a long fold-up table (underneath the table is the growing area), and the bottom of the table and beneath it are also lined with mylar. There's maybe a seven inch opening on one of the long sides, at the top, where the window is, to let some natural sunlight in, too. This table is on top of another such table (which is why the window is so close to it). I have a surge protector near each of the two ends under the table with plug-in sockets in them. There are seven sockets with bulbs. Five of the bulbs are 23 watt CFLs, all but two being 6500k (the two being 2700k). The surge protector with four sockets has two bulbs less than 23 watt, with color temperatures much lower than 6500k, but I think only one of the smaller ones is 2700k. The other is probably like 3500k or something. I turn the lights off while I sleep and turn them back on when I get up. I sleep and get up at variable times. The growing area is somewhat humid, due to water evaporating from the plant containers (or something), and the mylar on the sides of the area. I give them potassium sulfate and basalt rockdust together to avoid problems I previously had with fungi from the humidity and at least somewhat crowded plants (like maybe downy mildew or something else).

Anyway, I put my leafless plants in a corner away from the window by an end of the three-socket surge protector that has a 23 watt 6500k CFL in the socket by where I put the plants. They probably got a fair amount of light from the neighboring 23 watt 2700k CFL, too. In this setup, plants like the corners away from the window, it seems.

The watermelon grew a new shoot within a few days. The pepper may have taken longer.

Edit: I've coincidentally got another leafless watermelon (Mississipi Cobb Gem) I'm trying this with, now. This one only has one node available. Hopefully it's not too damaged to regrow.

Edit: The Mississippi Cobb Gem watermelon was too damaged and died within a few days of my edit above. However, now I'm attempting a similar thing with a Chinese 5 Color pepper that was a cutting, but probably has roots by now. It lost all its leaves. At first, it seemed to be too hot in my growing area this time of year, and was losing its leaves. So, eventually, I put the cutting in a south window. It looks like if it lives much longer, it should grow leaves (some leaves are just barely starting to form, but they're small yet), but I've been waiting a while on it. I put it under the fluorescent lights again. We'll see how it does. I plan to take it out once in a while (when the sun is out) so it doesn't get too hot.

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