I just bought a basil plant this past week at the supermarket to have some fresh basil for cooking. It had some dark green spots on it, which at first I assumed were just dry/dying leaves. I'm not so sure now though - I've been watering it according to the instructions it came with ("water from the bottom daily or as needed"), but it doesn't seem to be clearing up.

Is this one of the terrible diseases/fungi I've read about online, or just something that will take more time?

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The plant in question

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The plant in question with pot

  • Do the root's look ok? Could be too much water. Also, how much humidity is it getting?
    – J. Musser
    Jul 10, 2015 at 0:10
  • @J.Musser - Roots look okay (I think - I didn't see anything that looked...well, abby-normal as Igor would say). It does look a bit cramped - would re-potting it help? And humidity wise, it's about average in my apartment (not too dry, not too humid) - probably leans toward "dry" if I had to pick.
    – tonysdg
    Jul 10, 2015 at 1:07
  • Any chance of a photo including the pot? I can't tell if the pot is too small, but it might be, from the edge I can see in the picture...
    – Bamboo
    Jul 10, 2015 at 11:51
  • @Bamboo - yup, just did. It's the pot it came in - the instructions also said to leave it in the plastic bag on the left.
    – tonysdg
    Jul 10, 2015 at 13:02
  • this pot is too small, is it getting lots of sun? it loves sun. remove leaves from the top always, they grow fast if you keep removing the leaves Jul 13, 2015 at 16:35

2 Answers 2


The reason supermarkets tell you to keep the plastic bag in place is so the plant won't collapse - many of them collapse outwards when the support of the bag is removed. I always remove them anyway, just in stages, moving it downwards over time if the collapse thing is likely to happen.

The pot's too small and its run out of root room - put it in a larger pot with some decent potting soil, water well. I'd trim off the tops, back down to where you can see smaller, healthy leaves, cutting just above those - hopefully you can make use of the leaves you've removed, well, at least the ones which are healthy.

Because its not got enough room for its roots, that makes it difficult for the plant to get enough water, even if you water daily - there's not enough soil in the pot to hold onto water. You may find you don't need to water daily in a larger pot, but check by feeling the top of the compost with your finger - if it feels dry to touch, water, but don't wait till the soil's shrunken from the sides of the pot. You can also just pick it up - you can usually tell by the weight whether it needs water or not. When you do water, water well, but don't leave it standing in any outer container full of water - empty that after half an hour. And water from the top, onto the soil in the pot, regardless of the supermarket instructions.

If you're keeping it indoors, find a bright spot for it, not full sun, some sun is beneficial evening/morning, but just bright daylight will be fine.

  • You're a godsend. I thank you profusely - I'll be sure to grab a pot this weekend and re-pot it!
    – tonysdg
    Jul 10, 2015 at 13:19
  • Only if it works! It's not looking like a bacterial leaf spot at the moment anyway....
    – Bamboo
    Jul 10, 2015 at 13:42
  • just wanted to let you know that the basil plant has turned itself around since I re-potted it and began using distilled water. In another week or so I should have lots of fresh basil leaves to work with :) Thanks again!
    – tonysdg
    Jul 20, 2015 at 20:13

What kind of water are you using? Tap water is so full of salts (and chlorine, fluorine as well). A big sign that your plant is getting too much salt is browning at the tips...I'd replant in fresh, bagged (sterilized) soil and water with distilled water. Prune back the apical tips of your plant to keep your basil going. Use fertilizer that is higher in Nitrogen than Phosphorus and Potassium. Don't allow it to flower, cut flowers off. Don't allow it to sit in water (especially an indoor application)!! Water from the top and make sure the bottom of your pot has air between the pot and the surface/saucer it sits upon. No rock or gravel at the bottom of the pot. Just use sterilized potting soil! No garden soil! Lots of light. Go light on fertilizer...really just once. This plant is an annual and will be replaced next year. Doesn't look like any disease at all to me...high salts from tap water.

  • DEFINITELY a bigger pot...I wouldn't put it in anything larger than 1 gallon.
    – stormy
    Jul 11, 2015 at 20:57
  • I re-potted it last night and paired it back like Bamboo suggested; I'll probably re-pot it once more in a slightly larger pot (I misjudged in the store how big the pot I bought was compared to the plant, but it was still an improvement). Also used Miracle-Gro potting soil - is that sound like an okay choice? As for the water - I've got a Brita pitcher I use (just easier to pour from than straight out of the tap), so I think the salts would be minimized.
    – tonysdg
    Jul 11, 2015 at 21:31
  • Also, when you say "make sure the bottom of your pot has air between the pot and the surface/saucer it sits upon" - do you mean elevate it from the saucer? If so, I'm going to have to jerry-rig something.
    – tonysdg
    Jul 11, 2015 at 21:32
  • Love it...yes, get the bottom of the pot off any surface. This hugely improves drainage. They actually make 'pot feet' for this very purpose. Use flat rocks, pieces of tile. Easy to jury-rig (I think that is where this term originates).
    – stormy
    Jul 12, 2015 at 20:08
  • Have you been using tap or city water?
    – stormy
    Jul 12, 2015 at 20:09

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