Several weeks ago, I put soil and sweet basil seeds into part of a plastic water bottle that I cut. I put one seed in each of the water bottles, and made a hole at the bottom of the bottles to allow excess water to flow out of the bottles. Both of the plants have been in the same exact environment since they germinated. They have never been outdoors. After germinating, both seedlings looked pretty similar until a couple of days ago. The leaves on one are becoming withered and contain white spots. It has gotten worse from one day to the next. Fearing that the container was too small for the roots, I transplanted the seedling into a large pot yesterday.

The first image is what it looked like when I was transplanting it. The other two images are what it looked like roughly 18 hours later. The leaves seem to be getting worse.

This is what it looked like before I transplanted it to the larger container. This is about 18 hours before the next two imagesRoughly 18 hours after transplanting. Continuing to get worse.Another angle 1 day after transplanting.

08/06/2019 Update: I have not had a chance to cut the pale parts of the leaves out, but I was able to take pictures of what the plant looks like now (24 hours after the last two pictures I uploaded) and I took pictures of the other plant that has been exposed to the same exact conditions (same amount of sun, same temperature, same amount of water, and soil from the same bag). I can't really tell if the problem is getting worse or not. Here are today's images of both the unhealthy looking plant, and the healthy looking one: 24 hours after the last 2 picturesAnother angle 24 hours after the original images were postedA third angle of what the plant looks like nowMy healthy looking plantAnother angle of my healthy looking plant

  • Have not been able to find that link or post this picture of leaf miner on my spinach. It looks JUST like yours: that papery white (not brown)
    – stormy
    Aug 19, 2019 at 19:35
  • This plant should be fine if you DON'T over water. I'll figure sending the pic out sooner than later, had a little catastrophe this week that is slowing down computer work. It is clearly leaf miner to me. Papery white is not at all a disease or nutrient anything. If it is, my team mates will make it clear. Remember, the leaf miners are temporary. The mommy flies in, sticks her proboscis into the leaf depositing her eggs between the upper and lower epidermis of a leaf. The larvae grow, eat, eat some more and leave the leaf. A little aesthetically damaged but the plant is still fine.
    – stormy
    Aug 19, 2019 at 19:41

2 Answers 2


This appears to be leaf miners. Flies or moths lay their eggs in between the top and bottom skins of the leaves. The eggs hatch and the larva eat the inside of the leaf. This is usually a short period of time, a small window when this happens. The leaves as they are now are still making food for the plant. I'd cut off the white parts a bit.

Have you added or changed anything in the last week? Have you fertilized at all? Have you added anything to the soil?

This is about the right time to finally add fertilizer, a balanced fertilizer. Dr. Earth's All Purpose 5-5-5 using half the amount the directions direct.

What is the light source? Starts need to be started from seed in 1X2" cells or tiny tiny pots. Using only potting soil that has no fertilizer no water holding gimmicks added. As the plant grows and you start seeing the roots coming out of the drain hole it is time to up pot, transplant into a slightly larger pot of soil.

The next size up should be 3 to 4 inches in diameter. This is when your plant will need its first fertilizer, balanced fertilizer. When the roots show at the bottom of this pot's drain hole the next size up is 6". Which depending on where you live is a good final pot for basil.

Your intuition was good, just needed to plant your start in a 3 to 4" pot not this humongous one. You'll get root rot. Transplant this little guy into a 4" pot using just sterilized cheapo potting soil. Add a tiny bit of balanced fertilizer. Allow to dry out between waterings.

Pretty sure this is leaf miner damage and all it takes is ONE fly or a moth to deposit eggs beneath the skin of the leaf. And fly away. Leaf miners are only a little destruction for a short while. Let's get this guy healthy again and give him some quiet time. Then let's talk about the future. Cut the damaged or even bumpy parts of the leaves off. It looks like the larva have grown up and flown away.

tomato leaf leaf miners

beet leaf miner damage more leaf miner damage

leaf miner damage

  • It does not looks like Leaf Miners to me. More like a nutrient or watering issue.
    – Fatmajk
    Aug 6, 2019 at 8:46
  • I really appreciate your thorough response and your advice. Thank you! I did not add or change anything in the last week (including fertilizer). It has been treated exactly the same as the healthier looking plant that I just uploaded pictures of for comparison. The seeds were originally planted in Miracle-gro potting mix, which claims to have enough fertilizer for 6 months. The light source is sunlight on a southwest facing windowsill. Aug 6, 2019 at 9:46
  • 1
    @Fatmajk If it were due to a nutrient or watering issue, shouldn't my other plant have this same problem, though? Aug 6, 2019 at 9:53
  • Wafflehead, YES. Excellent deduction work. This is the major reason I feel the problem is leaf miner. Tough to ID anything over the internet. Best to be right there to touch, and examine. Hey, I am impressed!
    – stormy
    Aug 6, 2019 at 19:12
  • If you look at the stem right at the soil line? I think I see browning, rotting of the stalk. Too much water, too much soil, too big of a pot. Too small of a plant tucked into a humongous amount of soil that when watered without lots of sucking roots or the best drainage possible that water that lasts too long in the soil will cause root rot. Where are my links to show you similar damage from ID'd root rot versus leaf miners? Arghhh. I'll send these pictures again.
    – stormy
    Aug 7, 2019 at 20:13

I put my vote on that the soil does not have enough nutrients. What kind of soil are you using? Soil from the garden? Compost? Old soil?

I've always grown basil from seeds in small pots by the kitchen window and never added fertilizers. On the other hand, I always used compost. Never let them dry out. The soil should be moist all the time (not soaked though) and they like a lot of sun, but not direct sunlight. Good conditions would be behind a white piece of cloth in the window with a "compost" soil, nutrient enough to give the basil what it needs.

  • 1
    I used Miracle-Gro potting mix from a just-opened bag in both the unhealthy and healthy looking plant. Regarding what you said about basil plants not liking a lot of direct sunlight, I thought it was the opposite. I'm pretty sure I've read in many different places that basil plants need something like 6-8 hours of direct sunlight. Aug 6, 2019 at 9:58
  • Yeah, compost is NOT fertilizer. Never will be. Basil loves lots of light but if growing in doors or with artificial lighting one has to acclimate the Basil to being out of door in the sun. All plants are like this. Their epidermis is THIN to accommodating indoor lighting and environmental factors. If these plants get thrust into the sunlight whether from a kitchen window or especially out of doors, in just a few minutes that plant will get sunburn. Basil is sensitive to wind and hard rains. Did my site come up? This is almost certainly leaf miners.
    – stormy
    Aug 6, 2019 at 19:08
  • @stormy Did you post a link to a website somewhere? If so, I do not see it. Aug 7, 2019 at 9:14
  • I'm working on where that link I sent went, WHAT link it was that I sent and how to zap this picture from my own garden...lots of spinach, a few leaves were just like your basil leaves; that papery white...they started out as lines, tunnels. Annoying, but definitely something not to worry about. Clean up all dead leaves with these tracks and white paper tissue epidermis and put them in the garbage. I feed them to my bunnies! I'll be back.
    – stormy
    Aug 9, 2019 at 1:52

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