How long can basil go without water? | How to save it

Basil can go for around a week without water with the proper preparation. Outdoor basil will survive outdoors in summer for 7 days with deep watering at the beginning of the week, mulch and a part shade position. Indoor basil can survive for a week without extra water if they are left in a shallow pot tray with water.

This article will explore how long basil can go without water, how to save a basil plant that has not been watered and the best way to care for a basil plant when you go on vacation.

How often you need to water basil inside and outside

Outdoor basil is generally easier to keep watered if they are planted a raised garden bed or in the ground. This is because the soil will hold moisture for longer than a small pot.

Basil grown in the ground or a raised garden bed, you will need to water them every 3 days over the heat of summer and once per week in spring and fall. Basil will usually start to turn brown and die off in the winter once the weather turns very cold or when the frosts arrive.

Basil grown in pots will need to be watered more frequently. Check the soil and if it is dry 1 inch down from the surface water the basil. This can be as often as every 2 days but could be up to 4-5 days.

Basil loves regular water but the roots can rot if they are given too much water. If you notice the leaves starting to turn black and are drooping this is a sign it is overwatered.

This basil plant has been surrounded by mulch and shaded by an old broccoli plant.

Can basil survive a week without water?

Basil can survive a week without additional water if it is prepared properly. If you are planning to go away on a vacation for a week and the weather is mild they can survive on their own. Surround an outdoor basil plant with 2 inches of straw mulch and deep water the plant in the morning before you leave.

For basil plants in pots indoors find a shallow saucer or pot tray and place them on. Deep water the basil plant and then fill the tray with water. This will keep the basil plant watered happy for around a week.

Can basil survive 2 weeks without water?

It will be a challenge to keep basil alive without water for 2 weeks over summer. In spring weather with regular rain basil can almost survive on its own. Just mulch the soil and the rain can keep it moist enough to grow.

For dryer areas over summer it will be difficult to keep basil alive for this period of time. Planting them in a part-shaded spot can help to reduce the rate at which the soil dries. Bark mulch can be used around the basil for a longer lasting option than straw mulch.

Self-watering pots can be used if you are planning to go away for 2 weeks and don’t have anyone else around that can help to water them while you are gone.

How to save a basil plant that has not been watered

There are some steps you can take to revive a basil plant that has not been watered for 1-2 weeks.

Here are my tips to give it the best chance of recovery.

Look out for green leaves or stems. This is a sign that the basil is still alive and still photosynthesizing. This means that you have a chance of saving the plant with proper care.

1. Prune back the top few inches to remove old leaves

Basil plants can often start to die back from the top down. Remove the top 1-2 inches of the plant to take of any brown or damaged leaves. The basil plant can sprout back and grown new stems from the top cut.

2. Soak the plant in water with seaweed solution

For basil planted in a pot, take the whole pot and soak it in a bucket of water with a dash of seaweed solution. You will usually notice bubbles float to the top if the soil if particularly dry. Leave it in the bucket for 5-10 minutes to soak.

This will help to revive the roots and rehydrate the soil rapidly. Allow the excess water to drain off before bringing the pot back inside or placing it on a pot tray.

3. Water again in a day

Check the plant and in very warm weather you may need to water the plant again if the soil has become dry. Make up a dilute mix of liquid nitrogen fertilizer and water the plant. This will give it a small amount of nitrogen to help it recover.

4. Water again in 4 days

Check the plant regularly and water the plant again in 4 days time. This will keep the plant damp while it recovers. You can usually start to see new leaf growth after around a week. In warm weather the basil plant will start to grow back quicker than if the weather is cool.

Place the plant near a bright window or if you are growing it outdoors find a position that gets morning sun and afternoon shade. Once the plant has recovered it can be moved back into full sun if it gets regular water.

How to care for basil when you go on vacation

Keeping basil well-watered while you go on vacation can be a challenge. Here are my top tips to keeping your basil alive while you can’t be there to water it.

1. Plant it outside

Before you go on vacation it may be easier to plant your basil outside in a shady position. Ground soil will stay moist for longer and it is easier to keep the plant alive. Find a part shade position, improve the soil with compost and plant out your basil.

2. Mulch the plant well

Outdoor basil plants can be mulched deeply while you go away to keep the water in the soil. Add 2-3 inches of straw, sugar cane or bark mulch around the plant to reduce the amount of water that escapes through the soil surface.

Potted basil plants can also be mulched with bark or straw mulch. This works the same as for those planted in the ground by reducing the evaporation of water out of the soil.  

3. Deep water the plant

Deep water the plant after you have added mulch. This will help to moisten the mulch and keep the basil damp for longer. For potted basil water the soil thoroughly until you see water drain out of the bottom. For in ground basil, water the soil surrounding the basil plant thoroughly with your hose or watering can.

4. Use a shallow pot tray

For indoor basil plants a great way to keep them watered for up to a week is to sit them in a shallow pot tray. Fill the tray with up to an inch of water which will slowly water the plant over the next few days.

While it is not usually a good idea to leave a potted plant sitting in water, the one exception is when you are on vacation.

How long can basil go without water? | Summary

Basil can survive for up to a week over summer without water if they are prepared properly. Deep water the plant, surround it with mulch and find a part shade position for potted plants. Indoor basil can be kept alive when you are on vacation by filling a pot tray with water.

Happy growing.