Why do supermarket herb plants die? | Top 6 Reasons + Solutions

Supermarket herbs die quickly if they run out of nutrients, dry out too quickly or don’t get enough light. Herbs that are trimmed back too hard so that they don’t have enough leaves to photosynthesize can also die back quickly. Transplant supermarket herbs into fresh soil to keep them growing for longer.

Top 6 reasons why supermarket herbs die

1. They run out of nutrients

Supermarket herbs including basil and parsley are grown in small pots that are filled densely with a lot of plants. This means there is a full, thick display of leaves for your cooking however these plants can quickly run out of nutrients and die.

Basil is a great example of a supermarket herb that is planted densely to be used in cooking. The small amount of soil in the pots will only last a few weeks to feed the plant after you buy.

Plant out basil into new potting soil to keep it growing well.

2. Run out of water

The small pots that supermarket herbs are sold in only hold a small amount of water and are quick to dry out. Regular watering of the pot is important but even with our best efforts, they can dry out quickly and the herbs can die.

3. Not enough light

Supermarket herbs that are bought and kept in a small, dark kitchen can suffer from low light and die. Herbs are grow best when outdoors and exposed to bright light so a dimly lit kitchen can cause the plant to die off quickly.

Placing supermarket herbs on a windowsill to get morning light or bright light throughout the day can help it to photosynthesize and keep it alive for longer.

Place supermarket herbs in a bright sunny spot in your kitchen.

4. Trimmed back too hard

Supermarket herbs are made to be trimmed back easily in your kitchen and used for cooking. Recipes can call for a whole bunch of parsley which can take the whole plant away in one trim. If all of the leaves are trimmed savagely it can stop the plant from getting enough energy to grow.

To keep supermarket herbs growing, only trim up to ½ of the leaves at any one go and wait for them to grow before trimming again.

5. At the end of life

Supermarket herbs can be close to reaching the end of their growing cycle when you buy them which means they can die off quickly once you bring them home.

Nursery grown plants are grown in the perfect conditions to grow quickly with lots of leaves. When you bring them home they may in their peak growing cycle and ready to finish off.

Mediterranean herbs such as thyme will grow well outside in an open area.

6. Wrong time of year

Supermarket herbs are grown in fantastic greenhouses which are climate controlled which means they can grow herbs at any time of year. Basil is a summer herb which is available in supermarkets all year round.

When bringing summer herbs home to your cold kitchen or outdoor sill in winter, they can quickly die due to the cold weather. These plants can be planted out in a sheltered area or use them quickly in cooking to get the best out of them.

Summer herbs like Basil bought in the winter will need bright light and water.

How to keep your supermarket herbs alive

These are my top tips for keeping your supermarket herbs alive for longer at home.

1. Trim them back gently

The top tip to keep your supermarket herbs alive for longer is to trim small amount off at a time. This will allow them to have enough leaves to photosynthesize and grow back once trimmed. Basil, parsley and chives will grow back once trimmed but take a maximum of 1/3 off at a time.

Trim up to 1/3 of your leaves on your plant to allow it to grow back well.

2. Separate the herbs

Supermarket herbs will be densely planted and many small plants will be packed into a tight space in your pot. To help them to keep growing, take them out of the pot and split them up. Each of these plants can then be individually planted into their own pot or into space in your vegetable patch.

This process works well for herbs like basil and chives. Keep parsley and coriander as one plant and just find a larger space for them to grow.

3. Plant herbs into new potting soil

Transplanting supermarket herbs into a new, larger pot with new potting soil is a great way to keep them growing well.

Choose a pot that is 1-2 inches wider than their current pot, use a good quality potting soil and water the plant well. This will provide the herbs with extra nutrients to keep them growing for longer.

Plant out your herbs into bigger pots to give them the space and nutrients to keep growing.

5. Water herbs well for the next 3 days

After choosing to transplant or split your supermarket herbs into pots or garden beds make sure you water them well for the next few days. This will give your herbs an extra kick of water and nutrients and can give them a new burst of energy to keep growing.

Supermarket herbs like to be kept well watered, particularly basil, chives, coriander and parsley. For Mediterranean herbs such as sage, rosemary or thyme they prefer to dry out between watering and will grow well in an open area of your garden.

How to plant out supermarket herbs into the garden

Plant supermarket herbs into your garden by first moving mulch back from the area you want to plant. Add compost, aged manure or pelted chicken manure to the hole to improve the soil. The herb can then be removed from the pot ready to plant.

For root bound herbs, tease out the roots to allow the roots the space and room to grow out and spread through the soil.

Water the herbs in well after surrounding them with a good quality mulch. Bark mulch works perfectly for Mediterranean herbs such as thyme and rosemary while straw mulch works well for soft herbs such as basil and parsley.

Water herbs well after transplanting.

How to revive supermarket herbs

Revive supermarket herbs by placing them in a shallow bucket filled with water and a dash of seaweed solution. After the herb has absorbed the water, transplant it into a new pot with new soil.

Water it well with seaweed solution and place it in a bright position outside. Avoid full sun and water the plant regularly.

Supermarket herbs can dry out quickly so soak them in seaweed solution to revive them.

How long do supermarket herb plants last?

Herb plants bought from the supermarket can last all year if they are given the light, nutrients and water they need. If you live in a subtropical climate, basil can survive all year round. Cooler regions will struggle to keep these summer annual herbs going however when the weather cools.

Parsley will grow well for at least 6 months if they are planted out into good quality potting soil.  Top up with liquid fertilizer in spring to give them an extra boost of nutrients.

Why do supermarket herb plants die? | Summary

Supermarket herbs can die quickly if they run out of nutrients, water or light. Use these herbs quickly in your cooking or plant them out for a longer term solution. Herbs are a fantastic feature in your vegetable or garden patch so plant them near your kitchen for an easy grab and go garnish. Remember to wash your herbs before using them in cooking.

Happy gardening.