One of the most common problems people encounter when they grow basil in a pot is that the plant becomes rootbound. It causes the plant to grow slower and eventually stop altogether.
This has happened to me many times over the years, but I have learned that it is (luckily) really easy to save your basil plant if it becomes rootbound.
Last time it happened to me, I figured I would write this post to explain what I did to save it, so you also know how to do it.
How to Save Rootbound Basil
When a plant is rootbound, it means that its roots have used up all the room they had. When that happens, the plant will stop growing, so you need to take care of it as soon as possible.
To save a basil plant that has become rootbound, transplant it to a larger pot or into the ground where it has more room to grow. It is a good idea to gently loosen the roots before putting them into the ground or the new pot to help the plant establish itself faster.
Transplanting basil is really easy, and you don’t need any complicated tools or supplies. You can actually do it without any tools at all, but you do need some good nutrient-rich soil for the plant, some water, and the pot you want to transplant it to (or a spot in the ground). A hand trowel can make things easier and less messy but is not needed.
If you are not sure about how to transplant your basil to a bigger pot or into the ground, I recommend reading this post where I go into detail with each step and show photos of how to do them.
The reason why my basil plant became rootbound this time is that I used an indoor growing system that provides light and water for the plants. It works really well for starting basil plants, but since there is not much room for the roots, they usually end up becoming rootbound.
Why Is It Bad for Basil to Be Rootbound
If a basil plant is growing in a small pot, it will almost certainly become rootbound at some point if you don’t transplant it to a bigger pot.
Rootbound basil plants will stop growing because there is no more room for the roots to grow. The lack of room for the roots will also inhibit their ability to obtain water and nutrients from the soil, further slowing the plant’s growth and eventually resulting in the plant dying.
Luckily it is fairly easy to avoid a basil plant ever becoming rootbound, and if it happens, you can use the guide from this post to save it.
Keep in mind that there are several potential reasons why your basil can stop growing. Roots running out of space is a common reason, but it is far from the only one, so I recommend that you read the article on this link, where I cover the other reasons and what to do when they happen.
Below, I share a few tips you can use in the future to avoid that your basil becomes rootbound.
How to Avoid That Basil Becomes Rootbound
If plants are rootbound for too long, they will start to take damage and eventually die if you don’t do anything about it, but if you catch it early and do something about it, it is usually not a big deal.
Finding out that your basil plant has become rootbound early is good, but it is, of course, better to avoid it altogether, so I have these tips for you:
- Use a big pot Ideally 8-12 inches (20-30 cm) in diameter and height.
- Don’t plant your basil too densely. 3-5 plants per pot is ideal.
- Transplant your basil to a bigger pot as early as possible if it is beginning to become rootbound. You can check by carefully lifting your plant out of the pots so you can see the roots.
The easiest and most important thing you can do to avoid your basil becoming rootbound is to use a big pot from the beginning. It might seem a bit overkill to use an 8-12 inch pot for a tiny basil plant, but later on, you will be happy you did it.
I have a full explanation of how to pick the best pot for basil here.
You can read a lot more about why it is important to give your plants enough space in the article on this link. In the article, I have written about what happens if plants don’t have enough space, how to tell if your plants need more, and what you can do about it.
Read My Complete Guide to Growing and Caring for Basil
I have written a thorough guide where I cover all parts of growing your own basil including choosing a variety, sowing the seeds, the best growing conditions, pruning, propagation, harvesting, storing, solving various problems, and a lot more. You can find the article on this link.