How Often to Water Basil (& The RIGHT Ways to Do It)

By: Chenell - Lead Writer and Gardening Advocate

Basil is one of those herbs that just makes a garden well-rounded in my opinion. But it can be a little tricky to get the hang of growing at first. Basil needs quite a bit of water, but how often should you actually be watering it?

How Often to Water Basil

As with most things in life, it depends. It depends on if it’s growing in the ground or in containers, what the temperature is outside, etc.

A general rule of thumb for watering basil is to check your basil every 1-2 days and see if the soil is dry. If it is, water it. If you have moist soil, don’t water it. If it’s dry on top, water it.

But of course, we want to know when that will be and how often we need to be checking on it. So I’ve created this guide to walk through the best times and how to water your plants depending on their growing conditions.

Watering Basil in Pots

Basil is one of the herbs that grow extremely well in containers and pots. Planting basil in pots is great because it’s small and doesn’t need much space, so as long as you give it the right growing conditions and water it well it should do great.

But when you plant basil in a container, you’re going to need more frequent watering. When plants are in the ground, there is more soil surface area around them that could hold moisture, while in a post, they only get the water that’s in the pot, nothing more.

How Often to Water Basil Indoors

When growing basil seedlings indoors, it’s important to water more regularly. Because you generally start seeds in a warm climate with fans for air circulation, the soil dries out faster.

Another important thing to consider is to make sure your pots and other containers have a good amount of drainage holes. Plants don’t like to have their feet wet, and without drainage holes, they’re potentially going to be sitting in the excess water.

This can lead to root rot and other issues caused by overwatering.

Overwatering is one of the most common issues with plants, especially for newer gardeners. Try to avoid overwatering your basil, as this can cause problems and lead to an unhealthy plant and/or pesky fungus gnats flying around your home.

Underwatering is not great either, so it’s a good idea to water basil every few days. Before doing so, feel the soil with your finger and see if it’s wet. If it feels very moist, you don’t need to water it and can check it again tomorrow.

If the soil is dry, go ahead and add some water to the plant. Water enough that you cover most of the soil, not just near the stem as roots grow outward, not just down.

basil leaves
Basil plants growing outside on my porch

When to Water Basil Plants Outside

Watering basil that lives outside or in the ground is a little easier because you have Mother Nature providing rain as well so you won’t have to water as much.

But at the same time, on those really hot summer days, it can be a challenge to keep up with as your basil might need water multiple times in one day.

I make it a habit of walking around my garden every morning to check for pests and see if any of my plants are getting dry. Some common pests include aphids, fungus gnats, and spider mites.

Plus, who doesn’t love spending time in the garden!

If the soil is dry around your plants, it’s a good time to water your basil. It is harder to overwater your plant when it’s outside with well-drained soil, but it is possible so I wouldn’t water every single day unless it’s the middle of the summer with scorching temperatures.

If the weather forecast is calling for a very hot day (above 85 degrees or so) then I’d make sure you water your plant first thing in the morning and check on it around 1-2 pm to see how it’s doing. If your plant shows any signs of wilting, go ahead and give it some more water.

Basil plants thrive in full sun, but too much heat can send the plant into shock and it will start to grow flowers, and start bolting.

How to Water Your Basil

Now that you know when to water your basil and how to check soil moisture, it’s important to discuss a few ways you can water your plants. It might seem weird, but you just pour water over your plants, right?

Well, yes, but there are some better alternatives and ways to water your basil plants.

Top Watering

This is the typical way people water plants, and it’s how you’ll want to do it if your basil plant is growing in the ground or in a container that can’t be moved.

When watering from the top, make sure you’re not saturating the entire plant and getting the basil leaves themselves wet. You always want to water the soil, not the leaves and stems.

A watering wand allows you to easily water your plants without having to bend over or get a step ladder. It also allows you to target the water towards the base of the plant instead of watering from above it which can lead to problems with your basil.

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Bottom Watering

Bottom watering is a great way to water plants, especially when you need to water basil seedlings and potted plants. If your basil is in the ground, this is not an option since you can’t move the plant.

With bottom watering, you are setting the pot or container in a tray full of water to allow the roots of the plant to take in the water they need, without getting the top of the soil moist which can attract fungus gnats and introduce other problems like mold and fungus.

To bottom water your basil, you’ll want to set your basil container into around 2-3 inches of water. This can be done in a bottom 10×20 seed tray, or in the sink. Leave the plant in the water for about 10-15 minutes to allow the roots to get a good long drink and allow the garden soil on the bottom to saturate.

Using Mulch

Adding mulch around your plants can be a great way to keep your basil moist and prevent it from drying out. It makes it harder for the sun to steal all of the water via evaporation with mulch in place. It also gives the plant a more stable temperature, not allowing the soil to heat up or cool down too much in one day.

Plus, over time the mulch will break down and provide your soil with more nutrients. Cedar mulch or any untreated mulch can be found at your local garden center and costs just a few dollars a bag.

Watering Your Basil

To keep your basil plants healthy, make sure they are watered regularly and fertilized with compost throughout the growing season. Any of the methods you use to water basil can work, but basil will let usually you know when it needs to be watered.



Hi - I'm Chenell! I lived in the city for almost a decade, but after moving to the suburbs in 2020, I decided the logical millennial thing to do was to learn how to grow my own avocado toast. That's what this site is all about. 🥑

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