Why Is My Basil Plant Leggy?

Last Updated on November 10, 2022 by Stephanie

Basil plants become leggy as a result due to the excessive quantities of fertilizer, not enough sunlight, and absence of regular pruning. Basil requires plenty of sunlight, fertile soil, and regular pruning every two weeks to keep an attractive appearance and abundant leaves, not a leggy basil plant with a few leaves.

Pruning basil is recommended when its over 8 inches in height. Regularly pruning, moist, well-drained, nutrient-rich soil, and planting in full sun will ensure an efficient and healthy plant with many leaves packed with flavor and an intense aroma.

Continue reading to find out more about the reasons why basil plants become sluggish and the best ways to care for basil to ensure that they grow additional leaves…

Prune Basil Regularly to Prevent a Leggy Appearance

Regularly pruning basil is the most effective method to ensure that basil doesnt become unruly. Pruning basil regularly offers many advantages, including:

  • By trimming the upper part of the plant, you can gather leaves for cooking usage and let more light to penetrate the lower portion of the plants. This creates an appearance that is more bushy of your basil, and also increases the amount of leaves instead of a sluggish plant that has a few leaves.
  • Pruning stops the basil from blooming and prevents the plant from growing excessively swollen, which is crucial when youre using leaves of the basil for cooking. Basil leaves are bitter after the plant has bloomed and it doesnt produce more leaves. Pruning frequently encourages the growth of delicious leaves.
  • The leaves of basil that is regularly cut tend to expand more quickly and bigger, which means there is more harvest per plant.

When you harvest basil for leaves, make sure you cut or pinch the stems and your leaves in order to maintain the plants looking neat and avoid a sloppy appearance that can hinder the growth.

To get the best results, cut basil at a time when the stems are about 8 inches high. Try to maintain the plants at about that height in order to guarantee an adequate supply of leaves as well as to avoid the appearance of a leggy look.

In the summer heat, it is recommended to trim basil at least once every two weeks in order to ensure that the plant is healthy and has as many leaves as you can and aim for a uniform form when you prune.

Pruning is easy and can be accomplished with pruning scissors or pruners. Check out this YouTube video for an excellent visual guide to pruning basil to prevent it from growing leggy.

For more details, read my article Why is my basil blooming?

Basil in Blue Pot

Insufficient Sun causes Leggy Basil (Plant Basil in Full Sun)

Basil may become swollen if it lacks sunlight. If the basil is placed in a location that is not able to receive sunlight or complete shade the stems of the basil will become swollen and produce fewer leaves while trying to get more sunlight.

The leaves can also appear like a slightly unhealthy yellow color instead of a lush plant that has lots of green leaves.

Basil is well-suited to warmer temperature as well as the full sunlight (at minimum 6 hours of sunshine every day). The more sunlight is there, the higher concentration of vital oil and the more intense the smell of the leaves as well as the more intense the taste that the leaves.

Basil is a full sun plant that often needs more frequent watering. Check out my article on the best time to keep basil hydrated in various climates to find the ideal level of humidity.

How do you revive stale Basil…

If your basil is growing in a container or pot the solution is easy, you simply have to relocate the pot to an area that is in full sunlight and your basil will begin to show signs of healing.

To fully revive the basil plant that is becoming leggy, it is essential to trim the stems back, which allows sunlight to reach the lower leaves, and promotes the growth of a bushier plant than a leggy, long plant that has only a few leaves.

If you have your basil growing in your garden, then you can transplant it to either an area that is sunny in the garden or put the plant in containers, so it can be moved to a spot that is sunny.

Leggy Basil Plants due to Excessive Fertilizer

The basil plants can be described as herbaceous perennials that produce lots of tasty leaves when they are grown in the right conditions.

Due to their prolific growth during the warm seasons Basil requires a fertile soil that has the high amount of nitrogen to ensure that the plant is in good health.

If youve used an excessive amount of fertilizer , or used fertilizers more often than once every six weeks then your basil may become in a droopy and leggy state or appear wilting.

(Read the article below to find out the reason why basil plants die and the best way to fix the issue).

Basil doesnt have an elongated stem with woody support, but instead a herbaceous, flexible stem. If you fertilize it too often, the stems may be soft, swell too much and lose their strength and structural integrity, causing the stems to fall over, giving an appearance of leggy.

A lot of fertilizer can affect the taste and aroma of the leaves of basil, with less flavor and less scent.

How do you revive it…

Basil requires a more well-balanced method of fertilization. To get the best flavor from basil, the most important thing to consider is always a good, rich soil that drains well.

Loam soil is the best choice because it holds the essential nutrients that basil needs in large quantities (Nitrogen Phosphorous, Nitrogen, Potassium) and it is not necessary to fertilize your basil plants are growing in good soil.

To grow basil in pots, it is recommended to use a multipurpose compost to grow basil. However, you could add alfalfa or well-rotted manure to provide organic feed and possibly feed your basil with organic fertilizer one time at the beginning of the season and then again after six weeks to guarantee plenty of leaves.

Alternately, you can apply an all-purpose fertilizer, but be sure to follow the manufacturers instructions when fertilizing basil using the product because excessive nitrogen could burn the roots and cause the plant to become overgrown and can cause a loss of the flavor that the leaf has.

Pruning properly is essential to revive leggy basil, and you should cut off or pinch the stems after the plant has grown to 8 inches in height to eliminate the basil stems that are flopping to ensure that the plant gets a boost instead of drooping under the weight of its own.

(To revive dying or drooping basil, check out my article on ways to bring back the dead basil plant).

Key Takeaways

  • Basil plants are leggy because lack of sunlight, and lack of consistent pruning, or due to excessive fertilizer.
  • Make sure that basil is in full sun to ensure an improved plant with plenty of leaves that are delicious in taste and a strong scent.
  • A lot of fertilizer could cause the plant to become sluggish, so you should only give basil a feed every six weeks or less.
  • Pruning basil on a regular basis will create an erect plant with plenty of leaves. Pruning encourages growth from the lower leaves and enhances the flavor and smell that the plants produce. Prune once every two weeks during the summer to prevent a leggy basil plant.


Went from an inexperienced gardener to a half-decent one over 10+ years. I cover anything from general indoor plant guides and lawn care, to succulents and flowers. Super happy to share my tips and tricks with you :)