The Q&A Archives: Basil

Question: I planted cilantro, parsley and basil seeds two weeks ago. My parsley and cilantro are doing great but my basil grew to about an inch than stopped. They are green and healthy but have not grown. They are starting to wilt to the ground. What is going on?

Answer: The problem could be damping off. Are they wilting from the ground up? A tell-tale sign of damping off is a brown, shrunken area of the seedling stem where it meets the soil. Damping off is a soil-borne fungal disease caused by soil which is too moist, poor air circulation, soil/container contamination. It can also be triggered by fertilizing too early. Are your parsley and cilantro in the same flat? It is odd for damping off to affect one batch of seeds and not the other. Basil is also particularly susceptible to fusarium wilt. It usually appears as brown streaks on the stems and the eventual wilting and dying of the plants. There are reports that much of the world's basil seed supply is now contaminated. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this. Affected plants (and soil) should be destroyed and the containers sterilized with a solution of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water. Avoid contact with healthy plants when handling diseased plants. There are varieties of basil which are resistant to fusarium wilt, such as 'Special Select FT Genovese Basil', and 'Compatto FT Genovese Basil'. Both are available from Richter's Herbs. You can visit their website at

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