How to Revive Dying Herbs

How to Revive Dying Herbs

Once you’ve successfully replicated some of their ideal growth conditions, the majority of herbs are rather simple to grow.

Herbs typically die from root rot, which is brought on by overwatering, poorly draining soil, and containers lacking drainage holes in the base. Herbs need soil with good drainage because they get root rot from too much moisture around the roots, which makes them turn yellow, droop, and die.

Some leafy herbs, like basil, cilantro, parsley, and mint, die back after flowering as well, so it’s crucial to frequently prune these plants to encourage growth and a plentiful supply of new leaves.

In order to prevent root rot, woody Mediterranean herbs like lavender, rosemary, thyme, sage, and oregano need sandy, well-draining soil (read my article how often to water lavender for more).

With a clean pair of pruners, remove any damaged roots from dead plants in order to encourage healthy development. Then, replant the herb in a pot with drainage holes and fresh, well-draining compost. While it is healing, place the plant in some sunlight and give it plenty of water.

Symptoms:Herbs’ Cause of Death:
Herbs with drooping stems and leaves:High temperatures, too much sun, quickly draining soil, underwatering, and smaller pots with less soil and, thus, less moisture that dry out too quickly are all contributing factors.
turning yellow herbs:Root rot is brought on by overwatering, soggy soils, and pots without drainage holes at the base. Lack of sunlight, insufficient nutrients in the soil, or too much nitrogen fertilizer can all cause yellowing of the leaves.
Herbs that die after being purchased or after being transplanted:Transplant shock is brought on by the stark difference between the environment where the herb was grown and the environment in your garden. Your herb may start to die back as a result of an abrupt shift in temperature, light, watering, or soil conditions. Herbs can also wither away as a result of serious root disruption.
Plants wilting:Herbs may droop if plants are not pruned frequently enough, if the soil has too many nutrients, or if there is poor soil drainage, which can lead to root rot.

Read on to learn why your herbs are dying back and how to preserve them.

Herbs Leaves and Stems Wilting

  • Herb leaves or stems are wilting in spite of regular watering.
  • High temperatures, intense sun, small pots, swiftly draining soil, and brief wilting from heat are the causes.

Herbs wilting is most frequently caused by drought stress as a result of being planted in small pots, which have a smaller soil holding capacity and hence less moisture. Herbs wilt as a symptom of stress when grown in small pots because the soil dries up more quickly.

Basil, cilantro, parsley, and mint are examples of herbs without a woody structure that depend on tugor pressure for structural support to remain erect.

Tugor pressure occurs when a herb’s leaves release water vapor, which pushes the roots to take up additional moisture from the soil. As a result, pressure is created in the plant cells that make up the stems of the herbs, maintaining their rigidity and allowing them to remain upright.

Herbs start to wilt as an indication of drought stress if there is too little moisture in the soil at their roots.

The frequency of watering your herbs to keep them from wilting is less dependent on a set schedule and more on how quickly the soil dries out, which can vary depending on the size of the pot, the soil’s ability to retain moisture, the climate, and the weather.

In order to conserve moisture during the sweltering afternoon temperatures and to recuperate when the temperature drops in the evening, herbs may also temporarily wilt on hot days. This is a common survival tactic for all plants.

How to Revive Wilting Herbs

  • Always give your potted herbs a good soak to ensure that any surplus water drains from the drainage holes in the pot’s base or that your herb garden has received adequate watering. This makes sure that there is enough water, rather than only moistening the soil’s top, to properly permeate the soil and reach the roots of the herbs where they are needed.
  • Thorough watering encourages the roots to delve deeper into the soil to obtain the moisture, increasing the herbs’ resistance to hot, dry weather and their ability to absorb nutrients.
  • Think about moving your herbs into a bigger pot. Larger pots do not dry up as rapidly because they have more soil and more moisture as a result. If your pot is smaller than 12 inches, you should think about getting a pot that is the next size larger, especially if your herbs will be growing in a hot, dry environment.
  • Herbs often thrive in six hours of early sunlight. If you can, move potted herbs into shade to lessen heat stress while they are wilting. Herbs thrive best in hot climates or during hot seasons when they receive morning light followed by afternoon shade to prevent wilting from too high temperatures.
  • Mediterranean herbs, as opposed to leafy herbs, have a tendency to withstand heat and sunlight without withering, such as lavender, rosemary, thyme, sage, and oregano (such as basil, mint, parsley and cilantro).
  • If you are growing a non-woody, leafy herb like basil, cilantro, or parsley, be sure your soil or potting soil keeps moisture (the woody Mediterranean herbs such as thyme and rosemary require dry, well draining soil amended with sand).
  • Leaf mold or compost are ideal for leafy herbs because they hold moisture while allowing excess water to drain away, preventing root rot. Leafy herbs need moist, yet well-draining soil. Before planting, enrich the soil with a lot of compost if you’re growing leafy herbs in a vegetable garden.
  • Mulch the area after watering. Compost or leaf mold sprinkled on top is an excellent technique to retain moisture and assist wilting herbs come back to life. If your herbs are on a raised bed, apply a 1 inch layer of compost to the soil to prevent the soil from drying up too rapidly, as there may not be enough room for a layer of mulch. After giving your herbs a good watering, spread the mulch over the top to effectively retain moisture and keep the roots cool in hot weather.

(To understand how to make the finest potting mixtures for both leafy herbs and Mediterranean herbs, read my post on the best potting soil for herbs.)

Why are My Herbs Turning Yellow?

  • Herbal symptoms include yellowing leaves and possibly withering or drooping stems.
  • Causes include: inadequate moisture, poor soil or too much nitrogen, insufficient direct sunlight, overwatering or slow-draining soils, pots without drainage holes in the base, too small and prone to drying up, and pots with insufficient soil and nutrient capacity.

The most frequent cause of herbs turning yellow is excessive moisture around the roots brought on by frequent watering, slow-draining soil, or a lack of drainage holes in the pot’s base. Herb roots that have too much water around them have trouble absorbing nutrients and water, which results in yellowing of the leaves.

The circumstances for the growth of fungi like Phytophthora root rot, which causes the leaves of herbs to turn yellow with a drooping appearance and causes the plant to die back, are also encouraged by moist soil.

Yellow leaves are another indicator of stress brought on by a lack of nutrients in the soil, excessive nitrogen, or insufficient sunlight.

In hot and dry areas, the majority of leafy herbs prefer morning light followed by afternoon shade to prevent heat stress and excessive water loss during the hottest part of the day (woody Mediterranean herbs prefer full sun and can tolerate heat).

Your herbs may grow tall, leggy, and yellow as a symptom of stress if they are in too much shade as they search for more light.

Herbs can become yellow and develop floppy growth with a weaker aroma and poor flavor if fertilizer is applied too frequently or in excess concentration, but they can also turn yellow due to a lack of nutrients in the soil if the soil is extremely poor.

How to Revive Yellow Herbs

How to Revive Yellow Herbs

How to prevent root rot in yellow herbs

  • Examine the roots of the herbs if you think they may have root rot (caused by wet soils). The color of good roots is light brown or even white, and they feel solid and healthy with no unpleasant odor. Herbs with root rot have mushy roots that smell bad and appear rotten and sick.
  • If the herb still has some healthy roots, remove the infected roots using a sterile pair of pruners and let the healthy roots to continue growing. To avoid unintentionally spreading any fungal diseases from sick root to otherwise healthy root, wipe the blades with a cloth dipped in disinfectant after each cut.
  • Replant the herb in fresh compost, ideally in a new container, as both the compost and the container can carry the fungus that causes root rot. This increases the herb’s chance of surviving, but it may be too late to salvage the plant if most or all of the roots are rotten.
  • To guarantee proper drainage, always grow herbs in containers with drainage holes in the base. Good compost offers the ideal mix of drainage while retaining enough moisture to prevent dehydration in leafy herbs like basil, cilantro, mint, and parsley. By replanting leafy herbs in fresh compost or potting soil with the proper quantity of moisture and good drainage—slow draining soil is frequently the culprit for dying leafy herbs—you can rescue the herbs.
  • Sharp drainage is necessary for Mediterranean herbs like lavender, rosemary, and thyme to avoid root rot, which causes the leaves to turn yellow. Replant your Mediterranean herbs in pots using potting soil that is at least 30% sand and 70% compost if they are starting to turn yellow. This will mimic the drainage requirements of their natural habitat.

Learn how to make the ideal potting mixture for all Mediterranean herbs in the video below.

(Since Mediterranean herbs are particularly susceptible to overwatering, which causes them to turn yellow and die back, I wrote some articles specifically about each herb; for more detailed information on preserving these herbs, read my articles on how to revive lavender, rosemary, thyme, sage, and oregano.)

(To learn more about watering, see my post on how frequently to water herbs.)

Herbs Dying After Transplanting

If you’ve grown basil from seed indoors on a window sill or purchased it from a store or garden center, it frequently droops or appears unhealthy after being moved to a new container or placed outside.

When a herb is produced on a large scale in a commercial greenhouse with the ideal conditions—the perfect amount of sun, a controlled temperature, particular watering and soil conditions, as well as the right quantity of air flow—it is grown for sale in a store.

The herbs, developed from seeds or cuttings, then become accustomed to a very precise set of regulated conditions, and they experience shock when you bring them home from the shop or plant them in your garden because of a discrepancy in temperature, watering, soil, and light conditions.

The shock brought on by the contrast in environment is frequently only momentary as the herb’s root system settles into the new soil and the plant becomes accustomed to the new set of circumstances.

The herb should come back once it has adapted to the conditions of your garden as long as it is planted in an area with about 6 hours of morning sun (provide some shade in the afternoon to protect it from heat stress whilst it establishes), in good quality compost, and watered regularly if it is a leafy Mediterranean herb such as basil rather than a woody Mediterranean herb such as rosemary which requires less water (read my article how to water rosemary to learn more).

It is crucial that the soil is continually moist for leafy herbs like cilantro, basil, and mint since their bigger leaf surfaces can lose a lot of water and because it takes time for their roots to set up and be able to suck up water, they are susceptible to dehydration in the near term.

I advise trimming the herb by about 8 inches if it is already extremely lanky and has totally drooped over in order to encourage new, hardier growth.

Why are My Herbs Drooping?

Several factors can cause herbs with sagging stems that appear to be tipping over on their own, including:

  • A surplus of fertilizer. Since fertilizer can encourage excessive leaf development, which lowers the concentration of essential oils in the leaves and reduces the aroma and flavor of the herbs, almost all herbs do not benefit from its use. The plant stems may become weakened by the nitrogen in the fertilizer, causing them to droop down. Particularly adapted to growing in sandy soils with few nutrients, Mediterranean herbs tend to suffer the most from applications of superfluous fertilizer.
  • Overwatering and pots and containers without drainage holes on the base. In response to excessive moisture around the roots, herbs may droop (which also turns them yellow or brown). If the herb’s roots are in saturated soil, drooping may be the first sign of stress from overwatering or it may be a sign of root rot.
  • absence of pruning To keep them looking nice and stop them from blossoming, the leafy non-Mediterranean herbs require routine pruning (which impairs the flavor of the leaves). During the height of the growth season, if the herbs are not pruned every three to four weeks, they become lanky and droop over (note that woody Mediterranean herbs only require pruning once a year at the start of Spring or late Fall).

How to Revive Drooping Herbs

How to Revive Drooping Herbs

  • During the summer, leafy herbs like basil, cilantro, mint, and parsley can grow quickly and may need to be pruned once every three weeks to keep them from becoming tall, lanky, and drooping from their own weight. The ideal height for pruning these herbs is about 8 inches, which will encourage the growth of lots of new, flavorful leaves, cease flowering, and prevent the stems from drooping.
  • To prevent encouraging the conditions for root rot and fungal disease, make sure your herbs are planted in pots with drainage holes in the base that allow extra water to escape. Avoid planting herbs in clay soils or wet regions as leafy non-Mediterranean plants thrive best in moist but well-draining soil. To imitate their original stony soil conditions and to prevent root rot, the woody Mediterranean herbs need their potting soil to be amended with grit, sand, or perlite.
  • You shouldn’t fertilize your herbs. Without the need for extra fertilizers, which might lessen the flavor and scent of your herbs, all plants can obtain enough nutrition from healthy soil or compost. After fertilizer application, if your herbs are drooping, trim the stems back to around 8 inches to encourage new growth.
  • If your herbs are not Mediterranean woody plants, plant them in the morning sun and water as needed to keep the soil moist but not soaked. Mediterranean herbs, which are drought-tolerant, should be watered about once every two weeks.

Provide your herbs with the ideal circumstances and prune back any leggy growth that is taller than 8 inches; after about a week, they should start to show signs of healing.

(Read my article on picking the best herb pots.)

Key Takeaways:

  • The most frequent cause of plant death is root rot, which is brought primarily by excessive watering, slow-draining soils, and pots without drainage holes in the base. Herbs need soil that drains well because wet soil encourages root rot, which causes herbs to turn yellow and wither.
  • Overwatering and soggy soil are the main causes of Mediterranean herb death. The optimum growing conditions for Mediterranean herbs are soils that have been treated with sand, grit, or perlite. Too much wetness hinders the roots’ ability to absorb nutrients and water, which kills the herb.
  • After flowering, leafy herbs like basil, cilantro, mint, and parsley begin to wither. By pruning your herbs once every three weeks during the summer so that they stay at a height of about 8 inches tall, you may prevent leafy plants from dying. Pruning encourages the development of new leaves and lengthens the life of the plant.
  • Use a sterile pair of pruners to prune back and damaged roots to healthy growth to revive dying herbs. Replant the herb in a new pot with fresh soil and place the plant in partial sunlight while it heals by wiping the blades with disinfectant after each cut to prevent the spread of fungal diseases.


Do herbs need direct sunlight?

The majority of herbs need at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. Particularly during the winter, there is significantly less light inside. So make sure you have a bright area where you can put your herbs, ideally near a south-facing window.

How often do you water herb seedlings?

Every three days, water your herb seeds and seedlings to keep the soil uniformly moist. Before watering again, make sure the soil’s surface is just barely dry to the touch. To reduce heat stress, relocate wilting seedlings to a cooler spot with less sun before watering more frequently.

How do you revive a dying herb?

Use a sterile pair of pruners to prune back and damaged roots to healthy growth to revive dying herbs. Replant the herb in a new pot with fresh soil and place the plant in partial sunlight while it heals by wiping the blades with disinfectant after each cut to prevent the spread of fungal diseases.

Can you overwater herbs?

Herbs require frequent watering like all other plants do, but there is a limit to how much water you should give them. If you overwater your plants, the results can be just as bad as if you submerge them, and your herbs may even perish.

How often do herbs need to be watered?

For the majority of herbs, it’s a good idea to water once a week at most. There may be instances when twice weekly is required, especially during periods of excessive heat or drought. Water in the colder morning hours (6–10 am) to prevent evaporation and provide deep root soaking.