Baffling Basil

Last fall, my dad gave me a basil plant.  We didn’t have high hopes for it since the original plant it came from was fading fast.  I wish I had taken a picture of it when I first got it (it was just a single stem with a few proud leaves), but here’s the plant at 5 months, and today at 9 months!


Please forgive the terrible point-and-shoot pictures.  Also, that second picture makes the basil look especially wilty, but I assure you the plant is growing strong- the branches get weighed down initially by the leaves, and they curve back upward toward the sunny window!  I’ve tried pinching the plant to make it more bushy, but that didn’t seem to affect the plant- it just keeps growing however it wants!

It was growing so well that it became pot-bound and needed to be replanted!

But lately, I’ve been noticing some discoloration on the stem.  It started as a small brown splotch, and has been slowly spreading.

It’s even starting to split in some areas…

I’m really hoping that the plant is just maturing and becoming woody, but the most of the leaves on that split stem have fallen off and the leaves that remain are a bit on the yellow side.  There are also a bunch of small bumps along that stem.

Generally, I would assume that means that the plant is looking to put out roots and I can make a cutting from it, but with this plant I’m not so sure.  Part of me wants to try clipping off that branch and putting it in water to see if it’ll root, but at the same time, I don’t want to do any additional damage to my plant!

The rest of the plant seems to be doing well.  The other branches are full of huge leaves…

…and new leaves are popping up at almost all the nodes!

So what do you think I should do?  Cut off that split branch and try to start a cutting?  Wait and see how the plant does over the next few days/weeks?  Help!?

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7 Responses to Baffling Basil

  1. Linda says:

    Your basil is indeed turning woody and those are probably root nodules you see on it. Mine does the same thing every year. :] The plant is just aging and maturing. I also get yellow leaves on mine when the leaves get old.

    • Rebecca Lynn says:

      Good to know- thanks! Will the stems that are turning woody stop producing leaves? If so, is there any way I can stop/slow that process? I’ll try cutting off that nodule-covered branch and seeing if it’ll root!

      • Linda says:

        The woody growth should still produce leaves…I have new growth beginning to pop out of the woody growth on one of my basil plants. When you go to cut it, double check and make sure its root nodules and not a bump of new growth trying to come out. Sometimes when you cut and root things, it just doesn’t always work out. I took two rosemary cuttings this year and one is doing very well while the other just isn’t taking to it. Good luck! :]

  2. Veronica S. says:

    Prune it. Basil LOVES to be “pinched” back. Take off any ‘un-healthy’ looking stem. You can aggressively pinch back a few stems & “root” them in a water glass.

    • Rebecca Lynn says:

      I feel bad just pinching off large pieces of my plant when I have no immediate use for the basil leaves. Got any good recipes that use a lot of basil? Would you like a basil plant if I can get mine to root?

      • pilgrim119 says:

        I felt the same way, but I ended up drying the leaves myself and then storing them for later use this winter. It’s much better than the stuff you buy at the store, and very handy in a pinch. Plus, the house smells great while you are drying them… I did it in my oven on low low heat. Worked great with cilantro and dill weed, too.

      • Rebecca Lynn says:

        I let the leaves that fall air dry (it seems to work for my basil) and have gotten a whole jar full of dried basil leaves! Not quite the same as the fresh leaves, but they do taste better than the store-bought ones!

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