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devastated beginner - battling root rot - basil and sage.

I'm so very very sad. :cry:

My basil and sage are showing signs of root rot. The leaves are still looking perky but my guess is that they will go soon.

Is there ANY way I can save these guys? Can I put the basil and plonk it in water? Will it grow roots this way? Is there anything I can do for these guys before the leaves wither and die?

Devastating. They were going so well - I even ate some home grown basil for the first time last week. What a dreadful turn!

If someone can help, please do!


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It is easy to get root rot in potted herbs. It comes from overwatering. Roots stArt to die so leaves don't get water; leaves turn brown, which makes us think the plant is dry, sows add more water
Turn the pot over and tap the whole plant and soil out. Roots should be a healthy white. If roots are brown it's root rot. It's hard for a plant to recover, and it can spread. :(
It is a disease not just soggy roots. That's why it can be spread by tools, touching plants, etc .
Isolate infected plants. Or dispose of plants to stop the spread

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If the leaves are still "perky," what did you notice that made you think root rot?

The rot does, as lily said, come from over watering and staying too moist. Basil and sage are mediterranean plants that need very little water. My basil plant that I brought in for the winter (since it is in potting soil that holds moisture, it would really prefer something more free draining), I water thoroughly every OTHER week. That's right, twice a month! And mist it daily in between, since that provides a little water to the leaves, without messing with the roots. It is doing great that way.

I didn't quite understand your question about water and "will it grow roots that way." Does it not already have roots? Generally putting in water is for rooting cuttings, not for established soil grown plants.

If you take the plant out of the pot and the roots are brown or black and mushy not firm, that is root rot. In that case gently wash the dirt off all the roots and trim off all the unhealthy roots. If you have to take off a significant portion of the root system, then cut off a similar portion of the leaves /top (being sure to clean the scissors with alcohol in between to avoid spreading the fungus), so the reduced root system has less plant to support. Put it back into clean soil (maybe try a cactus mix or something more free draining than potting soil). Make sure the container has good drainage and only water when the top couple inches of soil are dry. Don't fertilize while your plant is recovering.

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Thanks Lily and Rainbow.

I think they have root rot because the part of the stem that is nearest to the soil has turned brown and has gone skinny. The rest of the stem is green. I just guessed that it was root rot.

So to be clearer, I'd like to know if I can snip the healthy and undamaged portion of the plant, leave the brown yukky portion behind, stick the stem in some rooting hormone or some water and hope that the basil or sage can develop new roots? Or is that like wishing chocolate truffles would grow on trees?

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You could take some cuttings from the plants and set them in water. Then your cutting will root in a week or two, and you will have plants again. Instead of starting over from seed again (assuming you started your originals from seed). But even if you didn't, it's be better than having to buy new plants. Once the new roots have a week or so to get set in their new soil, the plants will take right off again. Look up some youtube videos on rooting basil if you need a visual. It's VERY easy. It has been my experience that basil "wants to grow". It is very cooperative when rooting cuttings. Good luck!

P.S. you certainly don't need rooting hormone for basil. I have never tried to root sage so I really don't know about that one. I'm sure someone else will chime in.

For basil, just snip off a piece right where the plant divides. Leave maybe 2 leaves on it, set it so the bottom 2 inches or so are submerged in regular old tap water. Give it a week or two. If you notice the plant isn't dying, it's doing just fine. ;)

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". . . the stem that is nearest to the soil has turned brown and has gone skinny."

Yonnie, it sounds like you are describing fusarium wilt. Many gardeners are familiar with this fungal problem with very young seedlings of just about any plant. Basil, however, is real vulnerable and may begin to show signs long after it has grown past the seedling stage.


Here is what the University of Minnesota has to say in the text that is associated with this picture: "Unfortunately there is no treatment for infected basil plants. Fungicides are ineffective. Infected plants should be removed . . . Prevention is the only way to control Fusarium wilt of basil."

Here is a close up of a basil stem with the streaking of fusarium: [url=https://plantdiagnostics.umd.edu/_media/client/diagnostics/gallery/fusarium_stem_l2.jpg](click)[/url]

Notice how nearby leaves aren't in so bad of shape . . . so far! The plant may look fairly healthy but there is a good chance that it will be unable to live out its life because the infection will just slowly spread.

Okay, prevention by means other than just ripping out every infected plant and hoping you are left with a few healthy ones -- Here's what you can do: Buy fusarium-resistant varieties of basil.

Nufar is a nice Genovese-type basil. It is resistant to this fungal disease.

edited to add: Sage is a perennial and quite a bit tougher than basil. I would keep the basil away from it and see if your sage can't overcome the effects of the fungus over time. Here is Wishing You the Best of Luck!


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