nikhilxp64
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What's wrong with my tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum)?

I sowed some Tulsi (Holy Basil) in late March this year. Most germinated and I transferred them into individual clay pots which you can see below.

Image

The soil is the in-house brand of potting soil from a statewide gardening retailer. It was selected because there was no added animal derived nutrients. I've done some fertilizing as follows:
1) Some pots got Vegan 3-2-2 solid fertilizer
2) Some pots got 1 feeding of BioThrive (4-3-3) liquid fertilizer. And later after observing their reaction there was a second feeding of BioThrive for all pots.

Watering was once in a couple of days but then became daily because it looks to me that the soil dried out really fast. I also confirmed that with a moisture probe.

Since its kind of cold here right now, the germination was indoors and the plants go outside once a day when it's warm now that they've grown up some. They always spend the night indoors since the temperature drops to 10 C.

Everything seemed OK, but then I started noticing that the leaves of some plants are drooping downwards. Here is an example of that and it is more prominent on the lower leaves.

Image

I see that for one plant the top leaves also seem very curled and not straight.

Image

The seed leaves are the only yellow leaves and the plant is putting out new leaves even below the drooping leaves. To me that ruled out under-nutrition.

Image

I looked carefully at the same plants leaves and noticed the tips of the lowest droopy leaves were black.

Image

Image

When searching the internet the most common things pointed out were:
1) Disease and/or insects especially fusarium wilt.
2) Under watering leading to wilt and yellowing of leaves.
3) Over watering leading to root rot or oxygen deprivation.

For water I usually put my finger in the soil and try to ascertain if it's too dry and then there's the soil moisture probe I have to confirm my sensory readings :wink:.

I don't know how to ascertain root rot other than to take the plant out of the soil and look at the roots. Though given the fact the soil dries out super quick I feel it's unlikely.

One plant has a transparent patch around what looks like to be a small hole on the leaf. :shock:
Image
Is this a sign that something munching away at the leaves?

So what can be happening here? Some of the things I can think of after reading around are:
  1. Is it over nutrition?
  2. Nutrition imbalance?
  3. pH imbalance? I read tulsi prefers 6-7. The soil probe says it's 8 now.
  4. Over watering?
  5. Under watering? This was the reason I went with initially and stepped up watering a little.
  6. Insects/Disease? There are some small flies that like to sit in the pot soil, I notice they fly off each time I water the plants. There is also a tiny red spider like insect that runs around the plants. There also seem to be tiny brown-black specs on some leaves which I suspect might be bugs? Not sure. I've bought some Neem oil and plan to spray the plants with a solution of the same this weekend.
Image

I'm so confused here :? , can the good folks here point out what I might be doing wrong, or not paying attention to and what else I can look at so you'll could help me diagnose this.

All help would be appreciated :) - these are the first plants I've sown and I really don't want them to die prematurely. :(

nikhilxp64
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Posts: 12
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Location: USDA Zone 9b

Re: What's wrong with my tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum)?

I didn't realise photobucket didn't work for free with forums :| . I've uploaded the images to imgur and reposted below:

I sowed some Tulsi (Holy Basil) in late March this year. Most germinated and I transferred them into individual clay pots which you can see below.

Image


The soil is the in-house brand of potting soil from a statewide gardening retailer. It was selected because there was no added animal derived nutrients. I've done some fertilizing as follows:
1) Some pots got Vegan 3-2-2 solid fertilizer
2) Some pots got 1 feeding of BioThrive (4-3-3) liquid fertilizer. And later after observing their reaction there was a second feeding of BioThrive for all pots.

Watering was once in a couple of days but then became daily because it looks to me that the soil dried out really fast. I also confirmed that with a moisture probe.

Since its kind of cold here right now, the germination was indoors and the plants go outside once a day when it's warm now that they've grown up some. They always spend the night indoors since the temperature drops to 10 C.

Everything seemed OK, but then I started noticing that the leaves of some plants are drooping downwards. Here is an example of that and it is more prominent on the lower leaves.

Image

I see that for one plant the top leaves also seem very curled and not straight.

Image

The seed leaves are the only yellow leaves and the plant is putting out new leaves even below the drooping leaves. To me that ruled out under-nutrition.

Image

I looked carefully at the same plants leaves and noticed the tips of the lowest droopy leaves were black.

Image

Image

When searching the internet the most common things pointed out were:
1) Disease and/or insects especially fusarium wilt.
2) Under watering leading to wilt and yellowing of leaves.
3) Over watering leading to root rot or oxygen deprivation.

For water I usually put my finger in the soil and try to ascertain if it's too dry and then there's the soil moisture probe I have to confirm my sensory readings :wink:.

I don't know how to ascertain root rot other than to take the plant out of the soil and look at the roots. Though given the fact the soil dries out super quick I feel it's unlikely.

One plant has a transparent patch around what looks like to be a small hole on the leaf. :shock:
Image
Is this a sign that something munching away at the leaves?

So what can be happening here? Some of the things I can think of after reading around are:
  1. Is it over nutrition?
  2. Nutrition imbalance?
  3. pH imbalance? I read tulsi prefers 6-7. The soil probe says it's 8 now.
  4. Over watering?
  5. Under watering? This was the reason I went with initially and stepped up watering a little.
  6. Insects/Disease? There are some small flies that like to sit in the pot soil, I notice they fly off each time I water the plants. There is also a tiny red spider like insect that runs around the plants. There also seem to be tiny brown-black specs on some leaves which I suspect might be bugs? Not sure. I've bought some Neem oil and plan to spray the plants with a solution of the same this weekend.
Image

I'm so confused here :? , can the good folks here point out what I might be doing wrong, or not paying attention to and what else I can look at so you'll could help me diagnose this.

All help would be appreciated :) - these are the first plants I've sown and I really don't want them to die prematurely. :(

pepperhead212
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Re: What's wrong with my tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum)?

I deleted what I said about photobucket, as I see you fixed it, while I was in my garden! lol and I see that what I suspected is true - the pots are too small, when I see one held in your hand. Also, clay pots dry out FAST!

They actually don't look that bad, though the stress of being root bound can make plants prone to disease and insects.

From what I read, I can only guess at some of the problems.
What size are the pots they are in? If they are too small, the plants could be root bound, which could cause the daily need for watering. The bugs could be red spider mites and black aphids, but I'm just guessing.
Another problem that could result in the drying out could be the type of soil mix. I had a brand of seed starter once that would dry out overnight! But you said that it got worse, as time went on, which is why I was thinking that the pot was too small.
Dave

nikhilxp64
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Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2018 12:07 am
Location: USDA Zone 9b

Re: What's wrong with my tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum)?

Thanks for the reply pepperhead212. :()

I didn't realise these guys could be getting root bound already - they were transplanted into those pots in the first week of April. The pots are 3.2 inches high and the top diameter is also 3.2 inches.

I always imagine a root bound plant to look something like this:
Image
Could the roots have grown that much in 1 month?

I think the dry soil is a combination of both clay pots and a potting soil that dries quickly. But mostly the former. I had the seeds in little paper drinking cups initially and I think those kept the soil more moist than the clay pots.

So they aren't overwatered then? What about the black spots on the tips of the lowest leaves on 1-2 plants?

pepperhead212
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Joined: Wed Oct 15, 2014 5:52 pm
Location: Woodbury NJ Zone 6B

Re: What's wrong with my tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum)?

Maybe it is the combination of the type of soil mix and the clay pots. And maybe the black tips are just dried tips from when the plants wilted. Basils get black spots from cold weather, but usually all over the leaves, and I think that would have been much worse.

I have had some plants get root bound in a month in small pots, when started from seed! It's amazing how fast they can grow, esp. when they dry out somewhat, and the roots are searching for water.
Dave

nikhilxp64
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Re: What's wrong with my tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum)?

I'm thinking of transplanting them into these pots:

Image

They are 4.5" in height and 6.5" in diameter at the top. Do you think that's good enough? Or should I go for deeper pots?

thanrose
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Re: What's wrong with my tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum)?

Just my 2 cents. Terra cotta pots are definitely not a good idea. Way too drying, especially in Zone 9 or higher. My Florida experience is even though we are considerably more humid than California Zone 9, almost anything other than succulents will die in terra cotta pots. Yeah, we still have them all over, but that's because people think what worked in Michigan will work here.

I doubt your holy basil is root bound. None of the problems appear to be really dire, unless that red tiny bug is a spider mite. You'll see tiny webby filaments under the leaves and in the leaf axils. I don't recall aphids bothering my tulsi when I grew it in ground, but it could have been other gardening practices that prevented that.

What I would do, for another penny, is set your clay pot on a shallow saucer and water daily. Let the terra cotta become cool to the touch, or show signs of wicking the moisture. Let a scant amount accumulate in the saucer. You don't want any roots to be continually wet, but they need to not dry out completely. In terra cotta pots, they can dry out so quickly precisely because the pots are porous.

imafan26
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Re: What's wrong with my tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum)?

I disagree, the kind of pot you need depend on the plant, the soil, climate, and how you water. I use terra cotta pots for plants that don't like to be wet and need to dry out between watering. I live where in the rainy season it can rain for days. I water almost every day, so terra cotta pots are best for me for orchids, succulents, lavender, and some other things which I keep a long time.
That soil mix is going to hold a lot of water so unless you are good at determining how long to wait between watering, a plastic pot could hold too much.

I do agree that the pot is too small. The basil will be happier in the ground. I don't know what tulsi you have since there are at least 4 varieties I know of Rama, Vana, Kapoor, and Krishna. In my zone 12a climate they will live over a year and and can become a small shrub 3-4 ft tall. Even the annual basil can get to be 1.5-2 ft tall in the ground and I put most of those in at least 5 gallon pots, more often 18 gallons, since that is my standard pot for anything that is a shrub that I keep more than a year. I have an ajaka basil in a 14 inch pot that is about 4 ft tall now and my mix is very light so it still needs to be watered every day or two or it will yellow. I have seen it bloom once at home depot, but mine rarely does. It becomes a woody shrub and lives for years. It has a spicy taste and is resistant to downy mildew.

The mix you are using looks similar to what is commercially available. I have used similar mixes, but because of the way that I water, I often will add additional perlite to improve drainage and keep the plant roots from rotting from too much water or rain.

Basil does like a rich organic loam and likes to be evenly moist. It is a relatively heavy feeder compared to other herbs. If you want to water less, then you can go with a less porous pot, but I would go bigger. At this stage you can pot up the seedling to a gallon pot. Basil will grow fast as the weather warms. If you can control your watering, you can actually pot it up to a 3-5 gallon pot now.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

nikhilxp64
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Location: USDA Zone 9b

Re: What's wrong with my tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum)?

Thank you guys for the replies. :D

Here's what I did since my last post and thanrose's reply.

I stepped up the watering: I first watered in small amounts to ensure that the soil was evenly moist. After while I added more water so that the water drained a little out of the pots. I did this for around 3 days and all the very droopy tulsi looks noticeably better. I even asked my wife to ensure I wasn't imagining things.

While doing the above I noticed that most of the pots have 1-2 roots poking out from the drainage hole. So yea that feels like there's too little room in the small pots. So I'm going to do both, move up a couple of pot sizes and pay more attention to watering some more in clay pots. I might switch a few of the tulsi to plastic pots to find out how much water it retains and how that changes my watering schedule.

imafan26 I'm growing Ram, Vana and Krishna tulsi. The Rama tulsi grows real quick, they were the first to germinate and shoot up fast. The Krishna and Vana varieties are quite slow - unless it's because I'm doing something wrong.

On another note I can see some silver patches on the Krishna tulsi only. :( See images below.
Image
Image
Image
I looked through a magnifying glass and the patches look like clumps of fine thread on the leaf. More pronounced on the upper side rather than underside. My first thought was spider mites. But I looked up their webs and they don't look like this. There's no accumulation around where the stem meets the leaf shoot. Also no bugs on the plants when I examine them.

Is it a kind of fungus or mildew? :shock:

nikhilxp64
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Re: What's wrong with my tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum)?

Finally had a chance to transplant these. Poor things were indeed root bound.

Image

Image

Moved them to decent sized pots - some plastic and some clay.

I think the silver spots are mildew. Some of them turn blackish. Powdery mildew seems the closest match I could find on the internet. Going to use neem oil to treat that. And perhaps milk since that's what's reported to be most effective.

imafan26
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Re: What's wrong with my tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum)?

Pick off the lower leaves and that will help mildew from splashing and make sure the pots are spaced and placed where they get good air movement.

Vana and ajaka are my most long lived basils. Vana becomes a shrub, ours has an open habit but it is growing in the shade of an allspice tree so that may be the reason why it has a more open habit.

Neem or milk can be a preventive for powdery mildew. Good air circulation helps and bottom watering.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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applestar
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Re: What's wrong with my tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum)?

Looking at your photos, these plants seem to have fine hairs. I’ve never used neem oil before so I can’t say for sure, but generally speaking, you need to be careful with oil-based treatments when using on fine-haired plants. Even milk spray might be too heavy though less of a concern on sturdier leaves and stems — such as more mature tomatoes beyond seedling stage.

Maybe test on just one plant at first?
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

nikhilxp64
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Re: What's wrong with my tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum)?

Yes applestar tulsi has fine hairs all along the shoots.
applestar wrote:Looking at your photos, these plants seem to have fine hairs. I’ve never used neem oil before so I can’t say for sure, but generally speaking, you need to be careful with oil-based treatments when using on fine-haired plants. Even milk spray might be too heavy though less of a concern on sturdier leaves and stems — such as more mature tomatoes beyond seedling stage.

Maybe test on just one plant at first?

What's the relationship between fine haired plants and oil based sprays? Or even milk sprays for that matter?

I went ahead an applied a 1% dilution of neem oil in water along with a little soap mixed in an sprayed the three Krishna tulsi because they had the mildew and I didn't see any other option. I also sprayed a single Ram tulsi just to test it on them.

After spraying the patches of mildew look brown instead of white now. Will post pictures tomorrow.

nikhilxp64
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Re: What's wrong with my tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum)?

Hello folks, back again with more questions - winter is setting in here in Californnia and my Tulsi was doing well up to a while ago. They are now very droopy :(, the the leaf color seems to be changing. I've been keeping them indoors every night and in the daytime they get patio time only if it's sunny. I recently setup some grow lights for them indoors (maybe 4 or 5 days ago) so could it be they look bad now because of lack of sunlight? Also I'm not sure what their watering schedule should be - what I found on the net suggests they should be watered sparsely in the winter and to avoid watering if the top soil is still damp. Please let me know what I should be doing more or less of :?

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imafan26
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Re: What's wrong with my tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum)?

The plants may have a combination of mites or thrips and mildew. I can't zoom on the plant. Usually, when plants become stressed they get attacked by everything. They look like they have good spacing, but the plants are small for their age. Check the roots again in case they are pot bound. When they have that much disease it is hard to bring them back. You can try feeding them and then cut them back to the mainstem. I would repot them at the same time in fresh potting soil. The soil composition may have changed, either in pH or in salt accumulation. Fungal spores may be in the soil as well. If you want to be organic you can use fish emulsion weekly. If the plants have reserve they will regrow new leaves that should be disease free. Only do this with a plant or two and isolate them from the other plants so they don't get reinfested and to see if it works. I usually don't cut back plants in winter because it takes longer for them to grow back when it is colder. A heat mat under the pots may help warm the soil and water with warm, not cold water that has been sitting out at least a couple of days so any chlorine has time to off gas.

The internodes are still a little long, so I think more light will help and if the light is close (4-8 inches above) it is better and will help warm the plants. Mildew will still be an issue because it actually likes warm moist conditions so you will need to be on guard for it to reappear.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

nikhilxp64
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Re: What's wrong with my tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum)?

Thank you for the reply and advice.

I'm trying to understand what are each of the things I'm dealing with - I think broadly there are 3 things on the leaves.

1) white patches (image below): showed up long ago initially I thought something tiny was eating the leaves, because they became kinda translucent in the white patch areas so I didn't think much of it. Is this the mildew you mentioned?

Image

2) black decay (images below): showed up recently in the last 2 months or so, I thought it was lack of nutrition, water and sunlight so I fertilized and tried to get them more light. These result in the whole leaf turning brow/black and curling up and eventually falling off. What is it?

Image

Image

3) black dots (images below): I though these were mites first, but they turn out to be dark dots on the leaves, shaking the leaves doesn't make it fall off so I assumed it's not a mite (maybe I was wrong?). Upon closer inspection today they seem moist (shiny under light) and I even notice what looks like a larva among them. Are these a type of mildew or insect?

Image

Image

Is the only way to deal with all of these to cut off the affected parts? :(
Googling suggests washing the leaves with baking soda and mild soap for mildew. I have neem oil which I can try to spray on the leaves after dilution with water. Though I've been told neem may not go down well with tulsi plants.

I'll take a look at the roots this weekend. It seems like a lot of this might have been avoided if I had transplanted into larger pots earlier and not stressed them out which lead to so many things attacking them? :(

imafan26
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Re: What's wrong with my tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum)?

The first and third pictures look like insect damage from sucking pests. You have to look under the leaf to find them. From the top you only see the scars from the feeding. Most likely thrips. The last picture of black spots. The black spots are probably fecal material. The middle picture of black spot is usually caused by a fungus or bacteria and is usually from overhead watering and plants are not drying fast enough, poor air circulation. and/or high humidity.

https://www.johnnyseeds.com/growers-libr ... sheet.html
https://plantclinic.cornell.edu/factshee ... seases.pdf

Plants that are stressed become targets of pests and disease. Keep plants healthy, but providing them with a clean environment. Sanitize the area regularly of fallen leaves and wipe off the area with soap and water regularly if indoors.
Make sure the soil and pot are appropriately sized and the plant is not rootbound. Plants need enough light. If the internodes are long or the plant leaves are dark green,and the plant is leaning it needs more intense and even lighting. Potted plants will be dependent on you for water and fertilizer. You need to know how much and how often. Much of that will depend on the plant, the pot, the environment, the type of soil. and fertilizer you use. That will be trial and error until you find the right combination.
Problems are usually disease, pests, or environmental.
Disease and pests will show up on the leaves. Learn to look under the leaves and use the magnifier to try to find and locate pests. Try to id pests before treating. Certain plants, when you grow them all of the time will have the same problems. Learn to id and treat early. Isolate sick plants from healthy ones. There comes a point when the plants are overwhelmed and are unlikely to recover well. Annuals don't have a lot of time to do this, it is sometimes better to start over.
Sanitize regularly.
Environmental problems have to do with culture. Plants need an appropriate environment. A pot of the right size, good air circulation, light, temperature minimums and maximums (may mean you will be more successful if you plant seasonally). Water and fertilization is dependent on the plant needs and less on your schedule. The same plant will have different requirements depending on the stage of growth, the container, medium, type of fertilizer, drainage, air circulation, sometimes even the quality of the water. Instead of trying to make any plant grow in your environment, select a plant or location (sometimes a couple of feet matter), suited to the environment you can provide. Do your research to find out what the plant needs and what are the most common problems you might run into. You can get that information from most university extension service sites.

There are some plants that I have tried and killed many times over. Others, that will only grow well in one or two spots in my yard. I have cats in the house and so I don't keep many house plants, although, the cats I have now have not bothered any plants I have kept inside overnight, yet. For the way, I grow things, I need a light well drained mix. Plants that need to dry out get to be in terra cotta and cinders. I have downy mildew and tomato yellow leaf curl virus which means I can only grow African and holy basils now and TYLCV resistant tomatoes. I need to grow things that will grow in my soil. At home my soil is acidic which works for most things but it is too rich in nitrogen to get a good root crop. Root crops do better in my other gardens that are more alkaline and nitrogen poor. I made a lot of mistakes along the way and it took some effort to find the right spot for some of the plants to do well.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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