Light Green Leaves on Basil: 9 Causes (& Easy Solutions)

Basil is a powerful and adaptable herb that is often used in cooking. However, there may be occasions when its leaves lose their vibrant green color. If this is not addressed, the herb will no longer be suitable for use in culinary activities.

Why are my basil leaves light green? Some significant reasons your basil leaves turn light green are a lack of nutrients or adequate sunlight, excessive water, root rot, and pest infestation. Other possible reasons for basil leaves turning light green are using the wrong fertilizer or the wrong type of soil and other basic mistakes.

Read on below and discover why your basil leaves turn light green and what you can do about it!

Light Green Leaves on Basil – 9 Causes (And Solutions!)

Nothing is more frustrating than putting tons of effort (and love) into your basil plants only to wake up and find their leaves changing colors on you. 

If your leaves are already yellow or brown, it’s too late to save them, though the plant may be revived. 

Below, we discuss the 9 main causes for your basil leaves turning light green and common solutions for each problem:

1. Too Much Water

An excessive amount of water is perhaps the most common reason for basil leaves turning light green. Whether it has been rainy lately or you’ve accidentally overwatered the plants, it’s one of the easiest mistakes to make with basil plants.


There are a few ways to deal with your basil plants getting too much water. First, you can hold off on the manual watering. Next, you can provide them with cover if they are exposed to excessive rainfall. You may also need to aerate the soil around them to promote better drainage in the soil.

2. Not Enough Sunlight

Another rather common issue that results in light-green leaves on basil is a lack of adequate sunlight. When basil is planted in a location that receives less than 6 hours of direct light, chances are that it will be shorter, skinnier, and lighter in color than plants planted in better spaces.


Prevention is the best way to ensure that your plants have enough sunlight to be healthy and thrive. Before planting, measure the amount of sun the garden plot receives. Avoid planting basil in spots that get less than 6 to 8 hours of direct light each day. 

3. Lack of Nutrients

When basil plants begin to lack the proper nutrients, the color of their leaves slowly transitions from a dark and robust green color to a much lighter shade of green. If your plants receive 6 hours or more of light and don’t suffer from too much water, there is a high likelihood that your plants’ issue is a lack of adequate nutrients.


Plant your basil in rich soil with organic matter. Also, consider feeding your basil plants at least once during the season with proper plant food or fertilizer (this one is a great option).

4. Pots Are Too Small

If you are growing basil in pots rather than in the garden and your plants’ leaves start turning light green but are otherwise well cared for, the size of the pots may be the issue. When your pots are too small, there isn’t enough space in the containers for the still-growing root systems of the basil plants.


Use a proper-sized pot for your basil plants. A 12-inch to 18-inch wide pot between 9 and 12 inches deep works best.

5. Poor Drainage

Poor drainage leads to light-green leaves, dying and wilting leaves, root rot, and more. Some of the main reasons for poor drainage are using the wrong soil/growing medium, providing too much water, and ongoing storms in the area.


The best solution for poor drainage in the garden is aerating the compacted soil around your plants. Alternatively, dig up the soil, and mix in some organic compost and wood chips to make it more drainable and nutritious.

6. Fluctuating Temperatures

When temperatures jump up and down in a short period of time, such as over the course of a few days, the end result may be light-green leaves on your basil plant. In the worst-case scenarios, leaves may even turn yellow or brown, shrivel up, or die.


To prevent damage to your basil leaves due to fluctuating temperatures, monitor the temperature outside, and keep a constant eye on the extended weather forecast. When you see a sudden fluctuation coming, prepare your plants as best as possible by adding protection from the cold or from the sun as needed.

7. Overcrowded Conditions

It’s tempting to plant as much as possible when we are growing our plants for our own use (or for the market for that matter). However, as the old saying goes, too much of a good thing is bad, which is true with basil plants in limited garden space. Overcrowded conditions often result in lots of light-green, yellow, or wilted leaves. 


Basil plants require between 12 and 18 inches of space from the tips of one plant’s leaves to the tips of the other plant’s leaves. Taking the time to measure adequate space and avoiding clumping them together any closer than what is suggested are the best ways to prevent light green leaves.

8. Disease

Some plant diseases are known for affecting a plant’s photosynthesis process (turning sunlight into energy). When this occurs, one of the first noticeable symptoms is the leaves turning light green. If treated in time, these leaves may recover, but more often, they end up turning yellow, brown, or even black, dying and falling off.


Treat your plants regularly with organic or store-bought remedies for preventing soil-borne diseases. Also, keep a close eye on your plants, and react with additional treatment the moment you notice a problem. 

9. Pest Infestation

Of course, when dealing with plants of any sort, pest infestation is a serious concern. In this case, pests may even be the cause of your basil plant’s transition from healthy dark green leaves to their new and mysteriously light-greenleaves.


Applying a combination of pest control techniques and products (even homemade remedies work just fine) is the best way to prevent, combat, and/or eradicate a pest infestation that is turning your basil leaves light green. 

Basil Growing Tips

Here are a few of the best basil-growing tips that we’ve discovered over the years:

  • Plant in rich organic soil that drains quickly.
  • Fertilize only once (after the plants are past the seedling stage).
  • Keep the soil evenly moist (but not soaking wet).
  • Plant or place pots in a sunny location (8 hours or more is preferred).
  • Harvest/prune basil all season long (don’t wait to harvest all at once).
  • Water the root zone of the plant thoroughly (not the leaves and stalk).

Following these basic tips yields far better results, meaning larger harvests of more potent herbs. Try them out for yourself and see!

Related Questions:

Can You Eat Yellow Basil Leaves?

While you may indeed eat yellow basil leaves, they are not nearly as tasty (or healthy) as green basil leaves. The taste of yellow basil leaves is less potent than green leaves. These yellow leaves are also sometimes bitter.

Does Basil Like Acidic Soil?

Basil plants thrive in soil that is slightly acidic with a pH of around 7.0. However, the soil must also be quick to drain and loaded (or fertilized) with all the vital vitamins and nutrients that are required for happy, healthy plants.


Did you discover the reason your basil leaves are light green? If so, you’ve also found the best solution for fixing the issue as well! Thanks for reading, and best of luck to you and your basil plants!