Basil death after watering

Asked November 10, 2017, 1:16 PM EST

I had a potted basil plant that was outside, the pot sitting in a bowl with water reservoir. I brought it in and did not need to water until a week ago. I used my tap water to water it on Friday night. Saturday morning it looked a little wilted, Sunday afternoon it was completely dried up and black. A couple of leaves that had fallen off prior to watering were still green. Same day I put a cutting from a rubber house plant in a glass of water and it started to turn black and crusty. This is the water I drink and that I give my animals. I contacted the MN Dept of Health. Standard practice is to start by checking the well water for coliforms bacteria. While I realize that this is hazardous to humans I could not find anything indicating it is hazardous to plants. Given the source of the bacteria bacteria and connection to fertilizers I question that this can be the cause of the sudden death of my plant. IT SIMPLY FRIED IN ABOUT 36 HOURS. This is a private well, and the one source of water for me and my animals. Currently we are all on bottled water which is getting expensive and troublesome with the critters. Therefore I do not want to waste time following one potential cause if that is something that would probably not kill a plant like that in the first place. Can you tell me if coliforms bacteria could cause a sudden burn of a plant? What are other water issues that I should be checking for as well. Thank you and have a great day!

Wright County Minnesota basil problem coliform

1 Response

We don't believe that coliform bacteria in amounts likely to be found in groundwater would affect the plants in the way you have described, if at all. Nor do we know what might have caused the problem.

However, we have these comments for what they are worth:

If the bowl/reservoir that contained the basil plant held water for a while before you brought it indoors, the plant may have succumbed to over-watering. Roots of most plants, including basil, do not survive long in saturated soil.

Also, basil is very sensitive to cold. Plants grown outdoors often begin to decline when night temperatures fall below 40 degrees even if they are protected from frost.

Either or a combination of these could account for the plant's death.

The water method is not a reliable way to propagate rubber tree plant cuttings. Rot may develop. Following is the method recommended by experts at North Dakota State University (See Section 2 under Air Layering):

https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/hort/info/indoor/start.htm