My Thyme and Basil are Turning Brown

Getting to the Root of the Problem for Healthy Plants

Thyme Herb

Nothing gives a better feeling like growing healthy plants but what will you do if one day, as you take a stroll in your garden to water or show off your plant and your eyes, catch that once prized plant or plants with areas that have turned brown. You worked so hard to get your herbs to where they are and now all you want is to get to the root of the problem so your herbs can bounce back to good health.

Herbs turning brown have been the unfortunate experience of many gardeners leaving them without a clue as to what went wrong and how to correct that issue. We all can agree however that garden herbs do flavor our favorite dishes along with how beneficial they are to our health no wonder there has been so much concern about keeping our herbs growing healthy.

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If you are one of those persons who have had this experience and may have given up on growing herbs because you may be thinking you don’t have a green thumb don’t despair because it is not about having a green thumb but the right knowledge that will pay off in big ways so get ready as you once again work the soil to reap a fruitful harvest from your labor.

Common Cause

  • Root Rot
  • To much fertilizer
  • Natural Dieback
  • A lack of water
  • The soil type
  • The planting location
  • Garden insect pests
  • Plant Disease
  • The Temperature
  • Over Crowing
  • Allowing the flowers to seed
  • Choosing herbs that are unhealthy

Root Rot

When it comes to watering thyme and basil or any garden plant for that matter it is so important to know the watering needs of those plants. It is a common thing for garden plants to be overwatered. Sure plants do need water which is beneficial for them but for your thyme and basils to grow healthy giving the right amount is a must. The soils of these herbs should never be saturated, allow the soil to dry out somewhat before watering again.

To much fertilizer

Too much fertilizer especially if it’s synthetic or man-made in particular quick release or water-soluble. If this fertilizer type is given in the wrong amounts will cause wilting of your thyme and basil. When water-soluble fertilizers are given in great amounts what happens is that salts from these fertilizers gather around the root zone pulling water from plants and causing wilting and browning. My preference would be either to use a slow-release or better still go organic.

Natural Dieback

Thyme naturally turns brown after 2-3 years, but this brown center is preparing for new growth on the tips of the stems during this time, consider replacing your old thyme with new ones.

A lack of water

Just as too much water can cause your thyme and basil to turn brown a lack of water can have the same effect. Thyme and basil like all garden plants need water to survive because water is one of the elements along with the sunlight that plants use to produce their foods so giving your basil and thyme the right amount of water will keep them growing healthy.

The soil type

The health of your thyme and basil is as good as the soil they are planted in, the soil really do matters the decline and death of many garden plants can be traced back to the soil they were installed in. Every garden plant has its soil preference although there are many that can survive in a wide range. Garden herbs such as thyme and garlic love soil that is organic-rich well-drained soil. For more on soil type refer to the category section of this website.

The Location

Location, Location, Location we can’t stress that enough, the location is so important in the life of garden plants. Placing a plant in the wrong location will do much injustice, get to know your plant preferred spot. Thyme and basil love the full sun so ensure to take full advantage of these sunny areas for success.

Garden insect pests

Every year millions of dollars in crop damage happens because of garden insect pests, these insects can become a nuisance but the good news is there are many products including natural ways to bring these pests under control. Inspect your thyme and basils on a regular basis and move quickly to eliminate pests if spotted. For more on how to bring these garden insect pests, under control refer to the category section of this website.

Plant Disease

There are many diseases that attack garden plants, root rot being one of the more common ones, inspect your thyme and basils for signs that may include discoloration, wilting, leaf drop, and rot. If it’s root rot because the soil is saturated or waterlogged then allow the soil to dry out even changing the soil will offer help.

Allowing the flowers to seed

Keep your herbs from flowering, now I know this may sound harsh but if herbs are allowed to flower will end their life circle because this is when your herbs will set seeds. If your herbs start to flower remove these flowers by pinching to extend your herb’s life.

Choosing herbs that are unhealthy

Another mistake that is made is purchasing herbs that are unhealthy, healthy thyme and basils will have a full color so do your inspection. If there is any sign of disease or if insects are seen then pass these herbs up and look for ones that are healthy.

The Temperature

The heat along with temperatures that are extremely cold will cause the leaves of basils to wilt, cold temperatures will also cause the leaves to curl and dry at the edges. If your thyme and basil are affected by slight cold damage then allow new leaves to emerge before removing the old wilted ones. Mulching around your plants and keeping the soil moist in dry hot conditions will benefit your thyme and basil. Covering your plants with a box during the cold weather will offer some.


Overcrowding your plant bed with too many herbs can have a negative effect because this will encourage a poor root system along with poor air circulation, therefore, it is best to plant a few giving the proper spacing for good air circulation and allowing them to grow. As you use them this will keep them well pruned while growing healthy.

Additional information on garden herbs

In the category section of this website, you will find additional information on growing herbs so check it out.

Other herbs for your garden

  •  Chives
  • Garlic
  •  Rosemary
  • Parsley
  • Oregano
  • Cilantro
  • Lemon Balm
  •  Lavender
  •  Tarragon
  •  Sage
  •  Peppermint
  •  Chamomile

The final word

Garden herbs such as thyme and basils are great to grow because of their aroma and flavors, these herbs are some of my favorites which I have cooked with for years. The health benefits which are provided are also another reason why you should grow them so join those that are having success with these herbs grown and harvested from their home gardens.


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About the author

+ posts

Norman loves being in the garden, both at home and for his job....
he is 'Natures Little helper' being outdoors, growing his vegetables and flowers from an early age.
Now having spent over 22 years in the profession he want to give some of his knowledge to others...
his vast array of hints and tips you will find scattered over this site will help you no end growing plants in your garden.

10 thoughts on “My Thyme and Basil are Turning Brown”

  1. Yeah, I once planted some thymes in my garden, and then they all went brown I actually don’t know the cause of it, but I went ahead to make some work in the soil and then planted the plants again and trust me they all bloomed back again, thanks so much for this educating post about what to do if thyme and basil turns brown 

    • It is so good to hear about your success and I am so happy to help and I hope that you have continued success with your garden projects.

  2. Hi, My herbs turning brown has been a issue I have had for years and like you say, I have not been able to figure out why. I do think, after reading your article, that it has been a combination of not watering them enough and then watering them too much. Around how often and how much do you think I should be watering my little inside herb garden containing thyme, basil, cilantro, oregano and rosemary? They are individually planted but are all next to each other.

    • Hello alexandra so sorry to hear that but it is so good to know that I can help. Allowing the soil to dry out a bit between watering should help. Not to dry and not to wet. Hope this helps.

  3. Only God can help me to thank you for sharing this post just at the right time. At first, I thought it was just a normal pest invasion on my garden but reading through this now, I saw that the reason my plants are turning brown is because of over fertilizing on my side. Due to the fact that I wanted to grow some flowers badly, I ended up over fertilizing my thyme. This is really good to know of and I will try to make necessary adjustments on my side

  4. Gardening is not easy and takes a lot of work. As a gardener myself, I’ve came across different kind of diseases on my plants. It was not easy to admit that there was my responsibility for that situation as well.

    Most of my gardening failures were due to either using to much fertilizer and choosing the wrong planting locations.

    Good thing I acknoweldged these things on time and started improving myself and my skills.

    • That is so good to hear and I do agree with you gardening is hard work but it is so nice to know that you gained the knowledge and things are now working for you. All the best to you.

  5. Yeah! I can resonate with this post because I was into this situation some few years ago when I lost virtually all my plants then especially the herbal one to which, thyme was included too. It wasn’t easy for me then because I just didn’t know where I got it all wrong. Thankfully you shared this now and I will make sure to adhere strictly to all these tips listed as could-be reasons for thyme and basil turning brown. Very good one and thumbs up


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