Question: My indoor herb containers are starting to look unhealthy. How do you revive a dying herb? -Susan H.
Answer: If your herb plant looks like it’s dying, the good news is that it’s relatively easy to determine what the trouble is. Herb plants growing indoors that are having trouble tend to not be getting enough sunlight, while struggling herb plants that grow outdoors are almost always in need of water.
Indoor herb plants do best in a sunny windowsill, and windows that face south, west, or southwest tend to be the best options. If you don’t have a window available where your plant will get at least six hours of sunlight a day, you can make up the difference with grow lights or relocate your plant outdoors. However, make sure to give the plant a gradual transition, or its foliage can be burned with sunscald. The procedure outlined in our article “Hardening Off Plants: Common Reader Questions and Answers” will introduce your plant to the sunlight outdoors gradually, without putting it at risk for damage.
If your outdoor herb plant needs more water to thrive, it’ll show you with shriveled, wilted, or droopy foliage. Often, a single deep watering session is all that’s needed to get a plant to bounce back. But if one session isn’t enough to hydrate your struggling herb plant, you may need to soak it. Put the plant with its container into a large Ziploc bag, then fill the bag with enough water for the container to be completely submerged. Soak it this way for half an hour, carefully remove the plant, then pour out the water. Next, put the plant back into the bag, and seal it closed to create a greenhouse effect. Find a shady spot to place the plant inside its bag until it’s visibly beginning to recover, which can take anywhere from a few hours to several days. Then remove the plant and put it back in its usual location, making sure to water it regularly (whenever the top inch or two of soil has dried out).
If your plant is displaying the shriveled, droopy foliage described above while the soil is still wet from the last time the plant was watered, it’s likely the plant is actually getting too much moisture instead of too little. Make sure to only water your herb plants when the top inch or two of soil has dried out, which you can check by sticking a finger into the soil. When soil clings to your finger, it’s still wet, and you don’t need to water your plants again until the soil is dry to a depth of one or two inches.