Herbs Need Water To Survive: How Much And How Often?


A well-watered garden or indoor herb will reward you with continual produce. Neglect to water the plant and it will suffer and die.

Just how long can herbs survive without water?

Generally speaking, a garden plant can go for a week or two without water but it will start to get stressed after a week. Indoor plants can last a week or more without water but they will start to get stressed after a few days. If conditions are hot or dry, a plant may need to be watered twice as often.

How long Can Herbs Go without Water?

Many indoor growers have automatic watering options

Many herbs are very hardy and they can last for quite some time without water. The thing is, you don’t want to test the theory or you could lose your plants.

Herbs are not grown as a science experiment. We grow them because they provide us with a source of food and relaxing enjoyment.

Understanding how long an herb goes without water before becoming stressed or dying can help you to keep it from happening in your own garden. You might be surprised with exactly how long some herbs are able to go without any water at all.

You also need to consider other factors, including how long an herb can go without sunlight. In addition, herbs need a fresh source of air to stay healthy.

If you are only going to go a few days without watering your herbs, they will do quite well. Even herbs that need water on a daily basis can go a few days without getting overly stressed.

You may also damage the plant by underwatering it for an extended amount of time. Underwatering your plant for weeks or months can cause just as much damage as not watering them for a few days or weeks at a time.

If you are going to be gone for an extended amount of time and are concerned about watering the plants, don’t kill them with kindness. Plants will do quite well if you only leave them for a week or so and even if they get stressed they will snap back quickly.

There are also some ways to keep your plants watered when you aren’t home. Here are two options to consider.

Water Your Plants With an Inverted Bottle

1. Water your plant normally when you are ready to leave on vacation

2. Empty a small plastic bottle, such as a water bottle, and put small pin holes toward the top. 

3. Fill the plastic bottle with water

4. Turn the bottle upside down and push it into the soil until the holes are fully covered. Do not do this too close to the plants or you can damage the roots.

5. Go on vacation. The water will slowly drain from the weep holes as the soil dries.

Keep Your Plants Moist with a Makeshift Greenhouse

1. Cover the plant with a clear or slightly tinted plastic bag. A grocery store bag works well for small plants.

2. Use small sticks stuck in the soil of the plant to keep the plastic bag from touching the leaves.

3. Lightly blow into the bag to further push the bag from the leaves.

4. Place the plastic bag greenhouse in indirect sunlight. Direct sunlight would harm the plant.

5. Go on vacation. The plastic bag will keep the evaporated moisture from escaping into the surrounding room. It will drip off of the bag back onto the plant again.

How Long Can Plants Survive without Sunlight?

Some plants may live up to 3 weeks without light but others can die within a few days. They die due to a lack of chlorophyll, a condition known as chlorosis. The first symptom is the green leaf color begins to go pale and then the leaves turn yellow.

Without sunlight you can use grow lights

Different types of herbs require different levels of sunlight. Some will do well in the dark for a few days at a time while others will begin to get stressed if they don’t have light every day.

In addition, not every plant requires access to direct sunlight. Some plants, such as basil, will do quite nicely on the windowsill with access to southern exposure and full sunlight.

Other herbs, on the other hand, will do just as well with indirect sunlight and may even thrive if you have them under grow lights for a few hours a day.

If you do have an herb that requires a lot of sunlight but you don’t have it available indoors, then you may need to use grow lights. There are many grow light options that work just as well as sunlight for the majority of indoor herbs.

What Herbs Need to Be Watered every Day?

Some herbs will live a long time without water. Mint is one of the only herbs that need to be watered every day. It is best to watch the herb plants carefully and adjust the watering routine rather than going by a rigid schedule.

HerbHow Often to Water
BasilEvery 7 days
ChivesEvery 4-7 days
CilantroEvery 4-7 days
DillEvery 2-3 days
FennelEvery 2-3 days
LavenderEvery 4-7 days
LemongrassEvery 3-4 days
MintEvery day
OreganoEvery 4-7 days
ParsleyEvery 2-3 days
RosemaryEvery 7-10 days
SpearmintEvery 3-4 days
SageEvery 7-10 days
TarragonEvery 2-3 days
ThymeEvery 10-14 days

Can Herbs Get Too Much Water?

Watering herbs too frequently or with too much water can stress the plant or kill it. Keeping a good watering schedule is the key to growing healthy herbs that will continue to produce on an ongoing basis.

Too much water could lead to root rot

Many people tend to focus on the possibility of underwatering their herbs. It can be just as damaging to the plant if you give it too much water.

Some of the signs of stress may show up very quickly if you give a plant too much water. You can use these signs to know when you should back off and to establish a good watering schedule for the plant you have.

Watch the plant for signs of stress

  • Leaves get dark or turn black
  • Leaves turn yellow
  • Leaves drop off the plant
  • Leaves show signs of swelling
  • Leaves show signs of mildew
  • The plant is stunted
  • Herb does not respond when watered
  • Stems break easily
  • Stems get soft
  • Roots are weak and break easily

It can be difficult to strike a balance and give your herb enough water without overwatering the plant. Fortunately, herbs react quickly to both too much and too little water.

The best thing to do is to watch the plant carefully and to water if necessary or back off on watering if necessary. As you get to know your plant better, it will speak to you and let you know what to do.

It is also good to regularly check the soil. You can put your finger one or 2 inches into the soil and if the soil is dry, it’s a good idea to water the plant.

Herbs are a source of pleasure, not only because they provide us with food but because they provide us with something enjoyable to do. Take good care of your herbs and they will provide you with plenty of good food to make your dishes even tastier.

Timothy Roberts

I love doing things around the house. I'm taking my years of experience as a homeowner and a handyman and putting them here for your benefit. When I'm not writing, you can find me on the beach watching the waves come in.

Recent Posts