If you're a serial killer of herb plants then trust me, you're not alone. Twitter during lockdown has been littered with lamentations from people really getting into their cooking who've found that the basil and coriander plants they purchased from their Sainsbury's Local in a bid to be more sustainable last roughly a day before wilting, shrivelling up and dying.
So is it actually possible to keep these little guys alive? Or are they, as more than one person has suggested, a scam to make you buy them over and over again?
does anyone know if it’s possible to keep the basil plants you buy at the supermarket alive and make them grow more or is it a scam in which I’m destined to fail— Mollie Goodfellow (@hansmollman) April 7, 2020
According to plant delivery service Patch's plant doctor Meg, while these supermarket herb plants are not a scam per se, they are probably not going to survive in your home in the form the supermarkets sell them in.
"Supermarkets tend to pack too many plants together to make the pots appear more generous and full," she tells me. "However, the plants struggle to survive because they run out of space, soil and nutrients."
So there you go. The plants themselves are fine, they're just not packaged in a way that's going to keep them living. Which means it's up to you to help the little guys thrive.
"One way to keep supermarket basil for longer is to divide out the plants, giving them more space to grow," advises Meg. She directs me to a tutorial from Alice Vincent, writer and plant guru, on how best to do this where she gently teases the root ball of the plant apart to form two different plants. You'll probably notice with supermarket herb plants that there's a huge network of roots criss-crossing the soil – a big sign that they're looking for new space to grow into. Breakage is inevitable. Don't worry too much about it but do be as gentle as you can.
Once you've got your two (or three! Go wild!) separate plants, take three pots, fill each one midway with soil, make a little dent with your thumbs and pop your new plants in. Make sure they're sitting at the same height as they were in the previous pot.
Fill up with a little more soil and gently but firmly pat the soil down. Basil in particular doesn't love being overwatered and prefers a sunny spot to rest in but all herbs are not the same – a quick google will tell you the ideal conditions your new sons and daughters need to live their best lives.