Root rot is one of the most usual issues with potted plants and houseplants. This disease is preventable and can be treated, but it will kill the plant if it progresses too far.
Stop what you’re doing and check your plant’s roots to see if it has been exhibiting signs like yellowing foliage, wilting, leaf burn or leaf drop.
What is root rot?
The phrase “root rot” describes a wide variety of diseases that damage your plant’s root system and can swiftly spread to the rest of the plant, killing it. When a plant’s roots decay, it no longer has a reliable source of water and nutrients.
How can I prevent root rot?
It’s easy to avoid having your roots rot. Drainage and watering are of utmost importance. If you stick to these guidelines, your plants will never suffer from root rot.
Here’s what you can do
- Make sure your plant has adequate drainage
A decorative pot with a drainage hole or a plastic nursery container should house the plant. Leave the plant in its plastic pot and set it inside the decorative pot if the latter has a drainage hole.
- Be sure to water consistently
Scheduled watering is beneficial for the majority of plant species. Inadequate or irregular watering schedules can quickly kill a plant by preventing it from drying out between waterings, which can cause plant root rot.
- Inspect the soil
If you don’t already, make it a habit to examine the soil before watering your plants. Plants generally do better when the top two inches of soil are allowed to dry up before watering again.
- Soil aeration
When you aerate the soil, you break up the aggregates so that water and oxygen move more freely through the soil and away from the plant’s roots.
How do I fix root rot?
If you discover root rot in your plant quickly enough, you can save it. To revive most houseplants affected by root rot, follow these instructions:
Put the plant in a new container with drainage holes and use clean soil (but reuse the old pot if possible).
If the problem is severe and you have to remove a lot of roots, you might also do some light trimming. This will help reduce the number of leaves the plant has to use as food.
- Diagnosing the problem
You may have root rot if the plant develops mushy, soft leaves, yellows, or loses leaves. Take the plant out of its container so you can examine its roots. If the roots are mushy, damp, soft, or brown, it’s time to get dirty and treat them.
- Clean the roots.
Get rid of as much soil as you can from the pot before using sterile scissors or shears to cut off the diseased roots. Gently rinse the remaining roots under running water to remove any traces of soil.
- Set in a well-lit area
Only water if the soil is completely dry to the touch. Your plant will establish itself in a few weeks and look as good as new!
Signs of root rot
Signs of root rot can appear above and below ground, even though this disease primarily damages the subsurface root system of a plant.
- Leaves wilting and turning yellow:
The most noticeable sign of root rot is yellowing or wilting leaves. However, these symptoms can also be due to other diseases and cultural issues, such as under or overwatering or a lack of nutrition.
- Soil that’s always wet:
A sign that the plant isn’t getting enough water is wet soil, even if you haven’t watered it in a while. Insufficient drainage, overwatering, and fluctuations in precipitation patterns throughout the year are all potential causes of wet soil.
- Stunted growth:
Root rot could be at fault if a previously healthy plant unexpectedly stops growing. Remember that the cold months are when the growth of many plants slows. Your plant may not be getting enough light, or it may have outgrown its container.
- Black and mushy at the roots:
If the plant exhibits any of these signs, and you’ve eliminated all other possible causes, you should investigate the root system.
Roots in good health are solid and usually (but not always) white. Root rot causes the roots of a plant to become black, mushy, and often smelly.
The leading causes of root rot
Lack of oxygen:
When you overwater the growing medium on a regular basis, the water fills the pores, starving the plant of oxygen.
Physical procedures, including plant respiration and water uptake, cease to function to the plant’s detriment without oxygen or when oxygen concentrations in the soil are low.
In most cases, this is what triggers root rot. The amount of water required by various plant species varies greatly.
Overwatering yours will cause the soil to become overly saturated. This creates an ideal environment for the growth of harmful bacteria and fungi.
Root rot might also develop if your plant needs more water. When the soil dries out, roots begin to wither and die. A plant’s root system can be easily damaged if you forget to water it for a while and then suddenly give it a lot of water.
This one is connected to too much watering. Too much moisture in the soil can kill the plant, so be sure your container has a drainage hole.
Experts advocate using a pot with holes in it. However, it’s possible to improve aeration by adding pebbles and small rocks to the bottom of a closed pot or growbag.
Is root rot contagious?
Root rot can, sadly, pass from one plant to another. Fungal spores can spread through the air, but dirty tools and insects can also spread them.
Because of their proximity to one another, the increased air movement outside, and the movement of insects from plant to plant, garden plants are more prone to transferring spores from one plant to another.
Root rot is less common in container plants cultivated indoors but can still spread if you overwater all plants.
How long can a plant live with root rot?
Plants can die in as little as 10 days if the conditions are right for the fungus to spread rapidly. If a plant exhibits these signs, loosen the dirt around its base using a shovel or hand trowel and pull it out.
Should you water your plants after root rot?
When repotting a plant to prevent root rot, should you water it? No. If your plant has root rot, you should wait about a week before watering it again after repotting.
How to treat root rot effectively
- Finding the root rot
Just because your plant is withering doesn’t mean it has root rot. Instead, you should carefully uproot it so that you may examine its roots and gain an accurate assessment of its condition.
- Run some water over the roots to clean them
Since fungi may affect the soil, removing as much soil as you can from the roots is best.
- Thoroughly clean the equipment and pot
Use rubbing alcohol or a mix of nine parts water to one part bleach to disinfect the container and your tools. Fungal spores won’t be able to disperse if this happens.
- Get rid of the affected area
Using clean tools, remove any roots that are mushy and dark. Act quickly since root rot can return if it isn’t addressed.
If, after pruning, you are left with a small root system, it is best that you remove part of the leaves to reduce the load on those roots.
- Throw away the dirt
If you suspect that a fungal infection is to blame for the root rot, you should still get rid of the soil around the roots. It’s wise to store soil only if there’s a remote possibility that it could be contaminated with spores.
- Add new soil to the pot and repot the plant
You can avoid root rot in the future by carefully separating the leftover roots. Then, enclose them in potting mix that drains well and is formulated for the specific plant.
Instead of using regular garden soil, which tends to compress easily, use potting mix made specifically for container plants.
Does peroxide cure root rot?
To improve your plants’ growth and health, use hydrogen peroxide to eliminate the bacteria and fungus responsible for root rot. Hydrogen peroxide is one of the safest chemicals you can use in the garden because of its chemical similarity to water.
How long does it take for root rot to heal?
Stopping the watering may be all you need if the plant has yet to be soaked long enough for root rot to set in. It could take more than 7 days for the soil to dry out. But this will depend on how much water is in it and how compactly it is packed.
Get rid of root rot in your garden plants
The leading cause of plant mortality in homes is overwatering. Amazingly, all it takes is too much love to cause death. Root rot is a problem that can affect houseplants if the soil is always wet.
It’s a leading killer of plants, but if caught early, it can be cured. Keep an eye out for symptoms like leaf discoloration, unpleasant odors, and fungus gnats to spot this illness early and prevent it from spreading.