How to Identify, Treat, and Prevent Root Rot in Your Plants

One of the most common mistakes new plant owners (and let’s face it, even experienced plant owners) make is overwatering their house plants. And, unfortunately, sometimes an overwatered plant never bounces back. A common result of overwatering is root rot, and if you think one of your plants is experiencing this, it’s important to take action quickly!

Root rot can suffocate and deprive roots of oxygen. Sometimes it can cause a fungus that was already present in your soil to start “taking over”. In both cases, the rot can spread the healthier roots and kill the plant entirely.

How to Identify Root Rot

Some common symptoms of root rot are flimsy/mushy stems and wilting/yellowing leaves. Similar problems can present themselves this way, so it is important to keep track of when you watered your plant.

Ultimately, you will have to get your hands dirty to confirm your suspicions. Remove your plant from the pot and loosen up the soil and root ball. Unhealthy roots will be mushy and black.

This is mostly common in plants with shallow roots when they aren’t in a good pot and soil combination.

How to Treat Root Rot

One of the most important aspects to treat root rot is timing. You want to catch this problem quickly.

Remove your plant from the pot and loosen up the soil. When most of the soil has been removed, you should rinse and inspect your roots. Unhealthy roots will be mushy and black. They will also be very easy to remove from the healthy root system.

With a clean pair of pruning shears, you will want to cut away any remaining rot. Additionally, you will want to cut any unhealthy foliage. Your plant will be wasting energy on these leaves that are basically dead.

Repot your plant! Depending on the amount of roots left, you may want to consider sizing DOWN your pot. Be sure to use fresh, clean soil. There is a chance rot came from overwatering. You may want to consider making a soil mixture that has great drainage.

If you find that you have cut back almost the entire root system, you can try propagating your plant in water or pumice.

How to Prevent Root Rot

Like most issues, it is much easier to prevent root rot than it is to treat it. Below are somethings to keep in mind when welcoming new plants in your home:

Replace the nursery soil with your own!

  • Nursery and greenhouses provided your plant with much different growing conditions than what you will provide if you plan on keeping your plants indoors.
  • Buying a high quality soil is an important first step. Some brands are more likely to have some dormant fungus in the soil. We recommend FOX FARMS.
  • Make sure your soil is well draining. This is important because you want to make sure your plant isn’t getting “wet feet” and the oxygen can flow freely to the roots. We recommend finding a great soil, and adding amendments such as pumice, charcoal, orchid bark, and/or leca.

Be mindful of your watering habits.

  • Not all plants prefer to be water every day. It is important to understand the water needs of each plant you bring in your home.
  • We use a combination of methods when watering our plants. We use the Planta App as more of a guideline. If it indicates a plant is ready to be watered, we feel the soil with our finger or use our water meter.

Consider using a pot with better drainage.

  • Try to keep your plant in a pot with drainage holes. This will allow extra water to flow out of the pot, rather than having your roots sit in water.
  • If you’d like to have your plants in a nicer looking pot, we recommend keeping them in the nursery pot and placing it in the decorative pot. Be sure to allow your plant to completely drain after watering before placing back in the decorative pot.
  • Terracotta or clay pots are also a great choice because they are porous and allow water to evaporate a bit more quickly

Root rot can kill even the healthiest plants, so it’s best to take steps to avoid it in the first place. However, knowing what to do if root rot ever occurs is just as important! We’re all human and are certainly capable of making mistakes with our plants from time to time.

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