What Is Root Rot and How to Defeat It!


Root rot is a condition that, if left untreated, will kill your houseplants.

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Overwatering is the number one cause of root rot in houseplants and sadly, root rot is a condition that, if left untreated, will kill your houseplants. Healthy roots = a healthy houseplant. Damaged, sick, or rotting roots = a sickly or dead houseplant. Good News! In today’s post, I’m going going to teach you about root rot, how to identify root rot, and how to save a plant that has root rot.

This easy-to-read post is all about how to detect and defeat root rot!

What is Root Rot?

As the name suggests, root rot is caused by an excess of moisture or moisture in the soil of the plant due to overwatering. Many indoor plants like to dry out a little in between waterings, and by watering them too much or too often, they can develop rot that will first infect the roots below the soil and later begin to show up at the top by browning or dropping leaves.
Research from the University of Illinois Department of Crop Sciences finds that weakened roots are more vulnerable to soil fungi, which is another source of root rot. The fungus may be present but inactive in the soil for a long time; when the soil is waterlogged, the spores may come to life and invade the roots, causing them to decay and die. Some of the more well-known species of fungi that thrive in moist conditions and cause root rot are Pythium, Phytophthora, Rhizoctonia, and Fusarium. Excess or insufficient light and fertilizer can also increase the chance of a plant developing root rot.

What are the signs and symptoms of root rot?

Many root rot symptoms mirror the signs of a pest infestation, which makes properly diagnosing it more difficult. Possible signs and symptoms of root rot:

  • Significant yellow leaves, not just one or two, which is normal
  • Significant leaf drop, not just one leaf falling off, which is normal
  • Smaller-than-usual and pale leaves
  • Brown splotches on the leaves
  • Significant wilting
  • Stunted growth
  • The rapid decline of the health of your plant
  • Unhealthy, black or brown, mushy roots (instead of white and firm roots) that might even fall off to the touch
You should also consider the chance that you overwatered your houseplant. Using your finger to feel down in the soil to help assess the amount of moisture. But, the most accurate way to diagnose this decaying disease is to dig below the topsoil to see if decaying occurs.

healthy roots of plant

Photo Courtesy of Mt Vernon Edu

How do you get rid of root rot?

If the root rot has been detected, you must decide whether the plant can be saved. If the whole root system is still mushy, it is most likely too late to save the plant.

If you are aiming to save your plant, you will need to carefully remove it from its planter, and its roots should be washed off and examined for indications of rotting.

A healthy plant has numerous white roots that appear fibrous. A diseased plant’s roots will show various degrees of water-soaking and usually be some brown or black shade. If there are any safe, white, strong roots, aim to restore the plant to good health by replanting in fresh soil with good drainage.

You can get rid of root rot and revive your plant in 4 steps:

  1. Prepare the plants for replanting by carefully brushing the roots under running water and scraping all the brown, mushy roots with sharp scissors.
  2. Cut off the good root just above the affected region. Work rapidly to replant within a couple of hours.
  3. When all roots have been pruned, sterilize the scissors and the pot with a solution of 1 part bleach to 3 parts water to prevent the transmission of fungal spores to other plants or dirt.
  4. Make sure you have a well-draining planter and repot your plant in new soil with plenty of fresh perlite. My magic ratio is 80% soil and 20% perlite.

houseplant for bathroom

Did you find this post helpful? I sure hope so!! Want more houseplant care tips? These posts might be just what you’re looking for:

houseplant root rot

Join the Conversation

  1. Patti Wassom says:

    I have a Peace Lily that’s leave constantly burn on the ends of the leaves. I am going to transplant it tomorrow, but don’t know what to do with the damaged leaves.

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