top of page
  • Writer's pictureKassi Kuppinger

Root Rot in Houseplants: Key Signs, How to Fix, & Prevention Methods

Houseplants bring life and vitality to indoor spaces, but when faced with root rot, their health and vibrancy can quickly deteriorate. Root rot, a common problem among indoor plants, occurs when the roots become waterlogged and begin to decay, often leading to wilting, yellowing leaves, and ultimately plant death if left untreated. In this blog, we'll explore the key signs of root rot in houseplants, practical strategies for remedying the issue, and effective prevention methods to safeguard your beloved greenery. With a deeper understanding of root rot and proactive measures in place, you can nurture thriving houseplants and enjoy their beauty for years to come.


inspecting the roots of a plant

What Is Root Rot?

Root rot in houseplants is a fungal disease that occurs when the roots of the plant become waterlogged and begin to decay. This condition is typically caused by overwatering or poor drainage, which creates an environment conducive to fungal growth. As the roots deteriorate, they lose their ability to absorb water and nutrients, leading to wilting, yellowing leaves, and the overall decline in the plant's health. If left untreated, root rot can ultimately lead to the death of the plant. It's essential to recognize the signs of root rot early and take prompt action to remedy the issue to salvage the plant's health.


Signs Of Root Rot in Houseplants

Signs of root rot in houseplants may manifest in various ways. Recognizing these signs early is crucial for preventing further damage to the plant. If you suspect root rot, taking immediate action is essential. These signs include the following:


dying leaf of houseplant

1. Wilting

The plant may appear wilted, even though the soil is moist. This is because the roots are unable to take up water due to damage or decay.


2. Yellowing Leaves

Leaves may turn yellow or brown, starting at the tips and progressing towards the center of the leaf. This is often accompanied by leaf drop.


3. Soft, Mushy Roots

When gently tugged, healthy roots should be firm and white. In plants with root rot, roots may appear dark, mushy, and may even have a foul odor.


4. Stunted Growth

Growth may become stunted, and new leaves may appear smaller than usual. This is due to the plant's inability to absorb nutrients effectively.


5. Soggy Soil

Excessively wet or soggy soil, especially if it has a foul odor, is a sign of overwatering and poor drainage, which can contribute to root rot.


6. Visible Fungal Growth

In advanced cases of root rot, you may observe visible fungal growth on the soil surface or on the roots themselves.


How To Fix Root Rot

If you are searching for guidance on how to fix root rot, it is recommended to take these steps promptly. It is possible to rescue a plant affected by root rot and encourage it to recover and thrive once again with close attention and proper care. To fix root rot in houseplants, follow these steps:


repotting a houseplant

1. Assess the Damage

Carefully remove the plant from its pot and examine the roots. Trim away any mushy, brown, or rotting roots using sterile scissors or pruners.


2. Rinse the Roots

Since root rot is fungal and lives in the soil, it will also be important to rinse the remaining roots gently with warm water to remove as much of the soil as possible.


3. Treat with Fungicide

If the root rot is severe, consider treating the remaining healthy roots with a fungicide solution to prevent further fungal growth. Follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully. Find pest and disease control solutions here!


4. Repot the Plant

When repotting your plant, you want to make sure to plant it in a container that is only an inch or two larger than the root ball of the plant. Planting in a container that is too large will just increase the odds of root rot developing again. If you had to trim back a significant portion of the roots, you will likely need to downsize the pot you choose to repot your plant in. If root damage was not extensive and you choose to repot the plant in the same container, be sure to thoroughly wash the container with hot water and soap. It is often suggested to bleach the inside of the pot or use hydrogen peroxide to ensure none of the fungal disease is left in the pot.


5. Water Carefully

Water the plant thoroughly but allow excess water to drain away completely. Avoid overwatering in the future by allowing the top couple of inches of soil to dry out between waterings. Keep in mind, that less is often more when it comes to watering. It is always easier to add more water if needed than it is to take water away in the event of watering too much.


6. Monitor and Adjust

Keep a close eye on the plant in the following weeks. It can take quite a while for plants to recover from root rot, especially after the added shock of having to repot the plant. Be patient and give your plant a few weeks in optimal growing conditions before you expect to see positive change. It is also important to understand that not all plants are able to recover from root rot, especially if your plant has been battling the fungal infection for a while or if it was in an advanced state. While it is always sad to lose a plant, every failure is a lesson, and we are here to help you through the process and support you in replacing any plant that was part of that learning experience.


How To Prevent Root Rot

By following these preventive measures and providing proper care, you can significantly reduce the risk of root rot in your houseplants and keep them healthy and thriving for years to come. To prevent root rot in houseplants, follow these preventive measures:


terra cotta pots with drainage holes

1. Choose the Right Pot

Select pots with drainage holes to allow excess water to escape. Avoid using pots without drainage, as such pots make it very difficult to monitor moisture levels and can easily lead to waterlogging and root rot.


2. Use Well-Draining Soil

Use a high-quality, well-draining potting mix that allows water to flow freely through the soil. Avoid heavy or compacted soils that retain excess moisture.


3. Water Wisely

Water your plants thoroughly but allow the top 1-3 inches of soil to dry out between waterings, depending on the houseplant in question. Avoid overwatering, as this can lead to waterlogged soil and root rot. Use a moisture meter to gauge soil moisture levels if needed.


4. Provide Adequate Drainage

Ensure proper drainage by placing a layer of gravel or small rocks at the bottom of the pot before adding soil. This helps prevent water from accumulating at the bottom of the pot. This is not always required if your pot has adequate drainage, however, if your pot does not have drainage holes or if the drainage holes are small and do not seem to allow the soil to drain completely, adding a rock or gravel layer is highly recommended.


5. Inspect and Treat

Regularly inspect your plants for signs of root rot and take prompt action if any issues are detected. Prompt action is going to be imperative for giving your plant the best possible chance of recovery. If you have any questions, concerns, or would like help diagnosing a houseplant in distress, contact us at Bath Garden Center, your plant professionals! We are happy to help with any of your plant-related endeavors.

205 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page