Root Rot Guide – Causes, Symptoms and Prevention

Last Updated on August 16, 2022 by Real Men Sow

Root rot doesn’t necessarily mean your plant will die. You can revive a plant; it is possible! It is essential to act quickly when you notice any signs of distress. Let this root rot guide help you. You need to know what to do if root rot is suspected. We want to see the cause of root rot before we can treat it. We’ll first identify the problem, and then we’ll treat it. Then, we will learn how to prevent it.

Root Rot Guide – What Causes It?

Root Rot is a condition in which a plant’s soil has been exposed to moisture, allowing harmful fungi to flourish. Roots require air to function correctly. The roots turn brown because they haven’t been exposed to oxygen for long periods. Because it is harder to control moisture and water, potted houseplants are more susceptible to root rot. Root rot can also occur due to other factors. However, most root rot problems are caused by excessive watering. We’ll now discuss how to deal with root rot caused by too much moisture.

You will first need to ensure that your plant’s roots are not rotting. Identifying and eliminating any other potential problems is essential before determining the best treatment for your plant.

Root Rot Guide – What are the Signs and Symptoms?

You may notice the following signs to help you determine if root rot is the problem.

Leaf Change

It’s normal for older leaves to change colour and fall. So look closely at the newer leaves. It could be a sign of dying roots if you see browning, yellowing or dying leaves. Wilting leaves accompanied by wet soil are a sign of root rot.

Standing Water

Pay attention to the saucer of the pot. If water remains in the bottom, it means too much water was applied at one point. This could indicate that your roots and soil have been soaked. Standing water is not a good idea as soil and roots can become waterlogged if they are allowed to soak for a prolonged period.

Root System Issues

Next, take the plant out of its pot and inspect the roots at the bottom. This is where they have been exposed to the most water. You should inspect the roots for signs of rot, such as dark brown roots, soft texture, spongy roots or fuzzy mouldy material covering the bases. These are signs that your roots may be damaged.

Root Rot Guide – How to Save Your Plants

Normal, healthy plants should have strong roots and light colours (usually beige, green or tan). The soil must be well hydrated, and the leaves should be in good shape. Once you have determined that root rot is the problem, it is time to create a treatment plan. 

1. Allow soil to dry out.

If you notice that the soil is dry or has some leaf change, but aren’t sure whether it’s root rot yet, let it air out. Allow the soil to dry for 3-5 days. This method can sometimes work even if the plant isn’t suffering from any damage. It is important to allow the soil to dry as plant roots require air for survival. If your plant has roots that are severely decayed, you should immediately move on to the next steps. It’s probably too late for the soil to dry out.

2. Remove all browning leaves. 

First, remove any dead leaves. You should remove them as close as possible from the base of the plant.

3. Remove old soil.

Next, you will need to repot the plant. First, remove the plant from its current soil. Take the plant out of its pot and carefully remove as much dirt as you can. Do not damage the root system by brushing away clumpy or moist soil.

4. Cut off dead and decaying roots.

Once the plant is out of its pot, you will need to trim off any rotting roots. You want to preserve as much of the plant’s original form as possible, so you will need to eliminate any dead roots and save healthy ones.

5. Repot with new soil.

Next, repot your plant using sterile pot soil that is compatible with your plant. The fresh soil will ensure that all bacteria and fungus will be removed. It will also replenish nutrients lost in old soil, helping the plant recover.

Remember that root rot can make your plant more vulnerable and stressed than it is now. Repotting your plant may increase stress and cause death depending on its severity. It’s worth it, though, as the plant is already in decline. It’s your only chance to save the plant. Root rot is irreversible and can spread rapidly, so it is best to let it die in its current form.

Root Rot Guide – How to Prevent It

Prevention is the best treatment. You can prevent root rot by creating a watering schedule suitable for your plant. These are some helpful tips for avoiding root rot in future:

    • Pots should have drainage holes – This allows the water that was not absorbed by the plant to get drained out and not stay too long on the soil. It’s best not to allow excess water to build up and settle in the bottom of your pot. 
  • Use suitable soil and ensure it drains water properly – Having the proper soil for plants is essential to survive. 
  • The plant roots must have air to survive, as we’ve already stated – The soil should be allowed to dry slightly (just the top layer) to allow the plant to absorb oxygen and prevent root rot. The finger test is a good way to gauge when to water tropical houseplants. Your finger digs a few inches into the soil to determine the moisture level. If the soil is moist, it means that the soil’s bottom layer is wet. You should wait until the top layer has dried before you water again.
  • You will also have to adjust the amount of water – The amount of water should depend on the season. Generally, plants require less during colder, drier months.
  • Attention to your plants – Being present can help determine when your plant requires more or less.
Real Men Sow
Real Men Sow

Hello, I’m Pete and I’m currently based in the west of Scotland, in a small place called Rosneath, where I’m exploring my garden adventures. I personally started gardening around 6 years ago and initially, I started out by growing my favorite fruits and berries, such as strawberries, Raspberries & Gooseberries. Since then I’ve added a lot of vegetables and working closely with my neighbor, it’s been a lot of fun.