How To Prevent and Treat Root Rot in Your Houseplants


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Root rot on your plants is when a fungal or bacterial infection gets inside your roots. Either because your plant was waterlogged, your plant roots were damaged, or some other damage and trauma. It is a bacteria or fungal disease that lives in the soil of your pot. It just lives everywhere. Your plant can normally fight it off, but when it becomes damaged, it gets some type of a cut, essentially. Then it can struggle a little bit.

If your plant doesn’t have a good enough immune system to fight it off and push off new growth. If they’re struggling with other things, then root rot is something that can take over your plant quite a bit. It could end your plant. You won’t have that plant anymore because it will have turned into black, disgusting mush.

How To Prevent Root Rot

 Unfortunately, root rot is something that’s a possibility everywhere with every plant, depending on the conditions. It’s not something that you can entirely avoid, but you can take steps to prevent it.

Provide For Your Plant Needs

When trying to avoid root rot, prevention is key. Things that you can do to prevent root rot include paying attention to your plants and learning about your plant. You want to learn about your plant’s needs. You want to give them the right environment. Make sure that you’re watering them appropriately and giving the right soil conditions.

Well Draining Mix

A lot of times, root rot comes when plants are sitting in soil for a long period of time that is very heavily waterlogged. This happens more in heavily peat-based soil versus a well-draining mix. A well-draining mix example would be something with perlite mixed in or some type of rocks. You can also add bark, just something to give it a little bit more chunkiness to it and allow little air pockets in there to create some airflow.

Mimic Natural Environments

The majority of these house plants are out in the wild and are not sitting in a waterlogged bog. They’re sitting in some type of chunky mix. They’ve got roots in there from other plants. They’ve got rocks in there. Also, they’ve got sand in some cases so you just want to mimic that in your home because fungal and bacterial diseases cannot survive if it’s a well-aerated mix.

Preventing root rot by making sure that you have a well-draining mix and that you’re taking care of your plant the way it should be. Even if your plant were to get some type of root rot, if all the conditions are met for your plant, it’ll be able to fight off root rot on its own, and you won’t even know that they have it.

Notice Root Rot ASAP

Root Rot Prevention

If you cannot prevent root rot, the next best thing is to notice root rot as soon as possible.

Pay attention. Check your plants on a regular every couple of days, every day, whatever works best for you. If you don’t notice the root rot right away, it can take over your entire plant and then your plant will have been struggling for a long time. You may not be able to save your plant even if you remove the rot. It may continue or your entire plant may have been taken over.

 So check your plants on a regular, noticing the little signs, if you notice that there are black edges if you notice that the stems of your plant, especially at the base, are starting to get really mushy and dark, that’s another sign of root rot. That’s a sign of extensive root rot at that point.

Leaf loss is usually the very first sign. If you see a lot of your leaves turning yellow on your plants, that’s definitely a key indicator there.

Another key indicator of root rot is if you are watering your plant on a regular, you know that they’re getting a good drink of water or you’re watering very frequently, but your plant doesn’t seem like it is absorbing the water. If your plant looks like it’s still thirsty even though it’s sitting in a puddle of water after a couple of hours and it’s not getting more filled, then that is another sign of root rot. Your plant’s roots are rotting and they’re not able to soak up and absorb the nutrients in the water and they’re not going to be able to sustain themselves.

Treating Root Rot

Treatment for Root Rot

If you have root rot, all is not lost. You can totally treat it. Rot is a treatable disease. You just have to get to it quickly enough. If you’re going to be treating root rot, there are some steps that you can take.

First, you want to unpot the plants. You want to remove all of the soil and get a really good look at the roots. You can rinse them all off. If you notice anything that is mushy, anything that is super slimy and gross looking, anything that is super black and, not firm, chop that off. You use a clean pair of shears or scrape it off.

You can sterilize the shears and then chop off the rot.

Make sure that you are looking in the center of your roots that you have chopped and making sure that there is no brown in the middle of that. Because if there is still brown and grossness, almost like a rotting apple color, then you want to make sure that you’re chopping a little bit more of that root because that’s root rot that’s still in there.

Cut until it is all healthy normal root. Get rid of all rot and save your plant. Otherwise, the infection is going to keep on spreading through your plants and then it’s going to rot the entire plant.

 After you get it all cleaned out and it will grow and heal back just fine. You will have new roots coming and it will be perfectly fine.

This is optional but after you are done removing all of the rot, you can treat it with hydrogen peroxide.

You take a little bit of hydrogen peroxide and kind of wipe it, dilute it with water, and then just kind of wipe it down on there. You can also put hydrogen peroxide and water in a little jar and put your plant in there really quickly. Hydrogen peroxide can be very intense depending on how well you dilute it. It can actually eliminate healthy tissue as well. So you don’t want to leave it in there too long. You don’t want to just pour a bunch of hydrogen peroxide directly on your plant. You can put it in a spray bottle, dilute with water a little bit and then kind of spray it down, however, you want to do it. There are various ways, but hydrogen peroxide is the number one treatment method for root rot because it eliminates the bacteria and fungi that cause the disease.

Recovery Zone

Prevent Root Rot

After you are sure you removed all the rot you can put it in a recovery zone. This can look very different depending on the particular plant that you’re treating and depending on the size of the plant that you’re treating.

For bigger plants, a recovery zone could just be a chunkier mix, then water well, and put in a high humidity situation. For other smaller plants, it can mean being put in some type of propagation box. It can also mean being put in a terrarium or a smaller pot and put in a greenhouse.

Wherever you end up putting it in a recovery zone, make sure it is someplace that you will be able to check on it regularly.

Probably check one to two times a day for the first week, just to make sure that everything’s going well with it. The leaves should start to perk up and they should grow new roots after a couple of days.

Plants in a prop box may grow a little bit quicker than plants outside in normal humidity. Humidity always seems to be a healing factor, but you need to keep an eye out for any rot that may reappear. And if rot does reappear, then you just go through the same methods we just talked about again and try again. It happens sometimes. Plants can go two or three times through treatment before they end up picking themselves back up and they’re okay. They’ve pushed out enough new growth to really recover and be able to sustain themselves again and push out a good root system. It just really depends on the plant and the environmental conditions and the extensiveness of the rot.

Be patient with your plant. Check on it regularly. it’s okay. Have some self-compassion for yourself too because a lot of the time plants will come into our home already rotting, or we will rot them while we’re trying to learn their care. There are a lot of different ways rot can happen. But getting root rot for your plant is definitely, not something that’s going to end them for sure. As soon as it happens, there are definitely steps that you can take. Your plant can still recover and all is not lost especially if you follow the steps in this article.


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