How to Handle Root Rot

Nothing can strike fear into the heart of a plant parent like the words “root rot,” usually whispered behind closed doors for fear that their plant collections may overhear and get ideas. Not all is lost when root rot strikes, but should you find yourself dealing with this issue, prepare yourself to potentially lose some of your plants.

 

What is root rot?

Root rot occurs when a plant’s soil becomes overwhelmed with water. The roots begin to die and as that happens rot sets in. This rot can lead to even healthy roots becoming infected and dying. Root rot can also occur as a result of fungi in the soil, which can infect healthy plant pieces and destroy them.

So, What Can I Do?

Regardless of the cause of your root rot issues, you need to act quickly to correct what is happening. This is especially true if it is a fungal problem as that can easily spread to your other plants. If you suspect a fungal infection as the cause of your root rot, immediately quarantine your sick plant and check the ones around it for any signs of rot.

Root rot causes the plant to wilt and the leaves to turn yellow (even when you pull back on watering or change the light). If you suspect root rot as the cause of your plant’s distress, first remove the plant from the soil and check the roots for mushiness/discoloration.

Once root rot is confirmed, toss the soil from the empty pot and clean it out thoroughly with soap, water, and a touch of bleach (if it is a small enough pot, you can even pop it in the dishwasher!).

Cut off the deceased roots and thoroughly clean the remaining roots. Spray them with a fungicide to ensure health, then repot the freshened plant in clean soil.

Moving forward, make sure to only water when the top 1-2 inches of soil are dry and be sure to only use well-draining soil. Check out our watering guide here, as well as 10 common plant parent mistakes.

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