How To Prevent And Fix Root Rot

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By Jeff Hale

Root rot is a condition that, when left untreated, will kill your plants. It can be quite difficult to know when your plants have root rot, as the first symptoms will only occur beneath the soil, making it hard to actually be aware of the problem until it has advanced.

Once your plants start to show symptoms of root rot, you won’t have long to rectify the problem, which is why it is often much easier to prevent it from happening in the first place. Root rot is actually a common issue when it comes to potter plants, and it is fairly easy to avoid if you follow some simple rules.

In this article, we are going to provide you with some handy tips that will help you to prevent root rot. We will also tell you how you can fix root rot if it has already started to develop. Just keep reading to find out more. 

Also Read: Challenges With Hydroponic Gardening

What Is Root Rot?

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Root rot is a condition that will kill plants if it has been left untreated. Unfortunately, the first symptoms of root rot will not be visible as they are underneath the soil. This makes it difficult to be aware of the problem until it becomes too advanced.

When your plants do start to show symptoms of root rot, like yellowing leaves or stunted growth, you will need to take action straight away to solve the issue.

Plants that are in soils that are too dense for the water to be able to drain out efficiently or that are in containers that lack sufficient drainage holes are the most susceptible to root rot.

Even though planted pots are at the highest risk, garden plants can also get root rot. The majority of garden root rot issues can be prevented with proper soil drainage before planting. Otherwise, too much water provides the ideal environment for fungus to grow.

How To Identify Root Rot

Root rot can be identified through the presence of soft and brown roots. The root system of a healthy plant should be both firm and white. However, when the soil is soggy, the fungal spores will multiply and then spread. As the fungus advances, healthy portions of root will turn brown and mushy as the roots begin to die. 

The plant will be left unable to absorb the nutrients that it needs, and this deficiency will become apparent in the condition of plant foliage. The leaves will start to wilt and turn yellow or they will fall off. The growth of the plant will slow, and blooming may even be delayed.

In some of the more extreme cases, when conditions are ideal for the fungus to spread quickly, plants can die within 10 days.

If these symptoms are occurring in a plant, you should loosen the soil around the base of the plant with a hand trowel or shovel, and remove the plant from the soil. You will need to gently shake the soil for the roots and inspect them for rot.

How To Prevent Root Rot

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Thankfully, there are some simple ways of preventing root rot. Most of it has to do with watering and drainage. You can follow these simple rules to help to prevent root rot altogether.

  1. Make sure that your plant has proper drainage. It needs to be potted into a pot that has drainage holes. If you are using a decorative pot that does not have any drainage holes, then you should leave the plant in a plastic pot with holes, and then place this inside the decorative pot. 
  2. Create a watering schedule and stick to it. The majority of plants will appreciate a regular watering schedule. Sporadic watering is more likely to hurt your plants than help them, as they may not have enough time to dry out between waterings.
  3. Make sure that you check the soil of your plant before you water it. Most plants like to dry out a bit before being watered again. Depending on the type of plant, you might need to wait until the top 2 inches of the soil are dry. 
  4. Aerate the soil to help loosen it up. This will allow for a more even distribution of water and a better flow of oxygen, which will prevent a buildup of moisture in the roots of your plant.

How To Fix Root Rot

If your plant is already starting to show signs of root rot, but you have managed to catch it early on, then you might be able to still save it if you act quickly. You can follow these steps to fix root rot in some of the most common houseplants.

Diagnose The Issue

If your plant has been dropping leaves, yellowing, or getting soft and mushy leaves, then it may have root rot. You should remove the plant from its pot to inspect the roots. If the roots are soft, wet, and brown, then you will need to treat the roots.

Cleaning The Roots

Once your plant is out of its pot, you will need to carefully remove as much soil as you can and cut the affected roots off with clean shears of scissors. Gently wash the remaining roots clean of soil under running water.

Repot Your Plant

You should then re-pot your plant using fresh soil in a pot that has proper drainage. If you are going to use the same pot, then you should clean it thoroughly first. For more serious cases of root rot, you may also choose to prune the top of the plant a bit so the plant will have fewer leaves to send its energy to.

Place It In A Bright Spot

You should place your plant in a bright spot and only water it when the top of the soil is dry. After a few weeks, your plant should take root and return to normal.

Ensure that you regularly water your plants, and be on alert for any issues that arise so you can treat them quickly.