If you have ever overwatered your plants before only to see them soon wither and die, then you are not alone. Root rot is a common problem that many gardening novices face when it comes to taking care of their plants.
While many people think that root rot is just a myth or is caused by a lack of good drainage in the plant soil, that is not the case. Since root rot, as the name suggests, targets the roots of the plants, it can quickly bring a healthy plant to death.
So that your plants don’t fall prey to this common condition of death, we’ll talk about how to prevent, identify and provide treatment to plants suffering from root rot.
What is Root Rot?
Simply put, root rot is a plant disease that affects plant roots by causing the root system to start to rot. Since plants absorb a lot of nutrients and water from their roots, as the root system starts to rot, they are unable to collect these nutrients and water.
This causes the plant to quickly wither away and die.
Root rot doesn’t just affect weak plants, but even healthy plants are susceptible to it.
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What Causes Root Rot?
The cause of root rot is simple, overwatering. When there is too much water in the soil of a plant pot, it can cause root rot in two ways.
Firstly, due to the presence of water in the soil, the plant roots aren’t able to absorb oxygen. This is not to say that roots are absorbing oxygen from the soil, but that too much water in the soil creates a problem with roots being able to aerate themselves with oxygen.
From this low supply of oxygen, the plant roots slowly start to decay. Even if the plant roots aren’t affected by the lack of air, they are severely damaged and weakened by the hindrance in overall growth.
This is where the second agent of root rot shows up. The excessive moisture in the soil lets the fungus present in there attack the plant roots. The fungi spores spread from the soil to the roots and cause an infection. This infection can even spread to other plants which were not waterlogged. Pathogens like Phytophthora, a dangerous fungus, spread to other plants via spores. Other plant diseases can also start affecting the plant due to the stress on the roots.
In the end, the main problem that leads to root rot is poor drainage of soil and excessive water.
How To Identify Root Rot?
Since you can’t really see the roots of a plant at any given time, it is hard to know for sure if they are suffering from root rot. This is especially true if you don’t know what the signs of root rot are. A few common symptoms of root rot can help you identify if a plant is suffering from rot.
Make sure that you are always keeping an eye on the leaves as they show the first obvious signs of root rot. When the foliage of house plants starts to turn yellow and then brown, you should be concerned about root rot. Check any leaf of the plant to make sure it isn’t suffering from any other problems. If new leaves are growing stunted, if leaves grow pale and lose color are some symptoms of rot. If leaves on the plant are turning brown, then that is also one of the symptoms of root rot. If you suspect root rot then, you need to check the roots.
If the roots of the plant are soft or mushy, then it is a clear sign of root rot. When you are digging through the soil in the plant pot, also check if the soil is waterlogged or dry. That can give you additional information. Sometimes a different fungal disease might be affecting the plant due to weakened roots and overwatering.
Treatment And Prevention Of Root Rot
If you have identified that there is rot on your plant roots, then the next step is to try and treat the problem. Treating rot in plants depends on the severity of the fungal spread. If the root system is completely damaged, then remove the plant and throw it, and the soil needs to be thrown away as well.
You can check the health of the roots by seeing if they are mushy or soft before you attempt to treat root rot. Mushy roots indicate that they are decaying. If the plant still has some healthy roots, then the rotting roots need to be removed with gardening scissors.
To treat root rot, first, use a pair of clean and dry gardening scissors to completely remove any spot on the roots that are rotting. After removing the roots, remove the plant from its pot. Sanitize the plant roots with running water. Clean the affected soil and put fresh soil in the pot. After cleaning the roots with running water, gently place the plant in the new container. Make sure that there is proper drainage in the new container.
Preventing the conditions that can allow root rot to occur in the first place is better than treating it after. To prevent root rot, avoid overwatering your houseplants. Most houseplants only need water when their soil is no longer moist.
You can also prevent root rot if you avoid having poor drainage in your plant’s container. Poor drainage can also cause the soil to become muckier in texture which creates its own problems. Drainage is important to manage even if you are talking about garden soil. Make sure that you are only watering when the plants need it and according to their watering requirements. healthy plants don’t require watering too often.
Keep your soil clean as well. Soil with impurities can lead to conditions where fungus can grow. You can use chemicals to prevent fungus from growing in your garden in the first place as well.
We often don’t realize that plants don’t require constant watering to thrive. Too much water can cause problems like root rot to occur. Even if a serious condition like that doesn’t kill your plant, it can seriously affect its growth. Your plant can become severely affected by other diseases as well.
By preventing root rot from taking hold, by keeping proper drainage in your plant’s soil, and not overwatering them, you are increasing their lifespan and taking care of an unnecessary hassle. Your garden can too become the garden of your dream if you take care of issues of root rot. And as always, keep an eye on the leaves!
James Fields is the founder of Gardener to Farmer. His passion for gardening goes back to his childhood days when he would visit his grandfather during the holidays and help him with the plants in the backyard. This has now translated to creating a dependable resource for gardening.