How to repot a plant with root rot

Overwatering a potted plant can cause root rot, a disease that results in the slow death of the plant. Plant roots absorb water, nutrients and oxygen from the soil. In overly wet soil, the roots begin to slowly drown and suffocate. Pathogens attack the weakened roots and kill the plant. Recognizing root rot systems and working to cure or prevent them keeps your potted plants healthy.

Once root rot is identified, you must determine if the plant can be saved. If the entire root system has already become mushy, it is too late to save the plant. However, if some healthy, white, firm roots exist, try to bring the plant back to good health by replanting in fresh soil with good drainage. How to repot a plant with root rot ?

What is root rot?

Root rot is exactly what it sounds like — the rotting of a plant’s roots — and is the consequence of too much watering and/or not enough drainage. Though it can occur in outdoor plants, it is much more common with potted indoor greenery and can lead to the quick demise of your plant.

How to repot a plant with root rot

How to repot a plant with root rot

Common infections root rot

Fusarium Root Rot: Fusarium is a common soil fungus with multiple species that can cause rotting symptoms in a plant on roots or stems, especially at a point of a cut or lesion on the plant. Fusarium fungi can also take over dead or dying tissues, which is why overwatering and oversaturating roots can lead to a fast overgrowth of this fungus.

Pythium Root Rot: Pythium is a bacterial organism that is parasitic in nature and eats decaying plant matter, again making it a prime candidate to turn overwatering into full blown root rot. Fungus gnats (discussed in our common houseplant pests blog) can transmit this bacteria from their feet as they move from plant to plant.

Fusarium and Pythium are both likely causes of Fiddle Leaf Fig Root Rot, especially in an inactive climate with overwatering. Root Rot can also be caused from overwatering alone without the presence of fungi or bacteria. If your plant’s roots sit in too much water without drying out, they will begin to rot away and the rot can spread to healthy roots even after the soil has dried.

What Does Root Rot Look Like?

If you are unsure whether your plant has root rot, you may be wondering, “What does root rot look like?”. If the plant is slowly wilting and the leaves are turning yellow for seemingly unknown reasons, you will want to check the roots. Remove the plant from the soil and feel the roots.

The roots affected by root rot will look black and will feel mushy. Affected roots may literally fall off the plant when you touch them. Healthy roots may be black or pale, but they will feel firm and pliable.

How to repot a plant with root rot

How to repot a plant with root rot

Early Warning Signs Of Root Rot

Slow growth is one general indication the roots might be struggling. Yellowing leaves are another early warning. Check the soil if you see leaf discoloration.

Soil that stays wet could also indicate a problem down below. Leaves that curl during the day but seem to recover overnight is another warning sign.

How to repot a plant with root rot ?

It is possible to save plants with root rot but you’ve got to move quickly. It’s all about how fast you can get rid of any rot and dry the roots.

Step 1. Take the plant from the pot and wash off the soil. The roots should look fresh, white and clean. If they are grey, slimy, or there’s barely anything there then it’s rotting. If the entire root system is mushy we’re afraid that’s not coming back. Say ‘Au Revoir, we’ll meet again.’

If there are some healthy roots left, you’re in with a chance.

Step 2. Cut off the mushy rotten bits

Step 3. Put the plant in a new pot with lots of drainage holes. If you want to use the old pot, wash it thoroughly in case fungal spores are clinging on.

Step 4. Fill the pot with fresh, good quality organic potting mix. Good quality potting mix drains well so it’s totally worth the investment.

Step 5 Don’t water it for a few days

Step 5 You should avoid using any fertiliser for now as this will stress the plant out.

How to repot a plant with root rot

How to repot a plant with root rot

How do you prevent root rot on plants?

The best way to treat root rot on houseplants is to prevent it in the first place. You can prevent root rot by doing the folowing:

Ensure proper drainage – First and foremost, your plant should always have proper drainage. Ideally, a drainage hole in the pot, but if not, a layer of pebbles in the bottom of the pot so the plant’s roots won’t be sitting in water.

Don’t overwater your plant – How do you do this?

  • Don’t stick to a strict watering schedule. Water your plants only when they need it.
  • Get in the habit of sticking your finger an inch or two into the soil to feel for moisture before watering.
  • You can also use a moisture meter to help determine the moisture level.
  • Consider bottom watering your plants if you’re a chronic overwaterer.

Use the right material pot – If you’re a chronic overwaterer, I’d suggest you use terra cotta pots which are porous and don’t hold water for long. I’ve always struggled with plastic pots because they hold water for WAY longer.

Use the right size pot – If your pot is way too big for your plant, it will hold excess moisture for longer making your plant vulnerable to root rot.

Use the right potting mix – Use a well-draining indoor plant potting mix. I always like to add a handful or two of extra perlite into my mix for even more drainage.

How to repot a plant with root rot

How to repot a plant with root rot

Tip: how to repot a pitcher plant

Oftentimes, since root rot affects the unseen portion of the plant, rotting is detected only once a significant amount of damage has been done. Following the survival steps quickly can help save your houseplant. But as an absolute last resort—if your plant is just not going to make it—we suggest taking some cuttings to propagate it. That way a piece of the plant lives on and all is not lost!

  • Leave Comments