Treating Root Rot

Getting to the root of the problem

Plant Roots-treating-root-rot
Plant Roots

Plant roots are like what the heart is to humans and if there is a problem that spells BIG trouble. A plant root system consists of fibrous roots or feeder roots an also tap roots, each plays a major role in the health and life of garden plants and then there are roots which are known as adventitious roots these roots grow above ground from leaves and stems. No matter the plant species, how big or small all of them have one thing in common and that is the root system which they produce and depend on to survive.

One of the key factors in having success with garden plants is having knowledge of the root system in relation to the plant species and their individual water requirements. While some plants thrive on a great amount of moisture there are others that require less water ( Cactuses, Bromeliads, ZZ plants). There is another factor that affects a plant’s root system and it is a must that we have some knowledge in this area to have success with our gardens.

Soil Matters

This is so true soil does matter because depending on the soil type or structure will determine its water holding capacity along with how well it drains.

Clay soils

Clay soils are soils that have great water holding capacity. These soils are not well-drain soils and can hold moisture for long periods of time especially during heavy rain downpours. Clay soils may be of benefit in the case of helping to condition soils that have poor quality when it comes to retaining moisture.

Sandy Soils

Sandy soils, on the other hand, are well-drain soils that may need the help of clay soils because of their ability to hold moisture but these soils ( sandy soils ) are usually mixed with compost or organics because of the microbial activity that is involved which is of great benefit to a plant’s life.

Container Gardening

Container gardening is a great way to garden and it has so many benefits, but what is interesting to note is that it seems to be a common thing for container-grown plants to suffer root rot vs plants that are not grown in containers and the reasons for this are the container does not have any drain holes to allow the water to escape also the soil type may have poor drainage which also compounds or add the problem.

Even where a plant may have good garden soil without the container having drain holes the plant still suffers root rot so let’s give our container grown plants the best of both worlds by providing them with soils that drain well along with a container that has drain holes. Our plants will thanks us for this not so much in words because that would be strange but by them growing both healthy and beautiful.

What is plant root rot?

What causes plant root rot? that’s a good question.

Soil Fungus

Plant root rot has two occurrences or factors. These occurrences are encouraged by one the soil may not be healthy meaning the presence of fungus is laying wait for the right condition ( moisture ) which causes them to become active targeting the plant’s root system. When this happens the infections spread and if quick action is not taken the roots will eventually die when this happens the plant will be lost also.


This is what we touched on a bit earlier when a plant gets more than the required water the soil is saturated, oxygen is then removed from the soil. Which will encourage rot root to set in spreading and infecting the entire root system which will also lead to the death of that plant.

Signs that your plant has root rot

Many beginner gardeners face this issue which is identifying the signs of root rot.  For example, the plant’s leaves may be dropping or may have and of color and yet again the plant may be experiencing leaf drop so what happens is that the inexperienced gardener diagnosis this problem as a lack of water when this is not the case it is far from this although these are some of the signs of root rot.

Water is given to that plant and I main lot’s of it, what do you think will happen? you are right the problem has just gotten more server that’s why it is so important to know your soil type which is required for that plant along with the amount of water your garden plant needs to survive.

Look for these signs

1. The leaves of your plant’s leave turning yellow or have an off-color.

2. The plant’s growth is stunted.

3. The plant shows signs of wilting.

4. The plant experience leaf drop.

5. The plant’s structure is weak and far from healthy-looking.

6. The roots are soft and brown.

7. In some garden plants like the mother in laws, tongue the leaves become soft and mushy.

8. There is an odor that is not pleasant.

9. Trees will produce saps that are black to reddish in color.

10. The plant’s roots are mushy.

11. There may also be signs of mushrooms ( fungus ) and molds.

How to treat plant root rot

Many years ago as an interior plantscape designer of a 5-star resort, I had the awesome task of designing and maintaining the interiorscape gardens. There was an arrangement of crotons that was placed under my care. This arrangement was growing so nicely and then I notice one day when servicing that arrangement that the leaves started to drop.

What I did was check the soil which was saturated with water because the decorative container did not have any drain holes. I simply changed the soil into fresh soil and withhold watering for about a week and guess what that arrangement of crotons bounced back to good health. Why did only changing the soil made a big difference? I caught this issue in time but in many cases, this is not the case and other measures must be taken for the survival of plant life.

Other measures that must be taken

More server measures may need to be taken depending on the severity of the root rot. In the case of container gardening where the infection is so server, the infected plant should be removed from the container to expose the root system so you can have a better view of which roots are infected.

With a hand pruner or scissors remove the infected roots, the remaining roots should be dipped in a fungicide to ensure that the disease is totally eradicated. The container should be washed thoroughly with bleach and water. Add fresh soil to the container and repot your plant.  Monitor your plant and give it the right amount of water especially during the hot weather.

Plants that are installed in a garden area should be treated by decreasing the amount of water they are getting, also drenching the soil with a fungicide will offer help. Read and follow the manufacturer’s label because the label is the law. Monitor plant and water according to the plant’s watering needs

The final word

Plant rot root does not mean the death of your plant if you identify and treat the problem in time. There are many people that are so attached to their plant that it may be hard to say goodbye but this does not have to be you because we have discussed signs to look for and how to treat plant root rot. I hope you implement what we have discussed so that your plant can continue to grow healthy and happy as you enjoy your plant for years to come.


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About the author

+ posts

Norman loves being in the garden, both at home and for his job....
he is 'Natures Little helper' being outdoors, growing his vegetables and flowers from an early age.
Now having spent over 22 years in the profession he want to give some of his knowledge to others...
his vast array of hints and tips you will find scattered over this site will help you no end growing plants in your garden.

12 thoughts on “Treating Root Rot”

  1. Firstly I need to State here that this has been very educative for me. Personally I have tried several times to get a plant to grow but I have failed. At some point I felt it was because I didn’t water it much that was why the plants die off. Eventually I did give time water this particular plant and yet it still died. Now I know it’s not just by watering and too much water can also kcause root rot and it will eventually cause the plants to die. Thanks for this great informative article.

  2. Plant root rot is a common occurrence in the tropics. I never thought this was the case with temperate regions. In the tropics, the high amount of humidity and high temperate are perfect combinations that encourage the growth of root-destroying microbes.

    And, thanks for the enlightening me on the importance of planting crops in containers that have drain holes. I noticed that my potted flowers experience root rot even though I treated the soil by burning it before planting the flower.

    I would change the container to something that has a drain, and maybe that could prevent my flowers from wilting. Thanks for the awesome education on preventing and treating root rot in plants.

    • All containers should have holes to allow excess water to drain or our plants will suffer root rot, sometimes the soil may be a soil that does not drain well either. With a well-drained soil and with drain holes our container plants should do just fine as long as we know what they need to survive.

  3. Hi Norman,

    Thank you for this timely advice. My husband and I will doing a long term house sit this summer and I plan to ask the owner if we can have a small garden. It is good to know what the different types of soils are and where the best place to plant them will be so that they are not too dry but not saturated in water either. It is good to know that you can salvage your plants if you know what to look for. These tips will definitely come in handy.

    • Hello so good to meet you and I am so happy that I could help. Wishing you all the best with your garden project have a good day.

  4. Very informative post. In time past, when I started my very little farm ( very small though), I tend to abandon a plant when I notice a rot in the roots but presently I try to save the plant after I got the knowledge of how to fix it. Most plants rot are mostly caused by our effort which can use of inappropriate soil or inadequate care for plants. Therefore to avoid plant rot, we should have an idea of the type of soil to use and care for our plants adequately by watering, applying pesticides and the likes to mention a few.

    • Hello and thanks so much for sharing and it is so good to see the knowledge which you acquired. Keep up the good work and let’s keep our plants healthy and happy.

  5. Root rots are not something to be played about except if you don’t really care about your health state. I could remember when my plant had a witering. That was accompanied with yellow leaves and thin roots but I was happy when every thing became alright. The root rot was treated exactly the way it is in your headed/.  

  6. Hi,

    Thanks a lot for sharing this useful informational article. I love gardening so much. Previously, I spend a lot of time in the garden. But I failed to make a healthy garden. This is because of inadequate knowledge about the soil and the trees. I learned a lot from your article. And made my knowledge shortcomings subtly. Which will help in my garden in the future…

    • Hello so happy to meet you and glad that I could help. It tkes is some know-how and you will be on your way to garden success. Wishing you all the best of success.


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