Updated at: 09-05-2022 - By: Sienna Lewis

Rotten roots do not have to kill your plant. That houseplant can be brought back to life, it’s true! However, it is critical to respond swiftly to any signs of distress. So, if you suspect root rot, what should you do? To begin with, we want to get to know the problem. We’ll first identify the issue, then treat it, and then learn about prevention.


Wet conditions in the plant’s soil encourage the growth of pathogenic fungus, resulting in root rot. Because roots require oxygen to survive, prolonged immersion in water causes the roots to rot. Root rot is more common in potted houseplants than in planted ones because moisture is more difficult to regulate and water can accumulate. Overwatering is the most common cause of root rot, although other factors can also contribute. For this reason, we’ll focus on root rot caused by excessive moisture.

Root Rot on Plants: How to Identify and Treat It

Root Rot Diagnosis:

Your plant’s roots must be decaying in order to begin the process. Choosing the proper treatment for your plant is easier if you eliminate any other potential problems before starting. If you suspect indoor plant root rot as the source of your issue, look for symptoms such as these:

  • The color of the leaves shifts.

Keep in mind that older leaves are more likely to change color and fall off, so pay attention to the fresher ones. A failing root can cause browning, yellowing, and withering leaves. Root rot can be detected by looking for drooping leaves in the presence of moist soil.

  • Water that isn’t moving

Look in the saucer, if there’s any water left in it, your plant’s soil and roots have been over-watered at some point. Soil and roots that are soaked for an extended period of time will become soggy.

  • Problems at the systemic level

Slide the plant out of the pot and look at the roots near the bottom, which have had the greatest contact with water. Look for signs of rot like dark brown roots, mushy roots, or even fuzzy moldy debris covering the roots while inspecting the roots. These are all indications that the roots have been harmed.

Root Rot Rx:

Roots of healthy plants should be solid and light in color (usually either beige, green, or tan). In order for a plant to thrive, it needs healthy leaves and moist soil. Once you’ve determined that your houseplant has root rot, the next step is to devise a treatment strategy. To begin with:

Dry the dirt completely.

Allow the soil to air out if you’ve just seen any standing water or leaf change and aren’t sure if it’s root rot yet. Allow the plant’s soil to dry out for 3-5 days. For plants that haven’t yet been harmed, this procedure may be able to help. It is beneficial to let the soil to dry out since the roots of plants need some air to function properly. If, on the other hand, the roots of your plant are severely decaying, go quickly to the measures that follow, as drying the soil will likely be too late.

Remove any leaves that have turned brown.

There are a few things you may do to get started here. Make sure to keep them as far away from the plant as possible.

Remove the old dirt by raking it up and disposing of it.

The next step is to repot. In order to begin, you’ll need to take the plant from the dirt. Remove as much soil as possible with care after removing the plant from the pot. When brushing away wet or clumpy soil, take care not to upset the root system too much.

4. Remove the rotting roots by cutting them off.

To remove rotten roots, you’ll first remove the plant from its pot. Get rid of dead roots and save healthy ones to preserve as much as possible.

Repot the plants with fresh soil.

Repot your plant using sterile potting soil suited with your specific plant. Any bacteria or fungus that has grown will be largely eliminated by using fresh soil. As a bonus, it will replenish any nutrients that may have been depleted in previous soil.
How To Identify, Fix And Prevent Root Rot - Smart Garden Guide

Preventative Measures:

Prevention is always the best medicine. So get to work on developing a watering schedule that works for your particular indoor plant. Root rot can be prevented by following these simple steps:

  • Pots with a drainage hole should be used for growing plants.
  • Ensure that water is effectively draining from the soil by inspecting it on a regular basis.
  • The roots of the plant, as previously said, require some sort of air supply in order to survive. Allowing the top layer of the soil to dry out a bit may assist the plant take in oxygen and prevent root rot, which is a common problem. You can use the finger test to determine how much water your tropical houseplants need by wriggling your finger a few inches into the soil. Moisture indicates that the soil is saturated at its base. As a result, you won’t water the plant again until the top layer has dried mostly.
  • Don’t let the pot’s bottom dish fill up with excess water.
  • As the seasons change, you’ll also need to adjust the amount of water your plant receives. During the colder, drier months, plants tend to use less water.
  • Keep a close eye on your garden. Knowing whether the plant needs less or more water will be easier to discern if you stay in the moment.

Root rot is sometimes only discovered after a large amount of harm has been done to the plant because it affects the unseen area of the plant. It is possible to save your houseplant by simply following the survival instructions. However, if your plant is doomed to fail, we recommend taking a few cuttings to start a new one. In this method, the plant’s genetic material is preserved and nothing is lost!

Treating Root Rot

You must respond swiftly if the issue is one of prolonged overwatering or a single overwatering that triggered an outbreak of root rot fungus. Your plant has the best chance of survival if you address root rot as soon as possible. Remove the plant from the soil and run water over the roots to begin treating root rot. While being gentle with the plant, remove as much soil and afflicted roots as possible. After that, remove any remaining infected roots with a pair of clean, sharp shears or scissors. You may have to remove a considerable portion of the plant’s root system if the root rot is severe.

Remove one-third to one-half of the plant’s leaves with a pair of scissors or shears soaked in rubbing alcohol. Because it won’t have to support as many leaves, the plant will have a better chance of regrowing its roots. Continue treating root rot by removing the soil from the pot in which the plant was growing. Use a bleach solution to thoroughly clean the pot. To prevent root rot, treat the remaining healthy roots with a fungicide solution. Repot the plant in a fresh potting mix after it has been treated for root rot. Only water the plant when the top of the soil is completely dry, and make sure the container has sufficient drainage. Do not fertilize the plant when it is regrowing its roots, as this could put it under too much stress. You don’t want to have to deal with root rot in the same plant over and over again. If the plant recovers, you’ll be able to enjoy your gorgeous houseplant again.

How To Identify, Fix And Prevent Root Rot - Smart Garden Guide


Soft, brown roots are a sure sign of root rot. 2 A strong, white root system indicates a healthy plant. As a result, fungal spores multiply and the fungus spreads, beginning at the base of the plant and working its way up. Infected roots begin to turn dark and mushy as the disease progresses. Deficiency is seen in plant leaves because the plant is unable to absorb the nutrients it requires. Leaf wilt, growth slows down, and blooming may be delayed as a result. 1 In extreme circumstances, plants can perish within ten days if conditions are favorable for the fungus to spread swiftly. 3 Using a hand trowel or shovel, loosen soil around the plant’s base and pull the plant from the ground. Check the roots for rot by gently removing the soil.


The first step in reviving a root-rotted plant is to identify whether or not it can be rescued. It’s too late to salvage the plant if the roots are already mushy. However, if the plant has healthy, white, solid roots, transplanting it in fresh soil with good drainage will help it recover.

Before replanting, thoroughly clean the roots of plants with a soft brush and a pair of scissors to remove any brown, soft roots. Just above the injured location, cut the healthy root off the plant. Replant as quickly as possible, ideally within a few of hours. To prevent the spread of fungus spores, sanitize the scissors using a solution of one part bleach to three parts water4.

Root rot is a disease that can harm plants if left untreated. Root rot can go undetected for a long time since its early symptoms are hidden beneath the soil. Immediately address root rot symptoms like yellow leaves or reduced growth1 when you notice them in your plants.

Most prone to root rot is a plant that grows in soil that is too dense or in containers that lack adequate drainage holes. Root rot can affect both container plants and garden plants. Preventing root rot in the garden is as simple as increasing soil drainage before planting. 2 Root rot is not caused by excessive water, but rather by fungus, which thrives in a moist, warm, and nutrient-rich environment.