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What is Root Rot?

Root rot is an opportunistic infestation of mold spores that occurs when roots are waterlogged and unoxygenated. The roots begin to decay and with the high-moisture content, it creates the perfect environment for fungal spores to germinate and do serious harm to your houseplant. With prolonged water saturation, root decay may occur even in the direct absence of mold and fungal spores. There are countless types of root rot that may get a foothold first or be uniquely suited to that plant root and soil environment. Some of the most common types of fungus and pathogens that can take advantage of root rot include phytophthora, pythium, rhizoctonia, and fusarium.

What to Do about Root Rot

Now that you know what root rot is, the question becomes what to do about it. In most cases, this problem is only noticed when advanced enough to show symptoms above the soil line. This might include discolored or wilted leaves, stunted growth, or an odd smell coming from the plant. There are also common symptoms for root rot in different types of plants. Usually, there’s not much you can do except expose and cut out the affected portion of the plant. This could include some part of the root, stem, or plant foliage. Moving forward, it’s essential to figure out the best way to reduce soil moisture while maintaining a reasonable watering schedule for that plant. If the houseplant was accidentally watered multiple times by different people, this might require little action beyond setting a houseplant care schedule.

What is the Treatment for Root Rot?

There are chemical fungicides that can target and neutralize specific or general root rot infestations. However, these treatments are NOT recommended because they are expensive and not widely available in home and gardening stores. Plus, while the plant may recover more quickly with this type of treatment, extensive root damage still won’t be able to suddenly repair itself. Still, if you have a home full of cherished houseplants, having an antifungal treatment on hand may help you quickly treat and save more of the houseplant.

Prevention and Houseplant Care

Prevention is the best way to fight root rot because root damage is often irreparable and because following a few easy steps should be sufficient to prevent rot in most every case. Really, it boils down to recognizing and following a few of the basic principles of houseplant care:

  • Make sure your houseplants are in pots with good drainage.
  • Especially for succulents, make sure the soil is fast-draining with lots of aerators and soil amendments.
  • Avoid excessive misting or overwatering your houseplants.
  • If you live in a humid climate, you might also think about an air dehumidifier.

If you’re continually struggling with this problem, one of the surest ways to prevent root rot is to water from below and follow other houseplant watering guidelines. More than just using a pot with good drainage, use a catchment pot that will allow you to carefully control the water and moisture level in the root system before emptying the catchment water and letting the soil aerate and dry out.

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