Now at the beginning of winter is among the most common times to overwater your houseplant and start to see signs of root rot. We may be spending more time being at home, cleaning the house, and decorating our living spaces. We want to take good care of our houseplants. We want to tend to them and give them water, right? Well, no. Here is what you can do for houseplants with root rot due to overwatering.
Temperatures, humidity levels, and light exposure are all dropping during this time. Most houseplants don’t actually go dormant during the winter. But they do slow their growth rate and nutrient absorption to conserve energy and match the environment during the winter season. The air may feel drier in your home with a forced-air furnace, but the warmer temperatures still mean water evaporates more quickly in the summer.
Does Your Houseplant Have Root Rot?
If you notice signs of yellowing or wilted growth shortly after you start watering a houseplant more frequently, there’s a good chance it’s a sign of root rot. Mild yellowing, browning, or wilted growth may have to do with slight imbalances in pH or insufficient nutrients. This could have to do with soil composition or too much or too little light exposure. Nevertheless, overwatering and root rot are among the most common problems with houseplants, especially during this time of year. Learn more about what root rot is exactly.
Treatment of Root Rot in Houseplants
The final step in identifying root rot is also the first step in helping your houseplant recover from rot. You need to remove the houseplant from the soil and wash as much of the soil off the roots as possible. You want just the roots, stems and foliage. You want to visualize as much of the roots as possible. What you’re looking for is color and consistency. Healthy roots for most every type of houseplant will be white and firm to the touch. Roots with rot will be brown and a little mushy. Like it’s decomposing. Look at the periphery of the root structure. The tips of the roots are where most rot problems start.
Once fungal spores have started to multiply and get a foothold, there’s little that can be done to save the affected part of the root. What can be done is to remove any and all significant fungal growth. After you’ve washed the roots completely clean, use sharp scissors or small pruning shears to cut off the damaged part of the root. Save as much of the healthy root as you can, but be sure to remove any part of the root that seems soft or brown. This is why it’s so important to treat root rot as soon as you suspect a problem. If the foliage above the affected root is yellow or damaged, remove it as well if you haven’t already.
Next, spray the roots down with a fungicide to make sure any remaining spores can’t start multiplying again. Put the houseplants aside in a safe place. You will need to throw away the old potting soil. Sanitize the pot with a diluted solution of bleach (1%), hydrogen peroxide (3%) or vinegar (5%), and then rinse with water. Use fresh potting mix to repot the plant.
Road to Recovery from Root Rot
You can apply some root growth stimulant when first repotting, but you don’t want to use fertilizer while the roots are regrowing. Fertilizer helps established roots deliver even more nutrients to the plant’s foliage and flowers, but it doesn’t help the roots themselves.
The most important thing to help your houseplant recover from root rot is avoid overwatering the houseplant without neglecting it altogether. Make sure you know whether that type of houseplant truly thrives on neglect or whether you just got overzealous. Be patient. The plant may not recover overnight or even after the first week, but if you follow these steps and you still have a decent amount of healthy roots to work with, your houseplant should rebound in a major way before too long.