How To Identify and Prevent Root Rot - Backyard Boss
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How To Identify and Prevent Root Rot

Root rot is tricky to identify but easy enough to fix. If you catch it soon enough, that is. Root rot will most likely happen to all gardeners at some point. A simple mistake or misunderstanding can lead to root rot. The tricky thing is that while you think you’re taking care of your plant so well, you might be contributing to an environment rife with root rot.

Luckily, it’s easy to prevent with a few adjustments to your maintenance schedule. Let’s take a closer look at how to identify and prevent root rot.

Materials Needed

  • Sharp scissors
  • Disinfectant
  • Drill
  • Drill bits
  • Soil amendments

Step One: Above Ground Clues

The tough thing about root rot is that the very first symptoms of the fungal infection happen below the soil surface. By the time any signs are being shown in the above-ground parts of the plant, it may be too late.

Either way, you may be able to save your plants if you act immediately. Above-ground symptoms of root rot include leaves yellowing, wilting, and falling off, delayed growth, and delayed or reduced blooming of the plant.

Step Two: Dig In

If you suspect your plants might be suffering from root rot, the only way to be sure is to look at the roots. Healthy roots are firm and white. Plant roots suffering from root rot will be soft, brown, and mushy.

Essentially, the roots would have died, and the fungal infection is decomposing the dead roots while the above-ground part of the plants is still alive. As the roots are no longer able to absorb nutrients from the soil, the plant dies.

Step Three: Can It Be Saved?

If you identified the root rot early enough, yes, you can save your roots. To determine if this is possible or not, there needs to be the presence of some firm, white roots in the root network. If all the roots are brown and mushy, it’s too late, and you should bless your plant to the compost heap.

Step Four: Rescue Mission

So you’ve determined that your plant can be saved. To do so, you need to repot or transplant your plant. Before you do this, you need to get rid of any root rot. You can use sterilized scissors to cut away any parts of the root system that have signs of root rot.

It’s important to get all of it because if you don’t, the fungal spores will spread easily. Replant it in well-draining soil that retains moisture, but does not get soggy.

Step Five: Prevention

Root rot relies on some specific conditions for it to develop. While overwatering may contribute to root rot, it’s waterlogged soils that create the perfect conditions for the real culprit of root rot: fungus.

Container plants are most at risk of developing root rot. To prevent this, make sure there are sufficient drainage holes on the bottom of the container. Depending on the material your container is made from, you can most likely use a drill to drill a hole. For brittle materials, such as terracotta or clay, always start with the smallest drill bit you have and slowly increase the size to prevent cracking your pot or container.

For plants in the ground, preventing root rot is a bit trickier. Root rot in this instance will be an indicator of water that doesn’t have sufficient drainage and becomes waterlogged easily. You’ll have to amend your soil with perlite or vermiculite in the short-term while building soil with organic matter for a more long-term fix.

Wrap It Up

The unfortunate thing about root rot is that by the time it can be identified, it may be too late to save your plant. It’s been observed that root rot can kill plants within 10 days, not time at all. The best way to avoid root rot is by preventing the conditions in which the root rot fungus will thrive. These conditions are waterlogged soils with little to no drainage.

If your plant has plenty of drainage in well-draining soil, no amount of overwatering will lead to root rot. Overwatering is a problem in itself, so be cautious with that, too.