Root Rot: The silent killer of your plant parent aspirations

So, you just purchased a plant and everything has been going great. You’ve been watering regularly, sprinkled in some fertiliser, and had a go at repotting into a fancy new planter.

You’re becoming an adult. You have responsibility. It feels good. Life is good.

But one day, perhaps weeks or months later, you come up against an unexpected threat: brown blemishes and breakouts occurring on the leaf surface.

The plant you have been diligently taking care of is ... dying?


Why are my plant leaves going brown?

Well, basically you are a bad plant parent and you’re killing your plant. But its OK! I’ll take you by the hand and show you how to fix this.

There’s a 99% chance that the problem is under the surface, in the roots. It could be overwatering, poor aeration of the soil, a fungal disease in the soil, or a combination of these.

Your plant’s root system is under attack, and you should act fast.


How to know if your plant has root rot?

The best indication of Root Rot is dark blackish roots. The roots will also be fragile, mushy and break off easily.

 bad roots

The first thing you need to do is take the plant out of the pot, and look at the root system. A healthy plant will have a light whitish-yellow root system, and when you touch the roots, they will be firm.

good roots

What to do if you have root rot?

Firstly, run water over the plant’s roots for better inspection. Next, take a pair of secateurs and cut off the blackened roots. Just chop them off.

A new root system will need time to adjust and the plant can’t support old leaves, so while you have the secateurs, you should prune the plant. Cut off all decaying leaves as close to the main stem as possible.

Give your pot a good clean—water is fine. I once read a blog that suggested using bleach. If you’re like me and don’t keep that shit in your house, maybe swill some cheap vodka through it for a deep clean.

By the way, use a pot with a drainage hole. This will help combat your tendency to overwater plants.


What soil to use?

Don’t just chuck the old soil back in. Remember, that stuff is full of fungal nastiness. You can throw that over the fence into the snooping neighbour’s backyard.

I’m going to give you a simple mix I use that can be found in most hardware stores.

Place 2 to 3 cm of charcoal at the bottom of your pot. Then fill with:

  • 40% peat moss
  • 30% organic soil or Orchid Mix
  • 30% perlite

Charcoal will absorb excess water, and its natural microbial properties will help flight off fungal diseases. Perlite will help aerate the soil, so your plant can drain excess water.

Resist the urge to press down hard on the soil. Give it space to breath.

There you have it folks. Give this a try, and be sure to give us a like on Facebook if you enjoyed this article.

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