Root Rot in Houseplants


Root rot is the most common problem in houseplants. Because root rot attacks the plant's root system, destroying it from under ground, houseplants often fail to exhibit signs of root rot until the disease has progressed too far to save the plant. Preventing root rot starts with proper planting, watering and care of the plant and its soil environment.


Rotted roots on a houseplant are black, often slimy, and slide off easily. Some plants may have rotten areas at the base of the stem of the plant, while others show root rot by wilting, lack of blooms on flowering plants, or yellowing leaves.


Root rot on houseplants is usually due to over watering. Under watering can contribute to root rot by damaging the delicate root structure and increasing the chance of infection. Poorly drained or contaminated soil are also causes of root rot in houseplants.


Know the water needs of your houseplants and water them according to each plant's individual needs Succulents and cacti will have different watering needs than thirsty plants like basil or peace lily. Some plants need soil that is allowed to dry at least partially before watering, while others require soil that is constantly moist.


Potted houseplants should have clean, sterile soil in a well-drained, sterile planting container. Soil that does not drain well can be mixed with gravel, sand or vermiculite to increase water drainage from the container. When soil settles over time, compaction can affect drainage, so repot plants regularly to keep soil well-distributed.


A root rotted houseplant can quickly infect other plants in the same container. To avoid a root rot epidemic, immediately remove plants with root rot from any shared planting containers. A plant afflicted with root rot is usually too damaged to be saved, but you can keep other plants from getting damaged by removing an infected plant as soon as possible.

Keywords: houseplant diseases, indoor gardening problems, root rot prevention

About this Author

Snowden Trouper is a freelancer who has been writing since 1992. She has been published at, and eHow, frequenting topics like gardening, health, music, technology, and travel tips. Trouper holds an Associate of Arts with a journalism focus from Moorpark College and a Bachelor of Arts in the arts from California State University San Marcos.