Most home gardeners enjoy growing plants both outside and inside their homes. Houseplants are functional and beautiful. They can be used to brighten up any indoor space, from sterile offices to cozy living rooms. In addition, many common houseplants, such as philodendrons, remove toxins from the air. While the care needs of houseplants vary depending on the type of plant, there are some problems that all houseplants can suffer from. One of the most deadly is root rot.
Root rot is the most common problem affecting houseplants, according to Purdue University. Root rot is any disease that destroys the roots of the plant. Most of the diseases are caused by fungi that live in the soil. The fungi enter through the hair roots and infect the rest of the root system. The rate of infection is rapid, taking only a little over a week on average. Once the roots become infected, they are unable to absorb nutrients.
Plants infected with root rot will show an overall failure to thrive. They may wither and not become revived upon watering. Often, the plant withers from the crown down. Sometimes the lower leaves of the houseplant will turn yellow. The leaves may drop off, and the plant will grow more slowly or not at all. The stem of the plant may develop black, rotten areas.
Not much can be done for plants once they are completely infected with root rot, according to the University of Minnesota. If the roots of a plant are examined before symptoms appear and show signs of root rot (brown, mushy areas), the plant can be repotted in fresh, sterile soil, which may save the plant. Otherwise, once symptoms appear, it is usually too late to save the plant.
Preventing root rot is vital to the good health of houseplants. Use only sterile soil, with a sterile container. Commercial potting soil that contains perlite, sand, vermiculite or peat moss will drain better than soil that is pure loam. Avoid overly wetting the soil. The fungi need cool, consistently wet soil in order to multiply. Water only when necessary according to your plant's needs. Use a container that has a drainage hole and empty the water-catch tray as soon as the plant stops draining.
Some houseplants are more prone to infection from soil-borne fungi than others. Plants that commonly suffer from root rot include African violets, begonias and all types of Chinese evergreens. Instead of growing these plants, try choosing houseplants that do not need a lot of water in order to grow, such as succulents and cacti.