How to Control Root Rot


Caused by several soil-borne fungi, rot root quickly destroys young roots resulting in dead or dying plants. Early symptoms include pale yellowing foliage, wilting and leaf drop. Many mistakenly believe the plant requires additional water to revive wilting foliage, but their efforts actually worsen the condition. Root rot thrives in wet, soggy soil that does not drain properly. Although not all plants survive, if caught early, efforts to save the plant may be successful.

Step 1

Remove the plant from the pot to examine the roots. Black, mushy roots indicate root rot. In initial stages, outer roots rot while the main root remains intact.Trim away infected roots to expose healthy roots. Healthy roots appear firm and white or tan.

Step 2

Shake to remove excess soil from the roots. Wash the remaining roots with a hose or sprayer to remove any remaining soil. Discard the soil in a sealed container to prevent the spread of root rot to other plants.

Step 3

Wash the plant pot in hot, soapy water (use a few drops of dish detergent) and scrub away all traces of soil. Submerge in a basin of bleach and water. One part bleach to nine part water is recommended. Allow to soak for 20 minutes. Remove the pot and air dry.

Step 4

Place several pebbles or stones over the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot to prevent soggy soil and prevent the return of root rot.

Step 5

Fill the pot 3/4 full with fresh sterilized soil. A mixture of equal parts commercial potting soil, peat moss and perlite makes a lightweight, porous soil that improves the health of your plants.

Step 6

Place the plant to the original depth and fill in around the roots with soil. Firm down to secure the plant.

Step 7

Water when soil is dry, but use caution not to over-water, as dense, wet soil creates prime conditions for root rot.

Step 8

Place in the desired location providing appropriate lighting for the specific plant. Allow space between plants to improve air circulation.

Things You'll Need

  • Dish detergent
  • Household bleach
  • Basin
  • Sterilized potting media (potting soil, peat moss, perlite)
  • Plant pot


  • University of Missouri Extension: Root Rot of Houseplants
  • Ohio State University Extension: Root Problems on Plants in the Garden and Landscape
  • NDSU Extension: Identification and Control of Seedlings Diseases

Who Can Help

  • University of Georgia Cooperative Extension: Growing Indoor Plants with Success
  • NDSU Extension: Houseplants Proper Care and Management of Pest Problems
Keywords: root rot, prevent root rot, treat root rot

About this Author

Nannette Richford is an avid gardener, teacher and nature enthusiast with 4 years experience in online writing and a lifetime of personal journals. She is published on various sites, including Associated Content. Richford holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education from the University of Maine Orono and certifications in 7-12 English, K-8 General Elementary and Birth to age 5.