Root Rot in Potted Plants


Prevent plant disease with proper watering habits, attentive planting techniques and good drainage. Root rot is the most common problem in potted plants. Root rot can originate from many sources; wet conditions and contaminated soil contribute to root-rot friendly conditions. Prevention is the key to avoiding plant loss because of root rot.


Root rot has many different effects on potted plants. The first evidence that a plant has root rot appears as leaves that turn yellow or brown. The plant may slowly wilt, or it may die in a matter of days. On the roots of a plant, root rot appears as brown, mushy areas with very few smaller roots.

Watering Technique

Planting with sterile potting solution in sterile pots can help you keep root rot at bay. To sterilize soil, bake it in a shallow pan at 180 degrees for 20 minutes. Do not replant in soil from plants that have died from root rot. Use a potting mix with good drainage or add materials to the soil that help drainage. Coarse sand, vermiculite and broken clay pots are soil add-ins that help keep standing water from gathering in plant pots.


The best way to avoid root rot is to water your plants correctly. Find out the water needs for each plant you have, and don't overwater the plants. Let them breathe. Some plants thrive in soil that is allowed to dry between waterings; others prefer an environment that is constantly damp.


Root rot does not just infect the roots of the plant. On woody plants, root rot can cause infections in the stems. Root rot on a woody stem looks like a brown, mushy part of the wood. You should easily be able to tell the difference between the healthy wood and the wood that has become infected with root rot.

Time Frame

Depending on how strong your plant is and how serious the root rot conditions are, root rot can continue for several months or kill the plant in seven to 10 days.


Remove diseased plants from shared plant pots to keep the other plants from getting root rot. For plants you cannot bear to lose, dousing the soil with a fungicide solution can often temper the root infection enough to allow the plant to recover.

Keywords: plant disease, yellow powdery soil, prevent yellow leaves

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.