Root rot is any gardener’s nightmare and once it starts, it’s like a forest fire that can’t be extinguished. You try everything to save your plants, but no amount of water seems to be working. And you wonder if you could possibly save a little piece of the root to clone your plant elsewhere?
You can clone a plant that has root rot, but only if the rotting isn’t too advanced. If the plants have pale white roots, you can take cuttings from it and replant, but always bear in mind that root rot fungus in the soil lays dormant until it detects rotting , suddenly flourishes, attacks the roots, and slowly causes it to die and rot.
It isn’t long and when you look again, your plants look dull, the leaves are hanging and turning yellow and you realize that you didn’t only clone your plant, but you cloned the problem as well. Root rot can be treated, but that depends on the severity of the rotting and the condition of the plant.
What Causes Root Rot?
There are various factors that can cause a plant’s roots to rot. Although the natural thing to do when a plant looks like it is dying is to give it more water, one of the main reasons roots start to rot is because of over watering. If plants get too much water, it actually drowns due to lack of oxygen. To prevent this from happening, only water a plant when the soil is dry.
Root fungus is always present in the soil, just waiting for the moment a plant gets too much water and then attacks the roots. Spores from the rotting roots contaminates the other plants around it. The spores are not only airborne, but are also carried by arthropods and other insects that are in the soil.
Heavy soil also causes root rot as it prevents the sufficient amount of oxygen the plant needs, to get through the small air pockets in the soil. This causes the roots to suffocate, and ultimately die and rot. You can also use a well-drained pot to ensure that the roots are never lying in water.
Water molds such as Phytophthora and P.cinnamomi are both infamously aggressive contaminators.
How Do You Know If It Is Root Rot?
Although indoor and outdoor plants can be affected by root rot, it is more common in indoor plants due to poor drainage systems. This is usually lethal to the plant and can rarely be saved.
You can tell if the problem is root rot by looking for signs of wilting yellowish leaves or if the plant looks dull in color. The best way to know is by removing the plant from the soil or pot and feel the roots. Rotting roots will be black or dark brown and it will feel mushy and slimy.
Healthy roots are black or pale, but unlike soggy, affected roots, they will feel firm and they won’t fall off when you touch them.
Eventually the signs of rotting will start to show by the fast deterioration of the condition of the plant
Rotten roots can’t be fully revived, but they can be treated so they are not lost entirely. But at risk of infecting other plants, it is advised to rather remove them from your garden and destroy them completely.
What Can You Do To Revive Your Plant?
Once you have established that root rot is in fact the problem, you need to determine whether you can save the plant or not. It is too late if the whole root system is slimy and black, but if there are firm white roots present, you are in luck.
Firstly, to inspect your plant, loosen the soil around the plant base gently and remove it slowly. Give it a subtle shake to get rid of most of the soil. Remove all the mushy roots by running them under water. Use a sterilized pair of shears or garden scissors to cut off all the rotting roots just above where it starts.
Give them another gentle rinse to make sure you have removed all the root rot and replant them in healthy soil that has a good draining system.
You could also soak them in a solution of 1 gallon water and 2 teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide. If there are too many mushy roots then you will probably lose the plant and this method won’t help to save the plant.
How Can You Prevent Root Rot
- After using your scissors for cutting off root rot, place them in a solution of 3 parts water to 1 part bleach. This is to ensure that it is sterilized properly to prevent the fungus spreading to other plants.
- Make sure you improve the drainage system in your soil before you plant new plants because prevention is always better than cure.
- When you are planting an indoor plant, make sure you use potting soil and that there is a good drainage system to avoid the roots from being submerged in water. If you have a pot with holes and a saucer, empty the saucer on a regular basis.
- Never recycle soil that has been contaminated. Replace it with new, healthy soil.
- When purchasing a new plant, always check the root system to make sure the roots are free of root rot.
- Avoid using stones or rocks in the bottom of your pots. Although it seems like a good idea for a drainage system, it holds up the wettest soil right above it, close to where the roots are. Only potting soil should be used. Together with the design of a indoor planter with holes and a tray, there is no need for any other drainage elements.
- Loosen roots that are bunched up together and make sure to remove any strings or binding around the roots.
- Fungicides containing Benzimidazole(MOA3) are the best fungicides to control any root rot. So read the label on the container to make sure you purchase the correct product.
- Try to avoid planting any plants that are known to be susceptible to root rot. You don’t want one plant to contaminate your entire garden.
How To Prepare Fungicide
To prepare a fungicide you will need to fill a garden sprayer with 1 gallon water and about ½ teaspoon of aluminum tris fungicide(systematic fungicide). Close the tank and give it a good shake to mix the ingredients thoroughly.
Before you start spraying, make sure the soil around the plant is saturated in order for the solution to reach any fungi that is causing the roots to rot. Remember to wear gloves and safety goggles as the fungicide can be harmful if it comes into contact with your skin or your eyes.
Now you can go ahead and start spraying. Spray the soil around the plant thoroughly so that there is enough of the solution to kill the fungi.
Although fungicide with benzimidazole is the most affective, it is very expensive. Let’s take a quick look at some of the home remedies gardeners have tried as an alternative;
- Horseradish – said to be a very affective fungicide. Mix 16 ounces of water and 1 cup of horseradish. Leave overnight, strain the liquid in the morning, mix the liquid with 2 quarts water and spray over your plants.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – mix 1 gallon of water and 4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Spray every few days to fight fungal diseases.
- Cornmeal – good to use on roses, courgettes and fruit trees. Mix 5 gallons of water and 1 cup of raw oatmeal. Leave for 24 hours, strain the liquid and spray the solution onto the leaves of your plants.
Now we know that root rot can be lethal to the rest of your garden if it isn’t caught in the early stages. But we also know that preventing the problem from starting, all depends on the necessary care and preparation of the soil and drainage system.
Next time you are at the nursery, remember to go through the checklist to detect if the plants are contaminated or not. Be sure to check the existing plants in your garden for signs of root rot, before planting new, healthy stock. If your soil is contaminated, your new plants will soon be too.
So although it is physically possible to clone plants that have root rot, it is a risk you don’t want to take. Helping the environment starts in our garden!