How to save a tree with root rot?

Treating Root Rot – Gardening Tips For Houseplants

Sometimes if a plant is overwatered, it just doesn’t seem to recover afterwards. The leaves start to get dull and turn yellow and the whole plant seems to be on a slippery slope towards death. You try to correct the watering issue but nothing seems to help. Chances are, your plant is suffering from root rot.

What is Root Rot?

Root rot can have two sources — one is a prolonged exposure to overwatered conditions that can cause some of the roots to die back due to a lack of oxygen. As they die, they can start to decay or rot away. The rot can then spread to healthier roots and kill them as well, even if the soil conditions are corrected.

The other source can be from a fungus in the soil. The fungus may lay dormant in soil indefinitely and then may suddenly flourish when the plant is overwatered once or twice. The root rot fungus attacks the roots and causes them to die and rot away.

What Does Root Rot Look Like?

If you are unsure whether your plant has root rot, you may be wondering what does root rot look like? If the plant is slowly wilting and the leaves are turning yellow for seemingly unknown reasons, you will want to check the roots. Remove the plant from the soil and feel the roots. The roots affected by root rot will look black and will feel mushy. Affected roots may literally fall off the plant when you touch them. Healthy roots may be black or pale, but they will feel firm and pliable.

Treating Root Rot

Whether the problem is prolonged overwatering or a single overwatering that caused a root rot fungus flare up, you must act quickly. Treating root rot ASAP will give you plant the best chance to survive.

Start to treat root rot by removing the plant from the soil and washing the roots under running water. Wash away as much soil and affected roots as possible while being gentle with the plant.

Next use a sharp, clean pair of shears or scissors to trim away all of the remaining affected roots. When you treat root rot, you may have to remove a significant amount of the root system if the plant is badly affected. If this is the case, clean the shears or scissor with rubbing alcohol and prune back one-third to one-half of the leaves on the plant. This will give the plant a better chance to regrow the roots, as it will not need to support as many leaves.

Continue treating root rot by disposing of the soil in the pot that the plant was in. Wash the pot thoroughly with a bleach solution.

If possible, dip the remaining healthy roots in a fungicide solution to kill off any possible root rot fungus. After treating root rot in the plant, repot the plant in clean potting mix.

Make sure the container has good drainage and only water the plant when the top of the soil is dry. While the plant is regrowing its roots, do not fertilize the plant, as this may stress it. You do not want to have to treat root rot again in the plant. Hopefully now the plant will recover and you will get your beautiful houseplant back.

Can You Repair or Stop a Tree Trunk From Rotting at the Base?

Your tree’s trunk unites its leafy canopy above and its sprawling roots below. It’s what keeps it all together.

Essentially, the trunk is the stem. And just like if the stem broke on a flower, it’s not good news if the trunk gets injured or starts rotting.

Andy from Florida said, “I have a large oak tree with rotting on one side at the base of the trunk. Can I take a chainsaw and cut out the rotten wood and paint it to help the tree survive?”

Read on to learn what to do (and what not to do).

Is there any treatment for tree trunk rot? Can I repair it?

Let’s start by answering Andy’s question: We don’t recommend cutting off and sealing a rotting portion of a tree trunk.

Cutting rotten wood leaves the plant vulnerable to more infections, which makes the situation worse. That’s because trees can’t “heal” damaged tissues. They try to “seal” them off and continue to grow.

Plus, wound dressing (also known as tree paint) doesn’t close wounds or prevent the spread of diseases. It may hurt more than help, which could waste your time and money.

Trying to cut out the problem wouldn’t solve anything because the issue is deeper than that.

Trees rot because of a disease called wood decay, which usually targets old, large specimens and infects their wood from the inside out.

In most cases, it’s tough, if not impossible, to treat wood decay.

Here’s what you want to do instead if your tree trunk is rotting: call an ISA Certified Arborist® asap.

Rot could be a sign that your tree’s weak or unstable. You want to know right away if it’s at risk of falling on your home (especially if you’re in the middle of a nasty storm season).

During the inspection, your arborist can talk to you about options. She could recommend one of the steps below:

  • Leave it to your tree. If it’s healthy and the decayed area is small, there’s a chance that it will seal over the rotting wound as it naturally grows new wood.
  • Initiate PHC (plant health care). Water. Fertilization. Pruning. They can all do wonders to help extend the useful life of your plant (if it isn’t at risk of falling!). Also, take care and try to avoid any additional injury to the tree.
  • Remove it for safety if trunk rot has weakened the tree to the point where it poses an unacceptable risk to people or property.

Role of Soil Fungus

Fungi are an important part of the microbial ecology. The majority of fungi decompose the lignin and the hard-to-digest soil organic matter, but some fungi consume simple sugars. Fungi dominate in low pH or slightly acidic soils where soils tend to be undisturbed (Lavelle & Spain, 2005). Fungi break down the organic residues so that many different types of microbes can start to decompose and process the residues into usable products.

Approximately 80 to 90 percent of all plants form symbiotic mycorrhizae fungi relationships by forming hyphae networks. The hyphae are about 1/60 the diameter of most plant root hairs and assist the plant in acquiring nitrogen, phosphorus, micronutrients and water in exchange for sugar produced by the plant. This mutually beneficial relationship is called a mycorrhizae network (Magdoff & Van Es, 2009). Figure 1 shows soil fungus forming mycorrhizae networks.

Hyphae interact with soil particles, roots, and rocks forming a filamentous body that promotes foraging for soil nutrients. These networks release enzymes into the soil and break down complex molecules that the filaments then reabsorb. Fungi act like natural recycling bins, reabsorbing and redistributing soil nutrients back to plant roots. Most hyphae are either pure white or yellow and are often misidentified as plant hair roots (Islam, 2008). Figure 2 shows mycorrhizal fungi.

Figure 1: Soil fungus form mycorrhizae networks like a spider web to explore the soil profile for soil nutrients. Photographed by Tim Wilson. Used with permission and all rights reserved. Figure 2: Mycorrhizal fungi are usually white or yellow while the root at the top is a light brown or tan color. Photo by Randall Reeder. Used with permission and all rights reserved.

The rhizosphere is an area next to the root dominated by soil microbes where many chemical and biochemical process occur. Soil fungi make up 10 to 30 percent of the soil rhizosphere. Generally there are fewer individual fungi than bacteria but fungi dominate the total biomass due to their larger size in a healthy soil. Fungi biomass in the soil ranges from the equivalent of two to six cows in a healthy soil or 1,100 to 11,000 pounds of biomass (Metting, 1993, Sylvia et al., 2005).

Fungi prefer slightly acidic conditions, low disturbance soils, perennial plants, internal nutrient sources directly from the plant, and highly stable forms of organic residues with high carbon to nitrogen (C:N) values and slower recycling time. Bacteria dominate in highly disturbed ecosystems with fast nutrient recycling, low C:N values, prefer annual plants, and external nutrient additions outside the plant (Lavelle & Spain, 2005). Bacteria are single-celled organisms and need a film of water to survive, while fungi are multi-celled organisms that grow rapidly and in great lengths in the soil (feet or meters). This allows fungi to bridge gaps in the soil so as to transport nutrients relatively far distances back to the plants (Lowenfels & Lewis, 2006).

Taxonomy and Functional Groups of Fungi

There are at least 70,000 different species of fungi identified but it is estimated that there may be 1.5 million species worldwide (Hawksworth, 1991, 2001). Genetically, fungi evolved a billion years ago and are closely related to plants and animals. Membrane bound organelles present in each cell are similar to those found in insects, plants and animals. Fungi have 80 percent or more of the same genes as humans (Dick, R., 2009).

There are four major groups of soil fungus: Zygomycota, Ascomycota, Basidiomycota, and Deuteromycota. Zygomycota are less than 1,000 species and are mostly common bread molds. Ascomycetes have about 30,000 species and are mostly yeasts used in baking. Basidiomycetes include most mushrooms, toadstools and puffballs, while Deuteromycota include the lichens and the mycorrhizal fungus (Biological Diversity: Fungus, n. d.; Lavelle & Spain, 2005). Fungi are classified as heterotrophs so the carbon source originates from the decomposition of organic compounds or residues (Sylvia et al., 2005).

Decomposers are also called saprophytic fungi which decompose cellulose and lignin in the soil. Sugar fungi called Zygomycetes decompose the simple sugars but most fungi decompose the more recalcitrant or hard-to-decompose organic residues high in cellulose, hemicellulose, lignin or cell walls. Some of the byproducts of this decomposition may turn to humus and remain in the soil for thousands of years (Ingham, 2009; Lavelle & Spain, 2005; Lowenfels & Lewis, 2006).

Pathogenic fungi cause many agricultural root diseases including Phytophthora, Rhizoctonia, Phythium, and Verticullium, and downy mildew Ascomycetes fungi are microscopic in size and dominate in agricultural soils and grassland while the Basidiomycetes have large fruiting bodies or mushrooms that dominate in high residue and forested soil (Dick, R., 2009). Some fungi help to control diseases and predators including a nematode trapping fungi that feeds on insects and can be used as biological controls.

Mutualistic mycorrhizal fungi form a beneficial relationship with plants. Ingham (2009, pg. 23) states that “mycorrhizae grow within the root cells and are commonly associated with grasses, row crops, vegetables, and shrubs. Some plant species like the Cruciferae family (e.g., cabbage, broccoli, mustard and canola) and the Chenopodiaceae family (e.g., lambsquarters, spinach, beets, and oilseed radish) do not form mycorrhizae associations.”

Ecological Plant-Microbe Interactions

The microbes and plants together regulate many soil processes including the carbon cycle and nutrient recycling. The microbial species diversity and the total microbial population determine the ability of plants to obtain soil nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and micronutrients. Plant diversity and abundance may change the entire soil ecosystem through the release of root exudates that attract or inhibit the growth of specific organisms. These carbon-rich substances can range from less than 10 percent to as much as 20 percent of a plant’s total carbon production (Sylvia et al., 2005). Plants secrete large amounts of specific carbon compounds into the soil to be used by the microbes as a food and energy source and to enhance and improve soil structure. By encouraging certain microbial species to grow, the microbes in return supply nutrients to the plant roots and encourage the microbes to protect the plant from pathogenic microbes. Plants feed, raise and encourage certain microbes just like farmers raise and feed plants and livestock for food and fiber.

Many plants have a preferred fungus to bacteria ratio (F:B ratio). Most vegetable crops prefer more bacteria with a F:B ratio of 0.3 to 0.8 F:B which is optimal for carrots, lettuce, broccoli and cole crops. Tomatoes, corn and wheat like an F:B ratio of 0.8 to 1:1. Lawns prefer a F:B ratio of 0.5 to 1:1 and on forested soils, trees grow better with a F:B ratio of 10:1 where the soil is more acidic. Many conventionally tilled agricultural soils have a F:B ratio of 0.1 to 0.3 with soils that are high in nitrogen, low carbon, neutral pH, and with disturbed soil conditions which promotes weed production. Annual crops prefer lower F:B ratios and perennials prefer a higher F:B ratio (Lowenfels & Lewis, 2006). Many plants cultivate certain species of both bacteria and fungus to increase nutrient extraction from the soil.

Fungi benefit most plants by suppressing plant root diseases and fungi promote healthier plants by attacking plant pathogens with fungal enzymes. Fungi also use antagonism to reduce competition by producing antibodies, which suppress other microorganisms from growing. They produce many vitamins which promote plant growth. By competing with other fungus for nutrients, beneficial fungi prevent pathogenic and disease-causing organisms from getting established.

Beneficial fungi along with some bacteria may also form protective webs and nets around roots and even leaves to protect the host plant (Lowenfels & Lewis, 2006; Sylvia et al., 2005). The fungus Trichoderma protects plant roots from attack by harmful microorganisms. Fungi also protect plants by supplying a protective sheath to supply both water and phosphorus to the plant roots during droughts (Magdoff & Van Es, 2009).

Hyphae must be in close contact with living or dead organic soil residues to absorb nutrients, so they usually grow in association with other soil microorganisms. They compete aggressively for scarce nutrients, and competition usually results in a succession or change in microbial populations as nutrients are absorbed or depleted. Initial colonizers absorb simple sugars, amino acids, and vitamins from plant parts such as fruits, seeds and vegetables, and are classified as “sugar fungus.” The dominance of these fungi is short-lived because waste products accumulate quickly.

Cellulose degraders appear next and they are the most diverse fungi and competitive. For example, degradation of straw with high C:N ratio (80:1) requires that fungus parasitize or decompose other fungi to obtain nitrogen for growth and enzyme production. Degradation of lignin is stimulated by low nitrogen. Lignin makes up 60 percent of the total mass of humus, but the low number of fungal species that can degrade lignin reduces competition (Dick, W., 2009).

Fungi generally reproduce asexually by spores (microscopic parts similar to plant seeds). Spore dispersal occurs in a variety of ways including triggers, jet propulsion, springs, and scents depending on the environment (Lowenfels & Lewis, 2006). Fungi spores may live 50 years in an inactive vegetative state as a spore. This allows the fungi to survive and remain viable by staying inactive until environmental conditions improve. Microbes spend most of their time hungry and looking for nutrient resources just to survive but fungus may remain viable for years. Most fungi survive by continual growth and translocation of nutrients in wide networks as they search for food or they survive through the production of resistant spores during times of stress (Lavelle & Spain, 2005). Natural soils tend to suppress germinating fungal spores, especially when nutrients are limiting (Sylvia et al., 2005).

The longevity of fungi has not been measured in many species but their open-ended growth suggests that they have a longevity measured in millions of years, because they are basically the same organism (Dick, R., 2009). For example, fairy fungal rings grow in ever widening circles, much like rings on a tree, and are measured in decades and centuries instead of days and weeks for most microbes. One fungus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula covered 20 hectares or almost 42 acres, connected itself to most of the trees and weighed 10,000 kilograms or 11 ton and was estimated to be over 1,500 years old (Smith et al. 1992).

Summary

Most soil fungi decompose recalcitrant organic residues high in cellulose and lignin. Fungi carbon use efficiency is about 40–55 percent so they store and recycle more C (10:1 C:N ratio) and less N (10 percent) in their cells than bacteria. While fungi are smaller in number, they equal or exceed the biomass of bacteria due to their greater size. Fungi are more specialized but need a constant food source and grow better under undisturbed soil conditions. Fungus and bacteria recycle soil nutrients and generally have a symbiotic relationship with most plants.

This fact sheet was produced in conjunction with the Midwest Cover Crops Council (MCCC).

In my experience of converting plants, i’ve found that there are a lot of plants that do great going straight from soil to semi hydroponics and convert without batting an eye. They adjust quickly to growing in a new media and almost immediately begin to push out new root and leaf growth. Its as easy as removing the soil, washing the roots and I’m good to go! The easiest plants to convert straight from soil in my experience have been pothos, scindapsus, trailing philodendrons, spider plants, monsteras, ficus (elastica, audrey, lyrata, altissima) and schefflera etc.

NOTE: It’s important to keep in mind that some plants going straight from soil into semi hydroponics will shed the outer layer of their old soil roots and grow new white roots that are adapted to growing in a soil free media – which is a natural process! As long as the plant looks healthy and is pushing out new root and leaf growth, all is well.

Eventually any soil and remaining plant waste will be washed away when you flush your pot. However, it is still a good practice to check on your plants roots every couple of weeks after first planting to clean out any shedded root waste or roots that didn’t make the transition. In time only clean white roots will remain.

Some plants on the other hand are easier to convert with a bit of transitioning after being removed from soil.

In my experience the plants that benefit most from transitioning include:

  • Plants that have roots that are too thin, delicate or fibrous to easily remove the soil from.(e.g. peperomias, pileas, marantas, banana plants etc).
  • Plants with compromised root systems (the root system is small and weak / soil removal was difficult and many of the roots were damaged or needed to be trimmed
  • Plants that are sick, struggling or have stem or root rot.
  • Plants that go into shock easily after soil removal (e.g. watermelon peperomias, pilea peperomioides)

Different Methods to Transition Plants to Semi Hydroponics

The most important step when converting a plant from soil to semi hydroponics is soil removal. Taking that extra time to be very thorough with getting as much soil off the roots as you possible can really save you from future headaches and root issues later down the road.

However, even with that said and done, some plants may have compromised or weakened root systems before or after soil removal. Both LECA and Water propagation methods can be used to promote root growth and strengthen a weak or struggling root system before planting in semi hydroponics.

Furthermore, for plants that have roots that are impossible to remove the soil from, it is often easier to cut the soil roots off completely and grow new roots in water propagation or LECA propagation.

Water Propagation

With water propagation, I place the plant or cuttings in a glass jar with water to encourage new root growth. Once the root system has grown substantial enough to support the plant, it can be either be moved to LECA propagation or straight into semi hydroponics.

TIP: Since the roots of pileas and peperomias are next to impossible to remove the soil from and they propagate very easily, I cut the roots off the plant completely and grow new roots in water propagation. Once roots appear, I move the cutting to LECA propagation.

LECA Propagation

With LECA propagation, I place the cutting or plant in a glass jar with LECA, keeping the waterline at a 1/3 the height of the jar. I find regular tap water works just fine and I only start adding nutrients once I move to a semi hydroponic setup.

Peperomia Obtusifolia growing new roots in LECA propagation

If the plant already has some roots, it’s okay if the roots are not submerged below the waterline (especially if there is still some soil remaining). The wicking ability of LECA will pull water up towards the roots through capillary action, keeping the LECA saturated.

For unrooted cuttings the same principal applies, although you may want to submerge the ends of the stems if its a finicky or water loving plant (I see you watermelon peperomia!). In either case, new roots will begin to grow along the nodes of the stem in LECA. Once root growth is substantial, the plant can be moved to semi hydroponics.

NOTE: LECA propagation is a great transitioning step for moving a plant to semi hydroponics.The air spaces within and between the LECA, along with the constant supply of water, provide a balanced root zone environment ideal for root growth! Furthermore, roots propagated in LECA are already adapted to growing in a soil free media, making the move to a semi hydro setup much more seamless.

Propagation Box, Bag or Dome

It can be beneficial to place plants propagating in water or LECA inside a propagation box, clear garbage bag, ziplock bag, or dome.

The idea is to create greenhouse type environment that keeps the humidity high and the LECA saturated while new roots are growing. Hoyas in particular love really high humidity when growing new roots and really benefit from a propagation box or bag. Just make sure if you’re using a box or bag that it is not air tight so that there is some air flow (small holes in the top of the box, or a small space left open in the bag works great).

Transitioning Different Types of Plants to Semi Hydroponics

Thin, Delicate and Fibrous Rooted Plants

Plants such as peperomias, marantas and plieas (amongst others), have very thin, delicate and fibrous roots. These types of roots are very difficult, if not impossible, to remove the soil from without severely damaging or losing the majority of the root system. Too much remaining soil could lead to root decay and a damaged root system could send the plant into shock.

  • Maranta cuttings growing new roots in LECA propagation
  • Peperomia Obtusifolia growing new roots in LECA propagation

For these reasons I find it’s easier to cut the soil roots off completely and propagate new roots in water or LECA propagation before planting in semi hydroponics. Just make sure to include sections of the plant that have part of the stem with nodes, as this is where the new roots will grow from.

  • Semi Hydroponic Banana Tree
  • Pilea peperomioides growing new roots in LECA propagation

With my banana tree, its fibrous roots were coated in extremely hard to remove soil. I ended up using an old tooth brush to gently scrub off as much of the soil as I could (I don’t necessarily always recommend this, as it can be quite harsh on the roots, but I was determined to have this baby soil free!). By the time I was done, the majority of the fine roots had been lost with only the main roots remaining.

I made the mistake of immediately planting it in semi hydroponics instead of transitioning it. By no surprise, by the next day the plant had gone into shock and its leaves were limp. I’ve noticed from experience that this tends to happen when the root system has suffered too much damage from soil removal and can therefore no longer support the plant.

To remedy the situation, I moved the plant out of semi hydroponics and kept it in a jar of water. Its leaves quickly perked back up and by the end of the week, the main roots had pushed out a crazy amount of new fine root growth! With the root system recovered I was then able to plant in a semi hydroponic setup where it has since flourished.

Plants with Compromised Root Systems

For plants that have a small or weak root systems or have lost a lot of roots during soil removal and their root system has been compromised, I prefer to first transition the plant in either a jar with water or LECA before planting in semi hydroponics. Both are a great way to help a plants root system recover and to encourage new root growth.

Glass jars are great since they also allow you to watch as new roots grow and to see if any of the roots that were damaged have died off. They also keep the humidity high and the LECA saturated while the plant is growing new roots and transitioning to a new medium.

  • Philodendron Selloum transitioning to Semi Hydroponics using Water Propagation
  • Promoting root growth on a philodendron prince of orange using a jar with LECA

For my philodendron Selloum, like my banana plant, after removing the soil, many of the finer roots were lost with only the main roots remaining. Since the root system was compromised, I kept it in water for a week to prevent the plant from going into shock and to encourage new root growth. This allowed me to see if any further damaged roots fell off and to observe new root growth. Once I was confident that the root system was healthy I moved the plant from water to a semi hydroponic set up.

My philodendron Prince of Orange was another case of a comprised root system after soil removal. To help its roots recover and ease its transition into semi hydro, I decided to first transition the plant in a jar with LECA.

Sick, Struggling Plants or Plants with Stem or Root Rot

If a plant is sick, struggling or has stem or root rot, it is usually better to first transition the plant. This allows you to treat the plant and keep an eye on the root system to ensure it is healthy before planting in semi hydroponics.

Going from soil into semi hydroponics can be a bit of a shock even if the plant is already healthy (since it has to adapt to a new medium), so extra care should be taken if the plant is already struggling. If it is a plant that has many sections or can be divided, it would be a good idea to treat each section separately rather than propagating it all in one container.

For root rot, remove the plant from its pot and rinse all the soil from the roots, cutting away all the infected and dead roots. I find its usually best to start the plant in water propagation to help its root system recover as well as to keep an eye on the health of the roots over time. This also allows you to remove any further roots that might die off and to change the water easily.

If its a plant that propagates easily it might be best to cut the roots off entirely and grow new ones. Once the root system starts to look healthy, you can move the plant to LECA propagation.

For stem rot, cut above the part of the stem that is infected. If its a plant with only one main stem this may mean that you’ll have to lose the root system entirely; in which case, you can propagate new roots in water or LECA propagation. If its a plant like an alocasia that has rhizomes roots, make sure to cut as much of the rot off as possible but try to salvage a part of the rhizome since this is where new roots will grow from.

  • Hoya Kerrii with Stem and Root Rot
  • Hoya Kerrii with stem and root rot removed and ready for propagation

Finicky Plants that go into Shock Easily

Some plants can be super finicky after being removed from soil and can very easily go into shock if planted immediately in semi hydroponics. Watermelon peperomias and pilea peperomioides are both great examples of plants with thin and delicate root systems that are very hard to remove the soil from. Even if the majority of soil is removed, there will likely not be enough root system left to support the plant.

I’ve learned the hard way trying to keep some of the root system while converting pileas and watermelon peperomias. In both cases, the plants went limp within a few hours and I ended up having to cut off the old root system entirely and propagate new roots in water or a jar of LECA.

Mature Plants with Large Root Systems

Some plants, like monsteras and philodendrons, may be more forgiving converting at a larger size. You just need to make sure to remove as much of the soil as possible as well as to trim any roots that are dead or damaged. There is however always the risk that a larger plant might go into shock from being removed from soil and have a hard time adapting to a new media.

After planting a mature plant in semi hydroponics, it is good practice to remove the plant from the pot every few weeks to check on the root system and trim any dead roots that might have not have taken.

  • Mature Philodendron Selloum shedding outer layer of soil roots in Semi Hydroponics
  • Philodendron Selloum Semi Hydro roots

Some plants will also shed the outer layer of their old roots while they grow new ones in LECA. This is nothing to be alarmed about and does not harm the plant. Any shedded plant waste can easily be removed with regular flushing. You should also remove the plant form LECA every few weeks to check on the root system and clean out any shedded root waste or roots that didn’t make the transition. As long as the plant is looking healthy and you are seeing new root growth, you shouldn’t be worried. It may also take a while before the plant starts pushing out new leaf growth since its energy is being directed towards adapting its root system.

If you’re nervous about converting a larger or more mature plant to semi hydroponics, it might be easier to propagate cuttings or divide it into sections to convert instead. Once you begin to feel more comfortable and get a feel for how it all works, you can move onto larger plants.

Final Thoughts

The great thing about growing houseplants in semi hydroponics is that it is somewhat uncharted territory and there really isn’t one right way to do it. If you’ve read my post on “How to Convert a Plant from Soil to Semi Hydroponics” you’ll see i’ve provided a step by step process on how I convert my plants.

While this is a great guideline for beginners, it doesn’t mean that with experience you can’t “bend the rules” and experiment to see what works best for you! The type of plant your converting, the condition its in, its root system and even variables such as the light, temperature and humidity in your home, can all play a role in determining how you want to go about converting your plants. So have fun and don’t be afraid to experiment!

The same principal applies for transitioning plants. There are no hard and fast rules or one method applies to all. Its all about trial and error and determining what methods work best for you with different types of plants and your home environment.

With that said, I hope the methods I’ve outlined in this post have shown you that with a bit of playing around, patience and will, you can grow almost any type of plant in semi hydroponics! From my experience, some plants do great going straight from soil to semi hydro, some benefit from a transition period, while others are easier to convert by propagating new roots altogether!

Happy Planting! 🌱

Disclaimer: Since the majority of this blog is sharing my personal experiences and advice on growing houseplants soil-free, I feel it necessary to state that I do not have a formal education in horticulture or hydroponics.The vast majority of my knowledge has been acquired through a lot of research, experimentation, trial and error, advice exchanged with other enthusiasts and a lot of hands on experience. I am not a horticultural expert. I am more of a self-taught hobbyist/enthusiast with a tremendous passion for continuous learning. The aim of this blog is to bring awareness to, guide and inspire others about using alternative methods for growing houseplants soil-free. Therefore, while this blog is meant to act as a resource and source of inspiration, it is important to understand that the decision to convert – and the vitality of – any plant converted to soil-free using the techniques outlined in this blog, is done at your own risk.

Cause Of Root Rot: Root Rot Remedy For Garden Plants, Trees, And Shrubs

While many people have both heard of and dealt with root rot in houseplants, most are not aware that this disease can also have an adverse effect on garden plants outdoors, including shrubs and trees. Learning more about the cause of root rot and how to look for early signs of root rot in garden plants will go a long way in its treatment. For root rot prevention and treatment info, keep reading.

Root rot is a disease that attacks the roots of plants growing in wet soil. Since the disease spreads through the soil, the only root rot remedy for garden plants is often to remove and destroy the plant. However, you can try these corrective measures if you want to attempt to save a particularly valuable plant:

  • Keep the soil as dry as possible.
  • Don’t irrigate the plant unless the soil is almost completely dry.
  • Pull back the soil to allow moisture to evaporate from the soil.

The cause of root rot is a fungus. Species of the Pythium, Phytophthora, Rhizoctonia, or Fusarium fungi are the usual culprits. These fungi thrive in wet soil, and you can transfer them from one part of the garden to another when you transplant ailing plants.

When it comes to identifying root rot, look at the plants. Plants with root rot can’t absorb moisture and nourishment from the soil properly. The plants often resemble those suffering from drought and stress and mineral deficiencies.

Signs of root rot in garden plants include stunting, wilting and discolored leaves. Foliage and shoots die back and the entire plant soon dies. If you pull up a plant with root rot, you will see that the roots are brown and soft instead of firm and white.

Trees with root rot develop cankers, ooze reddish or black sap, and sometimes develop dark vertical streaks.

Treatment for Root Rot

The best root rot remedy for garden plants is prevention. Prevent root rot by filling in low parts of the garden and improving the soil with organic matter so that it drains freely. If you can’t improve the drainage, use raised beds where the where plant roots sit above the soil. Taking care not to overwater garden plants will also help.

There are chemical fungicides and biological agents labeled as treatment for root rot disease; however, you should not use these products unless you know which fungus is causing the problem. Contact your local agricultural extension agent for information about how to have the fungus identified.

Once you know which fungus you are treating, your agricultural extension agent can recommend a product to treat that specific fungus. Fungicides are toxic chemicals that should be used with caution. Read the label and follow the instructions exactly. Store them in their original container and out of the reach of children.

Even when all of the precautions are taken in the garden, root rot may still occasionally become an issue. However, if you pay attention to the signs of root rot in garden plants, you’ll have a better chance of saving your plants.

Stem and Root Rot

Cause: Species of soil-inhabiting fungi such Rhizoctonia, Fusarium and Pythium.

In many cases, the disease is a continuation of seedling blight. Spots of various sizes occur on the stem, at or near the soil level and on the roots. These spots may vary in color from gray, brown, black, or even bright red. Frequently, these fungi cause the tips of fibrous roots to decay. Wilting, dieback, and poor vigor are common symptoms. Plants are often predisposed to infection by poorly drained soils, crowding, mechanical injury, over-watering, improper balance of plant nutrients or other factors that affect plant growth. Containerized plants often suffer root rot even though factors other than fungi may be the primary cause. Roots on potted plants can be checked for vigor by carefully removing the pot when the container is inverted and the plant is supported at the base with one hand. Dark decaying roots on the outside of the soil mass indicate a root rot condition may exist.

Control is difficult because once symptoms are observed, damage to the stem or roots is usually severe. For small flower beds and potted plants, use a soil drench of a recommended fungicide. A fungicide could also be mixed with soil prior to planting as suggested by the manufacturer. Allow excessively wet soils to dry. Always avoid throwing soil to stems when cultivating and avoid crowding plants in seedbeds or other areas. When transplanting or repotting, place plants at the same soil depth. Do not mulch heavily with partially decomposed organic matter. In the field, cover crops should be plowed under early to allow complete decomposition before a susceptible crop is planted.

Nematodes may cause symptoms similar to stem and root rots. See sections on Nematodes other than Root Knot, Southern Blight, Seedling Blight, Mushroom Root Rot, and Cotton Root Rot. All of these can cause stem and root rot type symptoms


TFREC Wenatchee, WA
1100 N Western Ave.,
Wenatchee, WA 98801
509-663-8181

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