What is Root Rot?

fallen tree from root rot

Is root rot contagious?

You’ve probably heard about it, but do you know what is root rot?  Root rot is a root attacking disease that affects plants, shrubs, and trees. The disease a fungus created from Fusarium, Phytophthora, Pythium, and Rhizoctonia, all of which thrive in wet soil. The disease can be transferred from the garden to a plant where the soil is constantly wet. 

There are two reasons for root rot. One is extended exposure to overwatering. When a plant is overwatered, it can’t get any oxygen. Eighth grade science tells us that all living things need oxygen. So, as the roots are overwatered, they begin to die due to lack of oxygen and rot.  That rot will spread to healthy roots and the root rot spreads. 

Fugus is the other source of root rot. It will lay dormant in the soil until a plant, shrub, or tree is overwatered and while the vegetation is dying from overwatering and no oxygen, the fungi thrives and spreads. 

Can root rot be reversed?

Yes, but it isn’t a fast process.  For houseplants, the following steps can help reverse root rot: 

  • Remove the plant from the pot and examine the roots. If the roots are white, they are healthy. Put the plant back, cover it up good with the soil.  If the roots are brown and mushy, there is a root rot in the process. 
  • If there is still a healthy plant, cut the dying roots off then cut the same amount of growth off the leaves.  You don’t want more leaves than roots, the roots can’t feed more than it is able. 
  • Replant the plant in a clean pot with fresh soil. Water only as needed (it has been overwatered remember?) and put it where it can get gentle sunlight. 

How do you get rid of root rot?

Root rot begin under the soil and isn’t visible to the naked eye until it has begun killing the plant above the soil line. Many time, by the time a gardener notices possible root rot, it is too late. An arborist or your local agricultural extension agent  will know how to fix root rot, but the best thing to do to prevent root rot from starting using any of the following suggestions: 

  1. Fill in the low areas of your garden with healthy soil and organic matter. The organic matter will help the soil drain freely, but if that is possible, build raised beds for your garden, building them so they will have good drainage. 
  2. Be careful not to overwater your garden, shrubs, trees, or your house plants. 
  3. Purchase biological agents and chemical fungicides that are for root rot disease. Use only after speaking with an arborist or your local county extension agent. There are certain fungi that cause root rot and you don’t want to treat your vegetation for the wrong problem. 

Note: Fungicides are toxic chemicals and should only be used with extreme caution and following the instructions precisely. They should only be stored in their original container and kept out of the reach of children. 

Healthy tree

How fast does root rot happen?

With ‘ideal’ conditions and in extreme cases, the fungus causing the root rot can spread within ten days to other roots, killing plants along the way. There are three factors that must be in place at the same time in order for root rot to happen: 

  1. The plant
  2. The disease
  3. Environment  conditions 

If there is rain every and there is ample drainage, the roots will survive without any root rot happening. This is true for both house plants, gardens, shrubs, and trees. Standing water is the enemy you want to keep from happening. 

How do you know if you have root rot?

Knowing why does root rot happen can help you keep it from happening again most of the time. Sometimes though, Mother Nature just wins, and you have to keep abreast of it to stop it, reverse it, or trash your plant affected with root rot. 

Root rot in a house plant can be identified by soft, brown roots. The roots of a healthy plant are firm and white. They turn brown and soft when the soil is soggy from overwatering, which allows fungal spores to multiply and the fungus begins to spread into the roots.

On Root Rot In Trees

If you suspect a tree is suffering from root rot before you attempt to treat it,  contact a professional arborist, and schedule them to check the tree out and make a professional diagnosis. The root system of large tree is expansive, and it requires digging underground in certain sections to diagnose root rot. Smaller and younger trees aren’t easy to diagnose root rot either, especially for the untrained eye. Always consult with a professional because trees can’t be replanted as easy as houseplants. Call 817-975-0180 today for your tree health in Fort Worth, TX.