Can a Plant Recover From Root Rot?

Can a Plant Recover From Root Rot

Most plant owners go to great lengths to take good care of their plants, but too much enthusiasm could be harmful. Overwatered plants are at greater risk of root rot, a fungal disease that can attack roots that are weakened from standing too long in wet soil. From the roots, the rot can spread to the rest of the plant, and if not addressed in time, your plant will die. This article discusses the signs of root rot, as well as what you should do to remedy this condition. 

Can a plant recover from root rot?

Yes, a plant can recover from root rot if some healthy, white, and firm roots still remain. However, if the entire root system has already become mushy, rotten, and has an unpleasant smell, it may be too late to save your plant from root rot. 

What are the common signs of root rot?

The common signs of root rot include leaves turning yellow or brown, stagnant or standing water in the container, and a decaying root system. 
Roots that are dark brown, spongy, soft or moldy are an indication of root rot. Although this is the first sign, it often goes unnoticed as it takes place underground.

It is natural for older leaves to change colors and drop off, but if the discoloration includes younger or newer leaves, it could indicate root rot.  

Other signs include the following:

  • Dying or wilted leaves
  • Stunted growth 
  • Die-back of foliage and shoots

How to save your plant from root rot

Allow the plant’s soil to dry out properly. 

If the soil around the plant is moist, allow it to dry out for a period of three to five days. This can work for plants that are not yet showing evident damage. Once the soil dries out. the plant’s roots will be able to absorb oxygen again and return to efficient functioning.  

Remove the dead or discolored leaves. 

Remove all the discolored and dying leaves, separating them from the plant as close to the base as possible.

Dispose of the old soil. 

Your plants will need to be removed from their current soil and repotted. Gently brush away the excess soil from around the roots, taking care not to disturb the root system too much while doing so. 

Trim off the dead and decaying roots. 

Cut off all the rotting roots, but save as many of the white, firm, healthy ones as possible.

Repot the plant using new soil. 

Repot the plant using a sterile potting mix that is compatible with the plant type. The new soil will be free of bacteria and fungi, and will also supply the plant with nutrients that may have been depleted in the old soil. This will help the plant recover faster. 

Do not water the repotted plant for at least a few days, and do not apply fertilizer at this time as it will only stress the plant. 

How to prevent root rot?

  1. Use pots that have drainage holes at the bottom.
  2. Use well-draining soil and remember to check it occasionally to make sure it is still draining water properly.
  3. Check the soil’s moisture by doing a finger test: Push your finger a couple of inches into the soil and assess the moisture level. If the top layer of soil is dry, you can water the plant again.
  4. Water the plants according to the season and the weather. Plants require less water during winter and more during the hot summer months. 
  5. Monitor your plants regularly for signs of decay or leaf discoloration.


Plants need favorable growing conditions to thrive, and their basic needs include water, space, nutrition, and optimal temperatures. Without these conditions, they can become prone to diseases such as root rot, which is often caused by overwatering or poor drainage. To save your plants from root rot, remove all the affected foliage and cut off the decaying roots. Repot the plants in a new pot using a fresh potting mix, and wait a few days before watering them again. 

Image: / Iryna Imago