Alocasia or Elephant ears is a tropical plant popular for its large, dark green foliage. Like any other houseplant, if you overwater your Alocasia, it can suffer from root rot. Root rot is a fungal disease that affects the roots of your plants under wet conditions.
To fix root rot in alocasia:
- Please take out the plant from its pot and inspect its root.
- Prune off the mushy and decaying roots.
- After pruning, apply fungicide on the healthy roots and do not damage them.
- Next, repot the plant in a new pot with fresh potting soil.
- Water the soil and keep the plant in a bright spot.
- Later, water the plant only when the top inch of the soil feels dry.
In this article, I will discuss how you can save your Alocasia from root rot. I will also clarify the causes, signs of root rot and suggest ways to prevent it.
Table Of Contents
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Signs of root rot
Alocasias are susceptible to root rot disease.
When root rot takes place, the healthy roots of your plant start to decay and turn mushy and brown and eventually die.
The damaged roots fail to supply water and nutrients to the plant, due to which the plant falls sick.
Alocasia with root rot will show signs like yellow leaves or stunted growth.
If you notice the early symptoms, take quick action to save your plant from root rot before it’s too late.
Root rot is a deadly disease, and it can kill your plant if not treated within time.
Let us discuss some of the signs of root rot in your plant.
The plant will stop its growth if it experiences root rot.
Root rot damages the roots of your Alocasia, due to which they fail to perform their basic functions.
The plant fails to get water or nutrients through roots, due to which they do not get the energy needed for growth.
As a result, the Alocasia becomes weak and stops growing.
A healthy Alocasia will have distinctive dark, green foliage.
But root rot will cause their beautiful leaves to turn yellow or brown.
You will notice yellow leaves at the early stages of root rot and brown leaves when root rot is advancing.
Brown spots on leaves
In the initial stages of root rot, your plant’s leaves can get small brown spots.
Later as root rot advances, the leaves may turn entirely brown or black.
If you notice such brown spots, you should check the roots.
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The roots of a healthy alocasia plant will have a white, crisp texture.
But if the plant is suffering from root rot, the healthy roots will decay and turns brown and crumbly.
Decayed roots become soft and can easily break with the slightest pull.
Bad odor from soil
Once your plant’s roots start to decay due to root rot, they will emit a bad smell.
The excess moisture will restrict the air supply in the soil, due to which the roots decay and produce a bad smell due to its pathetic condition.
If you get a bad or rotten smell from the soil, take the plant out from the container and inspect its roots.
When the plant is experiencing root rot, the roots will fail to carry out their function.
Rotten roots will not be able to supply nutrients and moisture to the plant, due to which the leaves of the plant wilt to save the remaining water and nutrients.
You will notice wilted leaves in the later stages of root rot.
So, if your plant’s leaves are wilting, check for root rot.
Reasons behind root rot in my Alocasia
Alocasia can experience root rot for many reasons, such as overwatering, poor drainage, and wrong potting mix.
Let us now understand all the causes in detail.
The primary cause of root rot in your plant is overwatering.
Alocasia prefers to grow in moist, well-drained soil, so many of us overwater them out of care.
Although some factors encourage overwatering, such as using a large pot or a pot with no drainage holes, low light, low temperatures, poorly drained soil, etc.
A prolonged period of overwatering will make the soil soggy and waterlogged.
The plant’s roots will get suffocated due to a lack of oxygen in the soil.
The roots will become mushy, fragile, and fail to transfer water and nutrients to the plant.
Damaged roots are easy targets for pathogens and pests, and they will further encourage the process of root rot.
Also read: How Can You Save Overwatered Alocasia?
Poor drainage system
Well-drained soil and a pot with drainage holes are two vital aspects to prevent root rot disease.
Alocasia needs well-draining soil for growing, and planting it in poorly drained soil will not properly drain the excess water.
Also, using a pot with no drainage holes will not ensure proper drainage.
The pot will fail to drain out the excess water, due to which the soil will remain wet for a prolonged period.
If you continue to overwater, the soil will become a breeding ground for many pests and fungal diseases, which will infect the roots, causing them to decay.
Also read: Do all indoor plants need drainage holes?
Wrong potting mix
Alocasia prefers to grow in well-drained, well-aerated, and slightly acidic potting soil.
The soil mix should be such that it remains moist but also drains out the excess moisture.
Using poorly drained soil will cause the roots to get root rot disease.
A heavy soil mix with more clayey content will retain moisture for a longer time which can cause waterlogging conditions in the soil.
As a result, the roots will not be able to breathe properly due to the lack of enough oxygen in the soil, and it further gives area for pests and disease to grow, leading to root rot disease.
Wrong pot size
Alocasias like to grow big, and they have shallow roots that need large space to grow properly.
If you use a small pot to grow Alocasia, then the pot may not provide proper air circulation in the soil.
This situation will suffocate the root system leading to root rot.
Alocasias are quite sensitive to pathogenic infections.
Overwatering is the main reason your plant gets attacked by pathogens (bacterial or fungal) problems.
Pythium rot, botrytis, and phytophthora are the main fungi responsible for root rot in alocasias.
Pathogens need a moist environment to grow, and soggy soil is the ideal condition for their germination.
Pathogens expand rapidly, and they will spread over the whole plant in very less time.
They will cause your plant’s roots to turn back, mushy and fragile.
Alocasia prefers to grow in bright, indirect light.
These plants cannot tolerate low light conditions, and keeping them in low light for too long can cause various problems, including root rot.
In low light, the soil will take more time to dry, and due to this, it will remain wet for a longer period, leading to root rot.
Also, low light conditions are ideal for pests and pathogens to attack your plant.
Unclean or dirty tools act as a medium through which the pathogens can enter your plant.
In another case, if you bring a sick plant from a nursery without inspecting it properly, the sick plant will carry infections due to which the roots get affected and suffer from root rot.
It is tricky to identify the root rot issue in young plants or if you purchased the plant without knowing it is infected.
Alocasias are tropical houseplants that need warm and humid conditions to thrive.
They will face a problem when the temperature falls below their tolerance level.
Alocasias need warm temperatures 65-85°F for growth. If the temperature drops below 55°F, the plant can even die.
During the winter season, when temperature levels are low, watering the plant in the same pattern will develop overwatering and a root rot problem.
The light intensity remains low in winters, due to which the soil takes more time for drying, thus staying moist for a longer period, and watering regularly in such conditions will lead to root rot.
Proper ventilation around the plant is important for its healthy growth.
The planting location should have good air circulation so that the water evaporates quickly from the soil.
If the surrounding area around the plant does not have proper ventilation, then the soil will remain wet for a longer period, putting the roots in trouble and causing them to suffer from root rot.
How do you save a rotting Alocasia?
If the root rot is severe, repotting is the only way to save your plant from dying.
Repotting will give a new fresh start to your plant by giving good air circulation to the roots, more space for the roots to grow, and vital nutrients to the plant.
Repotting should be done with utmost care without stressing the plant.
Let us now consider the following steps involved in repotting:
- First, take out your alocasia plant by holding its stem and pulling it off from the pot. Then, carefully inspect the roots.
- Wash all of the roots with clean water to remove the soil attached.
- Next, carefully cut the decaying roots that have turned brown and mushy with sterilized pruners. Leave behind the healthy roots.
- Prune all the damaged, discolored leaves and all other affected portions from the plant. Pruning will reduce some stress from your plant.
- Fill water in a small container and mix half a tablespoon of fungicide. Put the plant in the fungicide solution and leave it for 10 to 15 minutes. This will kill all the bacteria and pathogens from your plant.
- Then, take out the plant from the fungicide solution and keep it outside for a few hours so that the plant dries quickly.
- When your plant has dried, put beta din on the stem. Beta din is an antiseptic cream that will restrict antimicrobial action on the plant.
- Take a new pot for repotting your plant. The pot should be 2 inches larger than the previous pot. Also, the pot should have drainage holes for draining out the excess water. You can add some pebbles at the pot’s base to stop the drainage holes from getting blocked.
- Now add a new fresh potting mix to the pot. Fill 1/3rd of the pot with potting mix.
- Place your plant carefully in the pot and add soil from all sides. Then, press the soil with your hands to make it firm and ensure no air pockets are left.
- Keep your plant in a location where it receives bright, indirect light throughout the day.
- Do not fertilize your plant during its recovery period.
- Before watering, check the soil’s moisture level with a moisture meter. Water the plant when the soil is 25-50% dry. Always allow the soil to dry out between watering partially.
How to prevent root rot in my alocasia plants?
You can easily prevent root rot disease in the Alocasia plant by taking care of its basic requirements.
Let’s look at the following points given below to prevent root rot:
- Water your alocasia plant only when the top 25-50% of the soil is dry. Avoid overwatering the plant.
- Keep your plant in a place that provides bright indirect or filtered light.
- Make sure the surrounding area around the plant is well ventilated.
- Use a well-draining, aerated, slightly acidic potting mix for your plant. Avoid using garden soil.
- Use a 1-2 inches bigger pot than the plant with drainage holes.
- Fertilize your alocasia plant during its growing season. Use a well-balanced liquid fertilizer with an NPK ratio of 20:20:20. Avoid fertilizing the plant during the winter season to prevent over-fertilization.
- Maintain temperatures between 65-85°F and minimum humidity of 50-60% for Alocasia.
- Never use contaminated or infected tools for pruning your plant. Always use the pruners only after washing and sanitizing them.
- Repot your alocasia plant every 2-3 years in a fresh soil mix and new pot.
Keep all the above points in mind to prevent root rot in your alocasia plant. Always check your plant to find any unusual signs of any problem at the earliest.
Reference: Science Direct, Propagation of Alocasia, The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, Alocasia sanderiana, Alocasia micholitziana.