Chinese evergreen is a loved and popular houseplant. It needs little care and can tolerate different conditions. But like other potted plants, Chinese evergreen can be vulnerable to root rot.
The primary cause of root rot in Chinese evergreen plants is overwatering. Prolonged exposure to excess water causes waterlogging, which suffocates the root system, leading to root rot. Other causes can be poor drainage system, poor airflow, wrong soil mix, and pathogenic infections.
In this article, we shall learn how to save Chinese evergreen from root rot.
To fix root rot in your Chinese evergreen, you need to follow the following steps:
- Reduce or stop watering your chinese evergreen immediately.
- Gently take the plant out of the soil and clean the roots.
- Look for any damaged roots and clip off any damaged parts.
- Clip any brown or mushy leaves and stems.
- Dip the roots into a fungicide solution.
- Prepare the plant for repotting into a new pot with fresh soil mix.
- Repot the plant using a light soil mix.
- Water once and move the plant to a brightly lit spot.
- Moving forward, only water the plant when the topsoil gets a little dry.
Whenever you find early signs of root rot, start the treatment immediately.
This article will explain the details of saving your Chinese evergreen from root rot. I will explain the causes, early signs, and all the preventive measures you can take for your Chinese evergreen.
Table Of Contents
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What is root rot?
Root rot is a disease where the roots of plants decay and rot. The leading cause of this disease is overwatering or poorly drained soil. The roots get waterlogged due to overwatering and get suffocated.
Soggy soil conditions will not allow the roots to receive the oxygen they need. Hence the roots start to starve and rot. The disease can also damage other healthier roots, making the plant weak and susceptible to other soil fungi.
The pathogens of the disease remain dormant in the soil, and when the soil is overwatered, the pathogens become active and damage the root system. If not detected and treated on time, root rot can even kill your plant.
What are the different signs of root rot in Chinese evergreen?
The roots of a plant are not visible since they are below the soil’s surface, so it’s a little difficult to detect root rot problem, and it will only become apparent when the disease starts showing signs on the overall plant.
Root rot will cause the foliage of your Chinese evergreen to turn yellow to brown. The leaves may also start to wilt, becoming smaller in size.
Severe root rot will compel the roots to become mushy and soft, and the plant will look stunted due to poor or no growth.
Signs of root rot in Chinese evergreen include:
Root rot will make the leaves of your Chinese evergreen turn yellow.
Yellow leaves mainly occur due to overwatering. One of the primary signs indicates root rot, where the whole leaf turns yellow and wilt.
Along with yellowing, some leaves start to brown tips and edges.
Brown spot on leaves
The leaves may initially get small and brown spots due to root rot. Later, the leaves can turn dark brown or black entirely when the disease gets severe.
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When root rot occurs, the roots suffocate due to overwatering and fail to supply essential to the plant, due to which the leaves wilt.
Wilted leaves indicate that your Chinese evergreen is experiencing a lack of nutrients.
Chinese evergreen can have stunted growth due to root rot.
Root rot will damage the roots, due to which the plant will not be able to absorb water and food from the soil. Without energy, the plant will suffer from stress and slow down its overall growth.
Foul odor from soil
If you start getting a foul odor from the soil, understand that your Chinese evergreen is undergoing root rot.
When the roots remain in the water for an extended period, they rot and generate a foul smell. The soil starts smelling musty or stinky whenever you go closer to the plant.
Unhealthy brown mushy roots
Root rot will turn your Chinese evergreen’s healthy, firm roots mushy, weak, and brown.
Healthy roots are generally dry, white, and crisp, but roots affected by root rot will change their color and texture. Also, the roots break easily.
What are the causes of root rot in Chinese evergreen?
Root rot in Chinese evergreen can happen due to many reasons such as overwatering, poor drainage, and many more. It’s time to discuss all these causes in detail.
Overwatering is the primary reason for root rot in Chinese evergreen. They prefer moist, well-draining soil and enjoy moderate watering – not much, not less.
Some factors will contribute to overwatering, such as planting them in a large pot or a pot with no drainage holes, using poorly drained soil, low temperatures, etc.
Continuous overwatering will not allow the soil to dry out, and the roots will suffocate due to a lack of oxygen. They will become fragile and fail to supply water and nutrients to the plant.
Weaker roots will be an easy target for pathogens and pest infestations to further increase the process of root rot.
Also, they require minimal watering during winters due to a reduced growth rate. Maintaining the same watering routine the whole year will create overwatering problems.
You should water your Chinese evergreen every 7 to 10 days in summers to keep the soil perfectly moist and water it only when the top 1-2 inches of soil feels dry to touch.
Reduce your watering level during winters when the light levels remain low.
If you have overwatered your Chinese evergreen, wait for the soil to dry completely. You can shift the pot to a brighter spot so that it can dry quickly.
A proper drainage system is vital to prevent root rot. Chinese evergreen prefers well-draining soil, and planting it in poorly drained soil will not ensure proper drainage. Also, the pot should have enough drainage holes for draining the excess water.
A pot with a poor drainage system will not drain out the surplus water, keeping the soil wet for a longer time. Soggy soil will build a ground for fungal infections to grow, causing the roots to decay.
Always use a pot with a good number of drainage holes.
Plant your Chinese evergreen in a well-drained potting mix, preferably an equal mix of perlite, sand, and potting soil. To improve soil drainage, you can add compost, vermiculite, or farm manure.
A wrong pot
Chinese evergreen is a plant with shallow roots, and you can choose a compact pot for growing it. But choosing a pot that’s too small will not allow proper air circulation. This can suffocate the roots leading to root rot.
Fewer nutrients will be available to the plant with less soil in a small pot, so plant growth declines.
Always choose one size bigger pot than the diameter of the roots of your Chinese evergreen.
When the plant outgrows its pot and shows rootbound signs, get a pot 1-2 inches bigger than the previous pot.
Inappropriate soil mix
Chinese evergreen prefers a well-drained, well-aerated, and slightly acidic potting soil. If the soil lacks drainage, the roots get affected.
And if the soil mix has high clay content, it will retain too much water, and therefore it will create a waterlogging situation for the roots. Damp and marshy soil will give more area for the infections to grow, leading to root rot.
Plant your Chinese evergreen in a well-draining soil mix but retain enough water. Ensure the soil mix is loose and not densely packed.
It will be preferable to use peat-based potting soil with an equal mix of sand and perlite. Maintain the pH level of soil around 5.6-6.5 on the pH scale.
Chinese evergreens are rather sensitive to pathogen problems. Pathogen (bacterial or fungal) problems mainly occur when the plants are overwatered.
Due to excess moisture in the soil, the fungi will start germinating and slowly spread to the whole plant. Fungal infections will make the roots turn black and mushy.
Fungi responsible for root rot in Chinese evergreen are pythium rot, phytophthora, botrytis, etc.
You should start spraying your plant with fungicides to prevent the growth of these diseases.
Prune the damaged leaves and other infected parts of the plant. Also, you may need to consider repotting in case of severe damage.
Proper ventilation is essential for your plant’s healthy growth. A planting location with good airflow will ensure the water evaporates quickly from the soil.
However, poor ventilation will keep the soil soggy, which will trouble the roots systems and cause root rot.
You should keep your Chinese evergreen in a place that has proper air circulation.
Avoid placing the Chinese evergreen too close to other plants to maintain ventilation around them.
Chinese evergreens are native to warm geographical conditions, and they undergo problems whenever temperatures fall below their tolerance level.
If the temperature goes below 55°F, your Chinese evergreen can even perish. They will get stressed due to prolonged or sudden temperature changes.
But what’s more important is if you keep watering the plant in the same pattern when the temperatures are low, the plant will get overwatered and develop root rot.
The soil will not dry quickly and will stay moist for longer, ending in root rot.
When the temperatures go low, you must reduce the watering frequency and amount. Also, never water without checking the soil.
The Chinese evergreen will get overwatered if you water when the top layers of the soil are still moist.
Chinese evergreens are slow growers and do not need frequent fertilization. They just need fertilizers only in the growing season.
Overfertilizing will seriously harm them and will cause root toxicity. The excess salts from fertilizers get deposited on the soil. These burn the roots of the plant, which can undergo root rot.
Fertilize your Chinese evergreen during spring with a well-balanced liquid fertilizer. You can dilute the fertilizer and make it half-strength to avoid overfertilization.
Avoid fertilizing them in winters and fall.
If you have overfertilized the plant, you need to flush the soil thoroughly to remove the excess salt from the soil.
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Contaminated tools and sick plants
Unclean tools act as a medium through which pathogens infect healthy plants. Or, sometimes, you may bring home sick plants without inspecting them properly.
It is a little difficult to identify root rot problems in young plants, or you may have bought the plant without knowing that they have root rot problems.
Always wash and sanitize the tools before and after using them. Buy your Chinese evergreen from reputed dealers.
Try to buy a sturdy plant with healthy foliage and no black spots or wilted leaves. Isolate the plant after buying. If it does well for a few days, you can keep it with other plants.
How will you get rid of root rot on your Chinese evergreen plant?
You need to repot if you want to remove root rot from your Chinese evergreen.
Repotting will give a fresh start to your Chinese evergreen by providing more air for the root system, valuable nutrients, and preventing diseases.
But repotting is a little stressful situation for a plant under root rot. You need to be very careful while repotting them. So let’s begin with the repotting process.
Elements you will need for repotting:
- Garden pruners
- New pot
- Fresh potting soil
- Beta din(ANTISEPTIC)
Lets us now discuss the process of repotting thoroughly.
- First, hold the stem of your Chinese evergreen plant and pull it from the pot.
- When your plant is out, gently wash the roots with water and ensure that no soil remains on the roots. Then scrutinize the roots.
- After that, hold your pruners and start removing all the damaged and rotten roots. Leave the healthy roots.
- In this step, start pruning all the yellow and damaged leaves from the plant and all other affected portions of the plant. Pruning will reduce stress from your plant.
- Now take some water in a small jar and mix half a tablespoon of fungicide in it. Leave the plant in the fungicide solution for 10-15 minutes. This process will remove all the bacteria from the plant.
- After that, take out the plant and leave it outside for some hours so that the plant dries out quickly.
- When the stem dries, apply beta din on the base of the stem. Beta din is an antiseptic fluid that limits antimicrobial action on plants. Leave the antiseptic to dry for 5 minutes.
- Now take a new pot, bigger than the previous pot, to repot your plant. Ensure the pot must have enough drainage holes. Add some pebbles at the bottom to prevent drainage holes from getting blocked.
- Then it is time to add a new potting mix. Put potting mix in the pot by filling 1/3rd of it.
- Put your plant inside the pot and add soil from all sides. Press the soil firmly with your hand to have no air pockets.
- After repotting, water your plant well so that the new soil gets enough moisture.
- Keep the plant in a bright place where indirect light will help it recover.
- Avoid fertilizing them during this period.
- While watering, make sure that the soil is completely dry and prepare a proper watering schedule accordingly. You will notice new roots develop within 40 days after repotting.
How to prevent root rot in Chinese evergreen plants?
You can prevent root rot in your Chinese evergreen by taking care of their basic requirements. Keep these points in mind to prevent root rot:
- Avoid overwatering the Chinese evergreen and water only when the top inches of the soil feels dry.
- Keep your plant in a place with good airflow.
- Avoid using contaminated tools and use them after washing and sanitizing them.
- Avoid using garden soil and use a potting mix that is well-draining, aerated, and slightly acidic.
- Use pots that are porous and correct-sized.
- Make sure the pot you’re using for your Chinese evergreen has drainage holes.
- Never overfertilize the Chinese evergreen and fertilize it only during the growing season.
- Don’t keep the plant in an area with low temperature and humidity levels.
- Repot your plant once every two to three years and always use a new pot for repotting.
Keep all these above points in mind to avoid root rot issues. If you still find any signs of root rot, take immediate actions to save your Chinese evergreen plant.
Reference: Wikipedia, Nasa clean air study, Missouri Botanical Garden, The University of Kansas, NC State University.
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