Peperomia spp, also known as radiator plants, are incredible houseplants for beginners. They are easy-going and require little care. But along with plants comes problems. One common problem faced by peperomia is root rot.
Root rot is a decaying disease that severely affects the roots of a plant, mainly growing in damp soil. This disease cuts the life short of any plant by killing it slowly. There are no significant symptoms in most instances, and the damage is only visible when massive harm is caused. To know more about root rot, and how you can fix root rot in peperomia let’s dive deeper into this article.
To save peperomia from root rot, take the plant out of the container and remove the soil around the root ball without damaging the roots. Trim any brown and mushy roots and also remove damaged foliage to encourage new growth. Also, consider watering your plant less moving forward.
Peperomia roots are more susceptible to fungi like Pythium and Rhizoctonia, which thrive well in the wet aerobic environment. Peperomia plants are adaptable to varied conditions, but if you continue to ignore their health, it will drop your plant into an irreversible health hazard.
To deal with such an underlying disease, you need to understand the root causes behind it and the factors that can efficiently work to improve your plant’s health.
In this article, we’ll discuss these problems and it’s effective solutions. Without further delay, let’s dive into the topic.
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What causes root rot in Peperomia?
Root rot in peperomia is mainly caused by poorly drained or overwatered soil. The soggy soil prevents the roots from absorbing oxygen. Due to the hypoxic (low-oxygen level) condition, oxygen-starved roots decay and die.
Besides overwatering, heavy soil mix, fungal infection, overfertilization, improper drainage system, and damp climate can also cause root rot. There can be other causes of root rot as well.
The following issues are notable causes of root rot in Peperomia:
- Inappropriate soil
- Poor drainage system
- Pathogenic infections
- Non-porous pots
- Inappropriate temperature
- Poor ventilation
- Dormant seasonal care
- Contaminated tools
- Using contaminated soil
- Buying sick plants
- Stress in plants
Let’s discuss these factors in detail.
Overwatering is one of the alarming causes that harm Peperomia the most. Being a tropical-subtropical species, these epiphytes do not require much water to thrive.
Most plant keepers, being over sensitive, water the plant regularly even without checking the soil’s moisture.
Never forget to check the topsoil layer before watering your plant. Don’t water the plant if the topsoil is wet.
Overwatering makes the soil damp and marshy, creating a suitable environment for parasitic organisms like Pythium (root rot causing algae) to thrive.
The high water content of the soil prevents the roots from absorbing oxygen, thus creating anaerobic stress upon the plant. This leads to cellular atrophy and parasitic infection.
The microbial infestation spreads rapidly in the root region without any symptoms on the upper part of the plant, thus ultimately leading to decaying roots and the death of the plant.
Peperomia plants have a small root system. They generally settle in the nook of the trees, sending their roots in decaying barks.
Peperomia generally thrives in chunky, loose, porous soil that allows easy air movement and water drainage.
Soils mix that is too heavy and marshy with high clay quantity retain excess water. In clayey soil, water gets logged quickly, making the environment damp, thus forming an ideal place for microbial infestation.
Moreover, such waterlogged heavy soil does not allow air circulation, thus restricting the plant’s oxygen flow.
Poor drainage system
You may witness a gradual worsening of your plant’s health even after maintaining scheduled watering strategies. In such cases, the problem lies somewhere else.
One such issue is the ignorance of the proper drainage system. Using a pot without a sufficient number of drainage holes will cause a rapid delay in water movement, leaving the soil mix wet for a longer time than usual.
This delay in draining water will ultimately cause a marshy condition where bacteria and fungus will multiply quickly, causing a severe threat to the plant’s life expectancy.
Peperomia plants are subjected to many diseases caused by different pathogens. Root and stem rot are common among those caused mainly by Pythium spp. and Phytophthora spp.
Pythium splendens and some other species cause severe rot decay in Peperomia. Roots of Pythium infected plants turn black and mushy.
Phytophthora parasitica causes root and stem rot from imported cuttings. They usually grow in the roots and slowly spread to the whole plant. Using contaminated water in the soil mix leads to the multiplication of such infectious pathogens.
Overfertilization is one of those issues that harm not only indoor plants but also outdoor species. Most of the plant keepers, being oversensitive, add excess fertilizers considering that they will provide ample nutrients to the plant. But what they forget is that such a burden of chemical fertilizers causes stress to the plant.
Plants absorb the required amount of minerals and nutrients from the soil. Excess fertilizers never play any role in enhancing growth. Moreover, too much fertilizer changes the natural composition of the soil. It hinders the absorption of other valuable nutrients of the plant.
Overfertilization leads to salt build-up in the soil, making the plant leggy and slowing down growth.
Peperomia plants thrive well in terracotta pots. Wondering why? Because such pots are porous, allowing the water to move from the soil rapidly.
These pots also allow easy airflow keeping the soil dry and light.
Whereas non-porous pots like one made up of plastic or glass material must be avoided as they prevent water draining, making the soil soggy.
Temperature plays a vital role in the drying of the soil. Moreover, every plant species has an optimum temperature range within which they flourish.
Peperomias thrive well when they are kept between 55-75°F temperature. Their growth slows down with a decrease in temperature, making them prone to infection. Moreover, temperature below the average range is suitable for pathogens; thus, diseases like root rot and stem rot spreads.
Good airflow is crucial in maintaining an average humidity level. Proper ventilation helps in the rapid evaporation of water, thus keeping the soil in a healthy form. Moreover, it increases oxygen density in the soil.
Many growers ignore the need for proper ventilation for the plants, resulting in soggy soil conditions and parasitic infestation.
To allow easy air circulation, place your peperomia and other plants in an aerated space.
Dormant seasonal care
Peperomia experiences a dormant phase during the winter season. Their growth slows down, and they enter into a resting phase.
Too much care to enhance the growth rate causes stress over your peperomia.
The plants try to adapt to the cold climate, and excess watering or fertilization overburdens the trees making them more prone to any sort of disease, including root rot.
Using contaminated tools
Cleaning and sanitizing planting tools are essential steps to avoid the spread of any kind among plants. However, planters pay less attention to this.
Using uncleaned tools acts as carriers of pathogens that remain clung to it and infest healthy plants. Thus increasing the rate of infection.
Using contaminated soil
Using soil directly from the garden or reusing soil from old pots increases the chance of infection.
Try to use an airtight container for preserving your soil mix to avoid any pathogenic intervention.
Buying sick plants
While buying plants, it is vital to get your plants from reputed dealers. In many instances, plants suffer root rot from the beginning without revealing any signs, making it difficult for you to identify.
Try to select those sturdy plants, have thick glossy foliage and are free of any black spots on leaves.
After bringing your new peperomia home, keep it isolated for a few days till you are sure it is healthy and will not spread any disease to the other plants.
Stress in plants
Peperomias are generally tolerant plants with high adaptability. They are capable of coping with benign negligence but not with overcare.
Overwatering, excessive fertilization, inappropriate light, etc., are such issues that stress your plant.
Such actions restrict the natural growth of the plant and thus invite different diseases. Moreover, excess care disturbs the natural adaptability of any plant species.
The best way to keep your plant away from stress is by monitoring their needs and taking actions accordingly.
Signs of root rot in peperomia
One of the fatal diseases in Peperomia, root rot, should be treated with utmost urgency.
To treat root rot and save your plant from its effect, you first need to diagnose the problem.
Identifying root rot is quite challenging, considering it is a disease that infects the roots. If delayed, this disease can cause the death of the plant.
However, few early signs can prove to be helpful. Let’s have an overview of the symptoms.
A quick or gradual decline of the plant
Keep an eye on your peperomias while handling them regularly to check for any uneven development such as wilting.
Root rot causes the gradual shrinking of leaves, making the leaves look pale.
Yellow, wilted, or brown leaves
Root rot will eventually prevent the whole plant from functioning optimally. The decaying roots hinder the absorption of water, oxygen, and nutrients from the soil.
Nutrients such as magnesium are essential for chlorophyll (the pigment responsible for photosynthesis) in plants. In the absence of such nutrients, the leaves become pale and gradually become yellow or brown.
Affected roots become black and mushy
Checking the roots is one of the efficient ways to identify root rot in peperomias after observing a slower growth rate.
Affected roots have a dark-ish appearance and will be felt mushy while touching. In severe cases, unhealthy roots might fall off when touched.
Healthy roots are generally firm, pliable, and have a whitish appearance. This is a distinguishing factor between healthy roots and decaying roots.
In some instances, decaying roots release a foul smell which makes it easier to identify them.
How to fix root rot in Peperomia?
After identifying root rot, you have to understand the state of the plant and determine whether you can save the plant or not. Check the condition of the roots. If the entire root system has turned black and mushy, it is too late for the plant to be rescued.
If you notice few whitish firm roots still existing, give your best try to save the plant by placing it into a new pot with fresh soil mix and proper drainage holes.
Peperomia plants are not high maintenance species. By understanding some rules and practicing those, you can quickly fix root rot in this epiphytic species.
To know more about how to fix root rot in peperomia follow the following steps.
Step 1: Examine the root
Check the condition of the roots. The rotting of a few roots does not indicate the decay of the whole root system. You can still keep your plant alive.
Carefully wash the roots in clean running water and keep an eye on the rotten roots. If you notice any uninfected sections, proceed to the next step.
Step 2: Use clean tools to cut off the affected area
Don’t be scared or nervous to cut a portion of your favorite plant. You might need to cut a large portion of the root system to prevent it from dying. So be prepared.
Rub alcohol on the scissors for sterilization and cut off the affected area separating it from the healthier part.
Step 3: Prune back the leaves
Pruning is essential after the previous step to reduce the load on the roots. Cutting off a few leaves will avoid straining the newly trimmed roots, as after pruning, there will be fewer leaves for the roots to support.
Avoid cutting too many leaves as it will prevent light absorption and photosynthetic processes.
Step 4: Disinfect the pot
You don’t want your plant to experience the same stress. While repotting your plant, it is vital to check on time but make sure the pot is clean and well sterilized. This is a vital step.
Clean the pot in running water. After that, wash the pot in a bleach solution to eliminate all pathogens inside. The bleach must be in diluted form with 80% water in the solution.
Step 5: Use fungicide solution
Before replanting the peperomia, make sure it is free from any pathogen. To ensure that, you must use a high-quality fungicide.
Don’t soak the roots or any part of the plant in the antifungal solution. Dip the roots once or twice as advised to get rid of any remaining microbe.
Hydrogen peroxide, chamomile, and cinnamon are few fungicides that can be used.
Injecting excessive fungicide will cause phytotoxicity, and too little will not deliver the desired results. So, use the correct quantity.
Step 6: Repot the Peperomia
Use loose, chunky soil that is porous enough for the plant. Be very careful while repotting it as it is in a fragile state.
Check the drainage holes in the pot, as waterlogged conditions are strictly prohibited.
Use a pot that is porous to allow air circulation.
Step 7: Observe your peperomia plant regularly
To ensure rapid recovery, keep a constant check on your peperomia.
Support your plant with all the basic needs like proper light, temperature.
Here are some tips to keep your peperomia happy and disease-free.
- Keep the plant in indirect or diffused light.
- Maintain the temperature between 55-75°F.
- Water only when a few inches of the topsoil is dry.
- Try to use a humidifier.
- Check on how many new leaves are growing as it indicates the growth rate.
- Check the signs of recovery or any signs of re-infection.
- Check on the plant’s overall growth to identify any potential infection.
- Check the moisture content of the soil.
- Try to use organic fertilizers.
- No need for fertilization in autumn and winter.
- Keep the humidity level at 40-60%.
Recommended Garden Supplies
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Peperomias are perennial epiphytes with attractive foliage and are incredible houseplants. These plants do not require ample care, which makes them an excellent choice for beginners. However, they are pretty sensitive to water, and overwatering causes severe hazards to their health.
It is advisable to check watering frequency while keeping Peperomia. Apart from this, peperomia is adaptable to a slight change in their environment.
Be a proud keeper of your beautiful peperomia and follow the essential tips to keep your plant away from any pathogenic infestation, and cherish the uninterrupted beauty of its lush green foliage.
Ref: University of Florida, Sage Journal, University of Vermont, New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station
Rutgers, The University of Arkansas, Britannica, Wikipedia, Peperomia Diseases, NC State University.