How to Identify, Prevent, and Treat Root Rot in Garden Plants

What causes root rot

While root rot is common in indoor plants, the disease also affects outdoor plants, including trees and shrubs, adversely affecting their health. As a gardener, knowing how to identify, prevent, and treat root rot in garden plants is Important.

Though root rot is difficult to treat, identifying the problem early can help reduce the spread. Some signs of root rot are yellowing of leaves and foul odor from the soil. You can treat this by removing the affected leaves and replanting your plant(s) in new soil. 

However, the best treatment is prevention. Keep reading and learn more about the signs, causes, prevention, and treatment of root rot.

What Exactly is Root Rot?

Root rot is a plant disease caused by several fungi, such as Fusarium, Phytophthora, or Rhizoctonia, causing the plant’s root system to decay. The condition is often a result of overwatering or poor drainage, thus creating a conducive environment for these fungi.

What Causes Root Rot in Garden Plants?


Can outdoor plants get root rot


The most common cause of root rot is overwatering. This causes too much moisture around the soil, creating a favorable environment for various fungi like fusarium and phytophthora to thrive. Too much water around the root also reduces oxygen availability, which is also ideal for these fungi.

Poor Soil Drainage

Another cause of root rot is the presence of poorly draining soils like clay, which prevent excess water from draining away, leading to waterlogging around the roots. This results in root rot due to lack of air circulation. 

Signs of Root Rot

Although it’s difficult to know whether your plants are suffering from root rot, below are visual signs of this disease.

Yellowing of Leaves

Yellowing or browning of leaves is the most common sign of root rot. The plant will start to yellow from the bottom. This happens because the roots lose the ability to transport nutrients and water. 

Wilting Leaves

What does root rot look like


Although wilting leaves are a sign of underwatering, in most cases, it’s a sign of root rot even if the soil is moist; this is because the roots cannot absorb water efficiently because they are damaged. 

Foul odor

If you notice an unpleasant smell coming around the base of your plant, this is an indication that your plant has root rot. The foul odor is a result of decaying roots without sufficient oxygen. 

Absence of Small White Rootlets

Healthy plants often have tiny white rootlets near the topsoil. However, if you can’t see them,  plus your plant has brown roots, it indicates root rot. 

How to Prevent and Treat Root Rot in Outdoor Plants

The best remedy for root rot in garden plants is prevention. Note that there are organic and chemical measures for root rot, but chemical measures should always be the last option. However, if your plants are already infected by this disease, try the following.

1. Adjust Your Watering Practices

Overwatering is the number one cause of root rot. Allow the soil to dry out between watering sessions to prevent soggy soil. We recommend watering in the morning to reduce excess water lingering overnight.

2. Improve Drainage

Whether gardening in containers, raised beds, or on the ground, ensure you use well-draining soils to prevent waterlogging, which fosters root rot.

3. Remove Affected Roots

Uproot the affected plants, brush off the excess soil, and gently wash the roots to expose infected and healthy roots. Remove the infected roots using sanitized pruning scissors and dispose of them to prevent further spread.

4. Replant in Well-Draining Soils

root rot treatment


Replant the infected plant into fresh and well-draining soils. Ensure that the transplanted plants are in adequate sunlight and air circulation.

5. Remove the Affected Plant

When the root rot is severe, you might find all the leaves and stems withered or even dead. At this point, you need to remove all the plants because they will not come back to life. This will also prevent the spread to other healthy plants around them.

6.  Use Fungicides

If the root rot is severe, we recommend using fungicides. However, only use this method if you know the fungus causing the root rot disease. Note that fungicides contain toxic chemicals, so read the label carefully and follow the written instructions.  

Frequently Asked Questions?

Can Outdoor Plants Recover from Root Rot?

Yes, garden plants can recover from root rot if the conditions are identified and addressed early by replanting the plants in fresh and well-draining soils. However, if the entire root system is brown and mushy, the plant cannot be saved.

What Does Root Rot Look Like in Outdoor Plants?

Signs of root rot in outdoor plants include yellowing or brown leaves, wilting of leaves, foul odor, and stunted growth.

How Do You Prevent Root Rot Outside?

Preventing root rot involves good gardening practices to create a healthy environment for your plant roots. These practices include using well-draining soils, avoiding overwatering, and regularly inspecting your plants for signs. 

Ultimate Thoughts

Root rot is a serious problem for gardeners, and identifying the signs and causes of this disease and taking prompt action will help protect the health of your garden plants. 

By improving drainage, avoiding overwatering, and removing the affected plants, you can combat root rot and grow thriving plants in your outdoor garden.




Author Profile

🌿 Hello! I'm Mary, the nature-loving soul behind Serene Eden. Gardener, plant whisperer, compost connoisseur, sun-soaked plant enthusiast, and avid bee-watcher. Let's cultivate beauty, one bloom at a time. 🌱🌼