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When a Calathea has root rot, the plant will show distinctive signs that something is wrong. These signs are often the first indication that there is an issue with your Calathea. 

Ignoring Calathea root rot signs is one of the quickest ways to kill your plant. That is why it is vital that you learn what to look out for. 

Unfortunately, once symptoms of root rot start to appear above the soil, the harder it is to save the Calathea.

That’s why, in this article, you’ll see just what are the main signs that something is wrong – and how to take action ASAP.

a person holding calathea with root rot

Table of Contents

How do you know if your Calathea has root rot?

Calathea root rot signs typically show up before you even know there is a problem with the plant. Some of the most common signs include soggy soil, discolored leaves, weak stems, and leaf dropping.

1. The Calathea’s soil is soggy

Soggy soil is one of the first Calathea root rot signs that you will probably notice when the plant has been overwatered. Soggy soil can also occur if the growing medium that the plant is living in is too compact for the water to drain.

No matter what is causing the soggy soil, the Calathea can still develop root rot. Making sure the plant doesn’t sit in waterlogged soil goes a long way to protecting the plant from fungal diseases, such as root rot.

Find out more about:  Calathea in LECA: Ensure Your Prayer Plant Thrives

2. Yellowing leaves that feel soft

Discolored leaves, yellowing being the most common, are another symptom of root rot. Overwatering prevents the Calathea from properly absorbing nutrients, which results in the leaves turning yellow. 

Additionally, because they are taking in more water, the foliage will start to turn soft and mushy.

While the calathea can also develop brown leaves when overwatered, this is more common with underwatering the plant. The easiest way to determine which is the problem is to feel the discolored leaves. 

If they feel crispy then the issue is underwatering, but if they feel soft or mushy then the Calathea has been overwatered.

calathea outside with root rot

3. The Calathea’s leaves start to develop black spots

Black spots appearing on the Calathea’s leaves is another sign that the Calathea has root rot. These spots are typically one of the first signs to appear, along with soggy soil and discolored leaves. 

Unfortunately, a wide array of other diseases can cause black spots to form, so trying to determine which is the actual cause can be a tad bit difficult.

4. The plant’s growth begins to slow or become stunted

Slowed or stunted growth is another sign that the Calathea has root rot. 

Since the plant cannot properly absorb nutrients through its roots, it doesn’t have enough resources to put into growth. This will leave the Calathea with little to no new growth.

5. Water-soaked spots begin to form on the leaves

Water-soaked spots on the plant’s leaves are another sign that the Calathea has root rot. These spots can also sometimes appear on the stems of the infected plants as well.

Water-soaked blisters can also occur due to a bacterial leaf spot disease. Thankfully, you can typically tell the difference between the two by looking at the soil. 

If the soil is soggy or overly damp, the problem is usually root rot.

healthy calathea that suffered calathea root rot before

6. Leaves falling off the Calathea plant

When the Calathea isn’t getting the nutrients it needs and instead is being overloaded with water, its foliage will begin to fall off. 

However, there are a wide array of other problems that can also result in leaves falling off the plant. That is why it is important to look for other potential signs that the Calathea has root rot.

If you notice leaves falling off the Calathea plant, immediately begin to discard the fallen leaves in the trash. Leaving the fallen foliage to sit on the soil underneath the plant is an open invitation for even more pests and problems to attack the Calathea.

7. The Calathea has weak and soft stems

As the root rot progresses, the Calathea’s stems will begin to turn soft and become weak. 

You may also notice rot at the base of the stem. This will only continue to worsen as the root rot takes over.

At first, the weak and soft stems may not be noticeable, but you will quickly start to see that the weight of the Calathea’s foliage cannot be supported by these weakened stems. The stems may even begin to bend and break.

8. Musty or moldy odor coming from the Calathea plant

Calathea plants have a pleasant aroma that many associate with a light citrus smell. If, however, your plants smell more like a damp basement, the plant could have root rot. A musty, moldy, or even rotten odor is not something you should take lightly, since it could signal that the plant has rot.

calathea in a pot that has calathea root rot before

9. The plant’s roots will be mushy and black

When a Calathea has root rot, its roots will turn from firm with a white or yellowish color to mushy and black or brown. This is a sure sign that the plant has root rot. 

Unfortunately, you probably won’t see the roots unless you take the plant out of the pot and remove all the soil.

10. Mold can begin to grow on the surface of the soil

Seeing mold or mildew growth on the surface of Calathea’s soil is another sign that root rot may be affecting the plant. 

The fungal growth can appear in various shades of white, gray, green, and even blue. It can also be accompanied by a musty odor as well.

11. Pest infestations begin to take over

A Calathea that is dealing with root rot is also more susceptible to pest infestations. 

Diseases, such as root rot, make the plant more prone to attacks and, since it is already in a weakened state, the Calathea is less likely to fight the pests off.

How do you save a Calathea with root rot?

If you find your Calathea has root rot, don’t panic! While it can be difficult to save a plant infected with this disease, it isn’t impossible. You will just need to act quickly and properly repot the Calathea.

1. Immediately stop watering the Calathea

When your Calathea has root rot, the first thing to do is to immediately stop watering the plant. If you keep watering the plant, you are only reducing the chance of successfully saving the plant.

2. Carefully remove the Calathea from its pot

Tip the Calathea’s pot to the side and slide the plant out of the container. Avoid tugging or pulling the plant too hard out of the pot and instead slide it out gently. 

If the plant is “stuck” inside the pot, use your fingers to help loosen the soil and allow the plant to slide freely out of the container.

Just remember that your Calathea is already in a weakened state, so care must be taken not to damage the plant further.

pots and tools to use for repotting calathea with root rot

3. Move the soil from around the Calathea’s roots

Gently remove the soil from around the Calathea’s roots with your fingers. You want to be left with nothing but the plant and its roots. 

Discard all of the soil in the trash, and never reuse the soil or add it to your compost pile.

4. Examine the roots and remove any that are dead or diseased

Once you have the Calathea out of the pot and all the soil removed from around its roots and root ball, you can now examine the roots. 

Look for any roots that are not firm and light in color. These roots are dead or diseased and will need to be removed.

Use a pair of sharp pruning shears and snip the dead or diseased roots off the plant. Discard the roots in the trash.

5. Prune off any dead or damaged leaves

Sanitize the pruning shears to remove any pathogens and then use them to prune any dead or damaged leaves from the Calathea. Discard the leaves in the trash.

When pruning, avoid removing more than 1/4 of the Calathea’s leaves as the plant needs leaves to absorb nutrients from the sun.

calathea with root rot

6. Fill a clean and sanitized container with fresh soil

Use a pot that has been cleaned and sanitized and fill it with fresh soil. Make sure the pot has drainage holes at the bottom and that it is no more than 3 times the size of the Calathea’s root ball.

Fill the pot with potting soil that is loose and airy. A mixture containing 50 percent potting soil, 20 percent charcoal, 20 percent orchid bark, and 10 percent perlite works best for this plant.

7. Replant the Calathea into the fresh soil

Set the Calathea directly on top of the fresh soil, positioning it in the middle of the pot. 

Fill any remaining void with fresh soil and then light tap the soil down to secure the Calathea in place.

8. Water the Calathea sparsely

Water the Calathea deeply after planting, but then don’t water again until the top few inches of soil begin to dry out. 

The Calathea is already stressed from overwatering and transplanting, so take care not to cause it more problems by continuing to overwater the plant.

Can a Calathea recover from root rot?

While it is possible for a Calathea to recover from root rot, the chances of this occurring are slim, especially if it is has progressed. Even if you correctly repot the plant, it may be too late to save the Calathea. 

In fact, many indoor gardeners consider a plant with root rot as nothing more than a lost cause, and will simply discard the infected plant. 

calathea in the garden with root rot

Can root rot kill your Calathea?

Root rot can and will kill your Calathea plant. Even if you catch the disease early enough, your Calathea may never fully recover as often the plant is already too badly affected. That is why prevention is your best defense against this deadly fungal disease.

Keep in mind that trying to save the plant when the Calathea has root rot can be a difficult process. This is a serious disease that there is no cure for. 

Some fungicides state they treat root rot, but the truth is that these fungicides do not cure the fungal disease, but may be able to help if used in conjunction with the repotting process.

How to prevent root rot in your Calathea?

Root rot is caused by too much water, which occurs when the Calathea is overwatered, grown in compact soil, or a combination of the two. Thankfully, you can prevent root rot by simply ensuring the Calathea doesn’t have soggy roots.

1. Plant the Calathea in soil that drains well

The type of soil you grow your Calathea in can have a direct effect on whether or not the plant develops root rot. This is because some soils are too compact and don’t allow water to flow through properly, which results in soggy soil.

The best soil for Calatheas is one that contains potting soil, orchid bark, charcoal, and perlite. You can also purchase potting soil designed specifically for Calatheas.

2. Use pots with drainage holes at the bottom

Another way to prevent root rot in Calathea plants is to ensure the container it is growing in has drainage holes at the bottom. Far too often, plants are grown in pots with drainage holes at the side.

While this may seem like a good idea, the excess water will need to reach a certain height before it drains out.This means that the bottom portion of the soil, along with the roots, will stay soggy.

a person holding soil to repot a calathea with root rot

3. Don’t overwater the Calathea

Overwatering is usually the reason why your Calathea has root rot, so making sure you don’t over hydrate the plant is one of the best ways to prevent root rot from occurring. 

What’s even better is that you can easily avoid this problem by simply checking the soil moisture before watering the plant.

Insert your finger about 2 inches into the Calathea’s soil. If the soil still feels a bit damp, wait a day or two and check again. You should only water the soil when it begins to feel dry.

4. Choose the right container size for your Calathea

The size of the container you are growing your Calathea in can also prevent root rot. For the best results, plant the Calathea in a container that is no more than 3 times the size of the plant’s root ball.

A larger pot means more soil, which also means an excessive amount of water that the Calathea cannot suck up. This all leads to soggy roots and the potential for root rot to take hold.

5. Reduce the watering during colder months

Colder temps means less water the plant needs to survive. If, however, you continue to give the Calathea the same amount of water you did in the summer, you can quickly overwater the plant. 

Instead, aim to give the Calathea water about once every 10 to 14 days.

Keep in mind, however, that the size, age, humidity level, and temperature can all affect how often plants are watered. Because of this, it is important to check how dry the soil is before watering.

calathea with root rot near a watering can and another plant

6. Quarantine all new plants for 14 days

One way that diseases get passed from one plant to the next is through infected plants, be it from the whole plant or a portion of the plant. This can occur whenever new plants are brought into the home. 

Quarantining all new plants for at least 14 days will help reduce the chance of fungal diseases, such as root rot.

7. Always check how wet or dry the soil is before watering

Simply feeling the soil dryness/wetness level before watering is one of the simplest ways to prevent root rot from occurring. It is so easy and takes only a few seconds, but far too often people overlook this and go straight to watering the plant.

Instead, insert your finger about 2 inches into the Calathea’s soil. If you feel that the soil is still damp, wait another day before inserting your finger back into the soil. Only water the Calathea when its soil feels dry.

What do healthy Calathea roots look like?

Healthy Calathea roots will be firm with a whitish or yellowish color to them. Anytime a root loses its firmness, you know there is a problem. Roots that are soft and mushy, and are brown, reddish, or black in color are not healthy.

Unhealthy Calathea roots may also have an unpleasant odor to them. Some gardeners have reported that their diseased roots smell musty, moldy, or even rotten.

Can you get rid of root rot in your Calathea without repotting?

In most cases, repotting is necessary to get rid of root rot, especially since the fungal pathogens and spores that cause root rot are thriving in the current soil. Some gardeners have reported success by trimming back the roots and foliage, dipping the entire root ball in fungicide, and then placing the Calathea back into its pot.

This does still require removing the entire plant from its pot, so why not go ahead and repot the Calathea in fresh soil to ensure there are no lingering root rot pathogens left behind that can reinfect the plant.

a person with gloves holding a soil to repot calathea with root rot

Are Calatheas susceptible to root rot?

Unfortunately, root rot is a common problem in Calathea plants, which means this houseplant can develop this disease more than some other species of plants. Thankfully, root rot is completely preventable and usually occurs when the Calathea isn’t being cared for as it should. 

Overwatering, using the wrong soil, and growing the Calathea in an unsuitable container are the leading causes of root rot. As you can see, all of these are issues caused by the caregiver of the plant.

How much water should I give Calathea?

Knowing how much water the Calathea plant needs can go a long way to preventing overwatering. Unfortunately, there is no real simple answer to this question since a wide array of factors affect how much water the plant requires. 

For example, the time of year, age and size of the Calathea, and even the temperature and humidity level of the room can have a direct effect on the amount of water the plant needs.

In most cases, however, the plant will require watering once a week. For the best results, the plant should be watered deeply until the excess water runs out of the drainage holes. 

Keep in mind that this is the average watering for when the plant is actively growing, which is in the spring and summer months.

Once the weather starts to cool a bit, reduce the amount you water the plant to once every 10 to 14 days.

calathea outside with root rot

What type of water is best for Calathea?

Calathea is sensitive to water types, and the best water for this plant is distilled. You can, however, also use rainwater or filtered water. Tap water should be avoided if possible.

Most water treatment facilities add chemicals, such as chlorine, to the water, and the water itself is filled with various minerals. These additives and additional minerals can cause problems for the Calathea.

If you have to use tap water, fill the water jug with the tap water and then let it sit on your countertop undisturbed for about 24 hours, or at least overnight. This will give the chlorine in the water time to dissipate before you water the Calathea.

How long does it take for a Calathea to recover from root rot?

If you are able to save the Calathea from root rot, don’t expect the plant to snap back quickly. It could take several months for the plant to make a full recovery, and you probably won’t see new growth for at least 2 months.

During this time, it is important to take care not to put any additional stress on the plant since this can impede its recovery process.

How long can a Calathea live with root rot?

Once root rot has set in, you will begin to notice the Calathea’s leaves turning yellowing and falling off. The plant will also experience slowed growth that eventually stops. If conditions favor the fungal disease to spread and thrive, Calathea could be dead within 10 days.

Will Calatheas bounce back after root rot?

Whether or not the Calathea can bounce back after root rot depends on various factors. While it is possible to save the plant, it is a time-consuming task that isn’t guaranteed.

If you are able to save the Calathea, you can expect growth to be impeded for several months afterwards. The plant will typically start to recover within a few months.

calathea with root rot near other plants

Are there any fungicides that kill root rot?

Soil drenching with fungicide is not a good choice for root rot, especially if you only use this method to try to kill the fungal disease. There is no cure for root rot, but you may be able to save the Calathea by repotting it properly. 

You can also use fungicide as a soil drench after repotting the plant to act as another defense against the rot. 

Are Calatheas hard to care for?

Calatheas are relatively easy to care for houseplants, and they don’t require much fussing over. With that said, however, they do have certain requirements that help to keep them healthy. Thankfully, most of these requirements are the same for other tropical houseplants.

Calatheas are also not susceptible to many pests or diseases, though root rot is one that can affect this plant. Ensuring the Calathea have the proper care goes a long way to keeping root rot at bay.