Despite being an easy to care for plant with few problems, the philodendron is still susceptible to root rot.
When a philodendron has root rot, not only does it make the entire plant look unattractive, but it can also prove to be fatal.
The good news is that, despite its seriousness, root rot is completely preventable. Even better, knowing the philodendron root rot signs can help you stop the disease before it is too far gone.
How can you tell if a philodendron has root rot?
When a philodendron has root rot, it will present a wide array of symptoms that are easy to spot. These symptoms include yellowing leaves that may droop or fall off the plant, soggy soil that may have an unpleasant musty odor, brown or rooted stems, and an overall unwell appearance.
Other philodendron root rot symptoms include water-soaked blisters appearing on the foliage, your philodendron’s leaves curling, weak and soggy stems, and mold growing on the soil’s surface.
Your philodendron’s leaves can also start to turn brown, which shouldn’t be confused with underwatering.
Underwatering a philodendron can also cause brown leaves, but the leaves will feel dry and crispy. With overwatering, the brown leaves will have a mushy or soggy feeling to them. So, if the brown leaves are mushy, you know the plant is experiencing rot and not a case of underwatering.
What do healthy philodendron roots look like?
Healthy philodendron roots are white, cream, or light tan in color. They are also pliable. Unhealthy roots, especially those with root rot, will be dark in color and have a brittle or mushy feeling to them. They may also smell strange.
While examining the roots will quickly tell you if the philodendron is healthy or has a problem, this can be a little difficult since they are located underground. This is how root rot, and other below ground diseases, can go unnoticed for an extended period of time. Since you don’t regularly see the roots of your plant, you have to rely on aboveground symptoms to tell you when something is wrong.
In many cases, however, the aboveground symptoms do not appear until the disease has gone on for far too long and is close to killing the plant. That is why the best defense against root rot, or any disease for that matter, is to implement preventive measures to keep the problem at bay.
What causes root rot in philodendrons?
The most common cause of root rot in houseplants such as philodendrons is overwatering. However, that is not the only thing that can cause root rot. Other causes include compact soil, overpotting, growing the plant in the wrong container, and low temperatures.
As you’ll soon see, figuring out what has caused root rot in your philodendron is key to making sure the problem doesn’t progress – or happen again.
When a philodendron has root rot, it is most likely due to watering your philodendron too much. Overwatering is the leading cause of root rot in houseplants, especially those like philodendrons.
Despite being the leading cause of root rot, overwatering is also extremely easy to prevent.
2. Compact soil which prevents water from draining
When water cannot properly drain out of the soil, it will result in soggy roots and root rot. But that’s not all the downsides to compact soil. Soil that stays soggy makes it harder for philodendrons to properly absorb vital nutrients.
This has a direct effect on your philodendron’s growth rate, and can even cause the plant to stop growing all together. That is why it is important to ensure the philodendron is growing in light and airy soil.
Find out more: 10 Causes Of Your Philodendron Not Growing (+ How to Fix It)
3. Planting the philodendron in a pot that is too big
Also known as overpotting, this seemingly innocent act can quickly lead to root rot. Overpotting occurs when you plant the philodendron in a pot that is too big for the plant, and while that doesn’t sound too bad, it can become a serious issue.
A pot that is too large means more soil, which means more moisture is needed every time the plant is water. I am sure you can see where this is going, since more water means a higher chance of root rot occurring.
4. Using a container without properly positioned drainage holes
Drainage holes are an important aspect of container gardening, and without these holes the excess water has nowhere to go. Unfortunately, not all drainage holes are created equal. A lot of pots have drainage holes at the side of the pot and not at the very bottom.
FYI: When the holes are located at the side, the water will have to build up to a certain level before it will drain out, and even then there will still be excess water sitting along the bottom of the container.
5. Cold temperatures
While low temperature doesn’t directly cause root rot, it can still play a role in the growth of this fungal disease.
When temperatures are low, the philodendron’s growth rate will slow, which means the plant doesn’t need as much water as it would during periods of warm temps. This means you can easily overwater the philodendron.
How do you fix root rot in a philodendron?
Trying to fix a philodendron with root rot can be a difficult process. There is no surefire cure for root rot and, in many cases, the plant is a lost cause.
With that said, however, there are some things you can try to restore it back to a healthy plant, notably by repotting your philodendron.
1. Remove the philodendron from its pot
Carefully slide the philodendron out of its pot, making sure not to pull it out too hard or yank on the plant as this can cause even more problems. You may need to use your fingers to help glide the plant out of the pot.
2. Loosen all the soil from around the philodendron’s roots.
Use your fingers to gently remove all the soil from around the philodendron’s roots. All the soil will have to be discarded. Never reuse the soil when the philodendron has root rot as this can spread the disease to the new soil.
3. Remove dead, damaged, and diseased roots
Examine all the roots, looking for any that show signs of damage or disease. Any roots that are not healthy should be removed by clipping them off the plant with a sharp pair of pruning shears.
Do not compost the removed roots and instead discard them in the trash.
4. Clean and sanitize the growing container
If you are reusing the container the philodendron was growing in, make sure to clean and sanitize it before repotting the plant. Any new containers will also need to be cleaned and sanitized before planting the philodendron in them.
5. Remove dead or damaged leaves
Sanitize the pruning shears and then snip off any dead or damaged leaves. Make sure, however, that you don’t remove more than 1/4 of the philodendron’s foliage. Discard the removed leaves in the trash.
6. Replant the philodendron in fresh soil
Add a layer of fresh light and airy soil that drains well along the bottom of the container. Set the philodendron’s root ball directly on top of the soil. Fill the remaining space with more fresh soil.
Gently tap down the soil a bit and add more if necessary. Make sure not to press down too hard on the soil.
You may also be interested in: The Absolute Best Soil for Philodendrons to Thrive
7. Don’t overwater the philodendron
After the philodendron has been replanted in fresh soil, refrain from watering the philodendron plant for a few days. When it is time to water the plant again, make sure the soil starts to dry out a bit before hydrating the plant.
8. Implement a proper watering schedule.
Now that the philodendron has been repotted, make sure you only water the plant when the soil starts to feel dry. Insert your finger about 2 inches into the soil, and water the philodendron only when it feels dry.
On average, the philodendron will need watered about once a week during its active growing season.
Are there fungicides that can treat root rot in a philodendron?
Unfortunately, there are no fungicides that have shown to effectively kill root rot. Even copper fungicides, which are well known for successfully treating a wide array of fungal diseases, have shown only spotty results when it comes to killing root rot.
That is why it is important to utilize preventive measures to help keep root rot at bay.
Some gardeners still treat their root rot infected plants with fungicide during the repotting process, which requires removing all the dirt and diseased roots from the infected philodendron.
They will then spray the fungicide liberally onto the remaining roots before repotting the plant in fresh soil. This is simply an extra precaution to help kill any remaining root rot pathogens.
Can a philodendron be revived from root rot?
While it is true that root rot usually spells disaster for the plants it attacks, that doesn’t mean that has to happen to your philodendron. In fact, when a philodendron has root rot, it is possible to revive the plant from the fungal disease. However, you will need to act quickly at the first signs of distress.
Keep in mind that aboveground philodendron root rot symptoms typically occur after the fungal disease has already started attacking the roots. This means that the root rot has a jump start to destruction before you even know anything is wrong.
To make things even more difficult for you, there is no real philodendron root rot treatment that has a guarantee of success. Even after following all the steps to treat it, when the philodendron has root rot, it could still succumb to the disease.
Can philodendron root rot reverse itself?
When your philodendron has root rot, it will not magically reverse itself and get better. In fact, your philodendron is a goner without intervention, and even with your assistance, it may prove unsuccessful. That is why it is vital to act quickly when you suspect your philodendron may be infected.
For example, if you have a philodendron with a mushy stem, don’t just assume that the stem will get stronger overtime. Investigate why the stem is mushy in the first place. Are there any other philodendron root rot symptoms that your plant is showing?
If you answer yes to that question, your next step should be to immediately stop watering the plant. It could be that root rot has yet to form and you may be able to stop the disease from progressing by simply not watering the plant until the soil is dry.
How to avoid your philodendron getting root rot
The best way to fix root rot is to keep it from occurring in the first place. This is done with preventive maintenance, such as not overwatering the philodendron and only growing it in the right soil and container, to ensure adequate drainage.
More details on each of these can be seen below.
1. Only water the philodendron when the soil is dry
Since overwatering is the main cause of root rot, you should do everything possible to prevent it from occurring. This means only watering the philodendron’s soil is starting to dry, and you should test the soil moisture before watering the plant.
This will require inserting your finger into the soil about 2 inches deep. If the soil still feels moist, wait a few days before checking again. Only water when the soil feels dry.
2. Grow the philodendron in soil that drains well and is high in organic matter
Philodendrons need soil that is light, airy, and high in organic matter. The ideal soil will have the ability to drain well while still maintaining the right amount of moisture retention.
A good general rule of thumb is to mix 1 part each of orchid bark, peat moss, and potting mix with ¼ part Perlite.
3. Use the right size container for the philodendron
Philodendrons should only be grown in a container that is one to two sizes larger than its root ball. Don’t fall into the trap that the larger the container the more room the plant will have. While this may seem logical, it actually just creates a space for more soil and even more water.
Additionally, you shouldn’t repot the plant unless necessary. Philodendrons don’t mind being a little root bound, and transplanting their pots every year or so can cause more harm than good. Instead, wait until roots start to grow out of the drainage holes before transplanting the philodendron.
4. The philodendron’s drainage holes need to be at the bottom
When you decide which pot to grow your philodendron in, look for one that has drainage holes at the very bottom and not one that has the holes at the sides. Additionally, you never want to use a pot that has no drainage holes at all.
When you plant philodendrons in a pot with drainage holes at the sides, the water will have to reach that level before it even begins to drain out. That means the bottom of the pot will still hold extra water, which keeps the roots soggy and increases the chance of root rot.
5. Reduce the amount of water you give the philodendron during the winter months
Winter is when the philodendron is in its dormant period, which means the plant isn’t actively growing. During this time, the philodendron doesn’t need as much water as it does during the spring and summer. Unfortunately, some people still water the plant the same amount even during its dormant period.
Since the plant is absorbing that water during this time period, the excess water simply sits in the soil and keeps the roots wet. This is an open invention to root rot.
6. Keep the plant healthy
While a healthy plant can still get root rot, if your philodendron is healthy, it is much more likely to handle the stress from occasional overwatering much better than an unhealthy plant.
This means that if you accidently overwater the plant once or twice, it will have the ability to bounce back with little to no long term damage.
What can I do to save a philodendron with root rot?
If you suspect your philodendron has root rot, you can try to save the plant by repotting it in fresh soil. This will require removing the plant carefully from its current growing container, and then removing all the soil from around the plant, its roots, and its root ball.
Once all the soil has been removed, examine the philodendron’s roots. Look for any that are dead, diseased, or broken and prune them off the plant. Discard the removed roots in the trash and do not compost as this can spread the disease to other plants.
Fill the bottom portion of the clean and sanitized container with fresh soil, and then set the philodendron’s root ball directly in the middle. Fill the remaining void with soil, making sure to lightly pack the soil around the plant.
How much water does a philodendron need to prevent root rot?
Since overwatering is one of the leading causes of root rot, knowing the exact amount of water to give your philodendron can help prevent the disease from attacking the plant. The exact amount will depend on the age and size of the plant, as well as the season, temperature, and humidity level.
With that said, however, a good general rule of thumb is to water the philodendron deeply about once a week during the spring and summer months, which is the plant’s active growing period.
The amount of watering should be reduced to once every 10 days or so during the fall and winter.
No matter, you should always feel how moist the soil is before watering the philodendron. If the soil still feels damp or moist, wait a few days before feeling it again, and only water when the soil feels dry.
Will misting my philodendron cause root rot?
Philodendrons are tropical plants that are native to areas with high humidity levels, and while they can tolerate the average household humidity level, they grow the best when the humidity is above 50 percent. Misting the plants is a wonderful way to increase the humidity level and help keep the leaves lush and shiny.
It is common, however, to be concerned about the added moisture that can occur when misting, especially when root rot is a serious problem.
Thankfully, lightly misting the philodendron’s leaves won’t cause root rot. If, however, you drench the plant, this can cause issues associated with overwatering.