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With over 480 varieties, the philodendron is one of the most popular houseplant choices to brighten your home. Unfortunately, this plant is vulnerable to root rot which can cause significant problems, mainly if you keep more than one plant in your home.
Preparing yourself for the eventuality of root rot in your houseplants is a good idea as you will be prepared for it if it ever happens.
Root rot is a common disease in philodendron plants. Root rot occurs when the roots get soggy and decay, inviting bacteria and fungi into the plant. If you catch root rot early and prune off the infection, you may be able to save your philodendron from death.
In this article, I will be talking about everything root rot in your philodendron. I’ll give you some suggestions on how to spot root rot and cure an infected philodendron. I’ll also tell you some of the best ways of preventing root rot and taking proper care of your philodendron so it will thrive year-round.
Root rot is an infectious disease in indoor and outdoor plants that occurs when they have suffered damage to their roots, primarily due to overwatering. The infection starts when the first layers of the roots become soggy, causing a fungal or bacterial infection to spread up the plant’s stem.
The initial layers of the roots of the philodendron act like human skin and block many deadly viruses and diseases. Removing these layers leaves the plant open to infection unless you work quickly.
There are a few common causes for root rot in philodendrons:
The primary cause of root rot in philodendrons is overwatering. Houseplant roots exposed to too much moisture will start to decay, preventing water from spreading to the other parts of the plant.
The first sign of an overwatered philodendron is that it will begin to look limp. Excess water clogs the plant’s pores, preventing moisture or nutrients from reaching the leaves.
The roots will then become oversaturated and soggy, like a cooked noodle. Eventually, these wet roots will die and begin to decay.
Surprisingly, just as overwatering can cause root rot, severe underwatering will also cause the same thing.
A root system that has gone too long without water will become fragile and disintegrate. If you water the plant to compensate for its dehydration, this can clog up the delicate roots and prevent oxygen from reaching the plant.
Plants in transit can sustain significant damage while transported, leaving the root system prone to infection.
Some countries also spray imported plants heavily for potential pests and invasive diseases. Unfortunately, these chemicals can also cause severe damage to the plant, increasing the likelihood of diseases such as root rot.
A fungus, bacteria, or virus can cause root rot. What a lot of people don’t realize is that these pathogens are always present in the plant.
These pathogens lie dormant, waiting for the moist conditions that the disease needs to infect and spread. For most of the time, the philodendron’s natural defenses ward off these contaminants, but if your plant is weak or stressed, it may not be able to fight off the fungi.
Root rot is contagious. So, be careful about reusing tools and pots if one of your plants has root rot. Always clean things as you care for your plants to avoid spreading diseases.
If your philodendron has root rot, you will need to check whether the infection is contained to the roots or further up the plant. Finding how far the disease has spread in the plant will point to whether you will remove the affected root or need to propagate the plant.
To stop the rot, you’ll need to prune off unhealthy roots.
Here’s how to remove the infected roots:
- Start by separating the infected philodendron from your other plants to prevent the disease from spreading.
- Take the plant out of its pot to inspect the roots.
- Carefully wash the roots to remove the excess soil. Cleaning the roots is an important step, and an excellent job in this will help you identify whether there’s root rot in your plant.
- Check for healthy roots ranging between white and yellow.
- Identify the infected roots. These will be brown to black, mushy, and pull apart in your hand. They will also give off a very unpleasant odor.
- Remove the infected roots and dispose of them thoroughly, ensuring they don’t come into contact with other plants.
- Only cut roots up to the end of the infected part. Cutting them any further back will expose more of the root core, and the plant will be more prone to further infection.
- Dip your plant’s roots in a solution with equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water. The peroxide will kill any leftover bacteria from the root rot. There is no need to soak the roots. A quick dunk will do.
- Bleach can substitute hydrogen peroxide. Please consider the bleach you are using and seek guidance on the quantity you should use, as bleaches are all different.
- Transfer the plant to a separate pot and use fresh soil to repot
- Pot Size. Depending on how many roots you removed, consider changing the pot size for your philodendron. Using an appropriately sized pot ensures that the soil will stay adequately moist for your philodendron without getting too wet in the wrong places.
- Stop Fertilizing. Hold off adding fertilizer to your repotted philodendron for at least eight weeks, contributing to better root growth.
- Leaf Removal. I recommend removing some of the foliage if you have had to remove a substantial amount of the root system. While no plant owner will want to go through with this, a general rule of thumb is that you should remove a third of the foliage if you’ve had to remove a third of the root system.
- Take a Cutting. If you’re not confident that you’ve removed all the infected roots, take a cutting of one of the healthy stems. Grow the cutting as a separate plant. If the original plant doesn’t make it, this baby plant acts as insurance.
You can learn more about removing roots from a philodendron from this 10-minute video from Urban Tropical.
If the root rot has spread past the roots to affect the stems and leaves, you can make a last-ditch attempt to save it by propagating.
- Carefully take the plant out of its pot.
- Properly dispose of the infected parts of the plant, taking care to wash and disinfect any tools or pots you used.
- Place the healthy stems in water and in indirect sunlight to allow them to heal.
- Keep the plant in the water for around four weeks, closely monitoring for new root growth.
- Repot the plant in a different pot and incorporate perlite in the soil mix to encourage root growth.
- Leave the plant for a week until you begin to water it.
- Disinfect all gardening tools you may have used on this plant.
- Continue to monitor the plant closely. Check for signs of yellowing leaves.
If you need more tips on propagating, this 15-minute video by Christine Kobzeff will help you.
While it is essential to know the causes of root rot and what you can do for treatment, it is necessary to spot the signs. Identifying them as early as possible will give your philodendron the best possible chance if it is infected.
You can identify root rot in a philodendron by the root color, texture, and smell. If your philodendron has root rot, the roots will be black, bad-smelling, and fall apart in your hands. If the infection has spread to the stem and leaves, they could appear wilted with dark or yellowing spots.
Other visual signs of root rot include:
- Slow growth
- Excessively wet soil
Many of the symptoms of root rot can be indicators of other problems in houseplants. It is important to remember that you should check the roots as soon as possible if there are several visual indicators.
As we have learned, root rot can be one of the nastiest threats to your philodendron. Follow my top tips to prevent root rot and keep your philodendron happy, beautiful, and healthy.
If you choose to plant your philodendron in a clay pot, you should know that root rot is more likely to occur since clay may change the pH of the soil.
So, check if the oxygen and pH are low regularly. Try to keep the pH level between 5.0 and 6.5, ideal for philodendron plants.
Try to avoid overfeeding and overfertilizing your philodendron. Giving it too much fertilizer can burn the root system, and it may also burn the plant’s leaves.
Fertilizer burns can stress and weaken your plant, making it more susceptible to root rot and other infections.
You should never reuse any soil used in a plant with root rot for another plant. Reusing soil can contribute to the spread of root rot.
So, you should always discard infected soil far from your home when you repot your philodendron. You might also want to sterilize the soil if you are opposed to tossing it.
Follow this do-it-yourself recipe for a natural take on fungicide. The ingredients in this recipe will provide your philodendron with some much-needed nutrients.
- 2 tbsp of cinnamon
- 1 cup of warm water
- Mix the cinnamon and warm water until well combined
- Leave the mixture overnight at room temperature
- Strain the mixture through a mesh bag or tea strainer to get any excess bits out.
- Pour the mixture into a spray bottle
- Coat the soil of the philodendron with a layer of spray, ensuring even coverage.
Adding fungicides such as cinnamon to the soil stops the emergence of fungi, preventing your philodendron from developing infections.
There are several types of root rot, and the conditions have to be suitable for any one of them to crop up. So, let’s look at these rot varieties and talk about what makes each one different:
Light Blight Rot is caused by Phytophthora, a type of water mold that can occur from overwatering.
While it is unlikely that philodendrons would get this type of root rot, they can catch it from an infected plant. It is critical to sanitize your tools and “quarantine” any plants with root rot or any other fungal infection.
Fusarium is a fungal infection that enters the plant’s system through wounds in the roots. This infection can spread up the stem, affect the leaves, and cause brown spots on the foliage.
Fusarium is one of the most straightforward root rot varieties to treat as long as you catch it early and prune back the infected and wounded roots.
Gray rot is seasonal and is most common in the wintertime. It is highly contagious and has the potential to wipe out all of your houseplants.
So, it is crucial to monitor your houseplants for fungal growth to ensure that you catch it early and isolate your plants before it spreads.
Bacterial root rot is another highly contagious infection plant owners can pass on via gardening tools. Insects can also distribute this type of rot. If your philodendron gets this, you’re out of luck as there is no treatment.
The best advice is to dispose of them immediately and in a manner that does not spread this disease to your other plants.
Root rot can be a devastating disease for your houseplants. You can avoid providing treatment for root rot by giving it some time and attention.
Here are some tips on how to provide the best care for your philodendron to keep it at its best.
Philodendrons require a spot that gets indirect sunlight to maintain decent growth.
Philodendrons may love light, but they need indirect sunlight to stay alive. A philodendron exposed to too much light can become scorched and can display the following symptoms:
- Pale yellow leaves
- Crispy brown patches on the foliage
- Stunted growth
On the other hand, philodendron that does not get enough light can display these symptoms:
- Slow to grow
- Mold at the roots
- Prone to root rot
Another thing to consider when looking for an appropriate place in your home for your philodendron is how close they will be to heat sources and excessively dark spots. Avoiding these spots will decrease your chances of your philodendron getting root rot.
The amount of lighting you can give your philodendron will directly impact the amount of water you need to provide it.
Watering your philodendron is an essential part of keeping it alive. However, watering is easy to mess up.
It can be challenging to determine precisely how much water to offer a plant when most retailers and guides offer tips like giving your plant a “moderate” or “light” watering. So, what does that mean for your philodendron? Well, let’s talk about it.
Your philodendron may need more water if the foliage has become dry, yellow, or curled up around the edges. Another symptom is excessively dry, crumbly, or cracking soil.
The best way to determine when to water is to use the finger test. You can test this by inserting your fingers about 2-3 inches (5 – 7cm) into the soil. If the dirt sticks to your finger, it’s moist and doesn’t need more water. However, if nothing sticks and the dirt feels dry, it’s watering time!
If you’re new to owning a philodendron, you may want to use these tips for watering your philodendron and creating your schedule.
|What’s going on with my philodendron?||How often should I water it?|
|Brand new seedling recently planted||Every five days|
|Plants up to 2 years old||Every two weeks|
|Plants over two years old||Every three to four weeks|
|Summer months living in a hot region||Once every six to eight days (however, this is for scorching climates in places like Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico)|
|Winter months||Every four weeks but check the soil for moisture before doing.|
|After repotting||Avoid watering for the first week, but water every week for the next four weeks.|
If you are not sure whether you’re giving the right amount of water to your philodendron, there are two types of tests that you can do.
- Moisture Test – You can check the moisture content in the soil of your philodendron with your fingers (which is detailed above) or with a soil tester. If you are looking for a soil tester to check the water content of your houseplants, I can recommend this Yimusen Plant Moisture Meter. This model can be used on indoor and outdoor plants and does not require batteries.
- Weight Test – Depending on the size of the pot, you might be able to pick up your philodendron’s pot and check its weight. If it is noticeably heavier, you can assume the water content difference. I would suggest refraining from watering your philodendron if it feels heavy.
Keeping your philodendron in a cold environment will affect its ability to absorb water. That means you may not need to water your plant as much as you think.
A low temperature causes the metabolic rate of the philodendron to decrease, meaning that its water consumption will go down.
Plant owners may want to consider this if they live in a frigid environment. Even if you follow directions for watering your plant, you may be overwatering your philodendron, increasing its chances of root rot.
Philodendrons are also sensitive to cold water, and a change in water temperature leaves the plant’s root system more susceptible to damage. So, go for lukewarm water to protect your plants.
Another thing for houseplant owners to consider is what type of water they will give to their houseplants. For those choosing to give their philodendrons tap water, leave it to stand for 24 hours in a sunny spot. Airing out the tap water allows the fluoride and chlorine to dissipate.
The best possible thing that you can do for your philodendron is to give it rainwater whenever possible. You can achieve this by getting a container to collect rainwater.
For those looking for a rainwater container, I can recommend this Portable Rain Barrel Water Tank. This tank will hold enough rainwater for your garden, and it is enclosed to prevent pests like mosquitoes from taking over your yard.
Your philodendron needs sufficient drainage to ensure that moisture doesn’t get a chance to develop around the roots. Improper drainage is one of the top reasons philodendrons get root rot, so ensuring enough drainage is essential.
Here’s how you can increase soil drainage in your houseplants:
- Ensure there are adequate drainage holes in the pot you are using.
- Repot any plants with insufficient drainage into containers with trays and holes.
- Use a soil mix for your philodendron that includes perlite and sand.
- Choose ceramic or unglazed pots to increase aeration.
- Humidity – The philodendron likes to be in a moist environment. According to UK Houseplants, placing your philodendron on a bed of damp stones will create a higher humidity. You can also use a small humidifier to raise the moisture surrounding your plants.
- Fertilization – How often you should fertilize your philodendron depends on the season. You should fertilize the plant around once a month during the summer months. In the winter, fertilize your philodendron every six times you water it.
If you are looking for good fertilizer for your houseplants like philodendrons, I recommend this Philodendron Fertilizer Liquid Plant Food. This product is ideal for plants like philodendrons, pothos, and other trailing plants.
Additionally, it carries the same quality as all of the top indoor fertilizers for a fraction of the cost.
A philodendron can grow outside in coastal and tropical southern regions of the United States. However, if you experience colder winters, be sure to keep your plant indoors or move it inside come fall. Philodendrons thrive in warm and humid conditions and prefer indirect sunlight.
You can grow philodendrons in water, and they can live their entire lives in water. Varieties including the Heart Leaf philodendron and the Velvet Leaf vine are more popular for water growing. New plants will require water changing initially to ensure new root growth.
Root rot is a common issue for philodendron plants, but if you take proper care of your plant and keep an eye out for symptoms of infections, you can prevent it and eliminate it.
However, sometimes the root rot is too advanced to save your plant, which is when it’s time to propagate or discard your philodendron to prevent spreading the infection.