My Pink Princess Has Root Rot –

No one is immune to errors, or perhaps bad luck, and I am no exception. While watering another plant the other day, my Philodendron Pink Princess caught my attention – it was droopy. This is unusual, I had watered this plant a couple days prior as the soil had been dry – it should have been perky and well.

This led me to lightly pull on the base of the plant – a healthy root system will typically hold well, but rotted roots are more likely to fail, allowing you to easily lift the plant out of the soil. Sure enough, my Pink Princess came right out of its pot – and in hindsight I should have been doing this over a potting mat; I made a bit of a mess. But we live and we learn.

The root system was devastated. Many roots came off easily and were squishy in my hands. While this plant’s roots are naturally a dark red colour and seeing rot can be difficult, it was obvious in this case – the texture of roots should be firm and they should never pull off when you run your fingers over them. I had some work to do if I wanted to save this plant.

It may be worth noting that it is a good idea to take cuttings for propagation when you find root rot – this is in case your efforts fail, as they sometimes will.  In this case, I didn’t, but that is because I already have several cuttings rooting at the moment.

I began by rinsing all of the soil off of the roots – and since I didn’t have a way to sanitize the soil, it all went into the organics bin. This soil now has bacteria and organisms in it that will continue to cause rot – so it sadly cannot be reused.  

I then cut off all the rotted roots– leaving only the healthy, burgundy roots behind; rot will easily spread and it is important to remove all affected roots. I then placed the plant into a glass of clean water for a couple days to rehabilitate. Once the plant begins to perk up, I will re-plant it in fresh, well-draining soil.

We’ve All Killed a Plant or Two

We have all been there.  We become confident in our ability to care for our houseplants; we collect and collect and maybe gain some praise [from] friends and family for our green thumb.  Then we look around and notice a plant has dropped a leaf – or two.  Maybe your leaves just keep yellowing.  You check the soil; you treat for pests.  You try to combat any rot.  You might give it more, or less, light and humidity. You have done everything, and yet, your houseplant dies.  Times like this I have to remind myself that everyone kills plants from time to time, and that everyone gets a yellow leaf. 

I have kept houseplants for years now, and the vast majority of them seem to thrive, but everyone, even me, has killed a cactus.  While every dead houseplant in your home can be a learning experience, sometimes it can also be better to just move on, nobody is perfect. 

Most recently, I put a slowly dying Calathea Medallion out on my deck to die.  It is down to a couple yellowing leaves and I have lost all hope of reviving it.  Part of me is relieved – this plant was more of a stress than a joy and I don’t have to worry any more. The other part of me is disappointed I couldn’t save it – a blow to my planty confidence. 

I learned from this though – I learned that for this plant consistent humidity is more important than high humidity.  I learned to resist repotting any Calathea unless absolutely necessary.  And I learned to keep this plant far away from any drafts or vents – keep it well off the floor. 

Other house plants I’ve killed – a few cacti, a Philodendron Hope, a Stromanthe Triostar, a Red Maranta, a Hoya Cornosa Compacta, a Birds Nest Fern, a String of Pearls, and every succulent I have ever owned. 

Causes of death?  I have lost plants to thrips, aphids, root rot, and underwatering.  While it is embarrassing to admit such loss, it also re-affirms that every plant parent makes mistakes, and is just learning as they go.  I learned, for instance, that I should not own succulents.   

Plant ownership is a constant learning experience – for everyone.  Trial and error is one of the best ways to improve your indoor gardening and imperfection is inevitable.  Besides – if you do lose a plant, it just means that you have some space to buy a new one!

I Have Root Rot – Now What?

Most gardeners have seen, at some point in their journey, root rot.  What is it, what causes it, and what can be done?

Roots Require a few things to be healthy and to function properly.  They require moisture, nutrients, and air.  Proper aeration of the soil is essential to prevent waterlogging and suffocation.  If roots remain stuck in heavy, wet soil for too long they can lose essential access to oxygen and begin to decay. This decay is what is commonly called root rot. 

This is an example of rots that have suffered from rot. The plant is sat beside sphagnum moss, used to help regrow the root system.

Prevention is the most effective way to combat root rot, although we will also cover measures that can be taken to try to save a plant with rot.  The best way to prevent rot is the choose or create a soil mixture with proper aeration.  Good houseplant soils will include a healthy amount of perlite, bark, coconut husk, horticultural charcoal, or pumice.  It is ideal the choose a soil with more than one of these amendments.  You can also add these elements to existing soil in order to improve aeration and drainage.  Be sure to also place your plant in a pot with a drainage hole in the bottom. 

If your plant does develop rot, the best thing to do is to first remove your plant from its pot and compost the soil, do not reuse it as the rot can spread to another plant.  On the affected plant trim any rotted root.  Roots that are soft, dark, or falling off should be removed. 

If after this pruning you still have a significant root system, the plant can be re-potted in fresh soil.  If the plant no longer has roots, or has very few, it can be placed into damp sphagnum moss, or in a glass of water, in order to regrow its roots. 

Everyone Gets A Yellow Leaf