What is Root Rot & How Do You Fix it?

Root rot is a condition where plants rot, or decay, causing the plants to die if they are not treated.

What causes root rot in succulents, you might ask? Well, the most common cause of root rot is overwatering. Giving your succulents more water than they need, end up decaying— as it is often forgotten that succulents have immense water- storing capacity.

Root rot could also be because of poor soil drainage— either water is not being drained as fast as it should be, or there is a blocked drainage often caused by compacted roots.

Root rot can also be caused by the presence of harmful bacteria or fungus in the soil.

What is Root Rot & How Do You Fix it?
8 Varieties of succulents and cacti! @bodrum_kaktus

Signs That You are Overwatering Your Succulent

There are three main signs, that we have conducted, to help you figure out if your succulent is being over watered:

  • The leaves will be translucent or rather light in color.
  • The leaves will feel soft, mushy and squishy.
  • The leaves will start falling off because of the added weight.
What is Root Rot & How Do You Fix it?
Succulent Focus

How to Identify Root Rot in Your Succulents

1) Checking the Roots

Succulents are tolerant to multiple uprooting so you shouldn’t be worried. Be sure to be gentle when doing so though.

Remove your succulent from the pot, shake off the soil and check the color of the roots. Healthy roots should either be white or yellow. If the roots are either dark brown or black and they feel slimy and wet when you touch, then that is definitely root rot. It will also likely break off as you pull it from the soil.

Remember to be keen on the smell. A rotting smell can vary from mild to foul. If the smell is foul, it most likely means the rotting has spread too far, and it may be too late to save your little succulent baby.

But that’s what we’re here for— to help you avoid that!

What is Root Rot & How Do You Fix it?
Succulents in the garden.

2) Checking the Stems and Leaves

If, unfortunately, you’re noticing root rot when it’s at the stem and leaves, the rot is at its advanced stages.

During this stage, the leaves start turning yellow and pale and if not attended to quickly, they become mushy and eventually die out. There is nothing that can be done to fix the damage once the leaves become mushy, as it can no longer support itself.

It is difficult to fix root rot when it starts showing on the leaves and stem that’s why you need to always be keen on your succulent. The idea that it’s easy to take care of your succulents is true, but that doesn’t mean you should entirely neglect their signs. Remember root rot happens gradually.

Here’s an important note – it’s overwatering/root rot if it’s only the lower leaves that are turning yellow. If it’s the whole plant turning yellow, then it may be a nutrition deficiency.

What is Root Rot & How Do You Fix it?
Top view of a beautiful succulent garden.

How to Prevent Root Rot in Succulents

Water your succulents less frequently, and when you do, use large volumes of water.

Use pots that have drainage holes similar to this little pot here. Terrariums and teacups may look fancy and all, but rest assured, you will constantly be dealing with root rot. Stick to your traditional planters with drainage holes for the best growth!

Use soil that does not retain water and drains fast. You can either buy succulent soil, like this one, or you can make your own from your backyard- which you can learn how to do in this article! Creating your own succulent soil can be a fun project for the family if you need help deciding whether you want to create your own or not.

Don’t line the base of your pot with rocks, gravel or ceramic pieces. This will retain water, rather than help to drain. However, you can mix the three all through out your soil to improve drainage flows in your pot.

What is Root Rot & How Do You Fix it?
High quality green succulents.

Letting Your Soil Dry Out Naturally

If you know that you overwatered your succulent and you suspect any rotting, unpot your succulent and leave it to dry for a day or two. Keep the root ball and the soil both intact. Once the plant and the soil in the pot have dried up, re-plant you’re succulent. Water it sparingly, just enough to make the soil damp and after that do not water for the next 2 weeks. This will allow for complete healing. When you’re ready to repot your succulent, check out this article on How to Repot Your Succulent— the Right Way!

What is Root Rot & How Do You Fix it?
Succulent plants out in the sun.

Trimming the Infected Part

You can also fix the root rot by trimming the rotten part to avoid the spread of the rot. Dig up your plant, cut out the infected area- whether stem or root. Let the plant dry out naturally, but keep the plant out of direct light. Check out this succulent trimming set we just ordered!

Pour out the soil mixture and clean your pot with an anti-bacterial soap and water to ensure that there are no remnants of any fungus left. Add new soil to the pot and do not cover up the cut area, this will allow it to breathe as it self-heals. You can add more soil to cover the base once a new tissue develops.

If you have planted many succulents in one pot, you will have to repot the non-infected plants separately to avoid the spread of rot. Read exactly how you can trim your succulents the correct way here, it’s already helped a lot of people!

What is Root Rot & How Do You Fix it?
Tiny succulent plant in white square planter!

Propagating the Healthy Part

If the rot is advanced and you still want to save your succulent, the only other option would be to propagate the healthy part so that it can grow new roots. You can either propagate from the stem or leaves.

How Do You Do This You Ask?

Take a new pot and put in the new soil mixture. Cut off the healthy part and place it on top of the soil. Try these shears out for your cutting needs. Push a little bit of the stem into the soil. Do not water until after one week. After the one week, you can water, but sparingly to avoid overwatering. When a root is developing it does absorb so much water.

However, there is a slimmer chance of you saving your succulent if the stem is too mushy that the plant cannot support itself.

As well, if the plant has caved in and is smelly the rot is far too gone and nothing much can be done.

What is Root Rot & How Do You Fix it?
Dying succulents.

Root Rot Free

Yes, it is possible to save a succulent with a rotting root, but only if you can address it immediately. Depending on the extent of the rot, you can either let it dry naturally, trim the infected parts, or propagate the healthy parts. Otherwise, avoid overwatering— succulents can survive with very little water!

What is Root Rot & How Do You Fix it?
9 Succulents in a square planter with great drainage.

Did you learn anything new today about root rot? We’ve all struggled with it at some point in our succulent- lives— especially early on in our succulent journey. But hopefully with this guide, you’ll be able to help yourself and other fellow succulent newbies!

Share your experiences on our Instagram, or in our exclusive Facebook group today!

By the way, we wanted to mention that this post is sponsored by Amazon Audible! They are offering all of our Succulent City community an exclusive offer of 2 FREE Ebooks when signing up for a free trial! You can sign up for a free trial here! What could be more relaxing than listening to your favorite book while tending to your succulents?

Enjoyed learning about What is Root Rot & How Do You Fix it? If so, you’ll really enjoy the ebook about Essential Tools for Planting the Best Succulents. With this ebook, you’ll find yourself more detailed answers that’ll help your succulent grow even better! With thousands of succulent lovers enjoying our ebooks, you don’t want to miss out on what works the best to grow your succulents.

Thanks for reading, happy planting! 🌱

What is Root Rot & How Do You Fix it?
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