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7 Steps to Save Desert Rose From Root Rot

Desert rose root rot occurs when the plant stores too much water due to overwatering. As a result, leaves may turn yellow and develop edema, the caudex may swell and develop pimples, and the roots may turn brown and rot.

Trim affected caudex and root system areas, apply lime powder and fungicide, and allow your plant to dry before repotting.

Caring for a desert rose is simple but requires some finesse. Root rot will kill this super-hardy succulent without considering the soil’s moisture.

Signs of Desert Rose Root Rot 

Pimples on the Surface of Caudex

Like most succulents, desert roses have systems inside that help them store water when there isn’t enough rain. This is where caudex shines as a helpful tool.

There is a limit to how much water the caudex can hold. If you water your desert rose too much, the caudex will swell and have far more water than the plant can use. In response, your plant creates exit channels for water to exit through caudex tissue.

As the turgor pressure inside the caudex tissue increases, these tiny gateways will begin to burst open. As a result, acne-like bumps caused by stress will appear on the caudex.

These bumps are a defense mechanism for desert roses to use during times of excess moisture, but they can also indicate root rot below the soil.

Swollen Caudex

When the caudex of your desert rose is full of water, it should give when touched or pressed. That is not to say it is overly soft.

However, if it becomes engorged with too much water due to overwatering, the caudex will feel rigid or hard due to internal pressure caused by the excess water.

The caudex will feel like a balloon about to pop in terms of pressure excess. However, this firmness will not last long as stem rot may develop.

Blister or Rapture Wounds on Caudex Surface

Again, if you notice blistering on the caudex of your desert rose, it’s likely due to an excess of moisture at the plant’s root system. These bumpy outgrowths look like blisters, but they’re channels for excess water to evaporate.

Blisters look like they would be a good solution at first, but they can easily burst from taking in too much water and rapture. Because of this, they will cause superficial rapture wounds on the caudex.

Unfortunately, pathogens like bacteria and fungi can enter your plant through these blister wounds. This will cause the stem to rot and possibly spread to the roots.

Stunted Leaf Growth

Small new shoots and leaves indicate that your desert rose is distressed. It isn’t getting enough nutrients and other resources to live and grow.

This is because root rot has rendered the root system incapable of effectively absorbing and transporting nutrients.

When root rot has reared its ugly head and you have recently pruned your desert rose, new leaves tend to grow back very slowly or fail to emerge. The fresh leaves are often pale green and lack a vivid green color.

Yellowing Leaves

Yellowing leaves are a standard early indicator of overwatering, which can lead to root rot if left untreated. The lower and more mature leaves’ tips and edges turn yellow first.

The problem will worsen until the entire leaf, including the youngest and highest ones, is affected by a yellowing hue.

When your plant lacks nutrients, its leaves will often turn yellow. If the roots of your desert rose have rotted, they won’t be able to support the plant properly. Root rot reduces the number of nutrients and water absorbed from the soil.

Leaf Drop

When you overwater your desert rose, the leaves turn yellow and brown, eventually dropping off the plant. Your plant is most likely suffering from root rot.

Dark Mushy Spots on the Stem and Roots

You may have severe root rot if you notice dark water-soaked spots on the exposed roots and caudex. Advanced desert rose root rot appears as blackened, soft, or mushy tissue, primarily on stem roots.

Gently squeeze the affected caudex. If it is difficult to squeeze, it may be overfilled with water, which is an early sign of overwatering.

In addition, the caudex or root tissue is likely decaying or rotting if the squeeze feels mushy, soft, or soggy.

The leaves may also turn brown, and the soil may remain wet or soggy for an unusually long period because root rot has set up camp beneath the soil level.

What Causes Desert Rose Root Rot 

(1) Prolonged Overwatering

Overwatering is the primary cause of root rot in desert roses. Remember that these succulents are built from the top down to survive harsh drought conditions.

They don’t like “wet feet” or overly wet, soggy soil. Excess soil moisture will suffocate the roots, allowing bacteria and fungi to infect them.

If you overwater a desert rose, the plant will eventually rot from the roots up. Symptoms of overwatering typically include:

  • Yellowing Leaves
  • Blisters on the caudex surface
  • Swollen, engorged, or harder caudex
  • Leaf edema
  • Leaf drop

Prolonged overwatering is caused by more than just watering your desert rose too frequently.

It can also happen if your plant is in poorly drained soil or pot. Other factors include emptying the drip tray and watering your Adenium obesum during dormancy.

Essential Notes on Proper Watering of Desert Roses

Water requirements for these succulents vary depending on temperature, lighting, and time of year. During the growing season, from late spring to summer, keep the soil moist but never wet.

To check soil moisture, stick your finger into the soil or use a meter on occasion. Wait until the soil is arid before watering again.

Reduce watering frequency to once a month when your plant goes dormant in the fall and winter.

(2) Poor Drainage

Poor drainage results in water pooling at the bottom of the pot or around the root ball. These conditions are a perfect recipe for root rot.

Poor drainage can result from:

  • Not using well-draining potting soil could be high in clay or organic. Maybe you used too much compost. Replace the cactus/succulent mix (Amazon link) with up to half coarse sand or gravel.
  • Use a non-porous container, such as glazed ceramic, glass, or plastic. It would help if you used unglazed clay, ceramic, or terracotta (Amazon link).
  • There are no drainage holes in your desert rose container – It should have at least two or three drainage holes for excess water to drain.
  • Failure to empty the drip tray – You must open the saucer/cachepot, or the perched water will cause the soil to become waterlogged.

(3) Fungal Diseases 

Overwatering is just the start of a bad story. Fungal pathogens take over once the roots have been drowned and weakened by wet soil conditions.

Fusarium, Phytophthora, Rhizoctonia, and Pythium are the most common fungi that cause desert rose root rot.

Small spots on foliage that appear tan, gray, reddish brown, yellow, or black are common symptoms of these fungal diseases. Affected leaves turn yellow before browning and falling off.

The fungus usually infects your plant through old pots, soil, or pruning tools that have been infected with the pathogen that causes root rot.

Some fungi can infect the foliage or stems and spread to the roots.

Dealing with Fungal Diseases

The first step in this process is to remove and dispose of any infected plant parts. Before handling other plants, clean your hands and prune the shears with rubbing alcohol or bleach.

Use copper-based fungicides as antifungal sprays or drenches. They usually work best when combined with appropriate preventive and cultural measures, such as:

  • Overhead irrigation should be avoided.
  • Wet plants should not be handled.
  • Watering early in the morning and not splashing on leaves reduces leaf wetness.
  • removing and disposing of debris, fallen leaves, and dead plant matter
  • Maintaining adequate air circulation around your plants.
  • You should not overcrowd your houseplants.

(4) Wrong Size Pot

Too much or too little soil in the pot can cause root rot in your desert rose.

Roots’ growth, oxygen supply, and functionality are stunted in a too-small container. In addition, roots will be damaged as the soil quickly dries out and becomes compact.

One too big for your plant leads to waterlogging in specific places. This is a surefire recipe for rotting roots.


Choose a pot with a well-drained bottom and at least an inch of soil between the sides and the rootball.

(5) Low Temperatures

Desert roses will suffer extensive cold damage when exposed to temperatures below 50°F (10°C) for an extended period. Frost and freezing temperatures will also stress the roots and cause root rot.

Furthermore, low temperatures cause the soil to dry out more slowly, increasing the risk of overwatering.


  • Remove any leaves damaged by cold, freezing temperatures or frost.
  • Place your desert rose in an area where temperatures range from 75 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit (24 to 35 degrees Celsius).
  • Keep your plant away from drafty areas.

How to Save Desert Rose from Root Rot 

Step #1: Stop Watering

If you keep watering your desert rose, the situation will only worsen. On the other hand, if you find root rot early enough, you might need to stop watering the plant.

The next step is to repot your plant in a shady, well-ventilated area. You shouldn’t put it through any more strain by exposing it to the sun.

Step #2: Inspect your Desert Rose for Affected Parts

  • Unpot your desert rose gently to avoid causing further root damage.
  • Examine the caudex and roots for infection, rotting, and dead parts.
  • Rotting brown roots have succumbed to root rot. Meanwhile, healthy roots should be creamy white or beige in color and firm rather than mushy in texture.
  • Remove as much soil as possible from the roots.

Step #3: Getting Rid of Infection

It’s time to trim off all infected, rotten, dead, and other affected parts:

  • Don’t be afraid to cut off any soft, rotten, or infected pieces of the caudex. Use a sharp, sterile knife to clean with rubbing alcohol after each cut. 
  • Note that you might have to cut off large sections of rotting flesh. Lavaging is an easier route. Use a strong water jet outside or in the shower to blast away rotten caudex tissues and decayed roots.
  • Leave no rotted root and caudex portions. Use a spoon or something similar to scrape every inch of rotten, dead, or decaying tissue.

Step #4: Treating Your Desert Rose

After you’ve removed the infected parts, you’ll be left with healthy details, and an injured desert rose. Do the following to ensure survival and optimal infection removal:

  • Drench, soak, or dip your desert rose, roots, and stems in a fungicide solution. This will aid in the elimination of any remaining pathogens.
  • Hydrogen peroxide, which has strong antifungal properties, should be sprayed on the remaining roots and caudex.
  • Allow the trimmed roots and caudex to dry before applying cinnamon or garden lime powder to the wounds. They will keep bacteria and fungus at bay.

Step #5: Let Your Plant Dry Out

After applying antifungal powder to the open wounds and removing the diseased parts, your desert rose will need several days to dry.

Your plant must dry in a dry, well-ventilated, and brightly-lit area. Don’t do anything until the wounds have healed and the roots have hardened.

Step #6: Repot Using New Soil and Pot

After applying antifungal powder to the open wounds and removing the diseased parts, your desert rose will need several days to dry.

Your plant must dry in a well-ventilated and brightly-lit area. Don’t do anything until the wounds have healed and the roots have hardened.

Watering after Repotting

Make sure the potting soil is damp. You shouldn’t water your desert rose right after repot it, though. Instead, you should refrain from watering entirely until you see new growth.

The desert rose needs to be watered regularly once it has recovered from its initial shock. However, to avoid drowning your plants, you should wait until the soil is arid before giving them more water.

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