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8 Steps to Save Dracaena from Root Rot (With Causes and Signs)

One of the most common and damaging diseases your Dracaena can get is root rot.

Rot disease is a sneaky assassin that eats away at your dracaena roots, destroying them from the inside out.

Your plant will die if you don’t stop it before it spreads to the plant’s stems, leaves, and other parts.

Yellowing leaves and mushy, swollen stems are telltale signs of dracaena root rot. Remove your Dracaena from its pot, wash the old soil off the roots, and snip off diseased roots with sharp, sterile pruners. Repot your Dracaena in a clean container with fresh, well-drained potting mix when only healthy roots are left.

Preventing dracaena root rot is the best course of action, but if the disease is detected early enough, you can save your Dracaena.

Slow growth, yellowing foliage, and wet soil are all classic early warning signs that you should keep an eye out for.

Common Signs of Dracaena Root Rot 

Stage 1: Early Warning Symptoms of Dracaena Root Rot

Take action as soon as you notice that your plant’s roots have become infected with dracaena rot.

Unfortunately, the disease’s early stages are often hidden beneath the soil’s surface, making it difficult to diagnose.

Fortunately, there are a few early warning signs on your plant that you may notice above ground. Among them are:

Leaves Turning Yellow

Early signs of dracaena root rot include yellowing leaves. This is especially true if the affected leaves are also wilted or drooping.

Yellowing leaves indicate that the roots have difficulty absorbing and transporting water and nutrients from the potting soil.

The same can happen if your Dracaena is overwatered, underwatered, or doesn’t get enough light.

Symptoms of root rot include discoloration or yellowing of the leaves, leading to browning leaves that fall off.

The Soil Staying Wet for Prolonged Time

If you notice yellowing leaves, you should check the soil to see if it’s too wet or soggy.

Root rot is often caused by overwatering and poor drainage, so the soil remains damp or waterlogged longer than usual.

Every two to three days, insert your finger into the growing medium.

After a week, if the first 2-3 inches of your Dracaena are still wet, you’ve probably overwatered it, and root rot may be taking hold.

Leaves Curling

Another sign of dracaena root rot is leaves curling during the day but bouncing back at night. Drooping and general wilting can accompany curling.

As the root can not supply enough water and essential elements the leaves shows this kind of sign.

Stunted or Slow Growth

Slow growth or failure to thrive is a common symptom of a plant problem. Your plant’s roots may be struggling if your plant’s growth is stunted, as well.

Dracaenas don’t grow very quickly. They can grow to a height of up to 10 feet in ten years.

However, if there is no new growth for an extended period, you should investigate the possibility that root rot is to blame.

Dracaena root rot occurs when pathogens damage or kill the roots.

Roots that have been affected by this disease turn black or brown and lose their ability to absorb and transport nutrients to other parts of the plant. As a result, overall growth is slowed or stunted.

Stage 2: Red Alerts of Advanced Dracaena Root Rot

Consistent Wilting of Leaves

The classic warning sign that the rot disease has damaged the roots is wilting leaves that do not appear to recover despite being watered.

Dracaenas wilt if they don’t get enough water from the soil.

So it’s a way for your plant to conserve water by reducing the surface area of its leaves that can lose moisture.

The roots of your Dracaena will be unable to absorb enough water if they are infected with rot disease.

Therefore, no matter how much water you give your plant, the leaves will eventually remain wilted over time.

Swollen, and Mushy Stems

Dracaenas with root rot often have soft and swollen stems and wilting foliage.

The lower sections of your Dracaena, including the base of the stems, will first show symptoms because the rot starts from the bottom up.

After that, the branches will become weak and may even fall off.

Brown Leaves

Early signs include brown spots on yellowing leaves. There’s still time to save your Dracaena from root rot’s ravaging jaws.

However, the browning of the leaves indicates that the rot disease is already in full swing.

That indicates that the rot disease has spread to the leaves. This is your last chance to save your plant!

Brown or Black and Spongy Roots

Remove some of the topsoil from your plant to check the roots for rot if you suspect it is infected.

Otherwise, healthy white roots become limp rather than crisp and firm in the early stages of the disease.

Roots that have been infected will quickly turn brown or black. Roots that have been rotting for a long time will be soft and pliable.

Their dark brown outer covering is likely to expose their slimy inner tissue.

Rotting Odor from Roots

Healthy dracaena roots are either odorless or have an earthy scent. On the other hand, root rot will give off a decaying smell.

The stench of rotting flesh becomes more and more noxious as the disease progresses.

Stage 3: Late Signs of Dracaena Root Rot

At this point, the roots of rot disease turn into a dark or brown mush. This mushy, foul-smelling mess foreshadows the endgame.

If you don’t take care of your plant, it will eventually topple over. If you handle the stem at this late stage, it may fall apart in your hands.

Causes Dracaena Root Rot

[1] Fungal Infections

Dracaena root rot is eventually caused by various root-decaying fungi that thrive in moist environments.

A few common culprits are Rhizoctonia, Phytophthora, Pythium, and Fusarium.

They typically attack weakened or damaged roots that have been compromised by poor cultural practices such as overwatering, fertilizer burn, and so on.

Here’s a table to help you determine which root-rotting fungus is wreaking havoc on your Dracaena:

Fungus NameDescription
PythiumPythium root rot strikes young dracaenas suddenly. Small new leaves and yellowed old foliage are early signs.
Thielaviopsis basicolaYellowed and wilted leaves Slow-onset disease commonly misdiagnosed as nutrient deficiency. This causes black root rot.
FusariumBrown leaf spots, yellowing and wilting. Leaf veins are also browning. Advanced Fusarium wilt can spread to stems.
PhytophthoraInfection, especially in wet, cold weather. Smelly reddish-brown or black roots. The foliage quickly turns yellow, dies, and falls over.
Rhizoctonia solaniCold, damp conditions are ideal. Soft, sunken, brown/black lesions at stem base. Yellowing and wilting of leaves.

Treatment, Control, and Prevention of Dracaena Fungal Diseases

Ensure you don’t overwater your Dracaena; splash water on the leaves or water it from the top.

Make sure you use sterilized repotting containers and potting mixes for your dracaenas.

Use a copper-based fungicide to treat the fungal infection on the affected plant.

Remove and dispose of fallen leaves and dead plant matter as part of sound horticultural practices.

[2] Overwatering

A major contributing factor in the development of dracaena root rot is an excessive amount of watering.

When you overwater your plant, you’re putting it at risk for rot disease.

Soil oxygen levels are reduced, allowing opportunistic fungi and other pathogens to flourish. It also chokes the roots.

Solution

To eliminate the possibility of overwatering, use self-watering pots. Watering from the bottom may also help.

Place your plant in a sunny location and increase air circulation to allow the soil to dry out.

Water your Dracaena only after the top one to two inches of soil has dried out.

[3] Poor Soil Drainage

Soil that is poorly drained retains an excessive amount of moisture. This is especially true if the soil is stale, heavy, or contains extreme organic matter.

Continually soggy or wet roots are prime targets for rot-causing pathogens.

Solution

I strongly advise repotting your Dracaena with new, well-draining potting compost.

In addition, you can improve drainage by adding some vermiculite.

[4] Dracaena Soft Rot

The bad guys aren’t limited to fungi. Root rot in dracaenas can be caused by various water molds, bacteria, and viruses.

Soft rot is caused by the bacterium Erwinia chrysanthemi or Erwinia carotovora pv. carotovora is a typical example.

Brown, delicate roots, and a foul odor are two common symptoms. Lower leaves may also collapse.

Solution

Infected plant parts should be cut off and safely discarded. If your Dracaena is severely infected, consider tossing it and starting over.

Purchasing a disease-free dracaena is the first step in prevention.

[5] Inadequate Drainage

To avoid developing root rot, you must have adequate drainage holes in your dracaena pot.

Adding stones to the bottom of a pot isn’t going to cut it.

Root rot will be more likely to occur if you allow too much water to accumulate at the bottom of the pot.

Solution

Use a clay or terracotta pot with porous walls to allow water to evaporate.

Even better, make sure the bottom of the pot has drainage holes.

[6] Wrong Pot Size

You may be tempted to grow your Dracaena in a large pot, thinking it will provide ample space for growth.

Let me tell you something: That’s a terrible idea. Root rot can occur if there is too much soil around the root, which can cause waterlogging.

Similarly, the roots of plants in small pots become clogged and vulnerable to disease and rot.

Solution

Choose the right size pot for your Dracaena. An inch of soil around the roots should provide plenty of room for growth.

[7] Low-Temperature

In warmer temperatures, your plant’s evaporation and water consumption rates increase.

As a result, your plant will use less moisture at low temperatures, setting the stage for overwatering and root rot.

Solution

A daytime temperature of 60-70°F (15-21°C) is ideal for your Dracaena. Temperatures at night should be about 10 degrees lower. (Source)

Some varieties like Dracaena draco can withstand full sun, so placing them near a brightly-lit window is ideal.

[8] Watering During Dormancy

You should never water your Dracaena when it is not in winter. During dormancy, your plant’s growth slows, so its watering requirements are reduced.

If you keep watering it the same way you always have, you risk causing root rot.

Solution

Dracaenas prefer the soil to be slightly dry during the winter months, but you don’t want it to dry out completely.

So before watering your plant, make sure that the first two to three inches of soil are dry.

[9] Poor Air Circulation

Your plant and the soil lose moisture faster when there is good air circulation. Stagnant air and soggy soil are the results of inadequate ventilation.

Overcrowding your plants and a lack of airflow can lead to this issue.

Solution

  • Space out your houseplants to boost air circulation.
  • Use a fan to increase air circulation.
  • Prune overgrown dracaenas to ensure air circulation between leaves.

[10] Contaminated Gardening Tools

Pathogens can attach themselves to pruning shears, trowels, shears, pots, and gardening tools.

They can transfer pathogens to healthy plants if not disinfected.

Solution

Ensure to disinfect your gardening tools in a bleach solution before and after each use.

Mix 1 part bleach and nine parts distilled water to make your bleach solution.

How to Save Your Dracaena from Root Rot 

Step 1: Stop Watering

Your plant is struggling, and you notice that the potting medium remains moist, but there are no swollen or stinky stems or other classic symptoms of dracaena root rot.

In such cases, the solution may be as simple as ceasing watering and closely monitoring your Dracaena.

Mild cases of dracaena root rot can sometimes be reversed by simply changing your watering habits and allowing the soil to dry out.

You can avoid significant disruptions to the already compromised root system during repotting this way.

Encourage evaporation by eliminating any fallen plant matter and debris from the soil.

Also, make sure there is plenty of airflow around your plant.

Step 2: Remove the Infected Leaves and Other Plant Parts

You want to avoid reinfection by removing affected foliage, stems, and other plant parts.

Consider using a preventive fungicide on your plant, preferably one that contains copper. (Check the latest price on Amazon here).

Step 3: Unpot the Plant and Dry out the Root System

You want to deprive any activated pathogens of the water they need to thrive so that they cannot multiply.

You should temporarily remove your plant from its pot and place it on tissue paper or old magazines.

This method will aid in soil drying and increase the oxygen level in the roots. Placing a fan near your Dracaena will also help.

This will also give your Dracaena’s natural defense system enough time and space to fight off any remaining pathogens.

Step 4: Trim off the Infected Roots

You need to take drastic measures to save the plant; if root rot has already spread, there are still healthy white roots. To begin, remove any diseased roots from the plant.

Rotten roots are soft and spongy to the touch, and they appear a dark brown or black color.

The goal is to remove all but the strongest and healthiest of the plant’s roots.

As long as the roots are infected, don’t be afraid to remove nearly all of them.

In addition, you should also remove all foliage that has been damaged.

To avoid stressing your plant during its recovery, you should match the trimmed roots and foliage percentage. Wilted, yellowed, or brown leaves are examples of this.

Step 5: Repot Using New Soil and Pot 

Repot your Dracaena in a clean, sterile pot with dry, fresh, well-drained well drainage and nutrient-rich potting mix (Check the latest price on Amazon here)

Step 6: Watering after Repotting

Restart light watering with caution. Before the next irrigation, allow the first three inches of new soil to dry.

Then, every 5-7 days, check the soil moisture with a meter or a finger test.

Step 7: Care after Repotting

Maintain proper temperature, humidity, and light conditions for your Dracaena to promote quick recovery and growth.

It prefers temperatures in the range of 65°F (18°C). For at least eight hours, place it in a location that receives medium to bright, indirect light.

Avoid fertilizing it until it has fully recovered from root rot.

Step 8: Propagating Dracaena

In severe cases of dracaena root rot, where all roots have turned to mush, you must discard your plant.

Avoid coming into contact with other plants. Sterilize any gardening tools or containers that have come into contact with the plant.

Your only option is to start from scratch by laying healthy canes in warm, moist soil. Air layering can also be effective.

Treating root rot with Chemical Fungicide

I do not recommend treating your Dracaena with chemical fungicides.

For one thing, no single chemical fungicide is effective against all types of root-rotting fungus.

Furthermore, the disease could be caused by viral or bacterial infections.

You must also take your plant to a professional lab or nursery to identify the fungus causing the rot.

This is usually costly and time-consuming, not to mention expensive chemical treatments.

Worse, chemical fungicides can harm beneficial organisms in the soil, making your Dracaena more susceptible to rot disease.

Homemade Fungicide for Dracaena Root Rot

If you prefer an organic approach, here are some homemade fungicides to consider:

Charcoal

Activated charcoal is a gift from God for gardeners like you and me.

Spread a thin layer over the bottom of the container to absorb excess water, repel insects, prevent mold growth, and reduce odors. This layer will also repel insects.

Cinnamon

Plants can tolerate cinnamon’s antifungal properties because of its low toxicity level.

Sprinkle some of the plant’s affected roots, stems, and other parts.

Don’t forget to incorporate cinnamon into the growing medium for a long-lasting antifungal effect.

Chamomile

The best way to use chamomile is as a liquid tea. Antifungal and natural antimicrobial properties will make it worthwhile.