How To Fix Peace Lily Root Rot (Spathiphyllum Root Rot)


Root rot is a common disease among houseplants that is mainly caused by overwatering, which creates the perfect environment for fungi infestations.

I love to see my peace lily flourishing and thriving, but conditions like root rot cause the leaves to become yellow, wilted.  And if left untreated, it could be fatal for your peace lily.

But do not despair, you can still save your peace lily, especially if you catch the problem early enough.

The most effective way to fix peace lily root rot is to destroy all of the affected roots, and soil, then repot your plant with fresh soil. After cutting off the deceased root, clean the healthy roots with a fungicide solution to make sure that all of the fungi are killed.

However, when it comes to root rot, prevention is the best way to ensure that all of your peace lilies remain healthy.

But first, you need to be able to identify the problem, know what could be the cause of it, and finally, how to prevent it from happening in the first place.

How to Identify Peace Lily Root Rot

Indoor peace lily root inspection. Roots are affected with root rot disease.

It’s likely that root rot’s first symptom is yellowing or wilting of peace lily leaves. Root rot can also cause leaves to fall or slow your plant’s growth.

Because rot moves from the roots towards the leaves, so you may also notice mushy rotting stems.

If you notice these symptoms it’s important to act fast to determine the cause, since root rot can cause your peace lily to die in more or less 10 days.

To identify and confirm root rot, the first step is to remove the plant from its pot, by gently detaching it from the soil.

Carefully shake the soil away from the roots and check for root rot.

Healthy plants have white, firm root systems, but in the case of root rot, they will become soft and brown.

You may also notice a swamp-like smell, or even a sulfur smell, which also indicates root rot.

What Causes Peace Lily Root Rot?

There are many different causes for root rot, but in general, it’s caused by moist soil that attracts pathogens.

Below you will find a list of most common causes of root rot and how to prevent it or fix it.

Overwatering

Overwatering is one of the main causes of root rot, the soggy soil prevents the roots from absorbing oxygen, causing them to rot and die.

The accumulated water also makes for a perfect environment for fungi, which can also cause root rot.

How to Prevent Overwatering

●  As a rule of thumb, press your index finger about one inch into the soil, and only water if the soil at the top is dry. If the soil feels moist in that first inch, your plant doesn’t need any water now.

●  You should always try to keep a consistent watering schedule, but don’t water your plant if the soil is visibly moist.

● Peace lilies are pretty sensitive but can handle a little dry soil, watering it once a week should be enough. The leaves turning brown is a good indication that you’re not watering your plant enough, in case you’re not sure.

I have written a separate article on how you can fix your over watered peace lily.

Poor Drainage

The pot you’re using to cultivate your peace lily could also be responsible for root rot. If the pot has no holes on the bottom, or if the holes are too narrow and don’t allow for proper drainage, moisture could be accumulating in the bottom.

How to Fix Poor Drainage

A quick and effective way to fix this issue is to elevate your peace lily pot from the ground.

This creates a space between the pot and the ground, which will allow water to drain.

You can use pot feet, bricks, or any other material to support the pot, as long as you don’t block the holes on the bottom of the pot. This simple initiative can prevent root rot.

Poor Drainage Capacity Soil

Your choice of soil could also be causing your Peace Lilies roots to rot. Soil that is too dense, like garden soil, can reduce water drainageand lead to root rot.

In addition to that, a dense soil means a poor drainage soil that will remain moist and accumulate water, this can lead to waterlogging and in turn, root rot.

How To Fix Poor Drainage Capacity Soil

  • Choose a lighter potting mix, or make your own if you like to DIY. But make sure it’s not too dense, and that it has good porosity, meaning good drainage.
  • Choose a potting mix that has perlite, expanded shale, or slate, all these elements will increase drainage.

You May Also Enjoy: Cactus Soil for Peace Lily (How to Make Your Own)

Pathogenic Infection

There are a number of fungi that can cause root rot. Pathogens such as Pythium, Rhizoctonia, or Fusarium thrive in wet soils, and can easily spread from one pot to another.

How To Prevent Pathogenic Infection

  • Fungi thrive in wet environments, so the first step towards preventing it is to keep the soil as dry as possible.
  • Avoid using garden soil for houseplants, which is often contaminated with these pathogens. You can use  Organic Potting Mix with good drainage.
  • Disinfecting your gardening tools and cleaning them often can also prevent the spread of fungi.
  • Do not reuse soil if you suspect it was infected with pathogens, as this could result in contaminating your healthy plants.

Overusing Fertilizer

The overuse of fertilizer can burn the roots and cause them to rot. Peace lily grows perfectly fine with a good, quality potting mix and doesn’t require a lot of fertilizer.

How To Prevent Overusing Fertilizer

  • Make sure to use the recommended dosage of fertilizer. If you’re unsure, ask your local grower for advice or check the fertilizer packaging instructions.
  • Fertilize your peace lily occasionally, but not during times of slow growth such as winter. The ideal time to start fertilizing your peace lily is at the end of winter, this will encourage spring and summer growth.

Oversized Or Undersized Pot

The size of your pot matters! I am trying to get ahead and save yourself some work in the future by placing your peace lily in an oversized pot, but this is a bad idea.

If the pot is too large for the peace lily, the excess soil can get waterlogged and cause the roots to rot. Also, if the pot is too small, the compressed soil can affect drainage and cause your roots to rot.

How To Choose The Correct Pot Size

Usually, your new pot should be 1-2 inches larger in diameter than the current size of your plant’s pot. Because we generally transfer pots to accommodate plant growth. 

But in this case, due to root rot, your peace lily might be smaller than it used to be, so you might have to adjust and get a smaller pot.

In short, a pot that’s about 10 inches in diameter is big enough for peace lilies, and they shouldn’t really need a bigger pot.

You can check pots of different sizes for houseplants on amazon.

Choice of Container

It might come as a surprise, but the material your container is made out of can affect your plant’s health. Some materials are more porous than others, some materials allow evaporation while others don’t.

How To Choose The Right Container

Containers made of more porous materials, like clay pots, are permeable and allow water to evaporate. This can prevent water from accumulating in the soil.

However, this also means that you might have to water your peace lilies more often.

On the other hand plastic pots can retain more water than clay pot as water evaporation rate is slow.

Cool Temperatures

Peace lilies are tropical plants, so they usually thrive in warm, humid climates around 65-80°F (18-26 °C) .

It should be easy to maintain this temperature inside your home. But if your plant is too close to your AC unit, your regular watering frequency should increase.

In warmer weather, water evaporates faster and you need to water peace lily more regularly. But the opposite is true for cooler temperatures.

So if it’s cold, your peace lily doesn’t need as much water, and there’s a chance you could be overwatering it. And this is one of the main causes of peace lily root rot.

Overwatering During Dormant Periods

Just like in its natural tropical habitat, indoor peace lilies have a natural cycle of growth and dormancy.

Overwatering remains one of the main causes of root rot, and this issue can happen even faster in dormant periods.

As a general rule, plants tend to go through a growth period in spring and summer, and a dormant, or slow growth period, in fall and winter.

Observe your plant’s natural cycle and adjust your watering schedule. Peace lilies don’t need as much water during their dormant periods!

Poor Air Flow

Poor air circulation can lead to mushy soil that can cause root rot.

Surrounding your peace lily with other plants can raise the humidity in the air, creating stagnant air that prevents the soil from drying.

Give your plant some space to breathe!

Planting Too Deep

Another common cause for root rot, especially among beginner plant enthusiasts, is planting too deep.

If you plant your peace lily too deep, the roots will have no space to grow and spread, which can cause them to rot and decay.

Stress

In case of peace lilies, stress can be caused by a number of factors, such as under-fertilizing, droughts, too much or too little light, injury, and so on.

Pathogens that cause root rot take advantage of this stress to invade the plant.

In this case, we need to stick with the care requirements to keep our plants happy and healthy.

Source: University of Massachusetts Amherst

How to fix Peace Lily root rot

If you catch it early enough, repotting your peace lily and getting rid of all the rotten roots is your best bet to salvage your plant.

That being said, the fungi that cause root rot can spread very easily. So isolating your infected plant might be a good idea to prevent the disease from spreading.

How to Repot Peace Lily Affected By Root Rot

  • First, gently remove your peace lily from its pot.
  • Clean the roots by carefully washing them under running water. The brown, mushy roots should be easily identifiable, and some of them might fall off as you remove the plants from its pot.
  • Use shears, or gardening scissors to remove all mushy, brown roots or any that show signs of rot.
  • Salvage healthy roots by cutting them just above the rot affected area.
  • Make sure to remove all the rot, even one rotten root can quickly contaminate the healthy ones.
  • If your plant is badly affected, you might be cutting out a lot of roots. In this case, disinfect your shears or scissors in a solution of ⅓ bleach, ⅔ water, Then prune back about one-third or half of the leaves. Your peace lily’s root system is smaller now and will have trouble keeping up with a large plant, pruning the leaves will alleviate some of that stress and give your plant a chance to regrow its root system.
  • To make sure that all fungi are gone before repotting, gently plunge the leftover healthy roots in an antifungal solution.
  • If you want to use the same pot, make sure to wash thoroughly and disinfect it with a bleach and water solution. You don’t want to contaminate your newly pruned plant with fungi and bacteria from the old pot.
  • Fill a container with an appropriate potting mix. It’s important to choose a light, porous potting mix, that allows for good drainage.
  • Place the root ball in the new container, try to place the root ball around the same depth it was in its previous pot.
  • Then, add the potting mix to the area surrounding the Peace Lily, and settle the soil by gently tapping it with your fingers.
  • Finally, give your plant a little water to settle the soil.

Pro-tip: If your roots are still very wet, it’s fine to leave them out to dry for a while. But make sure to complete the repotting process within a couple of hours.

After repotting, give your plant some time to recover and adjust to its new container and soil.

It’s normal for peace lilies to look a little wilted the first few days after being moved, but with time and patience, it will recover.

Another tip: Do not use fertilizer. Give your peace lily’s roots time to regrow!

How to Prevent and Control Peace Lily Root Rot

As I’ve discussed before, the easiest way to handle root rot is prevention. There are several things that you, as a plant-loving parent, can do to protect your plant.

1. Avoid Water Logging

Waterlogging happens when the soil is overwatered, lacks proper drainage, or a combination of both. It creates a moist environment that is breeding ground for the fungi that cause root rot.

Therefore it’s important to avoid waterlogging to prevent root rot. Here are some things you can do to avoid waterlogging:

  • Make sure not to overwater. Stick your index finger into the soil, about down to your second knuckle, if you find soggy soil, don’t water your plant.
  • Maintain good drainage: choose light, porous potting mix, and clay pots with holes on the bottom that allow water to drain.
  • Raise pots off the ground to improve drainage. You can use pot feet or a couple of bricks to elevate your pots off the ground.

2. Watering Schedule

houseplants in general like a fixed watering schedule and the peace lily is no exception.

As with many tropical plants, peace lilies can handle a little dry soil, watering once a week should be enough.

Use enough water that the soil gets damp, but not soggy or wet. Again, when in doubt, stick your finger in there to see how wet the soil feels!

3. Loosen The Soil

Your plant and its roots need air, and aerating your peace lily by loosening up soil is great for preventing root rot.

Go and grab the chopsticks and put them to good use by poking holes in the soil.

Any other similarly shaped material will do as well but make sure it’s clean and disinfected to avoid unintentionally contaminating your plant.

4. Plant Rotation

Indoor plants don’t receive natural light from all angles as they would outside. It’s important to rotate your plants to allow the entire peace lily to grow evenly and fully.

Source: University of Florida

Final Words

Root rot can affect any type of plant, and it can be fatal if you don’t act fast! Observe and pay attention to your peace lily’s growth and liveliness to catch it while you can still do something about it.

Unfortunately, if the root system is too rotten, there is no saving the plant. The only solution, in this case, is to completely destroy the plant and the contaminated soil.

Do you have any tips or tricks to prevent root rotting? Do you buy your potting mix or do you prefer to do it yourself? If you’d rather do it yourself, what is your go-to soil mix recipe?

Tell us all about how you care for your peace lily and other plants in the comment section!

Arifur Rahman

I'm the owner of gardenforindoor.com. After completing my bachelor of science in agriculture, I'm serving as a civil service officer at the Department of Agricultural Extension, Bangladesh. I started Garden For Indoor to make your indoor gardening journey easy and enjoyable.

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