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Philodendron Root Rot (Signs, Causes And Solutions)

Philodendron is known as one of the go-to houseplants for beginners because of its adaptability to both indoor and outdoor environments.

Though it may require less of your attention to thrive, it will still encounter problems that a usual indoor plant undergoes.

One of the common issues of your Philodendron is its vulnerability to having root rot.

If Philodendron is suffering from root rot, remove your plant from the pot immediately, wash the roots and remove all infected parts, then treat with a fungicide, and repot your philodendron using a new potting mix, but if the case is severe, propagate your Philodendron to save its life. 

Indoor potted philodendron showing root rot signs

Types of Root Rot

Root rot is a severe problem because it can deplete your Philodendron’s growth and vigor.

But the worst part is when the root rotting problem is not immediately treated, it can lead to your plant’s demise.

Here are the types of root rot that you should watch out for while growing your Philodendron.

Fusarium Rot

This type of root rot is caused by fungal infestation within the roots of your plant.

The infestation starts once fungi enter the plant’s system through wounds in your plant roots.

It will rapidly spread upward, leaving a visible indication on the leaves.

Late Blight Rot

The main culprit in this type of root rot is a water mold known as Phytophthora.

Though this type usually attacks root crops such as potato and strawberries, it is still better to become familiar with it.

Because it can also destroy our houseplants whenever you bring home an infected plant from a store.

This type of root rot produces black spots and dryness to your Philodendron leaves.

Gray Rot

Gray rot is one of the fastest to spread types of root rot that can quickly destroy all your houseplants in a short amount of time.

It usually attacks after the winter seasons and becomes clearly noticeable once the snow starts to melt.

Peripheral Rot

Commonly known as butt rot, this type is caused by spore-producing fungi that affect the lower portion of your plant.

It will start with the roots, then move upwards to the stem until it reaches the leaves, producing a visible mark of decay.

What Does Philodendron Root Rot Look Like?

The best way to identify if your Philodendron plant is suffering from root rot is by gently taking out the plant out of the pot. Then check for the quality of the roots.

If you see that the roots are dry and in-tact, then your plant is safe from root rot.

Otherwise, if the root appears to be mushy and has a bad rotten smell then your plant is suffering from root rot and immediately needs your treatment.

Aside from those, your Philodendron will also show some outward indication of infection, such as yellowing of leaves, slow growth process, and rotten base.

Causes of Philodendron Root Rot

Though overwatering is the usual cause of root rot in your Philodendron, checking other possible reasons so you can ensure the appropriate solution in saving your plant.

Overwatering

As mentioned earlier, overwatering is the primary reason why your Philodendron is experiencing root rot since most of the culprits of this disease, such as fungi, bacteria, and oomycetes, are thriving in a moist environment.

If your Philodendron is overwatered, you will observe that the leaves of your plant have wilted, causing it to become soft and limp.

Wilting happens because there’s a lack of oxygen since all the air pores are filled with too much water which destroys the root system.

In that case, the damaged roots of your Philodendron will not be able to transport water, thus making the leaves wilt.

But before you conclude that your plant is overwatered, you might want to assess further since wilting is also a sign of underwatering.

Upon looking closer, you will see a slight difference in the wilted leaves between underwatered and overwatered Philodendron. If overwatered, the wilted leaves are soft and limp.

Otherwise, if underwatered, the wilted leaves are dry and crispy. Apparently, if you’re still confused, you can check if the soil is wet or dry.

Solutions

There is no better way to treat overwatered Philodendron than merely adjusting the watering frequency towards your plant.

Bear in mind that Philodendron doesn’t require much watering to survive. 

Refer to the table below for you to fully understand the watering needs of your Philodendron.

Conditions for PhilodendronFrequency of Watering

Recently planted
Water your plant once every five days for the first four weeks. Then once a week after the first four weeks.
Philodendron plant with 2 years of ageWater your plant once every 15 days.
Philodendron plant with more than 2 years of ageWater once a month or once every three weeks.
During SummerWater once every 6 to 8 days, primarily if you are residing in a hot region.
During WinterThis is a dormant period of your plant. You may want to avoid watering until the end of every month. If you’re in doubt, always check the soil of your plant.
Philodendron after RepottingRefrain from watering one week after repotting. Then, water once a week.

Though the guidelines in watering frequency are somehow helpful, the best way is still identifying if your Philodendron needs watering.

Here are some practical methods to identify if your plant needs watering.

Test Moisture Level
  1. You could do this by either using your finger or using a stick.
  1. All you need to do is thrust your finger or the stick for about 2 inches deep within the soil.
  1. Your Philodendron needs watering if the soil is rough and dry. Otherwise, if it’s mushy and dunks, then you need to wait for another couple of days before watering it.
Test The Weight of Your Pot
  1. All you need to do is lift your Philodendron and assess if it needs watering through your plant’s weight. Typically, the soil’s weight is heavier when it’s wet compared to when it’s dry.
  1. The best way to start this method is to lift your plant before watering so you will know the difference between your plant’s weight when it’s watered compared to when it’s not.
Test Moisture of The Soil
  1. This, by far, is the most accurate process of testing since you will be using a moisture meter to your plant’s soil.
  1. Stick the meter to your Philodendron’s soil and wait for the moisture reading on the scale.
  1. You can quickly identify the moisture level through the dry and wet indicators of the device. With that, you can determine if your plant needs water.

Poor Drainage

The drainage system of your pot is essential in helping your Philodendron to prevent from having root rot. As you have read earlier, the leading cause of root rot is having the roots of your plant soaked in too much water. 

Solutions

  • Regularly monitor the holes in your pot so you can check if there are hard elements like small rocks blocking the passage of excess water.
  • If possible, use a drill or any sharp tools to add holes underneath your pot to quickly drain the excess water.
  • Make it a habit to remove the saucer under your Philodendron’s pot 5 to 10 minutes after watering since the soil has the tendency to reabsorb excess water, making your plant roots waterlogged.

Poor Drainage Capacity Soil

If adding more holes to your pot or regularly removing the saucer after watering your Philodendron does not help the draining process.

Then you might need to consider replacing the potting mix of your philodendron because using a poor draining capacity soil hinders the draining process.

Solutions

  • The only option that you have here is by repotting your Philodendron to a well-draining potting mix.
  • For best results, use the combination of typical mix added by Perlite and Sand since these two ingredients can improve the drainage and aeration system of your Philodendron’s soil.
  • You may also want to use ceramic or unglazed pots to provide additional help in drying the soil.

Pathogenic Infection

In general, pathogens love the existence of too much moisture because it is the kind of habitat where they can rapidly multiply and develop.

In root rot disease, the most common pathogen is fungi since it’s highly attracted to the moisture build-up happening beneath the roots. 

Besides excessive moisture, your Philodendron can also acquire pathogens from used pots where the soil is already infected with pathogens.

The symptoms are not easily visible during the early stages until the case reaches an advanced level where discoloration and wilting are already present.  

Solutions

  • If you suspect that your Philodendron is experiencing pathogen infestation, the first thing that you need to do is isolate your plant from other houseplants to avoid transferring pores.
  • Gently remove your plant from the pot and thoroughly wash the roots until you remove all the soil.
  • Check the roots of your Philodendron and cut off all the infected parts. Make sure that you will remove all infected parts to stop the spread of the infestation.
  • Trim off your plant by removing all the infected leaves since the remaining healthy roots of your Philodendron might not be able to support the whole plant system.
  • Transfer your plant into another pot using a clean, well-draining pot mix. If you insist on using the same pot, make sure to remove all previous soil and wash off the pot before using it. 

For a more detailed process, you may refer to the Repotting portion of this article.

Bacterial Soft Rot

Unlike the typical root rot, this problem is caused by bacterias and not by fungi. It enters your plant’s system through wound openings caused by tools and certain insects.

Once your plant is infected, there’s a high possibility that it can spread rapidly through plant debris and sharing of gardening tools. 

Bacterial Soft rot is most likely to happen during wet seasons, especially when the soil of your Philodendron lacks sufficient calcium that it needs. (Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Solutions

  • Sadly, bacterial soft rot has no approved treatment yet, according to the experts, especially when the infection reaches your Philodendron tissue.
  • It is highly suggested that you immediately get rid of your plant and make sure that you dispose of it properly. Never use any infected parts of your Philodendron for compost to avoid the recurrence of the disease.
  • If your plant still has some healthy leaves and stems, you may consider propagating it.  

Size of Your Pot

Another mistake that you should avoid is growing your Philodendron on a pot that is not suitable for your plant’s size.

You may think that planting it on a bigger pot will make it grow faster, but in reality, you are delaying your plant’s growth process.

There is also a worse tendency that you might overwater your plant since it’s planted on a larger pot. 

This reason is mostly overlooked because you think that the size of your pot doesn’t have an impact on your plant’s growth. 

On the contrary, if you pot your philodendron it’s early stage, the roots will be surrounded by a large volume of soil which makes it hard to absorb water.

In that case, water will tend to stay on the ground for a more extended period, causing the roots to become mushy and drowned.

Solutions

  • If you have planted your Philodendron on a pot that is inappropriate for your plant’s size, then you need to look for a smaller pot and repot it carefully.
  • It’s also best to repot during the winter seasons since most of your houseplant is dormant at that time of the year.
  • Before planting it back, make sure to thoroughly check your plant roots since there’s a possibility that it’s already experiencing root rot.
  • If you find out that there are decaying roots in your plant, make sure to remove them before repotting your Philodendron.

Low Temperature

Colder temperature decreases your plant’s enzyme movement, which results in your plant’s dormancy.

During this period, your plant will less likely need water since its metabolic system slows down. 

Though your Philodendron might look dry and drooping during winters.

Now, bear in mind that watering is not the perfect solution because your plant’s system is at rest and does not have enough capacity to absorb water. As a result, moisture build-up might occur on your plant roots.

Proper Solutions

  • Reduce watering frequency during the cold season to save your Philodendron from experiencing root rot.
  • If possible, place your philodendron in a higher temperature area inside your house to help the soil in its drying process.

How to Treat Philodendron Root Rot?

At this point, you are aware of root rot disease that can destroy the thriving health of your Philodendron.

The solutions for every cause that you have encountered are already a big help on your part.

However, you still need to know some advanced solutions in case the symptoms of root rot persist.

If you are new to growing houseplants, don’t worry about doing advanced solutions in rescuing your Philodendron.

As early as now, be reminded that you don’t need to have a green thumb or become a garden expert to successfully save your Philodendron from root rot disease.

Commonly, there are two scenarios that you will possibly encounter if your Philodendron is suffering from root rot.

Let’s take a look at each scenario and know the most effective treatment you can do to save your plant.

Rot Restricted to Roots

This is somehow a tolerable scenario since the other parts of your plant are not yet infected by the rotting. The best way to resolve this situation is by repotting your plant.

Repotting Your Philodendron

  1. Unpot your Philodendron from the soil. 
  1. Wash off the soil and thoroughly check the roots of your plant.
  1. Cut off all infected roots using shears. Make sure to remove all infected roots.
  1. Disinfect your shears and other materials used with alcohol.
  1. Throw off all the infected roots together with the potting soil directly to your trash bin. Again, do not use those parts in your compost.
  1. Let the roots dry for a couple of days.
  1. Apply fungicide to the roots before planting it back.
  1. Plant back your Philodendron in a well-draining pot mix. It is recommended to add perlite and sand to your usual potting soil. 
  1. Wait for 3 to 5 days before watering your Philodendron. Always check the drainage system each time you water your plant.
  1. Help your plant to avoid transplant shock. Maintain lighting, moisture level, and temperature the same as before repotting it.

Rot Extending into Stems

This is a much worse scenario since the rotting has already spread to the stems of your plant.

In this case, you need to propagate the remaining healthy stems and leaves of your Philodendron since repotting is useless at this point.

Propagating Your Philodendron

  1. Unpot your Philodendron from the soil. 
  1. Check for healthy stems that you can possibly save. If possible, cut all the healthy stems with thriving leaves.
  1. Discard all infected parts of your plant together with the potting soil since there is no way of saving those parts.
  1. Allow some time to let the cuttings completely heal. Place it in a clean area where it can get an adequate, indirect hit of sunlight.
  1. Occasionally check your cuttings for possible growth of scab.
  1. If you find out that scabs are already present in the cuttings, then it’s time to place the cuttings in a perlite mix so they can grow roots.
  1. Wait for at least a week before watering.
  1. Disinfect all tools that you used with rubbing alcohol. Also, make sure to clean your indoor garden area to avoid a possible recurrence of the infection.
  1. Suppose the rotting has severely affected all the stems of your Philodendron. In that case, dispose of the plant immediately since repotting and propagation will most likely not be effective at this state.

Traditional Treatments

There are also effective methods that you can try to help save your Philodendron from this dreadful situation. 

Here are some practical ways on how you can do it.

  • Use potassium permanganate in disinfecting the soil and all visible parts of your plant.
  • Sprinkle charcoal or ash within the damaged area within the stems and roots of your Philodendron.
  • Add some cinnamon to your potting mix since this kitchen spice has a natural fungicide capability with low toxicity.
  • Water your plant with a chamomile solution. Basically, just add chamomile tea into the water that you’re going to use.
  • Prune the infected leaves, stems, and roots of your plant to prevent the recurrence of the infection. I recommend removing the top part of your plant’s healthy stems to balance the external portion of your plant with the remaining healthy roots.
  • If the roots are mushy and darkened, then most likely, your plant isn’t capable of surviving any longer. Therefore, get rid of it as soon as possible.

How to Prevent and Control Philodendron Root Rot?

In case you figure out that your Philodendron is safe from root rot and any forms of its symptom, then you need to make the necessary measures on how to prevent root rot from invading not only your Philodendron but your other houseplants as well.

Remember that prevention and control are much easier to do than the solutions you read a while ago.

To help you prevent root rot in your Philodendron, here are some simple, practical steps that you need to consider doing today.

Avoid waterlogging

  • Avoiding too much water might sound repetitive for the whole article, but you need to bear with it because this is the most common reason why root rot is occurring in your Philodendron.
  • Make sure to secure the appropriate and effective drainage system of your plant. Dispose of the excess water on the saucer of your pot.

Create a Watering Schedule

  • To avoid overwatering, I highly recommend that you create a watering schedule for your Philodendron and other houseplants that you have.
  • You may refer to the watering frequency table provided in the latter part of this article.
  • There are some instances that your plant’s soil drains much longer than usual. For that reason, You need to check the plant’s soil before watering even though you’re following a specific schedule.  

Use Appropriate Soil Mix

  • Using a well-draining pot mix is very important to quickly drain off excess water in your Philodendron’s soil.
  • As discussed previously, you can just add perlite and sand to your usual potting mix to create a well-draining capacity for the soil.
  • In case you don’t have time to make your personalized potting mix, then the cactus potting mix is a good alternative since it also has perlite and sand, which gives the soil mix a well-draining and better aeration system.

Avoid Buying Sick Plants

Typically, most cases of root rot happen because of transmission, mainly when it is caused by a pathogenic invasion.

As much as possible, thoroughly check the plant’s condition before purchasing to avoid bringing home some potential threats in your Philodendron.

Perform Proper Maintenance of your Equipment

  • Growing your Philodendron doesn’t revolve in just watering and ensuring the needs of your plant. It goes beyond maintaining and cleaning your tools and equipment.
  • Always disinfect your tools before and after using them, thus preventing the transmission of possible infection. Soak it for at least 5 minutes in a rubbing alcohol solution, then rinse it with water afterward.
  • Clean your area. Remove plant debris immediately since these are one of the favorite hiding places of pathogens and other pests.
  • Lastly, don’t forget to wash your hands after taking care of your Philodendron.

Final Words

With the Philodendron classic and easy to grow characteristics, it will be no surprise that this plant might become one of your favorite houseplants.

Though it does not require much of your attention, it is still best to monitor your plant from time to time to ensure that it will not suffer from various diseases like root rot.

If taken care of properly, Philodendron can enhance beauty into the interior of your house, whether placing it on the window or leaving it hanging on the corner.