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7 Steps to Save Pilea From Root Rot (And Signs with Images)

One of the most common and dangerous problems you’ll face when taking care of your pilea plants is root rot.

It’s a sneaky disease that eats away at your Pilea’s roots, killing the plant from the ground up.

Rot disease spreads quickly, so it is best to find it early and keep it from spreading.

Next, I’ll explain why pilea root rot occurs and how to identify, treat, and prevent it.

Overwatering is a risk factor for Pilea root rot and the primary factor in its development. As a result, roots become black or brown mush, unable to absorb and transport nutrients, resulting in leaf wilting and yellowing. Repot your pilea by removing any fungus-infected roots and applying fungicide to healthy ones to fix root rot.

Signs of Pilea Root Rot 

If you let your pilea plant sit in too wet or soggy soil for a long time, it will get root rot.

Your plant will initially be delighted by the abundance of water, but the roots will soon succumb to the soggy conditions.

Most early signs of root rot are hard to tell apart from those of other common problems with houseplants.

However, there will be no slowing down in the killer’s activities beneath the surface.

However, here are some symptoms and signs of pilea root rot that you should be aware of.

Rapid Leaf Yellowing

Yellow leaves are one of the first signs of root rot and overwatering. The lower, inner foliage and the older leaves often turn yellow first.

When a pilea plant is deficient in moisture or nutrients, its leaves will often turn yellow.

This is because the roots of these plants have decayed and cannot absorb essential resources such as water, minerals, and nutrients.

Other things can get in the way of nutrients and water, which can cause the leaves to turn yellow.

These include diseases, insect infestations, fertilizer burn, nutrition issues, humidity issues, temperature stress, and transplant shock.

So, how do you tell the difference between leaf yellowing caused by root rot and leaf yellowing caused by a fungal infection?

Of course, the soil will be wet and stinky if it is for root rot. Brown water-soaked lesions may also appear on yellowing foliage.

Yellowed foliage will wilt, collapse, and develop brown spots.

Soft, Swollen Stem

Fungal and bacterial pathogens can take advantage of weak roots caused by overwatering and other factors.

That’s why rot disease usually begins in the roots and moves up the stem before spreading to the rest of the plant.

The stem bases are the second item on the chopping line. They will take in too much water and swell up, which will lead to tissue damage and death.

Having healthy stems doesn’t mean that your pilea plant is out of the woods for root rot.

There are other telltale signs of advanced rot disease, such as the appearance of swollen or deformed stems.

In addition, your pilea may collapse at the stem base if it is not treated.

In addition, don’t forget that stem rot is a direct result of advanced root rot.

Fungi in the genera Rhizoctonia, Fusarium, and Pythium are responsible for the fungal disease.

Other signs that a pilea plant’s stem is rotting are wilting, dying back, and looking thin.

In addition, the base of the stems may have brown, black, or grayish-red spots.

Black Spotted Leaves

If you notice any black spots on your pilea, it’s not a great sign. Root rot can also lead to leaf spot diseases caused by fungi and bacteria.

These lesions often begin as small, water-soaked mushy brown spots. They will continue to grow and darken over time.

Some of the lesions will merge into large dark brown or black spots and scars that eventually cover the leaves.

They’re most prevalent on the undersides of lower leaves closer to the ground.

These black spots will prevent photosynthesis from occurring, but they will also stunt the plant’s growth.

Rapid, Persistent Wilting 

The first thing that comes to mind when you see a wilted pilea isn’t root rot because wilting is such a common symptom of plants.

To make matters worse, wilting occurs when your pilea plant is underwatered and overwatered.

If the wilting leaves are yellow or brown, dry, and crispy, the plant may have been waterlogged and not have root rot.

However, if your pilea plant is rapidly wilting and its leaves turn yellow despite your best efforts to irrigate it, it is likely suffering from root rot.

It’s common for pilea leaves to droop or become limp when infected with root rot. They feel soft, spongey, or even mushy to the touch.

Pilea Brown Leaves

In the early stages of overwatering, yellowing leaves are a sign. But, then again, they won’t be yellow for long!

The yellow foliage will turn brown as root damage progresses, usually beginning at the leaf margins and tips.

In many cases of advanced root rot, dark brown spots and blotches may appear on the leaves.

The leaves may turn utterly brown before they begin to turn black and fall off.

The browning of leaves is not unique to overwatering and root rot, as with many other early symptoms.

Rule out other possible causes, such as fertilizer burn, poor water quality, low humidity, transplant shock, sunburn, disease infections, and pest infestations.

Root rot is likely the cause of mushy, water-soaked leaves.

Mushy Roots

The best way to tell if roots are rotting is to look below the soil. Check out the root ball if you suspect your pilea is infected with rot.

Rotten roots are soft and mushy to the touch, and they have a dark brown or black color. They’re delicate, and the outer layer comes off easily with a bit of tugging.

The soil around the roots smells like rotting plants. It smells similar to a rotten egg.

On the other hand, healthy roots feel firm when you touch them and look white with a yellowish tint. There is an earthy smell to them.

Causes Pilea Root Rot 

[1] Overwatering and Poor Drainage

Root rot is a result of overwatering. When your plant’s soil stays soggy or too wet for a long time, the roots and pilea will not get enough oxygen, which they need to stay alive.

A lack of oxygen kills the roots by preventing them from breathing and encourages fungal growth.

Root tissue will soon decay, allowing rot-causing fungal and bacterial diseases to infiltrate the root system.

Root rot is likely to occur if you forget to reduce irrigation frequency during the winter dormancy period. Poor drainage can also cause or exacerbate it.

  • The pot has few or no drainage holes.
  • Potting in a medium with poor drainage.
  • Planting your pilea in an incorrectly sized pot.
  • The drainage of the soil is taking too long.
  • After watering your pilea, do not forget to empty the saucer/drip tray/cachepot.
  • Sit your pilea in a dimly lit, poorly lit area.
  • Placing your pilea plant in a stuffy, humid environment with inadequate ventilation.
  • Overwater your pilea plant without first allowing the top few inches of soil to dry out.

Overwatered pilea plant symptoms include:

  • Rapid yellowing of foliage
  • Leaf drooping and rapid wilting despite steady irrigation
  • Shedding of lower, older foliage
  • The stem becomes mushy, swollen, or weak at the base.
  • The soil stays moist for a very long time between waterings.
  • Heavy pot and soil feel wet to the touch.

How to Fix

You’re lucky if your overwatered pilea plant doesn’t have root rot. If this is the case, stop watering and let the top 1-2 inches of soil dry entirely before re-irrigating.

Pry your plant gently out of the pot and place the root ball on a bed of old magazines or paper towels. This will aid in the drying out of the soil.

Place your plant in a brighter location to encourage soil moisture evaporation.

It would help if you also looked for problems with drainage. Make sure your pilea is potted in a well-drained potting mix with adequate drainage holes.

If root rot is present, read on to learn how to save your pilea plant.

[2] Pilea Fungal Diseases

Only one of many contributing factors to root rot is excessive watering. The other major component is rot-causing fungal diseases.

These opportunistic fungal pathogens infect the roots when waterlogged conditions make them weak, damaged, or otherwise stressed.

The spores of these fungi get in through dirty cutting tools, soil that has been used before, and oil pots that were already infected.

Overly wet soil conditions are ideal for these fungus spores to germinate and grow.

They will spread and infect the roots through the damaged areas.

Since your pilea plant can’t get nutrients from the soil, it’ll be weakened and unable to fight off fungal rot diseases like this.

There are five types of fungi that cause pilea root rot:

Fungus NameDescription
PhytophthoraPhytophthora infects roots and stems. Temperature drops and cold irrigation water aggravate pilea. Root decay, stunted growth, and bleeding stem cankers are symptoms.
Fusarium solaniThis high-priority fungus attacks the roots before the stem. 68-86°F (20-30°C) is ideal. Reddish-brown or red lesions on roots and stems are symptoms.
Rhizoctonia solaniInfected Pilea plants have yellow, then brown, then falling off leaves. Your pilea plant wilts midday and develops reddish-brown to brown lesions on its stems. Fungal growth favors 70-90°F (12-32°C) temperatures.
Thielaviopsis basicolaWet soil and 55-65°F (13-18°C) favor black root rot. Brown, ring-like lesions on roots and brown, expanding leaf spots are symptoms.
PythiumPythium affects young, weak, or stressed plants. It thrives in damp, 68°F (20°C) conditions. Symptoms include stunted growth, brown root tips, wilting, and yellowing foliage.

How to Control and Manage Rot-Causing Fungal Diseases in Pileas

Manage and control these root rot fungal diseases using the following methods:

  • Prune off and dispose of heavily infected plant parts
  • Regular application of antifungal soil drench and spray treatment can help. I highly recommend copper or sulfur-based system fungicide products like this one I prefer (Check the latest price on Amazon here).
  • Sterilize Potting soil before use through heat treatment
  • Repotting your pilea plant afresh is key to eliminating the soil-borne fungus.

[3] Low Temperatures, Cold Drafts, and Frost Damage

Pilea plants can not withstand freezing temperatures. Short bursts of cold can encourage your plant to bloom.

However, prolonged exposure to cold drafts and temperatures below 50°F (10°C) will stress the roots.

Low temperatures will cause slow or stunted growth, reducing water use. As a result, your pilea is more susceptible to overwatering and root rot.

Remember that pileas are frost sensitive and will develop root decay.

How to Fix

  • Avoid exposing your pilea plant to sudden temperature changes.
  • Prune away any leaves or plant parts heavily damaged by frost or cold injury
  • Your pilea plant won’t tolerate temperatures below 50°F (10°C). Ensure the ambient temperature stays in the range of 65-85°F (18-29°C). 
  • Keep your pilea away from prolonged exposure to cold drafts.

[4] Wrong Size Pot

Using a container that is too small or too large is a recipe for root rot.

When the pot is too large for the plant, the soil retains too much moisture, resulting in localized waterlogging zones ripe for root rot.

Furthermore, a small pot limits the roots’ ability to breathe and grow. The soil medium will quickly dry out, compact, and cause root damage.

Fertilizer salts and heat can accumulate around the root system in either case. All of these can cause root damage and root rot.


Repot your pilea plant in the appropriate size pot. It requires approximately an inch of soil medium around the rootball.

[5] Continue Normal Irrigation Frequency during Dormancy

Pilea plants go dormant from late fall to early spring. As a result, they use fewer nutrients and less water during this time. Watering, as usual, will result in overwatering and root rot.

Slowing growth also causes your plant to become weak, malnourished, and vulnerable to infections.


When your pilea goes dormant, you should reduce the frequency of irrigation. Wait until the top 2-3 inches of the soil are dry before watering again.

How to Save Pilea from Root Rot 

You don’t need to be reminded that root rot requires prompt action. Instead, follow these steps to rescue your pilea plant from root rot:

1. Stop Watering

Continuing to irrigate will only worsen the situation.

Transfer your Pilea to a Shady Spot

The last thing you want to stress is your pilea plant with exposure to direct sunlight. Please keep it in a shady spot until the roots and soil have been sufficiently aired.

2. Trim off Affected Foliage & Other Parts

Diseased or dead foliage can harbor disease pathogens. Besides, they won’t spring back to life.

Remove and discard them. The same goes for infected, dead, affected stems and other plants.

Don’t forget to clean your scissors or knife with a bleach solution or rubbing alcohol after each use.

Your goal is to prune your pilea plant’s plants by 50%.

3. Unpot Your Pilea and Dry Out the Root System

  • Ease your pilea out of its pot for further root inspection
  • Expose the roots by brushing off soil around the rootball
  • Wash off the remaining dirt using a gentle blast of distilled water
  • Place the root system on a layer of old mags, paper towels, etc.

4. Trim off Infected Roots

All mushy, infected roots should be snipped away at their edges. Use a sterile pair of pruning shears.

5. Repot Your Pilea Using New Soil and Pot

Once infected roots are trimmed, the next step is repotting:

  • I recommend using a new, well-draining pot.
  • Place a drainage layer on the bottom of the pot.
  • Fill it up to ½ with a new rich, well-draining potting mix. Any coir-based or peat-based growing medium (Check the latest price on Amazon here) will do.
  • Plant your treated pilea plant gently
  • Fill the rest of the pot with the soil mix.
  • Compact the soil a little around the base of the plant for added stability.

6. Avoid Fertilizing Until New Growth Emerges

Fertilizer application will only burn the delicate roots. So instead, wait until your pilea put out new leaves, then feed your plant with a diluted water-soluble fertilizer.

7. Watering after Repotting 

The Pilea potting medium should not be allowed to dry completely. Make sure it’s evenly moist but not soggy.

Because your plant isn’t growing yet, a sprinkling of water every few days should suffice.

Once new leaves appear, continue to water as usual.

Treating Root Rot Using Chemical Fungicide

I do not recommend using a chemical fungicide to treat pilea root rot. This is especially true if it is your first option.

This is because the precise identity of the fungus causing rot disease can only be determined through extensive and costly lab tests.

If you must use a chemical fungicide, choose copper-based products.

Now, Mix two tablespoons of the fungicide into 1 gallon of water to make a spray or drench treatment.

Homemade Remedies for Pilea Root Rot

I’ve tried a variety of homemade fungicides and everyday products over the years. The following homemade solutions work against pile root rot.

  • Charcoal
  • Cinnamon
  • Chamomile

They’re organic and boast incredibly antifungal qualities that work for months, if not years.

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