Succulent root rot is typically more of a problem than insect or pest infestation. Overwatering often leads to root or stem rot, a preventable and easily fixable disease.
Root rot in plants is caused by a number of different ways and will affect new growth.
For example, bacterial and fungal infections can cause rot, but more often than not, this problem is caused by overwatered succulents.
This is especially true with succulents because, most of the time, they are kept indoors, away from their natural settings and planted in a commercially prepared potting mix.
This greatly reduces the chance of picking up a bacterial or fungal infection.
For these reasons, if your succulent plant is suffering from root rot, it is probably a clear indication you are giving too much water.
Water succulents for them to survive, but they also need to be able to breathe.
When you keep any plant’s roots wet for an extended period, the roots will not get enough air, and the plant will drown.
This process begins with rotting roots causing a healthy plant to quickly decline.
The Echeveria succulent variety is one of the most sensitive to this disease.
How Can You Tell If Your Succulent Has Root Rot?
Unfortunately, it’s difficult for most succulent lovers to tell if their plant has rotting roots unless you un-pot it. If you wait until symptoms appear on the plant above ground, it may be too late to do anything.
Any time you are repotting a plant, take a few moments to have a good look at the roots. If they are healthy, they will be yellowish or white.
They may have a small amount of fuzz covering the roots. This may be natural root hair, which supports the uptake of water.
Alternately, it may be a form of mycorrhizal fungi. This is a very beneficial symbiotic fungus which assists in nutrient uptake.
If the roots are not yellow or white, don’t despair. If they are light brown, this may mean they are simply dry.
This is not an indication of rotting roots.
If the roots are black or dark brown, suspect root rot.
This is especially true if the roots are slimy and wet. This is a dead giveaway for rotting roots, and along with a slightly rotten smell and a mushy texture.
Finding root rot is hit-and-miss.
You may find the beginnings of rot when you repot your plant, but this would be a coincidence.
Needless to say, if you find symptoms of rotting roots when repotting, deal with them quickly.
What Are Above Ground Symptoms of Root Rot?
If decaying roots are allowed to reach an advanced stage, the stem and the lower leaves will begin to lose their color and turn yellow.
If this is allowed to continue, the stem and new leaves will get mushy and begin to rot.
When this happens, there’s not much to do.
To prevent rotting roots to reach advanced stages and move into the plant, be sure to inspect your plant’s lower or bottom leaves and base of the stem on a regular basis.
Remove any dead leaves as they will tend to retain a lot of water and may cause rotting.
Understand there are also other reasons why succulent leaves may turn yellow.
For example, if the bottom leaves are yellowing, but the stem is not showing any signs of rot, you may simply be watering succulents too much, cut back.
If the top leaves of your succulent begin to turn yellow, it may mean your plant needs more nutrients.
This indicates you need to repot and provide a dose of fertilizer.
What Can You Do About Root Rot On Succulents?
The most important thing is to catch the problem early to head it off.
If you find your plant is showing signs of rot, un-pot it, brush the soil from the roots and allow the plant to dry out for a few days out of the soil in a dry climate.
If there’s just a little bit of rot and it hasn’t spread into the plant, this method may work.
While you have your plant out of the soil, trim off any damaged or rotten roots.
This is something you should do any time you repot anyway.
If the entire root system is rotten, you may be able to salvage part of the plant by simply cutting all of the roots off and starting over again by rooting the top part of the plant in a dry planting medium.
Alternately, begin planting succulents again with cuttings from the surviving plant.
Place the newly doctored succulent into a pot with the roots lying on top of the soil.
Is It Good To Use Sulfur For Root Rot?
Sulfur is sometimes used as an antifungal or antibacterial agent at the time of repotting.
It’s believed it kills off harmful bacteria and fungus.
Unfortunately, it also kills off beneficial bacteria and fungus and upsets your plant’s natural balance.
It’s better to treat a rotting succulent with trimming and air drying.
Succulent Care: Prevention Is Better Than Any Cure!
Best of all is to avoid rotting roots altogether.
Remember indoor plant succulents are unlikely to get root rot from anything but overwatering, so follow these good practices, and you will never need to deal with rotting roots:
1. Always use commercially prepared succulent potting soil, or a cactus mix, and amendments.
2. Water deeply and rarely.
Succulents and cacti like to be watered completely and then left to dry thoroughly.
3. Only use containers having ample drainage holes.
Never plant a succulent in a terrarium or a fancy container without drainage.
The best container is terra-cotta with a drainage hole in the bottom.
If you follow these steps, you’re unlikely to have any problem with root rot or pests in succulents.
Remember excessive watering and excessive fertilizing are the main things to cause problems in succulents.
Typically, you’ll get by with giving your succulents a thorough watering once or twice a month and being sure never to allow them to stand in water.
When you water, take a few moments to visually examine your plant for signs of root rot such as:
- Black spots or dark brown spots on the bottom leaves or lower leaves or stem.
- Bruised or puckered spots on any leaves.
If your houseplant is showing signs of root rot, don’t water at the time.
Instead, gently tip it out of its pot that should have drainage hole and examine the root ball carefully.
While you have the new plant out of the pot, cut back any infected portions of the root or stem at the base of the plant.
Remember to leave the infected plant exposed to the open air for two or three days so it can dry out completely.
During this time, keep the plant in a warm, airy setting with full sun.
After a few days, repot the plant using a fresh commercial potting soil mixture and coarse sand and small pebbles.
Mix in a healthy portion of perlite or pumice to help ensure your new succulents and baby succulents are both healthy succulents.
Put the succulent back into an area with bright direct sunlight and good air circulation.
Don’t water it now!
Wait a week and then give it a light watering.
When your succulent soil has dried thoroughly, resume regular watering.
Remember most succulents are dormant or semi-dormant during the wintertime, so you should reduce watering a great deal during this time.