Money Tree Root Rot (Signs, Causes and Treatment)

Money tree root rot is something that should never be taken for granted.

That’s because while the money tree is fairly resilient, one of its biggest weaknesses is overwatering which can take down the plant.

As such, if you suspect the possibility of root rot, it is important to immediately check the plant’s root system so you can take appropriate action.

In case there is root rot, you may still be able to save the plant.

To save a money tree from root rot it is important to stop watering. Then prune the rotten roots and treat the remaining healthy root system with fungicide to eliminate any possible pathogens left.

Repotting the plant is also needed so allow it to survive and start recovering.

Because money tree root rot is a serious problem, the earlier you’re able to detect it, the higher the chances of saving it.

Signs of Money Tree Root Rot

Leaf Discoloration

Yellow and brown leaves are a common sign of money tree root rot.

The combination will tell you that something is wrong. Usually overwatering produces yellow leaves. Meanwhile, brown leaves are caused by underwatering.

And because the plant is experiencing both due to the root rot, you’ll likely see a combination of them.

Yellow leaves will usually appear first as overwatering will affect them first. But once root rot comes in and dead roots stop functioning, you’ll begin seeing brown leaves.

The brown leaves are caused by insufficient water supply since there are fewer healthy roots to absorb moisture from the soil.

 

Wilting

Sick and malnourished plants will wilt. And this is what will happen to a money tree with root rot.

The more roots rot, the less water and nutrients are being absorbed.

This cuts down the supply of both to the rest of the plant. As a result, your money tree will get weaker, grow slower and deteriorate.

 

Soft, Mushy Trunk

This is one of the later stage signs of root rot. It is also a very dangerous one since it tells you that the root rot is now spreading from below the soil upwards.

Once a good portion or almost all of the roots are rotting, you’ll see the problem spread up to the stems of the money tree.

This will cause the trunk to turn soft and mushy.

When this happens, it is a sign that the rotting is beginning to be fatal.

 

Slow or Stunted Growth

Slow growth will always happen if there is root rot.

The plant’s growth will slow since roots get damaged and fail to function.

The more roots that rot means fewer remaining healthy roots are able to absorb moisture and nutrients from the soil.

As a result, your money tree’s growth will slow down.

You’ll see fewer new leaves appear and the healthy leaves will slow down in terms of their growth and development.

 

Foul Smell Near the Soil

Roots that died and have rotten will stink. And the stench will start with the root system below the soil.

As such, when you unpot the plant and go towards the roots, you’ll likely smell the stink before you even see any rotten roots.

That said, as the rotting spreads, you may not even need to unpot the plant to smell the foul odor.

Instead, just taking a whiff near the surface of the soil may be enough to get hints of the smelly odor.

 

Brown, Soft, Mushy Roots

The sure way to tell that your money tree has root rot is to unpot the plant and check the roots.

You may also need to loosen and remove some of the soil as well to get a better view.

As long as you see any dark roots, brown or black in color that are smelly and mushy, it means the plant is afflicted with root rot.

Healthy roots are white colored, flexible and firm to the touch.

Since root rot spreads, even if there are just a few strands of rotten roots, it is important to immediately treat the plant.

Otherwise, leaving it for even a few days likely means you’ll see a lot more rotten roots then next time you check.

 

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How To Save Money Tree from Root Rot

Below I’ll take you through the different steps on how to save a money tree from root rot.

Once you’ve confirmed that there is root rot, it is important to take immediate action because the problem will keep spreading.

What’s worse is that root rot can spread fairly quickly.

So, it is important to assess how much damage there is once you’ve identified the problem. From there, you can start treating your money plant for root rot and try to save it.

 

Stop Watering

The first step in saving your money tree with root rot is to stop watering.

This won’t heal the plant or make it better. But it will prevent the problem from worsening.

Almost all money tree root rot problems start from overwatering. That’s because the excess moisture is that puts the plant’s roots in a dangerous situation.

 

Unpot the Plant and Remove Soil from Roots

If you haven’t done so, take your money tree out of its pot. This will allow you to have a close up view of the root system so you can properly assess the damage.

In all likelihood, there will be a lot of soil stuck to the roots.

And it is a good idea to remove all the soil.

The easiest way to do so is to rinse the root system. You can do this in the sink, bathtub or outside with a garden hose depending on how big your calathea is.

Be careful about where you spray off the soil since they may harbor pathogens.

Thus, you want to be able to collect the soil so you can properly discard it later on.

 

Prune All Rotten Roots

Once you can clearly see all the roots, you’ll likely notice different colors.

Rotten roots are dark brown to black color. They stink, are soft and mushy.

On the other hand, healthy roots have a white color. They’ll feel firm but are very pliable.

You want to remove all the rotten roots since they’ll keep spreading. At the same time, you’ll want to preserve all the healthy roots since they’ll be the ones to save the plant.

Make sure to sterilize your scissors, knife or pruning shears before you start cutting away.

Trim off all the rotten roots.

You want to put these aside you can discard them properly.

 

Remove Any Damaged or Dead Leaves & Stems

Once you’re done pruning all the rotten roots, it is time to turn your attention to the top part of the plant above the soil.

Sterilize your cutting tool again with rubbing alcohol before you make your cut.

You do not want to pass any pathogens from the rotten roots to the top of the plant.

Now, cut off any dead, damaged or affected leaves and stems. This includes any yellow, brown, black leaves as well as those with spots.

If there are stems that have become mushy and soft, cut those off as well.

In case you pruned more than one third of the root system in the prior step, you’ll also want to remove the same corresponding amount of leaves and stems on the top part of the plant.

The reason for this is to reduce the workload of the smaller root system so it won’t get overwhelmed due to the relatively larger size of the top part of the plant.

Decreasing the size of the plant will give the roots a better chance of saving the plant while supporting it as well.

 

Treat the Remaining Roots with Fungicide

While the main cause of money tree root rot is overwatering, what ultimately causes the rotting of the roots is usually one of two things.

  • Suffocation
  • Fungal disease

When the money trees consistently gets overwatered, the excess moisture will fill up all the air pockets between the soil particles.

In doing so, the water pushes out all the oxygen from the gaps in the soil.

This deprives the roots of oxygen to breathe. Instead, they end up drowning in all that liquid.

The result of this is the roots start suffocating.

If overwatering persists and the excess moisture does not drain or dry, the roots will eventually die of suffocation. After a while, the dead roots will rot.

Similarly, if the roots do not die of suffocation, the wet, damp conditions will encourage fungal growth. This results in the development of certain fungi, some of which like to eat through the roots of the plant.

The end result is rotting roots as well.

It is important to note that if the cause of the rotting is fungal, then you need to disinfect or eradicate all the pathogens before you repot your money tree.

Otherwise, fungal root rot will resurface again later on.

To get rid of any possible pathogens, you’ll need to treat the remaining healthy root system with fungicide.

You have a choice between using a fungicide solution or a hydrogen peroxide solution.

Make sure to cover every possible area of the roots.

To do so, I like to just soak the entire root system into the solution.

After that, place the money tree on a bunch of newspapers and let it dry.

 

Disinfect the Pot and Throw the Soil Away

In addition to the money tree’s roots, the pot you used for the plant and the soil the plant was in both can harbor the pathogens as well.

So, it is important to sanitize the pot if you plan on using it again for any other plant.

You can use hydrogen peroxide solution or a light beach solution to do this. Again, I just like to dunk the pot into the solution.

Leave it there for a few minutes to soak.

Then dry the pot under the sun.

As for the soil, reusing it is dangerous since it can infect the next plant with fungal root rot as well. Therefore, carefully collect all the used potting mix and throw it away in the trash.

Avoid letting the soil come into contact with any of your other houseplants.

 

Choose a Right Sized Pot

With all the cleansing and disinfecting done, the next step is to prepare a new pot for the plant.

Since you pruned some of the roots, your money tree will likely need a smaller pot.

That said, you want to choose a container that fits the plant. Avoid going with a pot that is too big or too small. Both are going to cause problems later on.

Instead, choose a container that is about 2-3 inches wider than the size of the root ball.

In doing so, you give your money tree enough room to grow. At the same time, you avoid giving it too much room that there’s the risk of overwatering.

 

Prepare the Appropriate Potting Mix

The other important thing that’s needed is to get new potting soil.

A Money tree needs well-draining potting soil. This will help prevent waterlogging and overwatering.

If you don’t have a potting mix recipe for your money tree, you can combine:

  • 1 part peat moss
  • 1 part perlite
  • 1 part coarse sand

 

Repot the Money Tree

When the roots have dried, you can repot your money tree.

Fill the new pot with dry, well-draining potting mix up to about a third of the way. Then place the money tree into the pot and fill the remaining space with more potting mix.

While this is the last step in taking the money tree out of its root rot state into one where it can start recovery, the plant will still have a long road ahead of it before things get better.

In fact, it will take months before you’ll start seeing the plant start growing shoots and leaves again.

In the meantime, it will have to recover from its overwatered stat and root rot.

 

Money Tree Root Rot After Care

Because of your money tree’s long journey ahead, there are a few things you’ll need to do to help it along.

Aftercare is an important part of money tree root rot recovery.

And messing things up at this point can cause the plant to deteriorate again.

Because of its weakened state, you do not want to add more stress to it.

 

Don’t Water the Plant for a Short While

Since the money tree came from an overwatered state which is what caused the root rot, allowing it to stay dry helps with recovery.

Thus, I prefer to let the soil stay dry for at least a few days to a week or so.

This will give the plant some reprieve from its overwatered stats to help it recover.

 

Adjust Your Watering Schedule

In the meantime, it is crucial to modify your watering schedule. This way, you’ll be able to avoid overwatering the plant in the future.

The two main goals are to:

  1. Wait until the top few inches of soil have dried before adding more water.
  2. Water consistently.

Money trees don’t like wet feet. As such, it is important to allow part of the soil to dry between waterings.

This way, you don’t add more water when the soil is still moist or wet.

Similarly, consistent watering allows the plant to get the moisture it needs. Skipping watering sessions makes it easy to add too much or too little at any given period.

This is when the plant ends up being overwatered or underwatered.

 

Skip Fertilizer for a Few Months

As your money tree is recovering, give it time to do so. Adding fertilizer is not the best thing to do since you’re forcing it to grow or develop when all of its resources and energy are best used for recovery.

So, if you feed the plant, you may see some new shoots grow or leaves unfurl.

But they’ll be small and lackluster since the plant is weak and not at full strength yet.

Additionally, if you happen to overfertilize the plant, you’re adding more stress to an already stressed out money tree that’s doing all it can do to survive and recover.

 

Propagation – A Last Resort vs. Money Tree Root Rot

Propagation is a course of last resort. This is when you unpot your money tree and notice that root rot has devoured the entire root system or almost all of it.

When this happens, there’s very little hope of saving the money tree even if you prune and repot.

That’s because there are no remaining healthy roots or there are so few healthy roots that they won’t be able to support even a small money tree plant.

When this situation arises, the best thing to do is propagate your money tree.

If you want, you can still try and save the parent plant.

However, propagation should have priority since it gives you an insurance policy in the likelihood that the mother plant does not make it.

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