Monstera are one of the most beautiful plants you’ll ever see. This is why collectors pay up to a few thousand dollars for a single plant. But like make plants, it is susceptible to root rot. This is a serious problem if not caught early can mean the loss of your Monstera.
In this article I’ll go into detail about Monstera root rot, its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment. Monstera root rot is often caused by overwatering. And it will produce symptoms of brown or black, soft, mushy roots that have a foul odor.
Thus, the best way to treat root rot is to often prune the rotted roots and repot the plant in fresh soil. This will help save and revive your Monstera.
What is Root Rot?
Root rot is rotting of the roots. When this happens, the root and their tips are damaged beyond function and repair. As such, they are unable to absorb moisture or nutrients from the soil.
This is a very serious problem because plants need their roots to obtain sustenance from the soil. When root rot occurs, it won’t matter how much you water or fertilize the soil since the plant is not able to take in any water or nutrients.
Therefore, left untreated, root rot can ultimately destroy a plant.
The biggest problem with root rot is that the roots are hidden under the soil. Therefore, you’ll only notice the symptoms once they reach the stems and leaves.
By this time, there’s likely to be some kind of damage to the roots already, whether minor or major.
In most cases, overwatering is the main cause of root rot. The reason for this is that roots need a balance of water and oxygen. And when there is chronic overwatering, the roots end up sitting in water for extended periods of time.
Too much water also clogs all the air pockets which prevents air from getting to the roots. Over time, the roots will suffocate from lack of oxygen, resulting in root rot.
Similarly, excess moisture increases the risk of fungal infection which is another cause of root rot.
What Causes Monstera Root Rot?
Now that you know what root rot is, the next step is to figure out what causes root rot in Monstera.
Below, I will list down the different reasons for Monstera root rot and explain why this happens. I will also include solutions so you know what to do in case you encounter that problem.
As mentioned, overwatering is the number one cause of root rot in plants, including Monstera.
When you suspect overwatering, the first thing to do is verify it to make sure that it is indeed too much water causing root rot.
To do so, check the soil.
- If the surface of the soil is wet and mucky, overwatering is likely the cause.
- Stick your finger into the soil, wet soggy soil also means the plant is getting too much water.
Once you’ve confirmed overwatering, the next step is to unpot the plant,
This will allow you to check for root rot.
Overwatering is usually caused by one or a combination of the following:
- Watering too frequently
- The soil retains too much water
- Your pot does not have drainage
- Overpotting (the pot is much bigger than the roots)
Let’s take each of these problems one by one.
Watering your Monstera too frequently
Watering too often means adding more water when the soil is still wet or has enough moisture. in doing so, you overwhelm the roots with water.
This is a case of killing your plant by being too generous. And it is the number one cause of houseplant death.
The best way to avoid this is to always check the soil before adding more water.
More importantly only add water if the top 2 to 3 inches of soil is completely dry. Avoid doing so before that.
By waiting for part of the soil to dry before watering again, you’re able to prevent overwatering. This allows enough oxygen to get to the roots. It also lets you avoid leaving the roots swimming in moisture all the time.
To test the soil, you can stick your finger into the soil or use a chopstick. Others like to use a moisture meter, which works just as well.
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Soil is too heavy and retains too much water
The second issue is using incorrect soil. Monsteras are aroids. Thus, they enjoy well-draining soil that is loose and chunky.
This kind of soil holds moisture but not too much. It also has good drainage so excess moisture quickly drains. Finally, the chunky nature of the soil allows oxygen to reach the roots.
Avoid using heavy soils since they retain too much moisture. in doing so, they easily become waterlogged which causes overwatering.
The pot does not have drainage
In addition to watering correctly and use well-draining soil, it is important to use a pot with drainage. Otherwise, all the excess moisture that drains from the soil ends up pooling at the bottom of the pot.
This keeps the soil wet since the water has nowhere to go. As such, it defeats the purpose of well-draining soil.
Therefore, make sure that the pot you use has drainage holes at the bottom. This will allow excess moisture to escape.
Overpotting is when you put the plant in an overly large pot. Some beginner growers like to do this to reduce the need for repotting.
And while that logic works, it also puts your Monstera at risk of overwatering.
Because a very large pot requires a lot of extra soil. When you water the soil, there will be much more water than the plant can handle. Also, more water due to the larger soil volume means that it takes much longer for the soil to dry.
As such, the plant’s roots end up sitting in water for extended periods of time, which increases the risk of root rot.
I spent more time with overwatering since majority of the time, that’s the cause of root rot.
However, there are other causes as well including underwatering.
Here, you have the opposite of overwatering.
Underwatering can mean allowing the plant to go bone dry, to the point where it gets dehydrated. If this is not fixed, plant will eventually deteriorate in health due to lack of moisture.
Then there’s root rot. Although, underwatering indirectly causes root rot.
When your Monstera is consistently underwatered, its roots will adapt the drier conditions. Over time, the roots get smaller and compact since they don’t need to work as hard.
The problem here is that you suddenly add adequate water or a little more water than usual, the smaller root system becomes overwhelmed by the regular amount of water.
If they stay wet for too long, they become prone to root rot.
Besides overwatering, the other common cause of root rot is fungal infections. In fact, there are a few types of fungi that are known to cause root rot. These include Fusarium, Pythium and Rhizoctonia.
That said, fungal infections usually thrive in moist environments. Therefore, overwatering, high humidity and too much misting increase the risk of fungal root rot.
The problem with fungal infection is that they can spread. Also, they can stick with your plant even if you repot. Therefore, it is important to distinguish this kind of root rot from overwatering root rot.
The reason is that you need to get rid of the fungal infection first before you can repot the plant. it also means that you should carefully throw away the soil used since it will harbor the pathogens.
Finally, make sure the disinfect the pot before using it again. Otherwise, the plant that goes in there next can experience the same fate.
Like underwatering, cold weather conditions can indirectly cause root rot.
The reason is that when the seasons change, the climate changes. As the temperature goes from hot to cold, it also means that the soil takes much longer to dry.
If you don’t adjust your watering schedule based on the weather, you’ll end up watering as frequently in the winter as you did in the summer.
This can result in overwatering since the warm temperature of summer increases the water requirements since heat causes more evaporation.
The problems is winter is cold.
Therefore, it is important to scale back watering during winter and allow the soil to dry a bit more.
Finally, there’s low light. This is very similar to cold climates.
If you keep your Monstera is a bright location where it gets a good amount of sunlight, the soil tends to dry faster due to the light and the heat.
On the other hand in dimmer or darker locations, the lack of light and heat reduces evaporation. Therefore, it takes much longer for the soil do dry.
Therefore, it also increases the risk of overwatering and root rot.
Signs/Symptoms of Root Rot in Monstera Plants
Root rot in Monstera plants often present itself with deferent symptoms. The hard part is interpreting those symptoms because some of them are similar to other problems.
However, since root rot is one of the most serious issues your Monstera will ever face, it is important to always check for it. This way, you may be able to spot the problem early and save your plant.
Early Stages of Root Rot
Slow or stunted growth, yellow leaves and wilting are among the initial signs of root rot. ideally, if you were to treat root rot, this is the time to catch it.
This gives you a good chance of saving most of the roots.
Yellow leaves are usually the biggest giveaway of overwatering. As such, when your Monstera leaves turn yellow, it is a good idea to always suspect the risk of root rot.
As they say, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Wilting can likewise signify overwatering. However, it is more commonly associated with lack of water. Therefore, is important to verify whether it is overwatering or underwatering.
The best way to do this is to check the soil by sticking your finger down about 2 inches from the surface. You can also use a moisture meter if you prefer.
Wet or soggy soil means the plant is overwatered. If the soil is very dry, it means the plant is underwatered.
Intermediate to Advanced Root Rot
Because root rot happens under the soil, it is easy to overlook the problem or misdiagnose the early symptoms. That’s because your plant may be experience other issues at the same time.
Unfortunately, if left untreated, root rot will quickly progress.
And after a while, the roots will start to change color from their healthy white to brown or black. Black or brown spots will also start appearing on the leaves.
And the biggest tell-tale sign here is the stench. The rotting roots will emit a foul odor. Therefore, if you try smelling near the base of the plant or close to the soil, you’ll quickly take a whiff of the bad smell.
If you notice this, immediately unpot the plant to check the roots.
Severe or Extensive Root Rot Damage (You Likely Can’t Save the Plant)
Unfortunately, root rot spreads quickly. And if left untreated, it will destroy most if not all of the roots.
When this happens, you’ll see black, mushy roots all throughout the root system or on majority of the roots.
The more roots that are affected, the lower the chance of your Monstera’s survival even with repotting. That’s because the remaining roots may not be enough or be too weak to sustain the plant.
When this happens, it is better to dispose of the plant.
But before you do, take a few healthy cuttings and propagate them. This way, you can grow new Monstera plants.
How to Tell If Your Monstera Has Root Rot
The signs and symptoms above will help you identify root rot. Ideally, you catch it early. However, because the roots are hidden under the soil, root rot is often caught later on.
This is why checking for overwatering is very important.
If you notice your plant is being overwatered, always suspect potential root rot. After all, it is better safe than sorry, especially with Monstera plants which tend to be expensive.
The only way to confirm root rot is dig up or unpot the plant and take a close look at the roots.
If there is root rot, you will see:
- Brown or black roots instead of the healthy white color
- The roots will also be mushy and soft not their healthy firm texture
- It will stink. The foul odor of rotting is very easy to notice
Any of these signs means you need to take immediate action and treat your Monstera for root rot.
Treating Root Rot in Monstera
Once you’ve confirmed root rot, it is time to start treatment. It is important to treat root rot as soon as you spot it because it does not take long for it to spread.
Rinse the Roots
The first step to treating root rot is to take the plant out of its pot, brush off the soil and rinse the roots.
The goal here is to get rid of any pathogens so they do not follow the plant when you repot it.
If you have a small Monstera, you can work in the sink. Take your time and rinse everything thoroughly.
For a larger plant, use the shower or hose it down outside.
In addition to cleaning the roots and removing the soil, make sure to dispose of the soil. If the cause of the root rot is a fungal infection, you don’t want to reuse that soil or let it contaminate any of your other plants.
Also clean the pot so there are not soil residue there.
Cut Off the Affected Roots
Rinsing the roots will let you clearly see how much damage has occurred.
And the next step is to prune off all the rotted and rotting roots. They are gone and won’t recover. Therefore, you want to get rid of them.
Additionally, you don’t want the problem to keep on spreading.
Make sure to sterilize your cutting tool with rubbing alcohol. And in case there’s fungal infection, re-apply the alcohol on the blade after each cut. This way you don’t pass the pathogens from one section to another section of the root system.
When you’re done cutting, you’ll have a good idea of how many roots are left.
- If majority of the roots are rotted, the best course is to find a healthy cutting or cuttings and propagate them. That way you have new plants that will grow out from the cuttings. Then, carefully dispose of the mother plant as it is beyond saving.
- If a good sized portion of the roots are rotted but there’s enough left to support part of the plant, prune the plant. By reducing the size of the plant, you give the smaller root system a chance to recover and support a much smaller plant.
- If only a minor part of the root system has rotted, you can follow the next steps and keep on going.
Use Hydrogen Peroxide to Disinfect the Roots
Once you’ve gotten rid of the rotted roots it is time to disinfect the remaining roots.
This way, you make sure that there are no more pathogens left.
You can use hydrogen peroxide to do this. But make sure to dilute it with water significantly. Otherwise, it will be too potent and damage the plant.
Mis 1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide for every cup of water.
Depending on the size of the plant, you can do this in the sink or a large container.
Let the Roots Dry
When you’re done disinfecting the roots, allow them to dry. Make sure they’ve dried before you repot them.
While you’re waiting, you can prepare the pot. You can use the same pot after you disinfect it with bleach or hydrogen peroxide or a different container.
Also, have some well-draining potting mix on hand. Make sure you have enough soil to fil the pot.
Repot in Fresh Soil
After the roots have dried, begin repotting.
Use fresh potting mix. Never use the old soil because if fungal root rot was the cause, the soil will be contaminated.
You can use an aroid mix. Although any loose, well-draining soil will work.
Make sure to use a pot with drainage holes as well.
Remove Any Leaves that Have Been Affected
Now that the plant is potted up, it is time to get rid of discolored, damaged or diseased leaves.
Again, make sure to sterilize your cutting tool before pruning any stems or leaves.
You want to remove any yellow or brown leaves to help your plant recover faster.
Keep it in a Warm Spot with Bright, Indirect Light and Good Air Circulation
Make sure to place your Monstera in a well-lit spot. Ideally, keep it under medium or bright, indirect light with good humidity and air circulation.
Sufficient lighting is important to help the plant recover. Good air circulation prevents excess moisture and helps any wet areas dry faster.
If Monstera Root Rot is Severe, Propagate Using Healthy Cuttings
Above, I mentioned propagating your Monstera via cuttings if the damage to the root system is severe.
Unfortunately, this can happen in some cases. And when you meet this kind of scenario, the mother plant will probably not survive even if you try to repot and save it.
Therefore, your best bet is to find healthy cuttings and propagate the plant.
This way, even if you lose the mother plant, you are able to grow new Monstera plants that will grow up to be clones of the parent.
The goal is to look for healthy steams with leaves. You also want to look for nodes as these are where the new roots will grow from.
Take the cuttings and root them in water or soil both will work quite well.
How to Prevent Monstera Rot Root
While the steps above allow you to save a Monstera plant with root rot, prevention is still better option.
The goal is to prevent Monstera root rot at all costs since you never know whether or not a plant can recover from it.
Below, I’ll explain the different things you can do to prevent root rot.
The best way to prevent and avoid root rot it to be mindful of watering. Too much water is the number one cause of root rot.
Therefore, always wait until part of the soil is dry before adding more water. To do so, stick your finger into the soil or use a moisture meter.
Keep in mind that it is not a good idea to use a fixed watering schedule. Instead, by checking the soil before each time you water, you let the plant tell you when it needs water.
Use the Right Kind of Potting Mix
In addition to overwatering, using the right kind of potting mix is essential to avoid root rot.
Monstera need well-draining soil that provides good aeriation. This lets the roots get a balance of water and oxygen. Both of which it needs to stay healthy.
Avoid heavy soils like clay. Regular houseplant potting mixes likewise retain too much moisture.
Instead, use perlite, pumice, activated charcoal and orchid bark to improve drainage.
This way, excess moisture freely drains so the roots don’t end up sitting in waterlogged soil.
Have Sufficient Drainage
In addition to letting the soil dry and using well-draining potting mix, it is important to use a pot with ample drainage.
This comes in the form of drainage holes at the bottom of the container. These holes allow any excess water that drains from the soil to escape out of the container.
Without the holes, the excess moisture will pool at the bottom of the pot and later get reabsorbed by the soil.
Whenever you repot, choose a container that is at most 2 inches wider in diameter that the current pot. Avoid the temptation of going much larger just so you don’t need to repot it any time soon.
Overpotting means that there will be excess soil. When you water the plant, there will be so much water that the roots end up swimming in liquid.
A large pot also means it takes much longer for the soil to dry. Thus, increasing the risk of root rot.
Always Check the Soil Before Adding Watering
The best way to ensure that you never end up overwatering is to check the soil each time you plan to add water.
Wait for the top 2-3 inches of soil to be completely dry before adding more water. If it feels moist or wet, wait a couple of days and test again.
Only water the plant once the top 2 or 3 inches of soil is dry. This way, you avoid watering too frequently.
Regularly Check for Pests and Infections
Finally, regularly inspect your Monstera for pests and infections. Both often occur when the plant is stressed or in shock as the plant is weakest then.
When you spot any pest or sign of infection, it is essential to immediately try to diagnose what the problem is and treat it.
Both are likely to spread and get worse with each passing day.
Natural Fungicide for Fungal Black Root Rot
Above, we used hydrogen peroxide to get rid of fungal root rot. However, it is not the only way to disinfect your plant. Here are the different natural fungicides you can use.
Hydrogen peroxide is usually what most growers will use. It is a disinfectant that works very effectively against root rot.
However, make sure to dilute it enough otherwise too much concentration will cause more harm than good.
To use it for treating fungal root rot, mix 1 tablespoon of 3% peroxide concentration with a cup of water. Scale the amounts depending on the size of you plant.
Neem oil is more commonly used for treating pests. But it also works against fungal infections.
In this case, you’ll be using the concentrated neem oil that comes in bottles or jugs, not the pre-mixed spray bottles.
This way you can soak the roots in the solution.
When using neem oil, make sure to dilute it enough since overconcentration can damage your plant.
Mix 1 teaspoon of neem on with 1 liter of water. Scale the amount as needed.
Since oil and water don’t naturally mix, you can use dish soap to emulsify the solution. That way, they mix well together.
Baking soda is also known as sodium bicarbonate. It can be used for treating root rot by mixing 3 tablespoons of baking sold for every gallon of warm water.
Make sure to dilute the baking soda with enough water since it is a salt. Therefore, too much concentration or using it too often can eventually be harmful to the plant.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar can also be used to treat fungal root rot in Monstera plants. To use it, mix apple cider vinegar with water to create a spray solution and apply it on affected areas.
Cinnamon is another treatment. Unlike the others, you’ll be using it to dust over fresh cuts and affected tissues. It helps fight against infections as it is a natural fungicide.