Peace Lily Root Rot: What to Do?

Peace lily plants are not difficult to take care of, but occasionally they develop root rot. What to do and how to prevent it?

Peace lilies are popular home plants that are adaptable and may thrive in a variety of environments. What they cannot tolerate is root rot.

When I first owned a peace lily plant, I somehow drowned it with water. If you are anything like me, you might wonder if there is anything you can do about it.

What Causes Root Rot?

The most prevalent causes of root rot are overwatering and poor drainage. The roots of your peace lily will die as a result of the wet soil, which stops them from absorbing enough oxygen.

Another factor that may contribute to root rot is the presence of fungi in the soil. The fungus is widespread in soil, although it is dormant. It thrives only in a moist and damp environment. In damp soil, the fungus multiplies, causing the roots to rot and die.

Fungi that flourish in damp soils and cause root rot in plants such as peace lilies include Fusarium, Pythium, Rhizoctonia, and Phytophthora.

A hand picking some rotting roots of a daylily

How to Tell If Your Plant Has Root Rot

When the infection spreads from the infected roots to the healthy ones, the plant’s leaves and overall health will start to show signs and symptoms. Let’s take a look at them.

Wilting Leaves

The leaves wilt as a result of a lack of nutrition. Overwatering is one of the reasons for leaf withering.

Overwatering suffocates the roots, stopping them from bringing nutrients to the plant. This situation frequently leads to root rot.

The first sign of root rot caused by overwatering is when the soil is wet and the plant is green but shows constant signs of wilting or drooping.

If your peace lily is drooping and the soil is dry, the problem is most likely under-watering as opposed to root rot. With enough irrigation, the peace lily may be revived in this scenario.

Drooping leaves of a daylily plant indoors

Mushy Roots

The development of mushy, brown roots indicates the existence of root rot.

A healthy plant’s root system should be solid and white. However, when the soil becomes moist, fungal spores proliferate and the fungus spreads, initially developing at the root’s extremities.

As the fungus spreads, healthy root portions turn dark and mushy, and the roots eventually die.

The roots will be dark and mushy by the time you see the symptoms of root rot on the foliage.

Yellowing Leaves

The most common cause of yellowing leaves is direct sunlight exposure. However, if the plant receives indirect sunlight, root rot is the most likely cause of yellowing and leaf loss.

Daylilies growing abundantly in the garden

How to Fix It

Because root rot appears first in the soil, gardeners may be unaware of the problem until it has progressed.

If your plant begins to show signs of root rot, such as yellow leaves or stunted growth, act swiftly to correct the problem.

If you discover root rot, you must determine whether the plant can be rescued. If the entire root system has become mushy, it is too late to save the plant. It is best to start over with a new plant.

If your plant has some healthy, white, strong roots, consider transplanting it into new soil in a new pot with enough drainage to bring it back to life.

Before replanting, carefully clean the roots under running water and remove any discolored, mushy roots with a sharp pair of scissors. Cut the healthy root just above the infected area. Working quickly, replant within a few hours.

After all the roots have been trimmed, disinfect the scissors with a solution of 1 part bleach to 3 parts water to avoid the transmission of fungal spores to other plants or soil. Discard all contaminated plant debris and potting soil.

A houseplant and a glass of water sitting on a windowsill

How to Repot Your Plant

After you’ve cleaned the plant’s roots with the methods described above, you can begin repotting it:

  1. Prune one-third of the leaves to enhance root regeneration because the roots will not have to support as many leaves.
  2. Remove the dirt from the plant’s container.
  3. Clean the pot with a bleaching solution.
  4. Plant your peace lily in the cleaned pot, using fresh potting soil.
  5. Water until the excess liquid runs out of the pot’s drainage holes.

Fertilizer should not be applied immediately after repotting because it would further stress the already damaged roots. 

With this procedure, the root rot will be stopped and the dying peace lily will be revived.

How to Prevent It

It can be difficult to repair root rot. That is why you should try to keep it from developing in the first place. Use these preventative measures after repotting your plant.

The yellowing petals of a daylily flower

Don’t Overwater

As a rule of thumb, press your index finger about one inch into the earth, and only water if the soil at the top is dry. If the soil feels damp in the first inch, your plant does not need to be watered right now.

Maintain a consistent watering schedule, but don’t water your plant if the soil appears to be wet.

Peace lilies are sensitive plants but they can tolerate slightly dry soil if watered once a week. If your plant’s leaves are turning brown, pay more attention to how dry the soil is. Adjust your watering schedule to provide your plant with a little more water.

Fix Poor Drainage

It is important that water has a way to drain from the pot your peace lily is growing in. Make sure your pot has drainage holes and raise your peace lily container above the ground. This creates a space between the pot and the earth, allowing water to drain.

Pot feet, bricks, or any other material may be used to support the pot, as long as the bottom apertures are not obstructed. This simple approach can help you avoid root rot.

Do Not Overuse Fertilize

Excessive fertilizer application may cause the roots to burn and rot. The peace lily grows well in a good, high-quality potting mix and doesn’t require much fertilizer.

Fertilize your peace lily once in a while, but not during periods of slow growth, such as winter. The end of winter is the perfect time to start fertilizing your peace lily, as this will stimulate growth in the spring and summer.

Take care to apply the correct fertilizer dose.

beautiful and very white petal of a daylily

Prevent Spreading Fungi

Fungi thrive in moist environments, so keeping the soil as dry as possible is the first step in keeping them at bay.

Garden soil, which is frequently contaminated with a variety of diseases, should not be used for houseplants. You can use organic potting soil in a pot with proper drainage.

If you suspect your soil is contaminated, do not re-use it so as to avoid contaminating healthy plants.

Fungi can also be avoided by regularly sanitizing and cleaning your gardening tools. 

Carley Miller
Carley Miller is a horticultural expert at Bustling Nest. She previously owned a landscaping business for 25 years and worked at a local garden center for 10 years.
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