Root rot is a deadly disease for dracaena plants. It can destroy your plant in just a few days of infection.
Root rot is a disease that eats the root ball and makes your plant sick, weak, and droopy.
You have the chance to save your plant. But only if the root infection is up to the roots. Because if it spreads to the stem and leaves. Then propagation is the only way to save your plant.
Therefore, you need to catch the problem at an early stage.
Yellow leaves, mushy roots or stems, curling leaves, waterlogged soil, and slower growth, are some of the early warning signs. If you miss them, in the second stage, you will observe brown leaves, black spots on leaves, and a rotting smell from the roots
In this article, you will learn how you can protect your dracaena from root rot. How to save the already infected plants.
But first, you need to learn how to identify the root rot signs in Dracaena?
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What are the Early Warning Signs of Root Rot in Dracaena?
Because roots are hidden beneath the soil you cannot catch the problem right away. It will take a few days to show above the soil warning signs.
Below is the list of all early root rot signs of dracaena plants:
At first, you will see the potting soil is not absorbing the given water. The plant also has some water in the bottom tray.
Poor drainage and overuse of water are the main causes of root rot in houseplants like dracaena.
In both cases, the water stays in the soil for a long period of time.
After watering your plant, you should check the rate of absorption. For this purpose, insert your finger into the soil and check the moisture.
Do this after 2 days of watering.
If the top 2 inches of potting soil are wet this means you overwater your dracaena plant.
Yellow dracaena leaves are also an early sign of root rot. The leaves will also wilt or droop and this ensures the extra water in the root zone.
Yellow leaves are the result of root malfunction.
When roots become unable to absorb a sufficient amount of nutrients and water from the potting soil. The leaves automatically turn yellow due to a lack of water and essential nutrients.
Yellow leaves also indicate other problems like low light and underwatering.
But in root rot, the yellow leaves further turn brown and crispy and fall off.
Slower Growth Rate
If your plant is not growing like normal plants. This indicates the root problem. Because plant growth is depending on root health.
Once the plant roots get damaged or infected. They stop functioning properly and as a result plants stop growing.
Pathogen attacks are responsible for stunted growth in dracaena plants. Infected roots will turn black or brown, and lose the ability to function properly.
The result is no new growth at all.
Another early dracaena root rot sign is curled leaves. Dracaena leaves are curled because they do not get enough nutrients and water.
Because the roots are damaged, the fungus is eating them.
Below are the signs of heavy Root damage:
Weak and Wilting Leaves
Weak and witing leaves mean the root fungus is at an advanced stage and you need to take immediate action.
Lack of water is a common cause of dracaena wilting leaves.
In order to save its beautiful leaves dracaena, shrink the size of its leaves by wilting. This reduces further loss of moisture.
All this happens because of root rot.
Brown Spots on Leaves
Once your plant develops small brown spots on its leaves. This means the rot disease is in its full action.
The good news is you can still save your plant with some hard work and the best treatment plan.
Once all its leaves turn brown from tip to base then you cannot do anything to save its life.
Soft and Mushy Stems
Dracaena root rot can easily spread to all parts of the plant.
Check the base of the stem, just 2 inches above the soil. If the stem is soft and mushy this means the problem is now in the main stem.
You cannot save your plant once its main stem gets infected by rot.
In 90% of cases, even the use of copper fungicides cannot save the plant. The best idea is to use its parts for propagation.
But if the infected dracaena stem is broken and the rest of the plant is healthy. Then you can cut the infected broken stem and save your plant from dying.
Foul Smell from soil
Go close to your plant and smell the potting soil. If you notice the unusual and unpleasant rotting smell. This means the roots and stem both are infected.
This is the advanced stage of infection.
Immediately repot the plant in new soil and in new pot to save its life.
Discoloration of Dracaena Roots
To check root discoloration, you need to inspect them. Gently remove the half of soil from the pot and see if you can check the roots.
If required completely take out the plant from its pot and check the roots.
Black or brown color indicates heavy root damage. In simple words this means you are too late.
It’s time to say goodbye to your plant.
None of the techniques or fungicide products can save a plant with black roots. Roots turn black only when they die.
What are the Causes of Root Rot in Dracaena Plants?
Overwatered potting soil is the major reason for root rot in dracaena. This is why you should check the soil condition before the watering session.
Because whenever you water dracaena, you reduce the oxygen level. Because the tiny pockets in potting soil get closed.
Warm weather, high humidity, and waterlogged soil invite many fungus and bacterial infections.
If you have a good budget, you can use self-watering planters to avoid overwatering issues permanently.
Others can use the bottom watering technique.
Next, you should place your plant in bright light (not direct) to avoid overwatering.
In bright light plants use, most of the water for respiration and transpiration.
Only water your dracaena once you are sure that the top 2 inches of potting soil are dry.
Fungal infections are the second-most common cause of dracaena root rot.
Pythium and Rhizoctonia is root decaying fungi. These two infections are common in overwatered and unhygienic plants.
These bacteria are already present in contaminated soil. This is the reason you should sterilize the soil before using it.
Treatment of fungal infection
Stop spraying water on leaves and do not follow the top watering method.
Use a copper-based liquid fungicide to kill the fungal infection. It will also prevent its further growth.
To keep your plants protected you must spray neem oil on plants. Use it twice a month. It is safe for all types of plants.
At last, remove the damaged parts of the plant. Also, keep it separate from other plants until it fully heals.
At low temperatures, the plant uses less water for respiration, and less water gets evaporated.
This increases the amount of moisture in the soil and your plant root faces a high amount of moisture.
This results in root rot.
How to fix it?
The ideal temperature for dracaena is 60 to 80 degrees F. It cannot tolerate temperatures below 45 degrees F.
Some dracaena species do well in low temperatures. But most of them need warm weather to thrive.
Do not turn the heat ON in the winter season to keep your plant warm.
Hot air or artificial heat released by heaters makes the plant dry in a few hours.
This will invite another problem of dehydration of plants.
Soil with poor drainage capability is not recommended for houseplants. Such soil holds more than enough water in it.
This increases the chances of fungal infection.
How to fix it?
Immediately buy new fresh well-draining potting soil and repot your plant in it.
If you are using garden soil then do not forget to add compost and peat moss to it. Compost will add all essential nutrients and whereas peat moss increases draining powers.
By wrong pots, we mean the plant pots with poor or no drainage. These plant containers do not have drainage holes at the bottom.
Drainage holes are necessary to drain extra water out of the pot.
If you are using a plastic pot then you can drill a hole in it.
But my advice is you should use terracotta plant pots. They have inbuilt drain holes and are porous. Their material allows the air to enter the pot and keep the roots fresh and disease-free.
Watering during the Dormancy period
Every year in the winter season plants goes into dormancy. This is a state of plants when they do not grow even a single inch.
They take rest and just survive in the cold weather.
Watering dracaena in dormancy increase the chances of root fungus.
In the winter season, you should keep the soil on the little dry side. In cold weather, dracaenas need dry soil to keep the roots warm.
So before watering them always check the soil moisture.
There are many ways to check soil moisture levels like soil moisture testing kits.
Lack of Fresh Air
In the absence of an adequate amount of fresh air in the root zone. Your plant often gets infected by root rot diseases.
Because the overly watered soil becomes heavy and closes the natural air pocket of the soil.
This blocks the flow of fresh air and invites many bacterial attacks.
- Do not overcrowd your grow room
- Keep some space between plant pots for fresh air circulation
- Keep your plants in good shape and under good height.
- Regularly prune your plants to cut overly grown stems and leaves
How you can save Dracaena from root rot?
Cut the infected leaves and stems and also keep the infected plants away from healthy plants. If you do not want re-infection then keep your plant and its surroundings clean.
Spray neem oil regularly once a week to avoid fungi issues.
Do Not Water
Stop watering your plant because it is already struggling with root rot. The extra moisture will increase the infection. It will spread to leaves and stem from roots.
Resume watering after repotting your plant.
Even if the root rot is mild, you still need to repot your plant in fresh soil. Do not try to sterilize the old soil by using the microwave.
This idea will not work and you will lose your plant.
Cut the Roots
It is best to cut the infected and damaged parts of the roots. Remember that dracaena has the white color of roots.
Black or brown roots are damaged. They will not heal at any cost in fact entire root ball will get damaged if you do not cut and remove them.
Use a sterilized knife or sharp shears to cut the roots. Wash the roots with water before making any cuts.
Because you do not want to cut any portion of healthy roots.
Dry the roots
If the root rot is in the early stage. Then you can unpot the plant and add a few ounces of dry soil to the pot.
You should not leave the plant out of its container.
Roots will start to shrink by losing their moisture content.
By adding dry soil, you are making the old soil reusable and also increasing its drainage power.
- If all roots of your dracaena plant are mushy and black. Then it is best to discard the plant.
- Use sterilize tool for cutting the plant.
- Use fresh soil to propagate it.
- Place the propagated pot in a warm and humid location.