Pilea root rot is a common problem and is a result of overwatering. It is a disease that eats away the root ball of the pilea plant.
Root fungus can spread to other parts of the plant like stems and leaves. If you do not fix it on time.
Overwatering is the main cause of root rot. Yellow leaves, mushy stems, brown leaf edges, and soggy soil are the common symptoms of root fungus. Stop watering your plant and use fungicides to treat infected roots. Repot in new fresh soil to revive your plant.
Keep reading to know each step in detail.
The first step of treatment is identifying the root rot in pilea plants. There are some signs that talk about the root health of the plant.
After identifying the symptoms, you can follow the solution.
To prevent the root rot, make some changes in your plant care routine and have a healthy plant forever.
Suddenly Leaves Turning Yellow
If the leaves of your pilea plant are suddenly turning yellow. This indicates overwatering and inner lower leaves turn yellow at first.
When the pilea roots do not have enough moisture and nutrients. Their leaves start turning yellow and brown.
In the absence of adequate moisture, roots cannot absorb nutrition from the potting soil.
Water, minerals, and light are required to grow healthy disease free pilea plants.
Other causes of yellow pilea leaves are repotting shock, loss of water, lack of nutrients, pest infestation, and leaf diseases.
Now the question is how do you identify leaf yellowing caused by root rot and not by other problems.
To identify root rot, you must check the potting soil. If the soil is wet and the plant has yellow leaves. This confirms that the roots of pilea are infected by fungus disease.
If there are dark brown spots on pilea leaves, this means both root ball and leaves are infected. If you do not fix root rot on time.
Then the fungus bacteria start spreading all over the plant. Thus, you get mushy stems and leaves with dark brown spots.
Your plant becomes weak and it will die in a few days. Because these spots affect the effectiveness of photosynthesis.
Pilea Leaves turning brown
Yellow leaves are the early warning signs of an overwatered pilea plant. But when you do not fix the problem on time. The yellow leaves slowly turn brown.
At first, they develop brown edges and outer parts.
Once the root rot becomes advanced the pilea leaves develop blotches and black spots.
Some other factors also trigger brown leaves in pilea plants like fertilizer burn, poor quality water, sunburn, and low humidity.
But again, if the soil is wet with brown leaves, then root rot is the cause behind it.
Once the roots of the pilea plant become weak due to overwatering. The fungus bacteria living in the root zone start moving up towards the plant stems and leaves.
At first, it spread to the lower base of the main stem.
The base of the pilea stems starts rotting. Due to excessive water, the stem absorbs extra water to save its roots.
This extra water damages the stem tissues and expands them. Thus, you will get swallow and soft stems.
Damage stems due to root rot indicate an advanced stage of damage. If you do not fix it, your plant will collapse at the stem base.
Droopy pilea is another sign of root rot. Damaged roots cannot supply sufficient water and nutrients to the plant.
Thus, the leaves of pilea start wilting and drooping.
If you do not fix the problem on time. Then the droopy leaves turn yellow and brown.
If you are unsure about the root rot in pilea. You should check the conditions of the roots to confirm root rot.
Rotten roots turn dark brown or black and become soft and mushy. Whereas the healthy roots feel firm and are clean white.
They do not release any kind of smell but rotten roots smell like rotten eggs.
Algae on Potting soil
As we all know waterlogged soil is the cause of root rot in pilea plants. Therefore, you need to check the fungus signs in potting soil.
If there are algae building up on the top surface of the soil. This confirms that there are lots of fungus bacteria in the soil.
Immediately repot your plant in fresh soil and save its life.
The green color algae build-up is the result of waterlogged soil for a long time.
The simple technique to check pilea root rot is checking the water content in the potting soil. If you see water on the top surface of the soil.
In simple words, if the potting soil is not absorbing water and the water stays above the soil.
This means the roots are not functioning properly. They are damaged and you need to fix this issue or your plant will die.
A heavy pot is a result of using the wrong kind of potting soil and the wrong pot type when you do not use well-draining soil and use a plant pot without draining holes.
Then on watering the plant the soil absorbs every single drop of water. Due to the absence of a drainage hole the water cannot go outside the pot.
This makes the plant pot heavy and increases the chances of root rot in pilea plants.
What Causes Root Rot in Pilea Plants?
Overuse of water results in a lack of oxygen in the pilea root zone. Because an extra amount of water closes the air pockets in the soil.
But plant roots need fresh oxygen to breathe and to prevent many fungal diseases.
In the absence of sufficient oxygen, roots become unable to defend themselves from root rot and other decaying fungal growths.
Fungal bacteria easily infiltrate the root zone and start damaging the healthy roots of pilea.
Generally, we see pilea root rot in the winter season. Because growers do not reduce the frequency of water during the dormancy period.
They keep sticking to their regular watering routine and this causes pilea root infection.
Signs of Overwatering
- Yellow Leaves
- Wilting, droopy appearance
- Algae on soil
- Heavy pot
- Waterlogged soil
- Smelly plant
- Soft stems
- Gently unpot your plant and remove soil from the roots. Check the roots closely, it should be white in color.
- Black and brown roots are dead and infected. Use shears to cut the damaged part of the roots. Use a paper towel to remove excess moisture from the roots.
- Now discard the old potting soil and wash the pot with soap.
- Add fresh potting soil and plant your pilea back in its pot.
- After replanting your plant place the pot in bright indirect light. You can spray some water on the potting soil to give a little bit of moisture to plant roots.
- Otherwise, you will face a dehydrated plant.
- Once your plant shows healthy signs and new growth. Start following the regular care routine.
Low Temperature, Frost
The ideal temperature range is between 60 to 85 degrees F. Temperature below 50 F is deadly for the plant.
Freezing temperatures encourage blooming but prevent the proper use of water.
This increases the chances of overwatering pilea.
Slow and stunted growth are the two main signs of overwatered pilea due to low temperature or frost.
- Try to protect your pilea from frequent temperature changes.
- Cut the dry and damaged leaves due to freezing temperature.
- Keep your plant in the ideal temperature range (60 to 85 F).
- Do not place your plant pot near doorways.
Fungal disease is the second main cause of pilea root infection after overwatering.
The fungal bacteria attack weak and dirty plants. They get in through infected gardening tools and old potting soil.
Overwatered soil gives an ideal environment to these fungi spores. They double their population in just a few days.
You should fix this issue on time because the fungi have tendency to climb up and infect all parts of the plant.
First, you need to cut all infected parts of the plant.
Use anti-fungal sprays or liquids to kill the fungal bacteria. I prefer using copper fungicides for houseplants.
Use fresh potting soil and do not mix any old ingredients in it.
Do not try to sterilize the soil because, for proper sterilization of potting soil, you need to have commercial sterilization tools.
Wash the plant pot with dishwashing soap or use a new sterilized pot.
Wrong Size Pot
Using the wrong size of plant pot also results in root rot. Because if you use a too big pot, it will hold too much potting soil.
Once watered, the soil in the pot absorbs a large quantity of water.
This large quantity of water increases the chances of root fungal infections.
Whereas if you use a small pot then the roots become compact. This reduces the airflow in the root zone.
The roots become unable to absorb the desired amount of water from the soil. This way the water stays in the soil for a long time.
The result is root rot.
The best solution to this problem is to use the perfect size of the pot.
You should use a pot that gives sufficient space for the plant roots to grow easily.
There should be 2 inches’ space between the root ball and walls of the pot. 2 inches’ space is enough for roots to stay healthy.
Material of plant pot
The material of plant pot highly impacts root health. Some pots are good for tropical plants and some are made for succulents.
Therefore, you need to choose wisely.
The wrong selection of plant pot without drainage holes will only negatively impact your plant.
Use a terracotta plant pot. The material of these pots is porous and has tiny air pockets for good airflow.
Terracotta pots are best to use for plants that do not like extra moisture. This is the reason my all succulents and some tropical are happy in terracotta pots.
These pots have good drainage power and come with drainage holes.
The material of the pots allows the soil to quickly drain the extra water after holding enough moisture.
If you live in high humid areas, then you must try these pots at least once.
Watering in Dormancy
Dormancy is the rest time of plants. They do not grow in this time frame. So, they need less water and nutrients.
But when you keep sticking to your regular watering routine. This creates root rot like problems.
Because in the winter season plants use less water and nutrients. Flooding the plant with buckets of water will cause root rot.
Therefore, you need to change your watering techniques in winter.
To prevent root rot in the dormancy period. You need to learn the winter watering technique.
Before watering you should check the soil moisture. Insert your finger in the soil and feel the moisture. If the top 2 inches are dry, then you can pour some water.
Otherwise, wait for 48 hours and check again.
I use soil moisture testing meter. It gives digital reading and is easy to use. You can buy one from Amazon.
Lack of Light
In the absence of bright light, your plant grows leggy. Leggy plants grow slowly and they do not need frequent water even during the summer season.
Low lights = weak photosynthesis and weak respiration.
Plants use 50% water for respiration and in low light the rate of respiration becomes slow.
This results in overwatering and we all know overwatering is the main cause of root rot.
- The only solution to this problem is to improve the light in the grow room.
- Pilea plants do not need direct sunlight but this does not mean they do not need bright light.
- For proper photosynthesis and respiration, they need bright indirect light.
- Place your plant pot near the sunny window and it will heal itself in 7 to 14 days.
How to save Pilea from root rot?
To save your pilea plants from root rot. You need to follow the best care routine. Below are the caring tips that will protect your plant from root fungal diseases.
Cut Back Watering
Once you see yellow leaves and waterlogged soil. Immediately stop watering your plant. Repot your plant in the new pot and fresh soil.
This will put new life in your pilea.
Use a plant pot with a drainage hole and use well-draining potting soil.
Use Filtered Water
The quality of water directly impacts the health condition of plant roots. Hard water contains unwanted substances like chloride, copper, fluoride, chlorine, etc.
These substances get collected at the base and block the root functions.
The roots absorb less water and most of it stays in the soil and causes overwatering.
To avoid hard water issues, you should use filtered water. Use drinking water for watering your plants.
Change Potting Soil
Use well-draining soil for growing pilea plants. Well-draining soil does not absorb a large amount of water.
It only holds the required amount of water for a limited time.
Perlite, peat, and compost increase the draining power of soil.
Perlite also holds a good amount of water without being wet. By adding it to the soil formula you can make your soil extra moist but not wet.
Some ready-to-use commercial soil mixtures have perlite in their soil formulas.
Cut the Damages Parts
Damaged and infected parts of the plant will never heal. Therefore, it is best to cut them and remove them from the plant.
Before they invite many other problems.
Before cutting the infected parts do not forget to sterilize your tools.
Use isopropyl alcohol to disinfect plant tools.
Prune Damaged Roots
- Once you are sure that your plant root is infected. Then gently unpot it and cut the damaged roots.
- For cutting roots you should use sharp shears or a knife.
- Sterilize the tools before and after their use.
- At once you can cut 50% of the root ball.
- If the entire root ball is black or brown, then you should propagate it immediately.
- Repotting is required to treat root rot. Following are the steps:
- Use well-draining potting soil and plant pot with a drainage hole.
- Add perlite to the potting soil or buy a soil mix having perlite in the formula.
- Cut the infected roots and plant them in the new soil.
- Tap around the plant and give some water.
- Place the pot in an indirect bright place.
Use Fungicides for the Treatment
Do not rely on organic solutions or homemade solutions. They will not work in root rot infection.
You should immediately use copper-based fungicides.
These fungicides come in a concentrated form. Read the instructions and dilute the appropriate amount in water before use.