If you suspect that your Monstera might have root rot, it can be very concerning and confusing, as root rot symptoms can often masquerade as symptoms of other houseplant problems. In addition, root rot can cause significant damage to your plant, so you will want to identify and fix the problem quickly.
If your Monstera has root rot, the leaves may drop, wilt, or change color to yellow, brown, or black but also the roots will be dark brown, black, and mushy.
The faster you can identify that your Monstera has root rot so you can treat it, the higher the chance that your Monstera will recover fully.
What is Root Rot?
Root rot occurs when a plant’s roots degrade, typically from sitting in wet soil or substrate for too long. As a result, the outer layer of the root, known as the epidermis, will rot away, exposing the inner layers of the roots to disease. In addition, the rotted roots will no longer be able to absorb water effectively, depriving your plant of the water and nutrients it needs to survive.
What Causes Root Rot in Monstera?
Root rot mainly occurs if your Monstera has been overwatered in some way. This will happen if your Monstera cannot intake water before the roots begin to decompose. Overwatering can occur for several reasons including:
- Your Monstera’s pot does not have drainage (or has poor drainage), trapping the excess water inside.
- Your Monstera’s soil is too dense and compact, so water cannot drain, and the roots suffocate.
- Your Monstera doesn’t have a very strong root system, preventing it from intaking enough water. This can often occur through underwatering.
- If the Monstera’s root system is damaged, this can also lead to rot.
What Does an Overwatered Monstera Look Like?
If your Monstera is overwatered, the symptoms will be similar to if it was underwatered, particularly if the root rot is severe. Some signs of an overwatered Monstera include:
- Yellow or brown leaves
- Mushy leaves
- Stunted growth
- Drooping or curled leaves
- Saturated soil
- Black spots on the plant or stem
If you spot any of these symptoms in your Monstera, the best way to determine if the problem is underwatering versus overwatering is to inspect the condition of the roots.
How Often Should I Water My Monstera?
Many people misunderstand the concept of overwatering Monstera versus underwatering. People think overwatering refers to the quantity of water versus the frequency of water, so they will give their Monstera a small drink of water every day. Unfortunately, this quickly leads to root rot, which ensures the soil is constantly wet.
When watering your Monstera, ensure that you allow the soil almost thoroughly to dry out between waterings. Once the soil has nearly dried out, you can give your Monstera a thorough and even water. If the soil and pot have lots of drainage, your Monstera will not rot as long as you leave time between watering for the soil to dry out.
A great tool if you are unsure when to water your Monstera is a moisture meter. If you stick a moisture meter deep into the soil, it will give you an accurate read on the moisture levels in the soil, from dry to moist to wet. Then, water your Monstera when the moisture meter reads closer to dry.
Does My Monstera Have Root Rot?
What Do Rotting Monstera Roots Look Like?
The best way to tell if your Monstera has root rot is to remove it from its pot and inspect the roots. If the roots are black or brown, soft and mushy, they have rotted. They may break apart easily when you touch them. Rotted roots may also have a foul smell.
Root Rot Versus Healthy Roots Monstera
Healthy Monstera roots look quite different from rotted roots. Healthy Monstera roots are an off-white color or even beige. If your Monstera is in water, they will be a nice bright beige color, whereas they may be a light brown color if planted in soil. They will vary in thickness from larger roots to thinner hair-like roots. Healthy roots will also be firm to the touch and not mushy.
How To Treat Root Rot In Monstera
Regarding root rot in Monstera, the faster you act, the higher the likelihood that your Monstera will recover. Remove your Monstera from its pot and remove the soil from the roots. You may need to rinse off the roots if the soil sticks to the roots.
Next, inspect the roots and trim away any roots that are rotting. If desired, you can treat the remaining roots with hydrogen peroxide to kill any lingering bacteria. You can place your Monstera in distilled water if very few healthy roots remain to encourage healthy root growth.
You can also clean your Monstera pot with a fungicide solution to be safe. Use brand-new soil, even if the previous soil has since dried. The old soil will still contain the same bacteria that may increase root rot. You can re-pot your Monstera back into the soil.
A great tip is to hold off fertilizing your Monstera for several weeks after treating root rot. Fertilizer is great for stimulating leaf growth, but when a Monstera is recovering from root rot, you will want to encourage root growth rather than leaf growth.
Can You Scrape Off Root Rot?
When it comes to root rot, it’s better to trim the affected roots from your Monstera than to try to scrape the rot from the roots. Brown or black roots are dead roots, so there isn’t any point in trying to keep the part of the root that is rotting.
In addition, scraping the rot may increase the size of the wounds, exposing the plant to more bacteria. In most cases, your Monstera will be able to regrow new healthy roots, and trimming the rot away will prevent the rot from spreading.
Can a Monstera Recover From Root Rot?
Recovering from root rot is more difficult than underwatering issues, but it isn’t impossible. If the root rot has progressed up the stem, recovery is much more difficult, so the faster you can catch the root rot, the higher chance of recovery.
Tips to Prevent Root Rot in Your Monstera
Preventing root rot is much easier than treating your Monstera with rotting roots. Here are a few ways to prevent root rot in your Monstera:
Make sure your Monstera is in a pot with enough drainage holes to allow the water to drain completely from the pot. If you find a pot that you would love to keep your Monstera in but does not have drainage holes, you can plant your Monstera in a plastic pot with drainage and use the decorative pot as a cache pot.
Use a well-draining soil mix to prevent the soil from becoming compact. This will also allow the excess water to drain, so your Monstera roots are not sitting in saturated soil for too long. Monsteras are members of the Araceae family, known as Aroids, so an aroid mix works great for Monsteras, including plenty of orchid bark and perlite.
Monsteras prefer bright, indirect light. This measures out to about 400 foot candles. Keeping your Monstera in medium to low light conditions will slow the process of photosynthesis, which means that the roots will absorb water much slower, which may put them at risk for overwatering. If you find that light is an issue, you can supplement your natural light with an artificial grow light.
When fertilizing any houseplant, ensure that you dilute the fertilizer correctly, as too much can cause fertilizer burn. If the roots become damaged through fertilizer burn, they are highly vulnerable to root rot. To be safe, you can dilute the fertilizer slightly more than requested.
You want your Monstera to grow strong, healthy roots evenly distributed throughout the pot. This will ensure that your Monstera can evenly absorb the water, so the soil isn’t continually wet on one side of the plant. When you water your Monstera, pour the water all around the pot rather than in one spot.
Monstera Water Propagation Root Rot
Though less common, root rot can occur during propagation, although the bigger risk of propagation comes from stem rot. When it comes to propagating, it’s a race to make sure that your Monstera roots before it starts to rot, so you will want to ensure that you are giving it ideal conditions to develop roots before it starts to rot in the water. Here are a few ways that Monsteras may rot when propagating:
- Propagating in dirty water with significant bacterial growth
- Insufficient light to encourage root growth before the plant starts to rot
- The Monstera cutting was not viable (it may not have a node, or the node may be damaged).
Symptoms of root rot may appear in your Monstera’s leaves as yellow, brown, or even black spots, wilting leaves, or leaves dropping from the plant, but the best way to confirm root rot is to inspect the roots for dark brown, black, mushy roots.
While root rot is a treatable condition in Monsteras, the faster you can identify it, the higher the chance it will make a full recovery. To treat root rot, remove your Monstera from its pot, remove any rotted roots with sterile tools, and place the plant in a new well-draining pot with fresh soil.
It’s easier to prevent root rot than it is to treat it, so make sure that you give your Monstera well draining soil, bright indirect sunlight, diluted fertilizer, and water once it has completely dried out. With these conditions, your Monstera will be growing and thriving for a long time!