How to Stop and Prevent Root Rot

Root rot is a constant problem when gardening indoors, and most of the time, it can be hard to spot until it is too late. Root rot is a waterborne disease which forms on the roots and causes them to “rot” and eventually die off.

This serious disease can spread to other plants if the roots are too close to each other. This can drastically reduce yields and cause crop failure. When gardening indoors, especially in hydroponic systems, root rot spreads very quickly and because a hydroponics system is enclosed, the disease spores will concentrate themselves on and around any roots which may be in the systems.

Root rot is 100% preventable and can be treated if already present, but treatment does not always work. It is firmly suggested that you take the necessary steps to keep your roots clean and healthy.

Root Rot Source of Infection
• Unclean tools and/or objects and equipment which has been introduced to the plants’ source of water
• Water that is unfiltered or of poor quality
• Waterborne diseases which can cause root rot to develop

Infection Symptoms
• Yellow, drooping, and “soft” leaves
• Leaves curled over – this is directly related to the roots being unable to take in nutrients at normal strength due to the infection (root rot) causing damage to your root system
• pH levels are acidic – the pH level will rise rapidly at some point
• Roots becoming “burnt” at the ends (turning brown in color)
• Plants consuming drastically less water than normal
• Roots becoming smelly and slimy and is usually at the point when the roots are brown in color (a healthy root system should be off-white or a little tan in color)
• Swollen root collar

Treatment
If root rot is present, then your best bet is to simply start over with a new crop.
1. If indoor gardening with hydroponics, you want to start by disassembling the system.
2. Scrub the entire reservoir with a bleach solution, making sure you get in every corner and crevice.
3. Then rinse with tap water.
4. Run the bleach solution through the irrigation tubing and rinse with water again (you could also disinfect your water by mixing half of an H2O2 solution with half water, filling your reservoir and then letting it sit for an hour or so).
5. Drain, then refill with your normal water solution.
6. Make sure you clean all of your irrigation tubing and other components within the system as failure to completely clean the system could cause root rot to return.

Prevention
• Closely monitor the plant and root mass often, at least once a day. You generally want to look for brown, smelly roots.
• Make sure you always have adequate aeration, having an open air exchange around your roots will drastically cut your chances of root rot in half.
• Transplant only healthy plants and/or clones to your indoor garden. Disease-infected plants introduced to your garden can also introduce root rot to your crop.
• Always maintain a clean system and make sure you change the reservoirs in your indoor garden regularly and give your system a thorough cleaning every three to four weeks.