How To Save a Fern From Root Rot (A Complete Guide)

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Ferns are lovely, graceful plants that add a touch of elegance to any home.

But ferns can be delicate and require a bit of special care.

One of the biggest problems that can affect ferns is root rot.

Root rot is caused by too much water and can quickly kill a fern.

If you think your fern might have root rot, don’t despair!

There are things you can do to save your plant.

What Is Root Rot

Ferns are finicky plants. They require just the right amount of water and humidity to thrive, and even then, they’re susceptible to several diseases and pests.

One of the most common problems faced by fern owners is root rot.

Root rot is a plant disease that affects the roots.

It is caused by several different fungi, including Phytophthora, Pythium, and Rhizoctonia. These fungi live in the soil and attack the plant roots, causing them to rot.

Root rot is a severe problem because it can kill the plant. Once the roots are rotted, the plant cannot take up water or nutrients and eventually die.

What Causes Root Rot

Several things can cause root rot.

The most common reasons are:

Overwatering

Overwatering is the most common cause of root rot.

Ferns like to be moist but not wet.

If you water your fern too often, or if the pot doesn’t drain well, the roots can sit in water and won’t get the oxygen they need. This can cause the roots to rot.

You can tell if you have an overwatered fern, if the leaves are wilting or if the pot is constantly wet.

Poor Drainage

Ferns like to be moist but not wet. If the pot doesn’t drain well, the roots can sit in water and become rotted.

To test your pot’s drainage, water it thoroughly and let it drain for an hour or so.

After that, stick your finger in the soil.

If it’s still wet, the pot doesn’t drain well, and you should find a different pot.

Compacted Soil

Ferns need loose, well-aerated soil to grow properly.

If the soil is too compacted, the roots can’t breathe, and they will rot.

Soil usually gets compacted when it’s too wet or if you use the wrong potting mix.

To test your soil, stick your finger in it.

If it feels dense and hard to push through, it’s too compacted, and you should replant your fern in a different pot.

Fungal Infections

Fungi live in the soil and can attack the roots of your fern if the conditions are right.

Fungi thrive in wet, poorly drained soils and can cause the roots to rot.

A plant can be infected with fungi in several ways.

The most common is using an infected potting mix or watering with contaminated water.

Plants can also get infected by fungus gnats, tiny insects living in the soil, and carrying fungi on their bodies.

Root Damage

The roots of your fern are delicate and can be easily damaged.

If the roots are damaged, they will be more susceptible to rot.

Root damage can be caused by several things, including:

  • Repotting too often
  • Using a pot that’s too small
  • Handling the plant roughly

These things can damage the roots and make them more susceptible to diseases like root rot.

What Does Fern Root Rot Look Like

Root rot can be difficult to diagnose because it can look like several other problems.

However, if you suspect that your fern has root rot, there are a few things you can look for:

1. Wilting Leaves

If the leaves of your fern are wilting, it could be a sign of root rot.

This is because the plant is not getting the water it needs from the roots since they are rotted and can’t take up water.

2. Yelowing or Browning Leaves

If the leaves of your fern are yellowing or browning, it could be a sign of root rot.

This is because the plant is not getting the nutrients it needs from the roots. After all, the roots are rotted and can’t take up nutrients.

3. Mushy or Soft Roots

If the roots of your fern are mushy or soft, it’s a sure sign of root rot.

This is because the fungi have rotted the roots and are no longer firm.

The roots may also be discolored or have black spots on them.

Healthy roots are firm and white or pale.

4. Bad Smell

If your fern has root rot, it may also have a bad smell.

This is because the fungi that cause root rot to release a gas that smells like rotting garbage.

The smell may be faint at first, but it will get stronger as the rot gets worse.

5. Brown or Black Spots on the Leaves

If your fern has brown or black spots on the leaves, it could be a sign of root rot.

These spots are caused by the fungi that cause root rot, which is a sure sign that the plant is infected.

The spots will start small but get bigger and eventually cover the entire leaf.

6. Soggy Soil

If the soil around your fern is constantly wet or soggy, it’s a sign that the plant is not draining correctly.

Several things can cause this, but it’s most often caused by root rot.

When the roots are rotted, they can’t take up water, and the soil stays wet.

7. Leaves Falling Off

If the leaves of your fern are falling off, it’s a sign that the plant is in trouble.

Several things can cause this, but root rot is often to blame.

When the roots are rotted, they can’t take up water and nutrients, and the plant will start to die.

8. Stunted Growth

If your fern is not growing as it should, it could be a sign of root rot.

When the roots are rotted, they can’t take up water and nutrients, and the plant will stop growing.

Usually, the first sign of stunted growth is smaller leaves and a slower growth rate.

How To Treat Fern Root Rot

If you suspect your fern has root rot, it’s essential to take action immediately.

Root rot is a serious problem; it can kill your plant if it’s not treated.

Here is a step-by-step guide to treating root rot:

1. Remove the Plant from the Pot

The first step is to remove the plant from the pot.

Carefully turn the pot upside down and gently tap it until the plant falls out.

2. Clean the Roots

Once the plant is out of the pot, you need to clean the roots.

Remove as much old soil as you can and rinse the roots with water.

Be sure to remove all of the old soil, as it may contain disease spores that can infect your plant again.

3. Inspect the Roots

Once the roots are clean, you need to inspect them.

Look for any signs of rot, such as mushiness, discoloration, or black spots.

If more than half of the roots are rotted, it’s best to throw the plant away and start over.

However, if only a few of the roots are rotted, you can try to save the plant.

4. Cut Away the Rotted Roots

If only a few roots are rotted, you must cut away the rotted parts.

Use a sharp knife or scissors and cut away any mushy, discolored, or blackened roots.

Be sure to cut well below the rot, as the fungi can spread quickly.

Discard the rotted roots in the trash.

5. Wash the Pot

Once the roots are trimmed, you need to wash the pot.

Use a mild soap and water and scrub the inside of the pot to remove any dirt, debris, or disease spores.

Rinse the pot well and allow it to dry completely.

6. Repot the Plant in Fresh Soil

Once the pot is clean and dry, you can repot the plant.

Fill the pot with fresh, sterile potting mix and gently tap the plant into place.

Water the plant lightly and be sure not to overwater, as this can cause the roots to rot again.

7. Monitor the Plant

After you’ve repotted the plant, it’s essential to monitor it closely.

Check the roots regularly, and check for any signs of rot.

If you see any new growth, it’s a good sign that the plant is recovering.

However, if the rot spreads, it’s best to throw the plant away and start over.

How To Prevent Fern Root Rot

The best way to prevent fern root rot is to be proactive.

Here are a few tips to help you avoid this problem:

1. Plant in Well-draining Soil

One of the most important things you can do to prevent root rot is to plant your fern in well-draining soil.

Ferns like their roots to be moist but don’t like to sit in water.

So, use a potting mix that drains well and doesn’t hold onto water.

2. Water the Plant Correctly

It’s also important to water your fern correctly.

Ferns like to be kept moist but not wet.

So, water the plant when the soil starts to dry out.

Overwatering is one of the most common causes of root rot, so it’s essential to be careful not to overwater.

3. Improve Air Circulation

Ferns also like to have good air circulation.

If the air is too stagnant, it can lead to fungal growth.

So, be sure to place your fern in an area with good airflow and avoid placing it next to other plants.

4. Avoid Overcrowding

It’s also important to avoid overcrowding your fern.

If the plant is too crowded, it can lead to poor air circulation and fungal growth.

So, be sure to give your fern plenty of space to grow.

5. Use Pots with Drainage Holes

Ferns also like to be planted in pots with drainage holes.

This allows the water to drain out of the pot and prevents the fern roots from sitting in water.

If your pot doesn’t have drainage holes, drill some before planting your fern.

6. Place the Plant in the Right Location

It’s also essential to place your indoor fern in the right location.

Fern plants like indirect light and humid conditions.

Avoid placing the plant in direct sunlight or a dry, low humidity room.

7. Prune Dead or Dying Leaves

Prune any dead or dying leaves from the plant.

Dead leaves can provide a place for fungal spores to land and start to grow.

So, remove any dead leaves as soon as you see them.

8. Repot in New Soil Every One to Two Years

Repotting your fern in a fresh, sterile potting mix can also help to prevent root rot.

Fungi and bacteria can build up in the soil over time, so it’s essential to repot your fern every one to two years.

By changing the soil, you can help prevent disease spread and provide your fern with fresh nutrients.

9. Disinfect Your Tools

It’s also important to disinfect your tools before using them on your fern.

Tools can harbor bacteria and fungi that can cause root rot.

So, clean your tools with rubbing alcohol or soapy water before using them on your plant.

10. Inspect Your Plant Regularly

Finally, inspect your plant regularly for signs of root rot.

If you see any brown or mushy roots, it’s a sign that the plant is infected.

If you see these signs, taking action immediately is essential to save the plant.

Final Thoughts

Ferns are an excellent addition to any home but can be susceptible to root rot.

If you think your fern might have root rot, it’s essential to act quickly.

The earlier you catch the problem, the better your chances of saving your indoor plant.

Following the tips above, you can treat and help prevent root rot and keep your fern healthy for years.