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Root rot is common in plants and usually happens if the soil is not well-drained. The excess moisture attracts microorganisms that cause root rot.
The good news is you can save a plant like the dracaena marginata from root rot using the steps I’ll discuss below.
Here is how to save dracaena marginata from root rot:
- Remove the plant from the pot
- Dispose of old soil
- Wash and treat the roots
- Remove infected roots and excess foliage
- Disinfect shears/scissors
- Clean the pot
- Add new soil
- Place the dracaena marginata back into the pot
- Prevent root rot from happening again
According to Iowa State University, root rot is a common disease of indoor plants, so it’s no surprise many people want to know how to fix and prevent it. Luckily, treating mild root rot in dracaena marginata should be pretty straightforward.
Read on for a step-by-step guide on how to save dracaena marginata from root rot.
The moment you notice discolored and wilted leaves on your dracaena marginata, you should investigate the cause. The above symptoms indicate root rot in many cases, so it’s best to remove the plant from the pot as soon as possible.
When removing the plant, take care not to pull too hard as this may cause damage or breakage. Try to pull from the root rather than the foliage. Once you’ve removed the plant, place it somewhere safe to prevent it from getting wet or damaged.
Try to keep a dracaena marginata out of direct sunlight. If you’re taking the plant out of its pot, it’s a good idea to place it on some newspaper. Doing this will protect the plant and absorb any excess moisture that can lead to root rot.
Now that you’ve removed the dracaena from the pot, it’s time to remove the old soil. It’s tempting to reuse the soil after treating the plant but avoid doing that. Since fungi generally cause root rot, the soil is likely infected.
You certainly don’t want to go through the trouble of treating your plant only to place it back in fungi-infested soil. As fungi grow quickly and easily in wet and dense soil, it’s best to replace the original soil with lighter, sandy soil.
Light sandy soil drains moisture well, but not to the point that your dracaena won’t have enough.
If it seems like every part of the root is infected, you should dispose of it and get a new plant. A completely infected root will be too difficult to treat. If only parts of the roots are infected, you can continue treating your dracaena to the best of your ability.
Wash the roots by placing them under running water. Avoid getting the foliage wet because this may damage the plant. Instead, aim the water directly at the roots.
By washing the roots, you will help eliminate some excess dirt. However, it won’t kill the root rot entirely. If you want to eliminate the root rot (or at least significantly reduce the infection), a fungicide is your best bet.
There are different fungicides for different types of fungi, so it’s best to check the specific fungus infecting your plant before buying a fungicide. You should only use a fungicide if necessary. If you’re not sure about the type of fungus, consult a professional.
Since fungicides are chemicals, they can harm plants if you use them too much or too frequently. Wear gloves when treating your plant with a fungicide to avoid contact with your skin.
Only use fungicide on the roots because this is where the infection is. Otherwise, you can inadvertently do more harm than good to your plant if you use fungicide anywhere else.
It’s best to examine the roots to see how severe the infection is. If you start treating the roots willy-nilly without assessing the extent and type of damage, you may do more harm than good. Below are the common signs of root infection in dracaena.
- Discolored (brownish) roots. Healthy roots should be white or a very light brown color. Anything other than this can indicate infection.
- Soft and mushy roots. Roots should be firm rather than mushy or soft. If they’re the latter, remove the roots that feel like this.
Once you’ve determined which roots are infected, cut them off using garden scissors or shears. Before doing so, ensure the equipment is sterile to avoid spreading the infection to other parts of the roots.
Disinfect your tools using household chemicals like bleach or alcohol, and take care to do the disinfection in a safe place away from your plant. Once that’s done, start cutting off the infected roots. This step should be easy to do since they are likely mushy and soft.
If you remove some of the roots, you’ll also need to remove some foliage. Otherwise, the roots will have more leaves to take care of, stressing the roots and causing the plant to grow slower. Do this after you’ve removed the infected roots completely.
The general rule is to remove roughly the same amount of foliage as the roots removed. Don’t worry about the lack of foliage for now. Your dracaena will eventually grow enough foliage as soon as it has enough roots.
After you’ve used your tools, make sure to disinfect them. After all, they were in contact with infected roots, and the last thing you want is to transfer that infection to the healthy roots.
Like root rot treatment, the disinfection of garden tools requires you to follow the steps below.
- Wash them under running water to remove excess dirt or debris.
- Disinfect your shears or scissors with bleach or alcohol to remove any fungi stuck to your tools. This step is crucial; otherwise, there’s a chance you’ll spread the fungus to other parts of your garden.
It’s easy to leave your tools as they are and forget about cleaning and disinfecting them.
However, you may unknowingly cause problems for the other plants in your garden or home when you use potentially infected tools, so always remember to perform this step.
Cleaning the plant pot is another crucial step in saving your dracaena from root rot. Otherwise, you may leave some fungi behind, potentially reinfecting your dracaena marginata after you put it back into the pot. To clean your pot, do the following.
- Rinse the pot with water to get rid of loose dirt and leftover soil.
- Use a bleach solution to disinfect the pot. Doing this will help remove any leftover traces of infection in the pot.
Of course, you can also use a new pot if you can’t clean the old one thoroughly. But this isn’t necessary as long as you follow the correct steps to clean it. You can also replace the old pot if it has signs of damage like cracks and inadequate drainage.
Once the pot is clean and disinfected, you can add fresh soil back in. Use well-drained and loose soil to reduce the risk of waterlogging, leading to root rot. Below are the most important things to remember when adding soil and potting for dracaena marginata.
- Ensure the pot has good drainage. Your pot must have a drainage hole in it. Otherwise, your dracaena will get waterlogged, leading to problems like plant death. If the pot doesn’t already have a hole, drill one into it.
- Add clay pebbles to the soil. Clay pebbles promote aeration in the soil and help absorb excess water. Since fungi thrive in waterlogged soil, clay pebbles can prevent fungi from thriving and spreading.
- Leave two to four inches of free space at the top of the pot. This way, your plant will have room to grow healthy and reduce the likelihood of overcrowding.
- Keep the plant in indirect sunlight. As noted earlier, dracaenas grow best under indirect sunlight. If you place them in direct sunlight, you’ll likely cause the leaves to burn and reduce your plant’s ability to absorb nutrients through its foliage.
After you’ve added in the new soil, you can put your plant back. Dig a hole in the middle of the soil and place the root of the dracaena inside.
Then, move the soil up around the root to cover it and prevent exposure to harmful elements.
As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Now that you know how to treat mild cases of root rot in dracaena marginata, you can save yourself future headaches if you also learn how to prevent root rot in the first place. Below are tips to avoid root rot in dracaena plants.
Well-drained soil is crucial for dracaena marginata. If you use light, sandy soil that drains well without depriving your dracaena of the moisture it needs, your plant should thrive. Avoid soil that is clay-like, dense, or too wet, as these soil types don’t drain well.
It’s also a good idea to add clay pebbles to your potting soil to help it drain well. You can easily buy clay pebbles online, like the Cz Expanded Organic Clay Pebbles on Amazon. They’re 100% natural, and the pH levels won’t harm your plant.
If you overwater dracaena marginata, you can cause issues like root rot, leaf scorch, stunted growth, and plant death. Overwatering makes it harder for the soil to receive oxygen, making it difficult for the roots to care for the rest of the plant.
Waterlogged soil is the perfect environment for bacteria and fungi to grow. So, on top of your plant not receiving the nutrients it needs from the roots, overwatering can also increase the likelihood of reinfection.
According to Texas A&M University, overcrowding is a significant cause of infection in potted plants. When too many plants are close together, it reduces airflow, which causes the soil to remain wet for longer and attract fungi and bacteria.
Overcrowding can also occur when your plant begins to outgrow its pot. If this happens, you’ll need to repot your dracaena. Generally, you should repot your dracaena plant every two to three years or whenever it seems the plant suffers from overcrowding.
Over-fertilizing the soil can weaken your dracaena marginata, making it more susceptible to infections and diseases. These plants generally don’t require much fertilizing, so there’s no need to do it too often.
If you want to fertilize your dracaena marginata, you should do it during spring and summer using a water-soluble fertilizer.
One decent water-soluble fertilizer is the Miracle-Gro Water Soluble All Purpose Plant Food from Amazon.com. It’s suitable for all houseplants, and you usually administer it every one to two weeks.
However, keep in mind that dracaena marginata is a slow-growing plant that doesn’t require much fertilization. You only need to fertilize the soil if it doesn’t have essential nutrients, which is unlikely in the environment dracaenas thrive in.
I’ve outlined the general steps for treating minor cases of root rot in dracaena marginatas.
If you have any additional questions that I haven’t already addressed above, you can take a look at the FAQs below and see if anything’s helpful.
Baking soda can treat root rot in dracaena marginata since it has antifungal properties suitable for mild cases of root rot or fungal infections like powdery mildew. Since fungicides contain harmful chemicals, they can harm plants. Baking soda is a safer and more natural way to treat fungi.
Although fungicides are more potent and generally work better, it might be worth trying baking soda first.
As noted, baking soda also has antifungal properties. If you have pets, baking soda will be safer since the chemicals in fungicides can be poisonous.
To use baking soda as a homemade fungal treatment, mix it with water first. Check out the YouTube video below to learn how to make a baking soda spray for your dracaena marginata.
Hydrogen peroxide can kill root rot in dracaena marginata. To use hydrogen peroxide as a root rot treatment, mix one part of 3% hydrogen peroxide with two parts of water. The solution should kill the bacteria and fungus causing the root rot.
One excellent hydrogen peroxide product is the Essential Oxygen Food Grade Hydrogen Peroxide, available on Amazon. It doesn’t have toxic stabilizers and is GMO-free, ensuring that it’s safe to use for your plant and won’t harm your pets.
If you want to use hydrogen peroxide, use one with a 3% potency. Anything more potent can damage or even kill your dracaena marginata.
Bleach can kill root rot in dracaena marginata as long as you dilute and use it sparingly. To use bleach to kill root rot, mix one-part chlorine bleach with nine parts water. If you don’t dilute the bleach enough, you can damage your plant.
Although chlorine bleach effectively kills diseases in plants, it’s better to try other treatments first. That’s because bleach is one of the most harmful treatments for plants, so only use it if you have no other choice.
You can’t fix severe root rot in dracaena marginata. If most of the root is infected, you won’t save the plant. The best thing to do is throw it away and grow a new plant instead. The plant won’t be salvageable if the entire root is soft, dark, and mushy.
If you end up throwing your diseased plant away, make sure you fully clean and disinfect its pot. It would help if you also disposed of the infected soil.
Starting fresh with a new plant is the best way forward if your dracaena marginata is seriously infected.
You can sterilize soil instead of throwing it away if it suffers infection due to root rot.
To do this, place the soil in a black plastic bag and lay it under the hot sunlight. The heat should eventually kill the fungi and other bacteria.
Most fungi, including yeast, mold, and root rot fungi, won’t survive past approximately 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 degrees Celsius).
So, to kill the fungi in the soil, aim to get the soil over 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 degrees Celsius) for at least 30 minutes to an hour.
Root rot is common in houseplants such as the dracaena marginata plant. Fortunately, you can fix the problem if it’s not too severe. The most important things to take away from this article are:
- Only remove infected roots.
- If most of the root is infected, dispose of the plant.
- Use fungicides or baking soda to disinfect the plant.
- Keep soil well-drained to prevent further infection.
- Instead of replacing infected soil, you can sterilize it yourself by allowing it to reach over 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 degrees Celsius) for at least 30 minutes.