Suspect Your Monstera has Root Rot? Use our Guide to Identify, Treat and Prevent Root Rot

Even though Monsteras are regarded as beginner-friendly plants, they can still be susceptible to diseases without proper care. One of those diseases is root rot, which can infect a Monstera plant, eventually killing it without intervention. Some signs of Monstera root rot are:

  • brown base stems that emit a rotten odor,
  • droopy yellowing leaves with black spots, and
  • little to no new growth for an extended period of time.
Monstera Root Rot

If you are seeing some of these symptoms in your Monstera, there is a good chance your plant is suffering from root rot. We recommend taking a proactive approach and taking action, quickly. The longer you leave root rot, the more it can spread to other areas of your Monstera. And the lower chance of its survival.

But, before we jump into treating your Monstera for root rot, let’s confirm your plant does actually have the disease with a more thorough inspection.

3 Ways to Identify Monstera Root Rot

Even though your plant may be exhibiting classic root rot symptoms, the only way to truly know if it has the disease is to inspect the roots. And this means taking your Monstera out of its pot.

Ways to Identify Root Rot

For some, this may be an intimidating task, but as indoor plant owners, it is something we recommend getting comfortable with. Since you will have to do it eventually when it comes time to repotting plants that have outgrown their current planters.

How to Take Your Monstera out of its Container

Here are some simple steps to follow when taking your Monstera out of its pot:

  1. If you have a plastic pot, gently squeeze the sides of the container to loosen the plant from the pot. If your plant is in a ceramic or solid pot, you can skip this step.
  2. Spread your hand over the surface of the soil. We like to place as many stems of the Monstera snugly between our fingers, so we can support the plant without crushing it,
  3. In a smooth swift action, tip the pot upside down. You’ll feel some topsoil fall down, but the plant will most likely stay in the pot.
  4. Gently coax the plant out of its pot but shimmying it out of its home. As the Monstera comes out, you should begin to feel the weight of the plant on your hand that was covering the soil.
  5. Remove the root ball from the pot, and you have successfully extracted your Monstera.

Now that we have your Monstera out of its pot, let’s check out it’s root system for any signs of root rot.

Root Rot Visual Test

The first test is a visual test, where you will do a superficial visual check to look for roots that appear to be rotting.

  • Rotting roots will appear dark (almost black) and mushy.
  • Healthy roots are usually white or light brown in color, look strong and plump.

You’ll also be able to tell healthy living roots by the way they are gripping onto the surrounding soil, usually holding it in the shape of the container.

Root Rot Smell Test

The next test involves a sniff test. Yes that’s right – we’re going to be getting up close and personal with your Monstera’s roots.

Sniff the areas of the roots that you suspect may be infected by root rot. Healthy roots won’t smell, and you should only get wafts of that all too familiar fresh soil smell. Whereas, roots suffering from root rot will smell rotten.

Root Rot Touch Test

The final test you can perform is the touch test.

Test the integrity of roots by pinching them between your thumb and index finger with medium pressure. A strong healthy root should be firm to the touch, and should not have any give when squeezed. Rotting roots will be soft and mushy roots, and may even break off when pinched.

Remember to wash your hands with soap after performing the touch test. Root rot is a disease that can be transferred to other plants.

A Guide to Treating Monstera Root Rot – Step Instructions

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Okay, we have identified the infected areas of your Monstera’s root system. What now? We treat it of course.

Here is a step-by-step guide for treating root rot in your Monstera :

  1. If you haven’t already, carefully remove your Monstera from its pot.
  2. Loosen the soil from the root ball. Make sure to do this over a plastic bag or container, because we will be discarding all the infected soil. We recommend gently washing the roots under warm tepid water from a tap to completely clean them of soil.
  3. With a hydrogen peroxide or bleach solution, wash the old pot and any gardening tools to kill pathogens and prevent the spread of fungal spores. The solution is made by mixing one part bleach with two parts water.
  4. Sterilize sharp scissors with rubbing alcohol. Use the clean scissors to cut off all the brown, rotting dead roots. Keep as many healthy portions as possible. Remember to re-sterilize your gardening scissors after use.
  5. Pour fungicide solution over the remaining roots to kill root fungus and prevent another infection. If you don’t have a fungicide, you can use the hydrogen peroxide solution (mix one part bleach with 15 parts water).
  6. Remove the same proportion of foliage from the top part of the Monstera, as you did with the roots system. For example, if you removed a third of the roots, remove a third of the Monstera leaves. This will help your Monstera recover, and not over burden the remaining healthy roots.
  7. Re-pot your Monstera plant into a NEW container with sufficient drainage holes. Use a fresh batch of potting mix that has good drainage properties. We like to make up our own indoor plant soil using our recipe to ensure our indoor plants have soil that drains well, but also retains enough moisture to thrive.
  8. Finally, make sure to feed your Monstera with fertilizer. It will need it to recover and grow stronger than before.

Congratulations! You should now have successfully performed plant surgery on your Monstera’s roots and replanted it into a happy new home.

But how do you prevent your Monstera (or any other plant for that matter) from developing root rot in the future?

Preventing Your Monstera From Developing Root Rot

As we always advocate at the Garden Bench Top, the best way forward is prevention – and the only way to prevent root rot from setting in is understanding the causes.

Preventing Monstera Root Rot

Here are a few common causes of root rot:

Overwatering Your Monstera

By far, one of the most common causes of root rot in houseplants is wet, soggy soil caused by watering your plants too much.

Root rot requires a constantly moist environment to thrive, grow and spread. And the soil in overwatered indoor plants is the perfect environment. It stays wet for days (if not weeks), with little to no disturbances and temperature fluctuations.

So, to prevent future occurrences of root rot, we recommend adapting your watering habits and techniques.

There are a few ways to go about testing for excess moisture levels in your soil. Those that are short on time, or prefer to use gadgets, can use a soil moisture meter.

If you don’t mind getting your hands (or in this case, fingers) dirty, we recommend using the soil moisture finger test. It only takes a few moments to see if the soil is dry, and it has always been a reliable indicator of our plants’ water needs.

Insufficient Drainage

If you don’t believe your watering schedule is the problem, there may be a few other factors to consider.

Moist soil isn’t always caused by overwatering. If there is insufficient drainage in your pot, this can also lead to root rot.

Poor drainage can be caused by many factors, such as:

  • pots without drainage holes or too few or no drainage hole,
  • poor quality soil mix that is too dense and heavy, which will hold onto water and result in a lack of oxygen flow, and
  • non-porous pots (such as plastic) will keep water in the container and lead to wet, soggy soil.

The solutions to these problems should be relatively simple to implement. Make sure your planters have enough drainage holes at the bottom. You can change your Monstera plants’ pot or engage in some DIY by cutting more drainage holes yourself.

Always use soil that has good drainage properties, but also has water retention capabilities. We like to use a combination of coco coir (for water retention), perlite and vermiculite (for aeration and drainage of excess water) for indoor plant soil.

Stressed Plants

Plants that are stressed are more susceptible to diseases, like root rot and pests.

A stressed plant is a weak plant, which means it is easier for root rot to set in and take over the entire root system.

Plants can be stressed by many factors, such as inappropriate lighting conditions, over and underwatering, and changes in humidity and temperature. Even overfertilizing your plant can cause it to become stressed.

If you are unsure about the general husbandry care responsibilities for Monsteras, check out our care guide on the Monstera Acacoyaguensis, which has general guidelines on looking after Monstera plants.

Frequently Asked Questions about Monstera Root Rot

Photographer: Huy Phan | Source: Unsplash

In this section we’ll answer all your ‘other’ questions that may not be addressed in this guide.

If you can’t find an answer to your question, please send us a message via our CONTACT page. We will endeavor to respond with a timely answer, and include it in our growing FAQ section below.

Which natural fungicides will treat Monstera root rot?

If your Monsteras’ root rot infection is only minor, you can try treating it with a natural fungicide.

For example, cinnamon is a well-known natural fungicide that is commonly sprinkled on the top of indoor plant soil.

However, in our case, the best use of cinnamon is to dust it onto the newly cleaned, healthy roots of your Monstera. Cinnamon will not ‘cure’ any existing root rot disease. Rather it will prevent any further growth, and help prevent future outbreaks.

Can Monstera Recover from Root Rot?

Yes – a Monstera can recover from root rot, however it depends on the extent of the infection.

If the root rot has infected the entire root system and has worked its way up into the stems of the plant (indicated by browning and a rotten smell in the stem), then the Monstera is unlikely to survive.

If you find yourself in this situation, your best opportunity is to propagate your Monstera from the healthy parts of the plant.

How to Save an Overwatered Monstera?

You can always let your overwatered Monstera plant dry out by limiting the number of waterings you are giving it. However, if you are worried about root rot, then changing the wet soggy soil out for fresh high quality soil that has good drainage properties will be the quickest and best solution.