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Common Plant Problems & How to Fix Them P2: Root Rot & Loss of Foliage | Friends or Friends

Common Plant Problems & How to Fix Them P2: Root Rot & Loss of Foliage

The long awaited second part of the Common Plant Problems Guide series is here! Today we’re tackling the dreaded Root Rot, and Loss of Foliage. Strap in kids, it’s gonna be a rocky road. 

Root Rot

We’ll cut right to the chase with this one; Root rot is quite often the labour of love. I personally believe the phrase kill them with kindness stems from people who killed their plants by caring too much. Root rot comes from overwatering which is usually a result of anxious plant parents thinking their plants need more water than they require. By the time you notice root rot you’ve either accidentally created a fungus gnat problem or your plant has developed Stem Rot. Unfortunately root rot can be quite devastating if not caught early on. The best solution when you spot the problem comes in 3 steps. 











Step 1:  Stop watering the plant and move it somewhere warm and ventilated. This will help excess water evaporate and thus reduce further damage.

Step 2: Chop and Prop. You’ll want to prevent losing your whole plant by ensuring you keep a piece to propagate. Depending on the genus, you might be able to salvage a node, a section or a leaf. The more you can salvage the better.

Step 3: Bite the bullet… Cut off all the rotted roots plus at least .5cm extra to ensure any bacteria from the rot is gone. Although this is quite dramatic it’s the only way your plant will survive. At this point you can repot  and place in a warm and sunny/well lit spot– this will give your plant plenty of power to grow. TOP TIP: When you repot your affected plant, don’t water. Instead, very lightly pre-moisten your soil with a spray bottle. Extra points if you add feed in the water. Some folks recommend dipping the plant in diluted hydrogen peroxide or bleach (10 water:1Peroxide/other). While this is something I’ve tried and found useful I would advise toward steering clear if you don’t feel confident. In other words proceed at your own risk.











Loss of Foliage

Loss of Foliage is a very common plant problem, and frankly unavoidable. In most cases, plants are reacting to a change in environment. I like to think of it in my own life experiences: I moved from California to the UK where I lost my tan, weight and a bit of my identity– it’s cool I’m sorted now! Our plants go through something similar. First they are imported into the UK, from specialist greenhouses. Then depending on the shop/garden centre, they are in either a greenhouse or in a cold room. Don’t worry, our plants get the full spa treatment, plus we’re right by Dover so they don’t travel long at all ;) 

When plants arrive at your home they have a new place to adjust to. This is why we advise putting them somewhere warm and bright. They will have done the equivalent of a transatlantic flight and will be “jetlagged”. In most cases this will subside within a couple weeks, but some plants are more fussy than others. You can pop them in a cloche, greenhouse or even a plastic bag to raise the humidity and heat around them. They’ll soon bounce back.

If loss of foliage persists, there may be other things at play. Some plants will go into dormancy if temperatures reach their personal low. For instance: Caladiums will drop leaves if it’s below 19c even just a few hours. They soon bounce back with new growth though, and it’s crucial that we remember this will happen. To troubleshoot leaf loss follow these steps:

Step 1: Ask yourself, has my plant switched environments lately? Even if that was inside your house. If the answer is yes, immediately treat it with the tips offered above.

Step 2: Search for pests. Plants have internal mechanisms to ensure pests don’t get the best of them. This includes getting rid of infected leaves in favour of new ones. That’s an oversimplification but you get the gist. If pests are present, treat immediately– and don’t panic. Panic leads to bad choices.

Step 3: Check the soil! Your plant may have just depleted its soil OR their soil may have become compacted. Aerate their soil with a fork or a set of chopsticks, add some top soil and treat them to some foliar feed. 












If your plant is still not putting out the best leaves they may need support like, a moss pole, (mainly for vines and trailers) or they may be working on growing their roots– especially if recently repotted.

Remember to be patient with yourself and your plants. Listen to what they need and research them as much as possible. It’s a journey you’re on, not a race. Plants will continue to grow, at their pace. 

Next article Baby Plants, What's the Fuss?