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Roots of the orchid rotten: what could be the causes and how you can still save the plant

More and more enthusiasts are turning to the orchid to give your home a pretty accent. And this is really a good idea, because the cultivated varieties are relatively easy to care for, especially if you keep the number of plants to a minimum, so you can give them the attention they need. Despite the ease of care, of course, there are some things you should pay attention to and sometimes some problems arise. Just keeping the right amount of moisture proves to be a bit of a difficult task, and rotten roots of the orchid are a typical problem. Today we will explain why the roots can rot, how you can tell if they are rotten at all and what you can do in such a case.

Recognize rotting roots of the orchid

Detect and treat rotten roots of the orchid

Rotting roots of the orchid are not always immediately recognizable. Especially if they are in the substrate (the alien ones rot less often, depending on the cause), the problem is not immediately noticeable. What signs might indicate that from your orchid the roots are rotten?

  • The leaves are turning yellow .
  • The aerial roots (alien) are turning white.
  • Your plant is no longer as stable in its substrate.
  • The orchid has had buds for quite some time, but they just won’t open.
  • The surface of the substrate is damp/precipitation is forming.

Yellow leaves can be a sign of root rot

Rotten roots of the orchid – causes.

Rotten roots of the orchid - What are the causes?

If you have noticed that from your orchid the roots are rotten, of course, first you need to find out what could be the cause and fix the problem. One obvious cause is too much moisture – perhaps you are watering or dipping your plant far too often. If, in addition to this, the light is not optimal or the humidity in the room is very high, you have ideal conditions for root rot. In this case, you should reduce the watering.

Old and dense substrate promotes rotting orchid roots


Too much moisture is also promoted if the substrate is not optimal. For this reason, it is important to use a high-quality brand. The substrate should also not be too dense. A loose composition ensures good aeration, which also reduces excessive moisture. After about two years, the substrate should also be replaced, because over time it decomposes and thus also compacted.

Remove rotten roots of the orchid, let the plant dry and transplant it

When you fertilize your orchids , be careful not to overdo it with the amount. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, because too much fertilizer can also promote root rot by burning the surface of the roots, making them unable to absorb nutrients. Last but not least, it should be said that of course not in all cases you have to be to blame for the rotten roots of the orchid. Sometimes the plant simply has a disease or is infested with pests. Viruses, fungi and black rot are quite common in orchids.

What to do about rotting orchid roots?

When orchid roots rot you should fix the problem


Do not give up on your orchid right away, because with timely action you can definitely save it. By and large, proper orchid root care depends on the cause.

In case of rot due to overwatering.

Cut and disinfect rotten roots of the orchid

If the cause of rotten roots of the orchid is simply too much moisture, remove the rotten parts and then water more sparingly:

  • Prepare sharp scissors, which you disinfect beforehand so as not to transmit diseases.
  • Remove the plant from the pot and substrate. Rinse the roots if necessary.
  • Remove any dead or damaged roots from the orchid.
  • Check the root neck: if this is also damaged, you can cut back the damaged part until you see a green layer.
  • Protect the cuttings from infection by disinfecting them with wood ash, activated charcoal, cinnamon or green tea.

Loose and coarse substrate prevents waterlogging and root rot

  • Now let the plant air dry as is for about 8 hours.
  • Take a new pot, hold the plant in it and fill the empty areas between the remaining, healthy roots with new substrate.
  • Do not water or dip the orchid immediately, but wait 4 or 5 days.

For root rot

What do rotten roots of the orchid look like?

Even in the case of root rot due to disease or pests, the orchid can be saved, provided you recognize the problem early and act immediately by treating the still intact roots with the following (remove damaged ones beforehand as described above):

  • Boil 3 medium-sized onions in water for half an hour and then let them steep for another 24 hours. The obtained decoction should cure the roots. For this, immerse them in the onion solution for 10 minutes.
  • Prepare a soap solution of dishwashing detergent and water, immerse the roots for 2 to 3 minutes and rinse thoroughly with it. This is very effective, especially if there is a pest infestation.
  • You can also treat roots with olive oil by mixing 10 ml of it in a liter of water and soaking the roots for 10 minutes.

What if all the roots of the orchid need to be removed?

Plant rotting orchids in a new pot and substrate

Believe it or not, but even without roots, there is still a chance that your orchid will survive. After removing the rotten roots of the orchid, as described above, and disinfecting the intersections (or with an antiseptic/fungicide), let it dry for 8 hours before replanting it in a new container with new substrate. The plant could then form new roots in about a month. For this purpose, you should properly cover their needs from now on.