How to Revive an Orchid with Rotted Roots? Garden Tips 2024

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Orchids are gorgeous flowers but can be rather finicky to grow, even when they’re healthy. If issues develop, you may be tempted to scrap the whole plant and start fresh. Before you go to extremes, however, here are some tips if you’re trying to revive an orchid that has rotted roots.

How to revive an orchid with rotted roots? If the roots of your orchid plant look black, brittle, or squishy, they may be rotten. Other signs include yellow or droopy leaves or fallen flower buds. To revive your orchid, trim away any infected roots and apply an antifungal substance. Use clean potting soil and ensure your new container has proper drainage.

What are rotted roots?

In the case of orchid root rot, there is one main culprit: overwatering. If too much water is left around the orchid’s roots, it will attempt to absorb it all, leading to oversaturation.

As a result, the roots become too weak and they start to break down. Once this happens, the perfect environment for bacteria and fungus to grow is created, which results in rotted roots.

How to identify rotted orchid roots?

Squishy roots

Orchid plants should have firm roots that are bright green in color. If they are rotten, the roots will be black and mushy.

A lot of times, orchid roots will grow above the soil which makes identifying root rot fairly simple. Any time you water your orchid, take a quick look at the roots as the sooner you identify root rot, the easier it will be to save the plant.

Brittle roots

Even though squishy roots are more common with rotting issues, the roots may also have a brittle texture. The outermost roots are the most likely to take on this texture and they will also be the easiest to examine.

Droopy leaves

If the root structure of a plant is weakened, it means nutrients aren’t able to get to the rest of the plant. As a result, leaves are another easy way to tell if there is root damage.

Droopy leaves on an orchid mean the plant isn’t getting enough water. The leaves may droop so much that they eventually fall off.

Yellow leaves are another sign of rotten roots, so any time there is discoloration on your orchid’s leaves, give the plant a thorough examination.

Dropped flower buds

The beauty of orchids lies in their flowers and rotten roots may result in your plant dropping the flower buds before they open.

Basically, the plant doesn’t have enough energy to sustain the flowers, so it drops them before they open and takes in more nutrients. If you see flower buds on the ground around your orchid, be sure to check the roots immediately.

How do you revive an orchid with rotted roots?

Remove the plant

As the roots are the affected part of your orchid, you will need to remove the plant to see all of it. Either do this outside to avoid a mess or lay an old towel across a workstation.

Be careful when doing this as the roots will already be in a fragile state.

Remove rotten material

At the end of this process, it is a good idea to replace the potting soil, as it could be affected. To this end, remove any potting soil from the container or around the roots and dispose of it in the garbage.

Trim the roots

Take a pair of sharp scissors or a knife and clean them. You don’t want to transfer any other bacteria to the plant, so sterilization is important.

Remove any affected roots. Look for black or mushy roots and cut these back, before disposing of them properly.

Try your best to salvage any healthy roots. The more roots that are left on the plant, the greater the chance of the plant remaining alive.

Apply an antifungal agent

Even though you will have removed the infected parts of the roots, the bacteria or fungus may still be present. Use a fungicide gel and spread it over the remaining roots to treat them.

You can use a substance like powdered sulfur but don’t add too much. You can also use a copper-based fungicide. While some home remedies suggest using ground cinnamon or hydrogen peroxide, these won’t be strong enough to work.

Repot your orchid

Wash out the original container for your orchid to ensure there are no lingering bacteria or use a new pot altogether. Also use brand-new, sterile potting soil.

Because root rot is often caused by overwatering, ensure you use a container that has proper drainage holes to prevent this from happening again.

There are specific orchid potting soil mixes that you can use. These will have maximum aeration to allow the water to drain properly so water doesn’t pool and cause future rotting.

Can orchids recover from root rot?

The process of bringing your orchid back to life after root rot takes a lot of effort. If you’re not prepared for a bit of action, then it may be best to simply start with a brand-new plant.

The earlier you catch root rot, the easier it will be for your orchid to recover, and this may be the deciding factor on whether you want to proceed with the remedy or not.

The bottom line is that if you have the extra time and aren’t ready to buy a new orchid just yet, you might as well try to recover your damaged plant.

Should I just cut rotten orchid roots?

Part of the treatment process for rotten orchid roots is removing the damaged roots. However, the plant will need some root structure to remain alive.

Be careful when cutting off the infected roots and only remove the ones that are black or squishy. Any roots that are green or firm should be left.


Unfortunately, orchids are delicate flowers and if the plant is overwatered, they can become damaged, leading to root rot. While some plants may be too far gone, you can try to save the plant by trimming away the infected parts of the roots and repotting your plant in fresh, clean soil.

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