Roots are your plants’ lifeline in many ways. If you grow in soil, roots securely ground your plants in the soil. Roots help to absorb nutrients and these nutrients are the building blocks of life. Without them, a plant cannot produce chlorophyll, grow or develop its flowers. Roots are absolutely vital to a plant’s health, and if the roots are sick, the plant is sick.
Importance of Healthy Roots
The importance of healthy roots can’t be stressed enough. Roots hold plants in place. They also carry water and essential minerals to the rest of the plant. It’s how the plant eats and drinks. It’s important to keep healthy roots in plants that are already established, of course, but it’s even more important to check for healthy roots in plants you buy in the store. If you buy a plant with a bad root system, at best, it will take it a long time to adjust to transplanting. At worst, it’ll die soon after you get it home.
What Do Healthy Roots Look Like?
Identifying healthy roots in the store is easy, since the plants are all potted and the roots are easily visible. Tilt the plant on its side, cradle the stem just above the soil between two fingers, and gently slide it out of the pot. Healthy roots should be white or tan, succulent, and numerous and long enough to hold the soil in the shape of the pot. If any root tips are visible, they should be white.
What Do Unhealthy Roots Look Like?
Unhealthy plant roots aren’t just discolored. If your roots smell bad, if they’re thin and weak and spindly, or if they break easily, then you’ve got unhealthy roots. Roots that appear brown, black, soft or rotted indicate an unhealthy plant. A rotting, foul odor may also be present. The problem could have developed due to any of the following:
- Over or under-watering
- Poorly drained soils
- Excessive dryness
- Root rotting diseases
- Toxic material/excessive salts in the soil
How to fix a root rot?
The right way to treat root rot depends on how badly crops are afflicted. If it hasn’t impacted your plant’s entire root zone, remove the plant from its container, prune the rotted roots, and replant it in a new container with fresh root-zone materials. For a plant that’s been badly impacted by root rot, a mild hydrogen peroxide solution can do the trick. Run a crop-safe solution through your irrigation system to kill the bacteria. When you’re finished, reinstall beneficial bacteria.
To prevent root rot from coming back, make sure you do the following:
- Use reverse osmosis water in your grow environment
- Use aerators to ensure sufficient oxygenation
- Use chillers to keep your root zone cool
- Follow the instructions on every nutrient and supplement you use closely
When you make it a priority to build and maintain strong, healthy roots, your efforts will pay off later in the form of a big, healthy harvest. You can’t get a great harvest without healthy roots, but healthy roots alone won’t get you a great harvest!