ZZ Plant Root Rot: Signs and & How To Fix It

ZZ Plants (Zamiifolia Zamioculcas) are popular indoor plants due to their low maintenance and ease of care. These plants with glossy green leaves can adapt to almost any environment, from a bright sunny window to dark offices..

However, there is always a pinch of salt in sweet candy. ZZ plant root rot is a silent killer.

It is a common issue with ZZ plants. If you don’t notice the signs early on, you won’t be able to save the plants. Root rot zz plant eventually destroys it. You might be wondering what zz plant root rot signs are and how to save zz plant from root rot.

But don’t worry, I am here to help you with your zz plant.

Most gardeners like you might miss the warning signs, so your plants will begin to wilt. It comes to a point where your plants are on the edge of dying and can be saved. However, in most cases, it may be too late for your plants to recover.

If you’re concerned about the root health of your ZZ plant or suspect it has root rot, keep reading this blog until the end, and I’ll tell you how to save your plant and what, if you can’t, to do afterward.

What is zz plant root rot?

Rotting roots is exactly what it sounds like. One of the major reasons for root rotting is overwatering your ZZ Plant and leaving it unchecked. It will lead to the death of the zz plant.

Unfortunately, it may be possible that you cannot save your ZZ plant from root rot, even with all the proper steps. As the first symptoms appear beneath the soil, most of you do not know the problem until it has become a major one.

The two factors that lead to zz plant root rot are excessive watering or fungi in your plant’s soil. Fungi can remain dormant in your soil for a long time. The fungi come to life after you overwater your plant once or twice, taking a toll on the root system.

If you do not address these on time, it can possibly kill your plant.

But the question here pops up, “Why can excessive watering kill a plant?”. As we all know, plants need to drink water for growth, so how does it affect the zz plant?

Why can overwatering kill your zz plant?

Like all other plants, zz plants also need three vital elements to grow well: light, oxygen, and water. However, too much of anything can backfire on your plants. Overwatering is the most common cause of problems for any plant.

When you overwater your ZZ plant frequently, it keeps the soil wet all day long. It negatively impacts the root system. After a few days, the wet roots will stop absorbing oxygen and drown.

The moment they are damaged, they won’t be able to send water to the rest of the zz plant efficiently. If you don’t resolve this problem quickly, your plant will die.

ZZ plants have extensive underground rhizomes. These rhizomes resemble bulbs but are different. They act as an underground reservoir, storing the water required by your ZZ Plant. So your plant can survive for quite some time without any additional water.

When is the right time to water your zz plant?

You should water your zz plant when the topmost layer of soil is completely dry. You can also check for moisture by inserting your finger into the soil. 

For a more reliable approach, you can purchase a simple moisture meter and check the moisture levels in your soil. Make sure to wait an extra day or two before adding more water if you’re in doubt. 

Note: The expert says that underwatering a ZZ plant is far better than overwatering.

Before we jump into the zz plant root rot signs, let’s dive into what causes them. Why are you facing root rot zz plant problems?

What causes root rot?

1) Overwatering

It is the most common cause of root rot in all plants. When it comes to watering ZZ plants, they require a schedule. You can water an indoor ZZ plant once a week during the summer and biweekly during the winter.

It will help you understand the watering needs of your plant. Examine the requirements and water accordingly. You should always check the soil. It is best to water them only when the top layer of the soil feels dry. Another excellent option is to use a moisture meter.

As zz plants dry up quickly in the summer, you can water them more and avoid watering heavily in the winter because the plants are dormant.

2) Poor Drainage

Poor drainage is the second most prominent reason that causes zz plant root rot. If your pot or container does not have the right-sized holes, it will hamper drainage. Water will accumulate in the pot and cause root rot in the zz plant.

3) Wrong Soil

Choosing the wrong soil can cause zz plant root rot. Your plant needs suitable soil to grow healthily. The soil should have large pores to allow water to pass through.

If the soil is clay, it will not allow the water to drain. It will retain it in the pot for longer, resulting in a root rot zz plant.

A sticky soil is not suitable for ZZ plants because it indicates that the soil is holding water. You can improve the soil’s drainage by adding perlite, river sand, or succulent mixes.

4) No drainage holes

You must ensure that the container has enough holes for the water to escape. Aside from the drainage system, the size of the pot matters a lot. 

Your pot or container should not be too big or too small. The appropriate size will not hold too much water and will be suitable for the zz plant.

5) Infections

It is one of the common causes of zz plant root rot. Pathogens like Phytophthora, Pythium, and others are present in the soil and cause diseases that result in root rotting.

Other bacteria and viruses can also cause infections. Again, water comes into play here because these pathogens become more active in wet soil. It spreads the infection more quickly.

Now that you know the causes of root rot in the zz plant, let’s look at the possible signs. If you are aware of the zz plant root rot signs prior, you may be able to save your plant. As you know, the faster the precaution, the better the chances!

ZZ Plant Root Rot Signs

These are some of the possible signs of root rotting in zz plant:

1) Drooping Stems

If your zz plant has dropping stems, it could possibly have root rot. If all of your ZZ plant’s stems are becoming soft and drooping, you should examine the zz plant’s soil and its roots immediately.

In a growing plant, some stems may begin to droop as the plant grows larger and bulkier, but when the number of drooping stems is much more than usual, you should be concerned.

2) Visible algae on the zz plant’s base

If you encounter any algae or mold around the base, it is suffering from zz plant root rot. Overwatering can be the one to blame. Make sure to examine the soil and the roots.

3) Musty Smell

A clear indication of root rot zz plant is an unusual musty or damp odor. You may not notice a smell around the plant, but you might be shocked when you remove it from the container or pot. It may have a terrible odor. 

4) Mushy Roots

Zz-Plant-Mushy Roots

The texture, like the color, tells a tale about zz plant root rot. Your roots lose their usual crisp texture and become slimy or mushy when they decay. 

5) Discoloration

As you know, a healthy root is usually white, with a dry and crisp texture, but it changes when there is rot. It may vary from white to gray, brown, or black! It is an indication of unhealthy roots.

6) Slow Growth

If your zz plant is growing too slowly or has restricted growth for a certain time, it’s time to get your hands dirty. Start to look out for root rotting. 

As ZZ plant root rot affects the roots, it reduces the amount of moisture and nutrients the plant can absorb. The more damaged roots, the less nourishment the plant can obtain. 

As a result, the plant will grow weak, sad, and slow. As the problem worsens, the slow growth rate will also come to a halt.

7) Leaves Turning Brown


ZZ plant’s leaves may turn brown due to overexposure to sunlight or overwatering. You should figure out where the root problem lies. If you place your zz plant in indirect bright light and still witness brown leaves, you may have root rot.

In overwatering, once too many roots are damaged, the plant can only absorb a fraction of the water it usually does. As a result, zz plant leaves will begin to dry and turn brown. It is a bad sign as it reveals significant zz plant root rot.

8) Wilting

If you witness your zz plant wilting, lack of nutrition may be the reason. The more roots that die and rot, the fewer nutrients the plant can absorb from the soil. 

It can turn the leaves pale or yellow. In most cases, the bottom leaves are the first to turn yellow.

9) Stem rot

One of the late symptoms of zz plant root rot is stem rot. Generally, the stem of a ZZ plant is firm and stable, but it can become soft, mushy, and slimy. 

Stem rot is typically caused by root rot that does not spread upwards. In this case, the roots are severely harmed and may not revive back. And it’s starting to take over other parts of the zz plant.

You should not pull the zz plant because the stems are soft and weak. It will break away from the roots.

Are you still not convinced about checking zz plant root rot? I will clear all your doubts regarding root decay. Now, I will explain to you the step-by-step procedure to easily check whether your zz plant has root rot or not.

How to Check Root Rot in a zz plant?

You’ll need to inspect your zz plant’s roots to ensure that you’re dealing with root rot. You should keep an eye on how severe the problem is, and don’t worry; it is a simple procedure.

Step 1: The first step in checking the roots is to remove your ZZ plant from its container. While ZZ’s are tough plants, handle them with care. Grabbing a ZZ by the stem and yanking it from its container will almost certainly break or damage the plant.

Step 2: Instead of pulling the ZZ up, flip your container upside down and slide the plant out. The plant will come out on your other hand. If your plant does not budge when you flip it, you can also tap or squeeze the sides of the container. Alternatively, you can use a knife to slide around the inside edge of the container before flipping it again.

Step 3: To see the zz plant’s roots more clearly, you can wash the root system through warm water in your sink. Make sure to remove as much soil as possible but do not damage the roots. 

Step 4: Examine them and see whether they have white and crisp rather than brown, gray, mushy, or slimy color. If otherwise, you have zz plant root rot.

Another thing to look after is the situation of rhizomes. These ZZ rhizomes (which resemble bulbs) serve as a reservoir for your ZZ, storing water and nutrition. Rhizomes, like healthy roots, should be white and crisp. Root rot results in a brown or mushy rhizome.


Doing this may cause skin irritation. You should consider wearing gloves when handling your zz plant if you have sensitive skin. After examining, you should always wash your hands and avoid touching your face.

When you witness the problem, it is time for zz plant root rot treatment.

Steps to ZZ plant root rot treatment

One thing I would like to tell you before starting the steps is that these are time-sensitive. The earlier you detect zz plant root rot, the better your chances of saving and reviving your ZZ plant if you act quickly.

A severely rotten root system, on the other hand, can threaten your ZZ plant’s ability to recover. And unfortunately, if the root damage is severe, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to save the plant no matter what you do. 

But you can give it a shot and try zz plant root rot treatment. 

Step 1: Take the zz plant out of the container

Take your ZZ plant out of its container and rinse the roots. You should take out your ZZ from its container carefully as too much force can damage or harm the plant. 

To remove your ZZ, support the plant’s stems with one hand while flipping the container upside down and gently sliding it out. If it still doesn’t budge, try running a butter knife along the inside rim of the pot to loosen its hold.

Step 2: Examine the roots

Once your zz plant is out of its medium, you should inspect the roots carefully. To do so, gently remove as much soil as possible from the roots with your fingers. You can also wash away the soil from the roots with normal water.

When you do this, you’ll be able to see the best for what comes next – pruning back dying roots.

Step 3: Remove any damaged ZZ roots

Remove all the roots that are black, brown, mushy, or slimy right away to give your ZZ plant the best chance of survival.

When performing any type of pruning, it is critical to use sharp and clean tools. To prune your ZZ’s roots, you can use your knife or scissors to remove any of the roots that are not healthy. 

Remember, once a zz plant’s root has died, it will never “come back to life.” So remove all the dead ones to regrow the new healthy ones. 

Step 4: Clip away the rhizomes

In addition to pruning roots, you should also clip away the rhizomes that have become brown and mushy. Again, make quick and clean cuts. Jagged edges are not suitable for your ZZ roots or rhizomes. 

Step 5: Purchase a New Pot or Clean an Old One

After you’ve pruned your roots and rhizomes, avoid repotting your plant immediately in the same pot. The fungus may be sticking into your pot. 

You should clean it frequently to avoid reintroducing the problem you’re attempting to resolve.

To clean a pot, you can use a mild bleach solution of one part bleach to ten parts water. After thoroughly cleaning the pot, leave it aside to dry. While waiting for your medium to dry completely, you can place your ZZ on a tray.

ZZ plant root rot treatment note:

Your zz plant’s pot or container should have a drainage hole at the bottom. It could have played a significant role in the root rot zz plant issue if the existing pot had no drainage hole. 

ZZ soil requires the ability to drain and dry out between waterings. Pots without holes frequently cause the plant to sit in overly wet soil for a long time, resulting in root rot.

Step 6: Remove Old Potting Soil and Replace It

You should remove all of the old potting soil from your container and not reuse any of it. Replanting in the same soil, especially if the fungus caused your root rot, can either repeat the issue or make it impossible for your ZZ plant’s root system to heal.

To facilitate quick drainage for your ZZ, choose light soil that allows water to run through it. You can use well-draining potting soil.

Step 7: Water your zz plant

You should water your plant lightly after you pot it in a suitable container with the appropriate type of soil. Now is the time to do some light pruning to the plant’s top.

Step 8: Remove any dead leaves and stems

When a stem or leaf on your ZZ turns yellow or brown, you should remove it because it will not return to its former glory. In most cases, you can simply pinch the yellow or brown leaves off at the base close to the stem. Make sure the scissors or shears you are using are clean and sharp.

Free up as much of your zz plant’s energy as possible so it can begin regrowing new roots. Remove any soft or slightly unhealthy stems, leaving your plant at about a third of its original size.

Step 9: Place your zz plant in a shade

After removing the dead stems and leaves from your ZZ, place them in a shaded area for a few weeks to give them the best chance of recovering from this stressful situation.

Do’s and Don’ts after zz plant’s repotting

Go easy with the watering.

The most likely cause of zz plant root rot in your plant is that you overwatered it. If you don’t address the underlying cause, whether it’s too much water or planting in the wrong soil or container, you may face this problem again in the future.

Remember to water the ZZ plant only when the top inch or so of soil is completely dry. These hardy plants can go without water for a long time.

Do not fertilize until new growth appears.

If you are used to fertilizing your ZZ, you will need to stop until new growth appears on your plant. Fertilizers can burn roots, especially those that are sensitive from recent pruning.

How to prevent root rot?

How to prevent root rot

Follow these steps to avoid root rot in your ZZ plant:

Avoid excessive watering: Follow a schedule and research the water requirements of the ZZ plants to avoid overwatering. 

Use the proper soil mix: You should choose a soil with good drainage.

Use the correct pot size: Using the incorrect pot size will prevent the water from draining correctly. Make sure you use the pot with drainage holes.

Provide a bright environment: A bright climate will help the plant not retain excess water and will prevent fungus and bacterial growth.

But what if, doing all the measures, your zz plant still dies? Apart from losing the plant and leaving you in vain, can you still regrow your plant? Yes, you can! Yes, you heard me right! 

What if my zz plant still dies? What’s next?

If all of your steps can’t save your zz plant, Propagate It. Unfortunately, the above steps for saving a ZZ plant with root rot are not guaranteed to work if the problem is severe.

Having a backup plan in this situation is always a good idea.

So, if you notice that the majority of the roots have rotted or that the plant is still deteriorating after repotting, propagating it is an excellent option.

If possible, propagate more than one cutting because this is your last shot with your zz plant. In short, there are no second chances once no more healthy cuttings are available.

You have the option of propagating left cuttings or stem cuttings. At this point, you’ll most likely have to settle for what’s available.

As a result, you should look around for both healthy leaves and stems. Take cuttings from either one, depending on which one appears to be more promising.

Let us go over the steps with leaves:

  • Cut or pluck leaves that appear healthy and green. The leaves should not be damaged in either way.
  • Set it aside for a few hours.
  • Now, put the leaves in a moist potting mix that allows water to drain quickly.
  • Keep the pot in an indirect bright area away from harsh and direct light sources.
  • On average, it may take up to a month for rhizomes to form at the bottom.

In the case of stems:

  • Choose a healthy one with a few leaves in the case of stems.
  • Fill half of a glass container with water and insert the stem.
  • Please keep it in a well-lit, indirect area.
  • Change the water every 3-4 weeks to avoid becoming too dirty.
  • Be patient. You can repot the rhizomes into a container with fresh potting soil once they have grown at the bottom.
  • Water the new plant and place it in a bright location.


ZZ plant root rot is a serious issue that you must address immediately. So, if you suspect brown leaves, foul odor, or squishy roots, it is always worth investigating. Isn’t it better to be secure than guilty?

Root rot spreads quickly, deteriorating the plant’s health. You should look for the watering schedule per the plant’s requirements. ZZ plant root rot treatment can be time-consuming, but it’s always worth a shot. 

Even if you can’t save your plant from severe roots, you can always remove and propagate the healthy parts. 

Let us know if you have any more questions regarding root rot and we’ll love to answer them.

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  • Navya Rathour

    Navya is an Agriculture graduate with a keen interest in plants. She is a plant lover and loves to share her knowledge to the best of her abilities. She has worked for the welfare of plants since she was ten years old, has grown more than 50 houseplants inside her home, and loves to share her experience.

  • Prachi Parate

    Prachi Parate is an enthusiast writer. She is a native of a science background, where botanical science was one of her favorite subjects. It was always Prachi's dream to combine her passion with a career. Hence, her fascination with plants led to a career as a writer. Also, she believes that taking good care of yourself is key to happiness. Time spent in nature is one of her favorite self-care practices. It is her goal to transform her learning into content that helps readers.

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