Avoid Root Rot and Start Aerating Your Soil

I probably shouldn’t be proud of this but one of the best ways I’ve learned to properly care for my houseplants has been learning from those plants that met their demise under my care. 

Don’t judge me fellow plant killer.

Speak your truth.

You have unfortunately killed four or five…

OK… OK… 

…Or MORE houseplants under your otherwise meticulous care.

But, not on purpose of course!

I … like you just missed the mark on figuring out what my tradescantia, ficus and succulent plants needed to thrive before it was too late.

But through trial, error and research over the years I discovered that the number one killer of most houseplants is root rot.

Oh yes my friends,

Root rot is horrible for your plant’s health so I am going to share the 2 main causes of it and the best ways to avoid this houseplant tragedy.

What are the 2 main causes of root rot?

        1. Overwatering

        2. Poor aeration (which results in the soil staying too moist)

If you don’t take anything else away…

Remember this:

Plants can came back from being too dry but they will surely meet their death once root rot begins.

The general rule of thumb to avoid root rot is proper soil aeration. 

Here are the 5 best soil additives to improve air circulation

1. Perlite

Perlite, soil additive, aeration

What the heck are those white specs in my potting mix?

It’s perlite

and it it has great benefits for your houseplants.

Perlite is weed-free, sterile and has a neutral pH.

That’s largely due to the following three features:

🔺It’s highly porous and does not hold water for long which allows water to drain out from the pot more freely, preventing root rot.

🔺It’s made from volcanic guide which helps plants form much stronger root formations than when grown in water alone.

🔺 The quick heating process pops the crude rock much like popcorn which produces its light weight and white color.

Adding adding perlite to your soil mix is a simple and very effective way to increase air circulation to the plant’s roots.

Perlite is a slightly better soil additive than vermiculite for aeration because it is more porous.

2. Vermiculite

Vermiculite, soil additive, aeration, drainage

Vermiculite is an aluminum-iron-magnesium mineral that expands when heated and is dark brown to golden brown in color.

Vermiculite is the best choice for quickly rooting seedlings. It holds moisture up to 3-4 times it’s volume in water making water easily available for plant roots but still provides excess water drainage and aeration.

It is also pH neutral, highly absorbing and lightweight.

Vermiculite acts more like a sponge when retaining water than perlite which is why it is more ideal for rooting plant cutting and plants from seeds.

Benefits of Vermiculite:

Attracts nutrients such as magnesium, calcium, phosphorus and potassium.

Has a 2 year life span before it decomposes and more needs to be added to potting mixtures.

This product is perfectly safe when pure but has seen its share of controversy over exposure to asbestos within the past 50 years.

An estimated 75% of contaminated vermiculite came from Libby, Montana between 1919 and 1990.

Asbestos is rarely found however in vermiculite originating from Enoree, South Carolina; Louisa, Virginia; Palabora, South Africa; and Jiangsu, China.

So don’t overreact.

If you have some vermiculite inside your home, garage or garden there’s virtually no risks associated with vermiculite from locations outside of Libby, Montana which means you’re not likely to find any glaring faults with it.

3. Lava Rocks

Porous forms of lava rocks are an excellent choice to aerate your soil.

Lava Rocks, aeration, soil additive

These rocks form when lava from the Earth reach the surface and cool.

What’s more, it also comes with these neat features that you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else:

Benefits of Using Lava Rock:

The sharp edges of the rock provide excellent aeration for root systems.

Rich in the nutrients needed for plant health.

Lava Rock is inorganic meaning it will not decompose or compact over time. It functions continuously and can be recycled and reused.

4. Orchid Potting mix

Orchard Mix, soil aeration

Add orchid mix to any standard soil for improved aeration and drainage.

It consists of gravel, dried plant fibers, bark, and more.

The larger chips help loosen soil density so that water drains more freely from the pot preventing root rot.

Orchard mix is specifically designed to allow water to drain rapidly from the pot while still retaining some water for moisture retention.

Orchid mix does not contain soil because orchid roots need more air space than most soils can provide.

5. River Rocks

River Rocks, soil aeration, drainage

While river rocks are more commonly used for aerating your pond or lawn , they also help oxygenate your soil which makes a better environment for indoor plants.

This additive is effective in helping the soil absorb water as it should as well as drain any excess water from the pot to avoid root rot.

Simply add river rocks in with your soil or line the bottom of the planter with rover rocks to improve drainage.

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, all of these additives will improve aeration and root health.

However, I’d have to award lava rocks as the best overall soil additive. That’s because lava rocks are porous enough to improve air circulation as well as provide vital nutrients to houseplants. Plus, lava rocks never decompose which enables you to use and reuse them when repotting.

Bottom line, if you’re looking avoid root rot, then you won’t go wrong by choosing any of the 5 products listed above.


Plants. Peace. Positivity.

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