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Indoor Garden Root Diseases: Part 2 Featured

Root diseases can be devastating. Root diseases can be devastating.


In last week’s article, Indoor Garden Root Diseases: Part 1, I discussed two of the more common root diseases found in an indoor garden, pythium and rhizoctonia. There are a few other root diseases that can quickly cause distress for a grower of high-value plants.

Although less common indoors, phytophthora, fusarium wilt, and vertcillium wilt are harmful root diseases that every indoor horticulturist should be aware of.


Phytophthora are a group of water molds responsible for a number of unsightly problems, including types of potato and tomato blight.

Because this disease thrives in water, it can show up in any part of the plant. Many times the plant will display brown or black spots, which are commonly misdiagnosed as a nutrient deficiency.

As the disease progresses, the entire plant’s water transport system may be compromised. Unfortunately, by the time a grower properly identifies phytophthora the damage is often irreversible.


Prevention is the key to avoiding a phytophthora problem in the grow room. Fortunately, many growers use treated water or treat the water themselves before watering their plants. If a grower is using well water or another natural water source, it would be a good idea to have the water tested to identify any potential problems, including phytophthora.


Fusarium Wilt

Fusarium wilt is a soil-borne pathogenic fungus that affects a variety of plants, including hops and tomatoes.

This disease starts in the soil but quickly transfers to the plant’s roots. From there it spreads throughout the entire plant until the infection completely takes over. This nasty fungus can also be transferred to the plant’s offspring by infecting the plant’s seeds.

Fusarium wilt thrives during the summer months when warm temperatures are consistent. Because the temperature of an indoor grow room is kept warm, growers who use non-pasteurized soils run a risk of fusarium wilt.

The lower leaves will first develop brown spots and then turn yellow and wilt. Fusarium wilt also can affect the root mass, causing a reddish-brown discoloration of the roots and base of the stalk.


Supplementing an extensive variety of beneficial microorganisms is a great way to ward off fusarium wilt. To prevent the transfer of fusarium wilt within an indoor garden, sterilize all trays, planting containers, or anything else that comes in contact with the soil. Fusarium wilt can also survive in plant debris so it is imperative to keep a tidy grow room and always remove all plant matter after harvest.


Vertcillium Wilt

Vertcillium wilt is also a soil-borne pathogenic fungus but, unlike fusarium wilt, it thrives in cool weather.

Vertcillium wilt can be found in all soils but is most prevalent in poorly aerated soils that continually stay moist. Indoor growers using soil mixes with inadequate aeration run a risk of vertcillium wilt, especially if the grow room’s temperature runs on the cool side.

The first visible sign of vertcillium wilt is the yellowing along the margins and the veins of the lower leaves. As the disease progresses, the entire leaf will turn yellow, then grey or brown, wilt, and fall off.


Always use sterile media and containers within an indoor grow room. Amend the medium with a wide variety of beneficial microorganisms, especially trichoderma. Keep room temperatures consistent and avoid large nighttime temperature swings. Avoid over-watering and always use well-aerated soils.

Of all the potentially catastrophic problems that can plague an indoor grow room none are as tough to decipher as the root diseases. Because they mimic other ailments and/or are so widespread by the time they are seen that treatment is impossible, root diseases cause serious problems for the horticulturist. Fortunately, with a persistent proactive approach you can keep these nasty creatures from ever reaching your high-value plants.


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Here’s a look at how to prevent some root diseases in a home hydroponics system.
Last modified on Wednesday, 12 June 2013 21:46

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