How To Save a Rotting Haworthia Plant (8 Steps)

Haworthia is a beautiful, low-maintenance succulent that’s become a trendy houseplant. People who newly acquire them may need to learn their growing conditions or watering needs and can inadvertently create conditions that rot the plant.

To save a rotting haworthia plant, you must pinpoint the cause of the rot and remove the dead roots. Once completed, the plant can be repotted. It’s essential that you understand the plant’s desired growing conditions, and don’t re-create the conditions that caused the deterioration.

The rest of this article will discuss signs of root rot in a haworthia plant and the likely causes. I’ll also go over some basic haworthia plant care tips. Let’s get started.

1. Inspect Your Haworthia Plant For Signs of Rot

It’s important to inspect your haworthia plant for rot before determining that it has rotted. Some of the symptoms of rot can be signs of other problems. However, if there is rot, it must be dealt with immediately.

Root rot in haworthia plants can start quickly, but the outward signs of damage frequently come after significant damage to the root structure. Therefore, at the first signs of root rot or stress on your plant, it’s critical that you take action.

Browning leaves are one of the most common signs that your haworthia plant has root rot. It’s an unfortunate sign because most people interpret it to mean that the plant is underwatered, so they begin to water it more, speeding up the root rot and damage.  

As soon as you see browning leaves, it’s time to stop watering the plant until you fully understand what’s going on with it. Remember that these hardy plants survive in the desert and are adapted to store water for long periods in those very leaves.  

Browning leaves and wet soil are signs that the plant has root rot. This combination is prevalent. Again, when you see this, it’s essential to stop watering the plant as a first step towards saving it.

I have an in-depth article discussing browning in Haworthoia in much greater detail, along with potential solutions. If you’re currently facing this problem, the article’s definitely worth your time and should help save your plant: Why is Your Haworthia Turning Brown? 3 Common Causes

2. Allow the Plant To Dry Out Completely

Before attempting to remove the plant from the pot, you must allow the plant and the soil to dry out completely. Removing potting material around the root structure is much more challenging when the soil and the roots are damp.  

Also, the liquid and the damp soil obfuscate the very things you’re looking for when inspecting the roots for rot. If your situation seems urgent, you can remove the plant and dirt from the pot to speed up drying.  

3. Remove the Plant and Roots From the Potting Medium

Carefully and gently remove the plants and soil from the pot by inverting the pot into the palm of your hand, using that hand to support the plant. If the plant doesn’t slide freely from the pot, roll it around on its side a few times to try to dislodge anything sticking to the sides.

Avoid pulling the plant out of the pot manually, as it can damage the plant and root system. If the plant is stuck when you invert the pot, tap on the bottom to loosen the plant and potting material.  

If the plant is still stubbornly clinging to the inside of the pot, you can reach a finger into the soil and work your way all the way around the pot between the soil and the pot. Do this while the plant is inverted.  

When your haworthia is in a state of root rot, it’s important not to do any additional damage to the plant. Pulling the plant from the pot could destroy the critical few remaining healthy roots and doom the plant even if it’s repotted.

4. Clear the Potting Medium Away From the Roots

Once you have the plant out of the pot, set the plant down and begin to gently pull the potting soil away from the plant and the roots. This will be easy at first, with large chunks of dirt falling away from the sides and the bottom of the root structure.

As you get closer to the core of the plant’s roots, you’ll have to gently peel the soil away, taking care not to break any roots. Some may come free with the soil, but these will likely be the rotted roots.  

5. Remove Dead or Decaying Roots From the Plant

Once you’ve removed all soil from the plant and the roots, it’s time to remove the dead root tissue from the plant. Roots will sometimes fall away from the plant, but you’ll most likely need to cut them to remove them.  

Healthy roots on a haworthia plant will be fat and white or opaque. If a root has rotted, it’ll be brown or black and very shriveled. All dead and dying tissue must be removed to prevent it from spreading to healthy tissue.  

Use a sterilized pair of scissors and gently clip the dead tissue away from the plant’s root structure. Immediately throw this dead root tissue away, so it doesn’t accidentally get mixed in with the potting soil.  

You may be wondering — what if all of the roots are dead or dying? It’s unfortunate, but you’ll need to clip them all off and do all you can to promote new, healthy root growth on the haworthia.  

In the case of all dead roots, clip them as close to the base of the plant as possible. You’ll still follow the next few steps, although you may want to give the plant a few days to dry out before repotting it rather than the few hours advised below.  

6. Leave the Plant and Roots Out To Dry for a Few Hours

Once you’ve removed the dead and dying root tissue, let the plant rest. You can leave the plant on the work surface to dry out a bit. This allows the plant to callus over where the dead tissue has been removed.  

The idea behind allowing the plant to callus over is to help avoid the ongoing spread of decay into the remaining plant or root system. If you’ve removed all roots because all were dead or dying, giving the plant 24 hours to rest and callus over is best.  

This action is also thought to stress the plant and encourage new root formation. The idea behind this is that the plant recognizes that its roots aren’t in the soil and will put energy into root growth to reach out and find dirt.  

Whether a few hours or a full day, this is a crucial step in saving your rotting haworthia. It may seem bad for the plant or even unnecessary, but it can make the difference between saving and losing the plant.  

7. Repot the Haworthia Plant in New Soil

Once you’ve allowed the plant to rest and callus, it’s time to replant the haworthia. When doing so, it’s essential to use suitable potting soil formulated for succulents.

Succulent soil comes at the correct pH for these fragile plants but promotes fast drainage and water movement away from the root systems.

Also, be sure you’re repotting the plant in the proper type of pot. Ideally, you’ll repot the plant in a terracotta pot with a drain hole and drip tray to promote fast drainage and drying.  

Since you had to remove decaying roots, you’re strongly advised to use new soil. Recycling the old soil and planting your haworthia back in that soil could simply start the problem all over again.  

Once the plant is in the new soil, water it lightly, holding it over a sink or basin to allow the water to flow freely through and from the pot. Set the pot in a bright but indirectly lit place to give it optimal growing conditions.  

From this point forward, it’s recommended that you only water the plant when you manually feel the soil, and it’s dry to the touch and has been dry for several days.

8. Understand the Desired Growing Conditions for Haworthia

To successfully raise haworthia and prevent future rot, it’s crucial to understand their native habitat and preferred growing conditions. Native to southern portions of Africa, haworthia can be found in dry, bright places shaded from direct sunlight.  

They prefer sandy, fast-draining soil that transports water away from their root systems quickly and efficiently. In their native habitat, rain is infrequent, so the plants thrive when they get a thorough drenching followed by a stretch where the roots and soil around them can dry out thoroughly.

It’s crucial to understand that these native conditions drive what the plant needs for survival, even in your home. If you remember that this is a desert species that don’t like wet roots or direct sunlight, you have a better-than-average chance of successfully keeping Haworthia as houseplants.  

If you want to expand your knowledge about growing and caring for Haworthia, check out my ultimate guide on propagating Haworthia. It covers everything from common wisdom to expert tips and tricks to help you become a whiz in handling Haworthia.

Understanding the Causes of Root Rot in Haworthia

Now that you know how to save a rotting haworthia plant, it’s important to understand the root causes of root rot so you can prevent the problem in the future. There are four leading causes of root rot in haworthia. One is the primary cause with the other contributing to root rot in this particular genus.  

Overwatering Is the Main Cause of Root Rot

Overwatering is the most common cause of root rot in haworthia plants. Many plant owners grossly overestimate how much water these delicate plants need. At the first sign of stress, most people quickly assume that the plant needs water, which speeds the rotting further.  

Incorrect Soil Can Lead to Waterlogging

There are many contributing factors to overwatering as well. First, using the wrong potting soil is a common contributing factor. Haworthia loves sandy, fast-draining soil and can thrive in succulent potting soil.  

Regular potting soil is formulated to retain as much water around the roots as long as possible, which is the opposite of what the plant needs. People unwittingly set their plants up for failure by repotting haworthia with regular potting soil.  

Incorrect Pot Can Prevent Proper Drainage

Using a pot that allows water to drain freely and soil to dry quickly and entirely is essential. Many people don’t know better and choose a pot they like from an aesthetic perspective, but there are better types of pots to best suit haworthia.  

When choosing a pot, haworthia is best suited to terracotta pots with a drain hole at the bottom that rests upon a drip tray. You should never repot a haworthia plant in a self-watering pot or without a drainage mechanism.  

When selecting a haworthia at the store, I always look to be sure the pot they come in has drainage holes. Workers at a nursery, much less a retail store, can’t possibly remember the watering requirements for all species, so it’s essential to be sure the plants you select are green, healthy, and in a pot for optimal drainage.  

Pests Are Attracted to Damp Conditions

Sometimes, even when haworthia is on the correct watering regimen, is in the proper container to allow for adequate drainage, and uses the best potting medium for the species, you’ll still see signs of plant stress or root rot.

When this occurs, it’s almost always due to a pest infestation. There are numerous types of bugs that can impact houseplants and haworthia are no exception. Treating pests is a good course of action once you’ve ruled out the other potential root rot causes.  

Interestingly, pests are often problematic for plants due to overwatering. The damp conditions create rotting organic materials that feed and nurture larvae and bugs in the soil. So even if you aren’t overwatering your haworthia anymore, pest problems may still be present due to past overwatering.  

Advice on treating houseplants for pests really runs the gamut. Unfortunately, many will advocate for pesticides to deal with the issue, but this can be harmful to your plant, not to mention you, anyone in your home, and your pets.  

I’m a firm believer in the use of beneficial nematodes to control pests both preventatively and correctively. Nematodes are microscopic organisms that live in the soil and eat larvae of certain species.  

Selecting a nematode that benefits houseplants can address the vast majority of pests in your houseplants without adding poisons to your home. Treating your plants is as simple as adding the nematodes to your regular watering regimen.   

Haworthia Plant Care Tips

After removing rotten roots and repotting your plant, the haworthia might look stressed. This is because the plant is stressed, but this doesn’t necessarily mean the plant will die. Don’t give up hope on it yet.  

Consider that in nature, there’s no repotting. The plant lives or dies, but there’s never human intervention to save the plant. As such, the plant needs to figure out how to respond to the repotting and is trying to reset. Here are some care tips to keep in mind:

  • Take your time with the healing process and resist the urge to water the haworthia to perk it up. Overwatering the plant after you’ve repotted it is the worst thing you can do. Instead, follow a regular routine for watering and ensure it has proper light.
  • A regular watering routine should be at most every few weeks, depending on the conditions and humidity in your area. To know if your haworthia needs water, you should manually stick a finger into the dirt several inches down to see if the soil is dry.  
  • If the plant is bone dry, you may wait another day and water it. You should never water haworthia if the soil is damp in any way. They like a thorough watering, then dry out thoroughly and entirely with breaks between being fully dry and getting water.
  • For sunlight, the plant needs bright but indirect light. Choose a place near or adjacent to a window or light source where filtered or indirect light will reach your plant, but the plant won’t be in direct sunlight at any point in the day.  

From that point on, you can only wait and see if the plant will survive the root rot removal. If you follow these steps carefully and take care with water and sunlight, your haworthia has a good chance of recovering and reestablishing healthy roots after a bout of root rot.  

Even if the plant had to have all its roots removed, they are a hardy plant that is well adapted for survival in harsh conditions. Give the plant time to recover and you might be surprised how resilient your haworthia truly is.  


Saving a rotting haworthia plant is a simple task that requires a little knowledge and some detective skills to pinpoint the cause before applying the appropriate solution. With a bit of time and experience, you will become attuned to your plants and be able to hone in on changes before they become significant problems. 

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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