Should You Leave Roots in the Soil After a Plant Dies?

When a plant dies, plant owners frequently struggle with the decision of whether to leave the roots in the ground. The dirt with the roots is simple to throw away, but because it still contains nutrients, recycling the soil has some advantages.

Roots in the Soil After

Depending on your gardening environment, we will examine whether or not you should leave the roots in the ground.

The quick response is

The growth of new plants will be hampered if roots are left in soil that will be used as a potting media in a plant container. If the previous plants did not perish as a result of a recognized illness, roots may be left in the soil in other situations, such as open gardens and raised bed gardening.

Depending on the type of gardening you undertake, we will go into further detail and explain why you should or shouldn’t use soil that has roots in it.

There are a lot of nice soil alternatives available if you plan to repot your plant, but I’ve found that this Miracle-Gro potting soil from Amazon is the most reasonably priced and successful at keeping my plants healthy long after repotting. Clicking here will take you there.

What if the Roots are Allowed to Remain in the Soil?

Can You Reuse the Soil With Roots in it?

Depending on whether you’re using the soil in an open garden, a raised bed garden, or a plant pot, you can reuse soil that still has roots in it.

Good microorganisms in the soil and occasionally termites help break down the roots. But this process will take a while. Growing new plants and crops is a time-efficient endeavor.

Soil in Raised Bed Gardens-

This is especially true for plants that are grown in raised bed systems or open gardens where bugs and bacteria may freely access the soil and old roots to speed up the decomposition process.

Soil in Plant Potters –

The soil in potted plants won’t have the luxury of having more bacteria and other helpful insects to scrape off the old roots.

Old roots in potting soil should be removed since they may cause problems if new plants are put in the same little area as the old plant.

In an open garden or raised bed garden where other plants have already been planted, you should choose spots where there is empty space so that previous roots won’t interfere with the new root system.

when previously planted plants are present. Before planting new plants in improperly prepared soil, there are a few things to take into account.

Factors Affecting Soil with Old Roots –

  1. Illnesses Affecting Previous Plants: You must first determine whether the root still has any active diseases, such as damping off. A horticultural illness or condition known as damping off weakens or kills seeds or seedlings before or after germination and is brought on by a number of different pathogens. If you know in advance that the plants died from a disease rather than from simple neglect, you should dig up the roots from the soil. It thrives in moist, cool environments.
  2. Compacted soil: high root density in the same soil can cause a problem known as soil compaction. The former vegetation might have had a thick network of fibrous roots, which will lead to compaction issues. If the old roots weren’t completely removed or degraded, they would have to fight for space if new plants were sown in the same area. Additionally, the roots that tightly compact the soil can cause issues with drainage and soil aeration, which we shall cover next.
  3. Drainage of soil: because the old root system has compacted the soil, drainage will become an issue because the amount of water that can escape the soil will be constrained by the narrow spaces between soil particles. This may cause the soil to get saturated after watering, which may cause its own difficulties like root rot for newly planted plants in the garden or pot.
  4. Aeration of SoilLack of aeration is one of the consequences of waterlogging. This is readily created when the soil’s available area is completely filled with water, blocking any air from reaching the roots, where it is needed by the plants. Plant roots also breathe, albeit the rate of respiration varies depending on the variety of plant. A plant’s destruction may eventually result from restrictions on its ability to breathe.

Benefits of Removing Roots from the Soil

  • Greater availability of nutrients for new plants: More nutrients for new plants may be made available by removing old roots from the soil. Even if the plants are gone, their old roots might still be alive and still be absorbing nutrients from the ground. Sometimes even new plants will emerge since the roots are still active. As you will be feeding the new plant’s nutritional needs rather than additional nutrient-sucking roots buried beneath the earth, this creates a nutrient-defiant environment for the new plants. Additionally, you will be able to supplement the new soil mix with additional nutrient-rich soil additives. The new soil mixture can also be modified to meet the unique requirements of the plants that will be planted in it or in plant pots.
  • Improved soil aeration: It is possible to improve the soil by adding perlite and vermiculite after removing old roots. The soil may become so compacted by leaving the old roots, as was previously said, that plants’ roots may find it difficult to breathe because of a lack of aeration between soil particles. Plants require aeration to breathe, and a lack of it can make the entire plant sick and even kill it. These soil enhancements improve the soil’s aeration and drainage qualities, fostering the ideal conditions for plant growth.
  • Improved soil drainage: The opportunity to improve the soil even more than it already is another advantage of root removal in terms of drainage. Again, in the case of potted plants, after the old roots are eliminated by removing the soil from the plant container, the existing soil can be improved and reused by mixing in fresh soil, which typically contains particles like perlite and vermiculite. This improves the soil’s ability to drain, better meeting the requirements of the new plants that are intended.

Why You Should Reuse Potting Soil

Because it still has all the nutrients that were utilized to nourish the previous plant that was in there, you can reuse potting soil without a doubt. If there is a known illness that could harm plant growth, the soil must be treated before usage.

Adding fertilizer on a regular basis replenishes the nutrients that potting soil often has a limited quantity of. As a result, the soil will have varying levels of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus as well as a variety of other nutrients that are all good for plants.

If the soil is reused, these nutrients will also be beneficial for subsequent plants, so merely throwing away the potting soil from an old plant will be somewhat of a loss.

Aside from that, the ecology of helpful microorganisms that allowed the previous plant to flourish in the soil will still be present.

When a disease is suspected to be present in the soil, though, vigilance must be exercised. And to return the soil to a secure, reusable state, appropriate sterilizing will need to be employed.

You can reuse the soil if there was root rot because this problem is typically brought on by overwatering, which fosters the growth of bacteria and fungus.

We have produced a thorough post describing how to dry overwatered soil if you’re interested in learning how to manage overwatering circumstances and avoid root rot.

Once you determine the kind of fungus that was destroying the roots before the prior plant had perished, treating the soil with fungicide is advised.

How to Salvage Potted Soil from a Plant that has Died?

  1. Remove the Plant Potter’s Soil: It might be challenging to remove the soil from a plant pot if you don’t want to harm the pot itself. The soil should first be lightly moistened by spraying it with water. Overwatering the soil will make it difficult to remove the roots and will result in a muddy mess. The roots will then be extracted from the earth using a netting material that has been spread out on the floor. Allow the earth to cover the sifter as you carefully flip the plant pot over onto it.
  2. Take the roots out: You can use a knife or other sharp item to cut through the larger roots that are holding up the earth if the soil is being held together by the old roots, as it almost certainly will be. You can begin sifting out the smaller root system once the dirt has been split up into tiny bits.
  3. Examine for illnesses: After the roots and dirt have been separated. Inspection is necessary now. the origins may be contaminated with illnesses that may have contributed to the plants’ initial demise. If the soil is to be reused, in certain circumstances the roots may still be alive. Careful inspection will be required to make sure the proper precautions are followed to stop any lingering sickness from infecting the new plants. Sterilization is one way to get rid of a suspected root condition. which we’ll talk about next.

Salvaging Soil After Root Rot or Disease by Sterilizing

Steam sterilization (mention other methods). The best method for sterilizing soil is steam.

At atmospheric pressure and 212 degrees Fahrenheit, water exists as a gas, which is known as steam. Any leftover infections or fungi will be killed by this temperature.

By placing the sifted dirt on top of a saucepan of boiling water, you can use this method to let the steam pass through the soil.

Additionally, you can use a steamer to guide the steam onto the soil if you have one.

The soil’s beneficial bacteria and microorganisms will be killed by temperature fluctuations, even though eradicating harmful pathogens is a positive thing.

Reintroducing the beneficial bacteria and microorganisms into the soil is best done by combining the existing soil with a well-rounded potting soil.

Beneficial nitrifying bacteria and microorganisms break down organic matter into nutrients that plants can need before assisting plants in absorbing it from the soil.


What happens if you leave roots in the ground?

If you do, you will be depriving your soil’s bacteria of a nutritious meal and reducing the long-term fertility of the soil. Additionally, you’ll unintentionally remove many beneficial microorganisms that reside near the roots of your old plants that could benefit your new plants. Want to improve your organic gardening skills?

Can I leave old roots in potting soil?

Reusing potting soil is generally acceptable as long as the plant you were growing in it was robust. It’s best to sterilize the mix if you did find bugs or diseases on your plants in order to prevent contaminating the plants for the following year. First, clean the old potting soil of any roots, grubs, leaves, or other trash.

Do you need to break up roots when planting?

Before placing the plant into the hole, break up the root ball with your hands or a knife to promote root development into the surrounding soil. Failure to do so typically results in the plant remaining root-bound (most plants are to some degree when they are purchased in containers).

How do you get old roots out of the soil?

You can use water to loosen the soil before using a shovel to remove the big shallow roots. Deeper roots won’t need to be removed unless you’re constructing plumbing, a foundation, or another type of hardscape because they will naturally decompose underground.

Should you break up roots before planting?

Before planting, the roots should be loosened (sometimes referred to as teasing or tickling) so they can spread out and grow in all directions, where they will branch out and create a strong foundation for the plant. To properly absorb nutrients from the soil, the roots must also expand out inside the pot.