Common Issues

How to Treat & Prevent Fungus + Mold

When you're going through the fridge and notice moldy items, more often than not, they're going to go straight into the trash. So, do we make the same call when we see a houseplant with moldy soil? How about mushrooms? The short answer is no, don't toss your plant just yet. 

Mold is a type of fungus that thrives in moist, humid conditions where natural light is scarce. It comes in an array of colors, and can survive on most organic matter, so long as the conditions are just right. Think of your fern that sits in a dark corner. It's constantly watered, barely gets any circulation, and has a humidifier running at full capacity 24/7. The potting soil that houses your fern is starting to sound like the perfect place to settle down for a little mold spore, isn't it? 

The fact is, dirt is alive. There are millions of microorganisms that make up healthy soil, so seeing a mushroom or moldy spot is much more common than you'd think. Is it dangerous? Not necessarily. There are some good fungi and some bad, but when it comes to our houseplants and personal health, we think it's better to nip it in the bud, and remove all types as soon as possible. Some harmful varieties that you should be aware of include sooty mold, powdery mildew, and botrytis. We'll dive deep into these some other time. 

Don't get us wrong, there are friendly fungi out there, so if you want to see if your plant can coexist with its new companion, send us a text and we'll let you know if it's safe. 

Treatment

Now that you know why there are mushrooms or mold popping up in your soil, here are some things you can do to get rid of it:

  1. Scoop + Scrape. The moment you first spot mushrooms or mold, you should grab a spoon, shovel, or glove, and remove them at once. For capped mushrooms, make sure to go down into the soil to remove as much of the stem as possible. For mold, scoop the top 2" of soil from the pot and dispose of it.
  2. Adjust conditions. See if you have the capacity to switch things up a bit. Keep the health of your plant in the forefront of your mind as you do this, ensuring that any environmental changes are survivable. 
  3. Water with neem. If you have successfully removed all visible signs of mold or fungus growth, water your soil with neem oil at the time of its next watering - this will take care of anything invisible to the naked eye
  4. Repot. If you've tried all the above steps to no avail, it's time to repot your plant with fresh soil. When doing this, remove as much old soil as possible. If you're using the same pot, rinse it out with soap and water first. Find our detailed repotting guide here.

Prevention

Even if this hasn't been a problem for you, it never hurts to be prepared. As we already mentioned, it's highly likely for plant owners to experience mold and fungus growth throughout their journey. Below you'll find tips on how to prevent growth from occurring in your soil

  1. Drainage is key. Making sure your pot has sufficient drainage is the key to keeping unwanted mold and fungi from growing in your soil. Mold grows in moist, dark, stuffy conditions, so keeping soil well-aerated and on the drier side in between waterings will help keep it at bay.
  2. More light. If you notice a pattern of your low light plants growing mold often, it may be time to consider moving them to a higher natural light source, or implementing grow lights. This creates inadequate growing conditions for fungal spores
  3. Cinnamon. Believe it or not, this common kitchen item is a powerful, natural fungicide, and can prevent mold and mushrooms from growing in soil. Add a thin layer to dry soil, or mix a bit into your potting mix when you repot to reap the benefits.
  4. Neem oil. Watering your plants with neem oil about once a month is another easy and affordable preventative measure you can take. It's a natural fungus-killer, and won't cause any harm to your plants.

TLDR; If you see mold or mushrooms in your soil, don't freak out! It's common, natural, and usually an easy fix when caught early. Remember, you can always text our SMS plant hotline at (646) 430-8699 for more help and guidance.