What Is Mold and What Does It Look Like on Houseplants?
Most people have seen mold at least once in their lives, but do they know what it truly is?
Mold is a fungus that can appear in a variety of colors, including purple, green, orange, white, or black, depending on the source.
All it takes to grow mold is an environment rich in moisture. This includes the walls of a bathroom, upholstery and even leaves or soil from your plants.
This is why mold develops more in your bathroom than in your living room or bedroom. Your bathroom can remain damp with an inadequate ventilation system, which makes it an ideal environment for mold.
Since you water your houseplants frequently, you’re also inadvertently encouraging mold to grow. You might not have realized it, but mold is actually quite common. It’s not overgrowths, but very small particles actually floating around in the air.
Every time you step outside, you inhale microscopic mold spores that float in the air. These spores are not health-threatening unless you have mold sensitivity or an allergy.
If mold is present in sufficient amounts, you may experience breathing difficulties. For those with mold allergies, these breathing difficulties are even more pronounced.
In addition to skin irritation, mold overexposure can cause itchy and red eyes, chronic coughing, and nasal stuffiness.
Allergenic mold causes those symptoms, but there is also pathogenic mold or toxigenic mold. Pathogenic mold is dangerous for people who have poor immune systems, because they are more susceptible to symptoms.
In addition to being dangerous, toxigenic mold is toxic, which could lead to severe health effects and even death for anyone exposed to it.
The Types of Houseplant Mold
Mold is definitely harmful to your health, so you should avoid breathing in a lot of it if you can help it. The first step is identifying the type of mold you are dealing with. Most houseplant mold is white, that will appear fuzzy if the growth is significant.
Gray mold, which is caused by botrytis cinerea, also lingers in indoor plants and soil. The spores are absorbed into the tissues and cause the plants to collapse. Because gray mold is so deadly to your houseplants, it is best to avoid it.
Mold can be green or black in color. It affects the surface of the soil and the root system of plants. Scales, insects, are often found with sooty mold because the mold is a sign of scale infestation.
If you notice a powdery substance on your houseplant, it is not mold, but instead mildew. Mildew is always white and looks powdery. It also grows on different parts of your plant, such as the stems. It can also travel to the soil as well.
Why Do Indoor Plants Grow Mold?
In a houseplant, mold and mildew can affect any plant, so if you have a problem with mold, then it was most likely caused by care errors, negligence, or a surrounding environment that has declined in care since the plants were placed there.
The following four factors are likely to result in mold and/or mildew growing on your houseplants and their soil.
Lack of Sunlight
Your houseplants need the proper amount of light to photosynthesize correctly, causing them to grow poorly, while mold, caused by inadequate light, compounded the issue and reduced the plants’ growth even further.
The most important light source for your plants is sunlight. Whether that light is from a southern or easterly-facing window will depend on the specific species of houseplant.
In the winter, sunlight may not always be abundant, so artificial grow lights will be required. Have either of these light sources available to combat mold.
Hopefully, your home or office has good ventilation. It inhibits the spread of allergens and viruses, so you don’t need to worry. When you have a well-functioning ventilation system, you can keep allergens and viruses at bay.
There are several signs of poor ventilation near you, such as a buildup of heat that takes a while to dissipate.
It’s possible that odors may linger for longer than seems appropriate. Metal pipes will appear rusted, grout and wall tiles will discolor, and shower doors and glass windows will have a frosty appearance that won’t fade.
As shown above, mold will surely grow in a home or office with poor ventilation. In addition to affecting your houseplants, mold will also affect fabrics, wooden surfaces, walls, carpets, and floors.
Ventilation is responsible for mold because when moisture develops in a room, a lack of ventilation prevents it from being dispersed. Instead, it sits and sits, creating both mold and mildew hotbeds.
Houseplants can be damaged in a variety of ways if they become overwatered, and probably all indoor gardeners have been guilty of overwatering at some point.
Overwatering can cause root rot, a plant disease that occurs when water oversaturates the roots, killing them slowly yet surely. It can also lead to mold growth, since now the bacteria has a dark, moist place to thrive.
Lack of Drainage
Poor drainage is just as detrimental to a houseplant as mold is. When water gets trapped in pockets within your plant and mold grows, root rot and moisture issues can follow. A soggy or waterlogged soil will also eventually lead to mold growth.
Before settling in your houseplant in a pot or container, make sure the pot or container has drainage holes that allow water to drain out.
Your current pots or containers may not have a hole in the bottom for drainage so you should definitely check out:
- If water leaks onto your windowsill or living room floor, it will contribute to exactly the ecosystem you’re trying to avoid. Therefore, placing a saucer underneath your plant pot is crucial to preventing mold and mildew.
- Plant pots and containers should not have rocks in the bottom as rocks can plug up drainage holes, causing problems where there wouldn’t otherwise be any.
- The potting soil you use can also inhibit drainage, so choose potting soil that contains perlite, sand, bark or other composted plant material, and peat moss. Peat moss is one ingredient that doesn’t last forever, so you’ll need to replace it every six months or so.
How to Remove Mold from Houseplants and Their Soil
The mold on your houseplants should not be allowed to remain, even if it is only a trace amount. First, the mold will spread, and as it worsens, the plant will surely die.
You should remove mold first, and then make any necessary changes to the environment the plant or plants are in, as well as your care regimen.
The manner in which you remove mold depends on whether you see it on the soil of your plant, or on the plant itself. This is what to do.
Clearing Mold from Your Houseplants
To begin with, I recommend not experimenting with houseplant mold indoors. Instead, move your plant to your backyard and work on it there. Be sure to select an area without outdoor plants or nearby trees, as the mold can spread if it is active.
Clean your plant’s leaves gently with a wet paper towel. Don’t use the same dirty, moldy paper towel again, so you’ll want to have a couple of new ones on hand.
The leaves are now clearer because they have no dormant mold. Some active mold may still remain, and this typically cannot be removed with a paper towel. Instead, you need disinfected gardening shears, which can be used to slice off the affected leaves.
When you’re done spraying the fungicide, bring your houseplant inside. Fungicide shouldn’t harm your plants, it will just kill any traces of mold you can’t see.
Clearing Mold from the Soil
If the mold is just on the soil of the houseplant, then the removal process will be easier. You can leave the plant indoors. Use a clean spoon to scoop out any mold. Check to see if the mold has spread.
In cases of severe mold where there’s too much to dig out, repotting your plant with fresh, well-draining soil is necessary. If you can still work with the original soil, apply a natural antifungal after you’ve removed the mold.