Is there mold growing on your houseplants? What you need to know

Anything kept in an environment with moisture and limited ventilation is susceptible to mold. And, unfortunately, that includes your plants. Mold on indoor plants is more common than you might think, and there are ways to get rid of it and prevent future recurrences. So, if you have a plant with a little mold, don’t give up just yet!

Why does mold grow on leaves and soil?

To understand how mold develops, we need to look at why mold occurs on the leaves and soil in the first place. The most common type of plant mold is a white mold in potted soil that develops on the surface due to things like inadequate drainage, constantly wet soil, and poor ventilation. This mold is relatively harmless most of the time; however, white soil mold does indicate that there is a larger issue with your plant’s environment that needs to be solved.

Another common mold that can affect your indoor plants is powdery mildew, which often shows up on the top sides of leaves. This mold is made up of spores that give the greenery a dusty appearance. Luckily, these spores are most often transferred in the wind when found outside. That means that unless you have an incredibly drafty space, the mold is less likely to go from one plant to another; however, keep in mind that it is still possible. So, you’ll want to remove this mold as quickly as possible once you identify it.

A potted ivy houseplant
Manja Vitolic/Unsplash

How to identify mold on indoor plants

The white mold on the soil will be the easiest to identify. It will appear right on the surface and stand out against the soil. White mold often looks fuzzy, like other kinds of mold you might find on cheese, so it will be very obvious. Powdery mildew, on the other hand, may be a bit harder to identify at first.

Because the small circular white spores make the leaves look dusty, you may think that all they need is a bit of cleaning; however, if left alone, powdery mildew can spread to the undersides of the leaves, the stems, and the fruits (if they’re fruit-bearing plants). Unlike the white mold in potted soil, powdery mildew has the potential to cause damage to your plant. Long-term damage to plants includes yellow/dry leaves and twisted or disfigured foliage.

How to get rid of and prevent plant mold

Unfortunately, mold is never fully guaranteed to go away, but there are things you can do to clear it up and prevent it in the future. Powdery mildew thrives in shadier spaces, so you should try to keep your plants in a sunny spot or purchase grow lights to help mimic the sunlight your plants need to thrive. If you have a dense plant suffering from mildew, you can prune some of the leaves to help increase air flow and water from above to clean spores from the leaves; however, this should not be done consistently as wet leaves can breed other plant diseases. And if all else fails, you can try using a fungicide or home remedy to clear it up.

When powdery mildew is too advanced, though, there’s unfortunately a minimal chance of ridding the disease through these methods. If that happens, trim off all the infected parts of your plants and throw them in the trash. Throwing your infected leaves outdoors could contribute to the spread of disease in the natural environment. Focus on preventing future powdery mildew infestations.

As far as the white soil mold goes, you’ll want to rely on adjusting your plant’s environment to prevent further issues. Mold spores are actually a regular part of potting soil, so it’s important to minimize their chances at having a breeding ground. Most of the time, you can simply remove the mold from the top of the soil (wearing gloves, a mask, or anything else you need for proper mold protection) and make adjustments to the temperature, humidity, and ventilation of your plant’s home. Sometimes this may mean repotting into a container with better drainage. If that’s the case, you have a chance to start anew with fresh potting soil!

A small potted plant with green leaves
Severin Candrian/Unsplash

How mold affects those with allergies

Mold on indoor plants has the potential to cause the same allergy symptoms as other molds: itching, sneezing, congestion, dry skin, etc. Because these molds are indoors, the symptoms can be experienced any time of the year as long as the disease is around. Like other types of molds, powdery mildew and white molds can trigger asthma if they reach the lungs or breed for a lengthy period of time.

As such, you never want to take a chance when it comes to mold on indoor plants. If you have a mold allergy, take all the precautions you need to clear it up, even if that means throwing away the entire plant. Molds can be cleared up and treated, but not even a plant is worth risking a severe allergic reaction.

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