White Mold Growing On Soil- Now What Do You Do?

Hand putting soil on a plastic container using a shovel

Many people enjoy gardening as a way to relax and enjoy time around nature and enjoy the process of taking care of living things around them. If outdoor space is limited or weather conditions are not conducive to a large outdoor garden space, indoor gardening can be a great way to bring a piece of nature indoors.

Potted plants are common additions to many homes. And despite the best efforts to keep plants healthy, most indoor plants will struggle with some growth and care issues now and then, one of the most common being moldy soil and excessive mold growth. You might find mold contamination on houseplant soil in a number of situations and after some particular events occur during the routine care ad maintenance of your indoor potted plants. Moldy soil in pots and containers can come in a variety of types and can be caused by a number of triggers. The most common type of mold you are likely to encounter in your potted plant containers however is white fuzzy mold.

Understanding what caused the problem and how to get rid of it will make it easier to enjoy your indoor garden and potted plants all the more. Below you will learn some handy tips on how to not only identify mold but how to pinpoint the cause and what steps you can take to remedy the problem and prevent it from affecting your plants in the future.

Understanding how the decisions you make now can affect the plant's soil and how issues with mold growth can lead to weakened and diseased plants will make you a better gardener.


What Is Houseplant Mold, and Where does it come from?

Aligned garden pots with soil

The majority of people do not realize that plants have natural balance between bacteria and other microorganisms that exist around. Just as humans have helpful bacteria that live on our skin and in our gut, plants also have a relationship with good bacteria and organisms that live in the organic material of the plant soil.

In outdoor plants natural processes keep these microorganisms in check, so they do not get too plentiful in healthy conditions. Indoors with potted plants however, these bad bacteria can accumulate to toxic levels and kill the good bacterial. Many of these microorganisms are necessary for proper plant health, but they must be present in the right levels and balance. This symbiotic relationship is why living soil is so favorable for healthy and beautiful plants. This simply means that the top layer of soil is rich with organic matter and is boosted with the addition of composted plant material, fertilizers, and soil amendments.

Adding compost is a great way gardeners can bring in beneficial living organisms into their pot plants and help duplicate the delicate balance of nature and natural soils in their indoor settings. This is a balance that can be difficult to establish and maintain. When you start to notice mold growing on top of your potting soil that is often the first sign that there is an issue with your top layer of soil and the environment your plants are in.


What Leads to Mold Growing on Soil in the First Place?

Person getting soil using a shovel

Like most things in nature, there is no such thing as a one size fits all solution or cause for anything. When dealing with white mold growing in the soil of your potted plants, there may be one single contributing factor or there may be several. The following are some of the most common reasons for mold growing on soil in your pots and containers.

  • Over Watering. Water is essential for plant growth, but too much of a good thing can be a very bad thing for plants. Moist potting soil and poor drainage leads to moldy soil and mold growth issues.
  • Poor Drainage. When the potting soil remains soggy for long periods of time the plant begins to die and can lead to mold. Decaying roots and stems and leaves are a breeding ground for mold spores.
  • Poor Air Circulation. Mold in the home frow in damp and warm places and the same is true of household plant mold. White mold spores love stagnant damp air that doesn’t get circulated much.
  • Contaminated Soil. Not all soils are created equal, and it is important to choose clean potting medium for your plants. Starting with contaminated or infected soil the mold will just spread the mold.
  • Decomposing Leaves. When your potted plant begins to shed dead leaves, they should be removed as soon as possible. Leaving them in the pot just provide more food for soggy soil mold to grow from.

What Are the Types of Mold That Can Form on Plant Soil?

White fungus on soil

When you have contaminated potting soil that has mold spores in it, there are a number of mold types that you might find growing on or in your plant’s roots and soil. Being able to kill mold in your plants will partly depend on what kind of mold you are dealing with.

  • White fungus on soil- is caused by white mold spores found in soil but are usually kept in check by beneficial bacteria.
  • Yellow fungal mold- is a less common houseplant soil mold, but it can be caused by fungal growth in potting soil.
  • Green mold- is often seen on the surface of potting soil containers and is caused by decaying organic matter and material.
  • Gray mold- sometimes this mold can be seen on houseplant soil as well and on root rot and leaf rot when moisture is high.
  • Sooty mold- is a type of mold that most commonly appears on the stems and leave of plants that are weak or diseased.
  • Powdery mildew- is another type of houseplant mold that usually is seen on the plant itself rather than on or in the soil.

    While it is true that soil out in nature is far from sterile and is full of harmless saprophytic fungus and beneficial mold, the case is often different indoors. Without the natural effects of rainfall, sunlight, winds, and other seasonal changes and environmental factors, the balance between good and bad microorganisms can get out of whack. This can lead to issues of soil mold and fungal growth that can affect the overall health, vigor, and appearance of your plants.

    Understanding the way soil composition impacts plant health and what all goes into making soil living and beneficial for your plants can help you provide the best environment for your indoor plants. Providing clean and non- infected ground and nutrient rich balances can keep your houseplant's soil in optimal shape now and further down the road.


    Is Mold On Plant Soil Bad For Plants?

    Potted plant with molds on soil

    Mold on soil may or may not harm your plant, again, it is something that really comes down to specific situation. In general, white mold is relatively harmless to the overall health of the plant unless it is a major bloom and is covering the entirety of the soil and getting on the plants themselves. While a small amount of fuzzy, white mold on its soil may not hurt your houseplant, the environmental conditions that lead to the mold can affect plant health in a number of ways. And some molds and fungi do cause plant diseases when they are in high concentration in a small area- like a pot of soil in the home.

    Many people are sensitive to mold as well and some can be very allergic and have bad health reactions to exposure to mold. So, naturally you’ll want to get rid of any mold in your potted plants sooner rather than later. This will protect your plants from possible damage and problems down the road while also ensuring you or your family do not suffer any ill effects from exposure to mold in the home. Maintaining clean pot and plants and keeping good quality sterile potting soil on hand can help reduce the number of mold spores that can come into your home. And keeping pots clean and plants overall as healthy as possible can also help remove remaining mold spores and prevent them from getting too established on the soil surface.


    What Plants Are Most Affected by White Mold Growth?

    Tomato plant with ripe and unripe fruits

    White mold is a very common fungal disease among household plants, and it is believed to affect over 360 different plants commonly used for food and ornamental needs. Food plants commonly impacted by white mold issues include crops such as beans, tomatoes, lettuce, peas, cabbage, citrus, watermelon, strawberries, blueberries, and many more. Houseplants of all sorts are affected by white mold, root rot, and other related issues simply due to the conditions they are grown in.

    Mold usually becomes an issue for indoor plants early in the summer or spring and can take some time before it becomes noticeable unless regular checks of the soil are made. When the weather is cold, white mold fungus releases spores that can drift to other areas of the pot or to any nearby potted plants in the same general vicinity.  So, in reality, the answer to this question is that any plant can be impacted by white mold when grown indoors simply because of the environment and the limited capabilities or duplicating outdoor environmental conditions.


    How To Successfully Identify White Mold Growth and Damage

    Plant on a crystal pot with molds on the soil

    Mold usually affects plants in two areas- on the soil or on the plant itself. Mold in the soil is most noticeable by patching of fussy growth on the soil surface or around the roots of the plant when it is taken out to be repotted. The soil can also be damp or overly soggy, have a terribly bad smell coming from the pot or the soil, have the roots themselves may be rotting and decaying in awful cases.

    White mold can cause issues with the plant itself when the decaying organic matter in the soil allows mold spores to take over and get onto or into the plant. Symptoms are noticeable on flowers, leaves, stems, seed pods, and sprouts. Highly infected plants may lose their leaves and wilt, stems can get soggy as they start to rot, and flowers and seed pods can die and fail to produce as they should. Catching the warning signs and indications of white mold growth on potted plants is important as prompt treatment is critical to stopping damage and preventing further problems from arising.


    How to Get Rid of Mold on Plant Soil

    Woman removing plant from its white pot

    Now that you have identified that you have mold issues with your plants and potting soil, what can you do about it? When you want to know how to remove white mold on plant soil, these following steps can help you sterilize your soil, clean your plants and remove moldy soil effectively. To deal with mold growing on soil and plants, consider doing several of the following:

    1. Repot The Plant to Get Rid of Mold Actively Growing in the Soil- remove the bulk of the contaminated soil and wash the plant off before repotting it in a container with good drainage holes.
    2. Dry Out Your Potting Soil in Direct Sunlight to Eliminate Mold Spores- any soil that might be contaminated by mold needs to be sterilized and cleaned before it is used for any planting.
    3. Remove Mold from the Plant and Spray With A Fungicide- spraying plants with a safe and effective fungal killing spray can keep the leaves and stems safe and protected from most fungus and molds.
    4. Add Anti-Fungal to Your Houseplant Soil to Prevent Growth- doing the same for the soil when plants are added to pots and then periodically every year can keep mold spores to a manageable level.
    5. Only Use Pots That Have Good Draining Holes and Monitor Waterings- never use pots that can’t be easily drained or if you must then add a thick layer or gravel to protect the soil from excess water.
    6. Destroy Infected Plants Before They Spread The Spores Farther- even after a plant dies the mold is still alive and sending out spores that can spread to other plants in the home.

    Tips To Prevent Mold In Houseplants

    Cozy living room with indoor houseplants

    Cleaning up white mold is an important task for home gardeners to know. But just as important is knowing how to prevent white mold on soil in the first place. The following tips can help you avoid the hassle and headache of having mold growing on soil in your plants by making it possible to prevent mold in the first place.

    • Adjust Your Watering Schedule- proper watering schedules and routines will ensure the potting soil doesn’t get too saturated and that the plant doesn’t start to rot from the root ball up.
    • Bright Light Will Prevent Mold In Houseplant Soil- even indoor plants need some level of sunlight and should get a few hours of natural sunlight every day if at all possible.
    • Consider Potting Mix and Good Drainage Holes- choosing a soil with good organic matter, multiple soil particulates, and good drainage will help stave off mold issues in your potting mix.
    • Remove Debris From Houseplant Soil- white mold on soil often gets out of hand because there is too much decaying plant matter for it to feed off of in the form of dead and wilted leaves.
    • Increase Ventilation To Prevent Mold Growth- plants outside naturally get decent airflow in most cases, so this needs to be replicated if possible inside to prevent white mold growing on soil.
    • Seal And Discard Old Potting Soil- when you use potting mix make sure you are storing it properly, so it stays dry and sealed away to avoid mold from growing inside the soil before you even use it.

    Final Thoughts About Dealing With White Mold on Plant Soil

    Five aligned potted indoor plants

    As can be seen, a major part of successful indoor gardening ad houseplant care is about focusing on soil and environmental parameters. It is important to ensure you know what to look for and what steps to take to manage mold and fungal issues with your plants. With these tips in mind and all this information now at your fingertips, you are better prepared to ensure that both your plant will be less likely to be affected by white mold contamination. By implementing these methods while honing your skills as an indoor gardener, you’ll be certain that they look their best season after season.

    Mold happens and while it might not be the end of the world it can cause problems for your potted plants and for you as a gardener. Now that you know some common reasons why there might be white mold growing on soil and potting mix in your containers you can start planning how to get rid of mold on plant soil in your home.  Don’t let mold ruin your gardening dreams. Put an end to it today with these handy tips!