One day, you woke up to find a mushroom cap in your beloved succulent pot. Maybe the first thing you did was to Google “mushroom in my succulent pot” (and ended up in our blog here). Let us assure you that mushrooms in houseplant and succulent pots are more common than you might think, and they aren’t the end of the world either!
Still, finding your succulents sharing a pot with some unknown fungi can be quite a shock! To help manage mushroom growth in your home garden, read on.
[Are mushroom good or bad?]Are mushroom good or bad for your succulents?
In short, most fungi, especially mushroom caps that pop up in your pots, are not directly harmful to succulents. There are some good points in mushrooms, but your succulents are better off without them.
Mushrooms can be beneficial, as some fungi form a mycorrhiza, a symbiotic relationship between a plant’s roots and a fungus. Fungus turns nitrogen into a usable form and shares it with a plant through its roots. The fungus can also help your plant to manage soil pH and provide extra nutrients in the soil as essential decomposers. Scientists estimate that up to 90% of the world's plants have a mycorrhizal relationship with fungi.
However, mushroom growth indicates that the soil is moist, and the environment is humid. For succulents, such a growing environment is less than ideal and may lead to multiple problems like root rot, mold growth, pests, diseases, and more. The benefit of the fungus is not worth all those harmful issues and you should take action right away.
[Types of mushrooms]Types of mushrooms that grow in a succulent pot
The most common mushroom you’ll encounter with houseplants is the Leucocoprinus birnbaumii, better known as the Flowerpot Parasol or Houseplant Dapperling. These small, lemon-yellow mushrooms grow to about 1-3 inches tall and are great at breaking down organic matter in the soil.
These mushrooms are, however, moderately toxic to animals and people. Like most wild mushrooms, it’s best to avoid eating them at all costs and to keep them away from pets and children. If your pet or a child eats one of these mushrooms, contact poison control immediately, or visit an emergency care clinic.
Mushrooms vs. Fungal Infections
Mushrooms growing in your soil and fungal infections are completely different, although they are both caused by fungus. Unlike mushrooms that pop up in the soil, fungal infections directly affect your succulents. An infected plant will appear wilted, with tan to reddish brown spots on its leaves. Leaf spots first appear on newer growth, then spread to older leaves and eventually your plant’s stem. Fungal infections can stifle a plant’s growth and eventually kill your succulents. Fungal infections are more harmful than mushrooms and need to be treated right away with fungicide.
[Why do mushrooms grow?]Why do mushrooms grow in a succulent pot?
Mushrooms are the fruit of some certain fungus that grows in your plant pot, but where do they come from?
Contaminated potting mix
For mushrooms to appear, there must be mushroom spores in your pot. Your potting mix might already be contaminated before you plant your succulents, or at some point after planting, floating mushroom spores landed on the soil, waiting for the right environment to develop. Sometimes your succulent grew in contaminated soil in the plant nursery, and the soil surrounding its roots may already carry mushroom spores.
Rich, highly fertile, and moist soil
Even if there are some mushroom spores in the soil, you will not see any mushroom growth unless your soil mix is highly fertile and retains some moisture. Most fungi (which include mushrooms, mildew, and molds) only grow in rich, moist soil with lots of decomposing organic matter. Their mycelium, which is like a plant’s root, will die in dry conditions.
Mushrooms also require high humidity to grow, so the sight of mushroom caps in your pot may also be a sign that your succulents need better-draining soil or a less-humid environment. When a mushroom cap appears, it is also an indication that your succulents do not have their ideal growing conditions.
[How to remove mushrooms]How to remove mushrooms from your pot
Removing mushrooms from your succulent pot may be a bit more difficult than you might think. It's not as easy as plucking out the mushroom, because fungi have an unusual anatomy. The mushroom cap we are seeing is more like a flower in a plant. Its main part is mycelium, which functions like plant roots and stems. Mycelium lives underneath the soil surface and is not easy to remove. Once the soil becomes infected, getting rid of the spores and fungus that cause the mushrooms is one challenging but not impossible task. You can follow these below suggestions:
- Remove the mushroom caps: Mushroom caps are a fungus’ reproductive part. It means that it will spread spores to nearby soils. Removing the caps helps to control spore contamination and keep mushrooms out of other plants.
- Replace topsoil:Next, you can try to scrape the topsoil. If changing the soil is not possible, for example, if your succulents are not in their growing season and repotting is not ideal, you can try to replace the first 2 inches of the soil. Sometimes this is enough to keep mushrooms from returning.
- Change the whole soil: If mushrooms come back after you have replaced the topsoil, you may need to change the whole soil in the pot. Don’t forget to use well-draining, porous soil that does not retain water, and is made especially for succulents. However, removing all soil is not a simple job, as some soil will remain in your succulents’ roots even after rinsing. It is also not easy to remove the soil in the roots without disturbing your plant’s growth.
- Use fungicide: Another solution is to drench the soil with fungicide. Again, the fungus is persistent and very difficult to get rid of. You may find that even after all soil changes and a thorough fungicide soaking, mushrooms still come back. You may need to apply treatment several times before the fungus is killed completely.
- Reduce humidity level: A different approach to control mushrooms is to eliminate a fungus’ ideal environment. You should reduce the humidity level in your room by using a dehumidifier or you can move your plant to a dry spot with less humidity. You should also increase the airflow in the room by opening the doors or by having a good ventilation system. Without a high humidity level, mushrooms will die on their own.
[How to prevent mushrooms]How to prevent mushrooms to grow in your pot
- Use gritty soil and only soil mix for succulents with inorganic matter like coarse sand, perlite, volcanic rock, and fine gravel. Limit the amount of compost and organic matter (decomposing plant parts).
- Reduce watering and only water when the soil is dry to the touch. Remember that most succulents are drought-tolerant and do not like to sit in wet soil.
- Using a dehumidifier to lower the humidity around your plants can also prevent mushroom growth.
- Keep your succulents in a dry spot away from high humidity. Bathrooms and kitchens are places where temperature and humidity levels are high and may encourage mushrooms to grow.
Happy Gardening with Succulents Box!