What To Do When You Find Mushrooms Growing In Your Houseplants

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July 27, 2018

I’ve successfully grown my first mushrooms! Great news, right? Nope. Unfortunately, I wasn’t even trying to grow mushrooms, and therefore, these are not edible or even wanted.

I have two beautiful Clivia Miniata plants in my front windows, also known as Bush Lily. They’re very easy to grow and care for, and they look great whether they’re in the flowering stage or not. While watering the other day, I noticed I had bright, orange blooms coming from one of the plants. I excitedly ran over to check the other one, and much to my dismay found that instead of flowers, I had mushrooms sprouting from the soil at the base of the plant.

WTF?

I did some research and found that mushrooms growing in your houseplants is actually a fairly common problem, especially in the summer when conditions are warm. The kind I had growing in my plant were light yellow, and because I didn’t remove them right away, I watched them transition from a round ball cap to a flat one within a couple of days. These mushrooms are called Leucocoprinus birnbaumii.

Luckily, this type of mushroom won’t harm your houseplant, but they are thought to be poisonous. I have two little kids, and on the very unlikely chance they actually decide to try a mushroom (it’s always a hard pass at dinner), I wanted them gone.

How They Got There

These mushrooms grow in contaminated soil; their spores spread quite easily, so once you have a couple, expect many more to start popping up. They feed on dead, organic material, which is why they won’t actually harm your houseplant.

Some of the research I did suggests mushrooms are more likely to grow in a soilless potting mix, but that wasn’t the case for me. I’ve never had mushrooms in my houseplants before, and the only thing that I’ve changed recently is adding cooking water to my plants to act as a fertilizer.

A gardening workshop I recently attended suggested adding the water from boiled veggies and pasta (cooled, of course)  to my plants for a nutrition boost. It’s a great way to keep the phosphorus, nitrogen, and other valuable micronutrients from disappearing down the drain. My only guess is some small vegetable pieces left in the water made it into my plants, eventually decomposing and creating a nice environment for fungus and mold.

Demolition Day  

Unfortunately, getting rid of these guys permanently is quite the challenge. Unless you decide to outright evict your houseplant, it will be a wait-and-see approach, but you have a few options when it comes to attempting to remove mushrooms:

  • Change the soil in your pot. Know that you could go through the trouble of doing so and the mushrooms will still return. Those spores are highly contagious! You’ll have to try to get as much of the soil from the roots a possible before replanting, which could also stress your plant out.
  • Use a fungicide. Some people choose to go the route of applying fungicides, either store-bought or homemade, to the soil of their plants. Keep in mind, multiple doses may be needed to finally kill all of the spores.
  • Carefully remove the mushrooms and surrounding soil. This is the option I decided to go with as it’s fairly easy and not very invasive. All you have to do is get some gloves and remove the mushrooms (stems and caps), and replace the top 2” of potting soil with new earth.

No matter which removal option you choose, there’s a good chance that once you’ve found mushrooms in your houseplant they’ll be back at some point. You could also decide to do nothing about them and let them grow alongside your plant. Just remember, they are considered toxic to people and pets, so if you have any curious kids or critters around, it’s best to try to get rid of them altogether.

Catherine Sherriffs
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Catherine Sherriffs

Catherine is a Canadian award-winning journalist who worked as a reporter and news anchor in Montreal’s radio and television scene for 10 years. A graduate of Concordia University, she left the hustle and bustle of the business after starting a family. Now, she’s the editor and a writer for Garden Culture Magazine while also enjoying being a mom to her two young kids. Her interests include great food, gardening, fitness, animals, and anything outdoors.
Catherine Sherriffs
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