As a beginner plant owner, I was so terrified of drying out my houseplants that I would cavalierly water them every day, no matter the species or the season. In retrospect, of course, I was overwatering, but that’s a story for another time. Imagine the expression on my face when I saw white and yellow bubbles growing in my houseplants, one after another.
Some of the bubbles would pop, and others would grow into yellow mushrooms, yuck! Understandably, I was terrified, and if it’s the first time you see these fungus balls or mushrooms pop up seemingly out of nowhere, you may be as well. Fear not, these mushrooms will not harm your plants, but you may want to tread carefully, as they could harm dogs and young children.
Here’s what you need to know about mushrooms growing in the soil of your houseplants or garden.
Chances are, the mushrooms you now see appearing have been growing and developing in your soil for a long time. Mushrooms develop from tiny spores that must have been there in the potting or gardening mix when you purchased them.
From the tiny spores, the mushroom grows into an underground mass called a mycelium, and the aboveground mushrooms we all see and recognize only appear occasionally, and are referred to as fruiting bodies. This usually happens when the weather is hot and the soil is rather wet, which explains why I started seeing mushrooms appear in the soil of my plants when I was overwatering them. Mushrooms also tend to appear in the garden when the humidity increases, so you’ll frequently see them pop up after a summer drizzle.
These visible mushrooms appear to spread spores and multiply, so removing them from the soil as quickly as you can is a good idea. Some mushrooms can also be poisonous when ingested, so make sure to remove them if dogs or kids have access to infected potted plants or areas in the garden.
That said, the majority of mushrooms growing among plants will not harm the plants themselves. As Dr. Greg Mueller, a mycologist from the Chicago Botanic Garden told RD, “I call mushrooms nature’s recyclers,” alluding to the fact that the underground part of the mushroom actually decomposes dead material and turns it into nutrients for your plants. So, in most cases, if your plant is dying, it's for a different reason.
The only exception is when you notice that your plants have started to appear weaker and smaller, and there are mushrooms nearby. This means that the fungus has expanded so much that it started pushing out the plant.
Related article: How to Identify and Manage 10 Common Plant Diseases
Pick the mushroom by wrapping it in a damp paper towel and a plastic bag. Bring the dog and the mushroom to the veterinarian, as even some mushrooms that are not poisonous to humans are dangerous to dogs. You can take a photo of the mushroom from all angles if you’re not willing to touch it.
First and foremost, avoid using packaged fungicides. These products do not work against ordinary mushrooms, only fungal diseases like mildew, but they will damage the beneficial organisms in your soil.
Instead, just pluck the mushrooms and scale down on the watering. If you want to eradicate the underground part of the mushroom, follow these tips:
1. Dig up the mushroom, including the underground parts you see.
2. Seal the mushroom in a plastic bag to prevent the spread of spores. Throw away the bag.
3. Fill a spray bottle with water and add a few drops of dish soap. Spray this liquid on the affected area to kill any traces of the fungus.
To prevent a fungal problem in your garden, make sure to clean away any dead foliage or decomposing matter from the soil. You can also water plants more sparingly to essentially dry out the mushrooms.
In severe or recurring cases, simply repotting the plant in fresh soil will do. Make sure to sterilize the pot in boiling water before you repot.