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Managing Molds & Mildews

By Shannon McKee | Last updated: April 23, 2021
Key Takeaways

Noticing some furry, fuzzy materials growing on your plants or the soil below your plants? You may have a mold or mildew problem. Here’s what to do.

Are your potted plants starting to look like a science experiment with white or yellow fuzzy material growing on the plants themselves or the soil they are potted in? You probably have a mold or mildew problem.

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It is especially important to deal with molds and mildews on indoor plants because they can have a negative impact on a person’s health and well-being if spores are disturbed and end up in the atmosphere, not to mention the negative effects on your plants.

Molds enjoy living in humid areas with low air circulation, heat and darkness. Some common molds and mildews found in your soil and on your plants are powdery mildew, saprophytic soil fungus and botrytis gray mold.

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Due to the health issues some people experience when exposed to molds and mildews, it is important to protect yourself by using latex or plastic gloves and a mask. Dealing with the problem outdoors can keep it from spreading in the room’s atmosphere or to other plants that have not been contaminated.

To get rid of the problem, first wipe down the leaves and stem with a damp cloth or paper towel to try to remove as much of the mold or mildew as possible and remove all of the moldy or mildewed soil in your planter, then dispose of this soil and replace with sterile soil. A good rule of thumb is to try to remove about 2 in. of the infected soil. Do not reuse this soil, as the spores it contains may contaminate the soil that it gets added to after being removed.

This could be a good time to re-pot the plant in new soil, as you may not get all the spores in the soil by simply removing some of it. If the mold or mildew does come back again after removing only part of the soil, this step might be necessary to be rid of this problem once and for all. When re-potting, it is good to wash the pot with warm water and soap to remove any remaining contaminated soil or spores.

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Using an anti-fungicide spray that is meant for indoor use can be a good way to keep your plants mold and mildew free in the future or battle a large case of mold and mildew, as long as directions are followed. Also, some fungicides may target a specific type of mold. A general spray can be useful for prevention if no specific problems have occurred in the past. Note that some sprays can be harmful to pets or small children, so read the label carefully.

It is also important to try to locate your plants in another area. Often, mold and mildew problems occur in shady areas with little air circulation. Your plants should be moved to an area with more sun exposure and air circulation.

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Some plants do not well in direct sun, so make sure you know the amount of sun each plant can tolerate in a day. Over-crowding your plants can also reduce the amount of air circulation surrounding them. If you find the optimal place tends to get stuffy, you can use fans to help get air circulating.

Over-watering is another cause of mold growth on plants and around the soil, so be sure you are not over-watering your plants and use containers that drain properly.

Molds and mildews can be annoying to deal with, but it is important to deal with the issue when you first notice it as they can continue to spread to other plants in your home. Also, the spores can spread in the air and land on surfaces your family and friends come into contact with, which could have a negative effect on their health.

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Written by Shannon McKee | Freelance Writer, Gardener

Profile Picture of Shannon McKee

Shannon McKee lives in Ohio and has been a freelance writer for several years now, including on her blog, whyiwah.blogspot.com. Nicknamed by loved ones a garden hoarder over the past few years, she grows a wide variety of plants in her urban garden.

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