- How to Get Rid of Mold in Plant Soil
- Why does mold develop?
- Not harmful to plants
- Watering tip
- Fungicide Effects
- Uses for the Home Garden
- Preventing Future Infections
- Are Your Houseplants Harboring Mold Spores?
- What Makes Plants So Good For Air Quality?
- How Do Plants Reduce Humidity and Moisture Levels?
- Can Plants Remove Mold Spores From the Air?
- The 3 Best Indoor Plants that Clean the Air and Remove Toxins
- The 3 Best Bathroom Plants That Absorb Moisture
- The 3 Best Plants That Remove Mold Spores From The Air And Detox Your Home
- A Natural Approach to Clean Air and Less Mold
- English Ivy Plants: Do They Improve Air Quality?
- What is English Ivy?
- Does English Ivy Really Improve Indoor Air Quality?
- English ivy can reduce particles of fecal matter and mold
- Should You Get English Ivy for Your Home?
- How to Grow and Care for English Ivy in Your Home
- What Types Of Mold Grow In Plant Soil?
- Is Mold In Plant Soil Harmful?
- Is It Ok To Use Moldy Potting Soil?
- How To Prevent Mold On Soil
- How To Get Rid Of Mold In Plant Soil
How to Get Rid of Mold in Plant Soil
The mold that sometimes appear on the surface of your indoor plants’ soil is not harmful to plants. However, it is strongly recommended to get rid of it. To do so, simply scrape the surface of the soil and remove the upper layer from the pot.
When that is done, let the soil dry before watering again. Generally, reducing humidity, decreasing the ambient temperature and improving drainage will help eliminate molds and prevent their development.
Why does mold develop?
Mold will grow on almost any organic source, if the humidity is sufficiently high. Molds are generally created by filamentous fungi that are ever present in our environment.
Each species can have different preferences for certain types of organic food sources, ranging from wood to plant debris.
Not harmful to plants
The molds which grow on peat moss and other growing media are saprophytic, meaning they feed on dead plant material and are not pathogenic or harmful to plants or people.
The molds are naturally found in peat bogs at very low populations, but due to the acidic nature of peat bogs, they do not flourish, which results in slow decomposition of peat moss. However, once harvested and amended with limestone and nutrients, the chemistry changes.
Water is essential to the growth of plants, but too much water will be harmful and can cause several problems, such as root diseases or the development of molds.
Don’t water unless the plant needs it. How to tell? Poke your finger about an inch into the potting soil. If the soil feels dry, go ahead and water. If the top of the soil feels moist, wait a couple of days and check again.
Houseplants and gardens can create a wonderful, attractive addition to a home. They can help purify the air or even serve as more than just decoration, having a much better effect on your garden or rooms. Caring for plants needs efforts and time, but some pretty bad issues can come up during the process of care. Mold can be one of these, ending up growing on your plants in ways you may not predict. Take the following steps to ensure this never happens or to stop it once it does:
- If you have to clean leaves from mold, then you can start with a simple solution: just moisten a paper towel with some warm water. Mold on living plants can be easily wiped that way. Wring the paper towel after dampening it to avoid dripping. Support the underside of the leaves with your hand, wiping the tops in the process. Never do this with a dry towel, or you will spread the mold spores in the air if you’re not careful.
- You will need to replace the paper towels when you’re cleaning. The paper towel will accumulate dust and mold from the leaves of the plants, so you will need to change it unless you want to let the accumulated mold and dust spread around the area. Make sure you do the cleaning in a well-ventilated area if you can. You should use a spray bottle to make cleaning much easier overall.
- Removing mold from the soil itself will take a bit more effort than that. You must scoop the top layer of soil with its moldy infestation. If you have potting soil that shows the growth of mold, then you will likely have the mold confined to the top layer of soil in most cases. You can use a spoon or a spade to strip that layer and place it into a plastic bag for easy disposal.
- You should replace the stripped top layer with some new potting soil. After you remove all traces of visible mold, then you will need to work on replacing it. If the infestation is far too bad, then you will need to replace a lot more than just the top layer.
- You will need to add a more natural, anti-fungal substance to the soil to keep its spores from growing. You can do so by using cinnamon on top of the soil, which will deter the growth of mold, but on the other hand its harmless to the plants themselves.
- You will need to prevent the mold from growing back, so you can start by placing a thin layer of gravel at the bottom of the potting mix. This will allow for a much more effective draining. Doing so will keep the plants healthier, while at the same time minimizing its susceptibility to mold.
- You will need to keep each of the houseplants in a well-ventilated area. Mold will really thrive in areas of poor ventilation, so ensuring proper ventilation is an absolute must. You can do this with a dehumidifier or by opening a window, running proper ventilation fans and so forth if its on the inside. If you happen to have an indoors garden, this is an absolute must.
Houseplants can sometimes hold a sentimental place in our homes and hearts. I know some of the plants in my home were given to me by close friends and relatives. It can be heartbreaking to think that the “legacy of the plant” can’t be saved, but I’m here to tell you that they can be saved!!!
When it comes to finding sources for mold around the home most people NEVER think to look in their potted plants as a source for mold.
In general, caring for houseplants only takes little time and a little bit of “green thumb” effort; but there is a potential problem that can be lurking in your pots and even on the leaves of your treasured houseplants and can become a serious health threat to not only you and your children but also your pets. I’m referring to MOLD. Mold growing in your houseplants’ soil, or sometimes mold growing directly on your plants’ leaves, is an issue that can be harmful for both your plants and yourself.
Here are some solutions below that you can use to get rid of mold in potting soil and on the leaves of houseplants and learn how to keep it from coming back.
More than 8,000 species of fungi cause plant diseases, but chemical fungicides can be harmful to other plants, children, pets and the environment. Tea tree oil is a natural product that has been used for centuries as an antimicrobial for a wide variety of conditions. If used properly, tea tree oil can help control fungal diseases on plants without many of the dangerous side-effects of chemical fungicides.
Most components of tea tree oil are active against a range of fungi, with terpinen-4-ol the most active agent in the oil. A study published in 2007 in “Letters in Applied Microbiology” demonstrated that tea tree oil was effective at fighting the fungi that cause Fusarium head blight in wheat, barley and oats, as well as barley leaf stripe and powdery mildew. Other studies have found tea tree oil beneficial in controlling fruit rots, anthracnose and leather rot in strawberries; early blight disease in tomato plants; alternaria solani on potato; and cercospora beticola on sugarbeets.
Uses for the Home Garden
To prevent fungal growth on plants and leaves, combine 2 tablespoons of tea tree oil with 2 cups of water in a “GLASS” spray bottle (never use a plastic spray bottle with essential oils because the oils can break down the plastic as it sits in the bottle over time) and spray plants every three to seven days.To avoid burning oil-treated leaves, spray in the morning and less frequently during hot dry spells. If plants already have blight on leaves but not stems or fruit, pull off affected leaves and spray the entire plant. Tea tree oil also repels whiteflies that excrete a sticky honeydew causing sooty mold fungi to grow on foliage. While generally safe for humans, tea tree oil can be toxic if swallowed. It can also cause allergic reactions if you’re allergic to balsam, benzoin or plants in the myrtle family.
Preventing Future Infections
Remove infected plant materials and leaves around plants and dispose in the garbage to avoid spreading disease. When using tools to cut diseased wood, dip the tools into a tea tree oil solution to disinfect them. Keep weeds away from plants, as they can harbor insects and pathogens. Water plants regularly but avoid overwatering, which can encourage fungal growth. Use a variety of plants since fungi tend to be plant-specific, and purchase certified disease-free seeds and cuttings when possible.
Moisten a microfiber cloth (like these) in warm water. Mold on a living plant’s leaves can usually be wiped away satisfactorily with a damp microfiber cloth (never use a paper towel because paper towels are considered food for mold). Rinse the microfiber cloth out after dampening it to prevent drips.
Wipe the moldy leaves down with the “WET” microfiber disposable towel. Supporting the underside of each leaf with your free hand, wipe the tops with the wet towel. This should remove all of the visible mold. Do not attempt this with a dry towel, as this will stir the mold spores into the air and worsen the problem.
Replace the microfiber towel as necessary. As the towel accumulates mold and dust from the plant’s leaves, discard it and use a fresh one. When all the leaves are wiped down, you can allow the plant to air dry, preferably in a well-ventilated area.
Scoop away the top layer of moldy soil. If your potting soil shows mold growth, it is most likely confined to the top half-inch (1 cm) or so. Use a spoon to scoop this moldy top layer into a sealable plastic bag for disposal.
Replace the soil with fresh potting soil. After removing all of the visible mold, top the pot off with fresh potting mix. If the mold growth was particularly severe, it is best to instead replace all of the plant’s soil.
Add a natural anti-fungal to the houseplant soil. Even when you remove visible mold, plenty of mold spores inevitably remain. To help prevent the immediate reappearance of mold from these spores, you can sprinkle a bit of Organic (Non-GMO) cinnamon onto the top layer of soil. Cinnamon acts as a natural deterrent to mold growth, and is harmless to the plant.
Place a layer of drainage stone in each plant pot. The primary culprit for mold growth on houseplants is soil that remains wet for too long. Each pot should have a thin layer of gravel at the bottom to allow the potting mix to drain thoroughly. This keeps your houseplant healthier and minimizes its susceptibility to mold.
Are Your Houseplants Harboring Mold Spores?
Not all sources of mold inside your home are accidental. Some are brought into the house, fed and watered, then thrive right under your nose. This contamination frequently affects houseplants and/or the potting soil where they grow. Mold flourishes anywhere there’s food and moisture along with a hospitable temperature. Soil inside the pot often accumulates mold-friendly nutrients provided by decaying leaves and other organic matter. Meanwhile, the regular watering provided by homeowners typically makes the pot a hospitable environment for mold growth.
Active mold contamination spreads throughout a house by releasing microscopic airborne spores. When inhaled, spores may produce a range of allergic symptoms and even chronic illness in susceptible individuals. Here are some steps to eliminate mold from the houseplants.
- Wipe it off. Use a moist paper towel and, while supporting the stems with your fingers so you don’t break them, gently wipe down the plant leaves to remove any surface mold. Also wipe the stalk of the plant.
- Take the plant outdoors and spray it with a consumer-grade fungicide formulated to kill mold. You can get advice from a garden center about which type of fungicide should be utilized for specific plants. Manufacturer’s info on the product label also typically provides a list of plants that are safe to spray.
- Before bringing the plant back into the house, scoop out the top layer of potting soil in the pot, going as deep as possible without damaging roots. Replace this soil with fresh potting soil that is labeled as “sterilized” to kill mold during production.
- Don’t over-water houseplants as excess moisture triggers mold contamination. Consult reputable sources for information about how often and how much watering is sufficient for a particular plant type.
- Ultraviolet light present in sunshine is an effective natural mold-killer. Make sure your plants receive the recommended adequate daily sun exposure per the specific type.
- Mold prefers a stagnant environment to grow. Place plants in areas where air circulation is adequate.
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Most homes have at least one houseplant in their care, whether it’s a small potted plant that lives on the windowsill or a larger display of ferns and lilies that take up entire rooms.
As well as being aesthetically pleasing and a natural form of décor, plants are actually natural wonders at improving the quality of the air we breathe.
For homes that suffer from high moisture levels or indoor pollutants, having a houseplant or two inside can have a very positive effect.
With mold being one of the most common indoor pollutants found at home and one that has serious impacts on our health, using houseplants to target this problem and bring down moisture levels while maintaining air quality is a smart and natural approach.
There’s a lot to learn about using plants for mold removal and the various ways they can improve our air quality, so having the knowledge of how to use them can be invaluable.
You’ll not only be able to keep mold at bay but will control humidity and moisture levels, making the indoor environment of your home as healthy as possible for you and your family.
This guide can show you just what makes plants so special at removing mold and other toxins and which ones are the most effective for these purposes.
With a few carefully placed indoor plants you’ll get an almost immediate improvement in the air you breathe and ensure your home is as healthy as it can be.
What Makes Plants So Good For Air Quality?
To understand how a plant can be so beneficial for your home’s quality of air, we need to understand the natural processes of plants that give them their status as a natural purifier.
Numerous studies from NASA, the University of Georgia, and Pennsylvania State University among others have proven that plants can indeed clean the air for us and especially indoors.
One of the plant’s main duties, whether indoors or out, is absorbing gases through the minuscule pores that are found all over their leaves.
This gas absorption is all part of photosynthesis, the process of turning carbon dioxide and light energy into chemical energy which allows them to grow and thrive.
What makes them so special at cleaning the air is the added ability to absorb not just carbon dioxide but a number of other gasses and harmful volatile organic compounds.
These volatile organic compounds include substances like benzene, found in pesticides and smoke, or formaldehyde, found in cleaning agents and cosmetics, both of which can be very harmful.
The soil of a potted plant also contains microorganisms that neutralize these pollutants as well, so there are two processes working at once.
Once the plant is done absorbing these pollutants, they then create fresh oxygen for us to breathe and send it back into the atmosphere.
Therefore, having some carefully placed houseplants around the home can be hugely beneficial for air quality and a completely natural approach that requires very little maintenance on your part.
How Do Plants Reduce Humidity and Moisture Levels?
Excess humidity and moisture in the home are usually pretty easy to detect but can be hard to rectify.
You might spot a patch of mold growing or notice a musty smell in the air, both indicating that there are high levels of moisture around that need to be reduced.
Houseplants are one of the most effective ways to balance humidity levels and have even been considered nature’s own dehumidifiers.
Most plants are capable of harvesting moisture from the air and absorbing it, which they do through the stoma in their leaves, sometimes referred to as a plant’s foliar uptake.
During this process, moisture is absorbed and stored in the plant, using it for growth just as it does when you water the soil.
With this logic in mind, you can see how plants that have moist soil are more efficient at harvesting moisture, and these are the best ones if you’re trying to reduce humidity in your own home.
Having balanced humidity levels is important for the overall air quality but it also prevents the growth of mold, mildew, and the breeding of common household pests like dust mites.
Therefore, choosing the right plants that are adept at absorbing moisture is one simple way that you can reduce humidity in the home and the other side effects that come with it.
Can Plants Remove Mold Spores From the Air?
One of the most common indoor pollutants that a home has is mold, and this dangerous fungus is capable of spreading very quickly.
It does this by spreading hundreds of minuscule spores throughout the air which can have harmful health side effects when ingested or inhaled, ranging from bouts of sneezing to serious illnesses of the upper respiratory tract.
An effective way to reduce the number of mold spores in the air is with plants.
Plants are able to absorb toxins by moving these chemicals through to their roots, and this includes the minuscule mold spores that float through the air.
The soil in a potted plant can also absorb mold through the microbes living in it, so it can be removed with a double approach.
One study found that a room with a plant in it contained between 50 to 60 percent fewer bacteria and mold spores than those without any plants.
Those with larger leaves were able to absorb more and some species better than others, so they can be hugely beneficial when you choose the right ones.
The 3 Best Indoor Plants that Clean the Air and Remove Toxins
If overall improved air quality is the goal for your home, you’ll want one of these houseplants that specializes in exactly that.
These plants are known for their ability to remove toxins and pollutants from the air most efficiently, giving you fresh oxygen to breathe and enjoy.
Commonly referred to as pothos, this plant is a form of philodendron that is notoriously hard to kill, which makes it perfect for those who want something low maintenance.
It features long tendrils that capture toxins and absorb them, and you can have them hanging up high to get the job done. Common toxins that the pothos removes include benzene, xylene, and formaldehyde.
Dwarf Date Palm
Don’t be fooled by the name, as the Dwarf Date Palm can grow up to 10 feet in size. This pygmy palm is small for the palm family it comes from but very powerful at removing toxins from the air.
The Dwarf Date Palm can absorb both xylene and formaldehyde from the air which are common indoor pollutants, and it grows best in the shade so it’s the perfect houseplant.
Also known as the aglaonema, the Chinese Evergreen is one of the easiest houseplants to grow.
They live in almost all climates but need well-drained soil in order to thrive and medium light conditions. This plant absorbs xylene and formaldehyde so it’s great at improving overall air quality.
The 3 Best Bathroom Plants That Absorb Moisture
The bathroom is one of the most humid areas of the home and the one that is more susceptible to the growth of mold and mildew.
If your ventilation is lacking or there’s not much natural sunlight and air in the room, you can place one or two of these houseplants in your bathroom to take care of the problem instead.
The Peace Lily is ideal for the bathroom because it’s able to absorb moisture through its leaves for growth, even though its soil is also watered.
Even in low light rooms like the bathroom it can still thrive and will keep the levels of moisture down in this notoriously moist room. These plants make a gorgeous white flower when in bloom so they’re a great decoration for the bathroom as well.
Any palm is going to do well in humid situations and the Reed Palm is especially great for the bathroom.
This is one palm that does exceptionally well in low light so it’ll work well in the bathroom and it can grow quite large with even more sunlight. As well as absorbing moisture, the Reed Palm can also purify the air so it does two jobs at once.
Another plant that loves humid climates and would appreciate living in the moist conditions of the bathroom is the Boston Fern.
This indoor plant does a great job of absorbing moisture from the air and also balances humidity levels, making it ideal for the bathroom.
Better yet, they require minimal sunlight and only need barely moist soil to thrive so they’re very low maintenance.
The 3 Best Plants That Remove Mold Spores From The Air And Detox Your Home
If mold is a problem in your house and you want to keep your air clean from its spores, there are some specific plants that can absorb them.
Consider adding these efficient mold removing plants to your home for a natural approach to destroying the fungus, as well as attacking the source of the mold.
English Ivy is a great choice for an indoor plant because it does well in a hanging pot. This means it’s able to trap airborne mold spores while not presenting a danger to animals or children who might want to touch it.
All you need to do to help it grow is keep the soil moist and give it a little sunlight each day, and you’ll be rewarded with your own mold remover.
If you have a bad track record with plants and find yourself killing them even with the best intentions, the Spider Plant will be ideal for you.
This plant is great for absorbing mold from the air and can also purify it by removing harmful pollutants like formaldehyde and xylene from the atmosphere. They can survive in all climates and weathers and with minimal sunlight, with some even living in areas that drop to 2 degrees.
The Tillandsia needs a little more maintenance in order to keep it alive, including watering three times a week and a life in front of a bright, sunny window.
However, if you’re able to keep it alive it will reward you by absorbing mold spores from the air and improving the overall air quality.
A Natural Approach to Clean Air and Less Mold
We often underestimate the importance of clean air at home because it’s hard to see just how many pollutants live in it. Invisible dangers like lead, formaldehyde, and mold spores float around without being seen, and they can come with serious side effects for our health if not removed.
Whether your issue is with mold or serious pollutants like asbestos, choosing the right type of plants to live indoors with you can be hugely beneficial.
There are many species of indoor plants that specifically target these common household pollutants so all you have to do is choose the right ones and let them work their magic.
You might have a single, larger plant or many, but whatever approach you take you’ll be guaranteeing an improvement in the air quality and level of pollutants found in your home.
Most houseplants are low maintenance and easy to take care of, and in return, they’ll reward you with a healthier living environment.
Whether you choose plants that specifically absorb mold spores or those that absorb chemicals to make the air a little fresher, you can put these wonders of nature to work to improve the health of your home and your family.
English Ivy Plants: Do They Improve Air Quality?
Admired for their potential ability to pull harmful gases out of the air and into their leaves and roots, indoor plants are a commonly recommended solution for people who want to improve the air quality in their home. It does not hurt that these plants make for a nice addition to the decor—greenery always livens up a space.
One plant recommended often is English ivy, despite the controversy that surrounds the safety and effectiveness of the vine to improve air quality. Since the aggressive vine has some harmful (even toxic) components, there has been debate about whether it is worth it or not to have English ivy as a houseplant. If it is, do the potential benefits for reducing indoor air pollution with English ivy plants outweigh the risks?
Below, we will explore everything you need to know about English ivy — what it is, whether it actually helps purify the air in your home, and how to care for it if you do bring it indoors.
What is English Ivy?
Also known as Hedera helix, English ivy is a perennial vine that originated in Europe (hence the name) centuries ago. It was introduced to North America by colonial settlers and quickly became recognized for its aggressive spreading — it can reach between 6 and 9 inches in height off the ground and spread up to 100 feet. At its most mature, English ivy has oval leaves and produces yellow-green flowers in the fall, which turn into black and blue berries in the spring.
You have probably seen its thick, glossy leaves growing up the sides of brick or stone walls, or wrapped around the trunk of a tree. You may have even regarded English ivy as pretty. Many people would agree with you. However, some regions of the United States regard English ivy as an invasive, noxious weed because it takes over other plants that are native to the area. Since there is no natural enemy to English ivy, it is left to grow however it wants. In Oregon, it is actually illegal to buy, sell, or transport English ivy because of this.
Does English Ivy Really Improve Indoor Air Quality?
While plants hardly seem like a controversial topic, English ivy is just that. While some experts say that climbing ivy damages the walls and trees it covers, others say the ivy protects them. There is no doubt that both observations are at least partially accurate. Though you may not be able to plant English ivy outdoors, you can grow it indoors.
The big question is this: Does English ivy actually improve indoor air quality?
While the National Park Service is not a fan of English ivy and advises (strongly) that it should not be planted outside, it is quite a popular houseplant. This might be due to a NASA study that evaluated its ability (among other indoor plants) to reduce indoor air pollutants. Within a small test chamber, English ivy, along with the other plants, was reported to reduce levels of formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene from the air—volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are known carcinogens. This NASA study has been popularized in the media to claim that indoor plants can remove indoor air pollutants. Though dated, it is still one of the most comprehensive studies done on how plants can help improve indoor air quality.
Yet the EPA is skeptical. The agency says that there is no current evidence that a normal number of houseplants can remove significant amounts of pollutants in homes.
A researcher who has found similar results as the NASA study in plants’ ability to remove organic chemicals from the air cannot even say the findings are conclusive. Stanley J. Kays from the University of Georgia is quoted as saying, “It is not yet possible to project the true potential of plants for purifying indoor air. At this time the role of plants, though appearing positive, is not totally clear..”
English ivy can reduce particles of fecal matter and mold
Experimental results presented to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology back in 2005, evaluated how well English ivy could reduce levels of fecal matter and mold. Researchers put moldy bread and dog feces in two separate containers and measured the levels of each in the air of the containers. They then added English ivy to each container and measured the airborne particles 6 and 12 hours later.
According to WebMD: “Six hours later, 60% of the airborne-mold had vanished from the air around the ivy. Almost as much of the airborne feces were also gone from the air (58%). After six more hours, the air was even cleaner. More than three-quarters of the airborne mold was gone (78%). So were nearly all of the airborne feces (94%), the study shows.”
While English ivy may be able to pull fecal matter, mold spores, and other indoor air pollutants from very small, contained spaces (like test containers and chambers), it may not be effective at purifying the air inside a home. It also won’t remove certain allergens — like pet dander, pollen, or dust.
Should You Get English Ivy for Your Home?
Even if English ivy may potentially remove some indoor air pollutants, should you bring it into your home? That answer depends on several factors, including whether you have pets or children. The two main reasons people warn against bringing English ivy into the home are:
- English ivy is poisonous to humans and pets — The leaves and berries of English ivy contain glycoside hederin, which can cause side effects that range from mild (diarrhea and dilated pupils) to severe (difficulty breathing, fever, and lack of coordination). While an adult would know better than to snack on a houseplant, young children and pets don’t.
- When touched, English ivy can cause dermatitis — Dermatitis is a general term used to describe skin inflammation, characterized by an itchy rash on swollen, red skin. The confirmed cases of allergic contact dermatitis typically occur after someone handles English ivy without a protective barrier between the plant and their skin. Not everyone who touches English ivy will experience dermatitis but it’s a risk that should be considered.
How to Grow and Care for English Ivy in Your Home
If you do decide to get an English ivy plant to help purify the air in your home, here are some helpful pointers for growing and caring for your plants.
- Ivy should be planted in a pot with drainage
- The soil of the plant should be dry to the touch between waterings
- During spring, summer, and fall, English ivy should be fertilized monthly
- Trim the vines if they get too long (be sure to wear gloves to protect your skin)
- English ivy needs bright sunlight to stay healthy
- The vines prefer to be kept at cooler temps and enjoy humidity (you will still want to make sure you’re keeping your home at optimal humidity levels to prevent mold growth)
- English ivy vines attach to surfaces (like walls) with tiny roots — be sure not to let your vines grow on anything they could damage
Since English ivy plants don’t require much attention, they tend to be a hardy plant that can withstand even forgetful owners. The most important thing to remember is that these vines must be kept out of reach of pets and small children.
While NASA’s research certainly points us in the right direction and further research confirms that there is some validity to their findings, there is no definitive answer regarding whether English ivy is a reliable solution for improving indoor air quality. Instead, it should be used as one component of a more comprehensive strategy — one that includes removing products that emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from your home and providing adequate ventilation.
We’ve all be told just how wonderful houseplants are for our indoor air. But what happens when your potting soil begins to grow mold. Is mold in houseplant soil safe?
Ideally you never want to invite mold into your home and adding houseplants to your life could certainly do this. But before you remove every plant in your home, let’s take a look at mold in plant soil, how to prevent it, as well as how to remove it.
What Types Of Mold Grow In Plant Soil?
Houseplant mold is typically a Saprophytic mold. This is not a specific species of mold but instead refers to an organism that feeds off and helps to break down organic material. It uses the carbon it gets from organic material to grow and develop. And this is essentially why it likes to turn your damp houseplant soil into a breeding ground.
There are several types of Saprophytic molds. The most common types of Saprophytic mold found on houseplant soil are mucor, Penicillium sp., Aspergillus sp. and Trichoderma sp.
Mold in houseplant soil is either active or dormant. Active mold in soil will be fluffy / fuzzy, soft, and smears easily. Dormant mold will be more powdery.
Is Mold In Plant Soil Harmful?
All soil has fungal spores. Such is the nature of soil. It’s part of how soil is made in the first place.
As such, mold in plant soil doesn’t always harm the plant. In nature, it actually is part of the life cycle of plants. However, moldy soil might also be a sign that your plant is not getting what it needs in terms of sunlight, air circulation, and moisture. The mold might also be competing for nutrition with your plant.
The real issue is when the mold begins to grow on the plant. At that point, the health of the plant is very compromised.
Now – mold in plant soil is a different story for humans. For some individuals, it can cause serious health problems. For many people, it will produce allergic reactions such as sneezing, congestion, itchy eyes, skin irritations. In addition, the mold spores can go airborne and settle elsewhere in your home where they can grow and cause a much bigger mold problem. It is never a good idea to ignore mold in plant soil.
Is It Ok To Use Moldy Potting Soil?
Some people think it is and will tell you to just mix the white mold into the soil and go for it.
I cannot in good faith tell you to use moldy potting soil. If you have an old bag of soil around and it is growing mold it is best to dump it and start fresh.
How To Prevent Mold On Soil
1. The first step in preventing mold on houseplant soil is to start with new, sterile soil. While a lot of soil will claim to be sterilized, I never trust it. So, I sterilize any soil I will using.
Sterilizing soil can be done several ways but I use the oven method. Put soil in an oven safe container. You typically want to go 4 inches deep. Cover with foil. Place a meat (or candy) thermometer into the center and bake at 180-200 F. (82-93 C.) for at least 30 minutes, or when soil temp reaches 180 F. (82 C.). Anything higher than that can produce toxins. Remove from oven and allow to cool, leaving the foil in place until ready to use.
2. Do not water your houseplant unless the soil is dry. When you keep plant soil moist, it allows mold to grow. Allowing the soil to dry out between waterings helps prevent soil mold from growing.
3. Never let plants sit in saucers full of water.
4. Air circulation in your home is key to mold prevention period. It also really helps prevent mold on soil if you have good air circulation in rooms with houseplants.
5. Make sure your soil gets a hit of sun daily. All houseplants need light and if possible, try to get the sunlight onto the soil as well.
6. Remove dead leaves immediately. Decomposing leaves are food for mold and create an environment conducive to quick mold growth. Also, be sure to trim dead parts off of plants.
7. Dust your houseplants regularly. Mold spores travel in dust so keeping dust to a minimum is important.
8. Sprinkle the top layer of soil with cinnamon or baking soda. I have no idea why this works but it does help prevent mold in houseplant soil. Unfortunately, you do need to reapply this every couple of weeks.
9. Use an all-natural organic microbial inoculant like this one. This not only helps prevent mold on houseplant soil but also mold on the plant itself. In addition to that, it has magic super powers that makes plants incredibly healthy!
How To Get Rid Of Mold In Plant Soil
I hate to be the bearer of bad news folks but there is only one true way to get rid of mold in plant soil. You have to repot the plant in sterilized soil.
Sure, some people claim it is safe to just scoop out the parts of the soil that are moldy but guess what? Mold grows roots and grows them deep. So yes, you can scrape all the mold off of the surface of the soil but in a week or two you are going to have mold growing again.
So no shortcuts on this one. Take your plant out of the moldy soil, clean the pot thoroughly to make sure no soil is left behind, then re-pot your plant with sterilized soil.
In conclusion, houseplants can have a lot of benefits but only if you keep their soil mold free. Practice good mold prevention and likely you can enjoy mold-free houseplants for years to come.