Whether in your houseplants or garden beds, it can come as a surprise to find mushrooms in your plant soil when you did not intend to grow them. Luckily, this is not a cause for concern.
Mushrooms in your plant soil are a good thing, as this indicates healthy soil. They are the result of decaying organic matter and will break down quickly themselves, improving soil quality and helping plants to thrive. Yet some mushrooms growing in soil may harm people or pets if ingested.
In this post, I’ll share all the benefits of having mushrooms in your plant soil. I’ll also explain the causes of mushroom growth and when mushrooms may indicate your plants are unhealthy. Finally, I’ll share tips for how to get rid of mushrooms if you need to prevent pets or young children from potentially eating them.
The Benefits of Mushrooms in Your Plant Soil
Mushrooms play a vital role in the ecosystem. Fungi are different from plants in that they are void of chlorophyll; thus, they do not rely on sunlight to grow. Rather, mushrooms receive energy from decaying organic matter. This might be wood chips, fallen leaves, or the roots of your plants.
Typically, these spores remain invisible and dormant under the soil surface. In the right environment, however, mycelium is “activated,” leading to fungi formation. And while perhaps unexpected, mushrooms growing in your plant soil is nothing to fret over.
Usually, mushrooms benefit both the soil and your plants:
Mushrooms and Plants Help Each Other Grow
Many fungi are bound to be interdependent with their host plants and cannot survive long without them. The relationship, known as mycorrhiza, is of mutual benefit, as each assists the other in growth, and neither suffers in any way.
Mushrooms take nutrients–carbon, in particular–from their host plant using their hyphae (mycelium). In a way, they become extensions of the root, allowing them to reach more soil and absorb more nutrients.
They also break down the decaying matter into easily absorbed nutrients. These nutrients are put back into the soil for your plants to consume. This cycle goes around continually, helping the fungi to complete their ecosystem duties, and allowing your plants to thrive.
Mushrooms Improve Soils and Make Plants Stronger
Not only do mushrooms help your plants grow, but they also work to improve overall soil structure and health. In particular, the additional nutrients that hyphae work back into the soil help plants to grow stronger and increase their tolerance to diseases such as root rot.
They also help to guard plants against soil-borne diseases and increase their tolerance to unfavorable conditions, including toxic build-up in soils, high temperatures, and drought. Ultimately, fungi help enhance their host plant’s resistance to disease.
Causes of Mushrooms Growing in Plant Soil
As mentioned, the right conditions will trigger the spores of mycelium into forming mushrooms.
Conditions that favor mushroom growth include:
- Damp, compacted soil
- Humid or overly wet weather
- Fertile soil
- An abundance of decaying organic materials (manure, mulch, etc.)
Notably, mushrooms growing in the potting soil of houseplants are typically the result of overwatering.
In this case, the plant may be struggling and displaying symptoms including:
- Leaves with yellowing or brown spots
- Wilting or dropping leaves
- Mushy stems
Thankfully, the mushrooms can help to compensate for waterlogged soils. Specifically, they assist plants in staving off root rot and becoming more drought-resistant.
Still, if your plants are displaying any of these symptoms, you need to reduce the amount of water intake. Moreover, overwatering often results in disastrous consequences for your plants, despite the benefits the mushrooms will provide.
Take note, however, that if your plants have good drainage and you know you’re not overwatering, you have nothing to worry about. Any mushrooms growing in your soil are purely organic and beneficial.
How to Get Rid of Mushrooms in Your Plant Soil
Generally, it doesn’t take long for mushrooms to naturally break down, as most are relatively delicate. In fact, many mushrooms growing in mulch may be gone within days after sprouting.
If possible, you should let the mushrooms decompose naturally to ensure maximum benefits to the soil and your plants.
However, be advised that many mushrooms can be harmful if ingested. For this reason, if you have pets or young children that may try to eat the fungi in your houseplants or garden beds, you can encourage them to break down sooner.
Here are some tips for removing mushrooms and preventing them from regrowing in your plant soil:
Avoid Overwatering & Ensure Good Drainage
Fungi thrive in moist conditions, so avoid watering your plants too often and allow the soil to dry completely before watering again.
Basically, this works to “starve” the mushrooms. Also, ensure your containers have adequate drainage holes. If needed, consider adding drainage materials, such as perlite, to the soil.
Pluck Mushrooms & Throw Them Away
You need to remove the mushrooms from the soil to lower the chance of spores spreading to other plants. Avoid raking or otherwise disturbing the mushrooms to break them up, as this will cause the spores to spread and result in heavier mushroom growth in the near future.
Tightly tie the mushrooms in a bag and throw them in the trash.
Repot the Plant/Change the Soil
Repotting or changing the soil is the best way to stop mushroom growth from recurring. However, it can be unhealthy for your plant to have all the soil rinsed from its roots, which is a critical step. So, choose this option only if it is healthy enough to withstand repotting.
Replace the Top 2 to 3 Inches (5 to 7.6 cm) of Soil
If repotting is not an option, you can scrape the top layers of soil to attempt to remove the mushroom spores. Go deep enough to pull the growing mushrooms and refill the space with new soil.
Keep in mind that this may not remove the fungus altogether.
Soak the Soil With Fungicide
A single application of fungicide is usually enough to kill the mushroom bodies growing in the soil. However, you will need to saturate the soil with several treatments to completely eradicate the fungus.
Keep in mind that you do not need to use a chemical fungicide to get rid of mushrooms.
You can make a natural fungicide by dissolving 2 tablespoons (1.25 ounces) of baking soda into 1 gallon (3.8 liters) of water. Pour part of the solution directly on the mushrooms, covering the caps and stems. Put the remaining solution in a spray bottle and spray the surrounding soil.
Apply Nitrogen Fertilizer
Nitrogen fertilizer works to rid of mushrooms by decomposing organic matter, leaving fungi with nothing to feed on. This is an easy way to get rid of mushrooms and still provide a boost of nutrients to your plants to protect their health.
Remember, mycelium is present in all soils, and it is tough to get rid of it completely. Nonetheless, if these tips do not work to prevent mushroom growth in the future, they will work to keep them from coming back as quickly.
Mushrooms growing in your houseplants or outdoor garden is a good thing, as this usually means you have healthy soils. The mushrooms will help to improve the soils and help plants grow stronger and healthier. If needed, you can follow the tips in this article to get rid of mushrooms in your soil, yet if possible, you may just want to let them grow.