Why Are Your Pea Plants Turning White? Causes and Fixes

Pea plants are terrific; they are a high-yield crop that requires minimal effort. The way they grow makes them an attractive addition to any garden, and peas can be blended or cooked in dozens of ways to add some nutrients (and flavor) to your diet. However, if they’re turning white, you might be at a loss for what’s going on.

Your pea plants might be turning white because of fungus or mildew, lack of nutrients, insufficient sunlight, and too much or too little watering. White pea plants aren’t necessarily safe to eat, especially if the cause is a fungus or mildew issue.

It’s not uncommon for these problems to become ailments to your plant. It’s important to figure out what is causing the issue to decide whether or not your pea plants are even safe to eat. Below, I’ll go over the common symptoms of each problem and give you some tips and tricks on how to save your plants should the need ever arise. 

1. Fungus or Mildew

It’s not unlikely that your pea plants are experiencing a fungus or mildew attack – but I use the word attack dramatically. Mildew or fungus, especially a white spider-web-like fungus, is extremely common in plants. A fungus or mildew is usually found on your house plants, but it may also appear in your garden. Typically, this means you are watering too much or that your soil isn’t draining well enough.

This fungus, called mycelium, is bred in conditions of overwatering and heat. Sometimes, you can do little about these factors (for example, if it’s humid and rainy where you live). However, if it’s a symptom of your overwatering or non-draining soil, you can try to control these issues.

Another symptom of fungus growth on your pea plants might be that it’s not just your pea plants that are suffering. White fungus isn’t picky about where it grows; it just needs the right conditions. So if any of your plants are covered in powdery mildew, it might be because of your soil conditions. This video shows what the white fungus might look like on your plants:

As you can see, this mildew is fuzzy, takes over the soil and the plant, and can clump up in certain places. Though it doesn’t look pretty, white mildew is not harmful. Even after washing, fungus or mildew spores can be on your plant without you even knowing it! However, if it’s on your edibles, it’s better to avoid eating them.

How To Fix This

In general, fixing white mildew isn’t difficult. Most people get rid of white mold by replacing the soil, moving the plant to a different pot, or cleaning it up with a cotton swab or tissue. Gardeners may even sterilize their soil to reuse it or clean out their other pots thoroughly for the next plant. This video shows an example of a white mold cleanup:

However, when it comes to pea plants, the difficulty goes up a tad because you are dealing with an edible plant. When you have white mildew or fungus on your houseplants, it’s okay to just clean it up or move the plant to a new pot with hopes of it improving. However, the same can’t be said of pea plants.

I’ll talk a little more about what to do if you’ve found it’s overwatering or the temperature that has caused the white mildew, but for now, you want to simply focus on the conditions that caused the fungus in order to fix the problem.

If it’s watering, get your routine under control. If it’s temperature, consider moving your pea plants or think about what you’d want to do differently next year. If you’ve gotten spores from other plants in your garden, make them your focus of attack.

2. Lack of Nutrients

Nutrients are vital for plant growth. If your soil lacks nutrients or has a slightly off pH, your pea plants may not get all the nutrients they need. White pea plants could indicate that, specifically, one of the nutrients that supports coloration is missing.

Pea plants, like all other plants, need about twelve nutrients.

  1. Calcium (root health)
  2. Sulfur (energy-processing)
  3. Magnesium (chlorophyll & photosynthesis)
  4. Zinc (stems and leaves)
  5. Iron (promotes growth)
  6. Boron (growth)
  7. Molybdenum (nitrogen conversion)
  8. Manganese (photosynthesis)
  9. Copper (enzymes)

Plant pigments are closely associated with the nutrients the plant processes. Chlorophyll, specifically, is what affects the color green in plants.

You may or may not have the right nutrients in your soil. This is a two-step problem in the grand scheme of things. Even if you have all the nutrients your plants need (which can be achieved by composting, mulching, or adding nutrient-dense soils to your garden beds), a sub-par pH level might not be allowing the roots to access these nutrients. This video explains a little more about the relation between pH level and your plants:

Essentially, if the pH is above or below a certain level, your plants won’t be able to get the nutrients that they need.

If your plants seem healthy, but they’re just lacking in color (rather than covered in something), they may have a problem receiving enough nutrients.

How To Fix This

An easy fix for this is to test your soil. You can do this with at-home kits available online and in most gardening stores or by gathering a soil sample and sending them to a testing center. Both have their perks (your at-home test will be convenient but not very thorough, and the testing center may be inconvenient but will tell you more than you even need to know).

Once you’ve done this, you can start fixing the issue’s root (plant pun intended). If you need to add more nutrients, this can be done through composting or mulching. You could also add a bag or two of nutrient-rich soil to your plant bed or pot, look into worm farming or add some fertilizer.

If you’ve found that your soil pH is off, then you can correct it by either liming your garden or adding other nutrients. Adding some limestone can increase your pH, and adding sulfur, sulfate, or sulfuric acid will lower your soil pH.

3. Insufficient Sunlight

Sunlight is essential for plant growth. Receiving light throughout the day can help your plants photosynthesize. If something goes wrong or delays the photosynthesis process, your plant may experience adverse reactions.

Pea plants usually do okay in the shade, which is a good thing since they grow upwards, and we often place them on structures that may shade them throughout the day. However, it’s still important that your pea plants get at least six to eight hours of full light every day. Full light means light that is not encumbered or filtered through shade–no shadows, no blockage, no other tall plants in the way.

If your plant gets six-to-eight hours most of the time, but there are a few overcast days, things should be okay. 

However, if you throw in a lack of food, a lack of sleep, or an increase in stress, these can completely change the game. Sunlight might be the element that tips your pea plants over the edge if they are also lacking proper nutrients and watering. 

Some other symptoms of this issue might be that your plant is:

  • Not growing tall or upward as pea plants usually do
  • Not growing strong (the limbs and leaves look weak)
  • Not growing at all
  • Discolored
  • Not growing fruit
  • Not blooming

Again, sunlight is essential to growth, so you’ll notice many symptoms of a sunlight deficit in your pea plants. If the other plants in your gardening bed are doing fine, and it’s just your pea plants that struggle, you may consider checking the sunlight preferences of these plants. How much sunlight do they need in a day? If they require low light, they’ll continue to thrive while your full-sun pea plants struggle.

How To Fix This

Sunlight is one of those elements that should be accounted for when you plan out your garden. Unfortunately, especially with pea plants, it might be difficult to gather up your plants and move them somewhere they can get more sun. You have an advantage if you’ve opted for container gardening in that you can simply move your pea plant to a better spot.

Before planning out your garden, you should check how much sunlight all of the potential spots get. There are meters you can buy online specific to sunlight, and some moisture meters may even give you some insight. Alternatively, just be observant of your garden and its surroundings.

If you’ve already planted your pea plants and they can’t be moved, see if there’s anything you can do to get them more sunlight. Cut overhanging tree branches or other plants that may be casting a shadow over your pea plants.

4. Too Much or Too Little Watering

Adding too much or too little water to your pea plants can also cause them to become white.

As humans, being dehydrated may not seem like a big deal if it’s an isolated experience. However, if we are dehydrated, tired, hungry, and stressed, the health issues will quickly catch up.

If your plants are being over or underwatered, their sunlight is off, and they don’t have the nutrients they need, they’ll get stressed. When stressed, they skip over important parts of their growing process, such as coloration.

Pea plants will need to be watered every week, and their soil should always be a little moist. Letting the soil become dry, as you might for other plants, will affect how your peas grow. 

How To Fix This

Watering issues are an easy fix, and there are dozens of options for you to get your watering under control. The wonderful thing about these solutions is that you don’t have to wait until your watering becomes a problem to utilize them–you might find that some of these fixes are ideal year-round, and you may implement them right away.

In general, for over or underwatering, I suggest the following:

  • Irrigation systems in your gardens
  • Moisture meters
  • Stick test
  • Self-watering systems
  • Soil testing (checking for waterlogging)
  • Mulching

And, as I mentioned, these are all excellent strategies to implement even if watering isn’t a problem!

Irrigation Systems

Irrigation systems help with two things: they help ensure the water that your plant isn’t using gets drained out of the soil to prevent drowning, and they help to water your plants efficiently and evenly.

Irrigation systems don’t have to be complicated. Check out this video of someone who built a french irrigation system in their garden:

They don’t even have to take that much work, though, as you can buy irrigation systems in your local garden center or online.

Luckily, some companies will come set these systems up for you if you’re willing to spend the money on it. This could save your body some aches and yourself some time. However, one thing to note is that it will be a timely process if you set it up on your own.

Moisture Meters

I’ve mentioned moisture meters in this article numerous times (and on this blog numerous times!) because I believe every gardener should have at least one. Especially if you’re a beginner, or even a one-plant gardener (pea plants are terrific plants for one-plant gardeners), a moisture meter will do wonders.

Moisture meters are stuck into the ground and take data from your soil via a metal rod. They can tell you the temperature, the sunlight getting to your soil, and (of course) how much moisture is in your soil. A reading will also indicate if your soil may be having some issues with getting water to your plant.

In the case of your white pea plants, moisture meters can tell you whether your pea plants are stressed out because of a watering problem.

Stick Test

If you don’t want to invest in a moisture meter, you can do a simple stick test to see how your pea plants are doing water-wise. Simply stick a pencil, a bamboo stick, or anything long and skinny into your garden’s soil (even a popsicle stick will work). If you have your stick coming up covered in water and mud, you’re watering too much. If it’s bone dry, your soil needs some water. If it’s in between, you’re in a good spot.

This quick video shows you what the stick test will look like using a chopstick:

Again, I think it’s worth it to grab a moisture meter for more accuracy, but the stick test does well in a pinch. You can adjust your watering accordingly.

Self-Watering Systems

If you’ve found that you’re not watering enough, but you’re doing it as often as possible (maybe you work long hours, travel a lot, or aren’t physically able to water much more), you might want to look at a self-watering system.

These, like irrigation systems, can be as complex or as simple as you want them to. You could simply use your sprinkler system to water your plants if they all need the same amounts of water, and you don’t have anything too fragile (because some sprinklers do shoot the water out pretty hard!). Or, you can grab one online or at your gardening store specifically for gardens and set your preferences.

Landscaping companies can also come set this up for you if money isn’t a barrier to getting your watering under control.

Soil Testing (Checking for Water Logging)

There may come a time when you find you are watering the perfect amount, but your plants are either dehydrated or drowning. This isn’t uncommon because soil plays an essential factor in the success of your watering sessions. Those who’ve used too much peat moss will find that soil compaction makes it impossible for plants to absorb water.

Therefore, I’d suggest a soil test. Check for compaction, which can occur if:

  • People are walking in and out of your garden often.
  • Animals are using your garden as a path.
  • You have an excess of peat moss.
  • There’s no biodiversity aerating your garden.

I’d suggest avoiding tilling, even if you find that compaction is an issue. You can check out my article on solving soil compaction in non-invasive ways to see how this issue can be fixed.


Mulching is a terrific gardening addition if you’re ready to take the leap on it. It can help absorb excess water, add biodiversity to your garden to aerate your soil, and protect plants from pests. Those who are detecting signs of overwatering can especially benefit from mulching, so I highly recommend considering it.


When looking to grow pea plants in your garden, make sure you have the perfect spot picked out. Your pea plants won’t do well in places with inadequate or too much sunlight, water, or heat. Additionally, it’s common for pea plants to come under attack by mold or mildew. If you find a layer of something like this covering your pea plants, avoid eating them.

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of TheGrowingLeaf.com, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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