It’s one thing to find a mushroom on your walk in the woods; it’s another to find one peeking out of the potting soil of one of your houseplants. How did it get there? Does it mean something is wrong? And most importantly, what the heck should you do with it?
Believe it or not, finding a mushroom growing in the potting soil of your favorite plant isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Mushrooms love moist soil with lots of organic matter, so if one pops up in your houseplant, it’s a sign that you’ve got some good things going on in your potting mix.
However, not all plants grow well in the same conditions as mushrooms.
Many tropical houseplants will develop root rot if the soil is too wet. Here are a few things to consider when you find a mushroom hiding among your houseplants.
How Did It Get There?
Potting Soil with Mycorrhizae
If you use a potting mix inoculated with mycorrhizae, you’re much more likely to have friendly little fungi popping up to say hello.
I like Fox Farm Happy Frog potting soil. It comes inoculated with mycorrhizae and humic acid, and my plants always do well in it. That being said, I know to expect a couple of mushrooms within the first month that I use it. I usually let them decay in place, and they don’t come back.
One of these days, I need to do a spore print and ID the species that shows up.
Have Spores, Will Travel
One of the ways fungi spread is by releasing spores, which wind, animals and water carry. Some mature mushrooms can release as many as 16 billion spores! If you put your houseplants outside during the nicer months, it’s almost certain they will come back indoors with a spore or two in the soil. If the conditions are just right, voila – mushrooms in your soil.
Even if you don’t put your plants outside, you can bring spores home on your clothes and your pets in their fur.
I remember one summer as a kid; we had tiny parasol mushrooms sprout up out of the carpet next to the shower in the bathroom. My mother was mortified, but I thought it was pretty cool, and I was 100% sure we had fairies living in the house.
Pick It or Leave It?
Whether you pick or leave it is entirely up to you. You can gently pull the mushroom from the soil or leave it to wilt and return to whence it came. It will break down and add some nutrients back to the soil. They will rarely keep coming back.
Don’t eat it. Yeah, yeah, I know. But I have to say it.
Are You Overwatering?
Mushrooms love moisture, so make sure you aren’t overwatering your plants. Allow the top inch or so of the soil to dry out before watering again. It’s especially important to ensure you aren’t keeping the soil too moist for epiphytic plants. These guys are prone to root rot – plants such as Christmas cactus, Monstera and Pothos.
Using Soil That’s Too Heavy or Doesn’t Drain Well
Maybe the soil you use for your houseplants doesn’t drain well or holds more moisture than is good for your plants. There are numerous moisture control potting mixes on the market. While these are great for container gardening outdoors, they’re a recipe for dead houseplants as they always hold too much moisture for indoor plants. Not to mention, this stuff is usually filled with fungus gnats.
Is Your Plant Getting Enough Light?
Mushrooms like shady, dappled, sunlit forest floors. They don’t really do well in bright light. If your houseplants aren’t receiving adequate sunlight, this could also create the perfect conditions for a flourish of fungi.
It’s important to remember that in nature, fungi are a healthy part of a diverse microbiome below the soil. In fact, mycorrhizae offer some incredible benefits to your garden. Having one pop up in your potting soil isn’t always a bad sign.
As long as your houseplant is healthy, your little mushroom friend could just be a welcome reminder that all is well in the soil.
However, if you notice the soil is especially damp or cold, and your plant isn’t getting enough light, that mushroom could be a harbinger of other things to come – white mold. If you don’t correct the issue, you could soon be dealing with an entirely different fungus altogether.