If you’ve ever seen mushrooms growing in your houseplants—especially the bright yellow kind that look like Peeps candy—you may wonder what’s going on. “Potting mix is an eco-system in which many different kinds of microorganisms live,” says Justin Hancock, horticulturalist with Costa Farms. “When environmental conditions such as moisture levels, temperate and humidity are right, mushrooms may develop.”
The mushroom itself is the reproductive structure of fungus, an organism spends the rest of its life cycle underground in the soil as a thread-like body, or mycelium. When the conditions are just right, the fruiting body, or mushroom, pops up.
We know what you’re thinking—ok, nature is wild, but is this weird growth going to kill my plants, pet, or self? Probably not. “Actually, the presence of mushrooms can be beneficial because the fungus breaks down the organic matter in the potting medium, which releases nutrients that the plant can use,” says Hancock. It’s a symbiotic relationship where everyone wins!
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Here’s what else you need to know about mushrooms in your houseplants:
What Are Those Yellow Thing in My Houseplants?
Different kinds of mushrooms may grow in houseplants, but the most common is Lepiota lutea (also called Leucocoprinus birnbaumii), often called yellow parasol or yellow houseplant mushroom. They have a bright yellow 1 to 2-inch diameter cap which turns white and expands to release the spores, and may grow singly or in clusters.
They look like Peeps candy, but these mushrooms are toxic to people and pets. If your cats, dogs, or toddlers are likely to nibble on these (or you’re not sure), remove the mushrooms right away and toss them in the trash (not the compost unless you want them in your garden). It’s thought that ingesting these mushrooms causes mild GI distress, but their exact level of toxicity isn’t known. To be on the safe side, scoop out the mushrooms and keep the plant out of reach of kids and pets, says Hancock.
Why Do Houseplants Get Mushrooms?
Fungi may have been in the soil when you brought the plant home, or a spore of the fungus may have been blown into the pot, starting the fungal colony, if you had it summering outdoors on the patio.
Do Mushrooms Harm Houseplants?
Take a close look at your houseplant: If the fungus is not growing on the plant itself, it’s not a pathogen. Mostly, these mushrooms just occur when conditions are right, then disappear. It’s fine to remove them, if you don’t like their look, but it’s not harming the plant if you leave them.
Can I Get Rid of Houseplant Mushrooms for Good?
You can scoop them out and dispose of them, though they sometimes come back. Fungicide treatments do not work, so don’t bother trying them—you’ll just be heaping unnecessary chemicals on your plants.
If you don’t want uninvited mushroom guests to return, the most important thing you can do is to make sure you’re not overwatering your plants. “If the potting soil is moist enough to produce mushrooms, it’s probably too wet,” says Hancock. No plant likes to be sopping wet, and the average houseplant (especially succulents) prefers to dry out a little before watering. Always feel the soil before giving your plant another drink, and you should be able to keep mushroom visitors at bay.
Arricca Elin SanSone has written about health and lifestyle topics for Prevention, Country Living, Woman’s Day, and more. She’s passionate about gardening, baking, reading, and spending time with the people and dogs she loves.