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Fungus & Mushrooms in Indoor Potted Plants

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Leucocoprinus birnbaumii, also known as Lepiota lutea, is a yellow mushroom commonly found in indoor potted plants. Some indoor plant enthusiasts find the mushrooms unsightly and annoying, while others consider the fungus a fascinating surprise. Due to the rounded tops, the mushrooms are familiarly known as flower pot parasol or yellow parasol.

Appearance

Yellow mushrooms appear in potted plants suddenly, either one at a time or in clumps, also known as colonies. The slender-stemmed mushrooms are generally about 3 inches tall. The tops, which emerge as ovals and gradually flatten into bell shapes, measure 1 to 2 inches across. The mushrooms have a smooth surface and are often pale to bright lemon yellow.

Growing Conditions

Mushrooms survive by breaking down organic material in the soil — primarily dead and decaying plant matter. Indoors, the mushroom spores are probably in the potting mixture, as commercial potting mixtures consist of organic material such as compost and peat. Although it is unlikely, it is possible that a mushroom spore floated through the air and landed in the potted plant. Outdoors, these mushrooms grow in cultivated areas and are also found under evergreen trees in conifer and hardwood forests.

Toxicity

Yellow mushrooms are not harmful to the plant and present no danger to people or pets unless they are eaten. When ingested, the mushrooms have varying degrees of toxicity. Some people experience only mild diarrhea, while others may suffer with severe diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and other gastrointestinal upsets. According to the North Carolina State University Extension website, the mushrooms may be fatal when eaten.

Removal

Some gardeners prefer to leave the mushrooms in the potted plant, as the yellow fungus provides an interesting topic for conversation. However, Christine Engelbrecht, Plant Pathology at Iowa State University, advises that the mushrooms are best removed if there are pets or young children in the household. The best way to remove the mushrooms is to pull them by hand and to keep pulling them if they reappear, as commercial fungicides are generally not effective. While you can remove the potting soil and replace it with fresh soil, there is still a good chance that the mushrooms will return. Unless you are allergic, touching the mushrooms is not dangerous.

Fungus & Mushrooms in Indoor Potted Plants. Leucocoprinus birnbaumii, also known as Lepiota lutea, is a yellow mushroom commonly found in indoor potted plants. Some indoor plant enthusiasts find the mushrooms unsightly and annoying, while others consider the fungus a fascinating surprise. Due to the rounded tops, …

Houseplant Care Guides

Take the Mystery Out of Growing Houseplants, and Experience a Little Magic Along the Way!

Sep 2, 2010

The Yellow Houseplant Mushroom. Eww!

There is a phenomena known as the “Yellow Houseplant Mushroom!” wreaking havoc on Southeastern Michiganians and their plants…. Okay, so I’m exaggerating a bit. But seriously – these mushrooms are actually kind of gross! Unless you love fungi, that is.

Let me mention this important fact at the beginning: Yellow mushrooms will NOT harm your houseplants in any way. Nor will they poison you through your fingers if you touch them. These are a few misconceptions people have about houseplant mushrooms.

Note: One thing NOT to do is eat the mushroom; these certainly aren’t of the culinary kind!

Here’s what happens: Yellow mushrooms can spontaneously pop up, literally over night, in your houseplant pots (see photo of my bamboo plant, above). There are a number of conditions that have to be met in order for these mushrooms to grow. If you’ve never seen one, that’s a good thing! Chances are, you won’t want one growing anywhere near your plants! I’ll just tell you what sort of environment they thrive in, so you’ll know how to avoid them.

For a yellow mushroom to grow, you need:
1) Lots of constant moisture – overwatering!
2) Old soil, or soil unchanged for several years
3) ‘Bad’ or cheap soil
4) Lack of good pot drainage

Mushrooms can’t develop in the soil unless your plants meet more than one of the above conditions. If you’re just a chronic overwaterer, don’t worry! Mushrooms likely won’t bother you. But in case your plants meet many of these conditions, keep reading:

Condition 1 only happens if you consistently overwater your plant AND you also meet Condition 4 – a lack of good drainage. If the pot stays very wet all the time without drying out, the conditions are ripe for mushroom development! Ever had mushrooms pop up in the garden and/or your grass after it rains for days? The reason this occurs is because mushrooms grow wherever there’s a ton of moisture. To a lesser degree, fungus also thrives in shaded areas. If your plant is largely shaded, often damp, and lacks efficient drainability, the chances are very good you might see mushrooms soon!

Conditions 2 and 3 are most certainly related. If the soil is old, it’s more prone to mold development and lacks nutrients your plants will need for continuous growth and prosperity. Of my plants that had problems with mold/mushrooms, one was my aloe plant (I was forced to repot it 2 times!), then my spider plant, and finally my bamboo plant. The mold I saw in the soil quickly turned into mushrooms, so watch out! If you observe any mold (particularly yellow) on or in your plant’s soil, it’s time to change the soil, refresh it completely, and repot your plant!

Refreshing the soil is a good idea even if you aren’t experiencing mushrooms, especially if your plant’s growth has slowed down significantly. Also, older pants need to have their soil changed every 3 years or so (sometimes more) since the nutrients will be used up over time. Think of potting soil as a plant’s vitamins; eventually, you’re going to run out and need to buy another bottle. In the same way, your plants will need new soil to keep reaping the benefits of their own ‘vitamins!’ Sorry if that sounded corny, but it seemed to fit!

If your soil is cheap (you bought a lot of soil for only a little money) there’s a chance mushrooms might be present in the soil BEFORE you even buy it! But soil cost aside, the fact is, ALL potting soil contains bacteria necessary for mushroom development and therefore can’t be avoided (unless you follow the steps at the end of this post). The mushrooms need to develop roots and grow, just like any plant you might care for. If you give them the optimum growing conditions [listed above] (even unknowingly) they will appear!

The only difference between the yellow mushrooms and houseplants is that these particular mushrooms are less than desirable, basically useless, and mostly ugly. At best, they could be called upon for interesting conversations amongst your plant/fungi/nature savvy friends and family members, if you have any.

Of course, you really are looking to avoid these conditions altogether – Then, you don’t have to suffer a mushroom invasion! However, if it happens to you (like it did to me) and DO see a mushroom, here’s what to do:

2) Unpot the plant
3) Clean out the original pot, if using again, with soap and water
4) Using brand new potting soil, repot the plant, removing all the old soil from the roots. This ensures all the mold has been cleaned away, and can’t produce any more mushrooms
5) Make sure your plant has better drainage than before
6) Finally, do your best to not overwater!
In case of mushroom attack, follow the above 5 steps, and your plants won’t have to develop the icky, gross, fleshy yellow mushrooms like mine did!

Houseplant Care Guides Take the Mystery Out of Growing Houseplants, and Experience a Little Magic Along the Way! Sep 2, 2010 The Yellow Houseplant Mushroom. Eww! There is a phenomena