Houseplant care looks quite simple from an outside perspective, with many people thinking that all a houseplant requires is sunlight and regular watering.
On the other hand, houseplant owners know how difficult houseplant care can become. With each plant having a unique set of needs and problems, houseplant care requires a decent amount of effort, knowledge, and time.
While catering to the plant becomes routine with experience, what makes houseplant care really challenging is the appearance of new and unexpected issues.
Today, we decided to talk about one such issue that troubles quite a few houseplant owners, the appearance of white fungus balls in the soil.
So, where do these white fungus balls in the soil come from, and are they harmful?
The white fungus balls in the soil are either the stinkhorn fungus in its immaturity or the puffball fungus. The common characteristic of both these fungi is that they primarily grow in rotting organic matter, which may be a sign of things to come, such as mold.
While these white fungus balls may not present an immediate threat if they recently started showing up, it’s best to remove them before they grow large and disrupt the natural environment of your plant.
Moving on, we will be taking a deeper look into both of these fungus types, as this will be helpful to understand their effects on the soil and your plant, giving insight into the severity of the situation.
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What Are the White Fungus Balls in Soil?
The white fungus balls you have noticed in the soil are most likely the stinkhorn or the puffball fungus.
As both of these fungi have similar requirements for growth, and as both of these fungi look almost identical while immature, identifying the one that is growing in your soil can be slightly challenging.
Puffball is the name given to fungi that are fuzzy, puffy, and round in shape, resembling a ball.
It is the common name for a few different species of fungi, and as there are over 20 species of fungi that are considered to be puffballs, characteristics such as shape and color can vary.
Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of puffball fungi is that they don’t have visible stalks or stems. Unlike the standard mushroom shape that we are all familiar with, most species of puffball fungi are fully round, especially during their immaturity.
While not inherently dangerous, the growth of puffball fungi often points to excessive amounts of rotting and decaying organic matter in the soil that you may need to remove as it could have more dangerous consequences, such as mold.
That being said, as puffball fungi can grow quite large if left unattended, it’s best to get rid of them as well while you are cleaning the rotting organic matter from the soil.
Unlike puffball that spans multiple fungi families and species, stinkhorn refers to a single fungi family, Phallaceae. The fungi that belong to this family are primarily known for their foul smell and sticky spores.
While a stinkhorn mushroom looks nothing like a ball when it has matured, its immature form (also called eggs) can present itself in the form of white balls, looking very similar to puffball fungi.
Even though there is also nothing inherently dangerous with stinkhorn fungi, it may once again mean that high amounts of rotting and decaying organic matter are present in the soil, which can cause issues such as mold later on.
That being said, considering that stinkhorn fungi can grow quite large and tall, combined with the fact that they smell foul, is good enough of a reason to dispose of them as soon as possible alongside the decaying organic matter to keep your plant healthy.
How Do You Get Rid of White Fungus Balls in Soil?
The difficulty associated with getting rid of the white fungus balls in the soil often depends on the severity of the infestation, with deeper infestations requiring more drastic measures.
Here is a list of things you can do to get rid of white fungus balls in the soil.
- Start by removing the white fungus balls one by one. With a pair of gloves, you can easily pick the white fungus balls out of the soil, especially if they are on the surface. That being said, in most cases, these fungus balls also grow beneath the surface of the soil, which makes it a good idea to take a deeper look.
- Replace the part of the soil that is affected. If the white fungus balls haven’t spread too deep, you can take the affected parts of the loose soil out and replace them with fresh soil.
- Look for the roots of the fungus and remove them. By carefully shuffling the loose soil, you should be able to detect the roots of the fungus and remove them. As even a small part of the fungus can start the growth all over, it’s vital to be careful and thorough.
In more severe cases, you may have to remove the plant from the soil and completely re-pot it in a fresh pot with fresh soil, but we don’t recommend doing so unless the fungal growth is getting out of hand.
Since re-potting a plant has its own risks, which can even cause your plant to die, it’s usually better to keep combatting the fungal growth through less drastic means, especially considering that the fungus is inherently harmless; instead of taking the risk of your plant dying.
Why Do White Fungus Balls Appear in Soil?
As white fungus balls grow in environments where decaying organic matter is present, the most likely reason behind their appearance is the addition of organic matter that was already infested, such as compost, into the soil of your houseplant.
If you have recently added compost to the soil, you may want to keep an eye on all the plants you have used the same compost on, as they might start showing similar symptoms.
On the other hand, if you haven’t introduced any foreign substances to the soil recently, it might simply be a case of puffball or stinkhorn spores traveling into the soil through the air.
When these spores find the right environment (decaying organic matter in this case) to grow in, white fungus balls start appearing in the soil as a result.
Are White Fungus Balls in Soil Harmful?
White fungus balls in the soil are not harmful, but they can become a problem over time if they are left alone to grow freely.
Even though there are no dangers associated with stinkhorns and most fuzzballs (the types of the white fungus balls), they can quickly become both an eyesore and an unhygienic growth that disrupts your plant’s environment when they grow bigger.
As removing the fungi later on when they actually become problematic will be much harder, we recommend getting rid of them as soon as possible to prevent further spread.
While the presence of white fungus balls in the soil isn’t a cause for large amounts of concern, you shouldn’t allow them to grow freely and get rid of them while they are immature.
As both puffball and stinkhorn fungi can grow large when left alone, they can eventually cause harm to your plant, and the difficulty of getting rid of them in that scenario would be significantly harder.
Finally, due to the tendency of these fungi to grow in environments where decaying and rotting organic matter are highly present, it’s also a good idea to perform a thorough cleaning of the soil and the pot to minimize the risk of mold growing later on.