Yellow houseplant mushroom (Leucocoprinus birnbaumii): one of the more common houseplant mushrooms.

Sometimes mushrooms pop up in the pots of our houseplants. These are almost always harmless to the plant, living instead on decomposing potting soil. Besides, if you thought that the soil of your houseplants was sterile, think again: it is a living microcosm containing all sorts of fungi, bacteria and other microorganisms. And that’s actually a good thing, because most of those living things are beneficial to your plants: they help decompose the soil, releasing the minerals your plants need for their growth.

Of course, finding mushrooms in your houseplants can be a bit of a shock. If they disturb you, you just have to pull them out and aerate the surface of the potting mix with a fork to try to eliminate the mushroom’s hyphae (roots). If they grow back, try again. In some cases, it may be wise to repot the plant and change the potting mix, as mushrooms generally prefer older soils that are already fairly decomposed to fresh ones.

Remember that the mushrooms found in our houseplants are almost never edible and some may be toxic. You can handle them, but should never eat them.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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