White Fuzz On Plants And Soil: What Is It And How To Get Rid Of It

I remember the first time I saw a white fuzzy substance on my plants, I was very confused and creeped out because it looked so gross! We’ll all encounter this issue at one time or another during our lives growing however it can be fixed so don’t stress out too much!

The white fuzz you see on your plants is usually one of two things, white mold or mealybugs. White mold is a result of fungus spores growing quickly on leaves and stems to form the white fuzz, this is also called powdery mildew. Mealybugs are a common pest which group together and look like a white fuzzy mass, they look like cotton and leave behind a fine white powder.

How do you get rid of white fuzz on plants?

Firstly you need to determine what the white fuzz is, the easy way to do this is to look closely at it, if it is moving, you likely have a mealybug infestation, if it is still then it is white mold. Don’t stress though! It is simple to get rid of mealybugs and white mold, I have used these methods and know they are all effective. Follow these solutions and your plants will be healthy again in no time.

How to get rid of mealybugs

There are a few methods that can be used to get rid of mealybugs, both chemical and organic. Their effectiveness will vary as will the time it takes to eradicate the infestation.

Chemical solutions to get rid of mealybugs
A number of stronger commercial insecticides are able to be used against mealybugs, they can be purchased from most nurseries or on Amazon here. Be cautious when using these chemicals, especially in indoor locations without proper ventilation. Stronger pesticides have varying degrees of toxicity to pets and humans. Generally these solutions will take anywhere from 10-14 days to be completely effective, you will need to reapply 2-3 times during this period.

Using neem oil to get rid of mealybugs
Neem oil is a natural substance derived from seeds of the neem tree. It can be purchased from Amazon here. In addition to its insecticidal properties, neem oil is also a fungicide which is particularly helpful if you have any sooty mold growing as a result of mealybugs. When used as directed, it not only kills insects on contact, but serves as a systemic pesticide by being absorbed into the plant this will act as a repellent to deter future generations. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, neem oil is safe to use on vegetables and other edible plants, as well as ornamentals so it wont have any detrimental effect on you or your family. You will need to follow the directions provided on the package to determine how often you will need to apply the neem oil however you should see noticeable results after a fortnight.

Using insecticidal soap to get rid of mealybugs
Insecticidal soaps are available on the market and can be purchased from Amazon here, or you can make your own by using a common dish detergent such as Ivory Liquid. Try to find a product that is free of perfumes and additives which could further harm plants. Mix the soap in a weak concentration with water (starting a 1 teaspoon per gallon and increasing as necessary). Spray the soapy solution on plants. After 6-8 applications every 3 days or so the mealybug infestation should have been eradicated however if it still remains you might need a stronger product.

Using isopropyl alcohol to get rid of mealybugs
For this method you will need to soak a cotton ball with regular rubbing alcohol and wipe it on the mealybugs, this will both kill and remove them. Before you use this method it is advised to first use a solution consisting of no more than 70 percent isopropyl alcohol, and test it on one leaf before you apply it to the whole plant to make sure the alcohol doesn’t burn it. Repeat the application every day until you no longer have mealybugs, this will likely take anywhere from 1-2 weeks.

Using water to wash away mealybugs
Mealybugs can be dislodged with a steady stream of water. This is best for light infestations on plants outdoors. You will need to use some care and common sense with this method as some plants do not tolerate this kind of vigorous treatment. Repeat the treatment as necessary until all mealybugs are gone.

Using predatory insects to get rid of mealybugs
Lacebugs, lacewings, parastic wasps (Leptomastix dactylopii), and a beetle sometimes known as the “mealybug destroyer” (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri), are natural predators of mealybugs. These are more commonly used for outdoor infestations or in greenhouse situations and are available from commercial online retailers. This likely isn’t the best solution if you have a mealybug infestation on your houseplants as you’ll be inviting more insects into your home.

Making homemade insecticide spray to get rid of mealybugs
To use this method you can make a batch of homemade insect spray by combining 1 garlic bulb, 1 small onion, and 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper in a food processor or blender and process into a paste. Mix into 1 litre of water and steep for 1 hour. Strain through a cheesecloth and add 1 tablespoon of liquid dish soap. Mix well. The mixture can be stored for up to 1 week in the refrigerator. Spray the solution on the plant parts where mealybugs are present. This natural, homemade solution has been proven to be quite effective, I have even used it myself with great success.

As you can see there are many ways to get rid of mealybugs, both commercial and organic. I have used all of these in the past and can say all of them work. Some do require more work than others however if you don’t like bringing extra chemicals into your home then taking the extra time for the organic methods is definitely worth it.

How to get rid of white mold

Just like the solutions for getting rid of mealybugs, white mold can be killed with chemical or organic solutions (if you are more comfortable with these). They do vary in the speed of success however they all provide the same result of getting rid of white mold.

Chemical solutions to get rid of white mold
You can use a fungicide like this to kill off white mold, these chemicals are incredibly effective in removing mold from plants and also preventing it from coming back in the future. When applying these chemicals it is important to follow the directions on the packaging, these will include safety measures such as wearing gloves and ensuring proper ventilation. Some fungicides can be toxic to children and pets, so keep this in mind when purchasing and using these substances.

Homemade solutions to get rid of white mold
There are a number of homemade solutions that can be used to get rid of white mold, one of the most popular is a mix of baking soda, dish soap and water. To make this you’ll need to fill up a spray bottle with water, add 1 tablespoon of baking soda and a little bit of dish soap, not too much though. Shake this up and you’re ready to go! Spray the mixture onto your plant, be sure to include the underside of leaves and the top layer of soil. You will need to do this every other day until the mold is gone.

Another homemade mixture you can use includes milk. This will neutralize the cottony white mold. Mix equal parts water and milk in a spray bottle with a little bit of dish soap. Like the first mixture you will need to spray the plant every other day until the mold has disappeared.

Using neem oil to get rid of white mold
Neem oil can be used to get rid of white mold too! It can be purchased from Amazon here. As mentioned above, neem oil has both insecticidal and pesticidal properties. You will need to follow the directions provided on the package to determine how often you will need to apply the neem oil however you should see noticeable results after a fortnight. Neem oil is organic and safe to use around children and pets, that is why it is one of the most commonly used substances in the plant world.

Using mouthwash to get rid of white mold
Mouthwash that is ethanol based can also be an effective treatment for white mold. Mix one part mouthwash with three parts water and apply to affected areas, making sure to avoid oversaturation. This is an fast working solution but take care when applying this mixture as the mouthwash can burn leaves and stems if the concentration and amount applied is too high.

What attracts mealybugs?

Mealybugs tend to be attracted to certain plants that are heavy in the juices they prefer to feed on, this means plants that produce a sweet sap. Citrus trees are particularly susceptible, and mealybugs can pose a serious threat to some commercial crops, such as mango as they can breed very quickly and devastate a whole crop. Mealybugs can infest a number of indoor houseplants, particularly tropical species and they are very common within the houseplant growing community.

Mealybugs are attracted to plants with high nitrogen levels and soft growth; they may be more attracted to your plants if you overwater and over-fertilize them.

What causes white mold?

White fuzzy mold develops on plants when fungal spores germinate and grow. The white fungal growth is common in warm and damp conditions, often accompanied by low light. Plants which are overwatered and kept in shade are at a higher risk of having this white mold grow on them.

What plants are impacted by mealy bugs?

Plants that are often impacted by mealybugs have some properties in common such as producing a sweet sap or being in warm, moist and humid environments.
Common plants affected are:
– Houseplants such as monstera, ferns, ficus, orchids, coleus, palms and philodendrons.
– Fruit trees/plants – especially citrus, figs, berries and grapes.
– Ornamental plants including fuchsia, Cactus, gardenia, jasmine, hibiscus and oleander.
– Plants kept in a greenhouse are also desirable for mealybugs because the warm, humid environment is ideal for breeding and feeding.

What plants are susceptible to white mold?

White fungal infections can affect any plant, however there are some types of trees, shrubs, and flowers that are more susceptible and more likely to be effected by powdery mildew. Fungi from the order Erysiphales thrive in warm, humid conditions. So, very often, plants growing in temperate climates that have warm, humid summers are prone to white powder mold.

Individual plants which are especially prone to white mold growth include:
– African violet
– Jade plant
– Ivy
– Begonias

Lota of common outdoor plans are especially susceptible to white mold such as:
– Strawberries
– Apple trees
– Roses

How to prevent a mealybug infestation

Like most pests, the best control for mealybugs is defensive, stopping them from arriving in the first place. Healthy, vigorous plants are less susceptible to infestation than weak, underpotted, and stressed plants. As a general rule, make sure your plants are healthy, and you’re less likely to attract these pests in the first place and if you do attract them, your plants will be better and more equip to fight them and have a lower chance of being negatively affected.

All that being said mealybugs can and will infect even healthy plants from time to time. They can come into your home via new plants. This is actually really common too because greenhouses are the perfect breeding ground for them. Be sure to check any new plant purchases carefully before bringing them into your home and your collection.

There are a number of other strategies can help prevent mealybug infestations on your plants:
– Reducing feeding and watering may sometimes prevent mealybugs since it reduces nitrogen levels and hardens the growth. High nitrogen levels in plants attracts mealybugs.
– Wiping foliage regularly with a leaf shine solution containing neem oil may prevent mealybugs on susceptible plant species as the neem oil acts as a repellent reducing the appetite of bugs in it’s presence.
– With plants that can tolerate such treatment, regular spraying with hard blasts of water can prevent mealybug infestations from taking hold by removing eggs or singular female mealybugs which may try to make a home of your plants. This isn’t ideal for most houseplants.
– For indoor plants that can tolerate it, dropping night time temperatures to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5 Celsius) will discourage mealybugs, which prefer more tropical temperatures. This will not kill any infestation however it will help to prevent breeding and feeding if there are any mealybugs present which you are unaware of.

If an infestation cannot be controlled after two or three weekly applications of insecticide, consider destroying the plant before the mealybugs spread to other plants in your home. Losing one plant is better than losing them all. I find it best to isolate the plant at the first sign of mealybugs. Please also check every other plat you have at the first sign of these pests, it is all to common to be fighting a battle with one plant but losing the war with others at the same time.

For a more comprehensive guide check out this article.

How to prevent white mold from growing on plants

It is much easier to prevent white fuzzy mold growing on plants and soil than treating the disease. Although white fuzz won’t kill houseplants, the mold causes unsightly white blotches on plants, it doesn’t look good at all and if left untreated, all the leaves could look white and furry, not what you want on your beautiful plants. The fungal disease will also affect other houseplants as spores can travel in the air.

To know how to prevent white mold on houseplants, you need to know what conditions fungal spores enjoy. Four factors combine to make conditions ideal for fungal infections. These are:

  • Warm temperatures between 60°F and 80°F (15°C – 26°C).
  • Humid air.
  • Poor sunlight.
  • Poor air circulation.

Naturally, it may not be possible to change all of those conditions and you dont need to. For example, many tropical plants need high humidity levels to thrive, you cant lower the temperature to stop white mold when it will only hurt your plants anyway. Here are some solutions you can use to prevent white mold:

Choose the right location—If you’re growing a plant which is prone to white mold, put it in a location where it will get early morning sun. This helps any moisture accumulated during the night to evaporate quickly.

Improve air circulation—If you’ve struggled with white mold in the past, try not to group your plants together. If you space them a little further apart it will help to improve the air circulation.

Check plants regularly—You’ll need to check up on your plants often as white mold can grow quickly. If you see a leaf or stem with mold on it, cut it off and dispose of it so that the infection doesn’t go any further.

Water plants appropriately—White plant fungal diseases thrive in damp conditons. So, it’s essential to water your plants properly. Before watering houseplants, press the soil firmly to see if there’s any moisture. If so, don’t water your plant. Wait until the top part of the soil is dry before giving your plants a deep watering. This will help to prevent the excess moisture from becoming a mold breeding ground.

Preventative mold control—If your plants are susceptible to mold, use a baking soda, neem oil, or milk spray to help prevent mold from growing. You can spray your plants every two week with these solutions to help prevent mold growth.

So now you know what the white fuzzy stuff is on your plants, how to get rid of it and also how to prevent it in the future. Use these methods and your plants will be happy, healthier and they will thank you!

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