White Fungus on Houseplant Soil - Knowledgebase Question

Annandale, VA
Avatar for Kristenmcat
Question by Kristenmcat
April 5, 1998
All my houseplants are developing a white, caking growth on the top of the soil. I see it beginning in my office plants too. The plants seem oblivious to it, but the gnats have increased exponentially since it appeared.

It also grows at the bottom of the pots around the drainage holes.

Is there a way to get rid of it without having to re-pot everything? I prefer an organic solution, but am about ready to go nuclear if necessary!

Answer from NGA
April 5, 1998
The white substance is probably a build-up of minerals, a rather common occurance with houseplants. You can prevent it by using distilled water, rather than tap water when watering your plants. Generally you can remove the build-up by flushing the pots and soil with copious amounts of water. Just put each plant in a basin of water and let it soak until the soil is fully saturated. Then drain and flush the soil again, until water runs out of the bottom of the pot. If you do this periodically, you'll help avoid the mineral build-up. Fungus gnats indicate that the soil is too wet. The insects feed on decaying organic debris. If you have plants that require very moist soil, you can keep the fungus gnat population down by putting decorative rock over the top of the soil. The rock will stay dry and the gnats won't be able to find a source of food.

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