So you found a mushroom in your Pilea and you don’t know why. You’re pretty sure it wasn’t there last time you watered, but it’s poking its head out of the planter now. There’s no need to panic. Here’s how the fungus got there and what you can do about it.
What is that mushroom in my Pilea pot?
If the mushroom in your houseplant is small and yellow, chances are it’s a Leucocoprinus birnbaumii, also known under the common names of flowerpot parasol, lemon-yellow lepiota, yellow-pleated parasol or plant pot dapperling. You can also identify it by the tapered stems and the powdery-like substance that covers the cap. It will grow to 1-3 inches in height and 1-2 inches in diameter, and it may sometimes grow in clusters.
When they first pop out from the soil, the mushrooms start out as bright-yellow cones. Gradually, the color fades to a pale yellow as the mushroom grows and the cap expands and flattens to allow the release of spores.
Will this mushroom harm the Pilea?
No, the mushrooms are not a threat to any of your houseplants. On the contrary, the presence of mushrooms often helps create a healthy soil and ecosystem for your Pilea plant. Leucocoprinus birnbaumii is a saprobic fungus, not a parasitic fungus. This means that it feeds on decomposing matter such as decaying roots and insects, and it does not attack living organisms. Therefore, it will not compete with your plant for nutrients, but it will provide nutrients to your plant by breaking down materials in the potting mix.
Why is there a mushroom in my Pilea in the first place?
Here are a few of the most common causes that may have brought your mushroom friend to the surface.
The potting soil is very active and fungus-heavy. And that’s a good thing. The more organic material in your potting soil, the more likely it is to also contain several varieties of fungi. It’s tempting to think of houseplants as elements of interior design or decorations that should be flawless and sterile. But keep in mind that each flower pot is its own micro-ecosystem, and nutrient-enhancers designed by Mother Nature are much better than anything that comes from a plastic bottle of fertilizer.
It may also be possible for fungal spores in the air to land on the surface of your pot and find a good environment to replicate. Where could they have come from? Spores are everywhere, and they are invisible to the naked eye. So you may have carried it indoors on your clothes or shoes, or they may have blown in through an open window.
Your houseplants are too damp. Moist soil is a hospitable environment for spores to land on; and once the spores spread underground (in a structure called mycelium), it won’t take long for the fruit (in this case, the mushroom) to appear.
If you notice that your Pilea plant is more likely to get a mushroom companion in the cold months, that may be a sign that you’re keeping the soil too damp. Houseplants don’t need and don’t absorb as much water in the fall and winter when they’re entering a period of dormancy. So adjust your watering schedule and let the soil dry.
Is the mushroom harmful to people?
The mushroom is not edible, so do not ingest it. According to Kew Science, the mushrooms may be poisonous.
So if you have children or pets that may be tempted to ingest it, please remove the mushroom and discard it in the trash. (Don’t compost it!). The mushroom is not known to cause skin irritations, so there’s no need to wear gloves if you’re not allergic, as long as you wash your hands thoroughly after you’ve touched it.
What should I do with the mushroom in my Pilea pot?
If nobody in your household is tempted to play with it or ingest it, you can simply let the mushroom live in a symbiotic relationship with your Pilea plant. It will eventually dry out, shrivel and die on its own. Once the conditions are good enough, it may reemerge from the ground.
If you think that mushrooms are a bit of a nuisance, try reducing your watering schedule. Moist soil will always be fertile ground for fungi, so your best bet is to let the plant dry out completely between watering sessions. We recommend that you allow the top two inches of soil to dry out before you water. Here’s a more in-depth guide to the best watering practices that keep your Pilea happy.
Proper ventilation around the plant is also important, so make sure your Pilea gets a bit of airflow, even if it’s sitting in a corner.
If you still want to remove the mushroom from the pot, the most effective way is to do so before the cap flattens. When the cap is closed into a cone, the spores are trapped under it, so they’re less likely to spread. Gently grab the stem of the mushroom as close to the soil surface as possible and pluck it out of the ground.
There’s no need to repot your Pilea if you found a mushroom in your pot, and there’s no guarantee that any potting soil will be fungi-free (You wouldn’t want that anyway!)
Disclaimer: At Pilea, we are houseplant enthusiasts, but we are not mycologists. Please do your due diligence and consult an expert if you want to know more about mushrooms that grow in houseplants.