Help with houseplants!

Wilkes Barre, PA(Zone 6a)

Please help me. I apparently have a brown thumb. I can't seem to figure out why my plants (all of them) get some kind of white growth on the soil. I thought it was the fact that I put fertilizer in the soil. (which I found was a BIG mistake) Now I have "clean" soil. (soil bought from the store) I haven't added anything to it except water. I have well water that I use straight from the tap. I have seeds that I planted about a week ago. The seedlings are coming up but I am getting a white fungus! I do not know why. Can anyone help me?? I really love houseplants but seem to kill them ALL. Any advise would be appreciated!

Blyth, ON(Zone 5b)

Hi babybird. Welcome to Dave's Garden. I'm not sure exactly what might be happening to your soil, but here are some things I would try.

o Your pot may have been contaminated with some fungus or mould spores. Get another pot, clean and disinfect it well in hot soapy water with some ordinary chlorine bleach added to the water. Rinse well. Fill the pot with clean soil. Remove your seedlings carefully from the pot they're in - try to leave as much of the old soil behind as possible without damaging your seedlings. Replant in new pot.

o Is it possible that the "white fungus" is not a fungus at all but rather a mineral sediment from your water? You might want to use distilled water for your plants and seeds, or at least let your tap water sit in a container to settle for 24 hours before using it.

o Maybe you are watering too much? Especially when germinating seeds you want to keep the soil moist but not wet. This can also contribute to "damping off" of your seedlings. If they sprout and then appear to rot at or near the soil line and die you are probably experiencing damping off. You can purchase a product called No Damp (or something similar) to try to avoid this happening. Just follow the instructions on the label. The most important thing to do though, is to start with sterile pots and soil.

I hope some of this might help you.

--Ginny

Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

What a mystery! If it happens within a week, then what you're seeing is not fertilizer salts leaching up onto the surface of the soil... You might see if scraping off what you can and then letting the soil surface get a little dry between waterings will help. Adding hydrogen peroxide to the water when you water can help against fungus or mold also (1 tablespoon of standard 3% hydrogen peroxide from the drugstore shelf per quart of water is the dilution I see mentioned most often, although doubling that wouldn't hurt).

I had some mold popping up recently on some transplant pots, and I think it was because I sterilized the soil and then let the warm, moist soil sit for several days... I'm sure some fungus spores found it and had a party. The solution was just to re-sterilize the soil, which I do in the microwave. Even "clean" soil from the store won't be sterile, so I like to do this to my potting mix when I'm starting seeds or repotting african violets... most of my plants have to deal with soil straight from the bag, because I don't have the patience to sterilize great quantities this way!

Some folks sterilize their soil in the oven, but that process tends to make an unpleasant odor.

I take the largest tupperware bowl I have, which I think holds about 8 quarts. Add plenty of water to moisten the mix, about 1 cup per quart of potting mix. Do not microwave dry mix, as I can tell you from personal experience that it will catch fire! Place the cover loosely on the container and microwave on high 10 or 12 mintues, until you see steam condensing on the lid. Seal the lid down, and let the steam do its thing for at least 10 minutes more, then allow the soil to cool. The steam will kill off weed seeds, bug eggs, and various pathogens... and as a bonus, it does a great job of "opening up" the peat moss in the mix to get it nicely moistened.

So.... scrape off what you can, add some hydrogen peroxide to your water, try to let the soil surface get a little dry between waterings (obviously you don't want to wilt your seedlings), and if you do some repotting you might want to sterilize your potting mix.

Maybe somebody else will have some additional suggestions... Good luck!

Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

hah, see, I was right about additional suggestions... yes, sterilizing your pots is an excellent idea. You could well be contaminating your "new" soil by using an "old" pot.

And if your water is hard, maybe you are seeing a crust of mineral deposits rather than a mold/fungus.... do you have a photo that you could post?

Wilkes Barre, PA(Zone 6a)

thank you both so much. I have actually been misting the seedlings (which are herbs) and have a cover on them with a heating pad underneath. Heard that this was good to start seeds (hope I am not wrong) I will try everything that I am offered. As far as my already grown houseplants, I will make sure the water sits for 24 hours before I use it. I do have such a brown thumb, but I hope to get better at this so I can grow plants as well as my mother and grandmother.

Wilkes Barre, PA(Zone 6a)

It likely could be mineral deposits. Unfortunately I can't send a pic, my daughter took the camera today. It is like a white hairy like fluff..like cotton candy texture. Don't know how else to describe it. but it has just started. Probably last night or late yesterday. There is not alot on the seedlings and I want to get rid of it before it grows.

Dunedin, FL(Zone 10b)

You have a lot of good help ! First reason for the white is over watering and cold. This time of the year it happens more often. Water less and use warm/warmmer water.
Yes Clean pots soaked in bealch, Sterile soil , air circulation is important also.
I like to put a capful of lysol in my water in the winter help keep any fungus , mildew and any build ups that happen more in the Winter months !
Best to scrap it off and replace with fresh soil as if it is fertilize and salt build up leach it threw will be harmful for plants.

Wilkes Barre, PA(Zone 6a)

thank you very much! :)

Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

Letting your water sit for 24 hours will get chlorine out, but if you have hard water the minerals will just stay put. But "cotton candy" doesn't sound like a mineral build-up to me, so I think you're dealing with a fungal growth as you first thought.

If you are misting *and* covering, I am guessing you have too much humidity for those seedlings. What works for me is to use a cover on my seedling trays, but keep it slightly ajar or poke a bunch of little holes in it for ventillation... If you see a little puff of mist on the inside of the cover, that's generally about right for most plants, but if you're seeing big droplets of condensation, that's a level of humidity that can cause problems.

Don't give up! Growing and propagating is all about trial and error... you're paying close attention to your plants, and you'll figure out what methods work for you!

Blyth, ON(Zone 5b)

Quoting:
......but if you have hard water the minerals will just stay put.

You are absolutely correct. Duhhhhhh, what was I thinking? What I should have meant to say :-) was that hard water issues can be resolved by using distilled water, and leaving tap water to sit for 24 hours will rid it of all those nasty chemicals that are added to it in many places. I know my water after sitting for 24 hours has a layer of cloudy "stuff" at the bottom of the container that I am careful to not mix back in. We don't have a water softener so it's not anything we're adding to the water.

Wilkes Barre, PA(Zone 6a)

I do have large droppletts of water on the lid. So I will put it ajar to get rid of some of it. will let you know how it works.

(Zone 1)

If it's "white, hairy like fluff, with the texture of cotton candy", it doesn't sound like mineral deposits at all, but rather a mold or fungus in the soil. You say it's on both your herb seedlings that you have in plastic, as well as your houseplants? What about watering .... how often do you water your plants? You may be overwatering also. It sure would help if you could post a photo. There are so many knowledgeable people here on DG, I'm sure someone would be able to look at your photo and give you some suggestions.

Keep us all posted as to how your plants are doing. I have been growing house plants for nearly 40 years and mine tend to thrive on neglect. Many years ago I killed everything from over watering .... now I keep everything on the dry side and they seem to do much better. In the winter months, I only water every two to three weeks.

Wilkes Barre, PA(Zone 6a)

Well, Guess what?? I don't have any problems any more!!! Thanks to you guys!!! I put the lid ajar on the new seedlings and no fuzz! Also I changed the soil in my houseplant that was corroted with a white "deposit" of what ever kind. I did both of those things yesterday and today they look fine! But I have pics of the better look of them! The one in the round container looks kinda pathetic, but I am hoping for a miracle!! LOL The other one is my fist attempt at a Faerie Garden that my daughter and I are going to get going. Of course, when my son saw how "cool" mine is, he wants to do one with his army guys. So when we get my daughter's and son's started I'll post pics! See, I'm a brown thumb'er! LOL i'll send the second one in a minute!

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Wilkes Barre, PA(Zone 6a)

here is my first attempt at a Faerie Garden! With stuff I had around the house! You can't see the seedlings ,really but I will keep you posted!

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(Zone 1)

That is soooooo cute! I never would have thought of doing something like a "Faerie Garden"! Hope you will keep posting photo's as the little plants grow.

Wilkes Barre, PA(Zone 6a)

I will and I plan (with all hopes I'll have time) to make a larger Faerie Garden outside in my yard when Spring finally comes. By then, hopefully, I can get my teens interrested enough to help me. My daughter and I LOVE faeries! I will post everything! Can someone please tell me if there is much benefit to purchasing a "subscription" to DG?? I am interested but would like to know if there is much difference. I know the basics--like you can get to certain forums and can enlarge the pics. Is there anything else?? Thanks in advance you guys are soo helpful and I just got here! Here is a pic of my very last wildflower (among the very few that popped up this summer)- I planted them in the spring so I am hoping for lots more this summer! As I registered my yard in the National Wildlife Federation certified wildlife" Backyard Habitat" So I have alot of work to do. I bought the place last spring. Ok enough about me!! LOL

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Blyth, ON(Zone 5b)

What a wonderful idea! It's given me lots to think about in how I might use this idea as a jumping off point with landscaping my garden railroad. Thanks for showing us, and yes please do keep us posted.

--Ginny

Wilkes Barre, PA(Zone 6a)

Oh, yes, I first got the from a garden program, unfortunately I don't remember which. BUT you can google Faerie Gardens and you'll get ideas. Also I believe I saw it on DIY network.com You can use any kind of things that you like (knick knacks, etc) In a small garden like I made it was suggested to buy dollhouse things. There are also site that sell stuff specifically for it!

Dunedin, FL(Zone 10b)

Yeah ! Good Job ! So cute. I had one of them fairy gardens few years back so cute !
happy Growing !
Allison

(Zone 1)

B'Bird: When you get your Nat'l Wildlife Backyard Habitat Yard all planted and going strong .... don't forget to take photo's to post! You should do BEFORE and AFTER photo's!

Wilkes Barre, PA(Zone 6a)

I sure will!

Wilkes Barre, PA(Zone 6a)

OK, so today, my houseplant that I transplanted looks like it's getting strong. It is starting to stand up!! YEAH!
But my seedlings in my Faerie garden are drooping over! Is it time for me to "water" them -instead of just misting?? or should I have it in more direct light???? I planted Dwarf Parsley and Dwarf Basil.... Please let me know! Thanks!

(Zone 1)

I don't know anything about parsley or basil .... do they need a lot of light, or sun? If the plants are drooping, I'd say they may need a drink of water, or it could just be they are a bit stressed from transplanting. You could use an eye dropper and give them a little drink and see if they perk up a bit. Just be sure not to drench them.

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

I can't tell from your picture how much light your Faerie garden is getting, but seedlings need lots and lots of light, I have a fluorescent light over my seedlings, it's just a couple inches above the tops of the seedlings and I leave it on for 16-18 hrs a day. So if yours are just getting light from a window that's most likely not enough, especially in the winter when the days are short.

Wilkes Barre, PA(Zone 6a)

I thought they shouldn't get much light til they got a little bigger.(hence the brown thumb!LOL) Well i will get light on it right now!!! Pardon my ignorance :) I really need houseplants for dummies 101!!! HAHAHAHA! No, ........really.

Wilkes Barre, PA(Zone 6a)

ok, if only I'd read the directions!!!!! From what I read on the packet, I think it's saying (both) need sun from the start. Boy do I feel silly {blushing} Ok I have a perfect plant light that'll be just right. And they are from seeds only a week old. I'm gonna have to look for a Plants for Dummies book.. Or have my mom move in so I can enjoy her planting abilities! LOL

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

since you claim ignorance, I'll ask, is your plant light fluorescent? thats OK but if you have an incandesecent called a plant light it will get very hot and fry the seedlings if too close.

Taft, TX(Zone 9a)

I get excited about the silliest things to the 'pros'....I love syngonium of any kind....this is from Lowes and is called '
Berry Allusion'. It has more real red than any I have had. My others have a pink tone to them and this isn't a good pic, but there is a lot of red in it...
don't anyone feel bad about not following instructions......I still do the wrong thing because I have forgotten what i did last time and don't bother to even read!!

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(Zone 1)

Bettygail: I LOVE that Syngonium 'Berry Allusion' .... I have LOTS of the regular Syngonium and I guess I need to stop in at our local Lowes to see if I can find that red one! That is sooo pretty. Here's a photo of one of mine sitting on the brick wall in the front of my house:

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(Zone 1)

Here's a photo of a green Syngonium growing up the side of my screen enclosure. This one is growing in the ground and will die back if we have real cold weather or frost, but comes back in spring.

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(Zone 1)

Here's a couple of real small babies:

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(Zone 1)

Last one ... I Promise! This one is in a pot in my screen room on the deck. It likes to attach itself to my wicker unit and grow up the side, but I keep pulling it off.

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(Zone 1)

OOPS ... that was the wrong one ... that's another view of the one growing up the screen outside. Here's the one inside in a pot ... I had pulled it down off the wicker shelf.

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Wilkes Barre, PA(Zone 6a)

plantladylin,
I love your plants they look so full and healthy. i hope I can get my plants to look so good!

(Zone 1)

Thank You Babybird! I have been "into" plants for almost 40 years! No one in my family had ever been plant or gardening people .... when my family moved from Virginia to Florida in 1967 is when I became interested in gardening. A friend of mine once laughed when she saw an old black and white photo of me with a couple of houseplants in the picture, she isn't a plant person but knows how I love them, and thought it was neat that I had a photo from when I was 19 years old with plants in the photo.

Don't get me wrong. I haven't always been good with plants! I used to water them to death! Really! Now, I kinda neglect them and keep them on the dry side, only watering about every week and a half to two weeks in the summer, and even less in winter.

I know you will do Great with your plants. This website has so many folks who are very knowledgeable and generous with information ... I have learned a lot since joining in October!

Wilkes Barre, PA(Zone 6a)

I planted some seeds yesterday that I bought from Park Seed. I have my boy friend helping me with them because he says he's always been good with gardens. I really want to plant a LARGE veggie garden this year cuz I finally have the space to do it! So that's one of the plans for Spring and Summer! I can't wait.

(Zone 1)

Keep us posted on all your house plants, seeds and that veggie garden! I have always wanted to plant a veggie garden, but we don't have the space, or enough sun. I would put one right smack dab in the middle of the front yard if I could get away with it, but my husband doesn't like that idea. In Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and I'm sure a lot of other Southern States, we have seen veggie gardens in the front yards of homes. My husband has been in the South all his life, but he still thinks veggie gardens belong behind the house for some reason! And, we don't have space in the backyard with enough sun. I have grown tomatoes over the years, but that's about all. I just need a Farm! ... or else a few acres!

What kind of seeds did you get from Park? Flower or Veggie?

You will have to post some photo's as you go along!

Wilkes Barre, PA(Zone 6a)

flower and veggie. Salvia, and impaitients and cactus. veggies I have hot pepper and soybean. they were a decent price and I have been looking for soybean seeds for about a year. We are a family of sushi lovers' and steamed soybeans are one of the things they have at the Japanese resterant we goto. YUMMM. Matter of fact we are going there tonight to get a bite to eat! YUMMM! I can't wait. LOL!

Midland, TX

If I want to just grow bulbs in pots - having them bloom at the normal times, just moveable - is that "forcing" or can I just treat them like they are in the ground?
Thanks!!!

(I was not sure where to stick this for an answer...)

Hometown, IL(Zone 5a)

Your best bet would be the bulb forum.

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