By: Licensed Mold Assessor Brad Fishbein
June 12, 2023
People love to add indoor plants to their scenery . Many people, myself included, incorporate them into their homes to create a soothing and inviting atmosphere. But here’s the thing, plants require adequate water and are primarily made of cellulose, the same organic material that wood, drywall paper and other construction materials are made of. Cellulose, along with water, are two of the main prerequisites for mold growth. So the question is:
Can indoor plants cause mold?
Mold spores are microscopic reproductive cells released by active mold growth. Outdoors, molds thrive in varied climates, growing and releasing spores that float through the air, eventually landing in their preferred growth zones to proliferate more mold. Certain types of mold spores, such as Aspergillus, Penicillium, and Botrytis, are commonly found in soil and greenery worldwide, including house plants and pots. These spores can become airborne in your home, especially when disturbed by activities like watering, pruning, or moving plants around. Once airborne, if proper growth conditions are present, Aspergillus and Penicillium can grow on wood, drywall, and cellulose-based materials.
While indoor plants themselves, when properly cared for, may not directly cause mold growth, the conditions created by improper care and maintenance can contribute to the problem. One such condition is the presence of excess water in flower pots. When plants are overwatered or if proper drainage is lacking, flowerpots can become reservoirs for moisture. Since Aspergillus and Penicillium mold spores are already present in soils and leaves, when combined with organic matter, such as dust or plant debris, these damp areas become breeding grounds for mold growth. Additionally, flower pots without drainage holes can overflow and cause water damage to surrounding building materials. It is essential to pay attention to proper watering techniques and ensure adequate drainage to prevent potential water damage and mold issues.
Preventing mold growth in the home requires proactive measures to address water damage and maintain proper indoor humidity levels. If you have a room or office full of house plants and pots full of water, it may raise the relative humidity in the room. It is important to promptly inspect and mitigate any leaks, sources of moisture intrusion, and humidity issues as these can create an environment conducive to mold growth. If you have house plants, ensuring proper drainage and promptly drying any spills or overflows is essential. Maintaining proper humidity levels in the home is crucial. Using dehumidifiers or ensuring adequate ventilation in areas where you have multiple houseplants can help reduce excess humidity and discourage mold growth. Installing a small tabletop hygrometer can help to monitor indoor humidity levels.
While indoor house plants offer numerous benefits, they can also contribute to mold issues in your home if not properly cared for. Understanding the types of mold spores associated with indoor plants and their potential to become airborne is important. By implementing proper watering techniques, ensuring adequate drainage, and promptly addressing water damage, you can minimize the risk of mold growth. Regular maintenance and monitoring of indoor plants, along with proper ventilation, will help create a healthy and enjoyable living environment. Enjoy the beauty and benefits of indoor plants, while being mindful of the potential impact they can have on indoor air quality and mold growth!
Meet the author: Brad Fishbein is an ACAC council-certified Microbial Investigator. In the fall of 2012, he became a Licensed Mold Assessor in the State of Florida through the Department of Business & Professional Regulation. Brad has helped homeowners with over 5,000 successfully completed Mold Inspections since 2009.