The common name white mold typically refers to Sclerotinia stem rot that mainly affects field crops. It’s a common problem for soybean farmers and can take years to eradicate from farm soils. If you have white mold on your succulent, you’re more likely dealing with powdery mildew — a common houseplant ailment that’s easy to treat. It looks like a white, powdery mold and can live on both stems and fleshy leaves of succulents.
Powdery mildew likes the same type of habitat that succulents like: warm, relatively dry areas. Because succulents and powdery mildew thrive in similar living conditions, succulents are the most infected types of plants, according to the University of Rhode Island GreenShare website. Your infection may just look like the classic white, powdery coating. It can also take on a gray appearance with round yellow, brown or black growths. The mildew can appear in just one spot, but more commonly, it spreads to other leaves, stems and buds of your plant.
At first, powdery mildew may seem harmless. Your succulent may be able to live with white, moldy-looking disease, and even thrive, for some time. As the infection spreads and gets worse, you may notice deflated, damaged or deformed leaves. Leaves and stems may also turn pale green and then yellow. If your succulent has a severe infection, it may lose leaves, fail to flower or even die. Once one of your plants has powdery mildew, the infection can spread to others.
To treat powdery mildew, gently remove any infected leaves and stems that have begun to show signs of damage and then apply a fungicide. Fungicides containing sulfur, neem oil or triforine may be effective at killing powdery mildew on healthy leaves, stems and buds. Also apply the fungicide to nearby plants as a preventative measure. Some gardeners have reported success with baking soda mixed with horticultural oil; however, this treatment hasn’t been widely studied.
Separate your infected plants from your healthy plants if possible. Next, work to increase air circulation, recommends Colorado State University Extension, to help slow spore production. Do this by selectively pruning plants, moving them to windier locations or using fans to circulate more air in your home. Spores need some level of humidity, so switching to early morning watering and bottom watering can help slow or prevent powdery mildew spread.
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