Simple and Effective Ways to Treat and Prevent Fungus on Succulents

Succulents are low maintenance, easy to propagate, and the best part? They add up to interior aesthetics. They come in vibrant colors, unique leaf shapes, striking patterns, and convenient sizes. Also, their survival capacity is quite promising.

However, like other plants, succulents are prone to infections that cause them to disfigure, create discoloration that ruins their overall appearance, and hamper their growth.

This article will summarize important details about fungus on succulents, and guide you on effective ways to treat and prevent them.

How Fungus Affect Succulents and How They Are Transmitted

According to Williams et al., from the Department of Plant Pathology of the University of Ohio, fungi are the chief cause of diseases in plants compared to other plant pests. More than 8,000 types of fungi are proven to be pathogenic to plants.

Fungi are microorganisms that multiply by producing spores. These spores can penetrate the soil and can be transmitted through water and air or spread through insects like flies, bugs, beetles, and hoppers.

Fungi also pose a potential risk for humans and animals through skin contact and inhalation, which is why observing safety precautions is vital when handling your fungi-diseased plants.

Succulents are thick and fleshy due to their ability to retain water for a prolonged period, that’s why they can survive for weeks to months without a single drop of water. They thrive best in dry, arid climates.

The problem begins when you move your succulents to an area vulnerable to moisture and humidity. Overwatering your succulents also poses a risk, as it creates an opportunity for molds and fungi to thrive.

Users Also Read: Best Pots for Succulents: Useful Tips

Most Common Fungi on Succulents

Looking out for potential fungal infections on your succulents will help prevent further damage. Knowing what symptoms to watch out for will also allow you to determine the best method to treat fungus.

Fungus on succulents could either be external or internal (which occurs on the root system or insides of the leaves and is way more difficult to treat).

Any blackish dots, unusual pustules, rots, lesions, and fuzzy or powder-like spots should sound an alarm. Here are the most common types of fungal diseases that affect succulents.

1.   Fusarium Rot

Fusarium can infect the plant surface via spores, or enter the plant system via soil through the roots. This disables the succulent’s ability to absorb water, causing it to wilt. There are two types of rot caused by Fusarium spp.: soft and dry.

Soft rot appears spongy, soggy, or wet on affected plant tissue (particularly on the leaves) with discoloration due to bacterial invasion. On the other hand, dry rot attributes to a withered appearance on infected plant tissue with varied discoloration.

2.   Phytophthora Crown and Root Rots

This is a stubborn fungal disease in plants that is difficult to eradicate, so proper care and prevention can save your succulents from an untimely demise.

Succulents appear brownish, dry, and wilting. The leading cause of the spread is wet, poorly-drained soil. It has the same pathogenicity as Fusarium rot. However, they tend to spread rapidly and are more invasive.

3.   Black Lesions

Black Lesions on a succulent

This can be caused by Opuntia or Phyllosticta species. They often affect prickly pear cacti and are triggered by increased humidity.

This fungal disease appears as black, irregularly shaped lesions on pads.

Easy Steps to Effectively Treat Fungus on Your Succulents

Being equipped with the right information will help speed up treatment and save you time and money.

1.   Isolate the Diseased Plants From the Healthy Ones

This will prevent the spread of fungus on your healthy succulents. Work with your diseased succulents in a different space, preferably in an area outside of your home.

As previously mentioned, the fungus can spread through the air, so you wouldn’t want fungal spores floating around your house.

2.   Trim Rotting Parts of the Foliage With Clean Tools

Typically, signs of fungus on the pads or leaves of your succulents mean that the interior of the plant is infected as well.

Always remember to use clean, sterilized tools and appropriate gloves when working with your plants to prevent further infection and protect yourself.

If possible, wear protective masks and goggles to prevent inhalation of fungus.

Now, this is a rule that you must always remember: Don’t use the dirty tools that you previously used when handling your other plants.

Make sure to properly disinfect or sterilize them after every use. You don’t want those nasty fungi on your other plants as well.

3.   Check the Roots

Remove the plant from the pot and thoroughly wash the soil off with clean, running water. The soil is likely to contain the culprit that caused the damage, so don’t replant your succulent in the same bad soil.

Completely cut off affected roots with clean tools.

4.   Replant the Succulent in a New Pot

Replanting succulents

It’s recommended to discard recently infected pots as they may cause reinfection.

Use good quality clay or terracotta pots for your succulents. They’re well-draining and breathable, not to mention that they’re also inexpensive.

5.   Use Homemade or Organic Solutions to Get Rid of Fungus

A dishwashing liquid solution is enough to treat molds. Add a few drops of dishwashing liquid to warm water in a spray bottle. Don’t use bleach, as it may cause discoloration and damage your succulents.

A baking soda solution (add a tablespoon to a gallon of water) is also helpful. Spray it on affected succulents once every two weeks.

How to Prevent Fungus on Succulents

Proper care and prevention is the best and most effective solution for completely eradicating fungus from your succulents.

Here are practices you should practice or avoid:

1.   Give Your Succulents the Right Amount of Sunlight or Shade

Placing them by the window where they can get sun and shade in substantial amounts is enough for indoor succulents.

At least six hours of sun exposure per day is excellent. Keeping them in a space with sufficient air circulation can also help keep the fungus away.

2.   Don’t Overwater Your Succulents

Overwatering is one of the main reasons why fungal disease happens. Too much moisture is unfavorable for succulents.

Watering your succulents once every week (once a month during the Winter season) or whenever the soil is too dry is recommended. This method is also known as the soak-and-dry method.

You must drench the soil entirely in water and wait for it to dry until your next water. It’s better not to get the pads or leaves soaked when watering your succulents.

3.   Plant Your Succulents in Clean Well-Draining Pots

This will prevent a build-up of moisture and decrease the likelihood of fungus.

When replanting your succulents, don’t reuse previously infected pots. Use brand-new ones to prevent reinfection.

4.   Use Good-Quality Soil and Fertilizer

Urea fertilizer

Healthy soil gives your plant the right amount of nutrients it needs, allowing it to thrive better. Choose appropriate soil and fertilizer depending on your plant needs. Don’t over-fertilize.

Over-fertilizing may cause your succulent to deteriorate, rendering it more vulnerable to pests and fungus.

This may also cause your succulents to grow rapidly, and excess foliage means a greater opportunity for fungus to invade.

5.   Check Your Plants Regularly and Note Any Unusual Changes

Some symptoms usually go unnoticed, the earlier you detect them, the better. Notice any signs of wilting or discoloration.

6.   Regularly Clean Your Succulents From Dust and Dirt

Cleaning your succulents, especially your cacti, can be a challenge. Use soft brushes (cosmetic or paintbrush will do). Never use alcohol or harsh cleansers to prevent damage or discoloration.

7.   Ward Off Insects and Bugs Using Organic Sprays

Aside from being expensive, commercial pesticides are harmful, especially to children and pets, so it’s best to avoid using them. Neem oil is one of the most effective organic pesticides that you can use.

Mealybugs and flies are two of the most common vectors of fungi that infect succulents.

8.   Prune Your Succulents

When pads or leaves start to grow uncontrollably, it attracts fungus. Always trim the dead or diseased parts first. Pruning your succulents will also enhance their shape.

Read more: Everything You Need to Know About White Spots on Succulents

Summary

Fungal spores are a significant health risk in plants, humans, and animals. Always wear protective clothing like gloves, use appropriate and sterilized tools, and practice proper disinfecting before and after use.

There are many available treatment options in your home. A simple dishwashing soap solution, baking soda, and neem oil spray will do.

Succulents are easy to maintain. Understanding your plant’s needs is a stepping stone in preventing pests and diseases.

Be mindful of your plants’ environmental and nutritional needs and the risks of improper handling. It is essential to give them the right amount of sun, shade, water, and fertilizer.