White growths on Pothos roots

osakawebbieJuly 20, 2008

I am rooting some Pothos cuttings in water. I want to plant them in soil when I've figured out the answer to this question (although I'm aware that you might try to talk me out of it! [wink]), but meanwhile, they're loving the water. This is the first time I have ever put plants (other than cut flowers) in water like this, so perhaps this is a dumb question from the vantage point of people on this forum.

Just when I thought I was ready to transfer them to soil, I took a close look at them and discovered little white bumps on some of the roots. I'm wondering if it's some kind of mold or fungus, or just a normal part of what the roots will do. I've included photos from the day I first noticed them - at the time, four cuttings were in one container - a former instant coffee jar - and two of those cuttings had the bumps. (One more cutting is in a plastic soda bottle, and it has no such bumps.) To the right is a photo of the whole jar and then one of the underwater area - in the middle of the second photo you can see one cluster of the bumps, and there is another cluster that is not so visible in the photo, top right at the beginning of the roots. Below is a super-closeup of the bumps themselves. After these photos were taken, I removed the cuttings from the jar, scraped off what I could of the stuff, washed out the jar, and separated the cuttings (three of the four went in other containers), but the two cuttings that had bumps before have developed a couple new ones again (it has been about 2-3 days). Any idea what this stuff is? Should I ignore it and plant the cuttings, try some sort of eradication, or throw the cuttings away?

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greystoke(South Africa(11))

Hi osakawebbie,
We do not consider any question dumb. Particularly if we don't have an answer:

It looks like a growth to me. Perhaps a fungus. You could try to sterilise your set-up with peroxide. (see: OXYPLUS )

Good luck

    Bookmark   July 22, 2008 at 12:33AM
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Thanks for the reply, greystoke. I can't easily get specific products like that, as I live in Japan, but I'm familiar with hydrogen peroxide - I sterilize my contacts in it every night. I'd just use my contact solution for this if it didn't have salt in it (I doubt the cuttings would be happy with salt!). But I might be able to find some regular hydrogen peroxide at a drugstore.

I have the urge to ask, "Once I scrape off what I can and use hydrogen peroxide, how long should I wait before deciding that the roots are clean and can be planted?" But if you're not familiar with this particular growth, you probably don't know the answer...?

    Bookmark   July 22, 2008 at 4:58AM
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greystoke(South Africa(11))

konichiwa osakawebbie,

Well, at least that link will tell you the desired concentrations to use. I've tried it myself with peroxide from a chemistry. It worked well, but some of the roots turned brown. I suggest to be careful with it.

Also - if this is a fungus - it could be persistent. Fungii make spores that are difficult to kill. Again, do be careful.

Kind regards

    Bookmark   July 22, 2008 at 5:53AM
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Yeah, I know about persistent pests - these cuttings are the survivors of a long battle against mealybugs in the mother plant. And even after throroughly washing the cuttings with soapy water and spraying them with alcohol, some of the cuttings still had bugs at first. I'm pretty sure these cuttings are bug-free now, but just when I decided it was safe to plant them, I found these growths on the roots. After over a month in water, the roots are getting very long and I am eager to move the cuttings to a pot so they can grow upward, but I want to make sure they are clean of pests first.

I had no trouble finding peroxide at the drugstore, and I used a very small dose, as indicated by the Oxyplus web page.

But I keep searching and searching on the Internet for any mention of an underwater fungus, or white bumps on water roots, or any number of attempts at search criteria, and have found nothing relevent. In the last two days I haven't seen any new bumps, so I'm wondering if whatever it was, isn't now...

    Bookmark   July 23, 2008 at 7:32AM
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I can't say for sure what those bumps are, but I'd say the odds are pretty good that whatever they are only really thrives when it's really wet or it wouldn't grow underwater at all.

If that's the case, it oughta die off or at least get under control by transferring the plants to soil.

From the sound of it the H2O2 may have cleared it up for you, so I'd recommend putting one cutting into dirt and seeing how it does (don't forget they'll generally wilt and sulk a bit whenever you move them from one medium to another).

That way, if there is a problem, only one plant suffers.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2008 at 4:08PM
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I'd say the odds are pretty good that whatever they are only really thrives when it's really wet or it wouldn't grow underwater at all. If that's the case, it oughta die off or at least get under control by transferring the plants to soil.
Good point!

I did the H2O2 once, and then decided (even before I read your post) to go ahead and plant them. Your advice of doing them one at a time is good, but I will be gone for a couple weeks starting next Thursday, so I want to get past the transition process before I leave. So I planted all of them, in two pots (one is a fairly large pot with posts in it for the Pothos to climb, so I planted several cuttings there). Based on advice I read somewhere else on Gardenweb forums, I put a plastic bag over the potted plants to keep the moisture in while they grow some soil roots. They've been planted for two days now, and they look okay so far, but of course it's really too early to tell...

    Bookmark   July 26, 2008 at 2:35AM
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Glad I could help, and I'm glad things seem to be going well.

For what it's worth, it's been my experience that if a new cutting isn't going to do well after transplanting it tends to look pretty sickly early on. So I'd guess you're in good shape.

I'd like it if you could give us an update in a little while to let us know if they make it.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2008 at 5:36PM
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Okay, here's the update you asked for. Yes, all my cuttings made it so far, in spite of my experimentation with various ways of planting them:

  1. I have four of them in an 8" pot with sticks to attach them to (one expert says that's way too much soil, so I'm being very careful to let it dry out well between waterings, but it's happy). Two of these were the cuttings that had the weird white stuff on them underwater - no apparent problems in soil, but of course I can't see inside.

  2. For a while I had one in pseudo-hydroponics pot just as an experiment, and it was doing fine, but I moved it to soil because it's more in line with what I'm used to doing. (sorry to all you hydroponics fans)

  3. After being told that my first pot was too big, I planted the next batch of six cuttings (including the one I carefully removed from the hydroponics pot full of rocks) in two 2" pots sitting on a wood ledge inside a really big pot (empty) that has a great lattice for entwining and will hopefully be once again full (it's the original pot from the big beautiful plant that had to be reduced to cuttings due to an incurable case of mealybugs). They struggled at first but revived.

  4. Four more are still in water, awaiting my next flurry of activity, in which I plan to put them in a four-inch pot (Goldilocks syndrome - the first pot was too big, the next pots were too small...).

After all that abuse, not one of the cuttings has actually died, and all of them are putting out new growth all the time. Pothos is rugged enough even for a "black thumb" like me!

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 3:10AM
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Great to hear! And there's no need to apologize for not keeping a plant in hydroponics. I don't think I'd grow Pothos in hydroponics even if I had the room to, it's just too easy to grow it very nicely in dirt, where it's also much cheaper.

Oh, and as far as someone telling you that you planted something in "too much soil"... as long as your pot is smaller than the Earth, it's not too much soil for the plant.

Too much soil for the gardener, perhaps. More soil means more water and more weight to move around. But plants didn't originally grow in pots. They grew in a little planter we call "the Earth". The only plants that can be in "too much soil" are the ones that don't grow in soil to begin with (like certain bromeliads and so on).

Yes, you want to avoid putting tiny plants in enormous pots, but not because it's bad for the plant. The more soil is in the pot the more water has to go into the soil to make it moist. So it's more work for you, particularly if you need to move it.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2008 at 3:51AM
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I've been having a similar issue with a number of cuttings cut from two large hanging pothos plants. Am going to follow the steps mentioned to remove them and will be planting in soil soon. Wanted to contribute that the issue seems to be more prevalent in the cuttings where the roots themselves are more exposed to sunlight. Don't know if that makes it more clear that it's a fungus. Also, I've been using tap water from an older house.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2009 at 7:40PM
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freemangreens(Zone 10 CA)

For future reference:

Another source for H2O2 is a beauty salon or supply house. The sell it by "volumes" and all that means is "percent". I use 30-volume (30%) to clean stuff when I need to and it works great; cheap too!

The stuff you buy at the grocery or drug store is only 3% and has several other "filler" ingredients that you don't need.

Hope that helps someone.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2009 at 11:31PM
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davemichigan(zone 6a (SE Michigan))

osakawebbie, I wouldn't worry too much about it. Pothos is a very easy plant, so I think they will be ok.

In case you are still looking for hydrogen peroxide, they should be in the section with bandage, iodium tincture, and things like those.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2009 at 12:22AM
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Hair products label their hydrogen peroxide(H202) in terms of volume; where each 1% of H2O2 releases 3.3 "volumes" of oxygen.
This means a hair product of 10 volume is essentially the same as the drug store's 3% H202.
Multiply other volumes of H202 by the ratio to find it's %.
With #100 volume you are at 33+% H202 & must use sensible caution.
Greystoke's link discusses using 17.5% H202; don't confuse volume with %.
Buy H202 from a place with high turn over, there is usually some degradation of the actual % content during shelf life.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2009 at 10:45AM
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I had originally rooted my pothos in water also, and like you got a white "growth" on the upper part of the roots closest to the vine itself. after about 3 months i planted it in soil and the white growth is still on it. it doesnt seem to be doing the plant any harm and hasnt spread to the rest of my plants, so i wouldnt worry too much about it :)

    Bookmark   October 24, 2013 at 10:04PM
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