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Fuzzy Plant Roots: What You Should Know


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It is important to distinguish between fuzzy root hairs and white mold. Within optimal plant conditions, the roots will develop fuzzy hairs for absorption of nutrients but when conditions are not as great fungus and mold could also develop.

Plant roots develop white hair-like structures that give roots a fuzzy appearance because of the abundance of oxygen and nutrients. These fuzzy white roots are an indication that your plant is thriving but in some cases can also be fungus or mold. Fungus and mold thrive in damp soil and their removal can be done by applying a fungicide to the soil.

Fuzzy roots are most noticeable in non-soil mediums such as Aquaponic and Hydroponic systems where you can easily pull the plant from the water and inspect the root systems.

So, if you have noticed white fuzzy stuff around your plant, but don’t know whether it’s mold or roots, don’t worry. We’ve got you.

In this article, we will explain What causes fuzzy roots as well as the in-betweens that may not be so good for roots if you don’t keep a keen eye on your soil.

Cross Section of a Root (3)

Why Are Plant Roots Fuzzy?

The white fuzzy stuff around your plants could be tiny white root hairs (a sign that your plant is happily growing) or while mold or fungus (a sign that your plant is in danger). 

Root Hairs:

root hairs

As we mentioned, fuzzy roots are a sign of better root development in plants. This is because the root hairs allow the plant to absorb the maximum amount of oxygen from the air spaces within the soil.

During root respiration, when roots encounter an excess supply of oxygen, fuzzy roots grow.

Absorbent hair or root hair is approximately 80 to 1500 long colorless (white) hairs – primarily present in the epidermal cells. They are tubular outgrowth present in the region of differentiation (section of maturation). 

Because of the high root surface area, around 15 to 17 mm in diameter, these tiny root hairs get the job of excessive water intake. 

Moreover, these tiny little root hairs also prevent any harmful bacteria from entering the plant through xylem vessels. 

Root hairs also aid in absorbing more nutrients than usual and helps in establishing a good relationship with microbes.

In legume plants, they are directly concerned with the development of root nodules.

Mold or Fungus:

Mold and fungus are two different things but are related to each other.

Fungus (singular: fungi):

Fungi are categorized as heterotrophic (organisms dependent on other organisms for energy) and eukaryotic organisms. 

Mushrooms, yeast, and molds are all included in the kingdom fungus. Most of the fungi are dimorphic; can occur in two different forms. 

When suitable temperatures and the right amount of carbon dioxide are provided, they may grow as yeasts or molds.

They may have a sexual or asexual reproductive system, or they can have both in some cases. 

Mold:

A mold is a microscopic form of fungi. Same as fungi, they can grow sexually or asexually.

Zygospores are formed from sexual reproduction, compared to sporangiophores which are formed as a result of asexual reproduction. You can easily notice if they grow on your plants because they grow in web-like structures. 

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Plants That Fuzzy Roots are a Common Occurrence:

Usually, a fuzzy occurrence in roots is most noticeable in plants that grow in a soilless culture like: 

Microgreens:

Also known as “vegetable confetti.” They are nutritious green vegetables (sweet, sour, spicy) rich in potassium, copper, zinc, magnesium, iron, etc. 

According to an article published by the University of Florida IFAS Extension, they are approximately 2 inches tall (2.5 to 7.5cm) with an aromatic flavor.

They are available in different shapes and colors and can be grown anywhere. 

Microgreens grow in soilless medium hence sometimes become prey to fungi or molds.

They are also beneficial in fighting against diseases like Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and diseases related to the heart (because they contain polyphenol).

Below is a list of a few microgreen vegetables.

Common Name:Scientific Name:
CeleryApium graveolens
OnionAllium cepa
BroccoliBrassica oleracea var. italica
CarrotDaucus carota subsp. sativus
CabbageBrassica oleracea var. capitata
RadicchioCichorium intybus var. foliosum
ChicoryCichorium intybus
RadishRaphanus sativus
GarlicAllium sativum

Aquaponic Plants:

Aquaponics consists of two words. Aqua is a Latin word that means “water” and ponics is a Greek word that means “labor.”

Aquaponics is the method in which water is used as the medium to grow plants. In this system, nutrients are provided to the plants by the waste from the fish. 

A well-oxygenated aquaponic system will produce plants with healthy roots that have a fuzzy white appearance. Plants do this for maximum absorption of nutrients from the nutrient-rich water.

Below is a list of plants that can grow well using an aquaponic system. 

Common Name:Scientific Name:
Kale Brassica oleracea var. sabellica
Tomatoes Solanum lycopersicum
Lettuce Lactuca sativa
Ginger Zingiber officinale
Basil Ocimum basilicum
WatercressNasturtium officinale
Peppers Capsicum
Strawberries Fragaria × ananassa
Cauliflower Brassica oleracea var. botrytis

Hydroponic Plants:

In a hydroponics system, the plant is grown in a nutrient-rich solution. The solution consists of water, fertilizers, and essential nutrients, which are essential for plant growth. 

There is no organic medium (such as fish) to assist in providing nutrients for plants. 

Hydroponic systems are categorized as open and closed hydroponics systems. 

Some of the plants that can grow well in a hydroponics system are:

Common Name:Scientific Name:
SpinachSpinacia oleracea
HerbsAll types of herbs
LettuceLactuca sativa
Leaf cabbage (kale)Brassica oleracea var. sabellica
StrawberriesFragaria × ananassa
BasilOcimum basilicum
GingerZingiber officinale
TomatoesSolanum lycopersicum
CucumberCucumis sativus

Seedlings:

When a seed germinates, a young plant comes out from that seed known as a seedling. 

A seedling typically has three parts. The one is called cotyledons, and the other two are known as hypocotyl and radicle. 

Seedlings are easy prey for a fungus or mold to attack. So, take good care of plants that just come out of seed. If they get infected, there is no other way except to destroy them.

However, using the bottom watering method to keep the soil moist for seedlings can help keep fungus and mold away from the young plants.

Can Mold Grow on Roots?

mold on plant roots

Yes! There is no doubt about that. Molds can grow on roots. If roots get infected with mold, it is impossible to treat them. 

The main reason why mold grows on roots is poor drainage or over-watering the plant continuously. 

When water stays in plant roots for a long time, the xylem vessels of roots cannot take up excess water. 

Because of excess water present in the soil, molds attack the roots. The most common type of mold seen on many plants’ roots is a saprophytic fungus.

Apart from mold, plant roots may also turn green in the presence of too much light as microscopic algae start to develop on the roots surfaces.

Identifying If Fuzzy Roots is Mold or Not:

It is very common that gardeners become confused when they notice the roots of their plants. 

Whether it is a mold on the roots or they are white fuzzy root hairs?

Because both mold and fuzzy hair can have a similar appearance, however, white mold appears on plant roots when the roots are damp. 

Despite the appearance, if one knows, they can easily recognize molds and white root hairs. 

The following points may help you in differentiating between mold and fuzzy roots.

  • If the plant is young and mature, there are 99.9 percent chances that you see fuzzy root hairs. 

    However, if the plant is an adult and you notice that the white fuzzy line is above the soil and growing along the stem, then sorry to say it is a mold that has attacked your plant.
  • If you notice that fuzzy white hair is growing directly from the root, stay calm! It’s the healthy root hairs.

    Suppose you see the opposite, a random spiderweb-like structure near your plant roots. Then there is a high possibility that it is a mold.
  • Tiny root hairs grow only around the roots. However, mold grows up to stems.
  • If decomposing plant material (for example, dead leaves) is present in the plant pot, and you see the random white structures on it, they are not fuzzy roots; instead, they are molds.

    This is because molds and fungus thrive on decomposed organic material.

The Takeaway:

All in all, once you know the difference between white mold and fuzzy plant roots, it is as easy as ABC to distinguish both. 

If you are growing your plants in a soilless medium, you might often witness tiny roots hair. 

JayLea

JayLea has a passion for plants and has been gardening since 2015. He has valuable knowledge about gardening and houseplant care and can answer everyday practical questions that every plant owner has.

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