Join the RHS today and support our charity
Free personalised gardening advice
RHS members get reduced ticket prices
RHS members get free access to RHS Gardens
Reduced prices on RHS Garden courses and workshops
020 3176 5800
Mon – Fri | 9am – 5pm
Help us achieve our goals
Make a donation
I have forgotten my password
Keep me signed in
Register for free to receive our newsletters, add comments to blogs/articles and to save content.
See what events are on near you and browse your bookmarked pages.
The presence of sooty mould fungi usually indicates that a plant has become affected by a sap-sucking pest. Sooty moulds do not attack the plant directly, but their growth is unsightly and can reduce plant vigour by preventing photosynthesis.
Sooty moulds consist of a large number of different fungi producing dark growth and spores. Commonly found within sooty mould growth are species of Cladosporium and Alternaria, but there are many others. They grow on sugar-rich honeydew produced by sap-sucking insects as a result of their feeding activities, or occasionally on sugary exudates produced by the plant itself.
You may see the following symptoms:
Chemical control of the sooty mould growth itself is not required. However, control of the sap-sucking pest responsible for the honeydew on which the mould is growing may involve the use of pesticides.
See our advice on controlling aphids, scale insects, mealybugs or whiteflies.
Sooty moulds are surface contaminants – they do not attack the plant directly. They require a nutrient source on which to grow, and this is most commonly the honeydew excreted by a number of sap-sucking pests (e.g. aphids, mealybugs, scale insects, whiteflies). Droplets of honeydew are shed by these pests and fall onto surfaces below where they are feeding. This is frequently the upper surface of leaves, but can also be stems, branches, fruit, etc., and also any other objects situated below the infestation.
Honeydew contains high levels of sugars and a range of other nutrients. The sooty mould fungi use these for growth. Sooty mould growth is most prevalent where air circulation is poor and humidity high, providing periods of extended wetness (although heavy rain may sometimes wash the growth from the leaf surface).
Occasionally, sooty mould growth develops on sugary, sticky exudates produced by the leaves of the plant itself. Certain plants (e.g. some Cistus species) are more likely to produce such exudates.
AntsAphidsCushion scaleGlasshouse whiteflyMealybugScale insectsSooty blotch and fly speck of apples
the RHS today and get 12 months for the price of 9
RHS members can get exclusive individual advice from the RHS Gardening Advice team.
Register for the site or sign in to share your experiences on this topic and seek advice from our community of gardeners.
We're a UK charity established to share the best in gardening. We want to enrich everyone's life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.
Join the RHS today and get 12 months for the price of 9