Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) grows healthy glossy leaves in bright indirect sunlight, making it a great indoor plant for visual appeal. However, the plant can present unhealthy signs such as browning leaves, wilting, and crispiness to signify a problem.
So, what causes brown spots and leaves on pothos plants?
Pothos leaves turn brown due to overwatering, root rot disease, too much light, or leaf spot disease. The best fix for the brown spots on leaves is to treat for fungus, provide bright indirect light, and allow the soil to dry out before watering the plant.
The most affected parts of the plant include the following:
- Leaf tips: Brown leaf tips and edges signify fertilizer or mineral burn.
- Entire leaves: Pothos leaves turn brown due to severe fungal infection.
- Stems: Brown or black stems on pothos may indicate the plant is dying.
Why are pothos leaves turning brown?
Pothos is a hardy plant that grows healthy with minimal care. However, the browning and yellowing of leaves in pothos indicate your plant is unhappy. The main reasons for brown spots on foliage are overwatering and excessive direct sunlight. But there could be more.
Here’s why pothos leaves are turning brown:
Excess water cuts off the roots’ oxygen supply, making it difficult for the plant to absorb nutrients. The result is yellowing and browning foliage.
Soggy soil creates a conducive environment for soil fungi to activate and affect the roots of your pothos.
Root rot is the main disease in pothos plants. It is caused by fungi that thrive in damp soil conditions.
The main symptoms of root rot are drooping and yellowing leaves, mushy, decaying roots, and sometimes brown foliage.
With the roots gradually dying out, the supply of crucial nutrients from the soil to the leaves and stems via the roots is impaired, leading to the pothos leaves turning brown and dying. The white and cream-colored spots on Manjula and Marble Queen Pothos easily turn brown due to root rot.
Other than root rot, bacterial leaf spot (Pseudomonas cichorii) can also lead to yellow-brown spots or halos on the leaves of pothos. The disease is mainly caused by extreme humidity and overhead watering.
Here’s a table summary of the diseases that can lead to brown leaves in pothos:
|Pythium root rot||Rotting roots; yellow leaves; black rot on stems and leaves.|
|Bacterial leaf spot||Yellow-brown or black halos on leaves.|
|Rhizoctonia stem rot||Black-brown stems at the plant’s base; dying stems.|
Too much direct sunlight
Overexposure to direct sunlight leads to dry brown spots and edges. In variegated varieties like the Golden Pothos and Manjula, brown sunburn marks typically appear on the white, yellow, or cream spots.
Exposure to too little light can also cause leaf discoloration in pothos. Though pothos can tolerate low light conditions, the best fix for the brown leaf tips is to provide medium to bright indirect light for your houseplant.
Excessive use of fertilizers
Fertilizing your pothos houseplants too often or too much at a go leads to excess salts in the soil. This burns the roots, impairing their ability to draw in nutrients. The result is brown leaf tips and edges in pothos.
Manganese toxicity, for example, “can cause pothos foliage conditions that resemble disease but are not caused by fungal, bacterial, or viral organisms.”
Brown and black spots on pothos can also be caused by extreme temperature stress. Temperature below 45°F will lead to black edges on pothos.
Temperatures exceeding 80°F will also cause dry brown marks and curling leaves in pothos.
Ethylene damage is prevalent in greenhouse pothos. Heat stress can cause the plant to produce too much ethylene, damaging the leaves.
Ethylene damage causes the foliage to turn yellow, then brown and wilted even when enough water is provided.
How to fix browning leaves in pothos
Here’s how to fix and stop pothos leaves from turning brown:
1. Repot the plant
The initial step in saving a pothos plant affected by overwatering is usually to remove the plant from its pot to inspect the soil and roots for sogginess and disease. If the soil is too wet, replace it with fresh well-draining soil.
Let the plant lay bare-root overnight and then repot it into the new soil in the morning. This will help fix any overwatering issues.
2. Adjust your watering schedule
If you recently moved your plant indoors, its water requirements have reduced. You want to avoid overwatering it.
The rule of thumb is to water your pothos every 1-2 weeks or when the soil dries out. You may need to irrigate the plant more often in bright light than in low-light conditions.
- Allow the soil to dry out before watering again.
- Let the top two inches of the soil dry out. The roots will still be moist.
- Water the plant when the leaves start to wilt or droop.
- Avoid misting your pothos to prevent leaf spot disease.
Pro tip: An ideal technique would be inserting a finger into the soil to ensure it’s dry enough before you can water it again.
3. Provide enough indirect light
Move your plant to a spot where it will receive its preferred medium to bright indirect light to stop its leaves from turning brown.
If your pothos is growing by the side of the window, place a sheer curtain to control the amount of sunlight it receives.
Alternatively, you can move it to another spot in the room that still receives the right amount of natural sunlight.
4. Treat pothos fungal diseases
A great DIY fix that can help eliminate the brown spots on the leaves and stems of pothos is using a fungicide with Dimethomorph, such as BASF Stature SC Fungicide.
However, if you’re unsure of treating the disease causing the brown spots on pothos yourself, contact your local extension office for professional diagnosis and effective treatment services.
5. Flush out excess salts from fertilizers
If you suspect that a build-up of nutrient salts in the soil is causing brown leaf spots on your pothos, try flushing out the surplus salts by running water through the soil.
Make holes at the bottom of the pot then pour in water twice the volume of the pot and let it drain from the bottom. Do it twice to ensure the fertilizer and excess salts are completely removed from the soil.
6. Maintain temperature at 70- 90°F
Potted pothos houseplants prefer a room with a controlled room temperature between 70- 90°F.
When temperatures are too high or too low outside the range of 70- 90°F, there can be retarded growth and browning of the leaves.
Should you cut brown leaves on pothos?
The need to remove brown leaves from your pothos plant depends on how severe the problem is. Trim off any dying or diseased leaves and stems using clean, sharp shears.
If more than half the leaves are badly affected, then the best remedy is to cut off the affected leaves to give the remaining healthy leaves an improved chance at survival.
Read more on POTHOS CARE + GROWING TIPS
- David J. Norman and G. Shad Ali, University of Florida, IFAS Extension: Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) Diseases: Identification and Control in Commercial Greenhouse Production
- University of Florida, IFAS: Potho Production Guide