Pothos are great houseplants with golden pothos, satin pothos, and jade pothos being some of the most common types. When well cared for, the leaves appear vibrant and healthy. So, what can cause pothos leaves to turn yellow?
Pothos leaves turn yellow due to overwatering, underwatering, overexposure to sunlight, or diseases. Fix the leaf yellowing in pothos by watering the plant only when the top quarter of the soil is dry. Treat fungal diseases and prune any old yellow leaves to help the plant turn green quickly.
When a pothos plant is healthy, it grows to about 10 feet (indoors) and the leaves will appear to be waxy and brown. Any kind of discoloration on the leaves that’s not natural variegation is a sign your houseplant is not healthy.
Why is my pothos turning yellow?
Yellowing is usually a common sign of root rot, overwatering, or other problems. Here are 6 reasons why your pothos leaves are turning yellow:
Pothos grow vibrant and healthy when a proper watering schedule is maintained. Usually, the ideal watering practice is to wait for the soil to dry out before watering again.
Overwatering is when to leave the plant in soggy conditions for long. Excessive water limits the supply of oxygen by suffocating the roots. This leaves the plant unable to feed and breathe properly, causing it to show unhealthy signs.
What does an overwatered pothos look like?
When overwatered, pothos leaves will turn yellow, wilt, and appear generally unhealthy. In some cases, the leaves will start to show brown spots, which is not a good sign. It might take a lot to revive a wilting and browning pothos, so you need to take action fast.
The good news is the fix for this is to fix the moisture content in the pot as explained here.
Keep in mind that if the yellowing is randomly spread all over the plant, it’s highly likely that excessive watering is the cause. When there’s excess water and poor soil drainage, the soil will remain wet, leading to the decay of the roots.
With the roots gradually dying out, the rest of the plant is deprived of crucial nutrients needed for growth. As such, the pothos leaves start turning yellow, with some even falling off.
2. Root rot
When pothos has root rot, the leaves will start to turn yellow and fall off. Root rot is a fungal disease that occurs when the plant is left in excess moisture (usually caused by overwatering).
The common types fungal diseases or root rot that affect pothos plants are pythium root rot and bacterial root rot.
- Pythium root rot: Mature leaves of the pothos plant turn yellow and fall off unusually. Roots may also discolor (turn black) and develop a mushy texture.
- Bacterial leaf spot: The underside of the leaves will show water spots with yellow halos.
Overwatering creates room for further problems for your pothos, as wet soil is usually a conducive environment for soil fungi to grow. These fungi deprive your plants of essential nutrients, leading to root rot and leaf wilting in indoor plants.
Your plants are also vulnerable to such fungal diseases if you regularly mist them because the wet leaves and stems are likely to attract fungi.
If you’re trying to make your pothos grow fuller fast, you may have applied too much fertilizer and ended up with yellow and brown leaves on the plant. Overfertilization is more problematic than underfertilization.
The excess salts in the fertilizer can pull moisture away from the roots of your indoor plants through reverse osmosis and the signs start to show in the leaves and roots. Usually, stunted growth, fertilizer burn, and leaves turning brown are the first signs you’ll notice.
Applying fertilizer too frequently- too- will cause the leaves to turn yellow, as the chemicals build up in the soil with adverse effects on your pothos. If you’re growing your pothos in a small planter, you’ll see the effects of overfertilization sooner than if you’re growing it in an outdoor garden.
We’ve already talked about how too much water isn’t good for your pothos plants. Well, too little isn’t good either. When there’s little water for the plant to thrive, it adjusts by conserving nutrients and energy. The resultant effect is usually the yellowing and dying of the leaves.
Other signs of underwatering in pothos include:
- Curling leaves (in an attempt to conserve water)
- Wilting and drooping
- Leave discoloration (turning yellow and brown on the edges)
You can easily fix this problem by maintaining a great watering schedule to turn a yellow pothos green again.
5. Exposure to direct sunlight
Pothos plants like a variety of light conditions that range from low light to moderate indoor light when growing indoors. Outdoors, the plant will thrive well in partial shade, usually under trees.
Overexposure to direct sunlight can cause pothos plants to lose moisture excessively, leading to unwanted symptoms such as leaves turning yellow, brown spots, wilting, and even dying.
6. Old leaves
At some point, you’ll start noticing the older leaves near the base of the stems of your pothos yellowing and falling off. This occurs naturally to create room for the growth of new foliage.
Old leaves usually contain waste compounds that the plant does not need anymore. The leaves grow old, turn yellow, and fall off the plant as new ones emerge.
If you check and determine that the houseplant is not suffering from an improper water moisture problem, fungal disease, or any other issue I’ve discussed above, the yellowing should be no cause for concern because it is the older leaves falling off.
How to Fix and Stop Yellow Leaves on Pothos
To keep your pothos healthy and prevent yellowing of leaves, provide the ideal growing conditions. Here are the basic requirements of a pothos houseplant:
|Sunlight requirements||Partial sunlight, partial shade. Avoid direct sunlight|
|Soil pH||6.1 to 6.5|
|Water requirements||Once every 1-2 weeks. Let soil dry out between waterings.|
|Temperature||70°F to 90°F.|
The first thing you want to do to stop pothos leaves from turning yellow is to identify the cause, which is essentially the underlying problem. This way, you’ll be sure the remedy you’re applying is addressing the actual cause of leaf discoloration.
Depending on the cause, here’s how to fix and stop pothos leaves turning yellow:
1. Drain the wet soil
The first step to stop the leaves of your pothos from turning yellow and brown is to fix the overwatering problem. You can do this by draining the excess water that the plant is soaking in.
Here’s how to drain the wet soil:
- Move the pothos to a shaded area (if it was overexposed).
- Gently remove the plant from the pot.
- Place the root ball on top of a layer of newspapers to drain the excess water from the roots.
- Dry out the waterlogged soil by spreading it on a dry surface and leaving it to lose water.
- Repot the plant afterward.
Pro tip: It is important to make sure the container has good draining holes at the bottom to prevent waterlogging in the pot. If you think the excess water results from small draining holes, you might want to increase the size of those holes and watering in small bits but a little more frequently.
2. Maintain a proper watering schedule
Pothos will thrive and grow healthy when you allow the soil to dry out between watering sessions. Always check to make sure only the uppermost 2 inches of the soil is dry before watering again. This will ensure the soil in the root zone remains moist all the time and stop pothos leaves turning yellow from overwatering.
You’ll need to water pothos plants more often if you notice the leaves are turning brown and wilting due to drought. If you live in a dry area, water once every 3 to 7 days, but always check the soil moisture content first before doing so.
Pro tip: If you have a poor-draining soil medium, you can add some perlite to it to boost its drainage. To assess whether your pothos is ready to be watered again, dip a finger into the soil to test for wetness. If dry, then it’s time to water again. If not, you might need to wait a bit longer.
3. Treat root rot
Root rot that results from fungal disease and sogginess in the pot can be treated and the plant revived. As soon as you treat your pothos, the yellowing will stop and the leaves will be vibrant again.
Here’s how to treat root rot in pothos and other houseplants:
- Dispose of the soil in the pot.
- Wash the pot using a bleach solution or hydrogen peroxide.
- Trim off the infected roots and dip the remaining ones in a fungicide.
- Repot the pothos in a fresh potting mix that’s not expired.
Pro tip: On a yellowing pothos plant, unhealthy roots affected with root rot will appear to be black and feel mushy. They can even fall off when touched. These are the roots you want to cut off to prevent the spread of the disease.
4. Provide low to medium light
If the yellowing is being caused by too much direct sunlight, you might want to move your pothos plants to a spot where there’s low to medium indoor light. You can place the plant where it is shaded by taller garden plants to stop the leaves from turning yellow and wilting.
For indoor potted pothos, remove the plants from the window spot if they’re exposed to excess sunlight and place them somewhere where there’s indirect light.
Being a low-light plant, pothos will thrive so long as they’re placed in a room with sufficient natural light. However, if you prefer your pothos by the window as part of your interior décor, you can control the amount of direct UV rays they’re exposed to by using a voile curtain or sheer.
Alternatively, use an adjustable LED grow light because this way, you can control the amount of light the plant receives.
5. Remove the excess fertilizer
If excess salts from overfertilization can also cause pothos leaves to turn yellow. But what do you do to stop this effect and the leaf discoloration? Simple – drain the excess fertilizer from the pot. Here’s how to do it:
- Check to make sure the container has drainage holes.
- Pour a lot of distilled water and fill it to the top edge.
- Allow all the water to drain.
- Repeat up to 4 times to wash away all the excess fertilizer from the plant’s container.
To stop excess fertilizer from propagating root rot and leaf yellowing, use a balanced amount of fertilizer, as per manufacturers’ recommendations. Also, fertilize only when necessary. An appropriate fertilizing schedule for your pothos would be to fertilize once every two or three months.
Should I cut yellow leaves off pothos?
To maintain a healthy-looking plant, you can trim off the yellow leaves to help prevent disease from spreading to the healthy parts of the plant. Remember to disinfect the snipping blade with each snip.
In case more than 50% of the leaves have turned yellow, trim cut them off slowly over time as you allow new foliage to grow. Removing too much foliage at the same time can affect the plant’s growth and development.
Can yellow leaves turn green again?
If the yellowing leaves are the older ones near the base of the pothos’ stem, then- yes- your pothos leaves will become green again; but not in the exact sense of the word. The old, yellow leaves will wilt off, creating room for growth of new, green leaves.
However, if the yellowing of the leaves is as a result of any of the other earlier-identified causes, the yellowing effect can’t be reversed. The best you can do is to put in place preventive measures to stop the issue from spreading to the rest of the leaves.
- David J. Norman and G. Shad Ali, University of Florida, IFAS Extension: Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) Diseases: Identification and Control in Commercial Greenhouse Production
- Kathy Kelley, Pennstate Extension: Preventing, Diagnosing, and Correcting Common Houseplant Problems
- Amy Gibbs and Brian Hudelson, University of Wisconsin Garden Fact Sheets: Pothos Plant Diseases
My name is Alex K. Worley. I am a web geek who loves gardening and connecting with nature. I maintain a small backyard organic garden from which I source most of my green food. I hope to help you learn something new about gardening.