Why Your Pothos Plant’s Leaves are Turning Yellow and How to Fix It

If your precious Pothos has started developing yellowing leaves, you are not alone. Yellowing leaves are a common problem, not just in the Pothos, but in all houseplants. That’s because there are many causes for the issue, ranging from a simple lack of water to a serious pest or disease problem. Take a look at this guide to find out what’s with your Pothos.


Why Are My Pothos Leaves Turning Yellow – The Essentials

There are many causes for yellowing leaves in Pothos plants. The most common is overwatering, but underwatering, incorrect temperatures, pests and diseases, or simply the age of the plant can also have an impact. Give your Pothos the correct conditions and care while checking for signs of stress to prevent yellowing leaves.  


13 Common Reasons Your Pothos Plant Leaves Are Turning Yellow

Pothos Leaves Turning Yellow (13 Common Reasons)

1) Lack of Water

Although Pothos plants are not heavy water users, they cannot be left to dry out for long periods.

If the soil is completely dry, the cells in the plant will become drained of all their water, unable to hold the plant up to keep its shape. As water is the vehicle for nutrients to travel around the plant, they will also become nutrient-deficient, turning the leaves yellow.

If you notice yellowing leaves due to underwatering, start by watering your Pothos from the bottom. Fill a bucket or sink with enough water to reach halfway up the pot and leave in the water for around 15-30 minutes until the soil stops drawing up water.

As the soil can become compacted after underwatering, this method will ensure the soil is completely saturated where the roots need it.

To prevent the problem in the future, water as soon as the top few inches of soil have dried out and never leave the soil to dry out completely.

2) Overwatering

While underwatering is undoubtedly a risk, overwatering is far more common. Houseplant owners have the best of intentions, trying to ensure their plants do not dry out or struggle. But this will usually do more harm than good.

When a plant is overwatered, the roots begin to rot due to excessive moisture in the soil. Rotten roots cannot take up any water or nutrients to the rest of the plant, resulting in the characteristic wilting and yellowing leaves.

While overwatering and underwatering have the same signs, a quick look at the soil moisture and texture of the stems will tell you which problem is most likely.

If your Pothos is overwatered, leave the soil to dry out for a few days. If the leaves do not return to normal, you likely have a case of root rot. This requires immediate repotting and trimming of the affected roots to solve the problem, which will be fatal if left untreated.

To prevent overwatering, wait until the top few inches of soil have dried out. If you are prone to overwatering, make it a rule to wait another day or two from your usual watering time. Underwatering is far easier to fix in the long run than overwatering.

3) Lack of Nutrients

Lack of Nutrients

All plants, much like humans, require various nutrients for survival. As you will know from looking at any fertilizer packaging, the primary nutrients (called macronutrients) are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (NPK).

There are also secondary nutrients (such as calcium or magnesium) and micronutrients that are all required in different amounts.

The deficiency of any of these nutrients, particularly any macronutrients, will cause the leaves to turn yellow. This could either be due to lack of fertilization or poor soil structure that does not hold onto nutrients.

To resolve the nutrient deficiency, fertilize your Pothos with a balanced liquid fertilizer once per month, or with a slow-release fertilizer once per season in spring and summer. If the soil has degraded (usually if the plant has been in the same pot for several years), repot into fresh soil amended with fertilizer.

4) Overfertilization

Overfertilization

Too many nutrients can be just as dangerous as too few nutrients. Some houseplant owners mistake fertilizing too often or not diluting their fertilizer correctly to spur growth. Unfortunately, this has the opposite effect.

Excessive build-up of minerals and salts in the soil can burn the roots and the leaves. The roots may turn dark brown or black as a result, unable to take up any water or nutrients. This yellowing will typically appear in patches, accompanied by browning leaf tips.

If you have overfertilized, start by flushing the soil with distilled or filtered water. Do not use tap water as it contains more salts to which the plants are sensitive, only furthering the problem. Once the soil has been flushed, hold off watering for several months.

To spur new healthy growth, trim off all affected leaves. This will direct the plant’s energy toward the healthy leaves rather than saving dying leaves.  

5) Poor Drainage

Poor Drainage

Drainage is essential for any houseplant containers, but particularly for the Pothos. These plants cannot be left to sit in water for long periods as they are prone to root rot.

If your container does not have any drainage holes, or the pot is left sitting on a tray full of water, it will result in the same issues caused by overwatering. An incorrect soil mix that does not drain well enough can also have the same effect. (For more, see our essential guide to pothos plant potting mixes).

To resolve the problem, repot your Pothos into a new container. During the repotting process, check for signs of root rot and trim any affected roots to avoid spreading the problem. Ensure the new container has enough drainage and that the soil mix drains well enough to avoid future problems.

6) Rootbound

Pothos plants are quick growers. They can outgrow their containers within a year, leaving the roots circling the bottom of the pot. Growth will become stunted when the plant has no more space to expand.

A rootbound Pothos will begin to turn yellow and slowly drop leaves in an attempt to conserve resources and stay alive. The leaves can also turn yellow if the roots wrap around themselves, preventing the uptake of water and essential nutrients.

Luckily, the fix is easy. Using these instructions, simply repot your Pothos into a pot around one or two sizes up.

7) Root Rot

Root Rot

As we’ve discussed already, root rot is incredibly damaging to plants. The rotten and mushy roots stop water and nutrients from traveling through the stems and leaves, turning them yellow.

While root rot is typically caused by overwatering or poor drainage, the fungi that do the damage can also make their way into your houseplant soil, having the same effect. They are known to develop in warm, moist conditions, which Pothos plants love.

To resolve root rot, your Pothos will need immediate repotting. Rinse the soil off the roots to prevent the spread of the soil-borne fungus and trim off the rotten sections back to the healthy growth.

After a period of adjustment to chopped roots and new soil, your Pothos should return to normal.

8) Inappropriate Temperature & Humidity

Native to tropical jungles, Pothos plants are pretty particular about their temperature and humidity needs. They enjoy warm and humid weather, making them great for growing indoors in most regions.

If temperatures reach too far above or below the ideal range, the plant may become stressed. In an attempt to survive, the leaves will turn yellow and fall off the plant to save resources and limit exposure to the extreme temperatures.

Keep temperatures between 65F and 85F indoors to prevent any future issues. They can adapt to conditions slightly beyond this range but will face severe stress well below 55F or above 90F.

Lack of humidity can also cause the leaves to turn yellow and brown slightly at the tips. 

This is because lower humidity causes the plant to stop evaporation to conserve moisture. Lower evaporation increases the heat within the plant, again causing the leaves to be yellow and turn brown due to lack of moisture.

Keep humidity levels above 40% at minimum and around 60% for the best growth. Watch the changes in humidity throughout the seasons and increase the levels with a humidifier when they drop below 40%.

9) Cold Drafts

Pothos plants appreciate some airflow between the leaves to prevent disease. However, they do not enjoy drafts, especially cold ones. If your Pothos is placed next to an open window during winter or in the path of an air conditioner, the leaves may begin to yellow.

Not only do these drafts dry out the soil and lower humidity, but the drastic temperature changes stress the plant and can lead to tissue damage. Move your Pothos away from the windows and out of the path of winds traveling through your home to keep them happy.

10) Poor Light Conditions

Poor Light Conditions

While pothos plants are tolerant of lower lighting conditions than some other houseplants, Pothos plants grow best in bright indirect sunlight. This is especially true for variegated pothos varieties as they contain less chlorophyll in the leaves.

If your Pothos is left in low lighting conditions for long periods, they may start to develop yellow leaves. The oldest leaves will typically turn yellow first, spreading to newer leaves if the problem continues.

High light can occasionally cause the leaves to turn yellow, but brown patches on the leaves indicate sunburn are a more common sign.

Move your Pothos to a spot with bright indirect light, preferably in front of a sunny window protected by a sheer curtain, and the growth should return to normal.

11) Age Of The Plant

Yellowing leaves are not always a sign of a significant preventable or fixable issue. In older plants, leaves often turn yellow and drop off as part of the plant’s natural lifecycle. 

The leaves that turn yellow should be the oldest leaves.

If there are no other concerning signs in your Pothos, chalk it up to old age, and don’t worry.

12) Pests & Diseases

Pests & Diseases

Pothos plants are susceptible to a wide range of pests and diseases. While pest and disease problems are not that common, they can pop up at any time and cause severe damage.

Common houseplant pests like spider mites or scale feed on the leaf and stem tissues of the Pothos. These areas will begin to die off and turn yellow at the site of the problem, leaving your Pothos with yellow and brown spots all over the leaves that grow over time.

Diseases like Bacterial wilt can also cause the leaves to turn yellow. If left untreated, they will turn brown and wilt as the problem spreads.

Prune off any leaves and stems affected by pests or diseases and apply the relevant pesticide or fungicide to resolve the problem. Make sure you act quickly, as these issues can get out of hand and may end up killing your plant.

13) Repotting

Your Pothos will need repotting at some point, typically within 1-2 years after living in the same pot. While the repotting process is simple, a misstep can result in yellowing leaves caused by transplant shock.

But yellowing leaves after repotting aren’t a significant concern. As the plant adjusts to the new conditions, the growth should return to normal within a few weeks.

If you want to keep your plant as happy as possible during this time, there are ways to limit the chances of transplant shock:

  • Match the soil conditions of the original pot to the new pot.
  • Water immediately after repotting.
  • Place your Pothos in the same spot to avoid changing conditions too much.

Pothos Yellowing Leaves FAQs

Can Yellow Leaves Turn Green Again?

If the yellowing is slight and the problem is quickly resolved, the leaves may return to normal. If the yellowing is caused by nutrient issues and they are rectified, they can also turn green again. However, in most cases, they will stay yellow.

Should I Remove Yellow Leaves?

Removing yellow leaves can make the plant look more appealing and may improve growth in the early stages, but it will not fix the cause of the problem. If the yellowing is severe, the leaves will typically drop off independently.


Prevention & Care

Prevention & Care

To stop your Pothos leaves from turning yellow, ensure you place them in the right conditions and give them the best care possible. 

Bright indirect light, warm temperatures and high humidity, and correct watering practices can all prevent yellowing leaves. 

Keep an eye out for signs of pests and diseases and tackle any problems as soon as possible to stop the issue from spreading.


Wrap Up

Yellowing leaves on your Pothos can be distressing but is quite a common problem. Take a look at these causes and examine your plants and care routine to see which is the most likely. Apply the relevant fix, and your lucky pothos plant should be back to good health in no time.


Author

Madison is a writer and editor with a Bachelor’s degree in History and Political Science. She writes and photographs for various online and print publications in the gardening sphere and is the author of the book The Next-Generation Gardener.

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