Pests and diseases are often thought of as outdoor gardening issues, but they can commonly infect indoor plants. Whether the problem was brought indoors by an open window or carried in from the nursery, you will likely deal with a pest or disease problem with your houseplants at some point. Fear not though, many pothos plant pests, bugs, and diseases can be eradicated with simple home remedies and store-bought solutions.
- Dealing With Common Pothos Plant Pests & Diseases – The Essentials
- The Most Common Pothos Plant Pests and Diseases (& How to Identify Them)
- Pesticide and Insecticide Options & Solutions
- Managing Pests & Diseases
- Wrapping Up
Dealing With Common Pothos Plant Pests & Diseases – The Essentials
Common houseplant pests like spider mites, mealybug, thrips, whitefly, and fungus gnats can affect Pothos plants. They are also susceptible to diseases like root rot and bacterial wilt, although disease issues are far less likely than pest problems. There are many natural and chemical methods to control pest and disease issues with varying effects.
The Most Common Pothos Plant Pests and Diseases (& How to Identify Them)
Spider mites are tiny pests that commonly attack a wide range of indoor plants, including your Pothos. While they are difficult to spot on their own, the webs they leave between leaves and stems make the problem easy to identify.
These spider relatives can wreak havoc if left unattended. They attach themselves to the leaves and feed on the plant cells, leaving tiny spots of damage in their wake. If the problem persists, affected leaves will become discolored and may even fall off the plant.
Spider mites are difficult to spot, but they are typically found on the undersides of the leaves. Make sure to check there when hunting them down with your horticultural oil or insecticidal soap.
One of the most common houseplant pests, mealybugs, are small white insects found in warm and humid environments.
These oval-shaped bugs leave a white powdery substance on the leaves and small eggs found around the leaves and stems. This substance is designed to protect the bugs while they feed on the sap of the foliage, causing yellowing, leaf loss, and deformed leaves.
When dealing with mealybugs using your chosen insecticidal, make sure you remove all the eggs too to stop the infestation from spreading to other houseplants.
Whiteflies are related to mealybugs with soft bodies and tiny wings. They also like to hide out on the undersides of leaves but will typically move or fly away when you disturb them. The easiest way to check for whitefly issues is to give the plant a gentle shake to see if any bugs come flying off.
Like mealybugs, whiteflies feed on the sap of the plants, which stunts growth and damages the leaves. They also leave behind a sticky substance that can encourage mold growth.
Whiteflies are commonly removed with insecticidal soaps. But, since they have wings and hang around the plants, they can also be lured away with sticky traps.
Soft scale is one of the most destructive houseplant pests around. These rounded brown bugs are typically found on Pothos stems and can look similar to leaf nodes at a glance.
These tiny insects cause a whole host of problems for their minute size. They attach themselves to the plant and suck the sap from the stems and leaves, damaging the essential transport systems that keep the plants alive.
Yellowing and deformed leaves are common symptoms, with stunted growth occurring at advanced stages. Like whitefly, they also leave honeydew behind, resulting in the development of sooty mold.
Scale can be difficult to get rid of. If a chemical insecticidal problem does not resolve, you may need to discard your Pothos to avoid spreading the problem to your other houseplants.
Thrips are tiny brownish bugs that are about as wide as a needle. They are tough to spot unless you’re looking for them, so it’s good to check for any signs of movement on your Pothos foliage while you water to avoid missing them. Like whiteflies, if you disturb them, they will typically fly off the plant.
You will notice the damage these pests do in the leaves of your Pothos. They leave streaked white or silver marks along with the leaves that become more pronounced as the problem worsens.
Sticky traps are a suitable control for these flying pests. Ensure you prune away any damaged foliage to promote new and healthy growth.
Aphids are every gardener’s worst nightmare. These tiny bugs are hard to spot on their own, but they are easily identified when grouped in clusters when infestations escalate. These pear-shaped bugs come in many colors, including green, which camouflages them on the bright Pothos leaves.
One or two aphids sucking on the leaves and stems of your plants won’t do much damage. However, the main problem with aphids is their ability to reproduce. A few bugs quickly become an entire colony that will completely overwhelm your plant if left untreated.
More minor infestations can be dealt with by hand. Each bug can be picked off or washed off the leaves in the sink. Larger groups require a more robust solution, such as neem oil, to remove the problem.
The award of most annoying houseplant pest has to go to fungus gnats. These tiny flying bugs hang around moist houseplant soil in warm and humid environments, laying their eggs in the pots to reproduce.
They may be easy to spot, found flying around your Pothos, and probably around your head when you get close by. But, they are not easy to get rid of.
Sticky traps help alleviate the problem, but since they live in the soil, repotting is typically the only way to resolve the issue permanently.
Root rot is one of the most common Pothos diseases caused by various species of fungus.
Indicated by wilting leaves, mushy stems, and stunted growth, root rot occurs when the soil retains too much moisture. This can happen when the plant is overwatered, placed in the wrong conditions, or planted in the wrong pot.
Root rot is incredibly difficult to fix once it has taken hold. Repotting your pothos plant into new soil while trimming the affected roots is essential. But even then, your plant may not survive. The best course of action is prevention by avoiding overwatering.
Southern blight can affect Pothos plants and other tropical plants that prefer warm and humid conditions. Signs of blight include wilting or yellowing leaves and bumps of fungal matter known as a sclerotium, typically found on the stems.
Blight is not a common problem for indoor plants but can spread indoors from infected outdoor plants. Immediate action is required to avoid the ultimate death of the plant and spread to other houseplants.
Bacterial wilt is a common Pothos disease caused by the bacteria Ralstonia solanacearum. Like many other diseases, it spreads during warm and humid weather. The leaves will begin to yellow and then turn brown at the stems, with the veins in the leaves turning black.
Luckily, there is an easy way to test for bacterial wilt. Snip off an affected part of the stem and place it in a glass of water. If a substance oozes from the stem, it is likely infected with bacterial wilt.
Pesticide and Insecticide Options & Solutions
Horticultural Oil & Canola Oil
Horticultural oil is an oil-based substance, such as neem oil, typically sprayed onto the leaves using a spray bottle. The oil suffocates any pests present and prevents eggs from hatching. While some horticultural oils are petroleum-based, others are vegetable-based, like Canola oil.
Insecticidal soap is a specially formulated organic insecticide safe for plant use. It also works by suffocating many houseplant pests, including aphids, thrips, and scale to name a few.
Insecticidal soap can also remove the honeydew some pests leave behind, preventing the growth of sooty mold.
Sticky traps are perfect for flying pests that hang around your houseplants. They attract a wide range of flying bugs with a scent and trap them on the sticky substance lining the paper.
While this stops the concentration of pests in the air, they can be unsightly, especially when they’re doing their job well.
The previous pest control options are preferred as they limit the damage to the plants and your home. That also means they are often not strong enough to control severe pest infestations.
If the problem is not resolved after using the organic options and you don’t want to get rid of the plant, pesticides are your next line of defense. However, these can be toxic to humans and animals when misused and should only be applied very carefully according to package instructions.
While Pothos diseases are not common, they can be incredibly concerning when they do occur.
Fungicides and other disease control methods are suitable for houseplant use, but, like pesticides, they should be used carefully.
Unfortunately, fungicides are more effective at preventing problems than solving them, so many houseplants with severe diseases that cannot be controlled by pruning will likely need to be discarded.
How to Use Pesticides & Insecticides for Pothos Plants
Most pesticides, including homemade options, are usually diluted in a misting bottle and sprayed onto the plant’s leaves and stems. If your Pothos has long trailing stems, it’s best to do this outside to avoid spraying any nearby furniture.
Ensure you cover each leaf and focus on the underside to avoid any pests.
Make sure you follow the instructions on the packaging precisely to avoid any damage to the plants or to yourself. Wear gloves when working with these products, and wash your hands afterward.
Managing Pests & Diseases
Prevention is always a better control method than dealing with a pest and disease problem once it has taken hold. Keep your Pothos plants as healthy as possible to allow their natural defenses to get to work. This includes ensuring they are located in the best spot in your home, have sufficient light (particularly for variegated pothos plants), water, fertilizing at the right time, potting in a suitable soil mix, and managing temperature and humidity. These are also key when propagating a pothos plant.
Whenever you water your Pothos, take a quick look at the stems and undersides of the leaves for any issues. This will allow you to tackle any pest and disease problems before they get out of hand. Prune away any affected areas immediately and discard them while moving the plant to an isolated spot to prevent further spread.
Pests and diseases on Pothos plants are a concern, but they aren’t the end of the world. If you catch any issues early, one of the many control methods for these pesky pests should do the trick and get your Pothos back to good health.
For more, see our in-depth guide on whether pothos plants are pet friendly.
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.