10 Common Reasons for Pothos Plants Dropping Leaves

Pothos plants are some of my favorite hanging houseplants (I keep two in the kitchen). Whilst they are easy to grow, pothos plants can start dropping leaves and losing new growth if they become unhappy with the surrounding conditions. In my experience, this plant isn’t a delicate one, so it takes more than just a change in lighting or short-term exposure to drafts to cause it to lose leaves. Adjust your Pothos plant’s care quickly if you notice a sudden loss of healthy leaves.

10 Common Reasons for Pothos Plants Dropping Leaves

Common Reasons Your Pothos Plant Leaves are Dropping

Pothos plants will always grow new foliage when they’re happy again, but the leaves will not appear in the same places the old foliage dropped off unless you give it a prune. This can leave open patches on long vines, so it’s best to keep foliage from dropping off whenever possible. These are the most common causes of leaf drop in all the various Pothos varieties.

1) Lack of Watering

A green pothos plant in a hanging planter

The number one cause of leaf loss in the Pothos plant is a lack of watering. The plant will droop or wilt first, but it may lose leaves from the shock even after you’ve watered it well and it perks back up. The leaves may not drop for a week or two, making it a little hard to connect to the wilting and lack of watering. Try to water the Pothos every time the top inch of soil dries out completely, and use a well-draining mix to avoid overwatering.

2) Fertilizer Shock

These plants don’t need a lot of fertilizer. If you add more than a diluted dose once every other month in the summer, you’ll likely see yellowing pothos leaves and then drop off. New growth may appear twisted, stunted, or discolored as well. Water well and wait out the fertilizer issues or switch pothos soil mixes if it seems severe enough.

3) Over Watering

A close shot of deep green pothos plant leaves

Aside from under-watering, over-watering is the second most common reason for leaf loss on Pothos. 

The problem isn’t so much just the water itself, but instead that it leads to root rot. Pothos plants in the wild grow up trees and climb to heights that offer plenty of breezes and air circulation. Their roots are used to gripping relatively dry bark, not sitting in damp soil. They can handle soilless potting mixes that drain well as long as you don’t water too often. 

Make sure the pot doesn’t have any way to hold water in the edges or corners and use a drainage tray rather than a saucer that keeps water near the roots at the bottom.

4) Cold Temperatures

Pothos plants prefer warm temperatures. They won’t die from brief exposure to temperatures below 50 degrees F like some house plants, but they wilt and lose leaves from 45 degrees F and below. 

Keep the Pothos in warm conditions, around 70 to 90 degrees F, for healthy, glossy leaves and as little dropping as possible. 

If the plant is exposed to the cold for a short period, there’s nothing you can do to prevent the loss of damaged leaves other than moving it to a warmer area as quickly as possible.

5) Overly Dry Air

Spraying a pothos plant with water

Like most tree-climbing plants that hail from a tropical region, Pothos plants prefer humid air rather than dry breezes. 

However, they’re not so sensitive that they need their own humidifier as Begonias do. Winter air that is dry due to heating is particularly prone to causing mild leaf drops in this plant. 

You may want to mist the plant daily or place it near a source of humidity over the winter to prevent dry air issues.

6) Lack of Sunlight

Pothos plants are often described as having low light needs. While these plants can handle a low level of light, they do need some natural or artificial illumination to keep them thriving. 

If a particular vine or part of the plant is shaded more, you may find leaves dropping off from that area. This allows the plant to focus its growth in areas with more light exposure. It’s part of their growth habit that helps them climb tall canopy trees while maintaining dozens of feet of vines to the ground. 

Try brightening up the light around the plant without exposing it to direct sunlight to prevent leaf drops.

7) Pest or Disease Damage

Small insects on a green leaf

The Pothos plant may shed if leaves are badly damaged by a disease or pest infestation. Treat the underlying disease or pest to protect the other leaves. 

Check under leaves regularly for early signs of damage before leaves begin to drop. Thrips, aphids, scale, and mealybugs can all affect these plants, along with diseases like bacterial leaf spot.

8) Length of the Vine

When the vines on a Pothos plant get very long, they tend to lose the leaves near the top of these vines no matter what you do. This allows the plant to focus on the foliage further down towards the bottom, which can be a struggle for its system. 

If you want long vines but don’t like the look of this normal leaf loss, you can add cuttings to the pot and keep those vines short enough to cover up the bare areas. Clipping the tips of these vines will keep them at the right length to fill in and ensure they don’t lose leaves in the same way.

9) Sunburn

A variegated pothos plant in a white plant pot on a window ledge

Exposing a Pothos plant to too much direct sunlight will scald the leaves. This dries out the plant tissue, leading to brown tips and then the eventual loss of the leaf. 

Make sure all the varieties of this plant stay near sources of indirect light only, such as being placed two to three feet away from any windows with Western or Southern exposures. 

For more, see our in-depth guide to the best positions for pothos plants in the home

10) General Lack of Care

Keeping a Pothos plant in a room that is too cold, dark, or dry won’t necessarily kill the plant or lead to dramatic leaf loss. Instead, it may cause the plant to fail to extend its vines or grow new leaves from the tips of them. A slowing of new foliage will make the loss of leaves to age or damage much more noticeable. 

Focusing on providing the right conditions for the Pothos plant will encourage a constant rate of growth, ensuring there are always new leaves to replace those that are lost. This is particularly true for long vines that begin to lose leaves along their lengths while still growing slowly at the tips.

Growing Happy, Healthy Pothos Plants at Home

A pothos plant growing in partial sunlight

While you can’t prevent all leaf loss due to age, you can keep leaves on the vines for as long as possible with the right care. 

Pothos plants prefer loose and well-draining soil mixes, so they don’t develop root rot due to excessive moisture around the roots. Keep in mind that they climb trees in their native habitat, leaving them exposed to plenty of fresh air even around the roots. 

Water pothos plants deeply when the first inch of soil fully dries out, so the plant doesn’t wilt and start losing leaves. You may need to water more frequently in the winter due to heating and dry air. 

Speaking of humidity, Pothos plants do prefer a higher humidity level rather than a lower one. Misting or placing them near a source of humidity can help. 

Watch out for over-application of fertilizer and only give the plant a diluted dose of a general-purpose house plant food once every other month during the growing season. 

Pothos plants need a steady but indirect light source to keep their leaves healthy and colorful. Keep them out of direct light to avoid drying and sunburn issues. 

Depending on how rapidly the plant grows, you may need to repot your pothos plant once every six months or even more frequently. Look for white roots growing out of the watering holes on the pot to know when to move up to a larger container.

What’s more, Pothos plants are also easy to propagate if you’re ever looking to expand your collection. 

Pothos Plants Dropping Leaves FAQs:

Is some leaf drop normal for Pothos plants? 

Pothos plants will eventually lose their oldest leaves due to age. But the dropping of healthy and recently grown leaves indicates trouble instead.

Will fallen Pothos leaves grow back? 

A Pothos plant can only grow a new leaf where an old one fell off if the tip of the vine is pinched back. This tells the plant to force new leaves out higher up on the vine.

How long do Pothos plants take to reach maturity? 

Indoor Pothos plants tend to top out at 20 feet per vine and three to four vines per pot, which takes about three to five years for most plants.

How long do Pothos live for typically? 

A Pothos plant can live for a decade or longer with the proper care.

Pothos Plants Dropping Leaves – The Final Word

Pothos plants are among the easiest houseplants to raise and offer a host of uses and benefits, but they still need the proper care. Avoid leaf drop and encourage beautiful foliage growth with regular watering, occasional fertilizing, and the correct light levels.

Editorial Director | andrew@petalrepublic.com | Full Bio

Andrew is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic. He holds a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and has trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris. In amongst overseeing a global editorial team, Andrew's a passionate content creator around all things flowers, floral design, gardening, and houseplants.

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