Why Are My Pothos Leaves Turning Black at The Tips?

Are your Pothos leaves turning black at the tips? There are 6 potential causes for this uncommon issue, each with its own resolution. Depending on the cause, having black tipped leaves usually isn't completely irreversible. In this article, gardening expert Madison Moulton discusses why Pothos leaves may turn black at the tips and how you can fix or prevent the problem.

Pothos with Dying Leaves

Although Pothos plants are easy to care for and wonderfully low-maintenance, that doesn’t mean they are without problems. One of the first signs of struggle in these plants is a color change, whether that be to yellow, brown or even black.

Whenever the leaves of a pothos begin to wilt, change colors, or appear to be dying, it’s important to understand what’s happening with your plant. There are usually a few common issues that could be the cause, so it’s important to understand each potential problem.

Black leaves are one of the more concerning issues, but luckily, they are not impossible to fix. Let’s take a deeper look into why the edges of your pothos leaves may be turning black, and how you can fix it once it’s started.

Incorrect Watering

Overwatering Plant
If overwatered, the leaves will first turn yellow before turning brown or black.

Many houseplant problems stem from incorrect watering. The Pothos is no different. Whether it’s too much water or too little, inadequate moisture levels will wreak havoc on your plants. The type of pothos plant doesn’t really matter, as they all have about the same watering requirements.

Pothos plants like moist soil, but need the top layer of soil to dry out slightly between waterings to avoid waterlogging. Excessive moisture or lack of drainage in the pot can result in root rot and other damage that may cause the leaves to turn black.

When overwatering is the cause, you will usually have fair warning. The leaves will generally turn yellow first before slowly turning dark brown or black, indicating a serious problem.

The first step is to repot your plant. Take a look at the root damage and assess whether the plant is worth saving. If all the roots are soft and mushy, you will need to discard the plant. However, if there is some healthy growth, trim the roots back and repot into brand new soil. Recovery may take a while in this case, but it is possible.

On the other hand, underwatering can also cause the leaves to change color. The tips will usually turn brown first, slowly becoming black as those parts of the leaf die off.

It’s best to prune away heavily damaged areas and water the plant from the bottom by placing it in a sink or bucket filled with water. This allows the soil to draw up the water on its own, becoming completely saturated.

After you’ve resolved the problem, make sure to adjust your watering routine to prevent it from happening again. Test the soil every few days and water when the top 2 inches have dried out. Don’t leave the pot sitting on a tray or in a pot cover filled with water to prevent root rot.

Direct Light

Ideal Sunlight
Although morning sun is okay for your plants, be sure to keep them protected from midday and afternoon sun or they may get burnt.

Pothos plants are native to the tropical rainforests of French Polynesia. Here, they grow under tall tree canopies in dappled sunlight. They never receive scorching direct sun, protected by the filtered light above.

Indoors, these conditions translate to what gardeners call bright indirect light. This is sunlight close to a window and right next to a light source, without being in the direct path of the sun. Direct sun filtered by sheer objects is also considered bright indirect light.

Pothos are even known to tolerate lower lighting conditions further away from windows or in rooms with north-facing windows. They will not grow their best in these conditions, but they will not struggle as much as some other houseplants.

What they can’t handle is direct sun. Like humans, the leaf tissues are sensitive to scorching direct sunlight and can burn if left there for too long. The areas where the sun hits the leaves will start to turn brown and ultimately black as they die off.

Burned Pothos leaves will unfortunately never recover. It’s best to trim them to direct the plant’s energy towards producing new, healthy growth.

Prevention is your best defense. Never leave your Pothos in a full sun position in midday or afternoon. In some regions, gentle morning sun in the early hours is fine, but too much can cause irreparable damage.

Cold Exposure

Protect From Cold Drafts
Be sure to protect your plants from cold drafts. If nighttime temperatures are low, move your plants away from chilly windows.

Their tropical habitats have given these plants a preference for dappled light. This habitat also dictates the temperature and humidity conditions they prefer. Hailing from rainforests where temperatures rarely drop below 60F, they require the same treatment indoors to thrive.

If temperatures drop below 60F for long periods, the plant will likely stop growing. Let that number drop below 50F and you will start to see visible damage. Affected by cold temperatures and especially frost, the exposed parts of the plant will soon turn black, indicating serious cell damage.

If the cold damage is severe, your plant may not recover. You can remove the blackened leaves and move the plant to a warm room to encourage new growth, but this is not guaranteed. If the color change is only on one or two leaves, simply trim these and the growth should return to normal.

Keep your Pothos in the warmest room of your home over winter to provide the ideal environmental conditions. Move them away from windows at night as cold can become concentrated in these areas, affecting any leaves touching the glass.

Similarly, move them away from any cold drafts from open windows and air conditioners. This will have the same impact as direct cold exposure, causing the leaves to turn black and fall off the plant.

Overfertilization

Repotting if Necessary
Regular fertilization is encouraged, but be sure to follow the directions on the fertilizer packaging so you don’t burn your plant.

If remaining in the same pot year after year, Pothos plants benefit from regular fertilization throughout spring and summer, stopping in fall and winter. A balanced liquid fertilizer or slow-release option replenishes nutrients in the soil to give the plants everything they need to grow successfully.

Some gardeners assume that since fertilizer is designed to improve or spur growth, more fertilizer equals more growth. However, the opposite is true.

Excessive fertilizer causes a build-up of salts in the soil. This can burn all parts of the plant, including the leaves, causing them to turn brown or black. If the problem is not resolved, this issue will continue to spread.

As soon as you notice black leaves soon after fertilizing, flush the soil immediately with filtered water. Run water through the soil over a sink or bath until it runs clear. Leave the pot in a bright area to dry out and hold off on fertilizing for several months.

Avoid overfertilizing by simply reading the packaging on your chosen product. Recently repotted pothos plants don’t require fertilizer as the soil should already contain enough nutrients. Once they need a top-up, start with a half-strength dose and adjust based on the performance of your plant.

Liquid fertilizers are available to the roots immediately and do not stick around in the soil. This means they need to be applied every 4-6 weeks on average. Slow-release fertilizers are only applied once every 3 months or so, depending on the product.

Make sure you don’t mix up these two different fertilizer types and their application periods to prevent under or overfertilizing.

Pests

Sap Sucking Insects
If you notice yellow, brown or black spots on your leaves, you may have a pest problem.

Pothos plants are not majorly pest prone. However, a few bugs can creep indoors and feed on the foliage and stems, resulting in a number of problems. One of those is black leaves.

The type of damage will vary depending on the pest. Sap-sucking insects will feed on part of the leaf, causing that area to turn yellow, then brown and ultimately black. The leaves will also become deformed and may drop off if the pests are not removed.

Other pests leave behind a sticky substance called honeydew. This substance develops a black covering called sooty mold that causes the leaves to appear to change color. Small soft-bodied pests like aphids and mealybugs are just two of the culprits in this problem.

Most pests can be removed either by hand if the problem is small or with an insecticidal soap or neem oil if the problem is more severe. Look between the stems and underneath the leaves to ensure all areas of the plant are covered. It may take several applications before the pests are completely gone.

Stressed or diseased plants are more vulnerable to pest attack. Give your Pothos the right care and conditions to prevent pest damage and allow its natural defenses to get to work. Regularly check underneath the leaves for signs of pests to remove them as soon as they appear.

Diseases

Blight Affecting Leaf
If blight occurs, cut off affected stems and leaves immediately.

Pests are not the only problem to look out for. Diseases like blight are also known to attack Pothos plants, causing the leaves and stems to potentially turn back if the issue escalates.

Disease is more difficult to manage. In the early stages, affected areas can be cut off the plant and destroyed. If no other areas turn black, you’re in the clear.

However, if the infection is severe it’s best to destroy the plant. Disease is notoriously difficult to eradicate completely, and keeping the plant alive is more likely to spread the disease to your other houseplants. As tough as it may be, rather cut your losses than deal with an indoor garden full of diseased plants.

To prevent disease, ensure there is adequate airflow around the vines and prune if necessary. Just like with pests, keep the plants healthy and thriving to allow them to protect themselves.

Final Thoughts

Pothos plants frequently change color, from yellow to brown and as we’ve seen, even black. But panic is not necessary – simply identify the relevant cause and apply the fix. Prevention is always your best option. Focus on care and the environment around your plant and you’ll be unlikely to encounter any of these issues in the future.

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