Pothos Leaves Turning Yellow? Here’s Why, and How To Fix It

Do you have a pothos plant in your home or indoor garden area that's leaves are starting to turn yellow? Usually, this is a sign of plant stress, and your green companion plant is trying to tell you something. There are many reasons for yellowing pothos leaves, and in this guide, we explore all of them, including troubleshooting tips on how to fix it.

Yellow Dying Pothos Plant

The pothos is a hardy plant, that’s extremely forgiving. There are many pothos varieties, each of them with their own looks. They are a great indoor plant for many novice plant owners looking for a low-maintenance plant that will add a little bit of green to their indoor living space.

But owning one of these hardy plants can also come with some challenges if you aren’t careful. Pothos are prone to many conditions that will yellow their leaves. While it’s typically not hard to troubleshoot these problems, it still requires a bit of patience.

In this article, we look at the many different reasons that your pothos plant might have yellow leaves. Usually, in most cases, your plant isn’t dying, but you’ll want to make corrections so your plant will once again, start to grow.

Yellow Leaf Causes & Fixes

There are a number of different reasons for yellowing leaves in the pothos plant. Yellowing leaves always means that your plant is undergoing some type of stress, and is a natural reaction in the plant. The most common reasons for failing pothos are related to their watering schedules.

The Pothos plants need a regular hydration balance to grow properly. You want to make sure that watering is balanced and consistent for your plant to have optimal growing conditions. Let’s look at all the reasons your pothos leaves may be turning yellow.

Inconsistent Watering

Woman Watering a Plant
An inconsistent watering schedule can be the demise of any houseplant, especially sensitive pothos plants.

Watering inconsistency can cause shock to a plant. If you constantly are overwatering your plant, but then let it sit for a week afterward, your plant goes into survival mode. Pothos plants need consistency. They like to be watered about once every 1-2 weeks for optimal health.

In order to ensure that your watering schedule is normalized, stick to a routine. You should also check the consistency of the plant’s soil, to see if it’s too dry. If you can press down, and it feels too dry, you may notice that your plant’s leaves are starting to droop as well. This is often the first sign that you’ve waited too long.

How To Fix:

*When you begin to water again, don’t oversaturate. You’ll want to slowly introduce a more regular watering schedule, and eventually, your pothos will start to normalize. Check your plant’s soil often, and make sure you don’t overwater when you begin to water. Stick to a watering schedule of weekly to start, gradually spacing out depending on how your plant reacts.

Overwatering

Overwatered Plant Dying
Overwatering can cause yellowing, brown spots, and plant decay.

When overwatering happens, you’ll notice yellow leaves, but also have some brown spots. You may see some pitting on the leaves, and this happens when excess water oversaturates the plant’s soil. This leads to your pothos not getting enough oxygen, causing yellowing and brown spots.

Overwatering can be corrected by a few simple steps, and you can always re-pot your plant in the worst-case scenarios. Pothos are hardy plants and can withstand replanting in extreme circumstances.

Overwatering pothos can also lead to root rot which causes pith necrosis (brown spots). Too much water and pith necrosis turns into rotting stems and leaves turning yellow or brown/black and falling off pothos plants.

How To Fix:

*To fix overwatering, you’ll want to correct the drainage problem by considering a new pot or changing soils. Soils that are slow draining can retain moisture, and keep that moisture from the plant getting the nutrients it needs.

You can also place your plant in a slightly sunnier spot. Keep in mind that the pothos doesn’t like direct sun. Indirect sunlight is best, but just keep your plant exposed for longer periods to dry out the soil. If this doesn’t work, you’ll want to test a new soil or potting method.

Underwatering

Underwatered Plant in Pot
When a plant is underwatered, it can lead to droopy, yellow leaves, and plant death if untreated.

Underwatering is a surefire way to ensure your plant’s leaves are yellow and crispy. Pothos leaves will start to look very droopy and then die off when pothos are not watered enough.

This is easily identified by just looking at the dryness if your plant’s soil. This is where it gets tricky, as a typical pothos watering schedule has the soil dry out completely between waterings.

You just don’t want it to go too far past the point when it’s beginning to dry out. Do not wait until the pothos soil is bone dry before you water it again! Waiting too long to water a plant, is one of the primary reasons plants just don’t survive indoors. Plants like the pothos, and the Frizzle Sizzle can die without water, as both plants are picky about their watering schedule.

How To Fix:

*To fix underwatering, slowly introduce additional, smaller watering times to saturate your plant. But remember, pothos flourish best when the water dries the soil all the way through. You are looking for a healthy water amount, and for the soil to be close to dry before beginning to water again. What you are trying to avoid is dry, crispy soil that’s brittle to the touch.

Overfertilized

Plant Burned From Too Much Fertilizer
When a plant is fertilized too much, it can develop burns, and turn leaves yellow.

Overfertilized plants can develop “burns” and in the case of the pothos, it can look like a yellowing or brown color depending on the severity of the burn. Usually, the most severe damage to the plant will be at the root level, but can make its way into the leaves and stems of most plants.

Overfertilization is usually pretty easy to identify. You’ll notice additional fertilizer soot on the surface of your soil and pot or planter. You may also notice some blackening of your plant’s roots. If you see these two signs, in addition to yellow leaves, or some browning at your leaf tips, there’s a good chance you need to reduce your fertilization schedule.

How To Fix:

*To fix overfertilizing, you’ll need to make a few changes to bring the natural balance back to your plant. You’ll want to remove any excess fertilizer from the soil area to start. If there’s just too much, it may be wise to consider repotting your plant.

You’ll want to trim away any burned areas of the leaves, or any that are wilted and appear to be beyond saving. You’ll then want to almost overwater to rid the soil of excess fertilizer. Hold off on fertilizing for at least a few weeks and watch your plant recover.

Age

Old Plant With Yellow Leaves
No plant can run away from age, and this can be another cause of yellowing leaves.

One thing that’s often overlooked, is that pothos plants don’t live forever. As mentioned, they are hardy plants and do have a longer life span of around 10 years. But as they start to age, their leaves naturally become more yellow, and you’ll also notice some brown spots, or browned tips on the leaves of your plant. Unfortunately, there is no way to turn back the clock, even for plants.

How To Fix:

*Trim back the leaves of any brown or dead spots of your plant. Unfortunately, not much can be done to reverse age in plants. You can try adding some indoor plant food to your plant’s feeding schedule, but sometimes it’s just not possible to save an aging plant.

Too Much Sunlight

Burned Plant Leaf From Sunlight
Plants that get too much direct sunlight can get burned, and have their leaves turn yellow.

Pothos plants like sunlight. But they don’t thrive on direct sunlight. Too much time in the direct sone can cause them to wilt, go limp, and turn yellow. If you keep your plant outside for the day, you should consider taking it inside, and moving it from direct sun, into shade for a portion of the day. You can also plant your pothos somewhere that only gets sun during certain hours of the day.

How To Fix:

*If your plant has gotten too much direct sunlight, you’ll want to first trim back any dead or severely yellowed areas. Once that’s done, you’ll want to move the plant to a more shade friendly location. This could be you moving the plant each day, so that it gets indirect sunlight in the morning, and shade in the afternoon. Or you can just plant it indoors where sunlight won’t hit it through the entire course of the day. If planted outdoors, plant in partial sun, just make sure your climate can support it.

Root Rot

Root Rot Plant
Plants with root rot, will also display yellow, decaying leaves.

Root rot can cause the pothos to turn yellow, and is considered a plant disease. This plant disease typically happens when a plant has been sitting in too much standing water for too long. It’s a disease that’s caused by overwatering. You can identify root rot, by the smell of your pothos roots when you check the plant. There will be a “rotten egg” smell, which is easy to identify. You’ll also notice that the roots have turned brown, or black.

Root rot can also be caused by a fungal infection. So if you aren’t noticing the tell-tale signs of overwatering, a fungal infection could be the cause. Fungal infections are a little more difficult to overcome and may require some chemical fungicide as treatment.

How To Fix:

*You’ll need to pull the plant from the pot, and sanitize the pot it was planted in. Prune the impacted roots of the plant, and trim back any dead leaves. Treat the remaining healthy roots with a fungicide solution to kill off any leftover potentially harmful fungus. Repot the plant, and ensure that the pot is well-draining so that a similar situation doesn’t arrive in the future.

Root Bound

Root Bound Pothos
A Root Bound Pothos can usually be saved by transplanting into a new pot with more growing room.

Root bound is a condition that applies to plants typically when they are put into a pot or containter that limits the expansion of the roots. Just as pothos doesn’t like direct sunlight for extended periods, they also don’t like to be root bound. Root bound plants will grow at a slower pace, have leave that start to droop, and won’t grow as fast as plants that have adequate room.

To identify if your plant has a problem being root bound, you can easily inspect the rooting area of the plant. Look for roots that are coming out of the drainage holes, or roots that are intertwined and spiraling at the bottom of the plant. Usually, when you have a limiting growth area, coupled with intertwined or spiraling roots, it’s an easy fix. Yellowing and droopy leaves will almost always accompany root bound, so it’s yet a nother reason why your pothos may have yellow leaves.

How To Fix:

*Probably the easiest condition to fix, treating root bound is fairly straightforward. You’ll want to re-pot your plant into a pot that has a bigger growing space, and trim back any dead roots before you do. Trim back any dead leaves, and continue with your regular watering schedule.

Aerial Blight

Plant with Blight
Blight is difficult to treat, regardless of the plant type.

Aerial blight produces some yellowing on the leaves, but is usually accompanied by darker spots on the leaves of a pothos plants. While you can try to treat blight, blight plagued plants are typically more difficult to recover and may need to be abandoned. You can try treating them by pruning away the affected parts of the plant, and repotting them into a clean container with new soil. But usually, once a plant has blight, it’s not going to be quick to recover.

How To Fix:

*Aerial blight is usually a death sentence for most pothos plants. You can try re-potting your plant after pruning away the dead areas, and treating the root with a bacterial fungicide. Only re-plant in a new container or one that’s been properly sanitized. Even still, it may not be possible to recover the plant.

Pests

Plant with Mealybug
Pests like mealybugs can be a nuisance, but are treatable.

Pothos plants are not immune to pests, regardless of where you plant them. The most common pests you’ll experience are mealybugs, and spider mites. Both of these insects can cause damage to plant leaves and cause them to turn yellow, and leave decaying brown spots around where the leaves have been damaged.

How To Fix:

*Mealybugs are easy to treat. The problem is identifying the infestation, because mealybugs are so small. You’ll want to treat the entire infested area with rubbing alcohol and a Q-tip or cotton swab if the infestation is small. You’ll need to do this daily until they are gone. You can also then treat the plant with a neem oil solution, which is useful and natural.

Spider mites can be a little bit more difficult, as they are pesticide resistant. Neem oil can be helpful in spider mite treatment as well, once the mites have been removed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I trim off yellow leaves?

Yes, you’ll want to prune away leaves that are turning yellow. Do so with a pair gardening shears that have been disinfected, and then allow time for your plant to heal. In time, these leaves should be replaced by new leaves provided you adhere to a proper watering schedule, and provide proper nutrition.

Can yellowing leaves turn green?

Unfortunately, no, not in most cases. Once leaves have turned yellow, they are typically too far gone to come back. But because these plants are so hardy, the good news is that usually leaves can regrow on the plant if proper nutrition and watering schedules are adhered to.

What happens if the yellow leaves start getting brown spots?

Brown spots can be caused by lack of water, excessive water, or root rot. You’ll want to treat these as yellow leaves too, by pruning or trimming them back to make way for new plant growth once you’ve identified the problem. If root rot is the primary cause, you’ll need to also begin the replanting process.

The leaves are yellow and growing limp. Now what?

When your pothos leaves are going yellow and also feel limp, typically means that they are being underwatered. They aren’t getting the hydration that they need and the moisture exits the leaves. This causes them to feel limp, and without life. They will also start to yellow, which is often the first sign that you have a problem.

The leaves are yellow and flaky. What now?

Yellow and flaky is also a sign of your plant being underwatered, and a little further along than you’d like it to be if you plan on having the leaves recover. Typically at this stage, the leaves themselves are too far gone to come completely back around.

The good news is that pothos plants are hardy, and if you change course to a more routine watering schedule, new leaves will grow in and eventually replace the leaves that were lost. You may need to cut the vines of the plant back a little bit to encourage new leaf growth. This can be particularly effective for longer vines.

The leaves are yellow and falling off – is this bad?

If the Leaves are both yellow and falling off, this typically happens when the plant is being overwatered. You’ll need to trim back any yellow leaves in this circumstance and return to a more normal watering schedule. Once that’s done, you should notice your plant’s leaves return to a more normal state during the growth cycle.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know why your pothos plant may have yellow leaves, you should have all the information you need to successfully treat your plant. Yellowing leaves are not a death sentence for your plant, and usually, with some quick intervention, you can bring your plant back to good health within a few weeks.

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