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Why is My Pothos Dying? (Root Rot & Other Problems)


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There is more than one definitive answer as to why your pothos plant is dying. The soil may be too dense or your pothos may be getting too little or too much sunlight. Other factors like mealybugs and fluctuating humidity can also play a part. The most common causes of pothos problems are overwatering or stressful environment shifts, such as intense or direct sunlight. 

It can be frustrating trying to figure out what your particular problem is with your plant. But, if your pothos is starting to get curling leaves and other symptoms of distress, a little knowledge will help you get to the bottom of it.

Once you know the cause, you can fix the problem and your pothos can get back to its vibrant self. There can be many reasons why your pothos is dying, so let’s identify which of these issues could be the reason for your dying plant.

Overwatered Pothos (Yellow Leaves on Pothos)

If you’re wondering, ‘why is my pothos turning yellow’ – overwatering the plant could be the most common cause for this. Too much water too often, makes it hard for the soil to drain out and slows growth.

What Does an Overwatered Pothos Look Like?

If you notice a combination of your pothos leaves turning yellow and brown on the same leaf, it is likely due to overwatering. If you’re noticing yellow leaves and your pothos has brown tips or spots on additional leaves, then the cause could be underwatering. 

Keep in mind that if the pothos’ yellow leaves spread throughout the plant, it’s most likely that excessive watering is the cause. Be sure to check the soil moisture to determine which of the two (overwatering or underwatering) matches your plant’s diagnosis.

Giving your pothos consistent soil moisture and a watering schedule is important in caring for the plant. Ill-timed watering can create stress to your pothos plant, which may lead to yellow pothos leaves and root rot.

Root Rot

Root rot can harm your pothos plant. Too much water reaching the roots due to overwatering can lead to adverse growing conditions. Root rot takes the stage as the most pivotal to your pothos dying.

The challenge with root rot is that it often goes unnoticed because it occurs in the root system, beneath the soil surface and out of your sight. But you’ll notice that your pothos is affected by root rot by the following symptoms:

  • Discoloration of leaves
  • Mushy roots
  • Wilting and droopy leaves
  • Stunted growth
  • Leaves falling off
  • Yellow leaves

If detected soon enough, you should remove as much of the infected soil as possible by gently shaking it from the roots and then repot the plant in fresh, clean potting soil. This is the most effective treatment for root rot disease.


However, if the pothos is far too gone, the most effective method to deal with root rot is to throw out the plant. If you decide to keep it, you must reduce soil moisture. Only provide enough to fulfill the plant’s water needs without causing stressful drought conditions nor overwatering.

Brown Leaves on an Underwatered Pothos

Although the pothos is known for being a durable plant and can withstand long periods of time without water, going too long without water can affect their growth. Your pothos needs to be watered from time to time when the soil gets dry.

If you’re unsure if your pothos is dehydrated, some indications of this are that the soil pulls away from the pothos. The pothos leaves turn brown, become wilted or curl to retain water. To ensure that your pothos never suffers underwatering, pay attention to how long it may take for the soil to dry after watering and water according to your estimations.

Humidity Level

The pothos plant does not like extremely high temperatures or very low temperatures either. However, if you notice that the pothos leaves are turning black, or that your plant has become stagnant, this could be due to cold temperatures. 

Low humidity and dry soil can cause your pothos leaves to droop and brown on their edges, later followed by entire yellowing, full browning, and dropping leaves. Pothos plants grow in areas where the humidity and temperature are constant. You can use a humidifier to maintain the humidity levels in your home.

A pothos plant requires the right balance of sun, water, and temperature for the best potential of growth for your plant.

Pothos and Light 

The pothos plant thrives in indirect bright light. They can even do well in low light but they will adapt to lower light if needed. Although, without the right kind of light conditions, your pothos may suffer. 

Too Much Light 

Overexposure to direct sunlight can also burn the leaves. You will notice that there is yellowing of the pothos, or notice them become pale and limp. Pothos plants tolerate conditions of less sunlight better than they do more sunlight.

Too Little Light

Although the pothos plant prefers lower light conditions, putting your plant in a dark corner is not ideal for its growth and vibrancy. Dark and dingy conditions can cause your pothos plant to die. 

If you notice that the leaves are losing their distinct patterns or color, you should check how much light your plant is getting. To avoid further discoloration try to move your plant to a brighter spot.

Pest Infestation

A stressed pothos is more susceptible to insect infestations and can also cause your pothos to develop curled leaves. Typically, pests or insects suck the sap within the stems and cause the plant to die at a faster rate. If you notice these bugs on your pothos, get rid of them quickly.

If not handled early on, these small pests can accelerate the pothos plant leaves turning yellow. Especially if your pothos is already unhealthy from poor lighting, a nutrient deficiency or improper soil moisture.

Spraying or rubbing with rubbing alcohol or neem oil will help to get rid of the infestation.

Soil Composition

It can be tricky to distinguish if soil composition could be the cause of your pothos dying. However, overfeeding of fertilizer generally causes stunted growth from your pothos and a color change (black or yellow leaves).

If your plant’s leaves are curling from overfeeding, you can test the PH levels of the pothos soil and correct the balance. Or you can simply remove your pothos from the soil it’s in and repot it in fresh soil. 

Outgrowing its Planter

What if you’re doing everything by the book but still your pothos is turning yellow and looks like it’s ready to die? This could be a sign of your pothos being rootbound, which means it has outgrown its planter.

When a plant grows too big for its container, the roots tend to twist up and wrap around one another. This forms a thick, dense web of roots that fills up the container. This will cause the roots to die and eventually the pothos will die too. 

You can rectify the issue by replanting it directly into a larger planter. Or you could also divide the plant and replant it into the original planter and a new container. 

Why Are My Pothos Leaves Turning Yellow on a Healthy Plant?

If your pothos looks good and continues to grow, why are the pothos leaves yellowing? 

brown pothos plants leaves

Well, some yellowing is completely normal. If there is new growth on your plant and the yellowing leaves are older, particularly at the bottom of the plant, then the yellowing is natural. The pothos sheds its old leaves and makes space for new growth.

Old Leaves

If you start to notice the leaves near the base of the stems of your pothos yellowing and falling off, this is a natural occurrence to create room for the new foliage.

Old leaves usually contain waste compounds that the plant does not need anymore. The leaves grow old, turn yellow, and fall off the plant as new ones emerge. 

If you’ve come to the conclusion that your pothos plant is not suffering from any of the mentioned symptoms or any other issues discussed above, consider this yellowing to be of no concern because they are just older leaves falling off.

Are Yellowing Pothos Leaves Normal?

Some yellowing leaves are inevitable and are a part of normal pothos plant behavior. If your pothos has leafless brown growths sprouting from them. These growths are called aerial roots and they are completely normal. 

With outdoor pothos plants, this is what helps give support to the plant and also allows it to climb and reach more light. These roots will not damage walls or surfaces, and you can always prune them if they get unruly.

Keep in mind that some types of pothos plants like the Marble Queen pothos have yellow speckled details in their leaves. This is also completely normal and part of what makes that variety so beautiful and unique.

Also remember, any branch that is still alive can be cut and re-planted in healthy soil.

Can Yellow Leaves Turn Green Again?

As we’ve mentioned, the old, yellow leaves will wilt off and create room for the growth of new, green leaves.

But, it’s important to know that if the yellowing of your pothos leaves are a result of any of the other earlier-identified causes, then the yellowing effect can’t be reversed. The best you can do is to put in place preventive measures to stop the issue from spreading to the rest of the leaves.

Then any new leaves will grow in a healthy glowing green color. 

How to Revive a Dying Pothos Plant

Fortunately, if you notice the signs of a dying pothos plant, there is a hope to revive the dying pothos. To save a dying pothos, start by moving your plant to a medium-light spot followed by a consistent watering schedule. Also, add a small amount of fertilizer, if and when it is needed.

There is a possibility that you can revive your dying pothos with the right conditions and resources.

Final Thoughts on Dying Pothos Plants

As we said at the beginning of this post, there can be many factors that can contribute to the death of your pothos plant. Before deciding how to rescue your houseplant, take the time to evaluate which of these problems your pothos might be suffering from.

But prevention is always better than cure. So, be sure to keep good care habits to your pothos and inspect your plant from time to time. Groom and trim your plant, so that it doesn’t get crowded. 

Grooming your pothos will also prevent legginess and will expose each part of the plant to the same light conditions. Keep rotating your pothos for even growth. Maintain required cultural conditions and your pothos will continuously thrive and vine.

But don’t panic if your pothos plant takes a bit of turn and begins to look a little sad. You can always revive your dying plant. It is especially reassuring that the pothos plant is quite durable and generally recovers quickly.