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Why Are My Pothos Leaves Turning Yellow? (Causes+What To Do)

Pothos is a perfect plant for newbie hobbyists. They are easy to handle and maintain. Yellowing leaves on pothos is not a good indication, but that doesn’t mean an end to your pothos. There is something kosher with your pothos that can be worked out. 

We just need to figure out what is causing the yellowing of leaves in pothos and what we can do about it.

Over-fertilizing, excessive lighting, and inadequate watering are some major causes of yellow leaves on pothos. Apart from that, environmental stress such as too high or low-temperature levels, low humidity levels, cold drafts, dry air, etc. can also lead to yellow leaves.

If you see older leaves primarily at the bottom of your pothos turning yellow, then ignore it. It is just a sign of aging.

The best way to recover your ill pothos is by going through a process. Process of knowing the real cause of yellowing and then working on it step by step. 

Don’t jump to conclusions, go deep inspect, and take your own time for complete recovery.

Let us understand more about what causes yellow leaves on pothos, and how can we fix it?

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What causes pothos leaves to turn yellow?

Pothos leaves can turn yellow due to several reasons, such as natural aging or stress. There are quite a few reasons for your pothos being in stress.

Overexposure to sunlight

Light is a prime need for pothos to stay healthy. With the right amount of brilliant light, you can keep your pothos happy and away from many internal and external houseplant issues.

If they are overexposed to light or gets more than 2 hours of direct sun, then it will scorch their leaves and dry the soil too fast.

You will see the points and edges of the foliage of becoming yellow and brown. The leaves stay dry due to direct sun, dehydrating them, and then turning yellow.

Too much light can also keep the entire plant dehydrated, causing underwatering issues, which will add to yellow leaves problems.

Reduced exposure to bright light can also lead to yellow leaves in pothos. The plant does not have enough light for photosynthesis, which leads to the yellowing of leaves.

Also read: How much light does pothos need?

Overfertilization

Houseplants usually need nutrients divided into two types as macronutrients and micronutrients.

Macronutrients are mobile nutrients like nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, and micronutrients such as iron, boron required for decent growth.

These nutrients are essentially present in the soil. Due to a lack of knowledge, many beginners add supplements to diagnose the condition without examining the existing problem.

The essential nutrients include:

  • Nitrogen: Mobile nutrients are required to supply nutrients from the lower part to the upper parts of the plant. Essential for formation of protein.
  • Magnesium: Magnesium is the central most atom in the chlorophyll molecule which imparts a green color to the leaf.
  • Phosphorous: Mobile nutrients, required to carry out the photosynthesis process and healthy development of plants.
  • Calcium: Calcium is micronutrients, helps to mitigate the damage caused by the overuse of fertilizer.
  • Iron: Immobile nutrients, required for healthy new growth.
  • Potassium: Mobile nutrients strengthen the immune system and protect the root system.

For a better understanding of these nutrients required to keep you pothos healthy, we have made a chart.

NAMESYMPTOMSProblemsTREATMENT
NitrogenComplete yellowing of leaves.
Yellow veins in winters.
Nitrogen is not able to move up from lower parts to growing ends as a compensatory mechanism.
Lower leaves donate nitrogen and show complete yellowing.
Adding nitrogen-rich compost like de-compost cow dung etc.
Magnesium Older leaves turn yellow first at edges and surfaces veins stay green called interveinal chlorosis.
Marbled like appearing leaves
Magnesium being mobile nutrients affects the older leaves first. Foliage spraying or watering plant with 1 tsp Epsom salt/liter of water.
Foliage spraying with micronutrient solution or compost tea.
PhosphorousLeaf turns dark and yellow starting at the tips.
The Centre of the leaves is still green.
Acidic soil traverses to a phosphorus deficiency.
It will affect the overall growth and disease resistance of the plant.
Mix 4 teaspoons of rock phosphate into the soil or as given in the instructions.
Spraying with fish emulsion.
CalciumNew leaves turning yellow, distorted, or burnt tips due to narcosis and death of tip tissue.The soil mix is already high in calcium making it hard for the plant to absorb calcium.Add crushed eggshells in the soil.
Spraying calcium solution on the plant.
IronYounger leaves tips turn yellow first- the interveinal yellowing. .Iron cannot be carried up to younger leaves from the older leaves for compensation
Roots are not able to absorb iron properly.
Rectifying soil pH if it’s alkaline.
Foliage spraying of micronutrient solution or compost tea.
PotassiumStunted growth, leaf chlorosis like leaves turning yellow, dark, and purplish.
Yellow tips and margins of the leaf with the center still being green.
Alkaline soil is the main cause. Compost made from food byproducts.
Banana peels are high in potassium. Wood ash can be applied lightly. 

Soil pH plays an essential role in the proper function of the nutrients; if not right, it will not absorb nutrients in the roots and soil. Use natural methods to alter soil pH as this will rule out problems of improper watering and soil ph level.

When the pothos leaves veins are green, yellow tissues or edges and tips are yellow or looking burnt, and the leaf drop, this signals over-fertilizing.

Over-fertilizing can be due to using an overabundance of chemical fertilizer like urea, DAP, NPK granules. They have a toxic effect on the plants, burning leaves resulting in yellow leaves.

The problem may be with the roots of your pothos, not able to absorb or uptake nutrients, root disease, or incorrect watering because the roots take up these nutrients only in the presence of moisture.

Often, the veins of pothos leaves turn yellow, called yellow vein chlorosis, due to nitrogen deficiency as the roots cannot uptake nitrogen from the soil due to low temperature.

Also read: Do pothos need fertilizer? (What type, How much and more)

Root rot

Root rot in pothos can be caused due to various reasons:

  • Overwatering the soil consistently
  • Poor drainage system in the pot
  • Heavy soil mix such as garden soil
  • Excess or insufficient light exposure
  • Over-fertilizing pothos or fertilizing during winters
  • Pathogens developing due to over watered soil
  • Contaminated soil or cuttings
  • Fungal diseases attacking weak roots
  • Infected newly bought plant

Root rot in pothos is primarily caused due to overwatering and poor drainage system, pathogens besides make the situation worse. Wet soil advances fungal diseases and attacks the then weak roots.

Waterlogged roots interfere with airflow, affecting oxygenation and causing decay in the roots and soil. Also, roots already infected spread very fast among the healthy roots.

Pathogens like water mold Phytophthora are most common to develop in the waterlogged soil. Other pathogens include Pythium, Rhizoctonia, and fusarium, responsible for root rot.

There are spores in the soil of infected plants transferring rot in other plants, but this is only possible if the other plants are also moist. They can be transmitted by insects too.

Also read: All about root rot in pothos: Signs, Causes & What To Do

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Temperature fluctuations

Fluctuation in temperature levels shows an instantaneous effect on pothos; they are never ready for temperature shifts and stress.

Temperature above 90 degrees Fahrenheit and below 50 degrees Fahrenheit results in yellow leaves and even leaf drop.

Pothos go dormant in winter, not able to thrive in low temperatures for a long time. They will show signals of stress through yellow leaves, wilted leaves, pale leaves, etc.

Pothos can even die in long term low-temperature climates if not taken necessary measures against these conditions.

Be mindful when installing pothos, near windows in too low or too high-temperature levels will burn leaves. Chilly drafts during winters can stress pothos.

Also, if you have placed your pothos near the fireplace to manipulate low-temperature levels, the heat from the furnace can burn and affect their leaves.

Too hot or too cold temperatures for a long time, eventually fall off pothos leaves.

Fungal diseases

Fungal diseases are a headache for any plant hobbyist. They develop fast during winters.

Bacterial leaf spots, fungal leaf spots, gray mold/botrytis, powdery mildew, and anthracnose are common diseases affecting pothos.

They are generally attracted or advanced due to waterlogged soil, poor drainage, and environmental stress.

Let’s go through the chart for detailed erudition on fungal diseases in pothos.

Disease and its symptomsSignsReasons
Fungal leaf spotsBrown concentric spots with yellow margins, leaf blight, new growth collapsing and death of plants.Wet conditions especially in winters, poor ventilation, low light or root rot.
Bacterial leaf spotsYellow halo, water soaked spots, reddish spots, localized lesions and small blister-like spots.High humidity, leaf wetness, poor air circulation or over watering.
Powdery mildewPowdery growth or dry, brown, papery leaf spots, fluffy white fungus all over the pothos.Formation of mycelium from the fungal spores is the source. Humid conditions, improper ventilation and overwatering, low light and even thrive in drier conditions.
AnthracnoseLeaf tips or margins turn yellow further tan leaves, and then turn dark brown, sunken lesions.Misting too much, easily infects during the rainy season, infected plant debris, over watering.

Inadequate watering

Inadequate watering in pothos presents as leaf yellow, leaf drying, or leaf burning at tips and edges. 

Moisture stress being the most common reason for yellowing leaves of pothos due to over or under-watering.

Most hobbyists tend to follow a routine irrespective of what season and cultural conditions are. Every pothos water needs can differ according to their living conditions. 

By following a routing blindly, owners always bring their plants to stress either by over or under-watering.

There are times when even adequate watering also leads to over or under watering conditions due to other related factors such as:

Over-watering is also possible due to the below-listed reasons. It can be seen in pothos that has yellow leaves, droopy leaves, and leaf drop.

Constricted roots:

Sometimes, roots are constricted and unable to pick up or absorb water properly, causing overwatering conditions even though you are watering right. 

This situation can be due to pothos planted in a relatively small pot or have grown huge and need space to function correctly. 

Clay rich soil:

Clay rich soil also leads to constricted roots. There are more chances of root rot in such conditions causing yellowing of foliage.

Heavy soil:

Using garden soil or similar mix as a substrate for your pothos could be a bad idea as it is really heavy. 

If the potting medium you are using for your pothos is heavy, then no matter how much you water right, the roots of your pothos will drown sooner or later. 

Overwatering is very common in such conditions.

Under-watering is also possible due to the below-listed reasons. It can be identified through yellow and brown leaf tips and edges, stunted growth.

Rootbound:

Rootbound pothos can result in under-watering. 

The pothos’ roots might have completely taken up space within the pot, circling and forming a compact web of roots. 

This can stress the plant depriving them of water and nutrients.

Over draining soil: 

Soil not holding water and draining too quickly is another reason for under-watering. 

If the soil mix of your pothos is too sandy and over draining with lots of sand, the water may merely be draining away too fast, inducing water deficiency and brown leaves in your pothos.

Also read: How often should you water your pothos?

Pest infestation

Pests such as aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, scales are few common pests that pothos are susceptible to.

They can attack in wet conditions when you keep over flooding your pothos, low light, low humidity, or from other infected plants. The damage leaves tissues and causes yellowing.

Pests attacks often resemble the patterns of nutrients deficiency, especially the pests sucking on the foliage and stems of pothos.

PESTSCAUSESYMPTOMS
Aphids: Pear-shaped tiny sucking bugs. Light green, pink, white, grey, or black.Suck sap on new growth, stick on growth ends.
Visible around the stems and leaves.
Encourage sooty mold and fungal.
Stunted and distorted leaves and stems. Yellowing leaves and leaf drop.
Scales: Small non-moving bumps on pothos, oval-shaped or flat in shape. Brown to tan white in color range. Grow very quickly.Suck sap from the leaves and stems.
They hang on the stem and leaf joints.
Stunted or distorted new growth, yellowing of the leaves, brown marks, and leaf drop.
Spider mites: Very tiny sucking insects, reddish or light green with dark spotsSuck the chlorophyll from pothos foliage resulting in white spotted or stippled leaves.
Web under the leaves and stems.
Yellow or brown leaves. Eventually, the plant dies.
Mealybugs: Powdery wax covering and tails at the end. Cotton like white wax body.Feed the sap out of leaves and stems and secrete honeydew found beneath the leavesYellowing leaves, stunting, death of the pothos.

Also read: Do pothos attract pests?

How to fix yellow leaves on pothos?

So, yellow leaves in pothos can be fixed without much fuss in the opening stages. Be patient to see results.

After going through the above-discussed reasons for yellow leaves in your pothos, it will get easier for you to identify the case. 

According to the cause, treat your pothos without wasting any more time.

Fixing Light issues:

For lighting issues, if it is low light conditions, simply expose your pothos to better and bright light conditions. 

If your pothos is already exposed to too much light or direct sun, either keep under shade if outdoors or keep at a distance from windows to avoid direct sun. 

You can also use sheer curtains to shield your pothos from the intense sun.

Fertilizing right and soil mix:

Overfertilization should be promptly stopped. It can severely harm your pothos, even leading to the death of your pothos. 

Pothos are light feeders and should be fed with fertilizer right and safe for them.

Applying balanced fertilizer with a 20:20:20 ratio of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus every two months will suffice. 

If the soil medium is rich in nutrition, and you fertilize every two months, you are fulfilling the nutrients needed for your pothos.

Fertilize only in spring and summers for optimum growth rate. Mend the soil pH level and drainage system (if poor), and you will see your pothos back thriving.

It is best recommended to make universal vermicompost and add it

every month for healthy and high yielding pothos.

If your pothos’ soil mix is rich in clay, dip the root ball in water to dissolve the soil and then repot your pothos. 

Enrich the soil by adding organic material and other stuff like coco peat, perlite, etc. to hold water better.

Also read: Pothos soil requirement

Watering adequately:

Overwatering can be fixed by letting your pothos dry completely, or you can also take out the wet soil and spread it on a paper and let it air dry. 

You can also check the condition of the roots through this and prune damaged roots, if any.

For a quick check of the drainage system:

Observe when you water your pothos; the water should drain out in 1-2 minutes, neither too quick nor too late.

Treating root rot:

Root rot treatment depends on the extent the roots are damaged. Replant your pothos in aerated and sterilized soil. 

Do rinse the diseased roots and prune them to stop further spreading of the rot.

Fungicides, chloropicrin, and methyl bromide are some of the chemical treatments to inhibit the rot’s progression. 

Spray the solution of the treatment you are using all over the affected pothos once every week for lasting results.

Cinnamon powder is a potential natural treatment to reduce the infection spread, applied after removing all the infected tissue.

Pests and fungal diseases treatment:

Isolate your pothos immediately. Ensure that there is good air circulation around it. Move your pothos to a warmer space with less humidity.

Stop flooding your pothos and adjust it to prevent overwatering. Check the topsoil by digging your finger up to 2″ into it. Water them only when it feels dry. 

You can start by plucking the insects and wash your pothos with a strong stream of water. In the case of fungal diseases, cut all the infected parts from leaves to roots.

Pests and fungal diseases can be fixed with similar treatments. Organic ways are great to go for your infected pothos recovery. 

Choose any one of the treatments for your diseased pothos. Follow till the problem persists.

Prune the damaged and diseased parts in any of the cases.

Prepare a solution adding 1 tsp dishwashing soap with a liter of water. 

Pour in a spray mister and spray liberally over the plant and make sure the solution comes in contact with the pests. Wash the plant with plain water after 5-10 minutes.

1 tsp neem oil diluted with a gallon of water can be sprayed all over the infected pothos. Repeat once every week till completely cured.

Sprinkle cinnamon powder over the dry soil of the infected pothos. Cinnamon has a potent agent called cinnamaldehyde that can aid your pothos.

Chemical treatments like permethrin, derris, or malathion containing products can be sprayed on the infected plant and follow the package’s directions.

3-in-1 insecticide/fungicide/miticide can be used to bang all the insects and cure fungal diseases thoroughly. 

Before bringing your pothos back home inside, make sure the plant dries out completely.

Repot your pothos in a large pot with a decent drainage system and sterilized clean soil mix with ideal soil pH.

Do disinfect all the tools used while repotting and pot in which infected pothos was planted with a bleach solution to kill any bacteria.

How do you keep pothos from turning yellow?

By catching simple care rules for your pothos, you can prevent your pothos further from getting yellow leaves. 

  1. Adjust the atmosphere around your pothos concerning light, watering, and ventilation. Pothos need plenty of air circulation and should not be crammed with other plants or objects.
  2. Check your watering habits, pothos needs water only when their soil dries. Water when the soil is dry irrespective of the climate conditions. Drain the excess water through drainage holes to prevent overwatering and fungal spores.
  3. The light source could be natural or artificial, whatever is available, but 6-8 hours of filtered light is necessary. 
  4. Soil pH level should be maintained between 6.1-6.5, high in nutrition, and well-draining. You can test the soil pH level, whether acidic or alkaline soil using pH testing gadgets.
  5. If your pothos is planted in an ideal soil mix, you only need to fertilize once every three months during spring and summer. 
  6. Pot size should be 2″ larger in diameter than the root ball, and the preferably porous pot is the best choice for a healthy environment beneath the soil.  
  7. Inspect your pothos’ roots, especially when you sense something wrong. They might be damaged due to digging, root pruning, or repotting. In this case, clip the stems and leaves to lessen stress on the roots. 
  8. Repotting stresses pothos. Whenever you are repotting your pothos, you can water your plant with Epsom salt solution to counter this transplant shock. Cast under shade after replanting.
  9. You can also spray neem oil solution every 15 days as a restraint technique from fungal, bacterial, and pests attack.
  10. Sprinkling cinnamon over the soil also helps to prevent any sort of fungal attacks and bugs infestation.
  11. Misting should not be overdone. Use a humidifier to counteract any soil buildups in the leaves of the pothos.

Related questions

Should I remove yellow leaves from pothos?

Yes, remove all the yellow leaves from pothos; this will not shock them. In fact, remove the dying foliage and leaves will help the plant focus more on new growth.

Can yellow leaves turn green again?

Old yellow leaves, unfortunately, cannot turn green again, but new leaves can. In case of nutritional deficiency, sometimes leaves can return to green.

When the lack of nutrients is rectified, it could help yellow leaves to turn green. But in most cases, you need to prune your plant.


Sources: Study of Pest in PothosCommon insect pests and diseasesUniversity of Florida Research, Effects of Different Pot Mixtures on PothosPothos water need study

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