Pothos is also known as devil’s ivy, is a hardy plant. They don’t get affected due to small shifts in their care routines. But ignoring their needs or caring too much may harm them. One prevalent issue faced by your pothos is root rot.
Root rot is natural to occur with any plant, especially with moisture-loving plants. Root rot kills the plant slowly, and visible signs are only noticed when massive damage is done beneath the soil surface. Let’s dive in for further details.
Overwatering is the primary cause of root rot in pothos. Apart from that, using a heavy soil mix, fungal infection, overfertilization, and improper drainage system can also lead to root rot. Droopy leaves, yellow and brown spots on the leaves, stunted growth, and mushy roots are common signs of root rot in pothos.
The leaves of your pothos will give you several signals that they are suffering and stressed, especially from within.
Pothos are impossible to kill, but only if you don’t force them to the extent that they continuously ignore, which leads to their death.
It gets easy to solve an issue if you know the root cause of your problem. So we want you first to identify the cause and then cure effectively and rapidly.
We have been down all the relevant details related to your problem’s causes and solutions in the article below.
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What causes root rot in pothos?
There are 13 major causes of root rot in pothos. These includes:
- Inappropriate soil
- Poor drainage system
- Pathogenic infections
- Non-porous pots
- Inappropriate temperature
- Poor ventilation
- Dormant seasonal care
- Contaminated tools
- Using contaminated soil
- Buying sick plants
- Stress in plants
Let us dive into further details of each of these issues.
Overwatering is usually done by the growers who are very sensitive towards their plants. Pothos coming from tropical regions need water just to make them moist and not soaked.
When you keep loving your pothos by feeding them with water more than they need, it becomes harmful after a few sessions of overwatering.
Pothos get in a lot of stress when overwatered after only a few sessions, the soil gets suffocated, limiting the oxygen availability.
Roots will not be able to supply oxygen and nutrients to the entire plant and will get prone to root decay.
Also read: How often should I water my pothos?
Pothos don’t appreciate overwatering, and over that, if your soil mix is heavy, you are inviting root decay in that case.
However, even if you are watering right in case of heavy soil mix, there are chances the soil under the surface is remaining moist continuously.
The water gets stuck inside the soil and will suppress the roots and soil to breathe freely.
You are just practicing the perfect conditions for root rot and bacteria to grow.
Also read: What kind of soil do pothos need?
Poor drainage system
Many growers feel if they are watering right and have perfect draining soil and all other requirements are in check, their plants can never get ill. That is so not true because many growers mostly ignore the drainage system.
Your pots must have enough drainage holes; if not, the problem lies there. Water is taking a lot of time to drain, let’s say about an hour. Chances are a lot of water that remains in the soil drowns the soil over time.
If there is any kind of fungi or bacteria in the soil, the already poor drainage system will worsen the condition.
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Pathogens (infectious agents) infect pothos deeply, making it harder to revive your baby. Many pathogens are affecting your plant roots and soil causing root rot.
Phytophthora rot is the most common disease mostly caused by imported cuttings. They usually develop in the roots, first slowly spreading to the whole plant. Usually caused by overhead irrigation, contaminated water will infect the soil and the leaves with this agent. You will see your pothos leaves turning dark brown to black.
Rhizoctonia blight infects pothos through production from Rhizoctonia spores in the soil. This agent gets access to your plant positively due to contaminated soil mix, damaging cuttings of your pothos as well. The leaves will grow irregular in shape, develop necrotic dark spots.
Pythium rot is another pathogen infecting the roots of your pothos. Your pothos will get infected with this agent due to the contaminated potting mix. The leaves will turn brown and yellow.
A large number of growers often do overfertilization as a sign of love to their pothos. They feel this will give them the required nutrients and push the growth of their pothos.
Especially with new plants, owners tend to fertilize them more than required. This practice will instead stress your pothos, especially under the soil.
Why? Because over-fertilizing will lead to excess salt buildups in the soil.
That will push the growth of your pothos, making it leggy. In the long run, the soil will not function properly and will be susceptible to root rot and other diseases.
Also read: How often should I fertilize my pothos?
Non-porous pots like glazed or plastic containers hold water promoting soggy soil. Such pots should be avoided.
Go for porous pots like one made with clay or terracotta, especially when you are a beginner.
They will allow for an easy flow of water and air. It also will absorb excess moisture, preventing soil from getting drowned.
Temperature levels for pothos should be maintained as humans would like. They can tolerate temperatures higher than 75 degrees Fahrenheit too but now below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you overwater your pothos on top of that, you are allowing bacteria and fungi to grow in the roots.
Ventilation is not considered a requirement by many growers to grow their pothos and other houseplants.
But good airflow is crucial for healthy pothos and helps in the evaporation process to maintain humidity levels.
Keeping your pothos in a close space or crowded space will affect airflow. Thus, the soil will remain soggy for too long.
You can group your pothos with other plants to raise humidity and air circulation.
Dormant seasonal care
Dormant seasons indicate less care needs for pothos. They slow their growth during this time; it is known to be their resting period.
Excess of anything during autumn and winter to your pothos is like overeating every time you eat.
The temperature levels during dormant seasons get very low, and they are in resting mode.
If you touch pothos too much or let’s say, watering them too often will disturb them. The roots and soil suffer from stress and become sensitive to root and soil-related issues, including root rot.
Often planters forget to clean and sanitize their equipment after use. Pathogens and bacteria cling to pots, scissors, and other tools. They easily infect other plants when in contact.
Using contaminated soil
Using or mixing soil from your garden or reusing the potting medium without sterilizing them will surely infect your pothos.
Keep the potting medium in an airtight container. It will prevent contamination in the soil, especially pathogens, as they are always ready to attack and grow in soil.
Buying sick plants
When buying plants, it’s essential to get your plants from a reputed dealer.
You may not see many signs of root decay if it is in the early stages. Go for pothos with shiny green leaves and not wilted or discolored.
Isolate your pothos when newly bought till you are sure it’s healthy from within too.
Stress in plants
Stressed plants are easier targets for bacteria and fungi to grow. You might be inviting in those pathogens by overwatering, inadequate fertilizing, inappropriate light source, etc.
Keeping a check is the best way to keep these infectious agents away. Inspect your pothos regularly, especially the roots and the soil, because these are mostly ignored.
6 Signs of root rot in pothos
By the time your pothos will give you signs of being in stress through the foliage, your plant would be dealing with the stress and damage beneath the surface of the soil. The entire root ball of your pothos would have surrendered to root rot already.
The signs to understand if your pothos is suffering from root rot are:
Soft and brown roots get hard to identify by any grower because it is happening under the soil’s surface. The root becomes mushy and brown if you touch them, indicating root rot.
When root rot occurs, you will find an awful odor from the roots. You will find roots weak, slimy, and breaking down when pulled even lightly.
Yellow Leaves indicates something’s kosher with your pothos. It is mostly the roots and the unwell soil if you see your pothos leaves turning yellow.
Anything that happens underneath the soil can be seen on the leaves, especially the leaves’ color. Yellow leaves don’t mean aging, directly look for the roots if other cultural conditions are proper.
Wilting and drooping leaves indicate a deficiency of nutrients in the soil and roots. Damaged roots and soil are not able to absorb enough nutrients to keep leaves healthy and firm.
Delayed growth directs towards the suffering your pothos is going through.
If your leaves are small, stems are thin and short shows your pothos are healthy.
Roots and soil must be going through a hard time and unable to support your plants’ health and growth.
If your plants suddenly stopped showing new growth or are growing really slow, then it means the roots are unhealthy or may be suffering from root rot.
The thinning of the canopy is proof that the rotting under the soil has advanced. That is generally due to overwatering consistently when your pothos’ roots and soil are already suffering from root rot.
Since your pothos is suffering from root rot, and you from your part keep watering, fertilizing your plant. Even though the routine is appropriate, the plant sufferings are increasing as they are suffocated.
Look for the shape and thickness of your pothos stems and branches. If they look odd and skinny, the problem must be under the ground. You just need to dig deeper to detect.
Foul odor from the roots can be easily identified without much attention as pothos’ healthy roots have an earthy smell or no smell. When you feel your pothos have an unusual or foul odor, it is a clear indication of root rot.
How to fix root rot in pothos?
If you want your pothos alive, take relevant actions immediately. The first thing you need to do is check in your pothos soil condition to make sure it is root rot.
Mild root rot
If you feel the soil remains wet for too long, the culprit lies under the surface even after proper cultural conditions.
If your pothos leaves seem to be healthy, no smell emitted by soil, and only the soil moistness is the concern; then, it is mild root rot conditions.
This is high time for pathogens and fungi to develop, given the moist soil and roots.
Such mild root rot conditions can be easily cured by conscious watering. Let the soil dry out completely.
You can also take the soil out of the container for some time and spread it in the newspaper. That will help to air dry the soil faster and let the roots breathe freely.
Severe root rot
If the root conditions are severe, but there are still some firm and healthy roots left, you can save your pothos by repotting them.
Repotting is a stressful process so go slowly and gently. Follow the steps given below.
- Now you need to take your pothos out of the pot slowly by holding the stem’s base. Loosen and dispose of the entire soil. That is because you don’t want to take any chance with your pothos to get contaminated again due to contaminated soil.
- Now you can also go by pruning the damaged leaves first to lighten up the plant. Prune all the damaged leaves and stems to reduce the pressure on roots to provide the required nutrients.
- Check the condition of the roots, touch them slowly, feel the texture. Is it mushy, soft, and weak (they will come out on their own)? See the color of the roots if it’s brown.
- Wash the plant under tap water for some time. Trim the damaged and dead roots.
- Keep the roots in a mixture of fungicide diluted with water for an hour to eliminate stubborn bacteria and fungi that stick to the roots.
- You can keep the roots in the air for a day if the condition is worsened. That will kill any leftover bacteria in the roots.
- Now prepare a well-draining potting mix fungicide to it as a prevention measure. Don’t mix old soil with the fresh soil mix at all.
- Choose a pot 2 inch bigger in diameter than the roots. Cleans and air dry the pot and add stones in the bottom of the pot to allow easy air and water flow.
- Now plant your rubber plant with fresh soil mix, ensuring the soil is enough according to the pot and plant.
- It is counseled if you wish then go for terracotta or ceramic pots for your rubber plant. They are porous and support your plants to grow in unpleasant conditions too.
- That’s all you need to do to give your rubber plant a fresh start and pump up its growth.
- Don’t fertilize just when repotted until healthy. That will suffocate the soil leading to similar problems as they were already in.
- Water, when required, and enough bright light, keep them happy.
For very severe root rot cases where the roots are all mushy, brown, and weak, it’s best to dispose of the plant. Their roots and soil are not in a condition to revive again.
In any of the above conditions, if you have used any piece of equipment sterilize them all. Also, if you have repotted or thrown your pothos clean, sanitize the pot as well.
Pothos are susceptible to many fungi causing root rot. To identify the type of fungus your pothos is infected with, you can visit the plant’s disease clinic. They will help you to detect the fungi type by observing the structure of the fungus.
We are telling you all this because this way, you can select the right fungicide appropriate for your infected pothos.
Take suggestions from nurseries or experts which fungicide is right for your pothos to avoid any reverse situation. Follow the label.
Injecting too much fungicide will cause phytotoxicity, and too little will not deliver the results. So, maintain the right quantity.
Keep a check on your pothos in the future to ensure complete eradication of the fungi.
If you prefer treating your pothos organic way, there are quite a few options available such as hydrogen peroxide, cinnamon, and chamomile.
Here is a short description of the natural remedies:
Hydrogen Peroxide helps fight the infection and are considered to be potential remedies for root rot in houseplants.
Dilute the one teaspoon solution with water and spray on the foliage and stems and mix with the soil to kill the fungi. You can soak the roots in this solution also if the condition is severe.
Cinnamon can be used as a natural fungicide as it contains an active agent known as cinnamaldehyde. Dust cinnamon all over the plant and mix in the soil as well.
Chamomile can be used as a mild fungicide in liquid form. It also works wonders, just add chamomile tree in the soil and spray on the stems and leaves.
All these remedies are to be used after trimming and disposing of damaged and diseased parts of the pothos plant and debris gathered on the soil.
Tips to keep your pothos thriving
Pothos just need some love and minimalist care approach towards them.
We understand that you feel too much love might be good for your pothos, but in most cases, you will end up losing then if you care for them too much.
Follow a few thumb rules to keep your pothos thriving are:
- Bright indirect light for 7-8 hours.
- No direct sun.
- Covering your pothos or using curtains as a shield to filter direct sunlight.
- Use grow light to beat low light conditions.
- Water whenever the top few inches of the soil is dry.
- Check the soil’s moistness at the bottom occasionally as prevention from the soggy environment in the soil.
- While watering, the water must drench from the soil thoroughly.
- Use any organic fertilizer, preferably safe for your pothos. If you want, you can use chemical fertilizer.
- Follow the instructions given in the packet and dilute with water and then feed the soil with the solution.
- Fertilize once a month from spring through summer.
- No need to fertilize in autumn and winter.
Humidity and temperature:
- Keep the humidity levels more than 60% for healthy pothos. Temperature levels should be high, up to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Maintain room temperature best for pothos. Avoid keeping near radiators and vents, wooden furnaces, etc.
- Use a humidifier. Mist around your pothos, or group pothos with other moisture-loving plants to increase the humidity levels.
- Humidity should not go above 90%.
- Prune occasionally to keep your pothos in shape and support the soil enough food to the entire plant to grow.