Pothos Leaves Turning Brown? Causes and Best Remedies

Pothos is a tolerant plant with few needs, and that’s why it’s abundant in houses, offices, residential areas, and gardens. It often looks vivacious and grows at enviable rates. However, it could also suddenly show signs of wilting and distress.

When such an unpleasant event happens to a plant, anyone would want to know why are pathos leaves turning brown?

In the following sections, we’ll go through the most common reasons why the pothos leaves start looking burned and sickly.

We wouldn’t stop at that. We’d also suggest some tried and true remedies for each cause. They’re mostly easy to implement solutions, so fixing the pothos issues should be accessible even to beginner gardeners.

Getting to Know the Pothos Plant

Pothos, which is nicknamed the Devil’s Ivy, Money Plant, and various other domestic references, is scientifically known as Epipremnum aureum. It’s a member of the Araceae family, and it naturally grows in South East Asia. This explains why it thrives in warm and humid weather.

This plant wouldn’t have strong woody stems, regardless of its age. That’s why it tends to spread its vines horizontally, and if you’re using a hanging pot, the growth would be mostly downwards. Even in nature, it supports itself on other plants rather than depend on its own core.

Pothos isn’t a blooming plant, but that doesn’t seem to bother gardeners or homeowners. The beauty of its deep green leaves, variegation and quick growth make up for the lack of flowers.

How Pothos Should Look Like

A healthy Pothos plant should have a rich appearance, and it usually boasts of dense green leaves. The leaves aren’t as waxy as other shade plants, but they’re soft to the touch and have a bit of thickness. The pothos leaves are to some extent heart-shaped, but not as much as the Philodendron.

Some varieties of pothos have other colors and shapes that differ slightly from the mainstream ones we’re used to. Leaves with pale green, yellow, or cream-colored variegations can also be found.

Sometimes the pothos stems are left to overgrow, so it would also have lanky vines all around. This is an aesthetic appearance that a bunch of people favors, but more often, the pothos would have a neat trim and a full growth that’s mostly inside the pot.

healthy pothos leaves

What Pothos Looks Like When It Needs Attention

The first sign that the pothos isn’t happy is the droopiness of its once-proud leaves. They might become yellow over the coming weeks. Next, you’d start noticing a brown color around the edges or in the middle of the leaves. It looks a lot like the leaves were burned.

If this situation is left untreated, then more leaves would go through the same transformation. Soon, the density of the plant would decrease significantly.

These symptoms could also be accompanied by stunted growth in the previous months, yellowing in the stems, or darkening in the roots.

The good news is that most of the time, the pothos can be saved. The not-so-good news is that there are tens of reasons why the pothos leaves turn brown. And the right one needs to be addressed specifically to cure the pothos. 

The Top 10 Causes of Pothos Leaves Turning Brown

Gardening has some traits in common with medicine. For example, they both deal with the health of living things. Additionally, they need to go through a bunch of symptoms then come up with a correct diagnosis. Then, the doctors, or gardeners, have to find the right cure!

When pothos leaves start turning brown, there are at least 10 possible causes! It might be a tad difficult to pinpoint the culprit, so the best approach is to observe other factors as well. This would narrow down the possibilities, and eventually help in healing the pothos. 

1. Overwatering 

This is the most common cause of the pothos leaves turning brown or wilting. The roots of the pothos need oxygen to survive, but excessive water tends to suffocate them. As a rule, constantly soggy soil doesn’t do any favors for plants.

One factor you should always check is drainage efficiency. If the drainage holes are clogged, then the water would pile up even though you aren’t putting in too much of it per watering.

The soil also suffers from overwatering, as it soon becomes depleted of its essential minerals. Plus, it could become compacted and much less aerated. These conditions aren’t ideal for pothos at all.

In addition to that, the persistent moisture is an open invitation to several kinds of bugs and pathogens. Over time, this could affect the pothos severely and plenty of leaves would show burning signs.

To salvage an overwatered plant, the best thing is to take it out of the wet soil, give it a rinse, then leave it to dry out in a shaded place with good ventilation. The next day, you should repot it in dry soil. Cactus mix is great, and you can add some perlite to your usual soil mix for better aeration.

2. Irregular Watering

All gardeners, and especially the new ones, have a natural fear of not giving their plants sufficient water. But there’s also the opposite situation where the plant doesn’t receive its watering needs when it needs them.

Dehydration in plants looks pretty similar to overwatering, they both have the same initial symptoms of yellowing, wilting, and browning at the tips. But water scarcity usually comes with a cracked or sandy soil.

The answer to that isn’t just watering the pothos. Plants generally need regular watering schedules to thrive. Roughly one watering per week is good. But seasonal and geographic factors matter, so you should always figure out what works best for your plant.

woman watering pothos leaves turning brown

A practical rule for watering is to add the same volume as the pot and wait till the water starts pouring out of the drain holes. Then, leave the pothos alone for about a week. Check the dryness of the soil before rewatering. The cue for the next watering is when the top 2 inches of soil are free from moisture

3. Heavy Fertilization

Overfeeding plants is just like overwatering them, they’re both harmful. The accumulation of salts and minerals in the soil interferes with the proper functioning of the plant’s mechanisms. It changes the preferred pH level, and it could hinder its ability to utilize nutrients or water.

Using concentrated fertilizers or applying diluted fertilizer too often could both affect the plant negatively.

The remedy is to change the soil or to rinse it with plenty of water and drain it thoroughly. 

4. Lack of Nutrients

Pothos, in its normal state, doesn’t have a large appetite for fertilizers. However, if your plant has been sitting in the same potting soil for months, then it would need a nutrient boost.

The best fertilizer for pothos is liquid seaweed. But you could also use indoor plant food around the beginning of spring and slow-release mild fertilizers in the fall.

5. Too Much Light

The pothos leaves are quite tender, and it can’t tolerate the direct harsh sunlight. Even if it’s placed indoors, and the sunlight is coming through a window.

Depending on where you are, try to pick a location that doesn’t receive glaring light for prolonged hours. You can also hang a curtain on the window to regulate the incoming light.

6. Insufficient Light

Indoor plants are often perceived as capable of surviving in dim light, but that’s not very accurate. Pothos wouldn’t thrive in a room that’s devoid of sunlight.

You might want to bring the plant closer to a window or even place it on a shaded sill. Seasonal changes matter, so changes need to be made accordingly. If it’s not possible to find a suitable well-lit place for the pothos, then you can use some grow lights

7. Root Rot

Root rot is a serious matter, as it wouldn’t just cause the browning of a few leaves, but rather, the wilting of the whole plant. Its telltale sign is the darkening, or blackening, of the roots. If only the extremities of the root are rotting, then the plant can be saved.

The primary cause of root rot is overwatering paired with inefficient drainage. Sometimes the pathogen comes in with the soil or the irrigation water, but that’s not too common.

The remedy is to cut off the infected roots, wash off the roots, and the whole plant, with a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution. Then, to repot the pothos in a new container, with a new soil mix.

Root rot is contagious and could infect other plants. Thus, it’s best to be extra careful while treating the roots and repotting the plant. 

8. Pest Infestation

Pests love soft plants with a lot of sap, and they find just that in the pothos leaves. Pothos is known to be of special interest to scale insects and mealybugs. But it could also encounter other problems with flies or aphids.

pest on a leaf

The best approach is to catch the invaders early on. You can spray the plant with neem oil, diluted soap, or rub it with alcohol. All these remedies suffocate the bigs and get rid of them. A larger infestation would probably require a pesticide.

9. Bacterial, Fungal, and Viral Infections

Bacterial wilt, southern blight, and root rot are possible issues that affect pothos plants. These infections are often harder to diagnose than the other causes of leaf browning. Also, they’re a bit harder to treat.

Thus, you might want to take the plant to a professional gardener for the right course of action. 

10. Temperature Extremes

Typically, a pothos plant likes temperatures similar to its native land in the South Pacific. That is, from 70°F (21°C) to 90°F (32°C), along with a nicely humid ambiance. However, it can take temperatures above and below that range without showing much distress.

The problems start arising in extremely low, extremely high, and extremely dry environments. It’s recommended to keep the pothos plant in a location that feels comfortable to you.

In Conclusion

Pothos plants are friendly little fellows that wouldn’t need meticulous care 24/7 to look happy. And luckily, you don’t need to be an expert gardener to deal with occasional issues, like the pothos leaves turning brown.

Basic care tips like regular watering, the right amounts of fertilizer, and placing the pothos in good light are often sufficient. From time to time, you might need to combat a few bugs or disinfect the plant, but that’s pretty much it.

Finally, it’s useful to prune your pothos regularly to keep it full and lush. Also, to spot any odd incidents right at the start.