Yellow Pothos leaves are a sad sight to see. The exuberant and easy Pothos, with its long green vines and prolific growth, is a super popular houseplant because it is so low-maintenance. But, it does require consistent care, and it can suffer issues if it’s not getting what it needs. Unfortunately, yellowing leaves are a common problem with several potential causes.
About Yellow Leaves on Pothos
The good news is that you are not alone in this situation – many plant parents experience their Pothos leaves turning yellow. So, it doesn’t mean you’re a terrible plant parent! It just means your plant is trying to tell you something. And all you have to do is listen and investigate a little bit, and your Pothos will return to its happy-go-lucky, easy, care-free growth habit.
Why Do Leaves Turn Yellow
Yellow foliage is a sign of plant stress. This is simply your Pothos’ way of communicating with you. Some Pothos plants have naturally yellow leaves, so before raising the alarm, ensure it is not your plant’s natural coloring!
Will Yellow Leaves Turn Green Again?
No. Unfortunately, once the leaves turn yellow, that’s it’ The affected leaves will eventually die completely and fall off the plant. Or, you can remove them yourself. But, while you can’t fix the leaves that have already yellowed, you can ensure that new growth is green, healthy, and vibrant and stays that way.
8 Reasons For Pothos Leaves Turning Yellow
Eight reasons sound overwhelming, but you can go through the list and consider and eliminate potential causes pretty quickly. Most possibilities require a relatively simple fix.
Before concluding that there is something seriously wrong with your Pothos, first, make sure this yellowing isn’t part of the natural aging process. Plants naturally lose their leaves with age, and houseplants are no different.
As part of its natural lifecycle, a Pothos plant will have leaves turning yellow intermittently throughout its life. The aging process usually looks like a few leaves here and there turning yellow, then falling off.
New growth on the plant is still coming in green, healthy, and vibrant and stays that way for a long time. In this scenario, the yellowing is nothing to worry about.
This is the number one reason for yellowing leaves on Pothos plants and, really, with almost all houseplants. The majority of plants do not like excess water and especially don’t like sitting in pools of water.
Overwatering is so common because, as plant parents, it is sometimes hard to imagine that there is such a thing as too much water or “drowning” a houseplant. After all, water is an essential part of a houseplant’s life. However, overwatering is very possible and happens much faster than we might imagine.
A sign of an overwatered Pothos is yellow leaves with brown spotting. Sometimes there is also pitting on the leaf foliage. The overly saturated soil is causing the foliage not to receive enough oxygen.
One of the key causes of overwatering is scheduled watering days. People fall into specific watering schedules, where their Pothos is watered every week on Tuesday and Friday afternoons, for example. The problem with this mindset is that there is no taking into account whether the plant actually needs water or not. While a schedule is great, so you don’t forget to water, it can work against a plant’s overall health if it is stuck to even when unnecessary.
This scheduled watering is an issue because a plant’s needs are not the same every week. As the weather and seasons change outside, so does the climate indoors. Heat, air conditioning, drafts, cloudy days, and hot and humid days all affect indoor temperatures and climates. Your Pothos may not need watering twice a week in winter but absolutely needs it in summer.
As plant parents, we need to be attentive and adaptable. The best way to water, and to make sure overwatering is not an issue, is to check the soil every single time before watering the plant.
Simply stick your finger in the top 2 inches of soil. If it is dry, water the plant. If it is damp, wait a few more days. You can still keep a schedule of sorts so that you check the soil twice a week, but don’t fall under the impression that you have to water it every time. It’s okay and better for the plant if you wait until the top of the soil is mostly dry (but not bone dry!) before watering.
Just like overwatering, underwatering is also a common cause of yellowing leaves on a Pothos plant. In this scenario, the yellow leaves will look very limp, turn crispy, and drop off the plant.
This whole watering thing can be tricky for new plant parents. Pothos want their soil to be primarily dry before watering but don’t want to be parched. So, while you shouldn’t water constantly, you also shouldn’t wait a super long time between waterings.
Again, the key is checking the soil consistently and listening to what it tells you. If it is damp, wait a few days and check again. If it is mostly dry, water it thoroughly.
To treat an underwatered plant, slowly introduce small watering over a period of two weeks. After that, resume a schedule where you check the soil at least once a week and water thoroughly, as needed.
Too Much Light
Pothos houseplants enjoy lots of bright, indirect light. However, direct sunlight is not good and will cause the leaves to burn. This burning presents itself as limp, yellowing leaves. Eventually, the leaves will fall off.
To fix this issue, remove the dying yellow leaves and move the plant to a location away from direct sunlight. Don’t put it in the shade; it won’t like that either. Choose a location a foot or two away from a window so there is still tons of light but not any directly hitting the foliage. Or, you can use a sheer curtain or other shade to block the severity of the sun’s rays.
In addition to paying attention to watering, make sure all pots have drainage holes, so the Pothos’s roots don’t sit in soggy soil for extended periods of time. Soggy soil over a long period leads to root rot, which is usually a death blow for the plant. Unlike the other situations, where there are ways to help the plant recover, root rot is very hard to stop once it gets a foothold.
Root rot happens when a plant sits in standing water too long. This happens when a pot does not have drainage holes, so the excess water has nowhere to go. Or, it happens when the saucer under the pot is allowed to hold water for a long time, so again, the roots get no break and suffer from a lack of oxygen access.
Unchecked overwatering usually leads to root rot, so if you find yourself watering more than necessary, know that it can lead to this. Root rot is identifiable by a rotten smell around the roots. If you take the plant out of the pot, you’ll smell it.
You’ll also see the damage to the roots – they’ll be brown or black and mushy. You can try trimming off the rotten parts if there aren’t many in an effort to save the plant. If it’s very rotten, you most likely will have to say goodbye to it.
Too Small of a Pot
A container too small prevents the roots from expanding. When the roots can’t expand like they want to, the Pothos might get stressed out and begin drooping. The drooping then leads to yellowing leaves and stalled growth.
Check for a root-bound plant by removing it from the pot. Intertwined and spiraled roots mean the plant is struggling to stretch out. If roots are coming out of the drainage holes, that’s a sure sign of a root-bound plant.
To fix this problem, repot the Pothos to a large container.
Blight is a disease that causes yellowed leaves with dark spots. This disease is extremely difficult to combat, and usually, the plant needs to be abandoned. You can try trimming the infected foliage off, as well as moving the plant far away from other houseplants (to prevent them from getting infected, too!). Then, move the Pothos to a new container and treat it with a bacterial fungicide.
Blight is usually caused by overhead watering. When water sits for a long time on the foliage, it rots and invites diseases to take hold.
The most common Pothos pests are spider mites and mealy bugs. Both of these pests damage the leaves, causing them to turn yellow, develop spots, and decay. The best treatment for both is to wipe down the foliage with rubbing alcohol. You can also use a neem oil solution to treat larger infestations.
The way to avoid, or at least quickly catch, a pest problem is to inspect the plants frequently. Every time you water, give the foliage a thorough inspection. Don’t forget to check under the leaves, as this is a common place for pests to hide.