A collection of indoor plants is only complete with at least one pothos. Whether you have one or many, you probably value your pothos most for how simple they are to maintain. These climbing plants are at the top of every list of beginner-friendly houseplants because they can survive in low light conditions and with little care while still expanding and growing along your bookshelf. I have a couple of them and love how little care they need.
However, because of the carefree nature of Pothos plants, it was extremely upsetting when my pothos began to show signs of distress. How could these plants be dying in my care if they are thought to be invulnerable?
I figured out why they were dying and how to quickly fix them.
Why Your Pothos Plant is Dying and How to Revive it
I knew my pothos was dying when I noticed yellow and Brown leaves, foul odor from the soil, droopy leaves, dry stems, stunted growth, and leaves falling off.
While researching how to revive my pothos plant, I discovered that most problems are due to excess or lack of a required element. Here are some of the causes alongside the quick fixes for the problems.
Too Much Sunlight
These underground plants can’t stand a lot of glaring, direct sunlight. Pothos plants are found climbing up tree trunks in tropical forests and jungles, where they are shaded from the sunlight by the tall tree canopy above. They prefer dappled sunlight and flourish indoors in soft indirect light.
The leaves will turn yellow if the plant receives too much direct sunlight, and they might turn pale and lose the vibrancy of their variegation if the issues persist. You might even notice that the vines aren’t producing any leaves. This will be evident on leaves directly exposed to the sun, while leaves protected from the sun will maintain their color.
As a result of this exposure, the leaves have a pale yellow color due to the lack of chlorophyll. Without green leaves for an extended period, a plant cannot photosynthesize and generate the energy it needs to survive.
Simply move your pothos away from the sun if it receives too much light. Avoid carrying it to an area with very little light because it won’t adapt well to the drastic change in lighting. To prevent the leaves from getting sunburned, choose a location with mild, indirect light or use a sheer curtain to cover the window.
Too Little Sunlight
Usually, pothos plants are designated as low light-tolerant. Depending on your definition of low light, this is mainly true. What we and the plants we grow indoors consider low light to be can be very different because they were not intended to grow that way.
Low light does not equate to a completely dark space without any windows. It simply means that low-light plants can be placed close to a bright window, possibly with a few obstructions, without adversely affecting growth. To put it another way, low light does not equal no light.
Low-light environments will not allow pothos plants to grow correctly. Because there isn’t enough energy, the leaves along the stem might become sparse. The plant produces more chlorophyll to compensate for the lower lighting levels, which causes the variegated leaves to lose all of their variegation. If the plant is left in these circumstances, it will gradually start to die as it tries to survive.
Thankfully, there is an easy fix. Place the plant in a room with more light. Even though it is a few feet away, it should still have indirect light from a nearby window. It grows best under moderate lighting conditions, away from direct sunlight.
Many pothos owners overlook the occasional watering because their plants can look good even when struggling. Unlike other plants, pothos can withstand a lack of water for extended periods of time.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean the plant is doing well. It simply means that until it is too late, it doesn’t show any overt indications of struggling. The leaves of your pothos will begin to curl inward when it hasn’t received water for a while in an effort to conserve water and energy.
In severe cases, the leaves may even begin to fall off as the stems start to dry out. If the soil is arid, it is advisable to water the container from the bottom. Dry soil compacts, preventing water from soaking into the soil and causing it to run off the pot’s top and sides.
If you water from the bottom, the soil will gradually absorb all the moisture required, ensuring it reaches the roots. To improve moisture retention, aerate the medium with a skewer before watering.
Fill a tub, sink, or other containers halfway full of water to serve as a bottom irrigation system for your plant. Place the container in the water, keeping all of the trailing stems out of the water. If the pot starts to float, weigh it down with rocks. Keep it submerged for 15–30 minutes or until the water level stops falling.
Before placing the pot back in its original location, remove it from the water and allow any extra water to drain from the bottom.
A plant can die from neglect over time, but one can kill it much more quickly by fussing over it. This results in overwatering, one of the most deadly indoor plant killers (especially for pothos).
There is a limit to how much water a plant’s roots can absorb. They only take what is necessary to keep the plant healthy and happy, leaving the rest in the ground. When you overwater a plant, the extra moisture in the soil gathers around the roots and leads to various issues.
The main problem is root rot. The roots turn mushy and decompose, making it impossible for them to absorb more water. They suffocate in the soil because there is no oxygen around them.
Another issue is the growth of bacteria and fungi. Your plants will become stagnant if water collects around them, either in the pot or underneath. This stagnant water draws various animals and pests that may permanently harm your plants.
Mushy stems and yellowing leaves, particularly near the plant’s base, are indicators of overwatering. As the roots cannot transport water throughout the plant, the leaves will also wilt.
Increase the intervals between waterings, let the pot dry before watering again, and check the soil frequently.
Unfortunately, you’re probably dealing with a severe case of root rot if the issue is extreme. It would be best if you took immediate action to treat root rot because it won’t go away on its own and could kill the plant.
Start by taking the plant out of the pot and thoroughly washing the roots of the soil. Use h harp scissors to cut any damaged roots before re-potting the plant in new soil.
Pothos plants require well-draining, light, and airy soil. Too dense or compacted soil will not drain properly, causing water to collect around the roots. Smaller particles in the soil (such as those with a clay composition) will also stop oxygen from getting to the roots, stifling the plant.
Like overwatering, choosing the wrong soil can result in yellowing leaves and root rot. Even though there isn’t a lot of water, the water still collects around the roots because there is nowhere for it to go.
If your Pothos plant has been in the same container for a long time, the pot may drain too quickly. The soil in pots degrades over time, and it no longer retains water and is devoid of nutrients, allowing all the water in the pot to evaporate.
In both cases, re-potting is the best solution. Put your pothos in a pot with some light, draining potting soil. Alternatively, you can create your houseplant mix by adding coconut coir and perlite to potting soil to improve drainage.
Issues with pothos plants frequently result from difficult-to-control external factors rather than improper owner care. Temperature is one of them. As a tropical plant, pothos prefers temperatures ranging from 70 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. They can tolerate temperatures as low as 55 degrees Fahrenheit but struggle below that.
Since indoor temperatures are usually moderate, this is rarely a problem. The cells, however, might be harmed if your plant is left outside or placed close to an open window throughout a harsh winter. Even when a window is closed, a plant’s leaves and stems can suffer damage from the accumulation of cold close to the glass.
Cold damage can be identified by wilting or falling leaves that turn black or brown. The stems will become limp and unable to climb the surrounding structures.
If your plant is exposed for an extended period, it is unlikely to recover. But if you spot even a hint of cold damage, get your plant out of there right away and into a room with a temperature above 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
To improve the soil’s conditions, water your pothos with lukewarm water if it is dry. However, avoid overwatering in cooler weather because the soil will dry out much more slowly than usual.
The air must have a high moisture content for plants to thrive in tropical environments. Most houseplants fall into this category.
In contrast to other houseplants, pothos doesn’t care too much about humidity; it’s content with any humidity level over 50%. But if your home’s relative humidity is less than 50%, which is common, the plant might struggle.
The transpiration process requires humidity. Low humidity causes plants to put moisture conservation first and delay releasing water vapor from the leaves, which stops transpiration.
Your plant might not die right away. But eventually, it will have a significant effect on growth. Transpiration interferes with photosynthesis and prevents the creation of food and energy necessary for plant growth. Long periods of extremely low humidity will probably cause the plant to stop growing altogether.
There are several recommended ways to raise the humidity in your home. Misting is the most commonly suggested solution. However, because the water collects on the foliage, this practice only temporarily enhances the humidity before the moisture evaporates, increasing the risk of fungal disease.
Another common recommendation is to set the plant on a tray with water and pebbles. Unfortunately, this barely changes the situation if the room is significantly below 50% humidity. The best solution is to buy a humidifier and keep it near your pothos. All your indoor plants will benefit from this because it creates the ideal environment for them.
The Pot Is Too Small
Pothos are not known for having extensive root systems that necessitate the use of large pots. However, they require room to develop and spread out, so a bigger pot will eventually be needed.
The roots of your pothos will start to outgrow the pot if it is kept in the same container for a long time. They may not be able to absorb water and nutrients efficiently as they occupy space in the soil and encircle one another. The plant cannot survive without these essential elements.
Roots emerging from the drainage holes, excessively long stems causing the pot to tip over constantly, or wilting leaves and stunted growth are all signs that your pot is too small.
If this is the problem, re-pot your pothos into a larger pot one or two sizes larger. Before re-potting, loosen the roots thoroughly to allow them to expand into the new soil. To avoid overwatering problems, ensure the new pot and the soil you select are well-draining.
Plants require nutrients and cannot survive if the soil lacks macro- and micronutrients. Plants kept in the same pot for many years without additional fertilizer will gradually start to die from a lack of nutrients.
Each time you water your plant, nutrients are slowly washed away from the soil over time. The pothos starts to die back because they cannot get more nutrients.
The first sign of a nutrient imbalance in a plant is the sporadic yellowing of the leaves. Unbalanced nutrient levels can be brought on by improper fertilizer application, routine tap water irrigation, or growth issues that cause the plant to use up some nutrients more quickly than others.
Like the rest of your houseplants, your pothos will benefit from routine liquid fertilizer applications in the spring and summer, even though they are not particularly hungry plants. Re-potting is the best option if the soil is degraded and unable to retain water or fertilizer. This will increase the availability of nutrients.
Finally, we have the issue that every owner of indoor plants dreads: pests. Although they are not particularly vulnerable to pests, mealybugs and scale can be drawn to pothos plants.
These tiny insects (either brown or black lumps (scale) or white fuzzy spots (mealybugs)) cling to the leaves and stems. Here, they consume the plant sap and absorb its moisture and nutrients.
Small pest infestations might not have a significant impact. However, these bugs can grow in number and take over a plant if left unchecked for a long time. Because of a lack of nutrients and moisture, the leaves and stems around the infested area will become distorted.
If the leaves have mealybugs or scales, wipe them off with a damp cloth or squirt them off in a sink or bathtub. The remaining insects can then be suffocated by spraying neem oil or alcohol on the leaves. Apply consistently for a few weeks until the issue goes away.
Now that we’ve identified the most frequent causes of pothos death, you can take steps to address most of these problems. The best part is that this plant is incredibly resilient. Quite frequently, if they receive prompt, appropriate care, they will fully recover.