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Golden Pothos Turning Yellow (Causes and Treatment)

Golden pothos is a hardy houseplant with a reputation for being virtually indestructible. However, it is occasionally plagued by problems that manifest as yellowing.

Today, I’ll assist you in determining which of these common issues is causing the yellowing of your golden pothos.

Yellowing golden pothos is a sign of watering, light, temperature, and nutritional imbalances. Infestations of pests and diseases like blight, root rot, and leaf spots may be blamed. Fix the issue by watering dry soil and applying fertilizer regularly.

What Yellow Leaves on Your Golden Pothos Are Saying

[1] Golden Pothos Getting Excess Water

Too much moisture in the soil can be stressful for your golden pothos. Standing on “wet feet” for an extended period of time causes the leaves to turn yellow.

If you overwater your plant after it has become bone-dry, you will notice the yellowing of the leaves.

Excess water in the growing medium does more than simply drown the roots. It can also cause root rot if left unchecked.

The roots will die back and decay as a result of the two culprits working together.

Your golden pothos’ ability to absorb nutrients and minerals from the soil is compromised if the roots are damaged.

Because of this, the plants suffer from malnutrition, which turns their leaves yellow.

Other common symptoms of an overwatered golden pothos include:

  • Soggy or overly-damp potting mix
  • Brown spots on yellowing foliage
  • Leaf tips and edges may become browned and water-soaked
  • Moldy growths may cover the soil surface
  • Leaves go limp, droop, then begin wilting
  • Swollen, mushy black or brown stems
  • Root rot – Brown or black squishy roots
  • Leaves may curl down and look shriveled

How to Treat an Overwatered Golden Pothos

First, determine how much excess moisture is present in the growing medium. Golden pothos prefers moist soil that is not soggy or wet.

Stop watering your golden pothos if the soil is just wet and the roots aren’t rotten. Allow at least two inches of potting mix to dry before re-watering.

If the potting mix is saturated or there is standing water, the problem is poor drainage. There are two possible explanations:

  • Check to see if the pot has any drainage holes. If not, drill some holes in the bottom or use a terracotta pot instead. Discard glazed ceramic, stone, plastic, and glass containers as well.
  • Check to see if the potting soil is well-drained. If not, incorporate drainage-enhancing ingredients such as vermiculite, perlite, sand, or lava rocks.

Is there evidence of root rot? If this is the case, remove all infected roots by trimming them back.

Use a fungicide on your golden pothos before repotting it in a new container filled with a well-draining potting mix.

[2] Golden Pothos Not Getting Enough Water

If you haven’t overwatered your golden pothos and its leaves are turning yellow, it could be due to underwatering.

Your pothos will conserve energy and food supplies in response to dry conditions. It’s a natural reaction to the drought.

Your plant will usually shrivel and crisp up as a result of doing this. The leaves may also begin to curl slightly inward. Overwatering can cause the foliage to appear limp and droopy.

There is some overlap between symptoms of excessive thirst and excessive soil moisture. Underwatering is the cause of yellowing leaves that are also dry and crispy.

Keep an eye out for other signs of underwatering, such as:

  • Leaves browning at leaf edges and tips
  • Affected leaves may wilt and defoliate
  • Dry potting mix and dusty plant

How to Fix an Underwatered Golden Pothos

The golden pothos plant is a water-loving plant. It prefers a consistently moist growing medium.

However, the soil should not be overly wet or soggy, as this causes waterlogging and root rot.

In my experience, giving an underwatered yellowing pothos a good soak will do the trick. I prefer soaking from the bottom because it helps to evenly saturate the soil. Here’s how it works:

  1. Place your golden pothos in a sink filled with 3-4 inches of water.
  2. Allow it to absorb moisture for 30 to 45 minutes.
  3. Soaking is complete when the top inch of soil is saturated. You can also lift the pot to get a sense of its weight.
  4. Consider irrigating from the top if it’s taking longer to saturate. This will help to expedite the process.
  5. Drain the sink once it has been thoroughly saturated.
  6. Allow any excess liquid to drain completely before removing your golden pothos from the sink.
  7. Replace the saucer and replace your golden pothos.
  8. Remove any dripping that has accumulated on the saucer.

[3] It’s Getting Too Much Direct Sunlight (Leaf Burn and Drying Out)

One of the primary causes of golden pothos yellowing is overexposure to direct sunlight. Yes, it thrives in bright light, but pothos prefers medium, indirect light.

Sunburned leaves and yellowing foliage will appear on your plant. These include scorched, dry, and crunchy leaves.

You may notice that the tips and margins of the leaves are turning brown.

Too much light causes leaf burn, which is often accompanied by underwatering symptoms. In fact, they frequently occur at the same time.

Foliage will drop and the potting mix will be dry, so expect wilting, drooping, and other symptoms.

Leaf Burn and Drying Out
Leaf Burn and Drying Out

How to Fix

By avoiding direct sunlight on your golden pothos, the issue can be resolved quickly and easily! In what way?

  • If your golden pothos is in front of a south-facing window, move it. A window facing north would be preferable.
  • Shift it away from the source of the light.
  • Drape a sheer curtain over the window to block out direct sunlight.

[4] It’s Not Getting Enough Light

Golden pothos tolerates low light levels. But don’t be fooled; it still requires light to photosynthesize. If there is a lack of light, the foliage will begin to turn yellow.

Lower and older leaves are typically the first to turn yellow. In low light, your golden pothos is also more likely to become overwatered.

Furthermore, some pests and diseases thrive in low-light and damp environments. These issues, when combined, form the perfect storm for golden pothos leaf yellowing.

Leaf drop, leggy growth, and general discoloration are also symptoms.

How to Fix

Golden pothos prefers moderate light, so it would be ideal to place it near a north-facing window. After one or two weeks, the issue would be resolved.

Any well-lit window with sheer curtains would work well for your plant as well.

[5] Pythium Root Rot

The yellowing of golden pothos could be an indication of Pythium root rot. This is a serious issue that could prove fatal to your golden pothos.

It usually happens as a result of overwatering, excessive humidity, a critical light shortage, or a combination of these factors.

Lower and mature leaves are the most affected when Pythium root rot is present. Due to severe rot, they usually turn yellow and fall off.

A soil-borne fungus is to blame for Pythium root rot. There are several factors that can make this problem worse. Other common symptoms to be aware of include:

  • Foul odor from the potting mix
  • Black or rusty brown mushy roots
  • Stem rot
  • Leaves turn brown
  • Leaf wilting and dropping

How to Treat Golden Pothos Pythium Root Rot

Cultural adjustments can help curb Pythium root rot.

  • Provide a sufficient amount of moderate sunlight
  • Ensure the potting mix is well-drained
  • Boost air circulation
  • Avoid overwatering
  • Don’t apply too much fertilizer

If pythium rot has affected the roots, you must repot your golden pothos. First, you must snip away affected roots and other parts. Don’t forget to treat with fungicide.

[6] Botrytis Blight

Botrytis blight is another serious fungal disease that can turn your golden pothos yellow. Botrytis cinerea, a fungus, causes it in cool, wet environments.

Fuzzy or dusty gray spores of the fungus germinate in these conditions.

The disease appears first as brown spots on mature leaves. It quickly spreads to the rest of the golden pothos, causing a variety of symptoms:

  • Fuzzy or dusty grayish mold
  • Stem cankers
  • Leaf shrinking, drooping, and wrinkling
  • Brown spots on foliage
  • Leaf drop in case of severe infection

How to Fix

Botrytis blight is extremely difficult to eradicate once it has spread. As a result, prompt action is critical.

Isolate your blighted golden pothos as soon as possible.

Snip moldy parts of the pothos and carefully discard them. Make sure to sterilize your cutting tools and thoroughly wash your hands.

Increase air circulation and relocate your golden pothos to a warmer, less humid location.

Dry out your golden pothos thoroughly and apply a fungicide. I prefer to spray outside on a cloudy day. Take it indoors once it has dried out properly.

[7] Rust & Southern Blight

Both rust and southern blight are caused by soil-dwelling fungi. Their growth is aided by warm, moist conditions.

Southern blight, in particular, causes leaves near the soil to turn yellow, wilt, and eventually fall off. It also causes stem, frequently affecting stems near the soil line.

Wilted foliage, discolored lower leaves, and plant collapse is other symptoms.

When your golden pothos succumbs to rust, the leaves develop red raised spots on the tops of the leaves.

Rusty reddish-orange blisters can also be found on the backs of foliage. Yellowed, warped, or curled leaves are common symptoms.

How to Fix

Sanitation is the first step in treating southern blight.

  • Because the blight fungus is soil-borne, you must avoid touching your golden pothos after you have worked the soil.
  • Clean and sanitize your gardening tools and shoes.
  • Any plants infected with southern blight should be quarantined immediately.
  • When watering your golden pothos, avoid splashing the leaves.
  • Any infected parts of your pothos must be pruned and destroyed.

Heat treatment of the soil can aid in the removal of the fungus from the growing medium. Make sure the temperature of the mixture is higher than 122ºF (50 ºC).

Spray your golden pothos using a copper-based fungicide (Check the latest price on Amazon here). Re-spray every 3-10 as needed until the blight is gone.

Improving air circulation, lowering humidity, and providing adequate lighting can all help to slow the spread of rust. More importantly, use a fungicide on houseplants to get rid of rust.

[8] Bacterial Leaf Spot

Bacterial Leaf Spot

Another problem that can cause your golden pothos to yellow is bacterial leaf spots. Cool, moist weather promotes the spread of the disease.

As a result, it will most likely strike an overwater golden pothos that is sitting in very low light.

Water splashing causes the causative bacteria to land on wet leaves. They typically overwinter in the growing medium on debris or dead plant matter.

A severe infection could result in widespread leaf loss and the death of your plant.

Brown watery spots with yellow halos are visible symptoms of bacterial leaf spots.

They are most commonly found on the undersides of foliage, but they can also be found on top leaf surfaces.

When these spots congregate, they frequently kill tissue and leave dead zones.

How to Treat Golden Pothos Bacterial Leaf Spot

You must remove and discard all infected leaves and stems.

A bactericide and a copper-based fungicide are frequently used in chemical treatment.

Avoid wetting leaves, overhead irrigation, and overwatering to prevent the disease. Increasing ventilation and decreasing humidity in the vicinity of your pothos can also be beneficial.

[9] Insect Infestation 

Infestations of pests are common in stressed or weakened golden pothos. Your pothos will be depleted of nutrients and fluids as a result of these sap-sucking insects.

This causes the leaves to become emaciated, and the problem manifests as leaf discoloration followed by yellowing.

The more extensive the pest infestation, the faster the yellowing spreads. If your golden pothos is unhealthy due to overwatering, nutrient deficiency, or poor lighting, it will usually be aggressive.

Mealybugs, scale, aphids, and spider mites are the most common sap-suckers. Spider mites, for example, collect on the undersides of leaves and impart a ragged, yellow appearance to the leaves. (Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Bugs on Pothos

Control and Management

Controlling golden pothos pests requires a multi-pronged strategy that includes cultural, biological, and chemical measures.

  • To get rid of spider mites, mealybugs, and other pests, use a strong jet of lukewarm water.
  • Spray neem oil, insecticidal soap, or insecticide spray on the insects.
  • Most pests can be killed and eradicated by dabbing the affected areas and pests with alcohol-laced cotton swabs.
  • Use natural predators to keep the pest population under control.

[10] Nutrient Deficiency

Yellowing golden pothos leaves can also indicate a nutrient deficiency. This is especially noticeable when it does not receive adequate nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium, iron, or phosphorus.

Leaf yellowing can also be caused by a lack of micronutrients. For example, a lack of magnesium can cause yellowing at the leaf edges.

Meanwhile, nitrogen deficiency causes yellowing of the bottom leaves, while sulfur deficiency causes yellowing of the top leaves.

Golden Pothos Turning Yellow Due to Nutrient Deficiency
Golden Pothos Turning Yellow Due to Nutrient Deficiency

The nutrient imbalance may occur due to:

  • Improper soil moisture or drainage
  • Critical light shortage
  • Severe disease or pest infestation
  • Poor potting mix nutrition
  • Root damage resulting from overwatering, fertilizer burn, or root rot

How to Fix

Check to see if the nutrients in the growing medium have been depleted. If this is the case, you should think about repotting your golden pothos.

In some cases, using fertilizer will take care of the issue. Consider organic or compost to supply nutrients for your golden pothos. To boost magnesium levels, I use Epsom salts on a regular basis.

[11] Fertilizer Burn 

Both too little and excess fertilizer can make the leaves on your plant turn yellow. That’s because golden pothos is not a heavy feeder and only needs monthly application during the growing period.

Excess fertilizer salts will concentrate in the growing medium and cause root damage. This is usually known as a fertilizer burn.

Much like sunburn, the foliage will appear burnt or scorched with browned leaf edges and yellowing.

Solution

The best course of action will vary depending on the severity of the fertilizer salt accumulation.

  • I normally water thoroughly from above to flush out excess salts. This normally applies to bottom-watered golden pothos.
  • If the soil has too much fertilizer, repot using a fresh potting mix.

Apply a water-soluble fertilizer only once a month between April and September to avoid recurrence.

[12] Aging Leaves

The yellowing of golden pothos leaves is not always caused by a disease, pest, or cultural issue. It’s a natural part of the process of removing old, spent leaves to make way for new growth.

Water, nutrients, and energy are typically diverted from old foliage to new foliage by the plant.

As a result, old leaves turn yellow, dry out, and fall to the ground. In this case, only a few old leaves turn yellow and defoliate at a time.

Are Yellowing Leaves Always A Cause For Concern?

It’s all relative. It’s possible that yellowing leaves are a sign of disease, pest infestation, or a significant cultural issue. You should be worried if this happens to you.

However, if you notice that the older leaves on your plant are naturally yellowing, don’t be alarmed. Prune your plant to promote a fuller, more lush growth by removing a few leaves.

Should You Remove Yellowing Leaves from your Golden Pothos?

It all depends, once again. You’d want to keep them for a longer period of time if it’s due to nutrient imbalance, improper watering, or aging. It will aid in the recovery of essential nutrients for your golden pothos.

However, if they are infected or too unsightly for you, you should remove them.

Can Yellow Golden Pothos Leaves Turn Green Again?

No, once golden pothos leaves have turned yellow, they won’t revert back to green.