Holes in your ornamental pothos leaves are more than just an eyesore. They can also be an indication of a more serious problem.
Today, I’m going to assist you in determining which of the common issues is causing holes in pothos foliage.
Insect infestation is the primary culprit for holes in pothos leaves. Spray your plant at night time using Spinosad, neem oil, or systemic insecticide to eradicate the leaf-mining flies. Other potential causes include disease, excess fertilizer, physical damage, and boron deficiency.
Common Causes Holes in Pothos Leaves
 Pest Infestation
Pest infestation may not appear to be a likely cause, especially if your pothos is housed indoors. However, the feeding activity of bugs can cause serious damage to your pothos.
The majority of them use spike-like mouthparts to drill holes in the leaves and suck vital fluids out.
Other pests simply nibble on the leaves. In either case, their feeding action stunts and punctures your pothos leaves.
Some of the feeding areas may also become dead zones and fall out to form holes.
Different pests leave holes of varying sizes and shapes. Let us investigate further.
If you notice irregular holes in your pothos, it could be the result of an infestation of the following pests:
The most likely cause of holes in your pothos leaves is Liriomyza melanogaster. Because the bugs live in the soil, you’re unlikely to see them.
They only come out at night to feed or lay eggs on your pothos foliage.
Liriomyza melanogaster is classified as a leaf miner. That is, during feeding and egg-laying, they drill tunnels into the leaf tissue.
In fact, these bugs lay their eggs in tunnels beneath the epidermis.
The eggs start out clear but eventually turn creamy white. When the eggs hatch inside the leaf mines, the mature larvae burst out and fall to the ground.
Their growth and exit leave damage marks in the leaf mine areas.
Female adults cause the leaves to appear stippled and yellowed. This is due to the fact that they puncture the leaves while both depositing eggs and feeding.
These are frequently found along the leaf margins and at the tips.
The real cause of holes is caused by leaf-mining larvae. The larvae grow in size as they mature, causing the leaf mines to grow in size as well. Leaf mines are typically tightly coiled, irregular, and blotchy at the tip.
Adult leaf stippling and larval leaf-mining can both seriously impair photosynthesis. If the conditions are too harsh, the pothos leaves may develop too many holes and fall off prematurely.
The wounds on the leaves may also serve as entry points for fungal and bacterial diseases.
Control and Management of Liriomyza Melanogaster
For biological controls, consider using natural enemies of the leaf-mining flies and their larvae. I highly recommend parasitic wasps.
You can also spray using a Spinosad-based product (Check the latest price on Amazon here). This is a natural insecticide that can safely and quickly control leaf miners at various stages.
Apply neem oil or a broad-spectrum systemic insecticide. You must spray right before or at night because Liriomyza melanogaster is a nocturnal pest.
Slugs and Snails
Slugs and snails are typically attracted to Pothos leaves with irregular holes, often in the middle. Unlike leaf miners, they do not leave rounded tunnels or spots.
Slugs and snails, on the other hand, leave small to medium holes all over the foliage of your pothos. They are caused by slimy bugs that feed on the juicy foliage.
They shave odd-looking holes into the foliage, resulting in what is known as Swiss cheese leaves.
Slime trails on your pothos indicate the presence of snails and slugs. Both bugs are slimy and brown or black. Snails have a tough circular shell on their back, whereas slugs have tiny antennae.
Control and Management of Slugs & Snails
When it’s cool and wet, slugs and snails love to invade garden pothos. Water splashing and overhead irrigation should be avoided. Put your indoor pothos somewhere warm.
At dusk, handpick and discard these bugs. They hide beneath plant debris, mulch, and near rocks. They usually appear on cloudy days and at night.
Set up a homemade snail and slug trap. Here’s how:
- Fill shallow saucers with beer
- Place them near or at the base of your pothos
- Remove and discard drowned snails and slugs from the traps
- Refill your traps regularly
You can also use commercial snail/slug baits like iron phosphate baits (Check the latest price on Amazon here). Make sure they’re not harmful to your pets or kids.
Create a diatomaceous earth barrier around your pothos. I prefer to make it at least an inch in both width and height. Note that diatomaceous earth is only effective against these slimy bugs when it’s dry.
You can also set up salt and copper barriers. They’re typically not as effective as diatomaceous earth against slugs and snails.
Bush crickets are a type of bug that feeds on the leaves of plants such as pothos. These pests, like Liriomyza melanogaster, cause irregular holes in your pothos leaves.
They typically lay their eggs in tunnels or mines formed by stems and leaves.
Some lay their eggs in the soil. In any case, the feeding action of bush crickets results in cut marks that eventually turn into holes.
In late summer, bush crickets primarily ravaged garden pothos. They can be found motionless in nearby bushes or even window ledges. They are mostly active at night and in the evenings.
Control and Management of Bush Crickets
Mating rituals of bush-crickets typically take place at night in the presence of light. As a result, it’s a good idea to turn off your garden lights or floodlights at night.
It is preferable to first encourage natural predators of bush crickets before resorting to chemical controls. These include everything from birds and lizards to spiders and even cats.
Consider handpicking and disposing of bush crickets if you aren’t afraid of them.
Set glued board traps on a bed of cornmeal.
Insecticidal baits, such as those based on propoxur, carbaryl, or hydramethylnon, can also be used.
Diatomaceous earth should be used. This is frequently effective for killing indoor pothos because the abrasive powder dehydrates and kills the bugs.
Consider neem oil-based products for kill-sprays. Apply weekly until the bush-cricket infestation is under control.
Caterpillars are most likely to blame for irregular holes along the outer edges of pothos leaves. Caterpillars, like most leaf miners, feed heavily on the host plant once they hatch.
The edges of affected leaves may appear chewed or ragged.
The issue is that caterpillars can eat the entire leaf before moving on to the next one. They strip your pothos naked if left unchecked in large numbers.
How to Control Caterpillars
Caterpillars are particularly difficult for me to control as a gardener. This is due to the fact that they will soon transform into beneficial garden pollinators such as butterflies.
However, there are several control methods you can use:
- If they’re few, simply handpick, squish, or discard them
- You can also rely on natural predators like birds and parasitic wasps
- Apply ready-to-use, microbial sprays based on biological controls like Bacillus thuringiensis. Re-spray after every 5-7 days until caterpillars are effectively eliminated.
- Set up floating-row or drawstring covers over your outdoor pothos. These garden protectors will also discourage moths from laying eggs on your plant.
Earwigs (Forficula auriculata)
Earwigs typically prefer to feast on pests like aphids. But these pincher bugs can also feed on the leaves of your pothos. They seldom fly and hide under mulch, wet leaves, and rocks.
Like most bugs I’ve mentioned so far, earwigs are also nocturnal. You can find them on your porch, patio, or garden when the lights come on.
If you spot some jagged holes in pothos leaves, it’s highly likely you have an infestation of earwigs. They do most of the damage at night and after heavy irrigation or rains.
Too much moisture drives them out of where they hide to your pothos.
Control and Management of Earwigs
Set up several shallow saucer traps filled with a sweet substance. I like to use corn syrup, thick soy sauce, or molasses instead. They won’t be able to crawl out of the suffocating liquid.
Indoors, seal any gaps, cracks, or other entry points. When I find earwigs in my house, I vacuum them up.
Use an insecticide containing Spinosad. It’s non-toxic and works well against earwigs.
Flea beetle damage and leaf holes are sometimes confused with slug and snail damage. These bugs feed on the foliage matter found between the veins of the leaves.
As a result, there are many small rounded, irregular holes between veins.
Adult flea beetles are very small (about 1/16–1/8th inch long). They can be metallic gray, bluish brown, bronze, or black. Pothos that has been severely infested by these bugs becomes stunted and wilted.
Control and Management of Flea Beetles
You can use a combo of chemical and non-chemical controls to manage flea beetle infestation on your pothos.
- Use yellow sticky traps
- Use floating cover rows to protect outdoor pothos from the pests
- Use natural predators like braconid wasp to eliminate flea beetles
- Apply garden pesticides based on pyrethrins, spinosad, malathion, or cyfluthrin
(Source: University of Minnesota)
Oval or Angular Lesions
Fungal infections such as Anthracnose are usually to blame for angular or oval lesions on your pothos. Anthracnose is a fungal leaf spot disease caused by fungi from the genus Colletotrichum.
It usually attacks pothos in the early spring when it is cool and wet.
One of the first signs of the disease is the appearance of small or irregular dark brown dead spots on the undersides. Lesions will darken and sink over time, resulting in holes.
Large interveinal dead blotches and dead leaf tips and edges are also symptoms.
Pothos leaves that have been affected may become shriveled, distorted, and drop off prematurely.
Control and Treatment
Remove and discard infected pothos parts. After each use, make sure to clean your hands and gardening tools.
Control pests such as spider mites, which can spread the Anthracnose fungus.
Using a copper-based fungicide, thoroughly spray pothos.
Scalloped edges on pothos leaves indicate a bug infestation with chewing mouthparts. They frequently cause harm to the bites of weevils, caterpillars, slugs, snails, and beetles.
Some of these pests are capable of chewing through entire leaves before moving on to the remaining foliage.
Pothos with scalloped leaves may experience stunted growth. The leaves may yellow, dieback, or fall off prematurely.
These cuts may serve as entry points for bacterial and fungal infections in some cases.
How to Get Rid of Bugs that Cause Scalloped Edges on Pothos
You can use a combination of cultural, biological, and chemical controls to get rid of them.
- Larger and visible bugs like caterpillars, slugs, and snails are easy to handpick. Make sure to kill and dispose of them properly.
- Use natural predators. This biological method is often safe and won’t cost you much. In a garden, you can use welcoming tactics for birds, lizards, etc. Others include parasitic wasps, parasitic nematodes, and predatory beetles.
- Use commercial or homemade traps based on beer, syrup, molasses, or even cornmeal
- Create a diatomaceous earth barrier around your pothos. It’ll deter most bugs like snails, slugs, and more
- Apply a systemic insecticide or pesticide, although I recommend that it be your last resort.
- You can also take your plant outdoors or to the shower and hose down the bugs. Direct a strong stream of water from all directions to ensure all pests are knocked off.
 Physical Damage
Physical damage is another common cause of holes in pothos leaves. It could be an unintended injury sustained while moving or repositioning your pothos.
Other causes of leaf damage include pests, children playing, and mobile toys.
Most of the time, the physical damage occurred while the foliage was still tender and rolled up.
This is particularly true if your pothos is parked in a high-traffic area such as a hallway, entrance, or bathroom.
Your pothos leaves were occasionally damaged when they were young. As your pothos matures, the holes will appear in the damaged areas.
If the holes are too large and unsightly, you should consider pruning out the offending leaves.
Other significant causes of holes in pothos leaves include leaf spot diseases. Anthracnose, Septoria, and rust are the most common. How did you determine whether leaf spot diseases or another cause was to blame?
Septoria leaf spots are typically round with a black border. You may suspect mold growth on your pothos leaves. Eventually, the foliage will turn black, shrivel, and develop holes.
Fungal rust spots on pothos are common in the late summer. They appear on the undersides of leaves as dark rusty brown clusters. Warm, wet weather promotes the spread of the disease.
Anthracnose symptoms begin as small black, brown, or beige spots on the skin. The dead spots or holes in the foliage are typically irregular.
In all of these instances, the brownish spots eventually cause holes in the pothos leaves. Poor air circulation, damp conditions, and a lack of light are common causes.
Control and Management
- Remove and discard plant waste, debris, and dead matter from around your pothos
- Boost ventilation around your pothos by pruning and spacing your plants
- Control moisture by avoiding overwatering, overhead irrigation, and splashing water on leaves
- Apply fungicides early before the disease spreads
 Boron Deficiency
Boron is essential for the growth and health of your pothos. Boron deficiency is characterized by rusty appearance and dead holes on pothos leaves. Other indicators include:
- Wrinkled, curled, or twisted new leaves
- Dead areas and twisted growth at growing leaf tips
- Rough, ragged, or hollow stems
- New foliage feels leathery or brittle to the touch
- Unhealthy, thick, and short roots
I prefer using boric acid or borax to treat boron deficiencies. I usually dilute and add to regular water-soluble houseplant fertilizer.
You can use borax as a foliar spray, too.
 Excess Fertilizer
Over-fertilizing your pothos can result in very rapid growth. This is especially true if you use a fertilizer with a high nitrogen content.
Because the leaves unroll too quickly, they will crack at small points, eventually forming holes.
You must get rid of excess fertilizer. To do so:
- Sit your pothos in a bathtub, shower, or sink
- Water thoroughly to flush out excess fertilizer salt buildup
- Repeat 3-4 times or as needed
- Allow your pothos to drain properly in between flushes
Pothos isn’t a heavy feeder. So, to avoid over-fertilization, apply a balanced water-soluble houseplant fertilizer once every one to two months.
 Low Humidity
Pothos is a plant that thrives in high humidity. So, if you notice holes in mostly new foliage, low humidity is most likely to blame. This usually happens in the winter.
When there is a lack of humidity, the leaf ridges often become dry and crispy due to moisture loss. As a result, as new leaf growths unfurl, they stick together and crack. As a result, holes form.
- Set up a humidity water tray with pebbles near your pothos
- Mist your pothos regularly
- Use a humidifier to boost humidity as needed.