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How to Save Overwatered Pothos (Devil’s Ivy)

Indoor pothos showing overwatered symptoms.

Overwatering is a typical problem in indoor plants including pothos. It’s a form of stress that mainly affects the roots. Particularly, potted plants suffer more from overwatering because of the limited space there is to diffuse water. 

We know water is a basic requirement for plants to grow. But it’s equally important to learn how to regulate the amount your plant receives. This is one factor that will determine the success of your pothos plant.

If you’ve accidentally overwatered your pothos, you can save them by first looking at the extent of the damage. From there, you can make up solutions such as draining excess water, withdrawal of water application, digging and overturning the soil, trimming off of dead leaves, and repotting. 

Underwatered vs Overwatered Pothos

Too much or too little water is detrimental to the health of your pothos plant. Without proper watering, plants are prone to developing diseases that will make them vulnerable.

The outward appearance of your pothos plant will show whether it’s happy or not with the amount of water it receives.

Underwatered pothos looks wilted and crisply brown because of their dehydrated condition. Plants continuously lose water by means of transpiration. When water is lacking, roots will have to exert so much effort absorbing moisture from the soil. 

Since water is responsible for maintaining turgidity in cells, the lack of it causes the cells to shrink. Prolonged drought conditions can certainly cause the death of your pothos.

Overwatered pothos also develops browning but the difference is that it’s soft and limp.

When the water present is more than what the plants can utilize, the tendency is for this water to remain stagnant in the soil.

This creates a flooded condition where the roots remain submerged in water for longer periods. 

Excess water molecules fill in the air pockets. As a result, oxygen is driven off and the roots will find it hard to breathe. Suffocated roots eventually die, thus, root rot occurs. 

Common Signs of Overwatered Pothos

Overwatering shows various signs that are detectable just by observing the changes in the plant’s appearance.

If you’re an observant plant owner (and you should be), you’re most probably familiar with how an overwatered plant looks like. But to be sure, here are some indications of overwatering in your pothos.

Brown Spots on Leaves

Brown spots on leaves can mean a lot of things but the most common reason behind this problem is excess water. These spots are a result of the swelling off of the cells from so much water. 

The swelled part would look like blisters on the leaf surface. When these erupt, they form brown lesions.

I’ve written an entire article about this common problem, which covers the causes and solutions for brown spots on pothos.

Root Rot

You’ve probably heard root rot several times as this is often mentioned when we talk about overwatering. Because roots serve at the frontline when it comes to water absorption, they’re the first to get affected during waterlogging.

Roots need oxygen for the respiration process to occur. This is where sugars are being broken down to produce energy for plant consumption.

When roots are drowned in water, the oxygen supply gets limited and so the cells would not receive enough oxygen. The energy generated through respiration declines so plants have the tendency to die.

This article goes into more detail about Saving Pothos from root rot and explains some of the best ways to revive the plant and avoid the watering mistakes.

Mold Growing on Soil

Have you noticed a white powdery coating that appears on the soil’s surface? These probably are molds that have gotten the chance to grow because the condition is ideal.

A moist environment is highly favorable for molds (fungi) to grow. When the soil is consistently wet with overwatering, the spores will get the chance to develop.

Shriveled and Mushy Appearance

Overwatered pothos would look limp and soft. When you touch the brown portions of the plant, they would feel mushy on your fingers. 

At times, they have a mildewy odor when smelled. This is an indication that those smelly portions are starting to rot.

Yellowing of Leaves

Another sign of overwatering is the yellowing of leaves, particularly the older leaves. These leaves that are close to the base of the plant are most likely to get affected when roots start to rot.

Rotten roots will no longer function. As a result, nutrients and water uptake are heavily affected. 

The lack of nutrients can easily show in the leaves in the form of necrosis thus the yellowing. Moisture stress also leads to the yellowing of leaves.

Pothos Leaves Wrinkled

Overwatering can also lead to wrinkled leaves. Those leaves that have developed blisters will have a tendency to wrinkle because of the deformed surface.

The leaf tips that have turned brown due to overwatering will also wrinkle. The damaged portions will always have an effect on the overall look of the leaves.

Wilting Pothos

When your pothos starts wilting due to excess water, it’s a sign that your plant is close to dying. In under watered plants, wilting can be reversed by adding sufficient water but you can’t do that with overwatered ones. 

The extent of damage in roots has gone far to the point that it can no longer support the plant’s need for water and nutrients.

Pothos Leaves Curling

There are a lot of possible reasons why your pothos leaves are curling. One of them is overwatering. 

When the leaf curls in a downward direction, then water must be the problem. Ironically, the curling happens due to the lack of water transported to the leaves. 

Roots are unable to distribute water to various parts of the plants including the leaves. Thus, they curl as an attempt to conserve water. 

Curling lessens the surface area of the plant thus reducing the transpiration rate. It’s a way of adaptation to drought conditions.

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How to Save Overwatered Pothos

If you’ve seen signs of overwatering in your pothos, don’t panic. Not all over-watering problems lead to the death of your plant. However, it’s crucial that you make interventions to prevent further damage.

Below are ways on how to save overwatered pothos: 

Assess the Extent of Damage

First find out how severe the damage is. This is important because this will dictate the next step you should take. 

Is your pothos just starting to show signs? Or, is the majority of the signs mentioned already present? Here’s how you can save your overwatered pothos.

Drain Excess Water

Check if the draining holes are working properly. You may use a stick to poke the holes and see if there’s stagnant water.

This is just a quick fix especially after you’ve just watered and the soil seemed overly saturated. 

Withdraw Water for Several Days to Weeks

This is a logical thing to do. There’s no point in adding water when water is excessive and your pothos roots are drowning already. 

Allow the soil to dry by exposing it to light. This will facilitate faster evaporation. 

Dig and Overturn the Soil

This will help provide proper aeration for the roots. By digging, you are improving the soil structure creating more spaces for oxygen to be available. 

It will also help dry the soil faster. Overturning will expose the wet soil below allowing it more exposure to air.

Trim Off Damaged Leaves 

Cut off those leaves that have turned out yellow and brown. They will end up rotting anyway so it’s best to get rid of them now.

Keep the healthy leaves intact and see how they respond to the interventions you’ve previously made. If the yellowing stops, then you’re on the right track in saving your pothos. 

Repot the Plant

There are times when repotting is the only option you have to save your pothos. You have to pull the plant out of its pot, trim the rotten roots off, air dry, and repot it in a new pot with fresh soil. 

This is a perfect solution especially if the roots and the soil are already infected with pathogens. We’ve known that overwatering can give rise to the growth of fungi that may bring certain diseases. 

Repotting will allow you to clean the root system and treat it before you plant it again. This will prevent the spread of disease. 

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How to Water Pothos Properly

Watering your pothos is one important skill you have to learn. In the care and maintenance of plants, most people find it hard to strike a balance.

Remember that watering includes techniques that you can employ to make the most of it. 

Watering from Below or Top

Watering from Below

One method to provide water more efficiently is by watering from the bottom up. Instead of pouring water on top of the soil, you’ll allow the pot to sit in a container with water until it gets saturated. 

This technique is less prone to overwatering because water is absorbed from the bottom. That way, just enough water is drawn up by the roots.

There’s no room for excess water to settle in the pot. You can check the soil moisture by dipping your finger at least an inch deeper to see if water has reached that point.

Watering from Top

If you’re less confident of watering from the bottom, then do it the classic way. You can water from the top but make sure that water drains out well. 

Use a watering can with a long snout to avoid sprinkling on the foliage. Water all around the pot and make sure to water deeply. 

Leave your pot for a few minutes to drain. After that, you can place it back to its usual location.

Watering Frequency

There’s no exact rule to set when it comes to watering frequency. It’s rather influenced by certain factors such as temperature, humidity, and light. 

To make it simple, water your pothos when the soil has dried up. Note that it should not be the topsoil that dries but at least half of its depth.

When humidity is high, reduce water frequency. Do the same thing when the temperature is lower like during winter. 

Light availability influences the rate of evapotranspiration. When light is available all day, you can give water to your pothos more frequently.

Water Quality

It’s not just the amount of water that leads to overwatering but the quality of water as well. If you use poor quality water for your pothos, there’s a high chance of developing injury in the roots. 

Water that’s high in salts will build up in the soil and will cause this injury. I’ve mentioned earlier how roots lose their functions once they get damaged. 

Use rain or filtered water as much as possible. If there’s none, tap water will do but allow it to stand for 24 hours first before using it on your pothos.

Amount of Water

This depends on the size of your plant and its pot. Smaller pothos needs less amount of water while the bigger ones need more. 

Through time, your pothos water consumption will increase as they grow. You can adjust the amount you pour into the pots to make sure that its roots will have enough supply. 

Using the same watering can help you develop a sense of familiarity as to how much water to give to each plant.

Timing of Application 

It’s not advisable to water at night because the rate of evaporation is low. The transpiration rate is also slower during this time because of lower temperatures.

Water your plant in the morning. This will allow enough window time for the plant to lose excess water as compared to night time. 

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Common Mistakes in Watering Pothos

Most of us learn by making mistakes and that’s fine. After all, the experience is still the best teacher. Just make sure not to make the same mistakes over again. 

To know which practices to avoid, here are common mistakes we often do when it comes to watering our pothos. 

Common MistakesHow to Avoid
Inconsistent WateringMake it a habit to check on your plants daily. See if the soil has dried or not. If you’re faithful in meeting your plants on a regular basis, you’re less likely to miss their demands. 
Watering too MuchUse the same watering container. You’re most likely to develop familiarity with the amount of water to give if you use the same container. 
Wet Soil from OverwateringAlways drain the water out every after watering. Check if the drain holes work. Give time for water to flow out before you bring them back to its place. If you’re using saucers at the bottom of your pot, make sure to remove stagnant water. We do not want our pothos sitting on the water we’ve previously drained.
Watering the Leaves and Not the Roots Water from the bottom up to avoid touching the foliage. If you choose to water from the top, use a watering container with a long snout so water is directly poured unto the soil. Avoid using sprinklers. 
Watering During the Heat of the Day Establish a watering routine early in the morning. If you’re not an early riser, at least bring your plant somewhere shaded so that when you wake up late, the plant has not been exposed to extreme heat yet. You can give water to it and place it back to receive sunshine. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my pothos drooping?

Drooping is a sign that your pothos is under stress. It can be due to excess heat or strong light intensities. It can be due to overwatering or underwatering. Exposure to cold and heat drafts can also lead to the same fate. 

Stress can also be caused by biotic factors such as the presence of bacteria, fungi, and other organisms that bring harm to your pothos. 

Do pothos like to be misted?

If you’re planning on misting your pothos, save it because there’s no need to. Pothos can tolerate low humidity so they will definitely survive even without the added moisture. In fact, misting will do more bad than good on your pothos.  

It will encourage the growth of unwanted pathogens. And, we certainly don’t want this to happen. 

How do I know if my pothos has root rot?

What happens below the soil will certainly reflect on the aboveground portions of your pothos. The common sign of root rot is yellowing or browning leaves that appear limp and mushy when touched. 

Older leaves usually show these signs because they’re close to the roots of the plants. When you try to move the base of the plant, they’re sometimes soft and weak indicating that roots have rotten.

Check out this article about How to save your pothos from root rot.

The problem of overwatering may seem a little intimidating at first. This is especially true if you’re a beginner in the field of indoor gardening. But no worries because overwatering is really a normal obstacle for every plant owner. 

Even pothos, which can thrive in a water medium, is not exempted from overwatering. The thing is watering is not as simple as we think it is. There are factors to consider, proper techniques to know before you water your plant.  

Through time, you’ll get familiar with the system. You’ll learn the tricks to your pothos. And, you’ll be able to successfully grow one at the comforts of your home.

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