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Brown Spots on Pothos (Causes and Treatment)

Pothos is a tropical ornamental vine that is grown primarily for the beauty of its foliage. Sadly, fungal and bacterial diseases can affect the leaves of pothos. Brown spots on your pothos can be caused by a variety of factors, including disease and improper care.

Single node cutting is the most common commercial and home propagation method for pothos. In many cases, cuttings from pothos plants can carry the organism that causes brown spots on the leaves and stems of the plants.

I’ll talk about the most common fungal and bacterial diseases that cause brown spots and what you can do about it.

Showing brown spots on indoor  pothos leaves

Phytophthora Root Rot

It is common for cuttings to have this disease when they are used to starting a new plant. The disease later affects the mature plant.

Also, when there is stagnant water in the root zone and a lot of moisture in the air, it makes it easy for these diseases to spread. It’s common for it to begin in the roots and spread to other parts of the plant.

Upward Spreading Pothos Rot Rot
Upward Spreading Pothos Rot Rot

Phytophthora spores also multiply in soil and can survive for years. So as soon as a moist environment is available, the pathogen attacks the plant from the roots up. This organism is responsible for root rot.

It can be seen from the petiole to the leaf base as the disease progresses, and it spreads quickly towards the leaf tip.

At some point, the brown and black spots on the petiole of the leaf will spread across the leaf.

Signs of Phytophthora Root Rot on Pothos
Signs of Phytophthora Root Rot on Pothos

It’s very easy for phytophthora spores to spread through irrigation water. Water splashed from diseased plants has the potential to infect other plants. So, make sure to irrigate your pothos with clean water.

Prevention and Treatment

Pothos Wilting Due to Phytophthora Root Rot on Pothos
Brown and black spots on the petiole of the leaf will spread across the leaf

Isolation is the best way to stop the spread of the disease. If you can see early signs of the disease, make sure to get rid of the whole plant.

This disease spreads like wildfire with the water that is used to water the plants. Spray fungicide on other plants as well to prevent further damage.

Direct Sun Exposure Causes Leaf Burn

Brown Spots on Pothos Due to Sunburn
Brown Spots on Pothos Due to Sunburn

Direct light will almost certainly cause scorching. It is common for sunburned Pothos leaves to have brown spots or edges. The Pothos is more likely to get sunburned if placed near a window or outside in the direct sunlight.

Pothos thrive in well-lit, indirect-lit areas. However, Pothos can generally thrive in a wide range of light conditions, from low-light to bright indirect lighting.

You should avoid putting your Pothos in direct sunlight, dry air, or rooms with excessive heat.

Low Humidity

Low humidity is an issue that many plants face. A large variety of plants, Pothos included, need humidity and moisture in the air.

This is separate from watering the soil and focuses more on the plant itself instead of the roots. 

Dry conditions can create browning in Pothos so be sure to mist the plant regularly if there is any speculation of this being the cause.

Dry, hot air will shrivel and dry up the plant by removing the moisture, similar to direct sunlight. Low humidity results In browning around the edges of the leaves.

Soon after, the entire leaf may become yellow and brown and there will be a loss of the beautiful foliage that is present on the Pothos. 

Invest in a humidifier, make a DIY pebble tray, or mist it with a spray bottle. When misting, put it in the finest setting so you do not leave the plant soaked in water droplets.

It may even be beneficial to surround the plant with a few wet large rocks to allow for evaporation to take place and create humidity the same way a pebble tray would.

I have written an article about pothos humidity requirement, which also discusses some creative ways to improve humidity for pothos.

Pests

Pothos that is stressed is more likely to get insect infestation. By stressed, we don’t mean the plant is working long hours and coming home to a messy kitchen.

The stress signals that are emitted from plants occur when plants are weak and are not getting proper love and care. If the pothos isn’t receiving enough water or is being neglected, it will emit stress signals naturally.

Pest picks up on these signals and will attack to take advantage of the Pothos, like a damsel in a distress situation. Issues such as humidity or watering problems will cause the plant to emit these signals.

Spider mites and other bugs that feast on the plant’s moisture levels, quite literally suck the life out of the plants. The moisture that is within the Pothos is drained from the plant’s tissue cells.

The lack of moisture in the plant after the bug drains creates the browning issue. The more moisture drained, the quicker the browning process. A pest deterring oil can aid in this problem and keep your plant safe.

Leaf Spot Diseases

Pothos aren’t commonly affected by leaf spot diseases but it is still a possible issue. Small, brown, elevated spots or large brown patches can give a plant owner a hint that there may be a fungal issue going on. 

A hard-hitting leaf spot issue can ruin a Pothos plant if you do not treat it early on.

To treat this horrendous disease, begin by picking off the leaves affected by the leaf spots, or cutting them off. Properly clean whatever you used to prune so you don’t spread the disease to other plants.

Avoid letting water collect on the foliage and keep any mist away from the plant’s leaves. Fungus thrives in damp places so be wary of the water accumulation if the soil isn’t properly drained or if the water pools on the leaves.

Moving the plants to a dryer area and away from the humidity that Pothos are known for needing will aid this process. By keeping the air dry, the fungus won’t have a place to thrive and multiply.

Additionally, consider an air purifier or an open window to keep the circulating air fresh and fungus-free.

This can minimize the spread of the fungus that can hop onto other plants altogether. Try keeping the plant isolated to protect your other plant babies

Watering Issues

In general, only water a plant when necessary to avoid damage to the plant. Always allow the plant’s soil to dry to a certain extent before you water again.

For a Pothos, you should be able to stick two fingers into the soil and feel for moisture. If half of your finger is dry, then it’s time for a watering session.

It’s best to water your plants based on the plant’s needs, not from a time schedule. An efficient tool is that is perfect to invest in is a watering meter so you can check your Pothos water levels daily. 

Overwatering and underwatering is a problem that creates issues such as browning of the leaves and can result in plant death. Proving a draining system to keep the soil from being too wet and creating root rot.

Drains most often come in the form of singular holes at the bottom but it generally depends on the type of pot that you buy.

Put a plate below it if necessary but do not let the plant sit in that water. Allowing the plant to sit in the water without pouring off the excess runoff can cause fungus and root rot.

Always be consistent with watering your Pothos! Alternations between extremely dry soil and oversaturated soil can take place when there isn’t proper attention and caretaking in place. This may result in browning foliage and possible death.

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

Fertilizer or Fungicide Burn Causing Brown Spots

Some fungicides and fertilizers can make the leaves of a plant burn or get scorched. Foliage that fungicides or fertilizers have burned will have white bleached spots and brown spots on its tips or entire leaves.

However, because it removes moisture from the roots, fertilizer can cause root damage if used excessively.

Adding fertilizer to an already-dry plant in hot and dry conditions is a recipe for disaster.

It’s essential to keep the plant’s soil wet when fertilizing so that you don’t overpower the plant and drain it entirely of water.

The best way to keep fertilizer off the leaves is to brush it off, wipe it off, or avoid using it at all on the leaves themselves.

It is critical to remember that fertilizer should be applied at half the recommended rate. This way will provide nutrients to your pothos while avoiding overdosing.

There’s also composting as a choice! Unlike synthetic fertilizer, organic fertilizer decomposes slowly and releases nutrients over time, preventing overdose.

DIY Compost Tips

Tip 1:  Always mix wet and dry ingredients together. Most of the wet ingredients are made up of leaves and fruit scraps from your garden as well as compost and manure. Crushed eggshells, coffee filters, and wood chips are among the dry ingredients.

Tip 2: Only use organic matter. This includes almost everything you’ve eaten or that animals could eat! Food scraps and kitchen waste are unquestionably winners.

Rust

Rust isn’t something that you think of when you’re questioning plant issues. You’re more likely to be concerned about rust on our car than rust on your photos.

However, it is an issue and worth addressing! Rust is primarily found on the leaves that are closest to the soil rather than higher up on the pothos.

First, you will find small spots on the underside of the leaf and possibly the stem. Those spots and dots will slowly grow to become massive clusters of burnt sienna (red-orange) colored messes.

This is an indication of rust and a sign that you need to do something about it!

Rust loves low light, warmth, and moisture such as wet circumstances and swampy air. You can treat rust issues by watering early on so you pothos have all day to sunbathe and dry themselves out.

Also, try picking off infected leaves so it doesn’t spread to the rest of the plant. You can also attempt to use a bio-fungicide spray to treat the disease if it’s too powerful.

Do not compost infected plants or you will be spreading the disease further! 

Fungal Leaf Spots

Fungal leaf spots occur when fungal spores that drift through the air, find their way to an unsuspecting victim to grip.

When it becomes firmly planted and adapts to its new environment, as long as it is moist and warm, the fungus will multiply.

The brown spots will spread until it consumes the entire pothos leaf and turns it into a brown mess! Pothos leaves can turn black due to fungal infection. Read this article to learn the causes and solutions to the problem.

When the leaf completely turns brown and falls to the soil, the spore army hops off and takes refuge in the soil; waiting for a poor soul of a warm and wet surface so it can start the process again.

Prevention can be simple as long as you’re consistent by watering the soil only and no foliage. Don’t create the perfect breeding grounds for the fungus.

This means that you should avoid misting and keep the leaves dry. Try isolating your pothos that has the fungal issue to avoid the spread of spores to every other plant surrounding it.

If the pothos has been severely affected, always remove the leaves that have been hurt by the fungus.

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Anthracnose

Anthracnose is a specific fungal disease that affects plants such as Pothos. It causes dark marks on all parts of plants such as the stem and leaves.

Anthracnose can spread and develop quickly during wet and rainy conditions or environments. Anthracnose appears as small yellow and brown spots that are strangely shaped.

To control Anthracnose, remove the infected parts of the plant and destroy it. Use a copper-based fungicide to rid the plant of Anthracnose but sparingly, so you don’t end up doing more harm than good.

Copper can be extremely toxic.

Look for resistant types of Pothos that don’t get wrapped up in Anthracnose so easily. Keep the soil well-drained and use an efficient composting system to keep the Pothos healthy.

Investing in watering globes(click here to see them on amazon) for slow and controlled watering may help as well.

For the treatment of fungal diseases. Here are the fungicides I recommend:

Name of The FungicideAmountAmount of Water
Bonide 811 Copper 4E Fungicide1-4 tablespoons (.05-2.0 fl oz)1 gallon of water
Garden Safe Brand Fungicide32 tablespoons (1 fl oz) 1 gallon of water
Southern Ag – Liquid Copper Fungicide3-4 tablespoons1 gallon of water

Bacterial Leaf Spot 

The Bacterial Leaf Spot disease is caused by tiny organisms that we as humans can’t see with our eyes. Bacteria are everywhere and although some are healthy, these are not.

Those small suckers are what cause the plant to have so many issues through this dreadful disease. Wet, cold conditions can promote the bacteria colonies and give them the perfect environment to thrive.

The quick division of bacteria can allow the singular bacteria soldiers to multiply and spread in no time at all.

When temperatures are just right, it will reproduce quickly and grow to cover your pothos. This disease is extremely contagious so if the pothos has this, then keep them away from other plants.

Early identification of the bacteria can make or break the Pothos’ life expectancy. Look out for brown spots and color variation on the leaves.

It can occur at any section of the plant and kill sections of tissue as the bacteria grow into larger “army” clusters. Dead and damaged tissue can create brown and yellow because of the lack of moisture.

Natural Browning

Sometimes, browning is natural. The natural browning can be from new growth pushing out and taking nutrients. This will cause the older leaves to turn brown and fall off.

You can determine this by the location of the browning leaves. If the browning leaves are near the bottom and new leaves are springing at the top, then this is the likely perpetrator. 

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How to Prevent Brown Spots on Pothos

A plant lover can prevent brown spots on Pothos by becoming consistent with checking on the plant’s needs. 

Be attentive and create a proper watering system that works for you as a caretaker as well as matches the needs of the Pothos. Be consistent with pruning, watering, and checking moisture levels in the air. 

The issues of spotting come mainly from creating stress in the plant. Stressors of the plant include poor moisture levels, too much salt in the soil, lack of humidity, direct sunlight, and too much water with no proper draining.

By preventing these issues, you prevent fungus, scorching, bacteria, pest, and more.

As a caretaker, you want to give fungus and other diseases no reason to pop up or have a place to thrive. Invest in a water meter and place your plant in an area where it will thrive. 

Remember that natural browning is possible and that the location of the browning can help determine that. Trying to treat a misdiagnosed issue that isn’t there will hurt more than help.

Final Words

In conclusion, take good care of your Pothos so they will thrive. It can be hard seeing a plant not doing well when you as a caretaker place so much effort into it. Stay positive and keep up with constant monitoring of your Pothos.

It may only take one neglectful week to spring a busload of problems. Listen to the needs of the plant so it can stay healthy and strong.

Remember to act quickly if you spot a problem or reach out to someone for help if you’re unsure of what’s going on. A happy pothos is a healthy one.