How to Treat Brown Spots on Pothos (Devil’s Ivy)


Showing brown spots on indoor  pothos leaves

Pothos thrives in bright lighting as well as darker spaces and is a hearty plant that gives a fight before it throws in the towel. 

An issue that you may find plaguing your Pothos is browning foliage. Although this may be scary, do not let it cause a fluctuation in your green thumb confidence.

Browning and other various foliage spotting is an issue that plenty of plant care takers go through. The treatments are simple if you keep up with it while giving your Pothos love and care.

How to Treat Brown Spots on Pothos: To treat brown spots on Pothos, be attentive to your plant, and narrow down the issue of what is going on. Pruning the Pothos, using insecticide oil, antifungal treatments, and getting rid of excess moisture can help treat the brown and yellow spotting. Keep in mind that natural browning is a possibility and is not a danger to your Pothos. 

Causes of Brown Spots on Pothos

Let’s know about the causes in details and how you can fix the problems.

Excess light and scorching

Scorching is often referred to as “leaf scorch” in plants. It is the browning of plant tissues and results in wilting, the darkening and yellowing of the leaves, and browning around the edges of the leaves.

Excessive light and direct sunlight cause this unsightly issue. 

Pothos do well in bright, indirectly lighted rooms. The standard of brightness varies depending on what type of pothos it is but generally, they can survive in low light environments to bright indirect light.

Direct light will most certainly create an issue of scorching. The harsh sunlight rays will burn the plant’s tissue cells and create the oh-so-dreadful browning.

Avoid placing your Pothos in direct sunlight, places with dry air, or extremely hot rooms.

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 the 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, similarly 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 on 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.

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 it, 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 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 on to 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 in two fingers into the soil and feel for moisture. If half of your finger is dry, then its 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.

Fertilizer Issues

Fertilizer is painted as a God-sent miracle for plants everywhere. It does, however, hold the strength to deeply harm your plant child. 

Many chemicals can cause burn or scorching to the leaves of a plant. The “scorched” appearance is what creates the brown and yellowing around the edges of leaves or the entire leaf itself.

Surprisingly, this includes something we all love and cherish– fertilizer. Fertilizer burn is a condition in over-fertilized plants in which applying too much fertilizer to the soil or foliage causes damage.

Fertilizer contains nutrients but when used in excess, it can also create root damage because of the moisture that it sucks out from the plant.

Fertilizing it hot and dry weather is the perfect storm for high levels of moisture loss given that the plant is likely already dry.

In order to prevent this, be sure to fertilize only as needed. Overfertilization exists and is detrimental to the health of your Pothos.

Keep the soil of the Plant moist when you are fertilizing, as to not overpower the plant and drain it completely of moisture. Keep fertilizer off the leaves by either brushing it off, wiping it off, or avoiding the leaves completely.

Look for soil only fertilizers so you don’t have to risk getting it on the leaves or it will dry out the moisture from the plant’s cell tissue. Direct contact of fertilizer to leaf will surely kill the plant.

Another alternative is composting! Compost is organic scraps that break down and help soil thrive.

The nutrients that are left from the old organic scrapings can go into the soil to help it stay healthy! 

If you create a great compost mix, it can replace the need for fertilizer together.

Source: University of Maryland Extension

Here is a DIY compost ingredient list and tips:

  • Tip:  Always create a blend of wet and dry ingredients. The wet ingredients are usually greens and fruit scraps, manure, and old pruning from your garden. The dry ingredients are pieces of wood, branches, coffee filters, crushed eggshells, etc.
  • Tip: Stick to organic matter only. This means most things that you’ve eaten, or animals could eat! Food scraps and kitchen waste are always winners. Avoid meat or animal products so you don’t attract wildlife.

Possible ingredients for the wet aspect: Seaweed, table bits, and scraps, loose tea leaves, grass or garden clippings, fruit and veggie peels or core, flower trimmings, etc.

Possible ingredients for the dry aspect: well-shredded Cardboard, eggshells, tree leaves, tree branches, bark, hay, wood ash from a fireplace or bonfire, etc.

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 itself 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 to.

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

The brown spots will spread until it consumes the entire pothos leaf and turns it into a brown mess!

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.

Source: University of Maryland Extension

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 for slow and controlled watering may help as well.

Bacterial Leaf Spot 

The Bacterial Leaf Spot disease is caused by tiny organisms that we as humans can’t see with our eye. Bacteria is everywhere and although some is 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 it 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. 

The best way to combat this is through fungicide and removal of affected leaves so they don’t infect adjacent leaves.

Source: Source: University of Maryland Extension

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. 

You May Also Enjoy: Why Are Aloe Leaves Turning Brown? (13 Reasons And How to Fix It)

How to Identify Brown Spot on Pothos 

The number one way to identify the brown spots on Pothos or any issues is to be attentive. Listen to your plant’s needs and take note of changes in the plant. 

In order to properly address what issue, you have, look at the location of the browning. Is the browning only on a specific part of the plant?

Is it near the bottom of the stem or the top? What section of the leaf is the browning on, around the edges, or just a few spots in the middle? 

Look for clusters of browning or color changes in the green foliage. Also, take note of small spots that are irregularly shaped and grow larger.

Monitor the spots over 2-3 days to see which of the previously mentioned causes apply to your Pothos. 

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 matching 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 it 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 what’s going on. A happy pothos is a healthy one.

Arifur Rahman

I'm the owner of gardenforindoor.com. After completing my bachelor of science in agriculture, I'm serving as a civil service officer at the Department of Agricultural Extension, Bangladesh. I started Garden For Indoor to make your indoor gardening journey easy and enjoyable.

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