Anyone who has a pothos plant knows how frustrating it can be when the leaves turn brown. In this case, there are several factors at play, all of which are easily remedied. Your plant will be as vibrant as ever after making a few minor adjustments.
Pothos leaves turning brown as a result of poor watering. This problem can be caused by both overwatering and underwatering of the soil. Pothos leaves can turn brown due to a variety of factors including pest infestation, fungal diseases, improper fertilizer application, too much or too little light, and other environmental factors.
This article will teach you how to identify browning Pothos leaves, as well as the cause and cure. You’ll discover how to avoid browning Pothos leaves and some general Pothos care tips.
How to Identify Browning Leaves on my Pothos
This seems intuitive. If your leaves are brown that is how to tell if you have browning leaves. But there are actually a few other tips that you should look for as first signs of browning leaves.
Yellow leaves, either at the tip of the leaf or from the center growing outward, are the first sign of browning Pothos leaves. You may also notice that your leaves feel drier to the touch, or the plant looks droopy, in general.
If you see a brown or yellow leaf like this, remove it. This will allow your plant to focus on healthy leaves and will improve the overall health of your Pothos.
Causes of Pothos Leaves Turning Brown
In this section, I’ll walk you through the details so that you can identify the exact cause before taking any countermeasures.
Pothos plants thrive in dry, warm, environments. This means that over-watering your plant is the number one cause of browning leaves.
How you water your Pothos will vary depending on their size, location in the home, and environment. A smaller plant will need less water than a bigger companion.
A general rule for watering houseplants is to water until the soil is moist. You can tell it’s watered enough when the water runs through the drainage hole in the bottom of your plant.
This advice works for Pothos plants, as well. But, you will wait to water until the soil has had some time to dry out.
Testing the soil by inserting your finger about 1 inch (2.54 cm) into the soil. If it feels damp, or if wet soil sticks to your fingers then the Pothos needs a bit more time to dry before watering again.
You can also use a moisture meter to test the hydration levels of your Pothos.
Allowing your Pothos to dry a bit between each watering should reduce the number of brown leaves.
If you adjust your watering and are still having browning leaves then it is likely due to something else. Below are more reasons your Pothos leaves are browning.
This article goes into more detail about Saving Overwatered Pothos and how to water properly.
While it is important to let your soil dry a bit between watering, consistency is still key. Take note of the timeline your Pothos plant seems to be on, and try to maintain regular watering.
Pothos plants are hardy, so do not need too much particular care. But establishing a watering schedule will reduce the chance of browning leaves.
If you are watering your Pothos the right amount on a schedule this will keep your Pothos plant happy. This means watering your Pothos until water runs through the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot.
The exact timeline will vary by individual plant, but watering roughly once a week is enough. Keep an eye on your soil for the first few weeks and if the soil is still moist at the one-week mark give it a few more days.
Your plant will tell you when it’s ready, and then you can create a watering routine from there.
Watering with Tap Water
Pothos plants are not picky about the quality of their water. As a houseplant that withstands quite a bit of abuse (making it a great choice for a beginner or busy gardener).
Tap water should be okay for your Pothos plant. But, if you have tried some of the other issues on this list and still find that you have brown leaves look into the water.
In general, tap water has added minerals, fluoride, and salt that can be damaging to plants. While this is an unlikely cause of your browning Pothos leaves, it is worth it to not write it off completely as a cause. (Source: University of Missouri Extension)
If you think tap water is causing your brown leaves to try using filtered water for your plants. Room temperature is best as it won’t shift the temperature of the plant much.
Scale insects and mealybugs are the most common invaders on Pothos plants. Scale insects look like small yellow blobs, sometimes with a black spot on its center.
Mealybugs are white and fuzzy. Both weaken the immune system of the plant as they suck the juice from it, which can result in browning leaves.
Keeping your plants clean will help prevent infestations. Dust your leaves with a cloth once a week to keep your Pothos pest-free!
If you already suspect an infestation or have seen pests on your Pothos there are ways to get rid of them. Insecticidal soap, neem oil, or rubbing alcohol are all effective tools.
The soap and neem oil will kill the bugs on contact via suffocation. Spray your leaves with it and the job is done.
For rubbing alcohol gently wipe each leaf with an alcohol-soaked cotton ball or towel to end the infestation.
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Bacterial wilt disease can affect your Pothos plant’s health. This is more common in the commercial production of the plant. If you notice browning leaves soon after bringing your plant home this could be the culprit.
The first sign is brown, wilted leaves, and black veins running along the stem and leaf. If you think your plant has bacterial wilt disease you can cut off one stem and place it in water.
If it’s infected you will see bacteria swimming into the water. You can also see oozing at the bottom of the stem where you cut it.
If you spot the disease early enough a simple bactericide should do the trick.
Fungal infections can cause many issues for your Pothos, including browning leaves. If you suspect a fungal infection the key is to move quickly so that the infection doesn’t spread.
Southern blight is a major fungal infection for Pothos plants. Besides having brown leaves, you will often see white strands of fungus growing from the soil up the stem.
This disease will spread especially fast if the weather is hot or the soil is wet.
You need to remove the infected parts of the plant, and put the healthy plant in a new pot. The fungus can survive on the pot and re-infect the plant.
Keep an eye on your plant for re-infection. If southern blight has spread to too much of the plant start anew.
Root Rot is a very common disease for many plants, including Pothos. This often happens because the soil is too dense, overwatering, or not enough drainage in the pot.
When there is not an opportunity for the soil to drain properly and dry out mold will grow in the moist environment. Your Pothos leaves will look yellow if infected with root rot.
Many suggest throwing a plant with root rot out (in the pot), but there are some ways to try and salvage your plant first.
Getting a new pot and clean soil will make a world of difference in your chance of reinfection. It is possible to clean your current soil and pot, but if you can afford not to risk it that is the way to go.
Clear away the old soil and remove the brown/mushy roots. Those are unsalvageable. Disinfect the healthy (white and firm) roots and allow the root system to dry out.
This is key to preventing future Root Rot issues. Once it has had time to dry replant your Pothos in the clean soil and pot and monitor your watering so it doesn’t happen again.
This article goes into more detail about how you can save pothos from root rot.
Pothos plants do best in low to medium light levels. If they get too much sunlight this can scorch the leaves, causing them to turn brown.
The first step in identifying if this is an issue for your Pothos plant is to watch the light in the room your plant is in.
Ideally, your Pothos should get 150-500 footcandles of light. (One footcandle is a measurement of one-foot radius sphere of light.)
Image of a footcandle measurement. (Source: Penn State College of Earth and Mineral Sciences)
Too much direct sunlight will scorch your Pothos’ leaves, causing them to turn brown and dry out.
If you think that your Pothos plant is getting too much light, it’s as simple as moving your plant somewhere new. An interior room with consistent indirect sunlight is best.
Lack of Light
Now it is also possible to swing too far in the other direction and give your Pothos plant too little light. The first sign that your plant is getting too little light is for the leaves to become greener.
This happens because the plant is compensating for what it would have gotten from the light. If left in this environment for too long the leaves will begin to brown as the plant dies.
If your Pothos plant gets greener and then the leaves start to brown
it’s time to move your plant. A location with more light (indirect rays are best) should help your plant perk up again in no time.
Pothos plants are good plants for beginner gardeners. They withstand a variety of living conditions. Temperature is no different.
While this is true, the ideal temperature range for Pothos plants is between 70°F (21°C) and 90°F (32°C). This means that if your Pothos gets too hot or too cold for a prolonged period of time it can go into temperature shock.
This can happen in either direction but is more common in lower temperatures. The threshold for where the Pothos plant is comfortable is so high that it is less likely to experience heat distress.
When the temperatures drop below 70°F (21°C) on a regular basis it can result in browning leaves for your Pothos plant.
If you think that your Pothos plants have brown spots from repeat exposure to the cold, turn up your heat. If that is not possible adding a space heater to the room your plant is in (don’t put it too close to the plant) will also work.
Pothos is not a picky plant when it comes to humidity levels. It comes from the South Pacific, so you would think it would need humid living conditions. But, it actually survives well in somewhat dry conditions.
Maintaining a warm consistent environment for your Pothos will help it most. Sudden changes in temperature or humidity levels could cause browning leaves.
If your temperature is consistent and you notice this, your plant might enjoy a misting. Misting your plant once a week will help with a consistent environment.
Improper Soil Usage
Pothos plants need soil that drains well. This is critical in allowing the plant to dry between each watering. If the soil is too compact it can make it much harder to not over water.
Not all potting soil is equal. Your plant will do best if you are using high-quality soil. For Pothos plants that means lots of aeration, and opportunity for drainage.
If you think your browning leaves are coming from the soil you can very gently repot your Pothos.
If you are doing this make sure that you have good drainage at the bottom of your pot. You can use pebbles, plastic recycling, or broken-up pieces of another pot.
This allows water to slide through to the drainage hole easier and reduces the amount of water in the soil.
Once you have prepared your pot you can fill it with the aerated soil and add the Pothos plant.
Try to keep the conditions relative to what they were before you repot. A Pothos plant can adjust to new soil if it’s not shocked with temperature change or new location at the same time.
It is possible that browning leaves are a result of improper fertilization. Usually, this means you are using too much fertilizer.
Too much fertilizer will cause fertilizer burn, which is another form of scorching. This shocks the plant as it is getting too much nitrogen salts and will slowly kill your plant. Browning leaf tips are the first sign that you might be over-fertilizing.
Pothos plants need a bit of fertilizer once a month. The amount depends on the size of your plant. Purchasing a quality fertilizer, and using it as directed, should prevent fertilizer burn.
Fertilizer burn can cause your pothos to turn black. This article will help you identify the other causes and how to fix it as well.
Plants don’t live forever, unfortunately. If after addressing the above and you are still struggling with browning leaves it could be due to natural causes.
The typical lifespan of a Pothos plant is five to ten years, without any disease, or infestation.
This is not to encourage you to give up on your plant. It is to remind you that if you feel like you have tried everything and your Pothos leaves are still brown it isn’t you.
Keep an eye on it, but know that it might be your plant participating in the circle of life.
It’s not easy to lose a plant, especially one that you have put so much work into. Know that plants don’t live forever. It has nothing to do with your skills as a gardener.
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Preventing Brown Leaves
Having resources for helping your plant heal if you do get brown leaves is wonderful. Having a checklist to help prevent your Pothos’ leaves from browning at all is even better!
Here are some tips to help you prevent brown leaves on your Pothos in the first place.
- Check your light levels. Pothos need regular, indirect sunlight. Direct sunlight will cause scorching, while too little light will cause your plant to use more energy than it’s consuming.
- Keep the temperature warm and regular. Checking the weather so you can prepare for days outside the 70°F (21°C) and 90°F (32°C) range. If it’s going to be cold move your plant to a warmer room, or use a space heater. If it’s going to be too hot try to keep the plant as cool as possible.
- Keep your plant clean! Regularly dusting your Pothos will give you the opportunity to check for pests and get rid of them if you see any.
- Water Smart. This means watering your plant on a regular schedule, with clean water, and making sure you are watering your Pothos the perfect amount. Remember, overwatering is the number one cause of browning leaves.
- Prioritize drainage. As you know, Pothos plants are susceptible to overwatering. This is going to be an even bigger challenge if you don’t use good soil. There should be great drainage at the bottom of your pot, and use soil that is not too dense so that the water can drain.
- Check for infection. Just like humans need check-ups at the doctors, your plant will benefit from giving it a once over every now and then to inspect for the disease. A diseased plant can be saved, but time is of the essence. Regularly checking your plant will make it more likely you will catch any potential infections sooner.
- Cutaway dead leaves quickly. If a leaf is brown, it is dead. But that doesn’t mean you need to give up on the whole plant. Removing the dead leaf as quickly as possible will allow your plant to send nutrients to the healthy parts of the plant more easily.
- Love your Pothos. Pothos plants don’t require much to live well, but giving your plant a bit of extra attention will help it thrive. Weekly mistings and regular fertilization can help keep your plant as healthy as possible.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Why are the tips of my Pothos leaves turning brown?
There are several reasons your Pothos leaves are browning at the tip. Most likely it is due to overwatering, direct sunlight, or fertilizer burn.
Pothos plants thrive in a room with indirect sunlight. Water your Pothos plant on a schedule (about once a week), but make sure it has time to dry out before watering again. Pothos only need a bit of fertilizer once a month.
Why are the stems of my Pothos leaves turning brown?
This can be an early sign of disease. Pothos plants can experience a range of diseases including root rot, bacterial wilt disease, and southern blight. If you think your plant is infected with something it is best to move quickly.
First, identify what the issue is. Then, remove the diseased area, clean the remaining plant, and repot it in fresh soil and a new pot. With some TLC your Pothos plant should be able to recover.
Why are my Pothos stems splitting?
This can be a sign that your Pothos is in distress. Check the environmental conditions to make sure everything aligns with the Pothos plant’s needs.
It could be a sign that the plant is facing temperature shock, or being overwatered. Take a look at the water content in the soil and the temperature of the room to see which is more likely to be causing issues.
Should I cut off brown leaves?
Cutting off browning leaves will help the rest of your plant stay healthy. If the brown leaves are attached then they are still receiving nutrients from the stems, but are no longer living.
If you cut off the brown leaves the nutrients can go to the healthy parts of the Pothos which will increase the overall health of your plant.
Where should I put my Pothos plant?
Pothos plants can go anywhere in your home as long as it’s not in direct sunlight. They need warmth, so any warm room will do wonderfully.
Many people use Pothos as a hanging plant in their home, although it can just as easily be displayed on a desk, counter, or table.
Pothos plants are toxic to both dogs and cats, so it is important to make sure that they are displayed in an area of your home that your furry friends won’t be tempted to get into.
Are Pothos Plants a lot of work?
This article contains a lot of information, but when you get down to it the Pothos plant is a great low-maintenance plant.
It will take a bit of preparation, but once you get your Pothos plant well planted, and you establish a care routine you will see that it requires very little.
A nicely lit room (out of direct sunlight), good drainage, regular watering/cleaning/health inspections, and you will be well on your way to a long and happy relationship with your Pothos plant!