The reason for pothos leaves turning yellow is usually because of overwatering or poor drainage. Pothos plants need the top inch of the soil to dry between watering. If the soil is consistently damp, the pothos develops root rot which prevents the roots uptaking nutrients and causes the leaves to turn yellow with a dying appearance.
Pothos turns leaves naturally turn yellow at the base of the plant as it matures and the vines grow longer.
Pothos leaves are prefer bright indirect light and the leaves can start to curl and scorch yellow in direct sunlight.
Using fertilizer too often or in too high concentration also turns the leaves yellow.
Pothos leaves turn yellow after repotting due to a sudden change in temperature, humidity, light and airflow or because the pot is retaining too much moisture around the roots.
Pothos leaves turn yellow in Winter in response to fewer hours of sunlight, temperatures cooler then 60°F and due to low humidity.
Keep reading to learn why your pothos (Devils Ivy) is turning yellow and how to implement the solutions to save your pothos with yellow leaves…
Pothos Leaves Turning Yellow and Brown
The reason for pothos leaves turning yellow and brown is because of overwatering and poor drainage. Pothos needs the top inch of soil to dry between each watering. If pothos is in consistently boggy soil, the roots can develop root rot which prevents the roots transporting nutrients to the leaves causing them to turn yellow and brown.
Pothos plants are climbers that are native to the Solomon islands where they grow up trees and in well draining soil conditions.
If the pothos is in soil that is consistently damp from overwatering, the excess water excludes oxygen from the soil which prevents the roots from respiring and interferes with their ability to draw up moisture and nutrients from the soil.
If the roots uptake moisture and nutrients, this causes the leaves to turn yellow and droop with a dying appearance.
If the soil does not dry out between bouts of watering the roots can develop fungal diseases such as root rot which turns the leaves yellow and brown with a dying appearance.
Potting mediums that retain too much moisture or are too compacted also have the same affect as overwatering in that they restrict the amount of oxygen available at the roots and promotes the conditions for root rot.
How to Save a Pothos With Yellow and Brown Leaves
To save a pothos with yellow and brown leaves it is important to create the pothos preferred conditions in its native environment by repotting pothos in well draining soil, allowing the top inch of the potting soil to dry before watering and cutting back any diseased, rotting roots and stems.
- Scale back the watering (water when the top inch of the soil feels dry). If your are watering pothos more then once a week then you are most likely overwatering and this is the probable cause of root rot which turns the leaves yellow and brown. Test the soil before watering and only water when the top inch of the potting soil feels dry. This cycle of watering replicates the typical cycle of soil moisture in the pothos native environment.
- Remove the pothos from the soil and check the roots. It is important to inspect the roots fro signs of disease. If the roots feel soft, mushy, dark, smell bad and appear somewhat rotten then snip these roots back to healthy growth (white firm roots are healthy) with a sharp pair of pruners. Wipe the blades of the pruners with a cloth soaked in disinfectant between each cut to prevent spreading fungal pathogens (on the blades of the pruners) from diseased roots to otherwise healthy roots.
- Replace the soil with a well draining soil mix. It is important to replace the soil as fungal disease from overwatering can stay resident in the soil. Use a new mix of around 2/3’s potting soil and 1/3 perlite or pine bark. This type of potting mix helps to create the well draining soil conditions to which the pothos is adapted.
- Snip back any stems that appear rotten. Healthy stems should feel firm whereas diseased stems can feel mushy. Snip them back with a pair of pruners and wipe the blades with cloth soaked in disinfectant between each cut.
- Reduce the size of the pothos by trimming individual stems. Prioritize trimming back any stems that have abundant yellow or brown leaves as these leaves can not function properly. Reducing the size of the pothos means there are less leaves that need to be supported which helps the pothos to recover if you have had to snip back large sections of root. Stems can be cut back to 2 inches to stimulate new growth but try to retain some healthy stems and leaves so the plant can photosynthesize.
- Repot pothos in a new pot with drainage holes in the base or you can repot the pothos in its original pot if you wash it out with disinfectant, but ensure the pot has drainage holes to prevent excess water pooling around the roots. Empty and saucers and trays of excess water to prevent the conditions that can cause root rot.
- After repotting water the pothos and mist the leaves. It is important to water and mist the leaves to prevent the pothos from losing too much moisture and to mitigate transplant shock. Pruning back the diseased roots is necessary for the plant to survive but less roots can also mean the pothos has difficulty drawing up moisture and nutrients in the short terms, hence why watering the pothos after repotting and misting the leaves is important.
Once you have created more favorable conditions for the pothos and cut back any diseased growth, the pothos should start to recover and grow again in the Spring and Summer. However recovery depends on the extent of root rot with severely diseased plants often dying back.
Can Yellow Pothos Leaves Turn Green Again?
Whether or not the pothos leaves turn green again depends on the cause of the yellowing leaves and the extent of the yellowing.
Most often yellow pothos leaves do not turn green again once they have turned yellow. Typically the yellow leaves drop off. However new growth can emerge once the conditions are more favorable.
If the leaves turn yellow you can snip the vine back to healthy growth or about 2 inches above the soil to help stimulate the growth of new healthier vines and green healthy pothos leaves.
Pothos Leaves Turn Yellow as the Plant Matures
Pothos leaves turn yellow at the base as they mature. As the individual vines grow longer the pothos invests more energy into growing the leaves at the end of the vine and directs less energy to the leaves at the base of the plant causing them to turn yellow and drop off.
Pothos are climbers in their native environment with each vine growing higher into the trees.
The leaves at the end of the vines are more likely to receive light and out compete other climbing plants in the forest, therefore the pothos prioritizes the growth of these leaves.
This means there is less energy for the leaves at the base of the plant, so if the lower leaves on your pothos are turning yellow and drop off despite the rest of the pothos appearing healthy, then this is a natural part of the plants growth and not a sign of disease.
How to Save Pothos Plants with Yellow Leaves at the Base
The way to maintain a healthy, lush pothos plant is to trim back any long vines to 2 inches above the soil. This stimulates the growth of new vines which should have healthy green, or variegated leaves and prevents any leaves at the base from turning yellow.
Do not prune all the vines back at once as this is too much of a shock to the pothos. Select the vines that have grown leggy with yellowing leaves to cut back.
Generally you can cut back 2 or 3 vines at a time to rejuvenate the pothos although this can depend on the size of the plant.
When new growth appears cut back any other leggy vines with yellow leaves as necessary and the plant should recover its healthy appearance.
Pothos Leaves Turning Yellow due to Too Much Sun
Pothos leaves turn yellow if there are in direct sunlight. Pothos plants are native to tropical forests and their sensitive leaves are protected from intense sunlight under the forest’s canopy. If pothos leaves are direct sunlight then they can scorch yellow and start curling with a dying appearance.
Pothos is native to tropical forests in the Solomon islands where its vines attach to trees as they grow upwards, whilst being protected from direct light.
The ability to tolerate shade makes pothos a great house plant but the sensitive leaves often scorch yellow in the sun, particularly in South facing windows.
Therefore it is important to replicate the pothos natural environment by locating the pothos in bright indirect light rather then full sun.
How to Save it…
Bright indirect light is the optimal balance of light for pothos plants as this ensures the plant has enough energy for growing its leaves and vines without the danger of the leaves scorching yellow.
Pothos leaves that have been scorched yellow by the sun do not recover their green appearance but they do not necessarily harm the plant.
Once you have moved your pothos to a location away from direct sunlight give the plant a good soak, as they are usually drought stressed from too much sunlight and trim back any scorched growth with yellow leaves with a sharp pair of pruners.
Trimming back the damaged yellow leaves helps to stimulate the growth of new vines and new leaves to help the pothos recover a healthier appearance.
Pothos Leaves Turning Yellow After Repotting
The reason for pothos turning yellow after repotting is usually because of transplant shock and an increase in moisture around the roots. Larger pots contain more soil which dries out slower then the pothos is accustomed to which can result in root rot and turn the leaves yellow.
Larger pots have the capacity for more soil and therefore more moisture, which can drastically change the rate at which the soil dries out after watering. In addition to this, there are other conditions that change after repotting which can turn the leaves yellow such as:
- Pots without drainage holes in the base (causing excess water to pool around the roots).
- The use of saucers, trays and outer pots which can all trap moisture.
- A different potting medium that does not drain as efficiently (pothos needs well draining soil).
- The soil may have been compacted after potting (reducing the oxygen around the roots).
All of these conditions can create too much moisture around the roots of the pothos or reduce the oxygen in the soil, which can all cause the leaves to turn yellow.
The contrast in sunlight, airflow, temperature and the fact the roots may be interfered with or damaged during repotting can also contribute to the leaves turning yellow.
How to Save a Pothos with Yellow Leaves After Repotting
- Always repot pothos in a pot that is one size up from the previous pot. If the pot is only slightly larger then the previous pot then the soil should dry out at a similar rate which reduces the risk of the leaves turning yellow due to root rot.
- Repot pothos in well draining, aerated potting soil. As pothos is adapted to growing in well draing soil, friable soil. It is important to replicate these conditions when repotting to avoid the leaves turning yellow. Repot pothos in a potting mix of 2/3’s normal potting soil, that is amended with 1/3 perlite or orchid potting mix. This potting mix emulates the porous structure of the pothos native soil, allowing for drainage and mitigating the risk of root rot.
- Avoid compacting the soil around your repotted pothos. If you compact the soil, you push out the oxygen which is necessary for root rot respiration. Pothos prefers a porous soil structure to prevent the leaves turning yellow.
- Always empty saucer, trays and outer pots after watering your pothos. Good drainage is imperative to avoiding root rot and yellowing leaves, so always ensure that you empty anything underneath your pothos pots regularly to prevent water from pooling around the roots.
- Try to maintain similar environmental conditions if you move your pothos pot after repotting. If you have moved the pot to a different room, it can react by the leaves turning yellow due to a sudden contrast in conditions. Ensure the pothos is in a room with a similar temperature (away from indoor heating) with bright, indirect light and mist the leaves regularly to help mitigate the transplant shock.
Misting the leaves is always important after repotting your pothos whilst the roots establish to the differing conditions.
Water your pothos as normal (let the top inch of the soil dry between each bout of watering) and the pothos should recover in the next few weeks.
If the pothos leaves continue to turn yellow then it could be root rot, in which cause check the roots and follow the instructions under then follow the advice at the top of the article on pothos leaves turning yellow and brown due to overwatering.
Pothos Leaves Turning Yellow due to Too Much Fertilizer
Pothos leaves turn yellow if the plant has had fertilizer applied in too high concentration or too frequently. Salts build up in the soil from fertilizer use which creates negative osmotic potential in the soil that prevents the roots from drawing up moisture and causes the leaves to turn yellow.
Pothos is admired for its lush foliage and fertilizer of often recommended to help encourage growth and keep the plant healthy.
However pothos is relatively sensitive to fertilizer and it should only be applied in a half strength concentration, once a month during Spring and Summer.
Residual salts from fertilizer accumulate in the soil if the fertilizer is applied too often or in too high concentration which interferes with the pothos’s roots ability to draw up moisture and nutrients.
If the roots cannot uptake moisture or nutrients to transport to the leaves, the pothos leaves react by turning yellow as a sign of stress.
How to Save a Pothos Plant with Yellow Leaves Due to Fertilizer
To save a pothos with yellow leaves, water the pothos thoroughly to dissolve excess salts in the soil, scale back the use of fertilizer and replace the soil. Cut back any yellow leaves to stimulate new growth.
- Water the pothos under a running faucet (tap) for at least 10 minutes. Running the water through the soil thoroughly helps to flush out the excess salts in the soil to restore osmotic potential, so that the roots can draw up moisture and nutrients properly. It is worth repeating this 2 or 3 more times to ensure as much of the accumulated salts are dissolved in the water. Allow the pot to drain well after each thorough watering to ensure the water has flushed out all the salts.
- Scale back any use of fertilizer. Whilst the pothos recovers, do not use any additional fertilizer. Fertilizer should only be used at half strength and only applied once a month during Spring and Summer. Pothos can grow quite well without fertilizer so scaling back the use of fertilizer does not harm the pothos.
- Wait to see if any of the leaves recover. Once you have flushed the potting soil of excess salts caused by the fertilizer, then the roots can start to uptake water again properly to support the leaves. If it has been a mild case of too much fertilizer then the pothos can recover after a few weeks. If the leaves remain yellow and do not show any sign of recovery after 3 or 4 weeks then cut the vines back to healthy growth or to 2 inches above the soil. This should help to stimulate new healthy growth with green lush leaves.
Pothos Leaves Turning Yellow In Winter
Pothos leaves turn yellow in Winter because of cold temperatures, low humidity and less sunlight. Pothos pants tolerate a temperature range of 60°F to 90°F and need bright indirect light. If the pothos experiences temperatures cooler then 60°F and the pothos is in too much shade then leaves turn yellow as a sign of stress.
Pothos Leaves often turn yellow in Fall and Winter in response to fewer hours of sunlight and less light intensity.
In the pothos native range in the Solomon islands, the hours of sunlight are relatively consistent through they year.
In the northern hemisphere the fewer daylight hours can cause the leaves to turn yellow and drop off. This is the pothos way of conserving resources in adverse environmental conditions.
Low humidity due to indoor heating in Winter also can contribute to the yellowing of leaves as pothos plants originate from a climate of higher humidity.
Pothos also have a lower demand for watering in Winter due to slower rate of growth and cooler temperatures and usually only require reduced watering of the pothos plant in Winter to every 2 or 3 weeks in Winter.
Watering the pothos too often in Winter when the plant is not growing can increase the risk of the leaves turning yellow due to root rot.
Ensure the pothos is in a room between 60°F and 90°F to avoid the pothos leaves turning yellow and dying.
How to Revive a Pothos with Yellow Leaves in Winter
- Place the pothos in the brightest room. More light in Winter means more energy for the pothos and reduces the risk of more leaves turning yellow and dropping off.
- Ensure that the pothos is an a room that is at least 60°F. Consider that the temperature on a window sill may be considerably cooler then the rest of the room and the glass itself can be much colder still. Ensure that there are not any leaves in contact with the glass to prevent them from turning yellow.
- Reduce the watering in Winter to once every 2 or 3 weeks. Root rot due to damp soil is one of the biggest causes of yellow leaves. In Winter the soil can dry out much quick and the pothos has a reduced demand for water. Water the pothos thoroughly but let at least the top inch of the soil dry out between bouts each watering.
- Mist the leaves more often in Winter to counteract dry air from indoor heating. Pothos is a tropical plant that prefer humidity so mist the leaves every few days to create a humid micro-climate that emulates the pothos native environment.
If the leaves have turned yellow in the Winter they may drop off. The pothos should start to grow new leaves when the temperature is in the preferred range, the humidity increase and there are more hours of daylight.
(Read my article, how to revive a dying pothos plant).
- Pothos leaves turn yellow because there is too much moisture around the roots due to overwatering or poor drainage. Pothos requires the top inch of the soil to dry between each watering. If the soil is consistently damp from overwatering the pothos develops root rot which turns the leaves yellow and brown with a dying appearance.
- Pothos leaves can turn yellow as the plant matures. As the vines grow longer the pothos prioritizes directing energy to the leaves further up the vine and the leaves closer to the base of the pothos turn yellow and drop off.
- Pothos leaves turn yellow after repotting if it is repotted to a much larger pot as larger pots contain more soil and retain more moisture. This causes the soil to dry out much slower which can result in the pothos leaves turning yellow due to root rot.
- Pothos leaves turn yellow if they are in too much direct sunlight. Pothos plants grow under the shade of a forest canopy in their native environment, therefore the leaves are very sensitive to sunlight. If the leaves are in direct sunlight they turn yellow and curl at the edge with a dying appearance.
- Pothos leaves turn yellow due to using fertilizer too often or in high concentration. Fertilizer causes excess salts to accumulate in the soil which prevents the pothos roots uptaking moisture which causes the leaves to turn yellow and start curling.
- Pothos leaves turn yellow in Winter due to cold temperatures, fewer hours of day light and low humidity. If the temperature is lower then 60°F and the pothos is in too much shade the leaves turn yellow and drop off.