Why Are My Pothos Leaves Turning Yellow? Causes And How To Fix

Pothos, or Epipremnum, as it is classed mostly by botanists is a climber originating from the island of Moorea, located in French Polynesia. Today, the plant is grown and propagated all over the world, especially in Australia, West Indies, America, South, and Southeast Asia, and even in several islands in the Pacific. 

Pothos are very popular with newbie gardeners as these plants are forgiving and easy to maintain. They do not require regular water and sunlight and hold well in most of the weather. It does become invasive outdoors as it propagates really fast, clinging to the trunks of the tree, but indoors, it grows at the most 4 to 8 meters tall. Additionally, pothos plants are natural air purifiers and absorb and remove pollutants found indoors, such as toluene, benzene, xylene, and more such chemicals. And how beautiful and wholesome does it look with its glossy, heart-shaped leaves on long stems.

But just because pothos is strong and easy to care plant, doesn’t mean it is invincible. You know your pothos is ill when its leaves start turning yellow.

Why Are The Leaves Of My Pothos Plant Turning Yellow? Are Yellowing Leaves Of Pothos A Cause For Concern?

Yellowing of leaves isn’t entirely bad. If the older leaves of your pothos plants, which are mainly located at the bottom of the canopy fall off a couple of times, don’t fret. It’s a part of their aging process as it makes way for new foliage. Furthermore, a few varieties of pothos plants have yellow detailing or specs on their leaves, such as marble queen pothos. But when the yellowing is constant, there might be some underlying reason behind it.

The positive thing is that even if the leaves of your pothos plants are turning yellow, you can reverse it pe following just a few simple steps. But before that, you need to diagnose the cause behind the yellowing of pothos plant leaves. Below we will talk about the causes behind the yellowing of pothos leaves and what you can do to fix it.  

Reasons Why Your Pothos Is Turning Yellow

  1. It’s Getting Too Much Light:

Pothos is essentially a low light plant and it starts turning yellow when it receives too much light. When the pothos plant gets too much light, it reduces its chlorophyll production and starts releasing its natural sun-protecting pigments. So when the pothos gets too much sunlight, the leaves droop and start looking crispy and yellow. They do not take the strong, yellow color at first. It starts by losing the green and then acquiring the yellow. The yellow then darkens and turns brown and dry.

What Can You Do About It?

Never place a pothos plant on the east-facing window, where sunlight is the strongest. South or west-facing windows are best for pothos. And do not place it directly on the window, especially when the issue is too much light. The light that reaches your plant should be diffused.

  1. Not Getting Enough Light:

Just because pothos are considered low light plants, doesn’t mean you can put them in a place where there is little to no natural light. Generally, pothos stays best when it is put in a bright room of indirect sunlight. But if required, they can even adapt to lower light. But if they are placed in very low light, they might develop yellowing of leaves. Not just the leaves, but even the foliage on top and bottom will get the yellow shade. Since too much light can also cause yellowing of leaves, it can get difficult to understand the issue. Here’s a simple way to know it. If the leaves are not getting enough light, they will look plump, but yellow, unlike leaves that are dried and browned due to excess light exposure.

What Can You Do About It?

Pothos will not be able to take direct sunlight as their foliage burns when they are exposed to sunlight for too long. But that doesn’t mean it can’t handle light at all. The trick here is balance. When you notice the yellowing, place the pothos plant on the windowsill. You will hopefully see the yellowing of the leaves going down. After a couple of days, hang a sheer curtain to the window. It will filter the more than required amount of sunlight.

  1. Overwatering:

Overwatering is considered one of the most common causes of yellowing of pothos plant leaves. When plants do not get enough sunlight, they face a tough time absorbing water. And when the water isn’t absorbed, it starts accumulating at the bottom of the pot and drowns the roots, which eventually turn the leaves yellow, as explained by Joyce Mast from Bloomscape. Wet soil is also a breeding ground for bacteria and pathogens, which harm the plant in the long run. Besides, excess water also damages the cell walls, which eventually break down and die, turning the tissue yellow in color. Additionally, alternating between wet and bone dry soil can also cause stress to the plant, leaving its leaves yellow.

If the yellowing of the leaves is caused by excess watering, you will notice not just the change in color, but also in shape. The leaves soften, droop and lose shape. The yellowing is of matte ochre shade and occurs on several leaves in different parts of the plants, at a fast pace.

What Can You Do About It?

Firstly, you need to suspend watering for a few days, at least until the top few inches of the soil are dry.

If yellowing has affected just a few leaves and the base of the stem shows no sign of damage, the first thing you should do is cut off the yellow leaves. This will immediately stop the rotting as wet soil and tissues carry diseases and pathogens, which can quickly spread to the other parts of the plant.

If most of the plants have been damaged or if you think the roots have rotten, uproot the plant and check for it. If the roots look healthy and not black, just clean them with a soft brush. But if the rot has rotten, then you are left with no option, but to cut all the rotting roots. After discarding the rotten roots, sprinkle some organic powder on it and put the plant in a well-ventilated place for two hours. Replant the pothos in new potting soil and even a new pot. 

While purchasing a pot for your pothos, check if it has a drainage hole or not. A drainage hole is highly important as it discards excess water, preventing the drowning of the roots and soil of the plant. Not just pothos, but most plants, if not all, are susceptible to damage or even death due to excess watering. So while watering, ensure that the liquid is flowing from the drainage hole into the saucer. Discard the excess water. Never leave the plant in any standing water. 

If the roots are damaged beyond repair, then your only option left is to propagate the plant. Take a stem of 4 to 6 inches that has at least 4 to 5 healthy leaves. The more the better. Remove the leaves from the bottom, leaving just one to three at the top. Cut the stem as low as possible with a sharp and sterile knife. The cut should be neat. Now place it in the jar filled with water in indirect lighting. You will find the roots appearing in about a month.

After preparing the cutting, mix good quality potting soil with peat moss, perlite, and sand in a pot. Now make a natural rooting agent by mixing a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in a bowl of water. Dip the base of the cutting in the apple cider mixture and plant it in the pot with at least two nodes in the ground. Place the pot in a place where you get plenty of indirect light.

If you’re sure that you are not overwatering your pothos plant and have placed it in a pot with a drainage hole in it, then we would advise you to cut back on the watering routine. Water your plant just 25% or when the top few inches of the soil is completely dry to touch.

During winters, let the plants dry completely before watering. You can mist the plant regularly or boost the humidity with a humidifier. It will keep your plant in an optimum position. Furthermore, moving the plant on a windowsill can also help you with this issue as sunlight will absorb excess moisture in the plant.

  1. Pothos Not Getting Enough Water:

It may sound baffling to our readers, but under watering the pothos plant can also lead to yellow leaves.  Chlorophyll requires water to function at its optimum level. When there isn’t enough of it, the plant reduces its photosynthetic process, thereby turning the tissues yellow.

When the yellowing is caused due to under watering, the leaves also feel limp, droopy, and curl a bit inward. And the yellowing mainly occurs at the tip of the leaves.

What Can You Do About It?

The solution to this one is really easy. Water your pothos properly and the leaves will turn lively again. Make sure you give it room temperature water, not cold water because it can shock the plant. If you want, you can even trim the yellow leaves. But that’s not a necessity.

In the case of underwatering, you might have to water the bottom of the soil as well. There’s a proper way to do this. Fill a bucket or sink with 2 to 4 inches of water. This depends on the size of the plant you have. Next, immerse the plant in it for at least 30 minutes, so that it soaks maximum liquid. You will feel the pot getting heavier after this, which means you’re on the right way. Ensure that excess water is released from the drainage hole. This is a very important point to follow to avoid root rot.

  1. Pothos Plant Isn’t Getting The Right Amount Nutrients:

Yellow leaves can also signal nutrient imbalance or deficiency in the pothos plant. Tap water generally contains high levels of chlorine, salt, and fluoride that lead to the building up of nutrients on the plant leaves, which presents itself by changing color.

On the other hand, a pothos plant that isn’t getting its required nutrients, such as iron, potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen can also lead to yellow spotting of the leaves. 

If your pothos lacks nitrogen, it will first lose the green at the tip and will then spread to the rest of the leaf. Lack of nitrogen also stunts the growth of the plant, so that’s another indication.

Lack of magnesium cause chlorosis in pothos, a condition accompanied by yellowing between the leaf veins. This is followed by necrosis, in which parts or the entire leaf dies.

If the pothos lack iron, the veins of the leaves will remain green, but the surface in between will turn yellow.

What Can You Do About It?

If the leaves are scorched with unwanted minerals, experts suggest filling a jug or pitcher with water and letting it sit overnight uncovered. This will allow the minerals in tap water to evaporate. If possible, collect rainwater or use distilled water for your plants.

If the pothos leaves are yellowing due to nutritional deficiency, you may have to feed it some fertilizer, even if it’s a couple of times a year. For pothos, experts like Mast suggest using fertilizers that contain iron. You can even supplement it with Epsom salt, to help it meet its magnesium requirement. But never overdo it.

  1. Low Humidity Level:

Low humidity and dry soil often make the leaves droopy and brown on the edges. This is followed by firstly by entire yellowing and then browning. Eventually, the leaf drops.

What Can You Do About It?

You can increase the humidity of the plant by just misting its leaves. Alternatively, you can even place a humidifier in the room where you have placed the plant.

  1. Pest:

Indoor pests like spider mites, mealybugs, and scale drain the moisture from the plant, which eventually leads to the yellowing of the leaflets and fronds. Pest infestation occurs mostly in wet soil or when the plant isn’t getting enough light or humidity. Sometimes, it gets infected by other plants as well. If you do not deal with them early, they can move into all the frond parts, including nooks and crannies. This can lead to the death of the plant, especially if it’s already stressed or weak due to nutrient deficiency, poor lightning, or improper soil moisture.

What Can You Do About It?

If pest infestation is the problem behind the yellowing of pothos leaves, you need to eliminate those pesky creatures first. Isolate your plant immediately so that it doesn’t infect other plants in its vicinity. Move the pothos to a warmer place with good airflow and less humidity. Prune the damaged part and spray a solution of 1 teaspoon dishwashing soap and 1 liter of water liberally over the plant. Your aim should be to cover the pest with this solution. Wash off the plant after 10 minutes.

Alternatively, you can even spray a solution of 1 teaspoon of neem oil in a gallon of water. Repeat this treatment once a week until the pests are eliminated completely.

Cinnamon powder can also be sprinkled on dry soil. Cinnamon contains cinnamaldehyde, an agent that can treat your plant.

If the plant isn’t responding to natural treatment, you can take the chemical route. Spray a solution of 3-in-1 insecticide/fungicide/miticide to kill the pests present on the plant. Chemical products that contain malathion, derris, and permethrin can also be sprayed on the plant. Just make sure to follow the instruction written on the package.  

If you want, you can even repot your pothos, just to be on the safer side. Before you bring your pothos back in, ensure that it has dried completely. And as a precautionary measure, please stop overwatering your plant. This is one of the prime causes of pest infestation in a plant.

  1. Root Rot:

Root rot prevents the plants from absorbing their required nutrients. So when the root does not get its water and nutrients, it begins to fall off. As mentioned above, root rots are mainly caused due to overly moist soil, but soil-inhabiting fungi or bacterial leaf spots can also contribute to it. Along with that, plant crowding can also lead to root rot, thereby turning the leaves yellow. If the plant has Pythium root rot, you will notice the mature leaves yellowing and roots turning mushy and black. In the case of bacterial leaf spots, you will find water spots with yellow rings or halo on the underside of the leaves. The yellowing has a dark brown center with irregular spots.

What Can You Do About It?

To know if root rot is causing the yellowing of the leaves, you have to inspect the root first. Remove the plant from the pot. If the roots are white, there’s nothing for you to worry about. But if the roots are turning brown or black, it’s your clue.

Now that the diagnosis is done, your first duty is to give the best cultural care possible. First and foremost, you need to snip off the rotten roots and leave the healthy ones. Now, pot the plant in fresh and healthy soil. Just make sure to disinfect your tools first. 1-part bleach with 9 parts water will make the best disinfectant.

Now you need to ensure to drain the soil properly, provide adequate sunlight, and limit watering. Also, do not mist the plant during this time because excess moisture is always the breeding ground of fungi.

Unfortunately, if the disease has browned the roots completely, you may not be able to save it. But if just 1/3rd of the leaf has turned yellow, we would suggest you trim it. Snip off the yellowing leaves with scissors, but ensure that you disinfect the scissor first. Remember, you need to disinfect the blades after every cut.

  1. Incorrect Feeding Or Excess Use Of Fertilizer:

Yes, every plant needs nutrients, but excess of it can affect its chlorophyll production and growth rate, which can result in the yellowing of leaves. The excess fertilizer starts building up in the soil, thereby affecting the health of the plant adversely. Also, too much of one nutrient can lead to nutrient toxicity, which manifests itself as yellow leaves burning at the edges. Not just excess, but giving incorrect nutrients can also impact their health and stunt their growth.

What Can You Do About It?

You do not really need fertilizer for pothos, but if you still wish to boost the growth of your plant, it would be best for you to use it every 2-3 months, that too, during the growing season i.e. spring to fall or April to October. Avoid feeding it during winters.

Please do thorough research before choosing a fertilizer for your pothos plant and never use more than required. Organic and balanced fertilizer with 19-16-12 NPK (nitrogen – phosphorus – potassium) would be the best choice here.

If you think that nutrient toxicity is behind the yellowing of the leaves, reduce the feeding immediately. If the damage is serious, you may have to repot the plant in new compost. Do not feed the newly planted pothos for a long time as the plant has already absorbed enough nutrients and will keep absorbing them from those stored in the soil.

In case of fertilizer buildup, the best you can do is drench the soil with water and drain it well. If that doesn’t work, replant the pothos with fresh soil. Ensure that you clean the pot thoroughly after discarding the soil.  

  1. Exposure To Hot Or Cold Temperature:

Excessive hot or cold temperatures can also damage the tissues of the pothos plant. Pothos plants thrive best between 70°F and 90°F, but if required, they can manage themselves at 50°F, even though it’s not an ideal temperature for it to grow. Anything below 50°F or above 90°F can cause its leaves to turn yellow. This usually happens when you place it near a fireplace or a heater. Sometimes, placing the plant near a cool window also turns the leaves yellow as they are constantly exposed to cool drafts.

What Can You Do About It?

There is nothing much to do here. Just be careful where you place the pothos plant in your house. The aim should be to put it in a place where the temperature doesn’t fluctuate much. Avoid keeping it near the air conditioner, especially in summer. Keep the plant away from stoves, fireplaces, heaters, and even places where you get direct sunlight. You must keep a check on how the plant reacts when you change its place.


  1. Should I cut or remove the yellow leaves from the pothos plant?

Yes, please snip off the yellow leaves from the pothos. It won’t shock them and will hopefully prevent the spreading of the yellowing, provided you have taken all the necessary steps to address the root cause. Moreover, removing the sick and dying leaves and foliage will give way to new growth.

  1. Can the yellow leaves of my pothos plant turn green again?

The leaves that have already turned yellow will not turn green again until it’s a nutritional deficiency that’s causing the yellowing of the leaves. But once you diagnosed and treated the problem the new leaves will grow green and healthy.

To sum it up, pothos is one of the best low-maintenance plants, to begin with, but even they require regular care and maintenance along with proper nutrients and substantial water. The yellowing of leaves is an indication that the plant is stressed out and you may have to tweak your routine a bit. By just placing it near or farther from the sunlight, changing the watering routine, and adding nutrients to the soil, you can help the plant get back to its former glory. The catch is to understand what type of yellowing it is and why it’s happening. Yes, it will take time as the leaves won’t turn green again miraculously. But eventually, it will. So be patient and keep working on it.


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