Pothos Root Rot: Signs, Causes, Treatment And Prevention

Pothos root rot

Epipremnum aureum, popularly known as pothos or Devil’s Ivy, is on several people’s list of favorite houseplants. That’s because these plants are very easy to maintain, can easily tolerate low light conditions, and can even be trained to grow as you want. Apart from the easy maintenance, these plants look absolutely beautiful, with their oblong and thick heart-shaped leaves.

While pothos plants are very strong and forgiving and can even grow in water, they can sometimes fall victim to root rot. But if you follow remedial steps at the right time, you can save your plant. In this article, we will discuss how to identify, prevent and treat root rot in pothos plant or devil’s ivy.


If your pothos plant has been emitting a foul smell, and the leaves are wilting and changing color, it’s probably suffering from root rot. The first step to treating root rot in pothos is trimming off the infecting roots. Next, clean the healthy roots thoroughly with a disinfectant and then repot it in a new pot using fresh potting soil. If all the roots are damaged, you will have to get a new plant.

What Is Root Rot?

Root rot is a condition caused by overwatering. It’s basically a fungus that becomes active due to waterlogging. When the plant to subjected to excess water, it can waterlog the soil, causing the root to die due to lack of oxygen. At the start of the rotting stage, the roots turn brown followed by the decaying of the entire plant.

The major issue with root rot is that it’s difficult to get hold of the problem because it happens underneath. We get to know about it only when the plant starts showing some symptoms, which also means that the disease has advanced.

Causes Of Root Rot In Pothos Plant

Root rot is very common among houseplants that are planted with limited space or are subjected to improper lighting. Such limitations often make the roots susceptible to diseases. When you know the exact cause of root rot, it becomes easier for you to prevent it even before it occurs. Below we have discussed some of the most common causes of root rot in the pothos plant.

  1. Overwatering

As discussed above, overwatering is one of the major causes of root rot in pothos. When you’re growing a plant indoors, you don’t need to water it much, unless the growing medium itself is water. When soil is the means of propagation, overwatering the plant can do more harm than good.

Overwatering leads to the drowning of the roots, which further limits the availability of oxygen. When there isn’t enough oxygen, plants find it difficult to breathe, which stresses them out. It also limits access to essential nutrients required for the growth of the plant. The roots, devoid of oxygen and nutrients, eventually rot and die. If you manage to address the cause in time, you can still save the plant. But if all the roots are affected, you’d have to bid it goodbye.

  1. Too Large Or Too Small Pots

If you have a wrong-sized pot, then no matter how good your soil is, it will hold water. Plant pots that are too huge will house too much soil, which will lead to more holding of water. And if the containers are too small, the roots will bind together, which again, will make it difficult to drain water.

  1. Low Temperature

Pothos are best kept in a temperature range between 15 to 30°C or 60 to 80°F. Since it’s a hardy plant, it can tolerate temperatures as low as 10°C, though not for a long time. But if the temperature goes any lower, it will get difficult for pothos to thrive. When the temperature gets extremely low, the soil stays wet for a longer time. And wet soil is never a good medium for pothos. So if your pothos is getting affected by root rot, check the temperature of the environment it’s growing in.

  1. Poor Draining Soil

The worst possible thing you can do to your plant is growing it in poorly draining soil and then couple it with overwatering. When the soil fails at draining, it stores excess water in the pot. This creates a stressful environment for the plant, similar to what happens when you overwater it. The main problem with heavy and compact soil is that even if you water enough, it still has the tendency to drown your roots. So if your soil is staying damp for a long time even when you don’t water it regularly, you need to check your potting mix.

  1. Overfertilization

Excess of anything is bad and it holds true for fertilization as well. We agree that plants need their recommended amount of nutrients, but sometimes, overenthusiastic gardens tend to overfeed their plants, which stresses out them out. Fertilizers contain an excessive amount of salt, which shrivel the roots and prevent them from performing their functions. Shriveled roots are even more susceptible to roots rot. So always go easy with fertilizers for all your plants.

  1. Pathogenic Infection

Several pathogens are also responsible for root rot. These pathogens could either be present in the soil and could be in the water that you are using for watering your plant. Phytophthora, in particular, is a water pathogen that infects and causes the roots to rot. The infection can even spread to the leaves and stems of the plant. Another such pathogen is Pythium, which is present in infected potting mixes. Rhizoctonia solani is also a pathogenic fungus that infects the roots by first making its way into the soil and then the roots. This leads to rotting.

  1. Watering When The Plant Is Dormant

Most of the plants are dormant during winters, which means they do not support new growth, and that includes pothos plants as well. This phenomenon is completely natural as this is the resting time for plants. So if you water your plant during this period, it will lead to waterlogging and eventually root rot. Pothos does not need much watering during winters. Even a little bit of excess amount will stress out the roots.

How To Identify Root Rot In Pothos Or Devil’s Ivy? Signs And Symptoms:

When you’re growing a plant under your roof, you need to be observant and attentive to its needs and demands. When the plant is stressed out, it will try to let you know through a series of signs or cues. Below mentioned are some signs of root rot in the pothos plant. Some people may assume the yellowing of the leaves as aging. They are not entirely wrong here. But when the yellowing is due to root rot, it involves several leaves, not just the mature ones. So that’s your cue here.

  1. Wilting Leaves:

One of the most common signs of root rot in devil’s ivy is wilting leaves. The leaves of plants, which include pothos as well, start wilting when it doesn’t receive its required amount of nutrients. That happens because of root rot. When the root is rotten, it fails to provide the essential nutrients required for the growth of the plant.

  1. Yellow Leaves:

Whenever there’s something wrong with the plant, it will present itself by changing the color of the leaves. So if the leaves of your pothos plant are turning yellow, it’s probably because of the rotten root.

  1. Damp Soil:

If the soil of your pothos plant is damp most time, it’s because of overwatering. It’s better if you check the moisture level of the soil by putting your finger into it. If the top 2 inches of the soil feel wet or damp, it means the soil contains more than the required amount of water. Or you can use a moisture meter for a more accurate reading.

Related: What Type Of Soil Is Best For Pothos Plant?

  1. Brown/ Black And Soggy Roots:

Healthy roots are white or off-white in color and are firm to touch. When the roots start rotting, the color changes from white to brown and lastly black. The roots also turn soggy and mushy.

So if you suspect root rot in your pothos plant, pull out a portion of the plant and examine the color and texture of the roots. If it’s indeed black and mushy, it’s going through root rot. Also, when you pull out the root from the soil, you will notice the texture has become slimy and it will come out easily. That’s definitely not a good sign.

  1. Mold Or Fungus In The Soil:

A fungus or mold growth on the soil is a sure sign of overwatering. If not fixed in time, it can infect the other parts of the plant and can even lead to root rot.

  1. Bad Smell:

Sniff the bottom of your pothos plant. If it’s emitting a bad, funny, and awful smell, it means the root underneath is rotting. The bad smell usually means damage beyond repair. So you’ll have to repot your plant without further delay.

  1. Stunted Growth:

If you’ve had a plant for a long time, you would know how long it takes for it to develop healthy foliage. If the growth is slower than normal, it could be because of an underlying condition, possibly root rot. Slow growth must ring bells, especially if it’s happening in the growing season.

Apart from stagnant growth, curling of leaves, thinner foliage, and shorter stems could also indicate a problem. So inspect your plant ASAP to see why they are having a hard time growing.

Can Pothos Plant Recover From Root Rot?

If you take quick actions at the right time, you can surely save your pothos plant.

How To Treat Root Rot In Pothos Plant?

Now that you’ve identified the causes, it’s time to find solutions for root rot in pothos. Firstly, you need to inspect the roots of the plants. For that, you need to pull the plant out of the contain and examine its roots and the intensity of the damage. If you have a couple of white roots left, you can try to save the plant. But if the entire root system has rotten, you have no option but to throw it away. Let’s look into ways to save the pothos plants from root rot.


As discussed above, if you have a couple of healthy roots left, you can attempt at saving the planet. Remove the plant from the pot by holding the base of the stem and tapping the container to loosen the soil. Be gentle with the plant in this process. Give the plant a bit of shake to discard the excess soil. If some of the roots are still white, you can go ahead with the repotting. Remove the damaged portions completely, wash them and then plant the Devil’s Ivy in fresh and sterilized potting mix. Sterilizing the potting mix will ensure that all the pathogens are killed. Never use old potting soil for repotting plants. The old soil potting mix must be discarded completely.

While repotting also, you need to take care of the size of the pot. Clean the pot well and add a small amount of potting mix at the base. Place the plant on it and put potting mix around it. Do not go overboard with the mix as it can sag the plant.

Watering The Pothos After Repot

You need to be very careful about watering the plant after repotting. Do not overwater the newly repotted plant. Neither should you completely avoid watering it. The key here is to maintain balance. Even after repotting, you must allow the water to drain for some time. And water only after the soil has dried completely.

How To Care For Pothos Plant After Repotting?

Just because you’ve repotted your plant and saved it from dying, doesn’t mean you will leave it to grow on its own. Pothos might be strong and hardy, but it thrives best when it’s provided its ideal condition.

After you’ve successfully repotted the plant, keep it under shade. Repotting isn’t a smooth phase for plants. They go through a lot of stress due to handling. If you put your plant under direct light, it will get even more stressed. So avoid that and keep the plant under shade.

If you want to keep your pothos in the best possible condition, repot it every 12 to 18 months. Plants perform best when they are given fresh medium every few months or years.

Propagating Pothos

If the roots of your pothos plant are damaged beyond repair, you can do nothing to save it. In that case, you have to propagate the plant. The good news here is that it’s fairly easy to propagate pothos plants. Below mentioned are steps to propagate the pothos plant.

  • Take a 4 to 5 inches long stem with leaves and nodes attached to it. You must have the node as new roots come out from nodes only.
  • Next, fill glassware with water and put the stem into it. You will see new roots coming out of the roots in 3 to 4 weeks.
  • Now that the root has sprouted, plant the same cutting in fresh potting soil and leave it in shade. The soil must be moist during this time so that the roots can adjust to the new environment.

How To Prevent Root Rot In Pothos Plant?

Root rot is a dangerous condition but is highly preventable. All the factors that trigger root rot can be avoided if you give proper attention to your plant. Let’s discuss some of the easiest ways to prevent root rot in pothos.

  1. Reduce Soil Moisture

First things, first, avoid overwatering your plant. Almost all the causes of root rot in pothos are related to waterlogged soil. Pothos plants are usually hardy but are a bit sensitive to water. So do not create the drought-like condition by overwatering them. So provide only the required amount of water.

Always use a container with drainage holes and keep a saucer underneath so that the excess water drains into it.

Another good but ignored tip is using the same container for watering your plant. This will help you know that you’re giving the same amount of water to your plant.

The perfect size of the pot can also go a long way in preventing waterlogging of soil. Pick a pot that’s just one or two inches bigger than the plant.

  1. Set A Watering Schedule

A consistent watering schedule is very important when it comes to houseplants. Setting a time interval will help the soil dry out completely before the next watering session. We’ll tell you how to do it. When you water your pothos plant for the first time, keep a track of the number of days it takes for the soil to dry completely. Now make a schedule keeping the same in mind.

There will come times when you will have to adjust the schedule, mainly due to changes in weather and environment. If the change is gradual, you will get a hang of this again in sometime.

  1. Water The Plant With Hydrogen Peroxide

Add 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide to 1 gallon of water and water your plant with it. Hydrogen peroxide causes oxidation and most of the fungus and bacteria die in an oxidized or aerobic environment. Therefore, if the plant has had root rot, spray the hydrogen peroxide mixture on it, but only when the soil has dried completely.

  1. Use Fungicide On Your Plant, But With Precaution

If you’re unsure about the soil, you can treat it with a fungicide to get rid of all the possible pathogens. This is basically a preventive method to thwart the development of fungal diseases and clear the already present pathogens in them.

Bio-fungicide would be your best bet here as it contains beneficial fungi, which colonize the soil and kill the harmful ones when used. This also prevents the pathogens from infecting the roots.

In case you’re looking for some recommendations, here are a few

Make sure you follow the instruction properly because one misstep can destroy your plant.

  1. Use Loose, Well Aerated Soil

A proper structure of the soil is required to increase the porosity of the soil. A porous soil will ensure better airflow and more oxygen availability for the roots. Not just that, a well-aerated soil contributes to drainage as well. Soils with a sandy texture are usually well-aerated. But in case you don’t have it handy, you can improve the airflow of your current soil as well.

To make the soil well-aerated, you need to supplement your soil with organic matters, such as peat more. And always sterilize the soil before potting it to kill the existing pathogens.

Alternatively, you can put pebbles at the base of the pot before adding the mix to it.

  1. Rotate Your Plant

Soil-borne pathogens will live in the soil as long as it houses the host plant. So you can try growing a non-host plant in the same soil until the fungi are dead. Once it’s sorted, you can plant your pothos in it.

This method can be a bit tricky for novice gardeners. To try this method, you first need to study the behavior of the pathogen, such as how long it takes for it to die in the soil and which other plants are susceptible to a particular fungus. Proceed with the method only when you’re confident about it.

  1. Stop Over Fertilizing

You are doing your plant no good by feeding it too much fertilizer. Excess fertilizer alters the environment of the soil and damages THE root system. So give only the recommended amount of fertilizer to your plant. A bit less is still fine, but never go overboard with it.

And try to use organic fertilizer as much as you can. The good thing about these fertilizers is that they don’t damage the roots even if you overdo it. Natural fertilizers take a long time to release and can last for as long as five months.

  1. Care For Your Plant

We can’t stress this enough. You need to take proper care of your plant and attend to each of its needs. Regular inspection will help you spot the issues at an early stage, which will improve the chances of their survival. When it comes to pothos, you need to give it special treatment as it is different from other houseplants. They are quite strong on their own, but they get a bit agitated when they are stressed. So you need to be patient with them.

Root Rot In Pothos Plant FAQs

Why does my pothos keep getting affected by root rot?

If your pothos plant keeps getting root rot, it could be because of some underlying soil problem. In this case, you must sterilize everything before repotting. This will prevent the spores from transferring. If you get root rot even after that, you can try new propagation from cuttings.

Can you save a pothos plant with no healthy roots?

It is indeed possible to save a pothos if you can catch it before the leaves are affected. You need 4 healthy and green leaves to resurrect a pothos plant. It would be even better if you use rooting hormone to encourage growth.

Ideally, you must try to prevent root rot from happening in the first place. Keep observing the behavior of your plant and you will know whenever something is wrong with it. If you happen to miss the early signs, employ the tips and suggestions discussed in the article and your pothos will be healthy in no time.

If you have any suggestions about the root rot in Epipremnum aureum, let us know by commenting below.



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