Pothos (Epipremnum aureum), with its heart-shaped, deep green leaves supported on fleshy vines, is a top contender for best ornamental houseplants for newbies and green thumb gardeners to cultivate. They can thrive with minimal care under different conditions and even survive months without watering.
These tropical plants, though, are susceptible to problems such as yellowing leaves. For newbie gardeners, this can be a shock to the system generating a whirlpool of confusion. Why are my pothos leaves turning yellow? is most likely the dominant question pinging around in that confusion and demanding an answer asap.
In this article, we would be providing answers to that question including all the important fixes to the problem. Fortunately, diagnosing the causes and implementing the solutions are, in most cases, simply routine garden care issues.
Why are My Pothos Leaves Turning Yellow?
Pothos, originally from the South Pacific Islands of French Polynesia, are tough, ornamental plants that can be grown indoors or outdoors in Agricultural zones 11 through 12. In other zones, they are only grown indoors with the leaves remaining vibrant throughout the year.
Because they are some of the toughest ornamental houseplants, they are also commonly called Devil’s ivy or Devil’s vine. It takes tons of neglect for the plants to start showing symptoms of failing like yellow leaves.
So when pothos leaves turn yellow, the assumption is that something must be very wrong. Usually, this is correct.
In a couple of instances though, your pothos leaves turning yellow is natural. First, the yellow pothos leaves could be down to the species. There are about a dozen pothos cultivars, and some like the Golden Pothos and Marble Queen, develop yellow variegations on the deep green leaves.
So you might want to confirm your pothos cultivar before deciding if you have a problem to resolve or not.
The other ‘non-problem’ in terms of yellow pothos leaves is linked to aging. Older pothos plants tend to develop yellow leaves. These leaves are typically found at the base of the vines. Given time, they become crispy and fall off the vine.
You could do nothing and allow the leaves to fall off naturally or simply clip them off to maintain the all-green appearance of the plant.
If natural causes are ruled out, pothos leaves turning yellow could be the symptom of a much deeper problem. As you’d soon find out, there are several factors responsible for it. And finding the right fix(es) depends on properly identifying the cause or causes.
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Reasons Pothos Leaves Turn Yellow
The answer is not so straightforward because there are several contributing factors. However, experts feel that light and water issues are the two most critical factors. Other important reasons include root rot which is the fallout of overwatering, harmful chemicals in the soil primarily from fertilizers, lack of nutrients in the soil, and to some extent, the pot becoming too small for the matured plant.
What instantly comes to mind looking at the causes is this: faithfully sticking to the daily pothos daily care routine is a sure path to either fixing the problem or preventing it.
Let’s throw more light on the causative factors listed above.
- Exposure to direct sunlight
While pothos plants can thrive in various light conditions(shady areas, indirect light, low light, etc.), they positively dislike long exposure to direct sunlight. This exposure triggers the production of colored pigments and less chlorophyll in the leaves. These pigments, such as carotene appearing as yellow patches on leaves, act like sunscreen to protect the leaves.
As well as the reduction in chlorophyll production, too much direct sunlight leads to excessive loss of moisture. Yellowish and reddish leaves begin to show up. If unattended for too long, the plant might eventually die after wilting.
Fixing pothos over-exposure to direct sunlight – Moving the plant to a new location would do the trick here. One solution is to place your pothos under trees or taller plants to provide shade if they are outdoors.
If they are indoors, simply relocate the pothos away from the current position. Any location with enough natural light would be awesome as long as direct sunlight can’t get to the plant.
Using a good sunscreen, indoors or outdoors, is a great plan if moving the plant is not an option
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- Watering problems
There are two issues involved when it comes to how improper watering can make pothos leaves turn yellow.
Over-watering – The default watering schedule for pothos plants is to water only when the soil is completely dry. The time it takes for the soil to dry depends on the weather conditions. Deviating from this would result in yellow leaves; brown spots might also begin to appear on the leaves.
The soggy condition of the soil prevents the ideal amount of air from getting to the roots depriving them of a necessary ingredient for growth. Ultimately, this leads to root rot which we would discuss in a bit.
Under-watering – As stated earlier, pothos plants can survive without water for long. Beyond a certain point though, it becomes a problem. As well as the leaves turning yellow, too much underwatering causes curled leaves, wilting or drooping of the plant, and further leaf discoloration with the edges turning brownish.
The solution to pothos watering issues – The solution is pretty straightforward. You want to stick to a strict watering regime. Water only when the soil is completely dry. And don’t allow the soil to remain dry for too long.
You might also want to ensure the drainage holes are not blocked so excess water drains out easily. Finally, don’t allow the pot to sit on a drip tray filled with water; ensure you empty the tray after each watering session.
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- Root rot
Root rot is a very serious pothos fungal disease closely linked to over-watering and/or soggy soils and poor drainage. When the soil is soggy for long, it creates the ideal conditions for harmful bacteria and fungi to thrive ultimately destroying the roots.
In the early stages, the symptoms show up as wilting leaves and yellow discoloration on the leaves. But the major damage is below the soil where the roots take on an unhealthy black or dark appearance. The roots also become mushy to touch while giving off a bad odor. At this stage, the roots are unable to absorb soil nutrients for the plant to utilize.
Pothos root rot solution – The trick to fixing this issue is to catch the disease at the early stage. Beyond that, there is no route back for the plant. You’d have to dispose of the plant and the potting soil. The pot would also have to be disinfected by washing it thoroughly with bleach or soap solution to disinfect it before it can be used again.
If you suspect root rot (soil is always soggy and leaves are turning yellow), carefully uproot the plant and inspect the root. Roots affected by the disease would be black. You can carefully cut out the affected roots and repot the plant in a new pot and new potting soil. Then resume the normal care routine in terms of watering and light exposure.
But if the rot is extensive, the only option is to discard the plant.
To be clear, root rot is easily prevented if the soil is well-draining and watering is done only when the soil is bone dry.
- Chemicals in fertilizer and water
Chemical toxicity is another issue to keep in mind when trying to figure out why your pothos leaves are turning yellow. The major culprit is over-fertilization which adds excess manganese to the soil. Other sources of manganese toxicity include fungicides and extremely low soil pH.
It is also possible to introduce harmful chemicals if the water used in irrigating the pothos plants contains too many chlorides, fluorides, and other salts.
Fixing pathos plant chemical toxicity – When it comes to fixing manganese toxicity in pathos pants, the best option is to quit feeding the plant with plant food that contains manganese. Instead use balanced fertilizers containing nitrogen, iron, phosphorus, and potassium to restore the plant to good health. And the best time to apply fertilizer is once monthly in spring and summer, the peak of their growing season.
You can take the treatment to another level by flushing out the excess manganese from the soil. Simply flood the soil with distilled water and allow excess water to drain out. Repeat this about 3 more times for best results.
Then allow the soil to dry out completely before watering normally again. Flushing the soil with distilled water also removes excess fluorides, chlorides, and other salts.
If you suspect that the water contains harmful chemicals, use rain or spring water when watering. And if this isn’t an option, you can use a basic filter to remove some impurities in the water. Then allow it to sit for at least two days in an open container before using it to water your pothos. This should eliminate harmful chemicals in the water.
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- Rootbound pothos
Pothos plants can outgrow their current pot to become root-bound. When this happens, the roots are unable to function due to an imbalance between potting soil and container size on one hand and the roots on the other.
As well as yellowing leaves, slowed or stunted growth is another sign of a root bound pothos. You can also diagnose this as the problem if the roots start growing out of the drainage holes.
Solution – The only solution is to repot the plant. Use a similar potting soil and a pot that is only one size larger for easier acclimating to the new environment.
Hopefully, this adequately answersed the question; Why are my pothos leaves turning yellow. If you trim all the fluff and excess fat, yellow leaves on pothos plants are essentially down to inadequate care. Flipping the coin, that means the problem can be avoided with proper care and maintenance.
In practice, this implies stuff like watering correctly, using the right fertilizer sparingly in the growing season, providing the right habitat away from direct sunlight, and ensuring the indoor temperature remains within the ideal range for growth.