Yellow Leaves On Pothos Plants: Causes & Fixes
If you have yellow pothos leaves you’re likely wondering like I often have: Why are my pothos leaves turning yellow? There are a number of reasons for yellow pothos leaves, among them over or under watering, insufficient light, temperature and disease. In order to remedy yellow leaves on pothos, you first need to identify the cause.
Why is My Pothos Turning Yellow?
A pothos with yellowing leaves is a sign that something is stressing the plant. In order to solve the issue you need to identify the cause. It might be something as simple as too much water or as sinister as a disease.
Common Causes of Yellow Pothos Leaves
Some of the more common causes of yellowing foliage on pothos may also be signs of other underlying issues. They may also indicate a combination of problems with your plant that could require a multi-faceted approach to heal the plant. But it may not be reflecting a real problem. Read on to determine what's happening.
Old leaves on plants often turn yellow. In nature, this is simply a sign that the leaf has matured as much as it is going to. It no longer has a function or is needed for photosynthesis so it yellows and then drops from the plant. This is called natural leaf shedding and may happen even on the evergreen foliage of a climbing pothos plant.
Another reason old leaves turn yellow may be from lack of nitrogen. Nitrogen is moved from older more mature leaves to newly developing leaves when there isn’t enough nitrogen in the potting soil. This usually happens in the spring which means March is usually the time to start fertilizing houseplants. Use a slow release or water-soluble at a quarter to half strength with each watering. Stop fertilizing in late summer.
Overwatering is another reason for pothos turning yellow. The leaves will yellow and the stems turn black when a pothos is overwatered. You may also see blackening of leaf margins or tips when the plant is overwatered (or underwatered).
Overwatered pothos are also prone to root rot wherein the roots will either be nonexistent or brown and slimy.
Underwatering and Excess Fertilizer
Just as overwatering pothos can result in yellow foliage, so too can underwatering. In this case, the foliage may also wilt and curl combined with the yellowing.
Pothos should be watered every 1-2 weeks or whenever the top 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) of the soil is dry to the touch. The plant will need more water when in brighter light and less in low light.
Excess fertilizer can also result in yellowing leaves and blackened leaf margins or tips. Too much fertilizer causes a buildup of salts in the soil which can discolor the foliage.
Lack of Sunlight
Pothos is an easy-care houseplant perfect for the new plant owner however it does have its foibles. Pothos does best when in filtered light and doesn’t tolerate direct sunlight. Too little sun exposure can cause the leaves to turn yellow.
As a liana found from Southeast Asia to New Guinea and into Australia, pothos plants prefer a temperature of between 70-90 F (21-32 C) with high humidity. Any colder, and pothos foliage will begin to yellow and drop. That’s why pothos is grown as a houseplant in all USDA zones, except for 10-12 where it is warm enough for the plant to grow outside.
Both bacterial leaf spot and Pythium root rot can cause yellowing leaves on pothos plants. Bacterial leaf spot results in water-soaked lesions with yellow halos rapidly spreading across the foliage. Pythium root rot causes yellow leaves to die back and mushy, black stems.
Bacterial leaf spot is the result of overhead watering while Pythium root rot is due to contaminated cuttings or potting mix. There is no cure for bacterial leaf spot and infected plants should be discarded. Those infected with Pythium can be treated with a fungicide and repotted in a pathogen-free potting medium.
Ethylene and Pothos
Ethylene is a natural gas emitted from some ripening fruits as well as decomposing plant detritus. It can also be found in greenhouse heaters that are malfunctioning. It can even be found in shipping containers. The result is foliage that turns yellow and then brown. The entire pothos may look wilted even if it has sufficient water.
Inspect greenhouse heaters and provide adequate ventilation in both the greenhouse and when shipping the plants. Avoid shipping pothos with mixed shipments of produce, floral or foliage products. Ethylene treatments can be applied to multi-crop systems.
Know Your Pothos Cultivar
There are several varieties of pothos, some of which have variegated leaves of yellow and green, or of marbled white and green. One variation, “Neon,” has bright yellow leaves, while others have large beautiful splashes of white.
Should You Cut Yellow Leaves Off Pothos?
There is no reason to prune pothos although it is extremely tolerant of pruning if you wish to retard its size. Yellow leaves as well as dead or dried leaves should generally be removed since they are more likely due to a minor problem with the plant.
If you do cut yellowed leaves and suspect a disease, remember there may be no cure and the entire plant might have to be discarded. It may be better to do this at the outset rather than risk infecting other houseplants. If you do decide to cut yellow leaves that may be infected, be sure to sterilize the pruning shears after use.
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Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.
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