How to Save an Underwatered Pothos

Last Updated on June 9, 2022 by Admin

Pothos are easy plants to take care of. This feature, combined with their beauty make them among the most popular houseplants around.

However, while pothos can tolerate some period of dryness, it is not drought tolerant.

So, it is very important take quick action once you notice you have an underwatered pothos.

As much as possibly, avoid letting your pothos get dehydrated because this can eventually damage the plant. The good news is, pothos will recover quickly once it gets water.

How do you save an underwatered pothos? Soak the plant through bottom watering. You want to water the plant thoroughly so the roots are able to get rehydrated.

Bottom watering is ideal as it allows the roots to absorb moisture at their own rate. Make sure to let the plant completely drain after.

Overwatered vs. Underwatered Pothos

Overwatering and underwatering your pothos plant are both harmful to its health. It weakens the plant and makes it prone to problems.

As such, it is very important to observe your pothos for any changes in the way it looks.

These changes will help you identify any possible issues including both overwatering and underwatering.

An overwatered pothos usually develops yellow leaves. But it will also have brown leaves.

Thus, when you see either discoloration, it is important to feel the leaves. Their texture will help you determine if the plant is overwatered or underwatered.

Overwatered pothos will have soft, limp leaves that can feel mushy as well.

On the other hand, an underwatered pothos usually presents brown leaves. But the biggest difference is the leaves will feel dry and crispy.

If the plant is dehydrated, the leaves will become brittle as well and can crumble when you touch the edges and tips.

In addition to feeling the texture of the leaves, it is also a good idea to touch the surface of the soil.

Wet, mucky soil or soil with small puddles of water means the plant is likely overwatered. In contrast, very dry soil that separates from the pot on the edges is a sign of underwatering.

In either case, too much or too little water are both bad.

If your pothos is underwatered, it will wilt because there isn’t enough moisture to fill the stems and keep them up.

The leaves and plant also get weaker since it does not get enough water and nutrients (which is transported through water from the roots).

If this persists, the plant will eventually get weak and die.

For an overwatered pothos, the excess water will fill the soil and push out all the oxygen in the air pockets between the soil particles.

As a result, the roots will end up flooded with water and with no oxygen to breathe.

If the excess water does not drain or dry soon, the roots end up suffocating. This will kill the roots which will later rot.


Signs of Underwatered Pothos

Very Dry Soil

One common sign of an underwatered pothos is very dry soil.

In addition to the dry surface of the soil, stick your finger down about 2-3 inches from the top. If the soil at that level still feels dry, it means the plant needs water.

You can also unpot the plant to check.

If the entire root ball or soil is very dry all the way down, it is likely that your pothos is quite dehydrated already.

But in most cases, just feeling the moisture at around 2-3 inches down from the surface is enough to tell you that the plant needs water.


Dry, Crispy Leaves

One of the most telling signs of an underwatered pothos is dry, crispy leaves.

By running your fingers through the surface of the leaves, you’ll easily notice that their texture is different from what it normally is.

And the leaves will feel dry and crispy.

In most cases, the outer leaves will experience this first since they’re farther from the roots which is where the moisture is absorbed from the soil.

But in a very underwatered plant, even the inner leaves will feel dry as well.


Brown Leaves

Brown leaves are usually develop in an underwatered plant.

And the leaves will usually begin turning brown at the tips and edges. Again, this is because these are the farthest points that moisture has to reach in the leaves.

So, the experience the signs of lack of water first.

But if the plant does not get any water soon, you’ll see the browning spread until entire leaves turn brown.

And more and more leaves will turn brown as well.


Curling Leaves

Curling leaves in pothos is another sign that there is a watering issue. But it is one of those signals that can mislead you.

That’s because leaf curl can indicate overwatering or underwatering.

So, it is important to see where the leaves are curling.

Leaves curling inward means the plant is underwatered. Outward curling leaves mean they are getting to much water.

The reason why leaves curl inwards when underwatered is to conserve water.

In doing so, they reduce the surface area of the leaves so the don’t lose as much moisture to transpiration and evaporation.

That said, if you are not sure, just take note of the curling as a sign of a problem with watering. And use the other signals to help you distinguish between too much or too little water.


Sad-Looking, Drooping or Wilting Plant

Plants, including the pothos, consists of 90% water. As such, it is water that filles the stems of the plant to keep up it.

It is also water that produces the pressure to keep the plants upright.

So, a plant that is underwatered or dehydrated will start wilting and have a droopy look if is lacks water.

Additionally, the leaves will start bending downwards and droop as well.

The combination of this and the leaf discoloration and change in texture will make your pothos look very sad and weak.



How to Save an Underwatered Pothos

Pothos are fairly hardy when it comes to tolerating dryness. However, they don’t like the soil going bone dry. And they are not drought tolerant as well.

Therefore, as much as possible, avoid letting the entire root ball get dry.

Often, pothos can tolerate a week or two or so without watering. This is especially true when the weather is moderate or cool.

But in the summer, avoid letting your pothos go dry for long periods of time.

In most cases, if you’ve left your pothos without watering for 3 weeks or more, it will already be underwatered.

The most important thing is not to let the roots go very dry.

When they do, they become very brittle and can easily break. This will reduce the number of roots the plant has to absorb moisture and nutrients.

The good news is, once you water an underwatered pothos, it will recover fairly quickly.

It usually only takes 24 hours before you see it start perking up and begin recovering. The key is to avoid leaving it dehydrated for long periods of time or letting it go underwatered on a regular basis.

Both conditions will eventually damage the plant.


Water Your Pothos Thoroughly

The best way to revive an underwatered pothos is to give it a good soak. You want to water it thoroughly.

And while you can do this by watering from above, the best way I’ve found to help the plant recover from dehydration or lack of water is to use bottom watering.

Here’s how.

Take the pothos and place it in a bathtub. You can use a large sink or container.

The goal is that the container or sink needs to have enough space to put the entire pot with the plant in it.

Then fill the bathtub, sink or container with water up to about 2-4 inches.

How much water depends on the size of the pot and your pothos.

Don’t sink or submerge the entire pot in water. Instead, just have a few inches of water on the side.

This way, the soil will absorb the water through the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. It will do so at its own pace. So, this takes time.

Depending on how big the pot is, it can take 10 or 25 minutes.

Thus, you can leave it alone and check back every 10 minutes or so.

When checking, feel the surface of the soil. You can also stick your finger about 2 inches down from surface.

Once this level starts feeling moist, you can take the pot out of the water.

Then make sure to allow the plant to drain completely before your return it to its original location.


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Prune Any Damaged Leaves and Stems

Once you’ve given an underwatered pothos a good watering, it is time to remove all the damaged leaves.

This includes the brown, yellow, wilted, soft, mushy leaves.

Also, take out any affected stems.

Damaged leaves and stems won’t recover to their original glory. So, they won’t turn green again.

Therefore, it is a good idea to remove them.

It also relieves the extra energy the plant puts into them to try and heal or recover these damaged parts.

Instead, the pothos will focus its energy and resources on the healthy leaves and pushing out new shoots and foliage.

As always, make sure to sanitize the blades of your scissors or pruning shears with rubbing alcohol before making any cut on the plant.

This will prevent any possible pathogens from the cutting too to infect your pothos.


Adjust Your Watering Routine

With your underwatered pothos on its way to recovery, the next important thing is to ensure that this does not happen again.

Therefore, it is important to set a watering schedule where you don’t end up forgetting the water the plant.

Often, it is forgetting to water that causes underwatering.

This can happen due to your busy lifestyle of having to work, care for the kids and do all the chores.

To reduce the need to remember or memorize things, try to feel the soil once or twice a week. To do so, stick your finger into the soil down to about 2 inches from surface.

If that depth feels dry, it is time to water.

Don’t water before then. And avoid allowing the entire root ball to dry either.

As long as you water anywhere between the soil being dry from the top 2 inches to around halfway down the soil, your pothos will be happy.


Move the Plant If Needed

In addition to forgetting to water, the other sneaky things than can speed up loss of moisture are too much light and a very warm location.

Therefore, check if it gets really hot where you keep your pothos.

This is especially true during the summer when the weather can hit high temperatures.

If this is the case, move it to a cooler area in your home.

Ideally, choose a spot with medium to bright indirect light that has temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

A humidity of at least 50% will also help reduce the risk of underwatering.



An underwatered pothos is something every owner needs to look out for. That’s because it can damage the roots if the plant stays dehydrated for too long.

By knowing the signs of an underwatered pothos and how to revive the plant when this happens, you’ll be able to nurse it back to good health.

However, it is best to avoid underwatering altogether.

And you can do so by making sure to consistently water the plant when it needs moisture.

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