How to Save Overwatered Pothos (Devil’s Ivy)

An overwatered pothos plant is something every owner has to look out for. You want to avoid this condition as it has the ability damage or even kill your plant.

Therefore, checking the soil and observing for changes in the appearance of your pothos are very important since these signs can warn you that your pothos is overwatered.

How do you save an overwatered pthos? If you’ve overwatered your pothis, check whether the damage has reached the roots.

If there is root rot, you’ll need to prune the damaged roots and repot the plant in dry soil. If there is no root rot, simply draining the excess moisture and allowing the soil to dry will save the plant.

Underwatered vs. Overwatered Pothos Difference

Neither an underwatered and overwatered pothos is good. Both can damage the plant or even kill it.

However, of the two overwatering is a more serious problem because it can inflict serious damage in a shorter period of time.

This can result in your pothos experiencing health problems and potential dying.

That said, because of the consequences of both an underwatered and overwatered pothos, it is important to know the differences between them.

That’s because if you interchange one for the other, you could end up worsening the situation.

The trickiest part about differentiating between an underwatered vs. overwatered pothos is that many of their symptoms overlap and are similar.

So, it is crucial to observe for certain details.

With an underwatered pothos, you’ll have a weak, sad looing plant.

The most obvious signs are wilting and dry, crispy, brown leaves. This happens because the leaves need water to stay healthy.

When the pothos gets dehydrated, the lack of water won’t reach the leaves which are the farthest points from the roots. This causes them to get dry and turn brown.

Additionally, because plants are 90% water (including the pothos), lack of water will make the plant wilt as well.

More importantly, nutrients from the soil are transported through water. And like people, if your pothos does not get water and nutrients for an extended period of time, its health will deteriorate and eventually die.

Meanwhile, an overwatered pothos will also develop brown leaves.

But if you feel the leaves, you’ll notice they feel limp and soft instead of dry and crispy as is the case of underwatering.

To verify even further, feel the soil.

Wet, mucky soil means you have an overwatered pothos while very dry, crusty soil means the pothos is underwatered.

When a pothos is given too much water, it won’t be able to absorb all the moisture.

This leaves the soil wet and soggy. And the excess water will soon drown the roots. In doing so, the water will fill all the air gaps in the soil pushing out every bit of oxygen.

If this persists for long periods of time, the roots stay submerged in water without sufficient air to breath.

As a result, they will eventually suffocate and die.

Dead roots will eventually rot leading to root rot.

When this happens, the dead roots don’t work anymore. So, the plant won’t get the nutrients and water it needs from the soil, leading it to deteriorate and eventually die.

 

Signs of an Overwatered Pothos

To verify that your pothos is overwatered, here are some signs to look out for.

Note that depending on how long the plant has been overwatered and the severity of the overwatering, you may or may not see some symptoms develop yet.

But in time, these signs will eventually appear.

The key is to try to catch overwatering early which makes it much easier to save and revive the plant.

 

Soft, Wilted, Droopy Leaves

While brown and yellow leaves make it difficult to tell the difference between an overwatered and underwatered pothos, the texture of these leaves simply it.

In contrast to dry, crispy leaves which occur in underwatering, an overwatered pothos leaves will feel soft and limp.

They will feel mushier than normal due to excess moisture in them.

 

Curling Leaves

Leaf curl can be a confusing symptom because both underwatering and overwatering both cause this sign to happen in pothos.

But when you see many leaves curling outwards, it usually means that the plant is overwatered. On the other hand, when leaves curl inward, it indicated lack of water.

Leaves curl as a way to try to conserve water.

In doing so, it reduces the surface area which prevents less water loss due to transpiration and evaporation.

 

Wrinkles Leaves

Wrinkled leaves are also a sign of overwatering. This happens as blisters develop in foliage due to too much moisture.

As a result, the deformed surface will cause the leaves to look wrinkled.

Blisters develop as the plant absorbs more water that it needs.

So, you’ll see the excess moisture distributed to the leaves causing the blisters.

 

Yellow Leaves

Yellow leaves are a common sign of an overwatered pothos. In fact, many plant owners use this is the first sign that indicates overwatering.

In most cases, the yellowing leaves will develop at the bottom part of the plant.

This means it affects the older leaves.

This happens because when roots are damaged, the transport of nutrients to the leaves is affected.

And the lack of nutrients will show in yellowing leaves.

 

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Root Rot

Root rot is one of the most serious signs of overwatering. Once you notice this, it is imperative to take immediate action to save your plant.

Why?

Pothos root rot can kill the plant.

Every day you don’t treat or try to save a plant with root rot, the rotting will keep spreading. And past a certain point when too many roots are damaged or have rotten, the plant won’t be able to sustain itself due to the inability to absorb enough water and nutrients from the soil.

That said, since roots are hidden under the soil, you’ll need to unpot the plant to confirm the presence of root rot.

Often the first thing you’ll notice is the stench from the rotten roots.

Once you see the roots, you’ll see brown or black mushy roots instead of the white, firm, flexible healthy roots.

Note as long as there is at least one rotten root, your pothos has root rot and it is important to treat it.

The best case scenario is there is no root rot. But if there is, the hope is that only a few roots have rotten, which makes it easier to save the pothos.

 

How to Save Overwatered Pothos

Now for the most important part, how to save an overwatered pothos.

Keep in mind that timing is very important in this case because the longer the plant is in an overwatered state, the higher the risk of root rot.

And once root rot starts, the longer it takes before treatment begins, the lower the probability that you’ll be able to save the plant.

 

Stop Watering Your Pothos

The first thing to do when to suspect overwatering is to stop watering. You don’t want to add more water to worsen the situation.

Additionally, it is very important to verify whether or not the plant is indeed overwatered.

To do so, check the soil.

If the surface of the soil feels mucky, wet or soggy, especially if it has been at least a few days since you last watered your pothos, then overwatering is likely.

Any signs of water puddles or excess liquid on the surface of the soil is an even bigger giveaway.

 

Unpot the Plant & Check the Roots

Because of the seriousness of root rot, the next step I often take is a precaution.

I’d rather be safe than sorry.

I like to take out the pothos and check for possibly root rot.

Note that an overwatered pothos does not necessarily mean there is root rot yet. But it can develop if the excess moisture is not relieved.

However, if the plant has root rot, it will confirm overwatering.

Once you take out your pothos, you’ll have 2 possible results.

  • No root rot
  • Root rot is already present

In the best case scenario, there will be no rotten roots.

Thus, all the roots will look healthy. They will have a white color and feel firm to the touch. There is also no foul smell.

If this is the case, you can continue with the steps below and breathe a sigh of relief.

In case there is root rot, then it is important to treat the pothos root rot to try save the plant. To fix this, skip to the last step below where I discuss repotting an overwatered pothos.

 

Drain Excess Moisture

If there is any excess water in the soil, you want to get rid of this. You can tip the pot over to its side carefully and let the excess moisture drain out.

In case you have plant out of the plant, try to drain out any excess liquid from the root ball or if there is any in the pot.

At this time, you also want to check the holes at the bottom of the pot.

If there is some obstruction, remove them to ensure proper drainage.

 

Turn the Soil to Aerate It

In addition to draining excess water, you also want to make the soil dry faster as well.

The less time the plant’s roots stay in an overwatered state, the better.

One way to do this is to allow air to get into the soil.

Aerating the soil can be done by poking holes or making small holes so air can get into the soil. This will let the wet soil in the middle and bottom parts of the pot dry faster.

You can also turn the soil over a few times to let air in between the particles.

 

Prune Damaged Leaves

Next, prune any damaged leaves. These include both brown and yellow leaves.

Discolored leaves will not turn green again.

Instead, they will eventually rot which either means they’ll drop. And in the meantime, the plant will keep spending energy and resources to try and save these leaves.

Thus, pruning is a good option.

By remove the damaged leaves, you keep your plant looking nice and green.

Additionally, you let it focus all is energy on the healthy leaves and the new leaves. This will allow it begin recovering.

Note that after you’ve pruned the yellow and brown leaves and new discolored leaves develop again, then it means that something is still wrong.

Ideally, if you’ve solved the problem, the yellowing or browning should stop.

 

Place the Plant in a Well-Lit Spot with Good Ventilation

To help the plant dry faster, position your pothos somewhere with plenty of light and good air circulation.

Keep it mind to avoid direct sunlight.

Instead, place it where it receives medium to bright indirect light.

Airflow also helps dry the soil and keep the leaves dry as well.

However, avoid any windy or drafty areas indoors. The plant hates drafts including those from vents, open windows or doors.

 

Repot the Plant

Repotting an overwatered pothos may be an optional move or a necessary one.

If the plant is overwatered with no root rot and you don’t want to wait for the soil to dry, you can repot your pothos in dry soil.

This allows the plant to immediately get relief from the wet soil instead of waiting for it to dry (which can take days to a week).

In this case, repotting is optional.

You can repot or go through the steps above.

 

Repotting an Overwatered Pothos Plant with Root Rot

However, if there is root rot, then repotting becomes necessary.

Repotting is the best way to try and save an overwatered pothos with root rot. But you’ll need to do a few extra things first.

Once your take the plant out of the pot, remove all the excess soil from the roots.

You then need to prune the rotten roots and let them dry. Then repot the plant in a new pot with dry, well-draining potting mix.

In case the root rot was caused by fungal infection, you’ll also need to disinfect the root system and carefully discard of the soil which will still contain the pathogens.

Don’t forget to disinfect the pot as well.

You can use fungicide for the roots. For the pot, you can use a hydrogen peroxide solution or a bleach solution.

Only after disinfecting do you want to repot the plant in dry soil.

Taking these extra steps ensures that the fungal disease that caused to root rot will not follow the plant to its new home.

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