Pothos Leaves Turning Brown: Causes & Treatments

Pothos leaves turning brown is not something normal. Therefore, whenever this happens, it is your plan telling you that something’s wrong and it needs help.

Below, I’ll go through the different reasons why your pothos leaves are turning brown, including completely brown leaves, partial brown leaves, browning tips and edges.

Each of these often gives you a clue as to what’s happening.

Why are My Pothos Leaves Turning Brown?

The most common reasons that a pothos has brown leaves is underwatering or overwatering. However, it can mean other things as well including too much light, infection, overfertilizing or temperature and humidity issues.

Unfortunately, there’s no sure way to find out except for analyzing the browning of the leaves and examining the plant.

And the best way to go about this is by using the process of elimination. As you gain more experience and know your pothos’ preferences, you’ll get a better feel as well. By then, you won’t need to run through the entire checklist of causes of pothos brown leaves.

Instead, your gut and instinctive feel will immediately narrow it down to 1, 2 or at most 3 potential reasons.

That said, I’ve compiled a complete list of causes for pothos leaves turning brown below. It includes what happens, the cause and how to fix each one.

 

Causes of Pothos Leaves Turning Brown & How to Fix Each

Chart on Why are My Pothos Leaves Turning Brown Common Causes
CHART – Why are My Pothos Leaves Turning Brown

 

Problems with Watering

Watering issues is usually the among the most common causes of pothos leaves turning brown. This is especially true for houseplants.

In general, pothos enjoy moist soil. However, they are sensitive to too much water.

And if you’re new to caring for pothos plants, this is the #1 thing to watch out for. I know I had to learn the hard way and I initially watered my first few pothos plants like my other houseplant.

Soon enough, they died!

Yes, I did lose a few pothos plants in the beginning from overwatering. And only because I treated them like my other houseplants.

Instead, it is better to allow part of the soil to dry between waterings.

Overwatering is bad for the plant as its roots cannot tolerate standing in water for extended periods of time. If this happens, the tips of the leaves can turn brown. You may also seed large spots in the middle of the leaves.

If this goes unchecked, it can eventually lead to root rot.

So, the best way to water your pothos is to allow the soil to dry at least 1-2 inches from the top between waterings. You can likewise wait until the soil is dry about halfway (or 50%) before you water the plant.

Additionally, use a potting mix that drains excess moisture well. This will ensure that the soil does not retain too much water.

Finally, make sure the pot you use has drainage holes as well to let the water out.

If your pothos already has brown leaves, cut back on watering. This should help stop more brown leaves from forming.

 

Lighting Issues

Indoors, pothos plants enjoys moderate to bright indirect light. Outdoors, they do best in bright shade or partial shade.

In both environments, you want to avoid too much or too little light. Both can results in your pothos leaves turning brown (for different reasons).

In the wild, pothos are gap plants. As such, they stay in the gaps in the forests where the larger plants and tress don’t block all of the sunlight. This way, they get some sun.

However, because of the forest canopy, they never receive the brunt of he sun’s rays. As such, they cannot tolerate strong light or direct sun for prolonged periods of time.

Instead, they prefer indirect or filtered light indoors and some shade outdoors. The only exceptions are gentle direct sunlight (which occurs before 10:30 a.m. and after 4:00 p.m.).

In fact, pothos plants appreciate this kind of light and will grow fasters and produce more foliage if they get it. For this reason and east or west facing window are the best indoor locations for most pothos plants.

When it gets:

  • Too much direct sun or strong light – its leaves can turn brown. In most cases, you’ll see large brown spots or patches on the leaves. These are scorch or sunburn marks. And they are indications that the plant is getting excess light. Thus, the solution is to move it somewhere less bright.
  • Too little light – can likewise cause browning, but this takes longer to happen. The reason is that under insufficient light, the plant’s leaves will initially turn greener. This is its survival response where it produces more chlorophyll to try an absorb as much light as possible from the weak light source. But, after a while if it is unable to get enough light to sustain itself, the leaves will eventually turn brown as well. Therefore, when you see any of these symptoms, move it somewhere brighter.

 

Temperature

Pothos are tropical plants. This means they enjoy consistently moderate to warm weather all year round. This is what makes them easy to care for indoors. Inside our homes, we tend to regulate temperature to keep it fairly consistent.

Pothos thrive in temperatures between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Some like it on the warmer end of that range and many prefer more moderate conditions (75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit).

Because tropical regions don’t experience winters (or at least cold, freezing temperatures), the plant is unable to withstand low temperatures.

They usually have problems if left in environments where temperature is below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. And the long they stay there or the colder is gets, the more likely they’ll experience cold damage.

One of the symptoms to this is browning leaves.

As such keep your pothos somewhere it is toasty and warm.

Outdoors, they plant is best suited tor USDA Hardiness Zones 10 and 11.

 

Humidity

Pothos enjoy moderate to high humidity. Some varieties thrive in more humid conditions whereas others are better at tolerating average household humidity.

Also, where your pothos comes from can affect how much humidity is wants. Those can come from the lowlands or normal elevations tend to prefer higher humidity. On the other hand, those that originally come from higher elevations can tolerate slightly lower air moisture.

In most cases, pothos thrive in humidity of 50% and higher.

Although many will do okay in 35% and 40% humidity as well, which makes them easier to care for at home.

The telltale sign that your pothos lacks humidity is browning leaf tips. Any dryness, crisping, brittle or brown leaf tips and edges is usually a sign that it wants more humidity.

As such, it is a good idea to either move the plant to somewhere more humid, mist it regularly or set up a humidifier.

 

Related

 

Pests

If you notice your pothos leaves turning brown gradually or parts of the leaves suddenly turn brown in different spots, you may have a pest infestations.

Your pothos can have brown leaves (although usually in parts than in whole) when pests come around.

That’s because pests attack on different parts of the leaves. However, they do prey on younger leaves first for the most part.

Just as importantly, because pothos tends to attract sap sucking insects like spider mites, mealybugs, aphids and scale, they’ll rob the plant of moisture and nutrients.

Once these bugs grow in number they can do substantial damage not just in the leaves but also the stems.

As such, it is important to prevent them by keeping the plant as healthy as possible. It also helps to wipe the leaves with a damp cloth to remove dust as dust tends to attract pests.

If you notice some brown spots on leaves caused by pests or see the insects yourself, you can treat them with diluted neem oil or horticultural oil.

 

Diseases

Bacterial and fungal disease can be the reason for your pothos turning brown. However, the symptoms will appear in many wants. This all depends on the kind of infection your plant gets.

In some cases, entire leaves turn brown. This can be accompanied by wilting or even black veins in foliage.

In other cases, even the stems turn brown. Some diseases like leaf spot will results in small or large brown spots on the leaves themselves.

A such, your pothos’ brown leaves and how the browning presents itself often helps in diagnosing what infection is ailing your plant.

Then there’s the most serious one of all, root rot.

Here, the roots of your pothos turns brown in some cases black. They’ll become mushy and stinky as well.

With diseases, moisture is often the number one culprit. Therefore, reduce watering and keep the plant in a drier environment. This usually helps limit or reduce most of the diseases.

However, with root rot, you will need to prune the rotted roots and repot the plant to fresh, dry soil.

 

Improper Soil

As mentioned above, your pothos leaves turning brown can be caused by overwatering. However, overwatering usually happens when you add too much water or water the plant too often.

But it is not only the case that can cause the plant’s roots to end up sitting in water (and therefore at risk of root rot).

Using the incorrect soil can also cause this issue.

Heavy, dense soils can result in waterlogging. It can retain too much moisture so that even if you water with the correct frequency, the plant still ends up with root rot.

Therefore, avoid these types of soil that are water-retnetive.

Instead, go for well-draining soil or potting mixes that have good drainage. These will ensure that excess moisture drain quickly so the roots don’t sit in water for too long. But they get enough hydration.

If the soil holds too much moisture, it could cause your pothos to turn brown as well.

 

Excess Fertilizer

Like water, too much fertilizer can likewise cause pothos brown leaves. Fertilizer is generally thought of as a good thing. However, too much of it is actually more harmful that not giving your plant any fertilizer at all.

Therefore, resist the temptation of overfeeding the plant. As this can lead to fertilizer burn.

When this happens, the initially symptoms are browning leaf tips. Over time, this will increase as well so you’ll see more browning if you don’t adjust your feeding schedule.

Additionally, you’ll have a weak looking, sluggish plant with small leaves.

Over time, fertilizer will eventually cause your pothos to turn black.

As such, if you see any of these symptoms, reduce fertilizer application.

The plant only needs to be fed once or twice a month during its growing season (spring and summer). It does not need more plant food in the winter.

A better treatment would be to either:

  • Repot the plant – placing it in fresh, well-draining potting soil will move the roots away from the excess fertilizer salts and minerals that are causing the fertilizer burn. This will allow the plant to recover.
  • Flush the soil – by pouring water for a few minutes you’ll be able to flush out the excess salts and minerals using the water. Make sure to let the soil drain completely after.

 

Natural Causes

Finally, there are natural causes that will turn your pothos leaves brown as well. Although in this case, you don’t need to worry as there’s nothing wrong with your plant.

However, it is likely a sign that your plant is getting older.

Pothos typically live between 5 to 10 years. As they get older, the leaves will turn brown. This is just part of the natural life cycle of the plant.

 

How to Fix Pothos Leaves Turning Brown Checklist
How to Fix Pothos Leaves Turning Brown Checklist

 

Should I Cut Off Browning Pothos Leaves?

Yes. Brown pothos leaves will not recover and become green again. As such, they best solution is just to remove them.

This will prevent the plant from spending more energy and resources trying to help those leaves recover.

After your trim off brown leaves, it will revert those resources to healthier leaves which will help the plant grow better.

Note that besides removing the brown leaves, you’ll want to figure out what’s actually causing them.

If you don’t fix the underlying problem, new brown leaves will keep appearing. So, the cycle never stops. And your plant gets weaker as this happens.

Therefore, the most important thing is still to fix whatever’s causing the browning leaves first.

 

Preventing Pothos Brown Leaves

As mentioned above, the best way to fix a pothos with brown leaves and tips to fix the problem causing this. This also applies to prevention.

In order to prevent pothos leaves from turning brown, you want to avoid the causes that result in this situation.

This means:

  1. Ensure that your plant gets bright, indirect light with no direction sunshine. Avoid strong light especially during mid-day and summer.
  2. Keep the plant in a warm location. It enjoys temperatures between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit the most. So, try to keep it consistently at that level. Pothos are better at tolerating warm weather. However, avoid anything below 50 degrees.
  3. Monitor humidity. Pothos enjoy humidity. Ideally, keep humidity at least 40% and higher.
  4. Keep your plant healthy and clean. This will deter pests. Pests are attracted to dust. And they can sense a stressed plant. When this happens, they will attack it to try to steal its sap.
  5. Avoid overwatering. Pothos are susceptible to overwatering. Therefore, water the plant once a week during summer and once every 2 weeks in winter. Make sure to let part of the soil dry before adding more water.
  6. Use well-draining soil. In addition to adjusting your watering schedule based on how the soil feels, make sure you’re using potting mix that drains well to ensure there’s no waterlogging happening.
  7. Choose a pot with drainage holes. Besides, proper watering and well-draining soil, use a container with drainage holes so excess moisture can escape as well.
  8. Remove any brown leaves. Leaving brown leaves on the plant is not only visually unappealing it can cause the problem to spread. Therefore, cut off the sections that are browning or prune the entire leaves.
  9. Don’t overfeed your pothos. Too much fertilizer will cause fertilizer burn which damages roots and leaves.

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