Pothos are popular houseplants because they are easy to care for and adapt well to indoor conditions. But if you wake up one day and notice your pothos leaves turning white, what do you do?
Unfortunately, this can happen.
At times, the leaves will turn entirely or mostly white. Other times, they’ll lose their lovely green color and become pale or light yellow.
So what gives? And more importantly, how do you fix it?
Why are your pothos leaves turning white? This is not a common occurrence. But it can happen. The most common causes are lack of light and potassium deficiency.
However, pothos leaves turning white can also happen dur to overwatering, incorrect soil, temperature issues and excess light.
Therefore, it is important to diagnose the actual cause to allow you to properly treat the problem.
Causes of Pothos Leaves Turning White
Lack of Light
Pothos leaves turning white can be caused by insufficient light.
In general, pothos are beloved houseplants because they can tolerate low light. However, for ideal growth, the plant thrives in medium to bright indirect light.
This will allow it to grow faster, produce more leaves and maintain lovely foliage color.
And while the plant will adjust and tolerate low light without any problems, there’s such a thing as too little light.
Keep in mind that low light does not mean no light. Nor does it meal dim or dark locations.
As such, very little light will not only affect the growth of the plant but also its leaves.
They will turn lighter and get pale in color. In more extreme cases, you’ll see pothos leaves turn white as well.
Similarly, if your pothos has variegated leaves, you’ll see the variegations fade as well.
And there’s a risk that the plant will revert back to all green leaves.
How to Fix It
The good news is the pothos leaves turning white due to lack of light is very easy to fix.
The simplest way is to move the plant to a brighter location.
However, before you do it is important to understand the kind of light pothos need.
Pothos thrive in bright, indirect sunlight indoors and partial shade outdoors. The can tolerate medium light and low light as well.
But avoid the extremes.
This includes very low light, insufficient light and no light.
Basically, if you cannot sit down in that spot and read a magazine or newspaper there without turning on a lamp or the lights, then there’s not enough light for the plant to do well.
At the same time, it cannot tolerate too much light.
Too much light means strong, intense light or direct sunlight especially during the middle of the day or summertime.
As such, an ideal spot for the pothos indoors is near an east or west facing window without the sun’s rays ever touching the plant.
Excess light or intensity can scorch its leaves.
Thus, full sun outdoors is likewise out of the question.
In case you don’t get much natural light into your home, you can always use artificial light as well. Fluorescent light works very well. But the pothos needs at least 12-14 hours of exposure daily.
Too Much Water
Overwatering is another reason for pothos leaves turning white.
This time is it not the lack of light that causes the pale leaves. Instead, it is too much water.
Plants need water. But they also need air.
The problem is that if you add too much water or water the plant too often, moisture will fill all the air pockets in the soil.
When this happens, the roots end up drowning in lots of liquid.
At the same time, the water will push out all the air from the pockets between the soil particles. Thus, depriving the roots on oxygen.
If this condition persists for prolonged periods of time or happens often enough, the roots will eventually die of suffocation then rot.
That’s how you end up with root rot.
While root rot takes a while to overcome the entire root system, damaged or rotten roots mean they don’t function anymore.
So, what happens is that the plant will suffer because it won’t get enough water and nutrients.
Fewer healthy roots means less water and nutrients absorbed from the soil.
The lack of nitrogen, iron, sulfur and other minerals will lead to pale or white colored leaves. And with more roots getting damaged or rotting, you’ll see fewer pothos leaves stay green.
This is why overwatering is very dangerous for indoor plants.
How to Fix It
Pothos like moist soil. Unfortunately, many people misinterpret that is wet soil or soil with some water you can see on the surface.
In gardening, the latter is considered wet soil.
And that’s a bad thing for tropical plants like the pothos.
That’s because they don’t like wet feet. And leaving their roots in a lot of water increases the risk of problems.
Thus, the best way to avoid this is to allow part of the soil to dry between waterings.
Here, you have a couple of options.
The first is to wait until the top 2 inches of soil has dried before you water the plant. This is the absolute minimum.
And you can easily check this by sticking your finger into the soil down 2 inches from the surface.
If the soil at that depth is dry, it is time to water. Otherwise, don’t water and wait a few days before you test the soil again.
I like to be more conservative considering how deadly overwatering and root rot are.
So, I prefer to wait until the top 25% to 50% of the soil has dried before watering the plant.
This gives me more leeway. And further reduces the risk of overwatering.
At the same time, the roots are still hydrated.
Pothos leaves turning white can likewise be powdery mildew. But this appears very different from pale colored foliage.
Instead, what you’ll see is something like white powder has been sprinkled on the leaf surface.
Powdery mildew can develop in clusters of these white patches. And it more serious cases, it can cover entire leaves.
This fungal disease is common. And if you’ve been around plants for even a little bit, you’ve likely encountered it.
It usually occurs with high humidity especially at night while the temperature stays warm during the day.
Unfortunately, excess water can also cause this.
In most cases, it is wetting the leaves and leaving them wet.
If there isn’t enough light or air circulation to dry the water spots or wet leaves in time, it increases their risk of fungal infections like powdery mildew.
The thing is that powdery mildew will keep spreading as long as the environmental cause persists.
So, it is important to take action.
Otherwise, you may soon see most or even all the leaves, stems and flowers covered with white powder-like mildew.
How to Fix It
Like other kinds of mold, the spores of powdery mildew can easily spread and travel through the air.
This makes it dangerous as it can easily contaminate any other plants nearby.
So, if you group your houseplants together, make sure to isolate the one that’s inflicted by powdery mildew.
Once quarantines, prune all the affected areas.
You want to be as thorough as possible.
Next, check the humidity.
If humidity is high, reduce it if you can. Otherwise, move the plant to another location.
You can also supply better ventilation. Moving air or good air circulation reduces humidity.
Also, cut back on watering.
Less water reduces the risk of spreading. That’s because fungi like damp, wet conditions. So, don’t wet the leaves when you water the plant.
Keep the plant in a drier area with sufficient sunlight and good airflow.
If you’re not a very patient person or the powdery mildew keeps spreading despite the different treatments above, you can always turn to a fungicide.
This is rare from my experience. But it is always an option.
Pothos like many houseplants are tropical plants. As such, they are used to moderate to warm and even hot environments.
However, because these are small plants that are covered by large trees in the jungle, they get the benefit of the forest canopy’s shade.
This is why pothos prefer temperatures between 70 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. This is its ideal range.
It can likewise tolerate a few degrees above and below this range.
But once you veer too far away from it, the plant will start feeling less comfortable.
If this heat or cold persists, it can eventually stress the plant.
Another thing that stresses it is temperature fluctuations. Again, that’s because pothos are used to relatively consistent climate conditions given that the tropics stay warm all year round.
The thing is, when the plant experiences temperature stress, be it from too high, too low or fluctuations in temperature, pothos leaves can turn white. Or at the very least, they’ll become pale, or yellow.
This is a sign you should watch out for as it means that plant is having problems.
In most cases, the issues occur either from sudden changes or significant fluctuations in temperature as well as the environment being too cold.
Warm or even hot environments are usually not much of an issue since the plant easily adapts to that because that’s the kind of weather it is used to in its native habitat.
How to Fix It
Make sure to keep household temperature moderate to slightly warm.
Often, this is not the problem since we’ll feel discomfort when it gets too hot or too cold at home.
However, it can happen during the peak of summer or during wintertime. Thus, it is a good idea to be able to keep track of temperature.
You can use a digital thermometer to do this.
That said, temperature stress usually occurs due to hidden dangers.
At home, this comes from appliances like heaters, radiators and air conditioners. Try to avoid placing the plant in rooms where these appliances operate.
An additional problem these devices cause is that they dry up the air.
So, when you run the air conditioner or heater, you’ll see room humidity drop significantly. And it will stay low for a while even after you turn the appliance off.
Pothos will struggle with both changes in temperature and humidity due to these devices.
Similarly, avoid any area where there may be cold or hot drafts.
This includes fireplaces as well as open windows where cold air or breezes can come in.
If it is positioned there, it may be why you see your pothos leaves turning white or pale.
Soil is closely related to water. And the kind of soil you use for your pothos can keep it healthy, cause it to get overwatered or underwatered.
This is why it is very important to use the right kind of soil for the plant.
Pothos prefer well-draining soil that is loose, moist and is high in organic matter content.
And there is a reason for this.
Pothos don’t like wet feet. As such, avoid heavy soils or those that tend to retain moisture. This will increase the risk of waterlogging and overwatering.
Insufficient soil drainage will cause pothos leaves to turn white or pale as the roots get damaged and are not able to get sufficient water and nutrients to sustain the plant.
In short, lack of drainage will lead to overwatering and the side effects that it comes with.
Therefore, it is very important to use well-draining soil.
On the other hand, pothos also prefer nutrient rich soil. This helps prevent any mineral deficiency.
Lack of nutrients or deficiencies in certain minerals can cause pale or white leaves on pothos as well.
How to Fix It
The simplest way to avoid pothos leaves turning white due to improper soil it to understand its needs.
Avoid heavy soils as well as those that are very sandy.
The former will hold too much water while the latter will dry out the roots.
Instead, go with a well-draining soil that has good aeration. Ideally, use soil with pH between 6.0 and 6.5.
A simple way to create the perfect potting mix for pothos plants is to combine:
- 2 parts peat moss
- 1 part perlite
- 1 part pine bark
The combination gives you enough water retention with the peat moss along with good drainage thanks to the perlite and pine bark.
Additionally, the chunky nature of the pink bark increases aeration so oxygen can easily pass through the soil to reach the roots.
If you don’t like making your own soil mix at home, you can also go with an aroid mix and buy this from the store.
Alternatively, some online shops also have custom-made pothos potting mixes they’ve created.
On the other hand, in case you notice that that soil your pothos is in is what’s causing its leaves to turn white or pale, what should you do?
This can happen as some shops will use the same soil mix for all their plants.
And I’ve come across this twice (thankfully only twice) where the soil you bring the plant home happens to retain too much moisture.
If this is the case, repotting is the best solution. Then swap out the heavier soil with the soil mix above.
This is why it is important to always monitor a newly purchased plant to see how it is doing.
And make changes if needed.