Pothos leaves turning black can be frightening the first time you see it. After all, black leaves may very well signify the plant might be dying.
But that’s not the case.
Fortunately, there are a few reasons why pothos leaves turn black or develop black spots. More importantly, they can be fixed.
In this article, I’ll explain the different reasons why this happens and how you can easily solve them.
Pothos leaves turning black can happen when the plant is overwatered, getting too much sunlight exposure or it does not have sufficient drainage.
This can also happen from lack of humidity, temperature issues, too much fertilizer, pests and diseases.
Causes of Pothos Leaves Turning Black (and How to Fix Them)
Pothos as known for their beautiful green or variegated leaves.
So, when your pothos leaves turn black or when you start seeing black spots on pothos leaves, it can be very disheartening.
The good news is that you can fix them.
But before you do, you’ll need to understand what causes these issues.
Knowing this will help you figure out what’s happening, how to reverse it if possible and prevent it from happening or spreading.
Below I’ll go through the different reasons why poths leaves are turning black and how to fix each one of them.
Overwatering is one of the major reasons of pothos leaves turning black. And before the plant’s leaves turn black, you’ll see them turn yellow first.
Yellowing pothos is usually the first warning sign you’ll notice if the plant is getting too much water.
If things persist, you’ll may see black spots on your pothos’ leaves as well as things get worse.
Why does this happen?
Pothos store some moisture in their leaves.
While they are not as efficient as succulents at doing so, their ability to store water allows them to withstand some periods of dryness.
So, it is easy to overwater the plant by giving it water too often.
Additionally, pothos do not have large extensive root system. This means that lots of excess moisture in the soil can eventually drown the roots.
When there’s a lot of water in the soil, the deprives the roots of oxygen which they need to survive and function properly.
This causes the roots from properly absorbing enough water and nutrients from the soil.
This lack of moisture and nutrient absorption is what turns healthy green or variegated leaves yellow.
Later on, as things get worse, their color will turn as well, leaving you with black spots or cause entire leaves to turn black altogether.
The blackening leaves of pothos are very bad signs of root rot.
At this point, the roots have been drowning in water for quite a while now. And as a result, some roots have already died from suffocation due to lack of oxygen.
Pothos do not need daily watering. Instead, it is best to water your pothos once a week during the warmer months and once every 2 weeks during the colder months.
That said, adjust as needed depending on how hot the warmer months and how cold the colder months get where you live.
Different areas of the world experience different temperatures during summers and winters.
When it comes to pothos leaves turning black, there are two things to consider.
One is how to prevent them from happening. This is what I prefer to do.
Second is to fix the problem if your pothos leaves already has black spots or have turned black.
For the first one, following the watering guidelines to avoid watering the plant too often.
Additionally, always allow the soil to completely dry before you add more water. If you’re an aggressive waterer, try to wait until at least the top half of the soil has dried out.
If you water when the soil is still moist or wet, it increases the risk of overwatering as time passes.
It is also a good idea to regularly check the soil.
Avoid letting the soil get too wet or damp. If it stays that way for long periods of time, this will increase the risk of root rot. Therefore, you can drain our pour out some of the extra moisture.
Too Much Light
Pothos leaves turning black can also be a result of too much sunlight.
Pothos thrive in plenty of light.
Ideally, they enjoy medium to bright indirect light indoors and partial shade outdoors.
Good lighting allows the plant to grow optimally. It also allows it to produce lush leaves.
That said, too much light will damage the plant’s leaves.
The plant itself will have more tolerance to excess light. So, you’ll see the leaves turn black or experience black spots first.
Before this happens, you’ll see the leaves dry and get discolored.
Excess light eventually burns or scorches the leaves of your pothos. This is what causes the darkening leaves.
If you notice your pothos leaves turning black or black spots on your pothos developing, check if it is receiving direct sunlight or full sun.
The plant is used to indirect, dappled or filtered light.
That’s because in the wild, its relatively smaller size keeps it under the shade of the larger plants and trees.
As such, it is not accustomed to taking the brunt of the sun’s rays for long periods of time on a daily basis.
Therefore, avoid placing your pothos in direct sunlight.
Instead, keep it away from the sun’s rays as much as possible.
It is worth noting that the early morning and late afternoon sunshine do not pose a problem because these are gentler. However, avoid direct sun between 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.
The middle of the day is when the sun is most intense.
If your pothos already has black spots on its leaves, move it away from its current location and choose a less bright spot.
Another possible cause of pothos leaves turning black is soil drainage.
If you’ve been watering the plant properly and allowing the soil to dry between waterings yet, it seems that the soil stays wet for prolonged periods of time, you may want to check the soil mix .
Pothos like moist soil.
But it will start experiencing problems if the soil stays wet or damp for long periods of time.
Again, this has to do with the roots sitting in too much moisture for extended periods of time.
The roots need for air means that the excess water will push out most of the oxygen from the gaps between the soil particles.
As a result, the roots end up unable to breathe as they normally would.
Unhealthy roots lead to problems.
Initially, it affects how well they function. This causes them to absorb less water and nutrients from the soil.
As a result, the leaves also receive less moisture and nutrients which causes their darkening color.
Over time, the lack of oxygen can suffocate the roots and eventually kill them.
The most important thing when it comes to soil drainage is to choose the right kind of soil mix for your pothos.
Pothos need well-draining soil.
This kind of soil holds some moisture and will allow excess moisture to drain quickly.
As a result, it helps prevent overwatering and waterlogging.
If you’re using regular potting soil, I suggest adding a few handfuls of perlite to help with drainage.
On the other hand, if the soil you’re using retains a good amount of moisture, it is best to swap it out with well-draining soil.
That said, sometimes the soil just gets to damp or becomes clumped up together.
If this is the case, you can loosen the soil or aerate it. Moving the soil around will allow the excess moisture to drain.
At the same time, it allows oxygen to get through to the roots by creating more gaps between the soil particles.
Whenever I see soil that gets wet or damp, I like to check on the roots as well.
This gives me peace of mind knowing that there is no root rot. If there is, I’ll immediately treat the plant.
Since the plant is out of its pot, this also allows me to let the soil dry faster out of the container. Additionally, I can analyze the root ball to see if there are any potential issues that prevent proper drainage.
Underwatering is usually less of a problem. That’s because most houseplant owners tend to overwater instead of underwater.
However, lack of watering can still happen especially if you have a very busy schedule, need to take care of tons of chores or travel out of town a lot.
Usually, irregular watering is what leads to lack of moisture.
In any case, if your pothos is not getting enough water, you’ll eventually notice its leaves get dry.
This is harder to see initially. But you’ll easily feel it when you run your fingers through the leaves. They won’t feel as soft or lush as they normally would.
Instead, they’ll feel drier.
It this condition continues, you’ll see the leaves start turning color as well. They’ll start tuning brown on the edges and tips as they get drier.
The leaves will eventually turn brown.
The problem with lack of water is that all plants need water. Without it, your pothos will eventually deteriorate and even die.
While this can take a long time to happen, pothos leaves turning black is a sign that is happening.
When it comes to watering pothos, two things are essential.
One is to wait until the soil has dried between waterings.
Second is to be consistent.
When it comes to underwatering, consistency is what usually causes the issue. Therefore, try to figure out a watering schedule that works for your busy lifestyle.
In most cases, you won’t need to water the plant yet.
Thus, checking the soil is what’s important.
To do so, stick your finger into the soil. I prefer to use a wooden stick and insert it all the way down until it reaches the bottom of the pot.
When you take the wooden stick out, the wet section will tell you until where the soil is still moist.
This makes it easy to tell how much moisture there is in the soil.
Alternatively, you can use a moisture meter as well check soil moisture.
Checking the soil takes a few seconds to a minute or so. And only water if the soil is dry enough.
Lack of Humidity
Pothos do well in regular household humidity. Although, they thrive when humidity is kept at 50% to 70%.
That said, in most cases, humidity won’t be an issue because of their tolerance to normal home humidity levels.
But there are situations where humidity can suddenly drop.
If you live somewhere with very dry air, in a desert or near one, there’s a good chance humidity averages below 35% on a regular basis. This can pose a problem for pothos plants.
Similarly, very hot, dry summers can make humidity go down considerably as well.
Winters are notorious for dry air too.
So, do check the humidity levels in your home during this time.
Also, avoid rooms that use heaters, radiators or air conditioners. These appliances will cause the air to dry when you turn them on. And the lower humidity will persist for about 20 or so minutes after you turn them off.
All of these can cause pothos leaves to turn black due to the lack of humidity.
Initially, the leaves will become dry and possibly brittle. They’ll also turn brown especially on the margins.
But after a while, they’ll darken from the lack of moisture in the air.
In most cases, you won’t need to deal with this problem. This is especially true if you live somewhere with moderate or high humidity.
But if your location has dry air or the humidity can drop at different times of the year, I suggest in getting a hygrometer.
This will tell you what the humidity is at any given point in time.
I prefer the portable hygrometers since you can move them from room to room if you choose to relocate your pothos.
If you home lacks humidity, a quick but temporary fix is to mist the plant.
You’ll need to do this regularly since its effects are temporary.
Another option is to get a humidifier. This will allow you to be more precise in controlling the humidity level.
But if you don’t like to spend extra money, a pebble tray or a humidity tray work just as well.
While less precise, they’re free to make yourself with things you already have at home.
Of course, avoid rooms with radiators or air conditioners.