Why Does My Pothos Have Brown Spots? (Causes & Solutions)

Brown spots on pothos leaves is something you should not take lightly. There are a number of different causes and each will have its own solution.

Whatever’s happening, it is likely not good, although it may be nothing at all.

Nevertheless, it is not worth taking that risk.

Below, I’ll take you through everything you need to know about brown spots on your pothos, from identifying them, to understanding the causes and how to treat this problem.

Why are There Brown Spots on Pothos Leaves?

Brown spots on pothos leaves occur when there’s something wrong with your plant. Often, this is a result of overwatering or leaf infection. But, the causes are not limited to that (as I’ll discuss below).

As such, you cannot take this symptom for granted.

In the case of overwatering, it can eventually result in root rot which can lead to plant death. Similarly, leaf infections can mess up your plant’s foliage.

Another reason for pothos brown spots is micronutrient deficiencies. This is easier to fix. But, you need to diagnose it first and figure out which minerals it lacks.

Other potential causes include temperature and humidity issues as well as incorrect lighting and pest infestation. All of these can result in brown spots on pothos leaves.

As such, never take any abnormal things that happen to your ptohos’ foliage for granted. Often, they are your plant’s way of telling you something is wrong and giving you a hint of what it could be.

Below I’ll go through each of the causes of pothos brown spots in detail including their causes and treatment.

 

Causes of Brown Spots on Pothos

Chart of Why are There Brown Spots on My Pothos
Chart of Why are There Brown Spots on My Pothos

 

Too Much Light

Pothos enjoy medium to bright, indirect light indoors. Outdoors, they prefer partial shade or bright shade. This stems from their native habitat.

Pothos grow as understory plants in the rainforests. As such, while they do get light, the sun’s rays are filtered or diffused by the leaves and branches of larger plants and trees.

As such, pothos plants are not used to bearing the brunt of strong or intense sunlight.

This is why it prefers indirect light and partial shade.

Additionally, the plant needs about 4-6 hours of natural light daily. It will require more if you use artificial lighting.

Thus, although it grows fastest in a well-lit room or a location that is bright, too much light can also harm the plant.

This is why it is a good idea to keep it away from direct sun or very intense light. In general, this means avoiding the sun’s rays especially during summer and mid-days (between 10:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. when the sun is harshest).

If you leave it there for long periods of time or on a consistent basis, it will likely eventually experience brown leaves or brown spots.

This is what is referred to as leaf scorch. When this happens, leaves can wilt, brown, get darker or turn yellow. You can also see their edges turn brown in addition to brown spots popping up.

So, what’s the solution?

Move your pothos from away from very strong light. The brown spots on its leaves are a sign that it cannot tolerate the intensity of the exposure it is getting.

Therefore, it will do better in a slightly less bright spot.

 

Problems with Watering

Like all plants, pothos need watering. However, because most of them are epiphytes, they prefer letting their roots dry a bit. This stems from their native habitat.

As such, their roots enjoy a good balance of water and oxygen.

This means that you always want to allow the soil to dry between waterings. This will prevent root rot from happening.

Also, water based on how much moisture there is in the soil and not based on a fixed schedule. This way, you’ll be able to adjust as the seasons changes.

Since it is warmer and sunnier in summer, you’ll find yourself watering more regularly. In the winter, when things get cold and there’s much less sunlight, you’ll water less frequently since it takes longer for soil to dry.

The two easiest ways to know when to water your plant are to either:

  • Use a moisture meter – just stick the probe into the soil and check the reading. It will tell you if the soil is wet, dry or moist.
  • Stick your finger into the soil – only add water when the soil is dry up to the first 2 knuckles of your index finger.

Checking the soil each time before you water is the only way to know when your pothos needs watering.

The reason this is important is because both overwatering and underwatering can both cause browning.

In most cases, it will be underwatering that produces brown pothos leaves. But, overwatering is more dangerous because it can lead to root rot.

Therefore, you always need to confirm which is the actual cause of pothos brown leaves before taking action.

Otherwise, you could worsen the situation.

 

Inadequate Humidity

Humidity is related to watering as it refers to the moisture in the air. As such, the two are very closely related. In fact, the amount of humidity affects how much you need to water.

That said, humidity is associated more with the plant itself while watering is more about the roots.

In general, pothos enjoy 50% humidity (and higher) because they are tropical plants. As such, when humidity gets too low, the leaves tend to brown.

If you live somewhere with a tropical or subtropical climate, you won’t even need to bother about humidity since these locations tend to naturally have high humidity.

The same is true if you live near a body of water like a lake, beach or ocean.

However, in most parts of the country, especially inside homes, this may not be the case. Also note that the weatherman’s humidity forecast in your area or city can be very different from what you get in your home.

In part, this is due to microclimates. Also, indoor household humidity can vary. Plus, some rooms are more humid than others. For example the bathroom and kitchen tend to be the most humid rooms in most homes since we use a lot of water there.

As such, if you have low humidity in your area, experience hot, dry summers, cold winters or live near or in a desert, I suggest picking up a digital hygrometer.

This will tell you what the humidity is based on the location and time of day. As such, you can adjust how much moisture there in the air to ensure your pothos is healthy and happy.

Lack of humidity will cause the leaf tips and edges to turn brown, dry and get crispy. After a while, the entire leaf can become brown or yellow as well.

What should you do?

Move the plant to a more humid location. If this is not an option, invest in a humidifier.

If you prefer not to spend the extra money on a humidifier, you can mist the plant, place it in the bathroom, group it with other plants or put in on a pebble tray.

 

Leaf Spot Diseases

There are many kinds of leaf spot diseases. But the one thing they have in common is that they’ll present themselves as spots on your pothos leaves.

In many cases, you’ll see big brown spots on pothos leaves. They’ll sometimes appear as elevated dots or even patches.

And they’ll be quite obvious that something abnormal is happening.

Thus, when you see brown spots on your pothos’ leaves, you want to quickly take action.

The best way to treat leaf spot disease is to reduce moisture. This prevents the disease from spreading by making the environment more hostile to it.

Therefore, move the plant to a drier place. Also, cut back on watering and avoid wetting the leaves. Leaf spot usually occurs when the leaves get wet and stay wet for prolonged periods of time.

You also want to remove the affected areas. Often, all you need to do is snip off parts of the leaves instead of entire foliage.

 

Too Much Fertilizer

Fertilizer is something that pothos needs to grow optimally. However, it does not need a lot of it. And it does not always need it.

More importantly, while plant food does help it grow faster and produce more foliage, it can also be harmful when too much is used.

In fact, you’re better off not feeding the plant than overfeeding it.

That’s because the latter can result in fertilizer burn. This is term gardeners use since excess salts and nutrients in fertilizer can damage or “burn” the roots of your pothos. After a while, the effects of the damaged roots will reach the leaves as well.

And it will present itself as yellowing and browning of the leaves. This can start with the leaf edges but eventually affect the entire leaf if not remedied.

Therefore, avoid:

  • Applying too much fertilizer
  • Feeding the plant too frequently
  • Fertilize the plant when the soil is dry

On the other hand, if your pothos already has brown leaf edges, then you want to focus on treatment rather than prevention.

Here, you have two options:

  • Repot the plant – this is your best bet. Repotting it in fresh soil takes it away from the excess salts and nutrients that have accumulated in the current soil. This gives it a “fresh start” allowing it to recover.
  • Flush the soil – this is another option. Flushing the soil means adding water to saturate the root ball. You’ll keep adding water for a few minutes with the goal of allowing the moisture to carry out or flush all the excess salts, minerals, debris and other stuff from the soil. Make sure to let the soil drain completely afterwards.

 

Pests

Pests are damaging because they suck the sap out of your pothos. Unfortunately, sap contains moisture and nutrients, both something the plant need to stay healthy.

As such, when spider mites, mealybugs, aphids or other bugs grow large enough in number and rob too much sap from the plant, it damages your pothos by causing nutrient deficiency and dryness.

Each of which can cause leaf discoloration.

In most cases, lack of nutrients results in yellow leaves. And lack of moisture often causes brown leaves.

Either way, if this happens long enough, it will overwhelm the plant and cause it to weaken.

Therefore, always check for pests and treat them immediately.

The best way to keep pests away is to keep your plant healthy and give it all the requirements it needs. Lack of either can result in stress. And bugs can quickly detect this and start attacking your plant.

 

Related

 

Cold Temperature

Pothos are tropical plants. As such, they enjoy warm weather all year round. The more consistent the climate is, they happier they will be.

In fact, they prefer temperature to stay between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. This is where they are most comfortable. It is also why they are well-suited as houseplants.

This means that if you experience cold winter weather where you live, you want to be careful with leaving the plant outdoors as it cannot tolerate frost or freezing conditions.

Indoors, you want to be wary of air conditioners and cold drafts be it from vents or open windows.

Leaving them somewhere that’s too cold will shock the plant. It can also cause cold injury if the temperature gets too low.

 

Natural Browning

Old leaves can naturally turn brown. Of all the causes on our list, this is the one you don’t need to take action on.

It is a natural progression in the plant’s life cycle.

As new, young leaves come out, they will take more nutrients which causes the older, larger leaves to get deficient in these nutrients. Eventually, the older leaves will turn brown and drop.

Note that when this happens, only a few leaves will get affected. And it should not keep happening too regularly. Otherwise, something else is happening.

Also, old leaves tend to be at the bottom of the plant (near the base). As such, the natural browning should occur there for this to be the cause.

 

How to Identify Brown Spots on Pothos

The only way to identify brown spots on pothos leaves is via visual inspection. Thus, regularly checking the plant allows you to spot any abnormalities or problems early.

I usually like to do this when cleaning the plant’s leaves. It lets you check the leaves, stems and nodes for pests as well as any changes in color or something else.

The location of the brown leaves will also give you a hint of what’s happening.

Check whether the browning are:

  • Brown tips, edges, entire leaves or spots on leaves
  • Are they happening on the lower leaves are towards the top of the plant
  • Is it the leaves or the stems that have the browning (or both)
  • Are the brown areas or spots occurring in one leaf, few leaves or many at a time
  • How quickly is it progressing

After 2 to 3 days, you’ll get a sense of what the pattern is.

 

How Do You Get Rid of Brown Spots on Pothos?

The only way to get rid of brown spots on pothos leaves is to fix the underlying problem. If not, you it will keep happening.

Since there are many potential causes, the best way to go is to use the process of elimination. Use the list above as a checklist and see whether any of the causes are the reason for the brown spots on the foliage.

Also, remove any affected areas. You don’t need to remove entire leaves if only a small part of the leaves have brown spots. Just take out the section of the leaf with the browning.

Since the brown spots will not disappear like pimples do, they won’t revert to their normal color. So, the best solution is just to remove them.

Similarly, brown leaves, leaf tips and edges don’t return to their green color. So, remove the affected areas or leaves.

Checklist of How to Get Rid of Brown Spots on Pothos
Checklist of How to Get Rid of Brown Spots on Pothos

 

How to Prevent Brown Spots on Pothos

To prevent brown spots on pothos leaves, you want to give the plant all the requirements it wants. The list above shows the different causes.

As such, by avoiding each of those causes, you’ll be able to prevent leaf browning or brown spots from happening to your pothos.

This means:

  • Avoiding too much intense light or direct sun
  • Don’t overwater or underwater your plant
  • Keep humidity at 50% and higher
  • Avoid excess moisture to prevent leaf spot, bacterial and fungal diseases
  • Don’t overfertilize the plant
  • Get rid of pests as soon as possible (avoid them if you can by keeping your pothos healthy)
  • Keep the plant between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit

 

Should I Remove Pothos Leaves with Brown Spots?

Yes. Brown spots on leaves won’t turn back into their lovely green color. While the leaves themselves can be revived, the brown spots aren’t like pimples that they’ll go away.

So, it is better to prune them off.

However, there really is no sense to just keep pruning the all the leaves with brown spots until you’ve fixed the source of the problem. Otherwise, this will just keep happening again.

When removing leaves with brown spots, you can only take off the section of the foliage that’s affected, instead of the entire leaf. Of course, for those that are more serious, it makes more sense to trim the entire leaf off.

That said, never prune more than one-third (or 33%) of the plant’s leaves at once. Remember, leaves are needed for photosynthesis which allows the plant to make its own food.

Another important thing to remember is that brown spots on stems is a sign of more serious problems than brown spots on leaves. Therefore, you want to take more immediate and aggressive action here.

In addition to remove the brown areas, make sure to find out what’s actually causing the problem. Only then will the brown spots stop popping up.

 

Last Thoughts

Brown spots on pothos leaves is the plant’s way of telling your that something is wrong. Therefore, you want to quickly diagnose what’s happening and address the issue.

Some causes are more serious than others. Unfortunately, it is not easy to tell what’s actually causing the brown spots on the leaves unless you investigate thoroughly.

Once you know what’s wrong, fix it.

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