Causes Of Pothos Leaves Turning Brown And How To Fix It

Pothos or ‘Devil’s Ivy’ as it is often referred to gets its name from its tough nature and unwavering determination to live. Naturally, it is frustrating when the leaves start to turn brown. This is supposed to be the plant that doesn’t die after all!

Friends, I share in this frustration of Pothos leaves turning brown. However, I have learned some tips and tricks when it comes to the reasons why this happens and I also know a thing or two about how to stop it. Read on to discover the root cause of your ailing plant and what you can do to fix it.

Why Pothos Get Brown Leaves

Your plant’s leaves will turn brown when an environmental factor prevents it from functioning correctly. These ‘environmental issues’ can include over-watering, under-watering, too much or too little sunlight, or temperature fluctuations.

For example, if a plant is overwatered the plant’s root system will be unable to absorb vital oxygen and nutrients and if the plant does not receive enough sunlight, it will be unable to photosynthesize effectively.

However, before we dive into the details of these environmental factors, it is worth knowing that brown leaves can present in a number of different ways. For that reason, I have set out below the various discoloration and texture changes that can occur. Make sure you scrutinize your sick plant and look for clues and symptoms as this will allow you to make a more accurate diagnosis, thus you will be able to sort the problem out faster.

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Pothos Leaves Turning Brown and Yellow

When the weather changes dramatically and I forget to move my plants away from the window, I start to notice brown and yellow leaves.

Pothos are quite adaptable when it comes to temperature change, but if it happens more than once, the effects of stress on their leaves become apparent.

Yellow leaves are often the first sign that your Pothos plant is in distress. The yellow appears at the leaf’s tips or expands outward from the center. Leaves may also feel dry or look droopy. If you don’t catch this in time, the leaves still start become brown and discolored.

The brown and yellow leaves will not revert back to their original color. When you notice these changes, remove the brown and yellow leaves. This will help your Pothos put their energy towards growing new healthy leaves.

Brown Leaf Tips

If you notice your Pothos leaves turning brown at the tips then this is an indication that the roots are being prevented from absorbing enough water.

This can involve giving the plant too much or too little water, as well as too much fertilizer. Root damage or discomfort also makes it difficult for roots to accomplish their job.

Brown And Dry or Crispy Leaves

When the leaves turn brown and dry, it is most likely due to temperature change or too much direct sunlight. Pothos can adjust to most changes, although they don’t like sudden fluctuations in temperature.

I’ve noticed this the most when I have my Pothos close to a window and the temperature drops overnight. You can easily fix this by moving your plants further away from windows or vents.

Pothos are also sensitive to direct sunlight. Their leaves will burn if they are exposed to direct sunlight. They prefer bright, indirect light.

New Leaves Turning Brown

It’s time to examine the chemical levels in your water if your plant’s new leaves are turning brown. I have discovered that my Pothos don’t appreciate high chlorine levels.

If this is the case, avoid using water straight from the tap. Use distilled water instead or, better still, fill your watering can with tap water and leave it to sit for 24 hours. This way, the chlorine will leach into the atmosphere rather than remain in the water.

Causes Of Brown Pothos Leaves And How To Fix

Before it dies, your Pothos will give you numerous indicators that it is in distress. These are all visual signs such as leaves drooping or changing colors.

Once you have identified the cause of the brown leaves, you can then begin work on how to fix them.

Overwater Or Underwatering

Overwatering and underwatering are two common mistakes made by new plant parents. Luckily, they are easily reversible.

If you have overwatered your plant, allow the soil to dry out for a few more days.

If the soil remains soggy, you may have a soil or pot drainage issue that needs to be fixed. Soil needs to be well-draining and pots need drainage holes so that excess water can run out rather than be retained in the soil or the pot.

If your plant sits in waterlogged soil for an extended period then it may become susceptible to root rot and this will prevent your plant from functioning as it needs to.

If you have underwatered your plant, I recommend bottom watering to give it a good soak. This only works if your pot has a hole in the bottom.

I have found that bottom watering is the most consistent for my bigger plants. Plug and fill your sink or bathtub halfway up with room-temperature water. Allow your plants to sit in the water for about an hour before removing them.

After they are done soaking, I like to wait until all of the excess water has drained away before putting them back in their respective decorative pots or drip trays.

How Often Should You Water Pothos?

If you pay attention, Pothos will tell you when they need to be watered. As a result, I avoid sticking to a watering schedule. Look for visual cues such as drooping leaves.

To give you an idea of approximately how often to water, I usually water my Pothos once a week. If I stick my finger ½ inch into the soil and the soil still feels damp, I will wait another day or two more before watering. It will not kill your Pothos to let the soil dry out completely.

In the spring and summer, I water more regularly because their soil dries out faster due to the heat, and they are using more energy to grow.

Overwatering Can Cause Root Rot

It is all too easy to overwater your plants. However, if you are not aware that you are doing it, it could be harmful to your plant’s health.

Overwatering causes the plant’s roots to sit in soggy soil for an extended period of time. If you don’t allow the soil to drain before watering, the roots will be suffocated, which might lead to root rot.

If you suspect root rot, pull your plant out of its pot. Healthy roots will be white and firm, but rotted roots will be brown and slimy. If they are the latter, I recommend cutting away the rotten roots with clean scissors.

Once I have pruned the yellow or brown leaves, I like to report in new, well-draining soil and add perlite to help with the drainage.

Too Much Direct Sunlight

Pothos can withstand some exposure to direct sunshine. One of my Pothos is flourishing in a window that receives 3 to 4 hours of mild morning light. Harsh, direct sunlight will burn their leaves, however, resulting in brown patches around the edges.

If your plant’s leaves have brown edges, move your pot away from the window. Bright, indirect light for 4-6 hours of the day is ideal.

Low Humidity

Pothos plants use their leaves and stems to absorb nutrients and water from the soil. The leaves and stems are covered in tiny cells that let the plant breathe. This occurs as a result of photosynthesis.

The cells fully open once they have enough moisture. However, if your Pothos is planted in a dry climate, it will not allow the moisture to escape. As a result, the plant will not develop as lushly – think of it like your plant holding its breath!

To summarize, the Pothos requires 50 to 70 percent humidity to flourish. You can recognize that your plant needs more humidity if the leaves are wilted and droopy, yellowing, or if not tended to, brown.

If you don’t think your Pothos is getting the humidity that it needs, you could group it with other humidity-loving plants. Alternatively, invest in a plant humidifier or place it on a pebble tray.

5 Best Humidifiers for Plants And How To Use Them

Creating a pebble tray is so easy! Put pebbles in a shallow dish and fill it with water, then put your plant on top. Be sure that the water level of your pebble tray does not reach the bottom of your potted plant. This could cause the plant to be overwatered.

Do Pothos Like To Be Misted?

Pothos grow bigger and faster when they can enjoy an environment with 50-60% humidity. Whether or not you should mist your plant depends on where you live.

I live in a drier climate so I mist my Pothos once or twice a week to boost my plant’s humidity levels.

If you live in a wetter climate, be wary about over-humidifying your plants. Additionally, the wet soil can attract gnats and mold if you mist them too much.


Because of their hardiness, Pothos don’t need a fertilizer with a high N-P-K or in large quantities. I tend to use fertilizer on my pothos if they need an extra boost at the start of or during the growing season or when soil conditions are poor.

Symptoms of over-fertilizing include new leaves turning brown, wilted foliage, dry, brown leaf tips, and white, crusty soil.

Thankfully, addressing an over-fertilized plant issue is simple enough to correct. I use a technique known as “leaching”. Bear in mind that without proper drainage, this strategy will fail! So, before you begin, look for a drainage hole in the bottom of your pot.

To ‘leach’ successfully, keep pouring water over your plant’s soil until the water drains out of the bottom hole. Fill the pot with twice as much water as it can hold. Before watering again, make certain your plant is totally dry.

This process helps to flush any extra fertilizer out of the soil. It gives your plant a reset. After leaching, give your plant a week or two before you start fertilizing again.

Soil Conditions

When it comes to soil specificity, Pothos is not fussy. They prefer a pH range of 6.0 to 6.5 in the soil. I use a high-quality potting mix that drains properly. Most potting soil from a nursery will suffice.

As you pot your plant, make sure your soil isn’t too compact, or the water may have a tough time draining. They prefer damp soil that isn’t soggy. The dreaded problem of root rot can be caused by constantly wet soil that eventually suffocates plant roots, preventing them from absorbing oxygen.

If your soil isn’t draining properly, you can remedy it without wasting any of the soil. To improve drainage, mix two parts coco coir with one part perlite. When you are potting, be sure not to pack the soil down too tightly because this will compact the soil, leaving no room for air pockets and thus, inhibit drainage as well.

Brown Leaves After Propagating Pothos

Propagating is a great way to multiply your plant collection. One good way to minimize the risk of leaves turning brown after taking a cutting is to sterilize your scissors before you begin. You may notice that sometimes the leaves of the new cutting can turn brown. This is because dirty scissors can lead to infection.

Another reason the leaves of your freshly propagated cutting can start to turn brown after being placed in water is due to a high chlorine concentration in the water. I use distilled water and change it out once a week to reduce chlorine levels and prevent algae from growing.

Brown Pothos Leaves After Re-Potting

When I re-pot a Pothos, sometimes the leaves will discolor and it’s not because my water schedule is off. It is usually a result of stress brought on by a change in the surroundings. If not tended to, the leaves will turn brown and fall off.

I cut the discolored leaves and continue to care for my plant as usual when this happens.

Pruning Pothos

I like to prune my Pothos when its vines are looking “leggy”. These are the vines that are long but don’t have many leaves. By pruning these, your plant will be able to focus its energy on new growth.

It’s also a good idea to prune your Pothos when yellow and brown leaves appear. The plant will continue to expend energy in an attempt to revive the dead leaf. It will benefit your Pothos’ overall health if you remove it.

Cutting brown leaves off Pothos?

I’m an advocate of removing brown or damaged leaves as soon as they appear because it is unlikely they will return to healthy growth.

Your Pothos will look all the more healthy for pruning away foliage that looks anything other than green. However, don’t stop at that! Make sure you investigate the source of the dead leaves too to prevent it from happening again.

Final Thoughts Pothos Leaves Turning Brown

Brown leaves signal that your Pothos is unable to flourish in its current environment. The most common reasons for Pothos leaves turning brown include insufficient watering, too much or too little direct sunlight, or dramatic temperature variations.

Reviving your plant can be simple and the good news is that Pothos will recover quickly if the issue is addressed promptly.

It makes sense that a plant’s health is determined by the leaf’s color. But if you do hit a stumbling block and are unable to identify the cause, remember that plants will occasionally shed older leaves anyway. It can be perfectly natural.

Just remember to be patient whilst you are diagnosing, it can take time and it also requires a little practice and patience.