Plant care and cultivation

Reviving Yellowing Pothos Leaves

Ulla Rothschuh Osorio
By Ulla Rothschuh Osorio, Biologist. May 16, 2024
Reviving Yellowing Pothos Leaves

Pothos, also known as devil's ivy or golden pothos, is a popular indoor plant known for its glossy green leaves that can trail or climb. While pothos plants are relatively easy to care for, yellow leaves can indicate underlying issues. It's important for plant owners to understand the potential causes of yellow leaves and take appropriate action to rectify the problem.

In the following article by thedailyECO, we explore the most common reasons behind yellowing leaves in pothos plants, and offer solutions to help you revive your leafy friend.

You may also be interested in: Cyclamen Has Yellow Leaves
  1. Overwatering
  2. Poor soil drainage
  3. Low humidity
  4. Light-related issues
  5. Nutrient deficiency
  6. Root bound


While pothos plants are known for being relatively easy to care for, overwatering is a common issue. This can manifest as yellowing leaves. The key is to water your pothos only when the top layer of soil feels dry to the touch. Remember, underwatering can be easily remedied, while root rot caused by overwatering is often irreversible.

What to do?

If you suspect you've been overwatering, cut back drastically. Allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings.

If the problem persists, check the roots. Healthy roots are white or light brown, while rotten roots are mushy, dark, and smell bad. If you find root rot, you'll need to act quickly. Remove the plant from its pot and carefully prune away any rotten roots using clean, disinfected tools.

Repot your pothos in a clean pot with fresh, well-draining potting mix. This ensures a healthy environment for new root growth.

Reviving Yellowing Pothos Leaves - Overwatering

Poor soil drainage

For your pothos to thrive, it needs the right foundation, that is, a well-draining potting mix. Soil alone can create a dense, waterlogged environment. This suffocates roots and leads to rot, often signaled by yellowing leaves.

An ideal pothos mix balances nutrients, drainage, and aeration. Organic matter like worm castings provides nutrients, while peat moss helps retain moisture. However, both can restrict drainage. In this sense, perlite comes to the rescue. This lightweight volcanic rock improves drainage by creating air pockets within the mix.

What to do?

Here's a simple recipe for a happy pothos:

  • Worm castings (nutrients)
  • Peat moss (moisture retention)
  • Perlite (drainage)

Combine equal parts of worm castings, peat moss, and perlite for a well-balanced mix. Place your pothos in the new mix and water lightly. This initial watering helps settle the mix and remove air bubbles. Also, a pot with a drainage hole is essential. It allows excess water to escape, preventing root rot. Here are some additional tips:

If you have your pothos indoors, use a saucer or drip tray to catch excess water after watering. Empty the tray within a few minutes to avoid creating a waterlogged environment around the pot.

Low humidity

Pothos plants prefer moderate to high humidity levels. Unfortunately, dry indoor air, especially during winter when heaters are on, can stress your pothos and lead to yellowing leaves. The leaves may also become dry and crispy.

What to do?

Regularly misting the leaves with water can provide a temporary humidity boost. However, this needs to be done frequently throughout the day to be effective.

Grouping your pothos with other humidity-loving plants can create a microclimate with increased humidity. Also, using a humidifier near your pothos is a more reliable way to raise and maintain humidity levels. Placing your pothos pot on a tray filled with pebbles and water creates a mini humidifier. The water evaporates, increasing humidity around the plant. Be sure the pot sits above the water level to avoid root rot.

Reviving Yellowing Pothos Leaves - Low humidity

Light-related issues

Pothos are known for their adaptability, but when it comes to light, they prefer a happy medium. Pothos are happiest in locations with bright, indirect light. This provides enough light for healthy growth without the harshness of direct sunlight.

Direct sunlight, especially during midday hours, can scorch pothos leaves, causing them to turn yellow. In some cases, the leaves may become bleached or crispy.

What to do?

If you suspect your pothos is getting too much light, simply move it to a location with brighter indirect light. Avoid placing your pothos in direct sunlight, especially during the hottest part of the day.

Pothos are indoor plants that thrive in semi-shade or filtered light. By providing the right amount of light, you can ensure your pothos continues to produce beautiful foliage.

Reviving Yellowing Pothos Leaves - Light-related issues

Nutrient deficiency

Pothos are generally low-maintenance plants, but even they need a feeding schedule. Over time, the soil in your pothos' pot loses its nutrients as the plant absorbs them for growth. This lack of essential nutrients, like nitrogen, iron, or magnesium, can cause leaves to turn yellow.

The yellowing of leaves is a general symptom, but the pattern of yellowing can sometimes indicate the specific nutrient deficiency. Look for yellowing that starts at the leaf tips and progresses towards the base, or leaves with yellow veins.

What to do?

There are two main ways to provide your pothos with the nutrients it needs:

  • Liquid fertilizer: choose a balanced liquid fertilizer formulated for houseplants. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for dilution and frequency of application. This allows for quick nutrient delivery.

  • Slow-release fertilizer: amending the soil with a slow-release fertilizer provides a steady supply of nutrients over time. This is a convenient option, but requires less frequent application compared to liquid fertilizer.

If you're unsure about the specific nutrient deficiency, a balanced fertilizer is a safe bet. However, avoid over-fertilizing, as this can damage the roots.

Reviving Yellowing Pothos Leaves - Nutrient deficiency

Root bound

Pothos are known for their forgiving nature, but even they can feel cramped in a small pot. As your pothos happily grows, its roots may eventually fill the entire pot, leaving little room for further growth. This is called being rootbound.

The first sign is that your pothos may stop growing as vigorously as before. The second sign is yellowing leaves, which can also sign that the roots are struggling to absorb enough nutrients due to lack of space.

What to do?

The remedy for a rootbound pothos is a simple one, repotting. Here's what to do:

  1. Select a pot that's only 1-2 inches larger in diameter than the current pot. This allows for continued growth without becoming too large.

  2. Prepare a fresh potting mix with good drainage.

  3. Carefully remove the rootbound pothos from its current pot. Loosen any tightly circling roots if necessary.

  4. Place the pothos in the new pot with fresh potting mix and water thoroughly.

Concerned about other houseplants with yellowing leaves? Our next article explores the causes of yellowing leaves in Monstera plants and roses.

If you want to read similar articles to Reviving Yellowing Pothos Leaves, we recommend you visit our Plant care and cultivation category.

  • Baesa, MD (2021). The Ultimate Guide to Pothos Plants: Epipremnum, Philodendron & Scindapsus Varieties, Care & Propagation. ( np): Amazon Digital Services LLC - KDP Print US.
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Reviving Yellowing Pothos Leaves