Pothos leaves turning yellow

Are the leaves of your gorgeous pothos plant turning yellow and you can’t figure out why? There are a few simple explanations with easy fixes. Pothos leaves turning yellow is a relatively common occurrence, but there are a few potential reasons why it happens. Pothos is a tropical plant, so it doesn’t like cold temperatures. It is also very sensitive to changes in light, water, and location.

The leaves of pothos plants most commonly turn yellow due to too much or too little light, too much or too little water, exposure to overly cold or hot temperatures, and/or mineral nutrient deficiencies. To treat pothos with yellowing leaves, make sure it is in a fresh, nutrient-rich moist potting mix that drains out excess water easily. Also, ensure that the plant is receiving lots of bright indirect sunlight (or artificial light) and is at a comfortable ambient temperature and humidity. There are also some varieties of pothos that naturally have yellow leaves or yellow patterning on the foliage.

Read on to learn all about the potential reasons why your pothos plant’s leaves are turning yellow.

Pothos leaves turning yellow

Pothos turning yellow near the top of the stem

If your pothos plant is turning yellow on the leaves and/or stem, it may be due to a few factors. This is the tricky part of figuring out what plants need, it varies from plant to plant. Generally, the leaves may be receiving too much or too little light. Consider the placement of the plant and if you need to relocate it.

Since many people consider pothos to be low-light plants, they think they can place them in rooms with little to no light. While pothos is tolerant of low light for short periods of time, the plants will not thrive when grown in low light environments. The plants often begin to yellow. Leaves that aren’t getting enough sunlight may appear limp and unhealthy. It’s important to keep these plants in a well-lit room.

While they like sunlight, they don’t want too much of it directly on the leaves. If the leaves are faded yellow and droopy, they need more shade. Place your pothos in a nicely lit room near a window. As the sun moves around your house, the pothos plant should receive just enough sunlight each day. Consider your house and which windows get good sunlight but not too much. Your plant will love sunbathing but will want shade as well.

Pothos marble queen
Pothos ‘marble queen’ naturally has yellow marbled patterns on its foliage

Pothos turning yellow at the base of the plant

If your pothos plant is yellowing near the bottom of the plant, this is most likely due to issues in the root system. You may be overwatering the plant and causing root rot. When a plant is overwatered, its roots are in danger of drowning. The excess water in the soil also causes nasty rot that will eat away at the plant. The roots need air, so be sure to plant your pothos in a well-draining pot. If it is planted in a pot without a drainage system it is at a higher risk of developing root rot and other damage from overwatering.

Another giveaway that you are overwatering your pothos plant is if you see water pooling in the saucer under the pot. Keep an eye on the water and how it drains. You want the plant to be given just enough water so that it doesn’t drown at the bottom. I like to water my plants until just a tiny bit of water starts draining if any. I then test the moisture level with my finger to see where it has soaked through.

If you already have your plant in a pot with drainage holes but still see signs of overwatering, reduce the amount of water you give your plants. It’s recommended to only water your plant when the top part of the soil feels completely dry. You might also consider moving your plant to an area with more sunlight. This sunlight will give it the energy to absorb more water if needed.

Pothos plants may turn yellow due to nutrient imbalance

If you spy yellow leaves on your plant and you are giving it the right amount of sunlight and water, it may have a nutrient imbalance due to other factors. Most commonly, the plant may be receiving an excessive amount of mineral salts from municipal tap water, or the potting mix the plant is growing in is not supplying adequate mineral nutrition to the plant.

Depending on where you get your plant water from, there may be excess fluoride or chlorine in the water. Those can build up on the plant’s leaves over time, causing issues. Tap water can be left in a watering can overnight to allow the chlorine to off-gas, or you can use rainwater or spring water to water your houseplants.

On the other hand, your plant may be lacking nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous, iron, or potassium. A deficit in these nutrients can cause yellow leaves. Providing your pothos with some organic fertilizer can help. Be sure to check the packaging when choosing a fertilizer to make sure it has the proper nutrients for pothos. Slow-release fertilizer is beneficial a couple of times of the year, usually in the spring and summer.

Patterns on the leaves and what they mean

While mineral deficiencies are difficult to diagnose without a tissue sample, there are some visual clues to potentially deficient minerals:

  • Iron, zinc, or manganese deficiency: Leaf’s veins and stems are green but the rest has yellowed
  • Nitrogen deficiency: Leaves at the bottom of the plant are yellow
  • Sulfur deficiency: Top leaves are yellow
  • Magnesium deficiency: Leaves are yellow at the edges but green in the middle
Yellowing leaves on pothos houseplant

Helping your pothos adapt successfully

Pothos can sometimes have trouble adapting to new environments, so it’s important to monitor how yours is doing and adjust accordingly. Pothos need high humidity and warmth to thrive. They are sensitive to light and temperature changes, so keep them somewhere consistent. They make fantastic houseplants but do need to be monitored closely to make sure they survive.

Yellowing leaves aren’t always a cause for concern but could indicate that your plant is a little stressed. It may be time to mix up the care routine by placing it closer to a window, watering it on a different schedule, adding more nutrients to the soil through fertilizer, or giving it filtered water with fewer minerals.

Hopefully, some of these tips and insights will help you raise a healthy pothos plant you can enjoy for years!

Mary Jane Duford
Mary Jane Duford

Mary Jane Duford is a quintessential Canadian gardener. An engineer by trade, she tends to an ever-expanding collection of plants. In her world, laughter blooms as freely as her flowers, and every plant is raised with a dash of Canadian grit.

Mary Jane is a certified Master Gardener and also holds a Permaculture Design Certificate. She's also a proud mom of three, teaching her little sprouts the crucial difference between a garden friend and foe.

When she's not playing in the dirt, Mary Jane revels in her love for Taylor Swift, Gilmore Girls, ice hockey, and the surprisingly soothing sounds of bluegrass covers of classic hip-hop songs. She invites you to join her garden party, a place where you can share in the joy of growing and where every day is a new opportunity to find the perfect spot for yet another plant.

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