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10 Reasons Why Pothos Leaves Are Turning Brown (And How To Fix It)

Tropical plants make great indoor companions, and pothos is a standout choice due to its variety of types. However, growing it outside its natural habitat can lead to several issues.

Pothos leaves often turn brown for various reasons. Too much or too little water, excessive light, or leaf spot disease are common culprits. Brown spots and tips on the leaves can also happen if you use too much fertilizer.

1. Overwatering

Pothos leaves turning brown because of overwatering. (Root rot)

Pothos leaves turning brown because of overwatering. (Root rot)

Overwatering is a key reason for brown leaves in pothos. Staying wet for too long causes root rot, leading to large brown spots on the leaves. The tips of the leaves might also turn brown.

How to Fix It:

  1. Allow the potting soil to dry.
  2. Water the plant lightly; avoid overwatering.
  3. Wait until the top 2-3 inches of soil are dry before watering again.

2. Underwatering

underwatering

Underwatering

If you don’t water your pothos on time, you might notice brown leaves. Leaves will start to droop when the soil in the pot has been dry for a while.

Also, if the room is sunny and dry, the leaf tips will start turning brown.

How to Fix It:

  1. Water your pothos thoroughly until the soil is well soaked.
  2. Ensure excess water drains out through the bottom holes.
  3. Going forward, water the plant when the soil is about halfway dry.

3. Direct Sun

Sunburn

Pothos leaves turning brown because of sunburn

Too much direct sunlight can make pothos leaves turn brown, a condition often referred to as sunburn. The leaves might develop large, light brown patches in the center or on one side. Browning at the tips or edges is another sign of too much light. In extreme cases, leaves might even die.

How to Fix It:

  1. Relocate the pothos to a spot where it gets indirect but ample light.
  2. Trim off leaves that are badly damaged.
  3. Water the plant once more than usual.
  4. Apply a dose of liquid fertilizer.

4. Low Humidity

low humidity pothos turn brown

Low humidity

When the air is too dry, it can cause pothos leaves to dry out and turn brown. Normally, a room humidity of about 50% is fine for pothos. But if the plant is near heat sources or in an overly dry room, brown spots may appear on the leaves.

How to Fix It:

  1. Use a humidifier to raise the room’s humidity to around 50%.
  2. Group your potted plants closer to slightly increase humidity around them.
  3. Keep the pothos away from heaters and other heating devices.

5. Diseases

Pothos leaves turning brown because of the disease

Pothos leaves turning brown because of the disease

Disease is another common reason why pothos leaves turn brown. Fungal infections are a major concern. Typically, fungal spores land on the pothos leaves and start growing. Initially, they’re hard to spot, but soon the leaf gets covered with brown spots and may turn yellow partially or fully.

Another issue is Bacterial Leaf Spot. Its symptoms are similar to fungal infections, showing large brown spots on the leaves. These spots usually stop at the leaf veins.

How to Fix It:

  1. Treat the pothos with a fungicide.
  2. Ensure good air circulation and maintain humidity between 50-60%.
  3. Use well-drained soil for the pothos, and make sure the pot has drainage holes.

6. Root Bound

root bound

Root bound

If your pothos stays in the same pot for too long without repotting, it can become root-bound. Over time, the roots grow to the pot’s edges and start circling around. In about a year, you might end up with a dense ball of tangled roots.

Being root-bound can cause a lack of minerals in the soil and might even lead to root rot. These issues often result in the leaves turning brown.

How to Fix It:

  1. Repot the pothos into a slightly bigger pot, about 1-2 inches larger than the current root ball.
  2. If the roots are heavily tangled, trim them back by about 10%.
  3. Use soil that drains well.

7. Overfertilization

Pothos leaves turn brown due to overfeeding.

Pothos leaves turn brown due to overfeeding.

Using too much fertilizer can lead to brown leaves in pothos. Initially, the edges and tips of the leaves turn brown, and then other parts of the leaf can follow. You might also notice the lower leaves turning yellow and the plant becoming weak overall.

How to Fix It:

  1. Carefully remove the pothos from its pot and gently clear away all the old soil from the roots.
  2. Be careful not to harm the roots, and don’t rinse them.
  3. Repot the pothos in fresh soil.
  4. Be mindful not to over-fertilize the plant in the future.

8. Inappropriate Temperature

Temperature stress

Pothos leaves turn brown because of low temperature.

Brown leaves on your pothos can be a sign of improper temperature conditions, especially when it’s too cold. If the temperature drops below 50°F (10°C), the plant’s growth slows down, and then the leaves start turning brown.

Sudden changes in temperature can also cause the leaves to turn brown, or sometimes even red. This is common when pothos is moved outdoors during summer, where it might be warm during the day but cool at night. These fluctuations can lead to color changes in the plant.

How to Fix It:

  1. Maintain room temperature between 75°F and 85°F.
  2. Keep the pothos away from areas with cold drafts.
  3. Don’t place the pothos near heaters or refrigerators.

9. Pests

pothos turning brown because of pests

Pests

Aphids and mealybugs are common pests affecting pothos. They suck the plant’s sap, depriving its cells of nutrients, which leads to brown leaves.

Scale insects are another pest, recognizable by their white shell under which they live and reproduce. They’re a bit harder to eliminate compared to aphids and mealybugs.

Spider mites are tiny pests, often identified by the fine webs they leave on plants. They feed on plant tissues, causing the leaves to discolor.

How to Fix It:

  1. Use insecticidal soap to get rid of bugs like aphids and mealybugs.
  2. Apply horticultural oil to tackle mites.

10. Aging Leaves

old leaves turning yellow brown

Old leaves

All plants naturally lose their old leaves, which turn brown and die. This is a regular part of their life cycle that occurs annually.

Deciduous plants drop all their leaves at the end of their growing season. However, evergreens, like pothos, only shed their old leaves.

How to Fix It:

  1. Browning of old leaves is normal and can’t be prevented.
  2. Gently remove or trim off the brown leaves and dispose of them.

Why are the tips of my Pothos leaves turning brown?

The browning of Pothos leaf tips can happen for several reasons:

  1. Overwatering: Watering your Pothos too much or too often can lead to waterlogged roots, which struggle to get enough oxygen. This often results in brown leaf tips.
  2. Underwatering: On the flip side, not giving your Pothos enough water can cause the leaves to dry out and their tips to turn brown.
  3. Low Humidity: Pothos prefer humid environments. If the air is too dry, the leaf tips may become brown.
  4. Chemical Burn: Using fertilizer or chemical sprays on your Pothos might lead to brown tips on the leaves.
  5. Natural Aging: It’s normal for the oldest leaves of a Pothos to yellow or brown and eventually fall off as new growth takes over.

Why are the stems of my Pothos leaves turning brown?

Browning stems on your Pothos could be a result of several issues:

  • Root Rot: This is a common problem in Pothos plants, especially if they’re overwatered or the soil doesn’t drain well. Root rot can lead to browning of the stems and leaves, eventually killing the plant.
  • Fungal or Bacterial Infection: These infections can turn the stems brown. They often occur due to excessive watering, high humidity, or poor air circulation around the plant.
  • Insect Infestation: Pests like spider mites or thrips can cause browning of the stems. These insects damage the plant by feeding on the leaves and stems.

To solve this, you need to identify the cause first. For overwatering, adjust your watering routine and ensure the soil drains properly. For fungal or bacterial issues, isolate the plant and use appropriate fungicides or bactericides. For insects, apply an insecticide or manually remove affected leaves.

Should I cut brown leaves off pothos?

It’s a good idea to trim brown leaves from Pothos plants as soon as you spot them. Brown leaves usually mean the leaf tissue is dead or damaged. Keeping them on the plant could attract pests and diseases, and might even affect healthy leaves.

When removing brown leaves from a Pothos, make sure to use a sharp, clean pair of scissors or pruning shears. Cut right near the base of the leaf, being careful not to harm the stem or nearby leaves. This encourages new growth and allows the plant to direct its energy towards growing healthy leaves.