Pothos Root Rot Symptoms and Solution

Pothos Root Rot Symptoms Image

Are your beloved pothos plants suffering from root rot? If so, don’t worry; you are certainly not alone in this struggle.

Root rot can be causing trouble for homeowners and gardeners alike – but fortunately, the symptoms of root rot from your pothos plant can clue you on what to do next.

We’ll discuss pothos root rot symptoms and, more importantly, offer some solutions to treat affected roots. So, grab your gardening gear, and let’s get started combating pothos root rot.

Pothos Root Rot Symptoms

The most common sign of pothos root rot is wilting yellow leaves that become translucently thin. The roots may also feel soggy with a black or brown color. If tested with a probe tool like an electronic moisture meter, it will typically read very high levels of waterlogged soils leading to root rot.

What Is Pothos Root Rot?

Pothos root rot occurs when you overwater the plant. Apart from overwatering, a fungal infection from the soil can cause pothos root rot.

You’ll see leaf discoloration and horrid smells when pothos root rot occurs. Besides, if you notice the pothos’ affected roots have turned black or brown, then there’s root rot. 

As a gardener, I suggest you cut off the damaged roots ASAP! Do so immediately when you identify pothos root rot, then later repot your pothos within sterile potting soil. 

Remember, the pothos pot should have several drainage holes so that you don’t go back to square one. The remaining healthy roots may start rotting if the pot isn’t well-aerated. 

What Causes Root Rot in Pothos Plant?


Pothos, like most indoor plants, don’t need a lot of moisture. When too much water is allowed to accumulate around the roots, it creates an environment that is ideal for fungal growth.

As the fungus grows, it begins to break down and consume the plant’s root system, preventing it from taking up water and nutrients.

Adding excess moisture to the soil also limits oxygen availability in the roots. In such a case, the pothos plant’s roots may have breathing difficulty.

Shockingly, if you didn’t know, plants experience a similar breathing difficulty to humans, yet this can stress your pothos. 

Poor Drainage Capacity of Soil

The worst combo you could have is overwatering and poorly drained soil. If you do, you’ll be brewing something disastrous for your pothos. Even worse, you’ll be slowly killing your lovely pothos, and I bet you wouldn’t like that.

When your soil doesn’t drain properly, moisture builds up inside the pot as a result creating an uncomfortable environment for the roots. I’d liken that situation to that of overwatering. 

Even if moisture isn’t in excess, your pothos root drowns when drainage isn’t enough. Because of that, the healthy pothos roots will eventually rot.

Poor Drainage in Pots

Is your potting soil well-draining, and you don’t overwater your pothos, but there’s still root rot? If that’s so, chances are, your pothos pot has a drainage issue. It would help to check the plant pot.

Other than wanting to know if pothos need drainage, confirm does it have suitable drainage holes? Does it let moisture pass through it freely?

If your pothos pot takes around an hour for the moisture to drain, ditch it and look for a new pothos pot. Like right now!

Pots or containers with poor drainage will only cause your pothos headaches. By that, I mean its soil will remain soggy for extended periods initiating pothos root rot. 

Extra-large/small Pots

Besides poor drainage, your pot’s size may be unfavorable for your pothos, particularly if the pot is extra large. When the pot’s too big, it creates room for more soil and moisture.

Elsewhere, tiny pots may cause the pothos root to somewhat bind together, and when there’s root bound, the pot clogs. These factors complicate the drainage of excess moisture. 

Pathogenic Infections

Different pathogen types can infect your pothos roots, causing root rot. Many times, these plant pathogens exist in the potting soil or in moisture you subject your pothos. 

Phytophthora, a water mold, can infect the pothos roots and cause root rot when it attacks your plant. Even worse, this pathogen infection may spread to your plant’s stems or leaves even worse. 

Another notable pathogen you should take a keen interest in is Pythium which also causes root rot. A potting mix may have this specific pathogen in most cases. 

Extremely Low Temperature

Often, pothos develops well in a 70 to 90℉ (21 to 32℃) temperature range, and it will still survive a range of environmental conditions.

Unfortunately, the plant will not do well for temperatures below this range, and if it does, it is only for a short stint. Just be keen and never let the temperature drop past that range.

Extremely low temperatures make the soil remain soggy/wet, which definitely causes root rot to your pothos.

If you’ve already exposed your pothos to such low temperatures, don’t worry. We recommend a few solutions you can try in the progressive sections.

Watering on Dormant Periods

When plants rest, this period is what gardeners call “plant dormancy.” It’s a normal process any plant undergoes when growth conditions aren’t favorable. 

This dormant period occurs mainly during winter because of extremely low temperatures. And since it’s a rest period, your pothos may appear like they’re in sleep mode. 

Since the pothos is dormant, it will need less moisture, which is why we advise against watering your pothos at this stage. Otherwise, it may develop stress, causing permanent damage like root rot. 


Have you been excessively fertilizing your pothos of late? And is your pothos starting to die? Excess fertilizer adds excess salts to the potting soil making the pothos roots shrivel.

In the long run, your pothos roots start to rot. 

Pothos Root Rot Symptoms

1. The leaves are drooping

When pothos plants are affected by root rot, the first symptom is usually drooping leaves.

The leaves will appear saggy and tired, and may hang down instead of standing upright.

Therefore, if you notice that your pothos has drooping leaves, it’s essential to check the potting soil for moisture levels.

If the soil is bone-dry, your plant may simply need watering to help the leaves perk up.

However, if the soil is somewhat moist, it’s possible that your pothos has root rot. So, if you’re wondering why your pothos is droopy, it could be due to root rot.

2. The leaves are falling off

When the pothos leaves begin falling off, that’s a more advanced root rot sign. The leaves falling off happens when the pothos roots no longer support it, and chances are the roots may be rotting away wholly. 

If the pothos leaves drop rapidly, this shows that root rot is becoming worse. Unfortunately, at this stage, your pothos may not recover from the root rot.

3. The leaves are growing smaller

Another pothos root rot symptom is stunted growth and development. The pothos leaves may become smaller than usual, or your pothos may not be growing as tall as they should. 

Also, your pothos may become leggy, meaning its leaves may grow sparsely, and finally, the stem may thin out to preserve energy. It does so when going upward, trying to get sunlight support. 

4. The plant is short and shrubby

When your pothos becomes short and shrubby, that’s a root rot tell-tale sign. Often, that happens when the roots can’t support the pothos weight.

With such a symptom, your pothos has halted its growth to fight off the root rot’s fungal infection.

5. The leaves are turning yellow

If you didn’t know, another pothos root rot sign is yellow leaves. If its leaves begin turning yellow and falling off, your pothos isn’t producing chlorophyll and is unable to photosynthesize.

The yellow leaves mean the roots are rotting, and your pothos isn’t getting enough oxygen and nutrients from the soil.

Without photosynthesis, your pothos will starve and then die slowly.

6. You see brown splotches on the leaves

When you observe black or brown splotches or holes on your pothos leaves, it’s a root rot sign.

The brown spots are a sign that your plant isn’t getting enough oxygen and nutrients, and the roots are starting to suffer.

7. The roots are mushy and discolored

Mushy or discolored roots is another common symptom of pothos root rot. The roots may be dark brown or black, and they will feel soft and weak to the touch.

There may also be an unpleasant odor coming from the plant’s base as well.

8. Pests are present

Pothos plants become vulnerable to pests when they’ve got root rot. These plant pests attack your pothos since it’s weak and easy to feed on.

Pests such as aphids, mealybugs, and mites can feed on the sap from the leaves or attach themselves to the stem.

Notably, pest infections are the last nail in the coffin for pothos when the root rot has completely shaken your pothos.

9. Mold and mildew are present

Another common pothos root rot sign is mold and mildew. Usually, mold may form on the pothos leaves and stems and also be present on the pothos roots.

You can identify powdery mildew via a white-powdery fungus that forms on the pothos leaves

10. Foul smell from the pot

If your pothos is giving off an odor, this may be a sign of root rot. The smell is usually like a “rotting egg” or “foul odor” coming from the soil in the pot.

You probably might have overwatered your pothos, and this leads to root rot. 

Also, a decaying odor from the roots is another pothos root rot symptom. Healthy pothos roots give off an earthly smell. So, if that isn’t the case, it’s likely that you’ve got pothos root rot. 

How to Save Pothos from Root Rot


Confirming that there’s a pothos root rot is the first thing you must do. Of course, you’ll need to pull your pothos off from the container or pot. Afterward, you’ll report it ASAP!

By doing that, you’ll have a better chance of observing the damage’s intensity on the pothos roots. But if you aren’t familiar with that, here’s how to go about it:

  1. Remove your pothos from its current pot. To do that, turn it sideways while holding on to the stem’s base. Still at that, tap the pothos container gently, loosening the compact potting soil. Pull your pothos from the pot little by little.
  2. Loosen the plant’s roots, and remove the potting soil binding it. You can then shake your pothos to clear excess soil. 
  3. Inspect the roots to see if there are rotting portions on them. Check the texture and color. The color shouldn’t be brown, and your pothos shouldn’t be slimy when you touch them. If that’s the case, you’ll need to trim the affected roots. 
  4. Now, it’s that time. Please, prepare a fresh potting mix. But remember, this potting mix shouldn’t be sterile. That’s to ensure that no plant pathogens exist. Also, ensure you’ve dumped away the plant’s old potting mix. Finally, don’t mix the two potting mixes. Otherwise, there will be cross-contamination. 
  5. Pick a suitable-sized pothos pot. Ensure you’ve cleaned it. Afterward, add some potting mix to the pot’s bottom. Put your pothos on top, then pour the fresh potting mixture on its sides. Ensure you put enough potting soil. Doing so helps you prevent your pothos from sagging.

Watering after Repotting

Another crucial element of saving your pothos from rot is an adequate water schedule. That’s so, especially if you’ve newly repotted your pothos.

Water the pothos, then give it some minutes to drain properly. It is also advisable to wait for the potting soil to dry completely before watering again.

Care After Repotting

After repotting your pothos, they need care and maintenance. Trust me, less hard work is needed here, but don’t neglect this pothos care step.

One way is to put your newly repotted pothos under the shade. However, you have to remember your pothos went through stress during repotting, and direct sunlight may add more stress to it.

If you’re wondering, “Is pothos sunburn from too much sun?” it’s possible, especially if the plant is exposed to direct sunlight for extended periods of time.

You can also repot your pothos after 12 to 18 months, providing it with new media to boost its life.


The propagation step is often for plants with severe damage, almost impossible to save. You can only save an overwatered pothos that’s slightly damaged by repotting it as discussed above. 

If you’re unlucky and have pothos with completely rotten roots, propagation is the sole solution. Luckily, propagating a pothos is very easy as you need to cut long stems (4-5 inches).

The pothos stem has to have some leaves and nodes where the new roots develop. Keep the pathos cut portions in water-filled glassware, and the new pothos roots will come out in about 3-4 weeks.

Now, place your cuttings on the potting soil, keeping it in the shade and ensuring the potting soil is moist. This helps the new roots to adjust to their new environment. 

How to Prevent and Control Pothos Root Rot?

Avoid Waterlogging

Most pothos root rot is a result of excess water in the container or soil. So, to avoid pothos root rot, always control your water input by providing only enough moisture for your pothos.

It would be best to use a single container when watering the pothos to ensure you’re using a constant water volume every time.

Using a right-sized pothos pot also helps prevent waterlogging. Therefore, pick a suitable container or pot with adequate drainage holes for your pothos.

Set Up a Watering Schedule

I strongly advise you to have a proper watering schedule where the time interval is consistent. That’ll offer equal spaces for the potting soil to dry before the successive watering. 

You may need to adjust the watering schedule at other times, depending on the weather. So, always look out for sudden changes in the environment. 

Loosen the Soil

If you never knew, soil structure is very crucial to increase your soil’s porosity. By doing so, you create more air space, ensuring your pothos root system gets adequate oxygen circulation. 

A well-aerated potting soil improves drainage too. You can achieve this by repairing your soil using organic matter, for example, peat moss.

Also, sterilize the existing soil before turning it into a potting medium. This will kill existing plant pathogens that may affect your pothos plant roots.

Alternatively, put rocks or pebbles at the pot’s bottom before adding soil to loosen the soil. or try using soil with a sandy texture.

Practice Plant Rotation

As long as the host is there, soil-borne pathogens will always thrive, but practicing plant rotation is among the critical ways of prevention.

You can keep non-host plants till the point the fungi die. Doing so prevents the pathogens from inflicting more damage on your pothos.

However, you’ll need to study the pathogen’s behavior, or else the plant rotation may be unsuccessful.

It will also be helpful to consider how long it takes for the pathogen to die when in the soil and other plant types susceptible to the fungi.

Treat the Soil with Fungicide

You can treat your soil using a fungicide if you doubt its condition to prevent the development of fungal disease in the soil.

Fungicide also cleans the soil, clearing harmful pathogens in case your pothos is already attacked.

Do Not Overfertilize

Ensure you apply a recommended or suitable fertilizer in the preferred ratio. Excess fertilizer can interfere with the soil environment, affecting the root system.

As much as possible, please, use organic fertilizers considering you don’t need to worry about root damage when you overdo it. It is also has a slow release and can even last past three to five months.

Ensure Care Requirements

It would help to maintain a pothos care routine. That includes frequent checks or inspections of your pothos plant.

By doing so, you’ll have a chance of spotting abnormalities at early stages. 

Will Pothos with Root Rot Recover?

Yes, your pothos can recover from root rot, but only when you tackle the issue early enough. This is why it’s advisable to put up preventative measures before you plant your pothos.

Take note the following affect your pothos health or well-being:

  • The quality of the potting soil
  • The pot you pick for your pothos
  • Water volume you’ll use
  • Watering schedule

Carefully observing your pothos changes and behavior will help you identify problems early. It’s only by implementing the suggestions above that your pothos will survive root rot.

Root Rot vs Healthy Roots in Pothos

When your pothos roots are healthy, they’ll be firm and light or white-colored. They shouldn’t be discolored or mushy and stick to an earthy or fresh smell.

On the flip side, pothos with root rot will have mushy or discolored roots. Also, the pothos roots fall off easily, plus you can easily feel an uncomfortable odor from the roots.


Can a pothos plant with no healthy roots be saved? 

Yes, you can save a pothos plant with no healthy roots. However, this is only possible if you identify the root rot early enough. Look at the roots if they appear brown or mushy, which indicates that the root system has suffered from too much water or poor drainage.

Why does my pothos plant keep on getting root rot?

Your pothos plant keeps on getting root rot because of over-watering. If you give your plant too much water, its roots don’t have a chance to dry out, leading to root rot. Poor drainage limits oxygen supply to the roots of the plant for the soil to move excess water away from them, and this can also cause root rot.

What does pothos root rot look like?

Pothos root rot looks mushy and black. In addition to turning mushy and black, the affected parts of the plant’s roots will start to look soggy or slimy. If the roots are already starting to rot, sometimes you’ll see that the soil around them is damp.

How do you fix root rot in pots?

To fix root rot in pots, start by removing the plant from the pot, and breaking off the potting soil from the root ball. Trim the rotting roots using sterilized scissors. Ensure all the pot’s original soil is out, then wash it and spray it with fungicides to kill the bacteria and fungus.

How do you fix root rot in pothos without repotting?

Drenching your pothos in a hydrogen and water solution can fix root rot without repoting. Hydrogen peroxide helps kill fungus spores and also stops their spread. You can apply a fungicide to your potting mix to prevent fungus from returning.

How do you fix root rot in a pothos in water?

Remove the pothos from the water and let the roots dry. Overwatering is the main cause of root rot in pothos, so your pothos needs to dry out completely. Once the roots are dry, you can repot your pothos into a new pot with fresh, well-draining soil.

Why are my pothos roots brown in water?

Your pothos roots are brown because of root rot. Root rot is caused by too much moisture and not enough air in the soil. Therefore, insufficient oxygen supply could be preventing healthy root growth eventually causing the roots to turn brown.

How fast does root rot in pothos happen?

Root rot in pothos develops slowly, but it may be accelerated by plants surrounding conditions. The more watering you provide pothos, the less oxygen it receives. This lack of oxygen combined with high levels of moisture can create an environment conducive to the development of root rot.

Can a potted plant recover from root rot?

The answer to this question depends on the level of damage. If the whole root is mushy and has discolored, unfortunately, your pothos root may not recover. If the roots are just beginning to change color, remove the dying parts, and your plant will recover.

Interesting Read:


Pothos plants are notoriously difficult to kill, but it is possible to do so with root rot. If you think your pothos plant may have root rot, check for the symptoms like brown or yellow leaves, wilting, damp soil, and stunted growth.

These problems can be caused by several different pathogens, so it is important to identify the problem before treating it.

Once you have identified that your plant has root rot, follow the discussed control and preventive measures. With proper care, your pothos should recover from root rot and continue to grow.

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