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Brown Spots on Pothos Leaves: Causes & Treatment

The waxy green leaves of Pothos can not efficiently provide air purifying benefits when they are troubled by brown spots from improper care.

Poor watering habits, direct sun exposure, extreme temperature and humidity stress mainly cause brown spots on Pothos leaves. Furthermore, generous fertilization beyond Pothos’ need, improper repotting, pests, and fungal infections can also cause brown spots.

Before you enter panic mode, read till the end, so you know how to diagnose and treat brown spots on Pothos leaves.

Can Excess Brown Spots on Leaves Kill Pothos?

Browning foliage is relatively common as it aligns with signs of natural aging or plant experiencing a change.

However, excessive brown spots on leaves are abnormal and can kill Pothos if not diagnosed on time.

If your Pothos leaves have several eye-soaring brown spots, you must take immediate action to revive the plant.

brown spots on pothos leaves
If the brown spots are in small numbers, you can let it be, but if it’s caused by pest or fungal infection, prune them off immediately.

Remember, the leaves with brown spots will not revert to green, but you can restore the plants’ health.

Likewise, you must confirm what actually is causing brown spots, then only proceed with treatment steps.

How to Identify Brown Spots on Pothos?

Remember, it might be natural for old, lower leaves on your Pothos to turn pale yellow or brown before dropping off.

Pothos shed their old leaves in fall and winter to give space for newer healthy growth.

Natural aging causes lower leaves to dry or curl before exhibiting a brownish tone, usually browning tips followed by 50% or more browning of the entire leaf.

However, it is not natural and normal if the top leaves turn brown even in the active growing season.

You can distinguish the culprit depending on the size, nature and spreading rate of the brown spots.

Furthermore, you can look for symptoms other than brown spots to pinpoint the cause.

Reasons for Pothos Turning BrownSymptoms
Overwatering/Under wateringTips of leaves turning brown. Large brown spots in the center of leaf.
Bright and Direct SunlightLeaves burned, turns brown with continous exposure.
Low HumidityPothos leaves turn brown and make them crisp.
Extreme TemperatureThe leaf color changes evenly to brown.
Excessive Use of FertilizersOver fertilization causes build-up of salts in soil, as a result leaves turn brown.
Pest InfestationTiny Whitish or Brownish egg-like structures on leaves.
DiseasesBrown spots on leaves, mostly yellow halo or yellow ring like structures.
Repotting ShockIt is common with Pothos that are not carefully repotted.

What Causes Brown Spots on Pothos Leaves?

It would be nothing new if you overlooked your Pothos as they are famous for their robust yet easy care needs.

Thus, thoroughly read on until the end to hammer down the root cause and revive your Pothos accordingly.

1. Improper Watering

Brown spots on Pothos leaves could be because of too much or lack of water in the soil.

Pothos prefers dry topsoil during the watering routine, so they are more likely to suffer from overwatering than underwatering.

In general, excess water causes water logging problems, resulting in root rot leading to yellowing Pothos leaves and brown spots.

Moreover, overwatering removes all air pockets in the soil and cuts off the oxygen supply to the plant.

Thus, leaf tips will turn brown with large brown spots at the leaf center due to the lack of nutrients supplied by roots.

On the other hand, a long period of no watering will cause yellowing Pothos leaves with brown, crispy dry tips.

Solution: Flexible Watering Routine

  • Position the overwatered plant in a warm, bright location and let it dry gradually.
  • Inspect the plant for root rot if the problem does not subside for weeks.
  • If salvageable, prune the infected parts, apply fungicides and repot the plant using a fresh soil mix.
  • Allow the topsoil to dry out before fetching water to your Pothos.
  • For an under-watered plant, submerge the pot in a water-filled tub till bubbles stop forming.
  • Ensure the plant is protected from direct sun exposure.
  • Watering once a week in spring and summer and once every two weeks in winter is ideal for Pothos.
  • Ensure the Pothos potting soil facilitates proper drainage.
  • Use a moisture meter to measure the moisture content in the soil before watering.

If the soil does not look hospitable, aim to repot your Pothos using a well-draining, airy soil mix.

You can incorporate a flexible watering routine for Pothos to dodge watering issues.

2. Too Much Direct Sunlight

Pothos are not fond of direct sunlight and prefers gentle indirect bright sunlight only.

Direct sunlight can increase transpiration and water loss, leaving the plant high and dry. Scorched foliage often has brown spots on leaves with brown tips.

Besides that, scorched leaves share other signs like curling and crispy dry leaf texture.

Thus, inspect if your Pothos gets too much direct sun exposure during the afternoon.

Solution: Lowering Light Intensity

  • Immediately relocate your Pothos to somewhere they receive medium-intensity indirect sunlight.
  • If you have Pothos on the south window, leverage sheer drapes to lower the light intensity.
  • Ensure the plant is kept 3 to 5 feet away from the window.
  • To overcome excess transpiration, slightly increase your watering routine.
  • Regularly mist your Pothos in the morning to keep plants hydrated temporarily.
  • Ensure your Pothos receives daily 10-12 hours of indirect bright light.
  • Use a light meter to ensure your Pothos is receiving ideal light of 380nm to 430nm.
  • Aim for artificial LED grow light that provides lights and can keep the plant warm.

3. Overfertilizing the Plant

Pothos is not a heavy feeder and unfurls brand-new green, waxy leaves with minimal fertilization.

So, anything more than the Pothos need can result in salt buildup in the soil leading to wilting and browning leaves with stunted plant growth.

Moreso, the excess fertilizer can choke the roots and cause chemical burns resulting in root rot.

Solution: Leach Out Excess Fertilizer

  • Run the plant under the tap to wash out all the salts from the soil, and repeat the process several times.
  • If the plant does not seem to bounce back, consider repotting the plant using a fresh mix.
  • Provide balanced fertilizers from certified retailers every 4-6 weeks during spring and summer.
  • Avoid fertilizing your Pothos in winter and fall.
  • Always dilute the fertilizer before use to half-strength.
  • Aim for organic fertilizers like homemade compost and waste veggies to avoid chemical burns.

4. Insufficient Humidity

Pothos requires 60-80% humidity to thrive, but anything below 50% will severely dehydrate the plant and cause brown spots in Pothos leaves.

Low humidity causes the Pothos leaves to turn brown, droop and have crispy edges despite adequate watering.

The plants near the air conditioner or heater often suffer low humidity problems. So, immediately relocate Pothos if they are anywhere near heating appliances.

Solution: Huddling Plants Together

  • Place a pebble tray filled with water under the plant pot.
  • Regularly mist the plant with mister daily in the morning hours.
  • Ensure the foliage is not dripping wet, which can lead to bacterial and fungal infections.
  • Add a room humidifier to boost the humidity level immediately.
  • Huddle your plants together in a place to exchange humidity naturally.
  • Place your Pothos in well-lit, humid places like the kitchen and bathroom.

5. Improper Temperature

Pothos plants thrive well in relatively warm conditions and tolerate temperatures between 65°F and 85°F.

But anything above 90°F will significantly reduce humidity in the air, leading to retarded growth and browning foliage.

The first sign of dehydrated Pothos is browning tips with curled-up leaves due to excess transpiration.

In contrast, temperature dipping below 60°F is unfavorable for Pothos, and it can induce stress resulting in withered, weak leaves that turn brown.

Solution: Strategic Placement of Pothos

  • Place your Pothos in an east window, ensuring they receive 2-3 hours of warmth from the direct morning sunlight.
  • Increase the watering and misting routine in summer to compensate scorching heat.
  • Move away the Pothos from cold windowsills during winter.
  • Maintain temperature at ideal levels using heating appliances but ensure they are not near the plant.
  • Incorporate heating pads and frost blankets to keep plants warm.

6. Pest Infestation

Although rare, some pest infestations may lead to brown spots on Pothos leaves.

Scale insect and mealybug infestation are sap-sucking bugs that will suck the juice from Pothos leaves, leaving brown spots behind.

The compromised immune system of Pothos and lack of nutrition results in brown spots on the leaves.

Pests Symptoms of Infestation
MealybugsCotton wool or white powder
Spider MitesTiny white/yellow spots on the top of leaves
ThripsSilvery grey marking on the leaves

Brown spots brought on by pests can spread exponentially, so prompt treatment is crucial to control their invasion.

Solution: Immediate Plant Lockdown

  • Quarantine the infected plants’ to prevent the pest from spreading to other plants.
  • Apply a cotton ball in neem oil or fungicides to the infected parts to kill pests and eggs.
  • Try pesticides like malathion solution or pyrethrin spray if the condition does not recover.
  • Use rubbing alcohol or soapy water to clean plant leaves regularly to ward off pests.
  • A yellow sticky trap may also help capture pests before they overtake the plant.

7. Fungal and Bacterial Diseases

Fungal and bacterial infections can cause brown spots in the Pothos leaves.

The brown spots on Pothos with a yellow halo or a yellow ring-like structure indicate bacterial leaf spot infection.

On the other hand, fungal disease can cause root rot, stem decay, and wilted brown foliage.

Here are some fungal and bacterial diseases that may cause brown spots on Pothos.

Common DiseasesCausative AgentSymptoms
Root rot diseasePhytophthora and PythiumPlant wilts even when soil is well soaked.

Roots become mushy and soft.

Leaves have brown or black lesions.
Damping offRhizoctonia solaniYoung, juvenile stems turn water-soaked and are unable to support weight of the plant.
Bacterial WiltRalstonia solanacearumWilted leaves with discolored or black veins

Bacterial ooze can be seen on recently cut stems.
Southern BlightSclerotium rolfsiiWhite fungal strands can be seen on soil surface and plant stem.

Brown or back rot near the soil line that begins as water-soaked lesions, wilting, girdled stems, sudden collapse.
Bacterial Leaf SpotPseudomonas cichoriiAppear as black, tan, or dark brown small spots with surrounding yellow halo
Fungal Leaf SpotAlternaria and CercosporaOblong, round, or oval black, dark brown spots or necrotic areas, some of which have a yellow halo.

The onset of bacteria is more likely when you overhead water your plant and leave the plant in a waterlogged problem.

Both cases are prevalent, with Pothos in high humidity, poor ventilation, and excess moisture.

Solution: Immediate Fungicides & Prevention

  • Quarantine the plant and dispose of the one with severe infestation.
  • Apply fungicide containing copper or benomyl to treat fungus effectively.
  • Spraying the plant with a light baking soda solution may help reduce leaf spots.
  • Apply chemical pesticides like Agri-Mycin if the fungus infestation seems severe.
  • Plants with bacteria wilt are less likely to recover. Consider pruning the infected parts and waiting for them to recover.
  • Avoid heavy misting or keeping it in a humid or low-light condition.
  • As a preventive measure, avoid overhead watering and proceed with bottom watering if viable.
  • Keep the plant in a warm location with ample indirect sunlight and avoid moist conditions.

DIY Remedy: Mix a teaspoon of Mineral Oil and Baking Soda diluted in water and spray the affected plant’s areas using a spray bottle or mister.

8. Repotting Shock

Pothos that is recently repotted may witness some stunted growth and change in leaf color, but that is normal.

However, improper repotting that involves harsh pruning of roots, and poor choice of potting mix and pots can induce severe repotting shock in Pothos.

The first indication of repotting shock is droopy and yellow leaves, followed by browning and stunted growth.

Solution: Regular Ideal Pothos Care

  • Place the plant in the same spot as before to ensure it gets the same temperature and lighting.
  • Wait a few months before you give the plant mild water-soluble plant food to boost root growth.
  • Light, careful pruning of the damaged roots using sterilized pruners.
  • Use sterilized pots that allow excess water drainage efficiently.
  • Regularly dust off the Pothos leaves and wipe them with neem oil.
  • Regularly prune away brown, old, decayed leaves and leggy stems in early spring.

Check whether the plant revives in a few weeks. Otherwise, consider checking for root rot problems.

Should I Remove Pothos Leaves with Brown Spots?

As the brown spots do not revert to their original form, you must remove leaves with excess brown spots.

Furthermore, if the culprit behind the brown spots is a fungal or bacterial infection, you must remove the leaves entirely.

However, you can let the leaves alone if they have insignificant brown spots and the cause is improper water or humidity.

browning pothos leaves
Leaves that have gone completely brown should be removed as they won’t serve their purpose.

Sunburnt foliage of Pothos will not return to green form, so you can snip them off without remorse.

Always use a sterilized pruner to trim off the leaves, so you do not accidentally spread the infection.

Besides that, regularly prune away any diseased, damaged Pothos leaves in early spring to keep the plant healthy.

From Editorial Team

The Lifespan of Pothos Matters!

Pothos thrives for about five to ten years. They unfurl and shed tons of leaves that can deceive you with brown spots.

So, do not worry if the lower leaves of Pothos turn brown and drop.

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