Pothos Root Rot: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Measures

Yellow leaves in Pothos
Pothos leaves turns yellow especially the bottom ones, when it suffers from root rot.

Has your beloved Pothos plant started wilting and turning yellow or dropping leaves altogether for no apparent reason?

Keep looking out because this fast-growing houseplant hates sitting wet, which may lead to root rot.

In general, Pothos root rot is the byproduct of fungus infestation primarily caused by overwatering, leading to the mushy root and poor plant growth. To save the plant, prune its affected parts, apply fungicide, and repot the plant immediately.

Root bound Pothos
Root rot in Pothos is caused by various factors such as overwatering, pest infestation, fungal diseases, etc.

However, overwatering alone is not the only cause of Pothos root rot, nor is pruning the infected parts the only solution.

Many problems with the houseplant or environment may lead to root rot, which you must identify before applying the solution.

Read on to find out how to identify, diagnose, and treat Pothos root rot before damaging the entire plant.

How to Identify Pothos Root Rot?

Pothos, also known as Hunter’s robe, arum ivy, and money plant, makes a fabulous houseplant thanks to its air purifying leaves.

It produces adhesive aerial roots as the plant climbs into the canopy, with feeder roots proliferating from nodes and internodes.

However, its aerial root system becomes feeble in wet conditions as too much water will deprive it of the air and nutrients required to expand.

As the root starts rotting, it will give out some tell-tale signs, becoming more evident with time.

Here is every sign that you may need to identify Pothos root rot.

1. Yellowing and Browning Leaves

Yellowing of the green-pothos leaves may indicate many problems, but one of the probable causes is overwatering and root rot caused by it.

In fact, it is the first sign of Pothos root rot where the leaf color will gradually change from green to yellow, starting at the base of the leaf.

Too many yellowing leaves, especially bottom leaves, indicate that the Pothos suffers from a fungus root rot, generally pythium root rot.

Yellow leaves in Pothos
Pothos leaves turn yellow, especially the bottom ones when it suffers from root rot.

Brown lesions and spots on Pothos leaves are significant indicators of root rot.

Root rotting fungi like Rhizoctonia and Fusarium may lead to brown leaf spots, which will increase with overwatering.

Adjacent lesions on a leaf surface may frequently merge to create larger brown blotches that look circular.

Expect to see some yellow to rusty brown leaves accompanying brown lesions and spots.

Brown spots on pothos leaves
Brown spots on Pothos leaves indicate root rot.

Note: Tiny leaf spots and holes on Pothos leaves may indicate bacterial leaf spot which requires a different solution.

2. Wilting and Drooping Pothos

Wilting of leaves is one of the early indications of root rot. Please do know that your Pothos has already encountered premature root rot.

It indicates that there are not sufficient feeder roots to keep up with the plant’s water demand.

Therefore, the Pothos begins to reduce water loss by wilting. The dehydrated plant cells collapse and fail to stay erect, causing droopy leaves.

Wilting and drooping pothos
Wilting and drooping Pothos also indicates root rot.

Sometimes, wilting is familiar with compact plant pots as the water fails to reach the roots.

Do care to check for other signs of root rot to strengthen your suspicion.

3. Scorched Pothos Leaves

Leaf scorch is the byproduct of excess transpiration (loss of water from leaves due to excess heat).

It occurs upon root rot when the healthy roots cannot supply enough water to offset the water loss from transpiration.

Scorched Pothos Leaves
Scorched Pothos leaves also indicated root rot. Leaf edges turn brown as a result.

The leaf will display yellowing between leaf veins and margins with browning of the tips.

It often occurs before or during leaf wilting; however, do not mistake it for sunburn or underwatering issues.

4. Dropping or Falling Leaves

A Pothos with severe root rot will begin dropping leaves.

It is a sign that the roots have faced prolonged damage from the fungus and the healthy set of roots are unable to consume water or nutrients.

On the other hand, soil saturation may also lead to dropping leaves, which can be solved with repotting.

However, leaf dropping from root rot may require closer inspection of the root rot damage.

5. Soft and Brown Roots

The Pothos root will become soft or mushy when the rot proliferates to an alarming level.

You will notice a stench coming off the brown-looking root along with the mushy texture.

Soft and mushy roots in pothos
Soft and mushy roots indicates root rot.

The mushy and slimy root decay indicates that the fungi have started consuming the root.

However, remember this is a severe root rot case that may take a while to show up after the fungus infestation.

Look out for other probable signs to prevent soft and brown root conditions.

6. Mushy Stem Base

Expect a mushy stem base or loose bark when the root rot proliferates.

The rotting stem base may look mushy and dark instead of creamy white or tan.

It indicates that the fungus infestation is gradually infecting the plant stem. Look out for rapid yellowing and wilting of leaves.

Mushy stem base caused by overwatering can be reverted, but root rot may require a different solution.

7. Slow Growth

If a formerly healthy Pothos suddenly stops growing, you should blame the root rot.

Slowed Pothos growth is a significant sign of root rot, often accompanied by mushy stems, wilting, and yellowing leaves.

Golden pothos growing in a terracotta pot
Stunted growth in Pothos also indicates root rot.

Usually, the soil will smell rotten, and the roots will feel soft or mushy. It will affect the overall quality of the plant and may even cause untimely death.

8. Fungus or Mold on Soil

White fungus on the soil surface is the byproduct of white mold spores, while yellow fungal mold is caused by fungal growth.

The fuzzy growth may appear at the base of the plant overnight or within a few days.

The fungus growth will consume any extra water lingering in the pot, leading to even more fungus proliferation and root rot.

Healthy Root Vs. Rotten Root

Check out this brief guide if you were wondering how to identify the healthy root from the rotten one.

The rotten root will show vivid signs of problems that are easy to determine even by novice gardeners.

Here are some differences between a healthy and a rotten root system.

ParameterHealthy RootRotten Root
AppearanceIt looks full with large central root system with sturdy, bushier feeder roots on the sides.The roots look sicker with feeder roots falling or breaking to touch.
ColorIt look white or tanned with orange texture.It looks Brown or dark almost looks black.
FeelIt feels firm ot touch and sturdy.It feels soft and mushy to touch.
SmellIt smells like the soil it is in.It smells like swamp or slightly sulphurous.

Pothos Root Rot: Causes & Solutions

Root rot is a common problem in indoor grown Pothos because the potted plant is more susceptible to diseases and issues.

Many different reasons may lead to decayed Pothos root.

Knowing which factor is the probable cause will help you apply the proper treatment before the problem grows.

1. Overwatering the Plant

Overwatering the Pothos plant is the primary concern because it does not need much water unless you use it as the growing medium.

Frequent watering or providing significant amounts in a short time will limit oxygen availability, leading to the choking root system.

Soggy Soil
Overwatering the plant may lead to roots drowning in water

Pothos plants need to breathe as humans do; waterlogging the soil will deprive the air circulation around the roots.

It will eventually lead to fungal buildup in the soil, damaging the root system.

Yellowing and browning of the leaves indicate overwatering, which requires immediate diagnosis and treatment.

Remember, the aerial roots of the Pothos will only increase when the soil remains well-aerated and porous.

Solutions

  • Immediately cut back on watering and move the plant to a warm location with bright indirect sunlight.
  • If the plant recovers within a week or two, no other treatments are required.
  • If the problem persists, slide the plant out to check for decayed roots.
  • Prune the infected roots and apply some fungicide before repotting them in fresh potting soil.
  • Trim browned leaf if the discoloration has taken over the entire leaf to prevent further growth.

2. Poor Soil Drainage Capacity

Poor soil drainage is likely caused by soil compaction due to improper soil mix or loss of healthy soil microbes.

The compact soil lacks air pockets, which allow water to drain quickly through the soil.

With poor drainage, the water will begin storing inside, drowning the leaves and leading to fungal growth.

Soil drainage
Soil drainage capacity will dwindle as it loses organic microbes and porous material (Source: UCANR)

In fact, compact soil and overwatering can become the worst concoction of disaster.

Your Pothos root will be sitting on stale water around the clock, which may increase the fungal growth.

The Pothos grown in pots are more likely to suffer from poor drainage as the soil dwindles in healthy microbes from continuous fertilization and water saturation.

Solutions

  • Check whether the soil feels light-colored and hard to touch. It would crumble as you put pressure on it.
  • The only solution is to repot the plant in a new and correct substrate.
  • Prepare a soil mix containing porous materials like peat moss, coco coir, shredded bark, and perlite to allow water drainage.

Read more to learn more about the best soil and fertilizer for Pothos.

3. Extra-large or Small Pots

Another unforeseen problem with the Pothos plant is using a pot that is either extra-large or small.

An extra-large pot would require frequent watering to keep the soil moist, while small pots will bind the root growth causing clogged soil.

Root Bound Spider Plant
Root Bound is common with Pothos kept in a small container, leading to water retention.

Both scenarios are bad for Pothos roots, inviting unnecessary water retention and eventually fungal growth.

Remember, Pothos require only slightly moist soil, and excess water retention would mean the roots are drowning.

Solutions

  • Slide out the plant, prune any decayed root, and move it to an appropriate-sized pot.
  • Always choose a pot with a diameter at least one inch wider than the diameter of the plant’s root mass.
  • Pothos with fast-growing roots and stems will require a pot up to four inches wider than the root mass.
  • Change the pot every year in early spring to accommodate rapid root growth.

4. Overfertilized Plant

Pothos will enjoy regular fertilization as it assists with root growth and stem proliferation, but the problem is overfertilizing the plant.

Fertilization leaves salt residue in the soil, which hampers root health.

With excess and frequent fertilization, the salt will reach a toxic level, stressing the root system and making it more susceptible to fungal and bacterial attacks.

brown-leaves-due-to-salt-built-up
Overfertilization may lead to the salt build up in soil which may result in rotten roots.

Do not worry yet; most overfertilized Pothos can be saved in a few steps.

Solutions

  • Run the pot under tap water to leach away excess fertilizer and repeat the process several times.
  • Prune off damaged leaves and stems from diverting the energy towards healthy growth.
  • If the plant does not seem to revive, slide it out and prune off the severely decayed root system.
  • Repot the plant in a fresh mix and avoid fertilizing for at least three months.

5. Temperature  Fluctuation and Drought Stress

An inappropriate temperature and moisture will play a host in influencing the dry root disease in the Pothos plant.

A study reveals that high temperature and low moisture elicit the most heightened disease susceptibility. With a drying root system and transpiring leaves, the root will attract the phytopathogenic fungus Rhizoctonia bataticola.

Temperature requirement for Pothos
Pothos prefers temperatures ranging between 70 to 90°F.

It will lead to damping off, stem lesions, stem and root rot, and blight.

Although more common with industrial crops, it may affect houseplants under duress from the wrong temperature and moisture level.

Solutions

  • Treating houseplants with Rhizoctonia can be difficult; hence, it is a great idea to prune off infected parts and transplant them into a fresh soil mix.
  • Otherwise, use Terrazole, a fungicide with 40% pentachloronitrobenzene (PCNB), to treat Rhizoctonia.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s dosage guide to prevent fungicide toxicity risk.
  • If the temperature drops below 60°F, then use an artificial heating system.
  • Mist the plant’s leaves and increase the frequency of watering from once to twice a week.

Note: Extremely low temperature (below 50°F) will cause the soil to remain wet for longer, leading to root decay. Follow the overwatering solutions to solve root rot from low temperatures.

6. Excess Humidity

Prolonged exposure to excess humidity plays a significant role in Pothos root rot.

In fact, it is the common cause of root rot problems in most houseplants.

When Pothos roots are exposed to overly moist conditions for too long, they become susceptible to fungal growth, such as fungus gnats whose larva feed on the roots.

Humidity needs of String of Bananas
Pothos will ideally thrive in anything above 40% humidity.

Similarly, wet leaves and stems will promote mold and bacterial growth that may cause leaf dropping and attract pests to lay eggs.

It further increases the root and crown rot, leading to a sick-looking plant.

Solutions

  • Slide the plant to check for decayed roots and prune off the infected part.
  • Apply some fungicide and repot in a fresh potting mix.
  • Move the plant to a warm location with ample indirect sunlight.
  • To maintain humidity, mist your plant in the morning, but do not go overboard.
  • Measure the humidity level around your plant with a hygrometer.
  • Add a room humidifier to maintain the ideal relative humidity level around the plant.

7. Pathogenic Infections

The Pothos plant will suffer from pathogenic infection when grown in an unideal condition.

Other times it will get harmful pathogens from diseased plants or pests.

All the causes mentioned above may lead to pathogen infection in Pothos, where Pythium, Phytophthora, and Rhizoctonia are the most common.

a. Pythium Root Rot

Pythium root rot is caused by Pythium irregulare, Pythium ultimum, and Pythium aphanidermatum.

These pathogens are present in Pothos with excessively wet roots, poorly draining substrate, and soil rich in organic matter.

Using contaminated potting soil mix may also invite Pythium root rot.

Root rot caused by Pythium species
Pythium root rot is caused by overwatering and poor drainage. (Source: blogs.cornell.edu)

b. Phytophthora Root Rot

Phytophthora sojae is a water mold that will cause root rot in Pothos. It is prevalent in either high soil moisture or saturated soil conditions.

Other times, it is spread by air-borne spores from disease-infested plants.

c. Rhizoctonia Root Rot

Rhizoctonia spp is another pathogen that will spread through the air and make its way into the soil.

Other times, overhead watering and high temperature may invite the pathogen spores.

You would witness yellowing and wilting leaves with stems dying back in these infections.

The symptoms may worsen, leading to severe root rot and mold growth in the soil.

Roots after Rhizoctonia Root Rot
Rhizoctonia spp is the causative agent for root rot.

Solutions

  • Treating disease-infested plants requires an immediate solution which often comes in fungicide.
  • Start with pruning off infected root system and decayed foliage and stem.
  • Apply fungicide containing copper or Benomyl to the cut areas and repot in a fresh potting mix.
  • Otherwise, pour a diluted solution of Chlorothalonil or Agrimycin fungicide into the soil directly.
  • Alternatively, you can mix herbicides like Neem oil or hydrogen peroxide in water and pour it over the plant and soil.

Here is a video highlighting how to save the Golden Pothos species from root rot.

Natural Fungicides to Treat Root Rot in Pothos

Natural fungicides improve soil quality and are inexpensive, accessible, and eco-friendly.

Here are a few natural fungicides you might want to try.

Natural FungicideHow to Apply?
Neem OilMix 1 teaspoon of raw neem oil in 1 litre of water.

Add 3-5 drops of dish soap, make a mixture and apply.
CinnamonSprinkle cinnamon powder on soil.

Make a spray using powder cinnamon, make a strong tea and spray on the underside of leaves.
Baking SodaTake a gallon of tepid water, mix 3-4 tablespoons of baking soda and 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.

Spray the mixture on the soil.
ChamomileTake 1/4 or 1/2 cup of chamomile flower and add 2 cups of boiling water.

Let the mixture cool down and spray it.
Apple Cider VinegarMix 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar into a gallon of water and spray it to the soil and the plant.
Hydrogen PeroxideAdd 1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide in water.

Spray the mixture over the plant and soil as well.

How to Prevent Root Rot in Pothos?

Keeping your magnificent potted Pothos plants free of problems is not that challenging. All it takes is some effort and loads of love.

Care to provide a conducive environment that helps your indoor Pothos stay healthy.

Here are some tips to prevent the risk of Pothos root rot.

  • Avoid overwatering at all costs. A five inches pot would require about 600-800ml of water every week in spring and summer and nothing more than 500 ml in fall and winter every two weeks.
  • Use a watering schedule calendar to keep track of watering, and use a soil moisture meter (3 on a scale of 10) before watering.
  • Use a well-draining and porous substrate composed of peat moss, coco coir, vermiculite, and perlite.
  • Use clay, ceramic, or terracotta pot with multiple drainage holes to allow good soil drainage.
  • Change the soil every year in spring or when the soil feels dry and crumbled to avoid poor soil drainage.
  • Stick to organic fertilizer and dilute the solution to half strength before applying to avoid the risk of salt buildup.
  • Fertilize your Pothos once or twice every month during its growing season, and cut back on fertilization during winter.
  • Always ensure to dilute the fertilizer to 1/4th strength before applying.
  • Quarantine the sick-looking plant and do not reintroduce it to your Pothos before the symptoms disappear.
  • Use a room humidifier to maintain the relative humidity level of 50-70%.
  • Ensure the temperature stays between 70°F (21°C) and 90°F (32°C) range. Otherwise, consider growing your plant under LED grow light.
  • Similarly, choose a spot near the south or east-facing window with ample indirect sunlight.
  • Avoid overhead watering and use tap, dechlorinated, or rainwater to avoid chemical stress.

Conclusion

Pothos is one of the most popular houseplants, where you could find at least one out of every five homes growing them.

Therefore, finding information to diagnose and solve the Pothos root rot problems is not very difficult.

Otherwise, follow this guide to keep your Pothos looking healthy and avoid the risk of root rot.

Please drop your comment below to let us know whether you have faced Pothos root rot problem before and how you solved it.

0 Shares:
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You May Also Like