Tips and Tricks Tropical Plants

Why Are My Pothos Leaves Turning Yellow? Common Reasons

July 6, 2022
Green Pothos plant in a white pot

Pothos Turning Yellow

Pothos plants are extremely popular and extremely beginner friendly! There are a handful of unique varieties and they can be trained to grow in a number of ways. Pothos add a bright energy to a previously dull space. 

When growing any kind of plant, it’s good to know what can go wrong. This post is all about why your pothos’ leaves are turning yellow: what does a yellow pothos leaf look like, what is causing my pothos to turn yellow and how to solve the problem!

Are pothos leaves supposed to be yellow?

It’s always important to know what color leaves your specific variety of pothos is supposed to have. A Jade Pothos has rich, dark tropical green leaves with no variegation (meaning that it doesn’t have more than one color), so yellow leaves on this variety would indicate some issue. A Golden Pothos, while mostly green, will have splashes of creamy gold streaked along the leaves. The pothos with the brightest leaves is the Neon Pothos which can appear a light yellow.

A bright green neon Pothos
This is a Neon Pothos!

So yes, some pothos varieties will have yellow details or accents. These accents are usually organically spaced throughout the leaf and do not appear as expanding blobs of yellow. Nor is it usually normal for a whole leaf to turn yellow.

When you see that your pothos’ leaves are turning yellow, it is a sign that there is a problem. Luckily, in most cases, there is an easy fix regardless of the cause!

Why is my pothos turning yellow?

There are numerous reasons why your pothos is turning yellow. Sometimes it is simply the age of the leaf and the plant, other times it’s from over or under caring! Some of the most common reasons your pothos’ leaves are turning yellow are age, overwatering, root rot, underwatering, over-fertilization and too little light.

A close up picture of a healthy Pothos plant

Yellow leaves can be a normal sign of aging

Pothos leaves will turn yellow because of age. Leaves don’t last forever and those closest to the base of the plant are the oldest. As a leaf begins to age it will start to lose color and eventually turn yellow. Eventually these leaves will fall off but feel free to prune instead to keep your pothos looking its best.

If you suspect that your pothos leaves are turning yellow because of age, here’s what to look for:

  • Only a few leaves will be yellow at a time
  • The yellow leaves will be closest to the base of the plant
  • All of the other pothos leaves will be a healthy green or variegated color
  • There will be signs of new growth elsewhere on the plant

If you see yellowing pothos leaves throughout the plant, regardless of where they appear on the stems, the cause is likely something other than just normal aging.

Overwatering can cause yellowing pothos leaves

This is a biggie! I know I get excited when it’s time to water my plant collection and sometimes I am a bit too generous with the water. It can be so easy to do this. But plants are amazing because they show signs when their environment is not up to par and will quickly display changes when they are getting too much water

Overwatering will lead to your pothos’ leaves turning yellow followed by the emergence of brown spots. Leaves will also appear wilted or droopy and feel slightly mushy to the touch. Yellowing due to overwatering usually appears on the older leaves first but rapidly moves down the plant to the newer leaves if the problem isn’t corrected.

A close up of a yellowing Pothos leaf

Numerous leaves will be yellow, unlike the one or two seen with normal growth, and these will be scattered throughout the plant. You will also likely see a slowing of new growth, however some growth will still be present. Look for small, delicate leaves that are unfurling to check if your plant is still able to produce new leaves.

How do you save an overwatered, yellowing pothos? Well unfortunately once a leaf turns yellow it will not revert back to it’s healthy color, even if the problem has been resolved. Cut away all of the yellow leaves; this both removes the unsightly colors and helps stimulate new growth. Now withhold water for a couple of weeks!

By not watering, the soil can fully dry out and reset itself. This allows roots to receive and utilize oxygen properly!

A yellow and brown Pothos leaf

There are some ways in which you can help prevent overwatering in the first place!

  • Plant in a pot with a drainage hole! I have found that the most foolproof way in which to water a pothos is by placing the pot in my kitchen sink. In a circular motion, pour filtered water into the soil and continue until you see water coming out of the bottom drainage hole. Stop watering and let the pot sit in the sink until the excess water has stopped draining. Then, replace the pothos back to its home spot!
  • Check the soil before watering! This can be done with a moisture meter which determines the soil’s moisture content. It is time to water when the reading is between 2-4. You can push a chopstick into the soil, halfway down the pot. Then, pull the chopstick straight out. It is time to water if there is little to no soil stuck to the chopstick. Hold off and recheck in a couple days if moist soil is still clinging to the chopstick.
  • You can even wait to water your pothos until you just begin to see the leaves droop. This means the soil is bone dry and your plant needs a long drink! After watering, the leaves will quickly perk up!

Root rot is another culprit

Root rot comes after chronic overwatering and is caused by one of two things: lack of oxygen and fungal overgrowth. Waterlogged soil prevents roots from absorbing oxygen which then leads to roots dying. Prolonged exposure to over watered soil will cause extensive damage and ultimately lead to the whole pothos to die. Signs of this are continued yellowing of all leaves with no signs of new growth.

A Pothos plant with yellow leaves from root rot

Fungal overgrowth can occur as well, especially in overly moist soil, which causes the roots to die and rot away. Again, this can spread throughout the entire root system.

To determine if your plant has root rot, remove it from the soil and inspect the roots. They will be black and feel extremely mushy.

Successful treatment of root rot is directly related to how quickly the problem is identified. If only a portion of the roots are affected, the pothos has a chance at surviving. Using a sharp, sterile knife or cutters, remove all black roots and yellowing leaves. Next, run the entire remaining root system under water.

Replant your pothos in fresh, new soil. You can use the previous pot only if it has been sanitized with bleach to ensure any remaining fungal spores are killed. Make sure the new soil has adequate drainage and stick to a strict watering schedule, using the tips above!


Too little water can also cause a pothos leaves to turn yellow, however this is a much slower process than the two culprits discussed above. Initially, an underwatered pothos’ leaves will begin to droop. Leaves will feel limp and delicate. Leaves will then begin to turn yellow and ultimately turn to a crispy brown if the plant continues to be deprived of water.

Dry shriveled large Pothos leaves

Underwatered plants, up to the point where all leaves are dried and shriveled, will spring back to life quickly once the soil has been saturated with water.

If you notice these symptoms occurring, try to water your pothos more frequently to make it happy again!

Over-fertilization leads to burnt, yellowing leaves

Potted pothos plants absolutely need the additional nutrition that is provided by fertilizers. Over-fertilization, however, is very detrimental. Signs of over-fertilization include brittle, yellowed leaves with brown/burnt margins, slowed growth (new foliage that does appear will be small) and visible fertilizer build up on the top layer of soil.

To resolve this cause of yellowing pothos leaves, first and most importantly, STOP FERTILIZING! Put the fertilizer away and drench the soil with filtered water until water begins to drain out of the bottom hole. Repeat 4-5 times to ensure that all excess fertilizer has been rinsed away.

Blue fertilizer in a green gardening spade

Cut away the damaged leaves and stems as these will not heal. Do not fertilize your pothos for at least a month to let the roots heal. Continue to water normally during this time.

You can then resume fertilizing your pothos using these parameters:

  • Fertilize ONLY during the growing months which are spring through early fall
  • Only fertilize every 4-6 weeks
  • Use a fertilizer that has equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium
  • Dilute the fertilizer with water to half strength

Too little light

If none of these other issues seem to be the cause of your yellowing pothos, take a look at the light it is receiving. Pothos do best when exposed to bright, indirect sunlight for the majority of the day. 

If your pothos is in a dark area of your house or in your cubicle at work, you may notice yellow leaves. Gradually move your pothos into a brighter space so it can adjust to its new environment. Cut away the yellowed leaves. If the lack of sufficient light was the culprit, doing these two simple steps should solve the problem!

The takeaway

When faced with yellowing leaves, take a scientific approach to correctly diagnose the problem. Evaluate how you are caring for your pothos with the above issues in mind. Only make changes one at a time so you can be sure accurately identify and fix the issue. And remember, leaves age and yellowing is a natural result of this!