How To Fix Pothos Root Rot? (Step By Step Guide)

Pothos plants are susceptible to root rot. If untreated, it can kill your plant. Read this article to learn more about pothos root rot symptoms and how to fix them.

Pothos Root Rot

It is very common to see root rot in pothos plants.

And, if your plant is one of the victims then it is very essential that you should address the problem immediately. Otherwise, you may lose the plant slowly.

In this article, I will tell you exactly how I discovered the cause and formulated a well-researched solution backed by science.

So, let’s get into it.

If you are looking for a short answer, here it is.

The most common reason for pothos root rot is overwatering. Because of too much moisture in the soil, pothos roots do not get enough oxygen and nutrients from the soil and as a result roots start decaying. Apart from overwatering, over fertilization, fungal infection, etc can also cause root rot in pothos.

These are the topics we cover in this article. You can jump to a specific topic by simply clicking the link.

Let’s see what are the symptoms that help us identify pothos root rot.

Pothos Root Rot – Symptoms

If your pothos plant is suffering from root rot, then the most obvious symptom you see is black or dark brown mushy roots. If the infection is severe, you may witness leaves curling, turning yellow and wilting. Apart from this, decaying smell, presence of fungus, high moisture in soil, slow growth, etc may also indicate that your plant is suffering from root rot.

1. Dark Brown Mushy Roots

If you want to make 100% sure that your pothos plant is suffering from root rot, then the only way is to uproot the plant from the soil and inspect the roots.

A healthy pothos plant’s root will be in light brown colour. 

On the contrary, if the root feels mushy, weak and has dark brown or black color, then there is a high chance that your plant is a victim of root rot.

Also, try to pull the roots by giving a little force. If it’s not firm and breaks easily, then that particular root is already rotten.

While uprooting, please be gentle and don’t stress the plant.

2. Leaves Curling and Wilting

If a plant is in distress, then it will be shown in the leaves and pothos plants are no different.

The rotting roots lose the ability to suck and transport water, minerals and other nutrients from the soil that a plant needs to thrive.

As a result, the leaves of the plant start curling to preserve water. As time passes, the nutrient supply to leaves will be permanently stopped and it starts wilting and dies(1).

Apart from curling, some random yellow stripes may also occur in the leaves.

But keep in mind that, just because some of the leaves are curling or turning yellow doesn’t mean that your pothos plant has root rot. There are many other reasons like overexposure, temperature stress can also cause pothos leaves curling.

3. Rotten Smell

Pothos root rotting is nothing but roots of your pothos plant decaying.

We all know that if something is decaying, then there will be a rotten smell.

And, it’s the same with pothos root rot. If your plant’s root is rotting inside, you will experience a rotten egg smell from the base of the plant.

4. Presence of Pathogens

Pathogens are a common problem that we plant parents are always worried about.

If you find a layer of fungus on the top of the soil, then there is a high chance that your pothos plant is getting a lot more water than what is required.

Generally over watering causes the formation of fungus and then it will trigger root rot.

If your plant experiences any of these symptoms, then it’s time to find what are the actual causes so that we can try to fix them.

Pothos Root Rot : Causes & Solutions

1. Overwatering

By far, overwatering is the most common reason for pothos root rot. And, more often beginners tend to over water their plants believing that it is caring.

Pothos plants come from tropical regions where the water requirements for plants are not that high.

Inorder to find whether you are overwatering your pothos or not, just dip your index finger 2 inches in the soil before your usual watering cycle.

If the soil is wet, then probably you are overwatering your plant and you need to adjust your watering cycle less frequently.

In general, for a medium-sized pothos plant kept indoors, watering weekly once is ideal. But it depends on a lot of parameters like outside temperature, soil parameters, drainage holes in pots, etc.

2. Fungal Infection

Fungal infection may arise because of many reasons like overwatering, soil issues, etc. And, infact overwatered soil is a breeding ground for fungus and other pathogens.

These fungi grow by sucking out the nutrients from the root. As a result of this, the root loses its abilities and eventually dies.

Not just fungus, bacterias and viruses in the soil can also cause root rot. These pathogens include Phytophthora, Rhizoctonia, Pythium, etc(1, 2).

Among the pathogens, Pythophthpora, a waterborne mold, is the most common one that affects pothos plants(2). It gets added to the plant because of overhead watering with contaminated water. If your pothos leaves are turning brown and black, then there is a high possibility that phytophthora is damaging your plant.

Another common pathogen is Rhizoctonia blight, which is found in soil. So, if you are not using a clean and sterilized potting mix, then it may cause root rot in your plant.

If you find that fungal infection is a concern for your pothos plant, then using lemongrass essential oil at concentration 10% or 20% could completely inhibit the fungal growth(3, 4).

3. Over fertilization

Over fertilization or over feeding is another common thing that most of the beginner plant owners do.

Plant owners should understand that even if you give more fertilizer to your pothos plant than what is actually required, your plant is not going to grow faster or healthier.

In fact, overfeeding can cause a lot of issues for your pothos like root rot(1), leaves turning yellow, brown or even wilt.

When you overfeed your plant with fertilizer, the soil environment becomes too salty. 

At first you may witness faster plant growth, but eventually the roots will not be able to handle the stress and start decaying.

It is recommended that you need to fertilize your pothos plant every month with a balanced 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 fertilizer depending on the maturity of your plant. This advice holds true only during the growing season. 

During dormant season, it’s not recommended to provide fertilizer since the plant will not be able to use the provided nutrients.

4. Poor Drainage

In the beginning, it may seem pots are not that super important for plant growth compared to other parameters. But it’s not true, in fact pots and potting mix can make a plant die.

While considering a pot, the main thing you need to assess is the drainage holes. Before repotting your plant, make sure that the water can pass through the soil freely inside the pot.

Test the drainage capabilities of your pot by filling it with the potting mix and water. Then, wait for the water to reach the drainage holes. If it’s taking a lot of time like an hour or so, then the potting setup is not ideal for a pothos plant.

Sometimes, the type of the pot can also cause issues for your pothos. 

It is recommended to use a porous clay pot(5) because non porous plastic pots retain water for a longer time and may trigger root rot. Also, porous clay pots can absorb excess moisture from the soil even if you overwater slightly.

Also, choosing the right size of the pot is very important. Just because you bought a dozen extra large pots on a year end sale, you cannot use it for a baby pothos plant.

Larger pots tend to have longer water holding capacity and that will trigger root rot in smaller plants(5). On the other hand, smaller pots will cause stress for the roots and do not allow proper breathing.

5. Temperature Stress

For the pothos plant to thrive, the ideal temperature range is 60 to 85oF or 15 to 29oC.

Eventhough your plant may seem to be fine in lower temperature ranges, it is not happy.

Scientifically, pothos plants were tested to survive even in 50oF (10 oC) but in that case, the soil had very high moisture content which can trigger root rot in the long run.

So, if you live in a place where the temperature drops below 60oF often, then you may have to use some artificial heating system to maintain the temperature.

How To Fix Pothos Root Rot?

The best way to fix a pothos plant affected by root rot is to repot it completely in a new pot with a well drained potting mix. Be sure to cut and remove all the affected roots with a well sterilized tool so that infection does not spread to other areas. Before planting it in the new pot, treating the healthy roots with hydrogen peroxide is recommended to reduce the chance of rot in the near future.

Before repotting, we need to make 100% sure that your pothos plant has root rot.

So, first you should uproot the plant from the pot and check for the first symptom (dark brown mushy roots) that I mentioned in this article. 

While uprooting the plant, you must be very cautious. Never pull the plant out before loosening the soil surrounding it. 

Follow this steps to remove the pothos plant from the pot, 

  1. Turn the pot sideways by holding on to the base of the stem.
  2. Loosen the soil by tapping the pot while rotating.
  3. If the soil is very intact, then use a sterilized knife to separate the edges of soil from the pot.
  4. Once the soil is losen, pull out your pothos plant slowly.

Once the plant is taken out, you should remove the soil from the roots by using some small brushes.

Then inspect the roots and if you find black or dark brown roots, then those roots are already affected. Cut those roots from the base using sterilized sharp scissors.

Once all the rotten roots are removed, dip the remaining healthy roots in a hydrogen peroxide solution to improve its health.

Then place your pothos plant inside the new pot with a healthy potting mix. Since your pothos plant has a lot of open wounds, you should make sure that the new potting mix is pathogen free.

After repotting, the next thing you need to set properly is your watering schedule.

As I already mentioned, overwatering is the main cause for pothos root rot. So, fixing that would make 90% sure that your plant is safe. Always ensure that you are not watering until the top two inches of soil is completely dry.

Once you’ve repotted your pothos plant, then you should follow other pothos plant care guidelines to maintain the plant growth.

Pothos Root Rot – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

In this section, I will be answering some of the most commonly asked questions on the internet related to pothos root rot.

How do you fix root rot in pothos?

The most common reason for root rot in pothos is overwatering. So, in order to fix the problem you need to uproot the plant from the soil and report in a new well drained soil free from pathogens. Also, while repotting it is recommended to cut down the rotten roots and treat the healthy roots with hydrogen peroxide solution.

How do I know if my pothos has root rot?

The most common symptom for root rotting in pothos is black or dark brown mushy roots when you uproot. Before uprooting, you need to look for other minor symptoms like decaying smell, high moisture in soil, presence of fungus, slow growth, leaves curling, turning yellow and wilting.

Can pothos roots recover from root rot?

If there are enough healthy roots available in the plant, then there is a high chance that your pothos plant can recover after repotting it properly.

But, if more than 90% of the roots are already rotten then your pothos plant may not survive even after repotting. In that case, you should try propagating the plant with a healthy node.

How do you fix pothos root rot without repotting?

If the rotting is severe, then apart from repotting there’s no other way you can make the plant healthy again. On the other hand, if the rotting is in the starting stage, then you can fix the problem by finding the cause and providing the solution recommended for that. For example, if overwatering is the cause then try to water it less often or if over fertilization is the case, try to dilute the fertilizer and apply it less often.


So, if you’re worried about root rotting in your pothos plant, then don’t be. 

Just relax and check for the symptoms like decaying smell, leaves turning black, etc that I mentioned earlier. If you find all these symptoms, then slowly uproot your plant and make 100% sure that your pothos plant is affected by inspecting the roots.

If root rot is there, then follow the process of repotting to save the plant as soon as possible.

Check out my other scientifically backed resources related to pothos and other plants so that you can make your houseplants thrive.

For now, thanks for reading. Enjoy plant parenting. 


To back up the information we provide in our articles, the Plantials team only uses high-quality sources published in peer-reviewed university or scientific research journals.

  1. Epipremnum Aureum Diseases And Identification By David J Norman and G. Shad Ali, University of Florida
  2. Phytophthora Blight Of Pothos
  3. Antifungal Activity Of Plant Extracts Against Rhizoctonia
  4. Comparative Efficacy Of Fungicides, Essential Oils Against Root Rot
  5. Distribution of Root In Porous And Non Porous Pots

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