Pothos, also known as devil’s ivy, are among the most popular indoor plants, and for good reason. Aside from their stunning foliage, what truly sets them apart is their extreme hardiness.
They’re easy to care for, can withstand different lighting conditions, and don’t mind the occasional missed watering. They’re the go-to for any beginner!
Yet, a pothos’s tolerance should never be taken for granted.
If this houseplant doesn’t receive enough water, or if it receives more than is necessary, it’ll start to exhibit some worrying signs.
In this article, we’ll look at the signs of overwatered and underwatered pothos, as well as how to revive them. Stay put!
We like to think of pothos as an expressive plant. Whether it’s underwater or overwatered, it’ll express that through some visible signs that’ll intensify over time if not treated.
Here are some indicators that your devil’s ivy is being under- or over-watered:
When this hardy plant has been neglected for a long time, you’ll observe the following:
A pothos will first display dehydration by sagging its leaves downward until they appear lifeless.
Gradually, the leaves on this lovely houseplant will start yellowing, and can even develop brown and crisp edges.
When a devil’s ivy is extremely dehydrated, its leaves will turn completely brown and shrivel.
At that stage, it’ll lose its foliage little by little, and you’ll notice that the entire plant is significantly shrinking in size.
If there isn’t enough moisture in the soil, the top layer will appear dry and have a lighter shade of brown.
In severe cases of dehydration, all soil layers will dry out and cracks will start showing up. The soil may also start to contract and lose its grip on the pot.
Moving on to the signs of overwatered pothos, which are as follows:
When a devil’s ivy is overwatered, its foliage won’t be as vibrant as they normally are. Its leaves will appear limp and have a very soft feel to them.
Interestingly, just like underwatering, excessively watering a pothos plant can cause its leaves to gradually turn yellow.
Seeing brown spots or dots on your pothos leaves is a common sign that it’s getting more water than it should. Sadly, even after you adjust the plants’ watering, these spots won’t go away.
Another indicator that can appear on the foliage is water blisters, also known as edema. Edema develops in plants when their level of water retention becomes abnormal.
This condition can occur for a variety of reasons, one of which is that the plant is constantly sitting in water.
One of the factors that lead to the infamous root rot disease is oxygen deficiency.
Overwatering causes the soil to become oversaturated, making it difficult for oxygen to reach the plant’s roots.
Unless you remove the plant from the pot, this disease won’t be visible to the naked eye. Nonetheless, there are a few external signs that can easily help you detect it:
- Curled-up plant leaves
- A strong unpleasant odor emanating from the soil
- Yellowing and wilting leaves
- Mold developing on the soil
- Slowed plant growth
Fortunately, rescuing an underwatered devil’s ivy isn’t difficult. All you have to do is follow these four simple steps:
You’d want to start by cutting all of the affected leaves from your pothos.
Unfortunately, damaged leaves won’t regain their lushness. Thus, it’s best to remove them and allow the plant to focus its energy on growing new, healthier ones.
Use rubbing alcohol to sterilize your pruning tool, which could be pruning shears or a pair of scissors.
Identify the wilted, brown, and dried-out leaves and begin cutting them off. Make sure to cut the damaged leaves close to the stem-vine connection point.
In this step, we’ll focus on fully rehydrating your pothos. You’ll start by placing the plant pot in the sink without its saucer.
Next, fill the sink with water until the pot’s drainage holes are below the water level.
If you want, you can add a small amount of seaweed solution to the water. You see, it was proven that this solution promotes plant growth and strengthens its root system.
Allow the pot to soak for about 45 minutes before testing the top soil layer with your finger.
If you find that it’s moist, you may now remove the pot. If not, add a little water to the top layer to accelerate soil saturation.
Finally, when the soil starts to feel evenly moist, empty the water in the sink and allow the plant to drain thoroughly.
It’ll be a smart move to fertilize your underwatered pothos with a slow-release fertilizer. This will help the plant in replenishing nutrients lost during its dehydration period.
To explain, slow-release fertilizers naturally decompose and infuse nutrients into the soil.
Consequently, they’ll continue to supply your indoor plant with small but consistent amounts of nutrients during their stated operating time.
They generally last six to eight weeks, but this differs depending on the type.
Normally, if you don’t provide a devil’s ivy with moisture, its growth won’t be impacted. However, adding moisture to a dehydrated one can help in its recovery.
Therefore, mist the plant’s leaves frequently with a spray bottle or place the pot on a pebble water tray.
Needless to say, going forward you should maintain a healthy watering schedule for your plant.
During the warm seasons of summer and spring, you should water your pothos once a week.
Whereas, during the colder months of fall and winter, limit the watering to once every two weeks.
Here’s a quick tip: to check if the soil is dry, take a pinch and squeeze it in your hand. If the soil particles stick together, it’s moist; if they crumble, it needs to be watered.
To effectively treat an overwatered pothos plant, you’ll need to repot it in fresh, well-drained soil. So, here are the four steps to repotting and removing overwatering damage:
The first step will be to remove your devil’s ivy from the pot. All you need to do is loosen the soil from the pot’s corners with a butter knife or something similar.
Then, hold the pot upside down with one hand covering the plant and the other tapping on the pot’s bottom. When the plant slides along with the soil, grab it and move on to the next stage.
A word of caution: don’t pull the plant out of the soil as this can tear some of its healthy roots.
2 – Get Rid of the Soil
Gently detach the soil from the plant with your hands until you reach the sticky parts adhered to the roots.
Run the water slowly and rub off any remaining soggy soil from your devil’s ivy roots.
Now that you’ve taken the soil out of the picture you’ll be able to better inspect the pothos for root rot.
Sterilize your pruning tool and begin snipping the yellow leaves caused by overwatering. Following that, you must carefully examine your plant for root rot.
Healthy roots are typically light-colored and firm. On the other hand, rotten roots are black or dark brown and super mushy.
Cut off all of the infected roots and if you feel that you’ve removed a lot, trim back the foliage of the pothos to match this new change.
On a side note, sometimes root rot can affect almost the entire root system of a pothos. Sad to say, if that’s the case, it’ll be impossible to save the plant.
If you didn’t find any root rot then you can simply repot your pothos in its new soil mix.
However, if the plant did suffer from root rot, you must soak the remaining healthy roots in a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution before repotting.
Hydrogen peroxide works wonders for plants, especially in cases of root rot. It effectively kills rot-causing bacteria and fungi while also encouraging healthy root growth.
Additionally, if you intend to reuse the same pot, make sure to sanitize it first to ensure that it’s free of any lingering harmful bacteria.
To do so, soak it in a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water for 10 minutes before rinsing.
Once you’ve successfully repotted your plant, remember to only water it when necessary so you don’t have to go through this process again.
Moreover, it’s essential to allow the soil to completely drain between waterings. You can determine this by using the tip mentioned above to measure the soil’s moisture.
We genuinely hope that this article helped you save your overwatered or underwatered pothos.
Most importantly, you’re now more aware of what you should and shouldn’t do when watering this plant in the future.
Finally, don’t forget to follow all of the remaining care instructions for the majestic pothos plant so it can continue to thrive!
Growing up with a mom who filled her home (inside and out) with all sorts of plants, Lisa got her start in gardening at a young age. Living now on her own with a home and yard full of plants (including an indoor greenhouse), she shares all the gardening tips she’s gained over the years.