Pothos plants are one of the most popular vines you can add to your plant collection. Since they usually get sold hanging from baskets, they’re a great addition to patios and office spaces for a little burst of greenery.
However, pothos plants aren’t immune to diseases and problems. Much like any other indoor houseplant, they also tend to catch bacteria or fungi.
In this article, we’ll tackle pothos diseases and other problems you may encounter while taking care of pothos plants. You’ll also get to know how to treat each of them!
Pothos can contract diseases from different bacteria and fungi, especially in unfavorable conditions. They may also suffer from adverse symptoms depending on the severity of the disease.
Here are some common pothos diseases you may need to watch out for:
Bacterial wilt disease is one of the most common diseases in pothos plants. The bacteria Ralstonia solanacearum causes the leaves to turn brown and wilt.
When pothos plants grow commercially, they typically come from a single node. So, root cuttings from an infected pothos plant won’t be able to root at all.
You can see pothos leaves and stems slowly blacken when bacterial wilt disease strikes. It’ll be more observable when you cut these infected stems and put them in water.
You can also see the bacteria ooze from freshly cut stems. It’ll look like a translucent liquid stuck on the stem.
This bacteria spreads easily and rapidly because of its ability to swim. So, pothos plants are more prone to getting contaminated during irrigation.
Also, the bacteria targets root hairs and wounds to infect a plant. That’s why plants are more vulnerable to infection during propagation and handling.
In general, bacterial wilt disease propagates faster during the warmer and humid days of the year. The symptoms of each plant are also more severe.
Controlling bacterial wilt disease can be challenging, especially if the plants are in a greenhouse or a nursery.
Since the bacteria multiply at a rapid pace, you may need to deep clean and sanitize every plant and tool in the shed. You’ll have to remove and bag all plants, including the soil and pots, in case of an outbreak.
Additionally, you’ll need to disinfect every workspace in the nursery to ensure no recontamination happens. These steps are crucial before replanting since there’s no effective bactericide to treat bacterial wilt disease.
Fungal leaf spot is another disease your pothos plant can get. While it may not be common, it’s definitely worrisome.
Fungal structures on pothos leaves may appear as little black dots in the lesions.
Keep in mind that a fungal leaf spot is different from a bacterial leaf spot. In essence, bacterial leaf spots come from bacteria, while fungal leaf spots occur as a result of fungi.
Fungal infections also need moisture to spread and infect other plants. Also, warm and humid surroundings are the ideal conditions for fungal development.
Much like some bacteria, fungal leaf spots spread disease through the water. So, if pothos plants are in the same potting trays, the chances of contamination increase.
You may also want to keep an eye on any stressed or damaged plants. They’re more susceptible to fungal leaf spots.
In treating fungal leaf spots, you’ll need to manage the environment first. You’ll want a surrounding that has low humidity, enough ventilation, and less overhead irrigation.
Another way of controlling fungal spread is by removing the crop organic matter. By doing so, you’ll be replacing the nutrient in the soil or removing them altogether to eliminate the fungi.
Lastly, you can turn to fungicides as a supplementary treatment for fungal leaf spots.
Sometimes, plant disease can be due to an excess amount of nutrients or elements. One of them is a surplus of manganese, leading to manganese toxicity.
This plant disease is more common in older pothos plants. It happens when the plant absorbs too much manganese from fertilizers, acidic soil, or fungicides.
Manganese toxicity develops as yellow specks or spots on the leaves. Plants will also develop darker veins, and the leaves may look limp.
You can manage manganese toxicity by switching your fertilizer with little to no manganese in the ingredients. By doing so, you’ll be lessening the amount of manganese the plant absorbs.
Also, try to keep the soil pH between 6.0 and 6.5 to keep your pothos plants thriving. You may also want to stay away from fungicides with active manganese ingredients like maneb or mancozeb.
Southern blight disease, caused by Sclerotium rolfsii, is more common in the southern areas. So, this pathogen won’t naturally be in areas above Georgia.
However, once a pothos plant gets infected with southern blight, it can contaminate other pothos within the area. That’s why it can reach other parts of the US.
Southern blight starts as white and feathery fungi on the soil and the stems of your pothos plants. This disease contains different enzymes that damage the cell walls of the plant.
Sclerotia survive the best in warm and dry conditions, especially when plants get sprayed with fungicides.
Sclerotia can grow in soils even without a host plant. That’s why it’s important to keep the potting soil away from the ground.
When a pothos plant is already infected, it’s best to discard it along with the soil and pot. Reusing the pot can only lead to recontamination of the new pothos since sclerotia can stick to the sides of pots.
You can manage other pothos plants by treating them with a fungicide. Make sure to get one that contains pentachloronitrobenzene (PCNB) or flutolanil for a successful treatment.
Another common pothos disease that starts with the roots, which eventually climb up to the leaves. The compound responsible for this rotting is Phytophthora nicotianae, a type of water mold.
You’ll know that your pothos is suffering from root rot if the leaves in your pothos start turning from brown to black. Another tell-tale sign is that the leaves and stems don’t suffer from the discoloration.
Phytophthora generates zoospores that spread infections rapidly, especially in water. Additionally, these zoospores can remain active for extended hours if there’s moisture.
When dealing with this disease, you’ll want to watch out for any contaminated water. Once that water touches another healthy pothos plant, it’s bound to spread the infection.
The first thing you’ll need to do to manage phytophthora is to isolate the infected pothos plant. In some cases, plants that already have severe symptoms get discarded.
If using an irrigation system, the water may already be contaminated. So, it’s best to lessen the volume of irrigation to control the spread.
Other pothos plants can benefit from receiving fungicides to manage any contamination.
6 – Yellow Leaves
Much like many houseplants, pothos plants can suffer from yellowing leaves. However, knowing the exact reason for this problem can be difficult to pinpoint.
One of the main reasons you may want to watch out for is overwatering. That’s because the roots won’t absorb the necessary oxygen they need to thrive.
Pothos plants prefer their soil drier than most plants before their next watering schedule. So, it’s better to keep them in well-draining soil or pots with large drainage holes.
Another reason why pothos leaves may be turning yellow is that they don’t receive enough nutrients. It could also be because of overfertilizing.
Pothos require nutrients once a month during their growing season. However, adding too much to their soil can lead to root rot instead.
The first thing you’ll want to inspect is whether the soil of your pothos plant is waterlogged. If this is the case, you can replace the soil with porous and well-draining soil to start.
You can also re-pot the plant in larger pots with large drainage holes. As a rule of thumb, only water your pothos when the soil feels dry using the finger-dip test.
However, you may have to add a quality fertilizer to the soil if nutrient deficiency is the culprit of yellowing leaves. The most common deficiencies are magnesium and iron, but pothos plants can also suffer from nitrogen, potassium, and sulfur deficiencies.
Make sure to follow the directions on the fertilizer packet to ensure that you’re not overfeeding your plants.
No plant can be completely protected from diseases and common issues. Bacteria and fungi are the top culprits when it comes to giving pothos diseases.
Lucky for you, there are ways to control and manage these diseases. So, regardless of which type of disease your pothos plants may contract, try to identify and isolate the plant to avoid contamination.
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.