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Why Is My “Unkillable” Pothos Suddenly Struggling To Survive?

Why Is My “Unkillable” Pothos Suddenly Struggling To Survive?

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When you first buy a pothos plant, chances are the seller told you it was unkillable. For the most part, this statement is usually true.

That’s why many beginner gardeners will gravitate toward these plants. So, it may come as quite a shock when you notice your pothos struggling.

You’ll begin to wonder about the reason behind your pothos dying. If that’s the case, you’ve come to the right place.

Let’s take a look at what could be harming your plants and what you can do about it.

Is My Pothos Dead?

Pothos plants are incredibly resilient and low maintenance. They have bright and broad green leaves and long winding stems.

So, when you see the leaves turn yellow or brown, you may wonder if the plant is still alive. Luckily, there are a couple of ways for you to figure out the state of your pothos.

First off, check for any signs of greenery. Look through all the leaves and stems and find any sections that still have a healthy hue.

The green areas will mean that the plant is attempting to rebuild. It’ll need some time and care to return to normal, but it’s alive.

Other than that, the pothos will be completely yellow or brown. In that case, you’ll have to dig a little deeper to find out the plant’s condition.

By that, we mean to remove a little soil from the pot to expose the roots. Typically, the underground structures should be white, rigid, and plump.

With the roots in a healthy state, the plant can still survive. However, if they’re dry and flaky, then it’s near impossible to revive the pothos.

Pothos Dying

When you determine that your pothos is still alive, you have to take measures to keep it that way.

Let’s jump into some of the main reasons your plant may be struggling.

1 – Sunlight

Growing up, we all learn that plants depend on the sun for nourishment. The chlorophyll in the leaves absorbs light and turns it into energy. We call this process photosynthesis, and it’s crucial to flora survival.

Generally, a pothos will need indirect, bright light. This will provide the plant with everything it needs to grow and branch out.

Sadly, any changes in light concentration can lead to pothos dying.

Low Sunlight Levels

Pothos need the energy to carry out the seven basic life processes. Some of these include respiration, growth, and excretion. That means, without sunlight, the plant won’t be able to breathe or even get rid of waste.

As you can imagine, this will greatly affect the pothos’ ability to thrive. Instead, the leaves will wilt, discolor, and may fall off.

High Sunlight Levels

To make sure the plant has enough energy, some people will place pothos in direct sunlight. Unfortunately, this can do more harm than good.

While leaves look like one solid structure, they’re actually made up of a few layers. We call the top surface the epidermis.

Just like human skin, this layer has a few functions. For starters, it stops water from leaving the plants and can allow oxygen to pass through.

In addition, the epidermis can protect the leaves from the sun.

However, excessive sunlight can cause this layer to begin to degrade. The cells will break down and won’t be able to carry out their responsibilities.

Once that happens, the pothos will lose water and the ability to produce food. So, exposing the plant to too much light is never the answer.

2 – Temperature

Few people know that temperature is an essential element of taking care of a plant. Pothos cells will need to stay in a specific range to function.

Most of the time, you want a steady temperature between 70 and 90℉ to ensure a healthy plant. Going above or below the range may spell trouble for your pothos.

High Temperature

Placing pothos in a warm room can have terrible consequences. The first thing that will happen is that the plant will sweat.

You may even notice tiny beads of water dripping down the leaves. When that happens, the roots will go into overdrive and absorb all the water they can from the soil.

This process will keep going until the plant completely dries out. At that point, the leaves will begin to wilt and droop down.

There won’t be any discoloration, but that doesn’t mean the pothos can survive.

Low Temperature

Temperatures below 70℉ can cause serious damage to pothos. That’s because the plant’s internal structures are incredibly sensitive.

Pothos depend on water moving up and down the leaves and stems to transport nutrients. As the temperature drops, the liquid will slow down and thicken up.

Most of the time, this issue will resolve itself with seasonal changes. Yet, in freezing temperatures, the pothos may not be able to survive through the winter.

The leaves and roots are usually the first to go. They’ll completely harden and may even break off.

3 – Soil Properties

Since pothos plants spend most of their life in the soil, it’s important to keep the medium in tip-top condition.

Pothos plants prefer to grow in well-drained soil. That means the medium should be damp but never wet.

To help you maintain the correct moisture ratio, you’ll need aerated soil with plenty of air pockets. That will stop water from collecting inside the pot and prevent root rot.

Another factor you should consider when picking out soil is pH. These plants enjoy a slightly acidic medium.

Without these two conditions, pothos won’t be able to absorb any nutrients or water from the soil.


Now that the main composition of the soil is out of the way, we can talk about fertilization.

Most of the time, when you buy a growing medium, it’ll contain a few basic nutrients, including nitrogen, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus.

These are essential for raising any type of plant.

As your pothos grows, it’ll use up the soil’s resources pretty rapidly. Within the first month, the medium won’t be able to sustain the plant.

So, you’ll need to add some type of fertilizer to replenish the nutrients.

Normally, the plant will need a few tablespoons of minerals every 2-4 weeks. Without this addition, the pothos will begin fading away.

Fertilizer Burn

While fertilizers are good for pothos, using too much can negatively impact the plant.

When people add an excessive amount of chemicals to plants, it can change soil properties. It’ll affect how the medium retains water and the way it anchors the plant.

That will lead to fertilizer burn, which can be dangerous. The pothos leaves will wilt and quickly lose their green shade and adopt a pale yellow one.

What to Do With Dead Pothos Leaves

Dealing with dead pothos leaves is a simple process. For the most part, all you have to do is just remove them. However, before you trim a leaf, you must ensure it’s too far gone to save.

To do that, you’ll need a pair of garden shears. Using the sharp edge, make a small incision at the base of the leaves you’re inspecting.

If you notice some green streaks, then you can save the leaf. Remove all the dry yellow sections while keeping the leaf base intact.

Yet, when the entire leaf shows signs of discoloration, then use the shears to chop them clean off.

Finally, once you’re done with the entire plant, use your shears to do a bit of pruning.

How to Revive Pothos Plants

To revive your pothos, you have to ensure the plant has all its basic needs.

1 – Find an Appropriate Location

The first thing you want to do is ensure your plant is in an ideal location. If your pothos is indoors, this step will be easy.

All you have to do is find a space with partial sunlight. Most of the time, north-facing rooms will get the least amount of rays in the house.

Regrettably, the process for outdoor pothos is a little more complicated. You may have to move umbrellas or other objects in front of the plant to give it extra shade.

Besides that, you can try replanting the pothos. Moving it to a location that only gets sunlight in the early morning should do the trick.

That way, the plants get plenty of light without dealing with the scorching afternoon sun.

Finally, you have to consider your ambient temperature. Without air conditioning, you may have to invest in heating lamps to keep your pothos warm.

2 – Use a Suitable Medium

There are hundreds of soil options on the market. Each one will have specific properties to benefit different plants. So, you need to find one that works best for pothos.

Ideally, find a well-drained variety with a slightly acidic pH. If you can’t find any, you can even make your own.

After replacing the soil, you’ll want to aerate it every couple of weeks to keep the plant healthy. You can do that using a small shovel.

Grab the tool and remove the top two inches of soil from the pot. Then, use the tip of the shovel to dig one-inch holes into the new surface.

Finally, scoop the soil you removed back on top and gently pat it down. Avoid packing the medium too tightly, or water won’t be able to flow through naturally.

3 – Follow a Strict Fertilization Schedule

The only way to make sure that you don’t over or under-fertilize pothos is to follow a stable schedule.

For the best results, add 2-3 teaspoons of 10:10:10 fertilizer to the soil every 3 weeks. This should ensure that there are always at least some nutrients in the medium.

It’s also a good idea to wash out the soil every few months. That will stop any unused minerals from building up.

To do that, you’ll need a hose.

Using the lowest possible setting, run the water and let it wash over the medium. Allow the pot to drain while you do this, and be careful not to damage the roots.

After about 15 or 20 minutes, turn the hose off and set your plant in the sun to dry for an hour.

Then, add a couple of teaspoons of fertilizer, and you’re done.

Final Thoughts

Seeing your pothos dying can be heartbreaking, especially if you don’t know why. There are a few culprits that can cause your plant to degrade.

First off, ensure your plant isn’t dead by finding any green sections or healthy roots. Then, you can move on to pinpoint the issue.

Some of the possible culprits are sunlight, temperature, soil composition, and fertilization errors. Once you put your finger on the problem, you can address it right away.

That may involve relocating the pothos or finding better soil. Other than that, you can try following a strict fertilization schedule.

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