Pothos Root Rot: Signs, Treatment, and Prevention

If you have pothos plants at home, you already know how much of a hardy plant it is. However, that doesn’t mean they are immune to important issues. One of the most common problems indoor gardeners face is pothos root rot.

This condition is common with any plant, especially those that love moisture. When left unattended, root rot can kill your pothos because it will affect their ability to absorb water, nutrients, and oxygen.

How to identify root rot

Root rot is characterized by the browning of the roots. Then, it is followed by the decay of your pothos plant. Because you can’t see the roots of your plant at all times, it’s not easy to know the condition of its roots until your pothos starts to show symptoms.

Here are the telltale signs of root rot you need to watch out for. Keep in mind that recognizing these signs is integral if you want to address the underlying problem. A critical aspect of pothos care is identifying problems before they become advanced.

Soft and brown roots

If your pothos roots are healthy, they will look white and soft. But how can you check their condition? One option is to pull off a portion of the plant and examine the texture and color of the roots. If it feels mushy when you touch it, it’s probably rotting.

Bad smell

Another way to tell whether or not your pothos root is rotting is to use your sense of smell. Rotting roots smell awful, similar to a rotten egg. In contrast, healthy pothos root smells earthy.

Yellow leaves

When your pothos roots are rotting, it means it can’t absorb enough water and nutrients to feed itself. This causes deficiency that presents itself through yellow leaves. You will also notice the leaves will start to droop and wilt.

Root rot in pothos usually presents itself through random yellow stripes instead of being concentrated on just one side, which can be the case for sun overexposed pothos plants.

However, keep in mind that there are other possible reasons why your pothos leaves are turning yellow. So it’s recommended to check the roots if you suspect it’s the reason behind the change of color.

Rotting roots

Another common sign of pothos root rot is the roots will turn black. If you unpot your pothos, the roots will feel weak, and they may even fall off when you touch them. The roots will also appear rotten.

Slow growth

Pothos is an amazing plant that can grow at a fast rate when you give it all it needs. However, if you are noticing your pothos not growing at all even when you give it water and sunlight, it may be because its roots are unable to absorb the oxygen from the soil due to rotting. If there is root rot, the fungus will cause slow or stunted growth.

Thinning canopy

When your pothos is healthy, it will have a full and thick canopy. However, the opposite can happen if it is experiencing root rot.  

Can roots recover from root rot?

While root rot can be a devastating problem for your pothos, it is still possible for your plant to recover.  Here are some ways to do so.

Repot your pothos

To save your pothos from root rot, the first step you need to do is to repot it. Carefully remove your plant from its pot.

To do this, place your hand on top of the soil or the base of the plant. Using your other hand, tip it over so the soil and the pothos can slide out of its pot. If it won’t come out, tap the sides of your pot or planter to loosen the soil. Do not pull the plant out of your pot since it can tear the weak roots.

Clean the roots

After unearthing your pothos plants, clean them by running them over water. This will remove the soil around the plant. This step will remove the slimy coating and expose the roots so you can examine them better.

Cut off rotting roots

Remove the decaying roots to prevent the disease from spreading to the unaffected areas. Cut off everything brown or black, or mushy. Whenever you cut the roots, clean and disinfect your scissors using a hydrogen peroxide solution. This will keep the root rot from spreading.

Repot it

Use organic fungicides such as hydrogen peroxide to fumigate the root system. This will eliminate fungus, pathogens, and bacteria. Then, plant it in a new potting mix.

Propagate it

Repotting your pothos plant is only suggested if there are still other affected areas. But if all of its root system is unfit for repotting, it’s time to propagate it.

Simply take out 4-5 inches of a stem with green leaves and nodes and place it in glassware with water. Wait for a few days until a healthy root system will grow out of the nodes. 

What are the causes of root rot?

Here are the different causes of pothos root rot:

Overwatering or poor drainage

This is the most common cause of root rot. If you overwater your pothos, the soil cannot drain the water fast enough, and it will deprive the roots of absorbing oxygen. Similarly, a poor drainage system in your pots will soak the roots in water for a longer time.


The bacteria that live in the soil can also cause root rot. If your pot doesn’t have proper drainage, it will stay wet for a longer time. In turn, it creates a suitable habitat for fungi to grow, and pothos root rot can occur.

How to prevent root rot

The best way to prevent root rot is to ensure you don’t give your plant too much moisture. There are two things you can do so you won’t have to deal with this problem again.

First, follow proper watering. Second, ensure there is adequate drainage on the potting soil, so it doesn’t get saturated with water.

Keep in mind that a recurring root rot issue indicates a soil problem. If this is the case, sterilize everything when repotting. This will prevent the spores from transferring.

Solve Your Pothos Root Rot Problem

As long as you act promptly, you can still recover rotting Pothos roots. Now that you know the basics of identifying and treating Pothos root rot, you will know what to do to boost the recovery speed of your pothos.

About the author 

Paul - Better Houseplants

Loves orchids and foliage houseplants. Always trying to be a better plant parent. Let's get growing!

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