Pothos are sturdy, hardy plants that are known for their ability to withstand various growing conditions. In fact, they are known as the Devil’s Ivy because of their resilience. Even gardeners with a brown thumb have seen success with this hard-to-kill plant.
But pothos, like any other tropical houseplant, need proper watering and going without it can quickly cause a wide array of problems. This prompts some gardeners to be so worried about underwatering their pothos that they overcompensate. Unfortunately, an overwatered pothos is not a happy pothos.
In fact, doing this can kill your plant just as quickly as not providing enough water. So if you’re worried that you may have accidentally overwatered your pothos
What does an overwatered pothos look like?
An overwatered pothos will provide many clues that something is just not right with it. These signs can range from limp yellowing or browning leaves, soggy soil, and even fungal problems. Knowing what to look out for can help you spot an overwatered pothos before it is too late.
The most common sign that you have an overwatered pothos on your hands is extremely soggy soil. When you insert your finger into the soil, it will feel sopping wet, and when you lift the pot up, you may even see water leaking out of the bottom.
If you have an overwatered pothos, this is the most important article you’ll read (after the one you’re currently on!): How Often to Water Your Pothos (So It Thrives)
Yellowing leaves are the most common symptom of overwatering that you can see on the plant. The leaves typically start to yellow around the edges and then can engulf the entire leaf.
Along with yellowing, an overwatered pothos can also develop brown leaves. You may notice brown spots on your pothos on the same leaf as the yellowing or on a completely new leaf.
Limp, Soft Leaves
Limp leaves that are soft are another sign of an overwatered pothos. When the plant is healthy, it will have soft leaves that are perky, not limp or droopy foliage.
Find out more: 9 Reasons Why Your Pothos Is Drooping (and How to Fix It)
Pothos are hardy plants with a perky appearance. If you notice your pothos start to look limp and mushy, the issue is usually caused by overwatering.
If you notice the pothos leaves curling that could be a sign that it is getting too much water. Overwatered plants will often start to develop leaves that curl upward. This is also a sign that the plant may be experiencing root rot.
It’s not uncommon for the leaves of an overwatered pothos to develop water blisters or brown spots. Known as leaf edema, when the pothos’ roots consume more water than the leaves can use, it causes the cells to rupture, which results in water blisters or water-soaked brown spots. This is usually seen on the underside of the leaf.
Sometimes, an overwatered pothos will develop brown or discolored spots on the top or underside of the foliage. These discolorations will feel soft and limp and are an indicator that your pothos has bacterial leaf spot.
If they feel crunchy, then your problem may be an underwatered pothos instead.
Leaves Appear Wrinkled
Too much water can also cause the pothos leaves to have a wrinkled appearance, which is typically due to the water blisters that may develop. Leaf curling can also cause the plant’s foliage to appear wrinkled.
Losing its Leaves
An overwatered pothos will begin to lose its leaves, both old and new. These leaves can be green, yellow, or brown. If you start to notice an abundance of leaves collecting around the base of your pothos, you may be overwatering the plant.
Avoid letting the fallen leaves sit on the surface of the plant’s soil as this can actually increase the chance of fungal problems.
Pothos that have been overwatered will also begin to wilt. This is often a sign that the pothos is close to succumbing to its injuries caused by overwatering.
When a pothos is underwatered and begins to wilt, simply watering it can bring it back to a healthy state. Unfortunately, an overwatered wilted pathos will require much more effort to save it.
While root rot is hard to see visually, it will occur if the pothos continues to live in overwatered soil. Root rot is a serious disease that will eventually kill your plant if the problem isn’t addressed as soon as possible.
Find out more: 9 Clear Signs of Pothos Root Rot (and How to Fix It)
Pothos can only absorb so much water, and giving it too much means that water will eventually become stagnant. After a while, the plant will begin to give off a bad odor caused by the stagnant water. This smell can range from musty to rotten eggs.
Pest and Fungal Problems
When a pothos has been overwatered, it puts undue stress on the plant, which also makes it susceptible to attacks. Pests and fungus love to attack plants when they are in a weakened state. This makes it harder for the pothos to fight off the attackers.
Mold or Mildew
Another sign of an overwatered pothos is mold or mildew starting to form on the top of the soil. This fungal growth can stretch across the entire soil surface, or simply in one concentrated area. It can even start to grow on the base of the pothos stem.
Fungus gnats love to make an overwatered plant their home. If you notice an increase in these annoying pests, take a closer inspection of your pothos and look for other overwatered signs.
How do you save an overwatered pothos?
Saving an overwatered golden pothos isn’t impossible and can be done with some quick action. The very first thing you should do is stop watering the plant asap. You will then need to assess the situation and damage to determine the next best course of action to bring your pothos back to health.
It’s a no-brainer that if you want to save an overwatered pothos you will need to immediately reduce the amount of water it receives. In fact, you should avoid watering the pothos until the soil begins to feel dry.
To check the moisture level, insert your finger a couple of inches into the soil. If it feels wet, wait a few more days and check again. Don’t water until the soil feels dry.
Dry Out the Soil
The pothos cannot survive if left to grow in soggy soil. If you want to save it, you will need to dry out the soil. This can be done by placing the plant in an area with good air circulation and low humidity.
You should also consider moving the plant to an area where the temperature is a bit warmer than normal. This can help dry out the overwatered pothos’ soil.
Check out our top pick for the Best Soil for Pothos Plants to Thrive.
Repot the Plant
In extreme cases of overwatering, the pothos may need to be repotted in fresh soil and a new pot. Soil that is light and airy provides the drainage that pothos need and can help reduce the chance of overwatering.
Furthermore, make sure you plant the pothos in a pot that has drainage holes at the bottom, not the sides. This will let excess water drain out of the bottom of the pot instead of sitting inside the pot becoming stagnant.
Hydrate the Pothos Properly
Once you have the overwatered pothos back on track for a healthy life, you can keep it that way by making sure you only water when needed.
To do this, always test the soil moisture level before watering the plant. If the soil feels dry, then the plant will need watering. If, however, the soil is still damp, wait a day or two before testing the moisture level.
Is my plant overwatered or underwatered?
Trying to determine the difference between an underwatered vs overwatered pothos can be difficult as they both share similar symptoms. Overly wet soil is often the main indicator of overwatering. Another good indicator is if you water your plant and it perks up quickly, it was probably underwatered.
However, if you give it some extra water and nothing happens – or, worse, your plant starts to look even more sad – then it may be a case of overwatering.
Thankfully, though, there are some distinct symptoms that are only characteristics of one problem over the other.
Dry vs Wet Soil
The moisture level of the soil is a major give away between underwatered vs overwatered pothos. An underwatered pothos will have dry soil that may start to pull away from the sides of the pot.
An overwatered pothos, however, will have soil that is soggy or extremely damp to the touch.
Limp Leaves vs Dry Leaves
A plant that has been overwatered will have limp leaves that are soft and lifeless.
Underwatered pothos, however, will have droopy leaves that feel dry and crisp to the touch. The leaves of an underwatered plant will sometimes also have a thin, papery feel to them.
Overwatering and underwatering can both lead to the pothos leaves curling. However, with underwatering, the leaf curling typically appears much sooner than when the plant is overwatered.
Brown Spots on Leaves
Both overwatered and underwatered pothos can have brown spots on their leaves.
However, the brown spots on an overwatered pothos will feel limp and soft, while an underwatered pothos will have dry and crisp brown spots.
Along with brown spots, you may notice the edges of the pothos leaves are turning brown. This is another sign that the plant is not receiving the proper amount of water.
Simply feel the leaf edge to determine whether it’s too much or too little water. A dry, crispy edge is an indication of underwatering, while a limp, soft edge is overwatering.
Brown tips are different from brown edges as the discoloration only affects the very tip of the pothos leaves. This is a sign that your plant is getting too much or too little water.
But which one? When the issue is overwatering, the brown tips typically only appear on the new leaves. For underwatering, the brown tips can form on both old and new leaves.
Both overwatering and underwatering a plant will impact its growth. Underwatering the pothos will stop the plant from growing altogether.
With underwatering, however, the pothos can still grow, but this growth is much slower than normal. You may also notice that when new leaves appear they are smaller in size than a healthy pothos normally produces.
Another sign that overwatering and underwatering share is wilting. When the pothos is being either under or overwatered, the entire plant will start to develop a wilted appearance.
If, however, you water the plant and it perks up pretty quickly, the plant is underwatered. Pothos that are overwatered won’t perk up and become lively again after receiving even more water – which probably makes sense, given that it’s the fact that it has too much water which is causing the issue in the first place..
Telling the Difference
If you’re having difficulties determining whether the plant is being overwatered or underwatered, then the pothos is probably being overwatered. An underwatered plant will typically snap back and the damage begins to fade once it has received regular watering. With overwatered pothos, however, the damage can still remain long after proper watering has been achieved.
Is it okay to overwater pothos?
Overwatering a pothos is not a good idea. This can smother the plant so that it cannot absorb nutrients, which can in turn lead to root rot and, ultimately, kill your pothos. Even if your pothos hasn’t received enough water recently, you should refrain from overwatering it as this will do nothing to help the health of the plant.
If your pothos is currently in an underwatered state, you can help revive it by filling a tub or container with water and then placing the pot inside the water-filled container. Make sure that the entire pot and top of the soil is submerged in the water.
Then let the plant soak for up to 30 minutes. After the 30 minutes are up, remove the plant from the water. Hold the pot up and allow the excess water to drain out of it.
Should I repot an overwatered pothos?
Depending on the severity, you may have to repot the overwatered pothos. However, this will depend on how waterlogged the roots and soil are. You will need to physically remove the plant from the pot to get a better idea of how severe the damage is.
Thankfully, repotting an overwatered pothos is not a difficult task and can be accomplished in a matter of minutes.
How to repot an overwatered pothos
Repotting an overwatered pothos is sometimes the only way to save a plant that has been overwatered. This will get rid of the overly soggy and potentially diseased soil, and allow the pothos to grow in fresh, well-draining growing medium.
- Remove the pothos from the pot. Even if the overwatering isn’t too severe, you will still need to remove the plant from the pot to inspect its roots. This will help you determine the severity of the issue.
- Get rid of the old soil. Carefully remove as much of the old, soggy soil from around the roots as possible. You don’t want to repot the pothos plant with the same bad soil it was previously growing in as this could transfer diseases to the new soil.
- Clip bad roots. The pothos should have firm, white roots. Any roots that are limp and brown are diseases and will need to be removed. Clip them off as close to the base of the plant as possible. Always clean and sterilize your pruning shears or cutting utensils after each use to help reduce the chance of contamination.
- Cut off dead leaves. Dead leaves cannot be saved, but the plant will continue to waste energy on them. To help your pothos recover, remove any dead leaves on the plant.
- Use fungicide on the roots. To help protect healthy roots from becoming diseases, consider treating them with fungicide. Make sure to follow the application instructions found on the fungicide bottle.
- Obtain well-drained soil. Before you repot the pothos, make sure you have the right soil to plant it in. Mixtures that contain peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite are ideal for pothos. Avoid using any growing medium that is compacted or doesn’t have the proper amount of air pockets. These types of soils increase the chance of potential problems in the future.
- Repot the pothos. Use fresh soil and a clean pot with drainage holes to repot the pothos in. Make sure to use light and airy soil that drains well. You should also consider adding a layer of pebbles at the bottom of the pot to help improve drainage.
- Implement proper watering. You can avoid the overwatering mistake again by simply allowing the soil to dry out a bit between watering. Wait to water the pothos till the top couple of inches start to feel dry.
Can overwatered pothos recover on their own?
An overwatered pothos can recover on its own depending on the level of overwatering. For example, if you have only overwatered the plant once or twice, then it should have no problem snapping back from too much water as long as you have corrected the issue.
If, however, the overwatering has continued for some time, then you will need to intervene to save the pothos.
Once you realize that you have been overwatering the pothos, don’t merely assume the plant will recover on its own. Carefully remove it from its current growing container and inspect the roots and soil. If you notice brown and rotting roots, or if your plant is experiencing any of the signs above, act fast and repot the pothos to help improve its chance of survival.