This article may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure for more information.

If you have a pothos plant and are having trouble getting it to grow, there’s a chance that it may be experiencing root rot. 

Root rot in pothos is a common problem, and can often be fixed by following a few simple steps. This is why it can help to know what root rot is, how to identify it, and how to treat it. 

We will also provide some helpful tips on how to keep your pothos plant healthy and thriving!

root rot in a pothos plant

How do I know my pothos has root rot?

It can be a disappointment to pour your heart into caring for a pothos plant, only to watch it slowly die. If you think your pothos might have root rot, there are a few telltale signs to look out for:

1. The leaves are drooping

One of the first signs of a pothos plant experiencing root rot is to find wilted or drooping leaves. This happens because the roots are not able to deliver nutrients to the leaves and may be waterlogged.

If you notice drooping leaves on your pothos plant, the first thing you should do is check the soil with your finger. If the soil is bone-dry, the plant may need to be watered to perk up the leaves. If the soil is moist, it’s a tell-tale sign of root rot.

2. The leaves are falling off

A more advanced sign of root rot is when the leaves start to fall off the plant. This happens because the roots are no longer able to support the plant and may be rotted away completely.

If the leaves are rapidly dropping, this indicates that the root rot is taking over quickly and the plant will likely not recover. If you notice this sign, it’s best to take action immediately.

3. The leaves are growing smaller

Stunted growth and development is another common symptom of root rot. You may notice the size of your leaves are smaller than they used to be or the pothos is not growing as tall.

The plant may also become leggy, which means that the leaves will grow sparsely and the stem will thin out as a way to preserve energy while reaching upwards for the support of sunlight.

small leaves on a pothos with root rot

4. The plant is short and shrubby

Another sign of a pothos affected by root rot is when the plant starts to become short and shrubby. This is because the roots are not able to support the weight of the plant and it will start to fall over.

Essentially, the plant has halted growth in order to try to fight off the fungal infection of root rot.

Related: 14 Proven Tips to Make a Pothos Fuller and Bushier

5. The leaves are turning yellow

Yellow leaves are another sign that your pothos is not doing well. If the leaves are turning yellow and falling off, it’s a sign that the plant is no longer able to produce chlorophyll.

Chlorophyll is essential for photosynthesis, which is how plants make their food. Without it, the plant will slowly starve and die. Root rot can cause the leaves to turn yellow because it prevents the roots from absorbing nutrients from the soil.

6. You see brown splotches on the leaves

If you see brown or black splotches on the leaves of your pothos, this is a sign that the pothos is experiencing leaf spot. Leaf spot is a fungal disease that can be caused by root rot.

The spores of the fungus will travel up from the roots to the leaves and cause black or brown spots on your pothos. If the spots are large and numerous, they can cause the leaves to fall off.

7. The roots are mushy and discolored

The roots themselves are, of course, the source of the problem when pothos plants experience root rot. If you think your plant may have root rot, it’s important to check the roots for signs of damage.

The first sign is usually that the roots will start to turn mushy and discolored. They may also fall off easily if you try to pull on them. The roots may also give off a foul odor.

Healthy pothos roots without rot
Healthy pothos roots

8. Pests are present

When a pothos plant is struggling with root rot, this makes it vulnerable to a variety of pests. These pests are attracted to the plant because it is weak and they can easily feed on it. Pest infestations are usually the final straw for a pothos plant that is already struggling with root rot.

Some of the most common pests that may infest a pothos plant with root rot are mealybugs, aphids, whiteflies, and spider mites. These pests will suck the sap out of the leaves and stems, causing the plant to weaken even further. The pests will cause the plant to decline quickly and it will eventually die.

9. Mold and mildew are present

Mold is another sign that your pothos plant is not doing well. Mold will usually form on the leaves and stems of the plant. It may also be present on the roots if they are visible.

Powdery mildew can be identified by the white, powdery fungus that forms on the leaves. This type of mold is not harmful to humans but it can kill pothos plants. It can also cause yellowing and stunted growth.

Root rot vs healthy roots in pothos

Healthy pothos roots are white or light-colored and firm. They should not be mushy or discolored. The roots of a pothos plant with root rot will be mushy, discolored, and may fall off easily. This distinction is easily seen and can also be felt and smelled.

The roots of a pothos plant with root rot will also give off a foul odor while a healthy root system will not. It will instead smell earthy and fresh.

someone replanting a plant

If you think your pothos plant has root rot, the best course of action is to remove it from the pot and check the roots. Carefully lift the plant out of the soil to get a closer look. You can use your fingers to gently untangle the roots, especially if your pothos is root bound.

If you see any discoloration, mushiness, or foul odor, these are all signs that the plant has root rot. Some parts of the root system may appear healthy while other parts are not. In this case, it is best to remove all the affected roots.

Why do pothos get root rot?

Root rot is caused by overwatering or poor drainage. When the roots of a pothos plant are constantly sitting in water, they begin to break down and rot away. Fungus is the culprit behind this problem and it thrives in wet, humid conditions. Over time, the microorganism will spread through the roots and kill the plant.

Pothos plants are also susceptible to root rot if they are planted in pots that do not have drainage holes. When water builds up in the pot, it will saturate the roots and cause them to rot. This is why it is so important to make sure your pothos has the drainage it needs through only putting it in a pot with drainage holes.

Poorly draining soil will also cause pothos plants to experience root rot. If the soil does not drain well, water will pool around the roots and cause them to rot. This is why, when it comes to the best soil for your pothos, it is important to use a well-draining potting mix when planting pothos plants or add perlite to the soil to improve drainage.


Best soil for Pothos

Miracle-Gro Tropical Potting Mix

Light and well-draining (perfect for avoiding root rot) while being packed with just the right nutrients – that will feed your plant for up to six months. The best soil for keeping your pothos healthy and strong.

Your pothos plant will also get root rot if it is in a room or near other plants that have root rot. The fungus that causes root rot can spread through the soil and infect other plants. This is why it is important to isolate a plant with root rot from other plants.

Find out more: 15 Signs of an Overwatered Pothos (and How to Fix It)

Can pothos recover from root rot?

Depending on the severity of the root rot, your pothos plant may be able to recover. If the root system is not too badly damaged, you can trim off the fungus-damaged roots and then treat the healthy roots with a mild concentration of hydrogen peroxide to prevent the spread of the fungus.

This isn’t a guarantee, but it gives you the best chance of saving your plant.

If the root system is too badly damaged, however, it is best to start over with a new plant. Root rot can spread quickly and kill a pothos plant within a few weeks. If you see any signs of root rot, it is important to act fast and remove the affected roots before the problem gets worse.

Refer to the above symptoms of root rot to help you determine if your plant has root rot. If you are unsure, it is always best to look directly at the roots.

How do you treat root rot in pothos?

Here are some quick and easy steps for trying to recover a pothos plant infected with root rot:

1. Take the pothos plant out of the pot

First, carefully lift the plant out of the pot. You may need to use a small tool to loosen the soil around the edges of the container. You can also try to gently tap the pot to help release the plant.

Don’t pull too hard on the plant, as this can damage the roots or break the stems of your pothos plant. Lightly dust off the soil to reveal the roots.

three pots

2. Rinse off your roots with fresh water

Next, you should run water over the roots to finish removing any stuck soil. This will also help to rinse off a good amount of the fungus slime that is present on the roots.

You can do this by holding the plant over a sink or container filled with fresh water. Gently run lukewarm water over the roots for several minutes. You can also swish the plant around in the water to help loosen any remaining soil.

3. Remove any damaged roots

After you have rinsed off the roots, take a closer look. You can use your fingers to gently untangle the roots. If you see any discoloration, mushiness, or foul odor, these are all signs that the plant has root rot. Some parts of the root system may appear healthy while other parts are not.

You should carefully trim away any roots that are damaged. Use a sharp, sterilized knife or scissors to make clean cuts. Try to avoid cutting into any healthy roots. Ideally, you won’t have to remove more than one-third of the plant’s roots in total.

4. Treat the remaining healthy roots

Even though you can’t see root rot on the healthy roots, there may still be some fungus spores on them that could lead to future infections. To prevent this, you can treat the healthy roots with a mild concentration of hydrogen peroxide.

Soak the plant in a solution of one part hydrogen peroxide to four parts water for about 30 minutes. This will help to kill any remaining fungus spores and bacteria on the roots.

5. Sterilize the pothos plant’s container

You’ll also want to treat the plant’s pot to prevent the root rot from spreading. Clean the pot with a solution of one part bleach (or hydrogen peroxide) to four parts water. This will help to kill any remaining fungus spores in the pot.

Let the pot air dry completely before you repot your pothos plant.

person repotting a pothos with root rot

6. Pot your newly trimmed pothos

Finally, you can repot your pothos plant in a fresh, sterile potting mix. Be sure to use a well-draining pot and potting mix that contains perlite or vermiculite. These materials will help to improve drainage and prevent the roots from sitting in water.

You can also add stones or broken pieces of ceramic to the bottom of the pot to ensure that the roots have plenty of space to drain. Water your pothos plant well and allow the excess water to drain away. Be sure not to overwater your plant in the future, as this can lead to more problems with root rot.

How do you fix root rot in pothos without repotting?

One way to try to fix root rot without repotting is to drench the plant in a solution of one part hydrogen to four parts water. This will help to kill the fungus spores and prevent them from spreading. You can also add a fungicide to the potting mix to help prevent the fungus from returning.

It can be challenging to fix root rot without repotting because the fungus spores are present in the potting mix. Even if you remove the infected roots, there is a chance that the fungus could spread to the healthy roots.

My preferred option: Neem oil is a popular natural solution for root rot. You can grab some neem oil here if you don’t have some on hand already.

With this, you can create a mixture of water, castile soap, and oil. Make 2 to 3 cups of the solution and slowly pour the mixture onto the soil of your pothos plant.

This should be counted as watering your pothos, so don’t water it again for another week or two, until the soil is dry to the touch once more. Repeat this cycle every 3 to 4 weeks until the root rot has cleared up.

If you don’t want to use chemicals, you can try using a mixture of water and baking soda. This will help to kill the fungus and improve drainage in the pot. You can make a solution of one teaspoon of baking soda per cup of water. Slowly pour the mixture onto the soil until it is dampened. Allow the excess water to drain away.

How do you fix root rot in a pothos in water?

The best way to fix root rot in a pothos plant is to repot it in a fresh, sterile potting mix after clipping the infected sections. Be sure to use a well-draining pot and potting mix that contains perlite or vermiculite. These materials will help to improve drainage and prevent the roots from sitting in water.

You need to put your pothos plant in soil because it is becoming waterlogged, which is attracting the fungus. If you don’t have any potting mix, you can try using perlite, sand, or gravel. Be sure to sterilize the materials before using them.

pothos with root rot in water

You can also wash and disinfect the roots of your pothos plant before adding it to the soil. Do this with the method above by rinsing the roots with a diluted solution of hydrogen peroxide and water, or by using a diluted neem oil and soap solution.

If pothos in water has root rot, one benefit is it is easy to see. Try to treat this issue as soon as possible.

Why are my pothos roots brown in water?

If you see that your pothos roots are brown in water, it could be a sign of root rot. The roots turn brown because they are not getting enough oxygen. This happens when the water isn’t changed frequently enough in the container.

To fix this problem, you will need to remove your pothos plant from the water and clip off any brown or pungent-smelling parts of the root. Then you can rinse the roots with room temperature water to help reduce any coatings so they can take oxygen in again.

You may want to treat the roots with a disinfectant such as diluted hydrogen peroxide as well. You can also add a couple of drops of neem oil into the water container to help prevent root rot in the future.

How fast does root rot in pothos happen?

Root rot can enter into small susceptible roots in the pothos plant and spread throughout the whole system very quickly. Pothos is more sensitive to root rot than other plants and can die as quickly as 7 days after the initial infection.

Sometimes root rot will spread slower if the plant is not well-watered or if the potting mix has good drainage. If you see any signs of root rot, it is important to take action immediately to save your plant.

Yellow and drooping leaves are the first sign, while plant death is the final stage of this problem. If you see any of these signs, you should check the roots for root rot.

How to prevent pothos root rot?

The best way to treat root rot is by preventing it! Here are some of the best ways that you can make sure your pothos develops healthy, fungus-free roots:

1. Use the right-sized container

It’s important to use the right size of container with your pothos plant. While a container that is too small can lead to a rootbound plant, a container that is too big can hold a lot of moisture.

This moisture is the perfect breeding environment for fungus and it will grow in the excess soil over time. This is because the soil will never fully dry out if there is too much of it in your container.

three pots

2. Don’t overwater your pothos plant

Overwatering your pothos plant is the leading cause of root rot, so make sure not to overdo it. You can stick to a schedule and water it once every two weeks.

If you want to be more exact, press a finger into the soil and only water it when the top inch of soil is dry. This will help to make sure that your plant’s roots can get the oxygen they need without getting waterlogged. You can also keep an eye on the leaves to get an idea of when the plant needs to be watered.

3. Purchase healthy plants

One of the best ways you can prevent root rot is by purchasing healthy plants from the start. If you buy a plant that already has root rot, it will be very difficult to save it. Make sure to inspect the roots of the pothos plant before you purchase it and look for any brown or mushy spots.

You can also assess the health of the pothos plant to decide if it potentially has root rot by looking at the leaves. If the leaves are yellow, wilted, or discolored, it’s a sign that the plant isn’t doing well and may have root rot. If there are any brown spots on the plant, this may mean that fungus is present and you shouldn’t purchase this plant.

4. Make sure your container has drainage holes

In order for water to properly drain out of the container, it needs to have drainage holes. If there are no drainage holes, the water will just sit in the bottom of the pot and start to rot the roots.

When you’re looking for a pot, make sure that it has at least one hole in the bottom so that water can drain out when you water your plant.

watering can next to pothos

5. Treat your soil with neem regularly

As mentioned above, neem is an excellent natural fungicide that can help to prevent root rot. You can add a couple of drops of neem oil to the water when you water your pothos plant or you can add it to the potting mix.

You can also purchase neem cakes, which are made from the seeds of the neem tree, and add them to the potting mix. This will help to keep fungus away and prevent root rot before it has a chance to start.

6. Add items to help drain your soil

There are plenty of different things you can add to your potting mix to help with drainage. Some of the most popular options include perlite, vermiculite, and sand.

You can also use gravel or small rocks at the bottom of your pot to help with drainage. Just make sure that whatever you use, that it doesn’t retain moisture so that it doesn’t contribute to the problem. Adding these items to your soil will also help to carry oxygen to the roots.

7. Use the right soil blend

Drainage starts with the quality of your soil. Purchase a soil that has a blend of both organic and non-organic matter. This will help the soil to drain better and also hold onto moisture and nutrients better.

You can also make your own potting mix by combining different types of soil. A good mix for pothos plants is two parts peat moss, one part perlite, and one part vermiculite.

8. Keep the temperature and humidity stable

Pothos plants are tropical plants and they like warm, humid conditions. If the temperature or humidity levels around your pothos fluctuate too much, it can stress the plant out and make it more susceptible to root rot. Try to keep the temperature between 65-80 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity around 60%.

You can use a humidifier to raise the humidity if it’s too low or move the plant to a warmer location if it’s too cold. You can use a fan to lower humidity and promote evaporation if the room is too moist.