Pothos - Yellow Leaf - Sign of Overwatering?

wgbennett83March 8, 2009


I bought the following Golden Pothos plant at the beginning of February, and re-potted it about 10 days later. Although its grown a lot in the month I've had it, I just noticed that one leaf is starting to turn yellow. Is this a sign of over-watering? I water the plant after it has dried considerably. I make sure it has dried about 1 1/2 inches below the surface. This usually takes a week to a week and a half. I'm wondering if the pot I'm using does not drain properly? I'm posting a picture below so that you can see the leaf and the pot.

Thanks in advance for all replies.


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As far as I know it is a sign of overwatering. It should be let to dry at least 2inches below the soil surface, more in winter. Glazed pots also retain moisture better than unglazed pots so while the top may feel dry, the bottom of the soil may still be wet.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 11:18PM
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It has a drain hole, right?

    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 11:29PM
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Thats the thing - There are two drainage holes on the bottom sides that go into the circular area around the bottom. There is not a drainage whole in the bottom.

I take it that this type of pot is suppose to replace the need for a saucer. I don't think it does a good job, however. I have another golden pothos plant that is about the same size and is in the same size pot. It drains from the bottom into a saucer though. I've watered them about the same amount (haven't measured), and the other pot drains way better.

I'm thinking I need to change pots. I just re-potted last month. Is this bad to do so soon after? Should I just drill a whole in the bottom of this pot and place a saucer underneath?

Thanks to everyone who replies.


    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 1:04AM
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It might be better just to drill a hole in the bottom, but I tried this once and it just cracked the pot in half. >_If it's a healthy young plant than repotting it into a better pot probably wouldn't hurt it, but it may check its growth for a little bit.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 6:01AM
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jefe12234(4a MN)

I've used pots like that and they work fine. The problem is that they encourage people to use the water holding base as en excuse to never move the pot. Plants should always be watered until a substantial amount of water runs out the bottom. Do this over a sink and then tip the pot to drain any water from the base. This ensures that any accumulating salts from tap water and/or fertilizer are flushed out of the soil.

If the pot has holes and is not draining well it's probably a problem with the soil, not the pot. I'd repot into a much more porous soil. Most bagged potting soils have way too much peat to maintain any lasting porosity, so a lot of people (including myself) mix their own soil. Here's a thread with tons of useful information about it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 10:26AM
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Thanks for all the replies. I believe the soil may be part of the problem too. I still have more of the same soil I used, so I checked the bag. It is advertised as "mostuire control soil," which I assumed meant it drained well. I didn't read more of the packaging, however. It says that it absorbs 33% more water. I guess that means it holds water better?

The soil is made up of "sphagnum peat moss, forest porducts compost, coir pith fiber, perlite, a wetting agent, and fertilizer."

Can you purchase ingredients to mix your own soil at places like Home Depot or Lowes? Do you need to go to a nursery? Thanks for the link jefe12234!

I have another pothos plant in the same soil, but, as I mentioned earlier, it drains better. Should I repot both plants?


    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 3:38PM
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jefe12234(4a MN)

You should be able to find pine bark, perlite, garden lime, fertilizer, and even Turface (packaged as Schultz aquatic plant soil) at Home Depot or Lowes. The perlite and Turface can be found in much larger bags for nearly the same price at other places, but for just a few plants a small bag should be enough. The pine bark can be a little tough to find because you want particles around 1/8-3/8", and a lot of mulch is much larger than that. If it has a lot of fines, it's best to sift those out with some window screen (which can also be found at HD/Lowes), since the fines will act like peat filling in pore spaces and holding too much water.

If I were repotting one plant, I'd do the other as well. And I'd try to get all of the old soil off of the roots as well. Pothos are tough and should handle the switch well.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 6:16PM
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wgbenett83, I do not think that it is a watering problem...yet. The leaf is yellowing from the base (not the tip) and if you look backward along the leaf stalk there is a discoloration that may be due to bruising or pinching or even water soaking. Up and to the left there is some damage to two? leaves which can point to overwatering. The blackened area near the tip of one leaf is what I am focusing on. Continuing up and left some more is a bit of black tissue showing. This I associate with overwatering. But it may have been there from the time you bought it and therefore a symptom of previous overwatering.
The plant looks very well cared for and I do not believe that the container is an issue. The watering regime appears to be on target but if you want to be sure that you are not overwatering, hold off on the next watering until the plant wilts a little bit. If you are looking at the plant regularly, you will see it wilt. (Ever tried to hide a bruise on your face from your mom? It is something like that). Then water it well and try for a water frequency of two weeks.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 10:46PM
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I notice many stores and nurseries are selling more Water Control/Wetting Agent mediums than standard soils. What next? The stuff might be okay when used in the garden, but not in containers.

It's normal for a couple leaves to yellow after bringing a plant home. Change of environment, (especially if plants were recently shipped from Fl, or grown in a greenhouse.) Repotting can sometimes be stressful, and even cause shock. Give your Pothos time to adjust.
If you plan on keeping your Pothos in the soil, be sure it dries completely before adding more water. Stick your finger deep in the pot to test for dryness.

It seems plants potted in ceramic take longer to dry. Toni

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 11:35PM
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One yellow leaf does not suggest you have a problem.
You just repotted....that's enough of a stress that the plant might object to and cause one leaf to show its displeasure.
But yes, overwatering will cause a leaf or two or dozen to yellow....but so will many other causes.
Not sufficient light; too much fertilizer; too high a temperature during nighttime hours; and sucking insects might also do what overwatering can do.

I don't think you overwater if you follow what you have been doing.
You have to use a little common sense in caring for houseplants. Soil should be understood to do what you make it do. The size of the pot and the amount of soil within it can determine how fast or slow, water will percolate through it. Reasonable time after fully watering a plant is allowed, usually within 2 or 3 minutes.
If it takes much longer than this, then you might assume the soil is too compact....not letting water get down to the drainage holes soon enough.
If the water moves through it too fast....say within 30 seconds -- a minute, you can assume the soil has not enough compactness and the plant is not holding sufficient.

Pots should drain and with careful drilling, most pots can be given such holes.
If you feel you should re-pot, then doing it again so soon after the job was done wont harm it at all.

If you understand what soil is all about, then you might think to experiement. If you are a novice in houseplants and soil they take space in, then I suggest you stick with the store-bought potting soils or soiless mixes that are quite able to support your plant and keep it healthy.
When you start fooling around with something you don't really know something about, then you are asking for problems.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2009 at 1:53PM
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Does your yellow Pothos leaf feel spongy? If so, it's likely overwatering. You can also tell overwatering from things like brown or wilted leaves + moist soil, or moldy soil, or spongy stems...but those tend to be more severe symptoms. A yellow leaf with dry soil and healthy-feeling leaves must be another problem. I agree with the others that it's probably nothing to worry about, just some stress of sorts.

Here is a link that might be useful: 4 Signs Youâre Over Watering Plants

    Bookmark   August 31, 2011 at 6:50PM
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The yellowish leaf on my epipremnum ("pothos") looks quite different from the OP of this thread. The newest leaf is uniformly a much lighter green than the ones already there.

I just up-potted the plant and moved it closer to the light. There was a root coming out the bottom, so I gave it a larger pot. But it turned out not to be root-bound at all. There were maybe three little roots that had reached the edge of the original pot and started growing along it a couple centimeters. The one that had found the hole must have been the longest root the plant had.

Will leaves grow lighter and more yellowish from getting brighter light?

    Bookmark   January 18, 2013 at 11:54AM
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dsws, I follow the general rule that if the adverse symptom appears on the youngest leaf, look for the cause in the root system (drying out, root rot, water-logging) or in the conducting tissues (physical damage to the stem - bacterial infection and the like).
The condition you describe generally gets from bad to worse if left untended.
Your statements "I gave it a larger pot. But it turned out not to be root-bound at all." indicate that the additional potting soil may be holding more water than is good for the (small) root system.
Allow the medium to dry out to the point of temporary wilt and then carefully evaluate your watering schedule.
Apply water when the plant wilts. After a while, you will get a feel for the interval between watering to avoid wilt but keeping the plant adequately hydrated.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 9:04AM
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As it happens, I just watered it before I saw this. It seems as though the next leaf (the one after the one lighter-colored leaf) is expanding faster than the previous two did. We'll see how it goes.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 11:19AM
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The Ficus Wrangler

I've been an interior landscaper for 30 years, and I have to consider myself pretty much an expert on pothos, having cared for ten's of thousands of them in all sorts of light conditions, etc. Pothos are pretty tough little customers, so they're good for beginners to experiment with. When their roots are staying too wet for too long, the first sign you will see is browning on the edges of the leaf stems (the stems that attach the leaves to the "vines"); the next sign will be small brown tips on many leaves, newer and older both. Conversely, if its not getting enough water, the older leaves will turn yellow.

I think I'll have to disagree with advice to use 'temporary wilt' as a diagnostic tool. Your real tool to figure out what the soil is doing, how much moisture it is holding, is to actually feel it with your fingers. You can use a spoon to reach into the pot and pull up some soil,and squeeze it between your fingers. It should feel cool and soft, stick together a little bit, and fall apart easily when touched. Or you can insert a small wooden dowel or kebob skewer, as if testing a cake. When you pull it up, there should be only a few crumbs of soil, and the skewer should feel barely damp. This is the point at which you can water again. (These are the descriptions for pothos, other specie may require different moisture levels.)

Now, as to your plant, the answer to your question is that yes, the new leaves may be lighter in color when the plant is moved to higher light. Did you mean you moved the plant closer to an electric light? Or just closer to the window?
Just moving it closer to the window would probably not affect the leaf color. Don't worry so much about the vagaries of each individual leaf - just let it grow, and observe the overall appearance. Be aware that since you up-potted, it will be awhile before you see much leaf growth, the plant will occupy itself with growing roots before leaves.

I don't know how long you've had this plant, or how big it is, but pothos really don't need to be repotted more than every couple of years.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 1:47PM
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It's a new plant. I only asked for a cutting, but the previous owner had one she had just potted, so she gave me that. It had five leaves, and two more have fully unfurled (including the yellowish one). The original leaves have slight browning of the tips, but the new ones don't. And it has been guttating, which I don't think it would if the problem were drowned roots.

I moved it closer to some electric lights. The light it's getting is much brighter than what people usually give a pothos.


Edit: Y'know, it would be interesting to move plants to bright light with new leaves at various stages of development, to see whether there's a specific stage they have to be at in order to be yellowed by the change.

This post was edited by dsws on Thu, Jan 24, 13 at 16:55

    Bookmark   January 19, 2013 at 2:18PM
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I just moved it farther from the light again, because with the latest leaf it's long enough that I want to start letting it climb. Just being farther from the light makes it look quite a bit darker and greener. Not all of the yellowness was an illusion, but a lot of it was.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 4:54PM
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glad I found this thread about problems with pothos. The poster above, the interior landscaper, nailed my problem that I came to this site for help with! My problem is with the tips of the leaves turning brown. I just watered it again. I will make sure I don't water it again to soon. I bought a moisture meter at Lowes, and it works well. Now, before I water the plants, I stick it in there to see how much moisture is in the soil. If the needle is in the red, only then do I water it. I really enjoyed reading all the posts about the pothos.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2014 at 9:17PM
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