Marble Queen Pothos Problems

Kris_1(9)November 20, 2011

Hi! I usually have a bit of a black thumb and I'm hoping someone here can help...

The variegation on my marble queen pothos is turning yellow. Only the variegation. The leaves still look mostly healthy I think, the green is still green, but the variegation is the wrong color now on some leaves. One vine has a leaf with the normal white variegation right next to one with yellow.

I grew the plant from a cutting I got from my grandmother, and it's been sitting on a north facing window sill up until recently. The stem on the original cutting would rot instead of growing roots if it was even four feet away from the window... her plant is definitely adapted for bright light. The color change started before I moved the plant, and hasn't changed.

About the same time I noticed the yellow variegation, some of the new leaves were growing out looking like they had been chewed on. The newest leaves now are also curled backwards.

This started about a month or two ago, and nothing's changed in spite of repotting in the last couple weeks. The new soil grew gnats, but that seems to have been dealt with using dish soap and diatomaceous earth. The plant is now in a dim room under a fifty watt grow light instead of in the window, which is getting shutters installed. It seems to be doing okay with the grow light... or at least as okay as it was doing in the window anyway, although the new leaves are a little smaller.

Any ideas about what's going on and how I can fix it? With all the yellow it barely looks like a marble queen anymore.

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Oops - south facing window, not north facing.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2011 at 6:50PM
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I could be wrong but I think the new growth (the variegation on the leaves specifically) is going to be a little yellowish in color until the leaf ages at which point it turns white. Also, I don't think there is anything wrong with the leaf in picture #2. I've owned a marble pothos in the past and occasionally it would produce new leaves that would look a little deformed in one way or another, just Mother Nature in my opinion (not every leaf in nature is "perfect" looking). The smaller leaves is probably an indication of lower light conditions. Also, with variegation, the pothos will need more light than a plain green (non-variegated) pothos or if I'm also not mistaken, it will eventually lose its variegation and turn completely green. Other than that, from what I can see from your photos, the plant looks healthy.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2011 at 8:18PM
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The picture I meant to refer to in my last post is #3, not #2, I am not sure what happened with the leaf in picture #2, hopefully someone else will be able to tell you.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2011 at 8:19PM
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Good to know about the crumpled looking leaf, thank you.

But with the yellow variegation - it isn't just new leaves. Some of them even started out white and then turned yellow, like the one in the last picture. The chewed on looking one in picture 2 started out yellow, but it has several leaves that have grown after it now, and it's still yellow (that particular vine grows like a weed for some reason, the others are all more slow growing).

Most of the plant has yellow variegation now, except for some leaves in the base of it that are turning a little green from being shaded by other leaves. It does look healthy otherwise though. That's why I included the information that it all came from a single cutting... if I was just looking at it, my first guess would be that it's a golden pothos with maybe a marble queen vine in there somewhere. I've looked all over the internet and couldn't find anything about variegation changing colors.

It's bigger than the parent plant now. I decided to give it a bookshelf to climb instead of cutting it back, though I still need to buy a big enough trellis. But the parent plant is all white. This has me very confused, and kind of irritated because I don't like the color yellow and gave away a golden pothos to make room for this one.

The picture came out kind of dim, I think the camera must have been focusing on the glare from the white shelf.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2011 at 10:28PM
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Despite the yellow appearing on the leaves, I am still inclined to say that what you have is a Marble Pothos (not a mix of a Golden Pothos and a Marble Pothos). It doesn't look like a Golden Pothos to me, as with my experiences with Golden Pothos, the color that appears on their leaves is more like streaks of color rather than half of the leaf or most of the leaf (like a Marble Pothos). I could be mistaken on this though (I'm not an expert on pothos but I've owned a handful). I am not sure what to say then if the white variegation is turning yellow, I don't remember having that experience with my Marble Pothos (the yellow variegation that would appear on new leaves would eventually turn white). I am at a loss of what to say, I was thinking that the variegation was yellow in color because the leaves were fairly young but that doesn't sound like that's the case. I hope I have been of some help, despite the fact that I don't think I have an answer for your question. Someone else might have a better idea as to what is causing the variegation color to change.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 10:05AM
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You've been helpful on the deformed leaf subject... I'm trying to think of anything that might have changed about the time the leaves started changing colors... It occurred to me that there was originally a sticker covering a large part of the window, I took it off eventually because some of the lower leaves were threatening to lose variegation. The upper leaves were already above the sticker and shouldn't have been effected though.

Know anything about sunburn/leaf scorch? On a pachira I used to have, the edges of the leaves turned white and then recovered when I moved it back, but the internet says sunburned leaves turn yellow on a pothos... Are the variegated white parts more burnable than the green or something? Maybe? The new leaves still have yellow, but it is paler. I didn't move it that long ago, the leaves that are opening now had already started to grow out before I moved it. The yellow leaf that's next to the white one was practically touching the window before - it had a trellis by then so I couldn't still rotate it like I had been doing. Maybe I'll hold off on upping the wattage of the grow light and see what happens.

If it comes down to it I guess I could cut back the three big vines - they probably grow faster because they're some of the least variegated on the plant anyway.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 5:14PM
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I did read something earlier that while the variegated varieties need more sun to retain their variegation, that if placed in too bright of a location, they can burn (I'm sorry, I tried to find the website that I found this on but I can't seem to find it again. I think it was referring to direct sun). I think it said it was the variegation that will burn more so than the green part of the leaf *searches frantically* When it says "yellow," did they mean the whole leaf turning yellow or just the variegation?

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 5:52PM
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What I read seemed to refer to the whole leaf, it didn't say anything about the variegation in particular. At least not that I remember. I'm just sort of... what's the expression, 'grasping at straws'? It would explain it - I think - if the variegation burns more easily.

It's had the yellow variegation for probably a couple months now though, I'd expect more damage... Brown spots, lost leaves, etc. Although I guess I don't really know what to expect from continuously burned leaves so it may be a moot point. It has had a couple leaves turn completely yellow and fall off, but those were lower, where more of the leaves are still white/losing variegation and caused by an urgent need to repot (I think that was the cause anyway. I have since repotted).

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 7:23PM
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Eh. One site says burned leaves turn pale, which... really isn't the case here with the dark green.

A University of Florida site says that burned necrotic patches as a result of high light can be confined to variegated areas. It also says the leaves can't recover.

I'm kind of reluctant to think that's the case with mine though - I might believe burned, but the leaves still look pretty lively and non-necrotic. Even the yellow chewed on ones. : /

I guess I'll see what happens over the next month and then break out the shears if it doesn't improve...

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 8:56PM
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It sounds like the website might have been a little vague as to what it was referring to in regards to s leaf turning yellow. I could be mistaken but maybe the website was referring to what you saw occur with the lower leaves turning yellow. I think a symptom for pothos that are unhappy is yellow leaves, but that's caused by a number of factors (over watering, staying too dry to the point they wilt and it tries to shed leaves in order to conserve water, old age). But I know this isn't what you posted for so to get back to your topic hehe. I just wanted to say that I'm pretty sure the lower leaves you saw turn yellow and come off the plant were dying from old age, nothing to worry about (now if it was more common than that, I'd suspect something else). I was hoping someone else would have posted by now as I was wondering if this was a more common issue than I'm aware of. I tried researching online myself but I am unable to find anything either. I wish I knew what else to say, I really don't know what could be causing the variegation to change colors like that. Not that this is what you probably want to hear, but it looks like you have a healthy plant and even if it might not be the color you are looking for, it looks like you're taking good care of it.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 9:14PM
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I don't know about old age, I started with the first cutting probably less than a year ago... It kind of grew faster than expected. I have this bad habit of letting it get pretty thoroughly rootbound before repotting though. Yellow leaves--> check drainage holes for roots --> time to repot.

Looking more closely, the lower leaves that are less visible under the green/yellow foliage, are still the right color. I'm getting more tempted to cut it back sooner and see what happens.

One of the new leaves that's opened up is more off-white than yellow though, so that bodes well. I'm bad enough with plants that I actually am kind of glad to hear that it looks healthy, regardless of color. Thank you for helping with researching, even if nothing really turned up.

Yeah, where is everyone? Pothos are so common this can't be the only plant that's had this happen. I thought it might have been because I posted on a Sunday or something.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2011 at 11:19PM
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stonesriver(6B Tennessee)


Your pothos doesn't look sunburned to me. Other than the little chewy marks it look much healthier than any I tried to grow. I think it's just a case of the variegation changing. It's a gorgeous plant.

With it being Thanksgiving week people may not have time right now to visit the forums so I wouldn't give up on having someone else answer.



BTW, are you able to ask your Grandmother if she's had the same experience? She may want a cutting from *yours*!

    Bookmark   November 22, 2011 at 1:42AM
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Oh, I forgot about Thanksgiving... Face/palm moment. I mean, I've been shopping for it, but forgot the effect it'd have on computer usage... anyway.

I think her plant might be older than I am. It's a situation where it's always been there but I didn't really notice. She moved it a couple feet recently and asked me if I knew why the leaves were changing... hers is losing variegation a little, it doesn't like the new area as much. Other than that, I don't think she's had it change color. I'll ask next time I see her though.

It's a little (very) finicky about the light, but otherwise thrives on neglect. She told me she only waters it every two-three weeks, the soil is old, not a lot of fertilizing, and the thing looks great... Sounds like the kind of plant I might not kill, in other words. Except for the bright light part. I put the original cutting in miracle grow soil and it basically exploded. New leaves have opened since I posted yesterday, even. One is plain green. It's still exploding. Or at least, the less variegated vines are.

Variegation can change color? How? Is there something I can do to change it back?

    Bookmark   November 22, 2011 at 3:19AM
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*facepalms with you* I also forgot what week this is. You're welcome for the information, sorry I couldn't have been of more help with regards to the variegation, hopefully Linda or someone else can be of more help. :)

    Bookmark   November 22, 2011 at 8:16AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Hi Kris. Here are some excerpts I copied from a book I have, Variegated Plants; The Encyclopedia of Patterned Foliage by Susan Conder. (I have left out parts that refer to other colors of variegation.)

Variegated plants originate naturally as random seedlings, or as sports - mutant variegated shoots on otherwise plain green plants. Yellow and white variegations are caused by imperfect or absent chloroplasts, the granule-like plastids within a cell which contain chlorophyll. In a white- or yellow-edged leaf, the green pigment functions normally in the inner layer of leaf cells, but the outer layer lacks chloroplasts, making the edges white, or contains a preliminary version of chlorophyll, protochlorophyll, creating yellow. A yellow- or white-centered leaf, with green edges, has a defective inner layer of leaf cells. The intensity of leaf colour is affected by the amount of light available. There are exceptions, but generally, variegated plants with glaucous foliage, such as rue and certain hostas, tolerate more sun than all-green kinds. Yellow-variegated leaves colour best in full sun or light shade. White- and cream-variegated leaves, such as variegated apple mint, tend to prefer shade, especially where the soil is dry.

I'm confused, too since the explanation of how/why variegation occurs doesn't give any info for mottled or splotchy variegation like that of pothos. I don't like yellow flowers, but I do like yellow leaves - they look great with my other plants, most of which have purple leaves.

Agree your plant looks healthy!

    Bookmark   November 22, 2011 at 9:34AM
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So if the leaves have developed protochlorophyll in order to turn yellow, that's probably not likely to just go away eventually. It looks increasingly like there's a haircut in this plant's future.

I thought it was the other way around with the light requirements for pothos, with golden having lower light requirements than marble queen?

I don't really like yellow, but white makes a good trim color. Thought it'd be neat having a plant match the decor. Purple is interesting though... not sure I've seen that before on leaves.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2011 at 1:20PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Oh my...

Persian shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus)
Purple shamrock (Oxalis triangularis)
purple heart (Tradescantia pallida)
wandering jew (Tradescantia zebrina)
Rex Begonia
purple coleus (Solenostemon)
purple calico plant (Alternanthera)
purple waffle (Pilea)
purple passion (Gynura aurantiaca)
purple basil
(Cordyline) usually pink or red but some are purple

I'm sure I forgot a few, but that should give you pangs of desire if you're susceptible.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2011 at 2:26PM
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stonesriver(6B Tennessee)

I don't know how it is with foliage plants, but African violets with variegated leaves need cooler temperatures and less light to maintain variegation.

Just not too cool or too little light or they lose all variegation and die!

Oh, and Kris, I'm not sure a haircut would change anything as far as leaf variegation goes.


    Bookmark   November 22, 2011 at 7:01PM
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Purpleinopp - Wow, most of those are very purple. I love the color, I've just never seen it on a leaf before as the main color, let alone in some of those bright shades. How did I not know about this? Home Depot has failed me... [/plant noob]

This bears looking into... : D In other words, I may be susceptible.

Linda - I was thinking it might help because not all the leaves are yellow, most of the ones closer to the base of the plant are still white and producing white variegated leaves (most of the vines aren't as long as the three that are climbing). It's just that the largest and most visible leaves are now yellow. Maybe if I cut it back to the last white variegated leaf it'd grow in the right color from there? Hopefully?

    Bookmark   November 22, 2011 at 9:44PM
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