Why Are My Pothos Leaves Turning Yellow? (Plus Care Tips!)

The Golden Pothos and its many cultivars are some of the most popular houseplants in the world. If you keep potted plants in your home, there’s a very good chance at least one of them is a pothos!

Not only are these tropical vines aesthetically pleasing but they’re also incredibly easy to care for. This makes them super appealing to those of us who aren’t naturally blessed with a green thumb.

Despite all of their awesome qualities, pothos is still living things. As with any living thing, they struggle when their specific needs aren’t met. But that fact doesn’t make the appearance of yellow leaves on your pothos any less stressful!

If your pothos leaves turning yellow is a concern, it’s time to take a step back and figure out what could be interfering with its well-being. Some of the most likely culprits include overwatering, excess sun exposure, or even infectious disease.

Natural Reasons Pothos Leaves Turn Yellow

In some cases, yellow pothos leaves are 100% natural (and unavoidable)! So before you panic about your pothos’ new yellow foliage, take a moment and consider if it could be changing color for a completely normal reason.

Variegated Foliage

Variegated Foliage

Many types of pothos have variegated, or multi-colored leaves. In some cases, the emergence of yellow leaves could just be a manifestation of this trait!

Not all pothos varieties boast variegation. Also, only a few have the capacity to produce entirely cream or yellow leaves.

Keep this in mind when trying to determine if your plant’s yellow foliage is natural or a sign of something being wrong.

Old Leaves

While pothos is tropical evergreens, their leaves don’t live forever.

If you notice that your plant’s oldest leaves are turning yellow and dying, it may be caused by the natural aging process.

There’s no need to worry as long as yellowing leaves are few and far between, and are replaced by new, green foliage.

Nutritional Issues

Pothos are beloved by many houseplant enthusiasts because they are extremely easy to care for. With that said, improper nutrition is a common cause of yellowing leaves.

Nutritional Deficiency

Nutritional Deficiency

Yellow leaves can appear when a plant lacks the nutrients needed to make healthy chlorophyll.

Nitrogen is the most important nutrient in plant health and is often responsible for yellowing foliage. Other likely culprits include micronutrients like iron and magnesium.

It’s very easy to overfeed pothos plants (more on that in a moment)! If you suspect that your pothos is turning yellow because of a nutritional deficiency, I highly recommend conducting a soil test before adding fertilizer.

Fertilizer Burn

While inadequate nutrition can definitely be to blame for yellow pothos leaves, the opposite is more likely!

Pothos requires very little fertilizer to thrive. In fact, many well-meaning gardeners overfeed their pothos plants, causing symptoms like yellowing foliage.

Fertilizer burn often occurs immediately after fertilizer is applied. However, yellowing leaves can also appear over time when there is too much nitrogen salt in the soil.

Another clear sign of salt buildup is a hard, white crust that forms on the top of the soil.

The best way to prevent salt buildup is to water your pothos thoroughly so that water flows freely from the container’s drainage holes.

Improper Watering

pothos leaves

One of the most likely reasons your pothos leaves are turning yellow is that you’re watering too often!

A good rule of thumb is to water potted pothos every 1 or 2 weeks. The soil should be dry to the touch before watering again.

It’s important to note that overwatering can cause your pothos to wilt. Don’t mistake this symptom for the plant requiring even more water than it’s already getting!

If your pothos’ yellow leaves quickly turn brown and crisp, however, underwatering might be to blame.

While watering more frequently could fix this problem, it might also be the case that you’re not applying enough water at a time.

Ideally, you should water your pothos thoroughly enough that clean water flows from the container’s drainage holes. I like to do this by placing the container in a large sink or tub.

Poor Drainage

Did you know that excess moisture can be a problem even when watering infrequently? A container with inadequate (or no!) drainage can cause the same problems as overwatering.

Always keep your pothos plants in containers with plenty of large drainage holes. Be sure the container is not too large as this can cause waterlogging.

The type of potting mix you use for your pothos also has a role in drainage. If drainage is a problem, consider adding more organic material to your current mixture.

Sunburn or Temperature Stress

Sunburn pothos leaves

One reason pothos make such wonderful houseplants is that they thrive with little sunlight. On the flip side, pothos leaves sunburn very easily.

Depending on the severity, sunburnt leaves may turn yellow, white, or brown. Too much sunlight will also cause pothos leaves to wilt or curl.

The ideal temperature for your pothos is between 70°F and 90°F. Temperatures outside of this range can damage the leaves.

Be sure to keep your pothos away from extreme heat sources like radiators and stovetops. Check nearby windows for cold drafts in wintertime.


Yellow leaves are rarely the only symptom of fungal or bacterial disease. On the other hand, discolored foliage is usually the first obvious sign that something is wrong with a pothos plant.

Before addressing any environmental factors that could be stressing out your pothos, it’s a good idea to rule out these common diseases that can also cause yellow foliage:

Root Rot

As the name implies, root rot is a condition that targets plant roots. However, the first symptom many houseplant keepers notice is yellowing, wilting foliage.

Root rot is caused by pathogens that thrive in wet soil. For this reason, root rot is usually blamed on overwatering or poor drainage.

Pothos plants rely on their roots to uptake moisture and nutrients, so this condition can turn deadly fast! The sooner you identify root rot as the cause of your yellow pothos leaves the better chance the plant has of making a full recovery.

Bacterial Wilt

Bacterial Wilt

This illness enters through the roots but one of the earliest symptoms is yellow, wilting foliage. Pothos leaves affected by this disease may develop black veins.

Note that bacterial wilt is unlikely to occur spontaneously in an established pothos plant. The bacteria must be introduced in some way.

Avoid using anything but a clean potting mix to prevent spreading bacteria to your pothos plant. You should also keep a close eye on new plants (including rooted cuttings) for symptoms of this disease.

Pothos Leaves Turning Yellow -Final Thoughts

Once the leaves of pothos turn yellow, they can’t be fixed. But early intervention can save the rest of the plant from a similar fate. You can safely remove yellow leaves as new, healthy ones grow in their place.

Since pothos is so beginner-friendly, yellowing leaves cause many novice gardeners to feel completely out of their element.

With a little troubleshooting, however, most causes of yellow foliage can be identified and addressed with relative ease!

Are any other of your other plants feeling a bit yellow? Check out our care guides on Iris and Rose of Sharon.