What Does Root Rot Look Like Pothos: A Quick Identification Guide

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Pothos is a popular houseplant known for its hardiness and ease of care. However, one question that often comes up is whether or not pothos needs drainage. In this article, we’ll explore this essential plant care question and provide tips on how to ensure your pothos stays healthy and happy, including the best types of pots to use, how to prevent overwatering, and how to provide the right drainage conditions.

What is Root Rot?

Root rot is a common problem that affects many types of plants, including pothos. It is caused by a combination of factors such as overwatering, poor drainage, and a lack of oxygen in the soil. The primary cause of root rot in pothos plants is the presence of fungi that thrive in these damp conditions, leading to the decay and deterioration of the roots.

When root rot affects a pothos plant, it can impede the plant’s ability to take in nutrients, oxygen, and moisture. This results in the plant experiencing issues such as stunted growth, wilted leaves, and eventual death if left untreated. Early signs of root rot in pothos include yellowing leaves, possible browning of leaves, and wilting(Plantophiles).

Aside from the visual symptoms of root rot, another clue to the presence of this issue is a foul smell emanating from the soil of the affected pothos plant. As the roots rot, they may emit a rotten or moldy smell, which is an indication that the plant’s health is in danger(PlantComfort).

To save a pothos plant from root rot, it is crucial to identify the symptoms early and take appropriate measures to address the issue. This may involve cutting off decayed roots, treating the remaining roots with a weak hydrogen peroxide solution, and repotting the plant in fresh, well-draining soil(Gardenine).

Recognizing Root Rot in Pothos

Identifying root rot in pothos plants is essential for taking corrective measures and saving your plant. This section will discuss the key signs of root rot in pothos, which include discolored leaves, wilting, and mushy roots.

Discolored Leaves

One of the earliest indications of root rot in pothos is discolored leaves. The leaves may turn yellow or even brown when the rotting is extensive(Plantophiles). This discoloration is a result of the plant’s inability to absorb nutrients due to the rotting root system. Monitor your pothos plant for any sudden changes in leaf color, which could be a sign of a more significant issue, such as root rot.


Another symptom of root rot in pothos plants is wilting. The leaves may begin to droop or wilt since rotting roots are unable to deliver nutrients to the leaves(Houseplant Authority). This can also suggest that the roots are waterlogged, hampering their ability to provide essential nutrients to the plant. If you notice your pothos plant’s leaves drooping without any apparent cause, it could be due to root rot.

Mushy Roots

Lastly, observing the plant’s roots can help detect root rot. The roots may appear mushy, discolored, or even emit a foul, rotten smell as they begin to decay(Plant Comfort). If you suspect your pothos has root rot, you may need to gently remove the plant to inspect its root system. If you notice any of these signs, it is crucial to take action to save your plant from further damage.

Causes of Root Rot in Pothos

Pothos, a popular houseplant, can experience root rot due to several factors. This section will discuss some of the leading causes of root rot in pothos.


One of the main reasons for root rot in pothos is overwatering. When there is excessive water in the soil, the roots are not able to take in nutrients or air from the soil. As a result, the roots weaken and become overly saturated, creating a perfect environment for decomposing bacteria and fungi to rot the vulnerable rootssource.

Poor Drainage

Poor drainage can also contribute to pothos root rot. If the roots of the plant are constantly sitting in water, they begin to break down and rot away. Fungus thrives in wet, humid environments, leading to root rot problemssource. To prevent root rot, ensure that your pothos plant has well-draining soil, an appropriate pot, and a warm, humid environmentsource.

Contaminated Soil

Contaminated soil with pathogenic infections or pest infestations can also cause root rot in pothos plants. Rotted roots in a pothos plant will be brown or black and feel mushy, often accompanied by a foul smellsource. To treat root rot caused by contaminated soil, damaged roots must be cut off, and the plant should be repotted in a sterile potting mixsource.

Preventing Root Rot in Pothos

Pothos plants are susceptible to root rot if not given proper care, but fortunately, there are several preventative measures you can take to keep your plants healthy. In this section, we will cover proper watering, well-draining soil, and careful plant selection.

Proper Watering

One of the main factors contributing to root rot in pothos is overwatering. To prevent this problem, it’s important to monitor the soil moisture and adjust your watering schedule accordingly. For pothos positioned in bright light, water your plant only when the top half of the soil has dried out (source). In spaces with less light, you should allow the soil to dry completely before watering again.

Additionally, it’s crucial to avoid letting your pothos sit in standing water. Empty the drain tray after each watering to prevent excess moisture from causing root rot.

Well-Draining Soil

Using well-draining, moisture-retaining potting soil can significantly reduce the risk of pothos root rot (source). This type of soil allows excess water to drain away while retaining just the right amount of moisture for the plant’s roots. When choosing a potting mix, look for ingredients like perlite, vermiculite, and coarse sand that promote drainage.

Beyond the potting mix, using a pot with drainage holes will help prevent waterlogged soil. Consider using terracotta pots, which naturally wick away excess moisture from the soil.

Careful Plant Selection

When selecting a pothos plant or cutting, it’s essential to choose healthy specimens. Healthy plants are better equipped to resist disease and withstand environmental stressors. Inspect new plants carefully for signs of overwatering or root rot, such as yellowing leaves, wilting, or a musty odor. Avoid purchasing plants with any of these signs, as they may already be infected.

By following these steps, including proper watering, well-draining soil, and careful plant selection, you can effectively prevent root rot in your pothos and keep them thriving for years to come.

Treating Root Rot in Pothos

Root rot in pothos plants can be a major issue, but with proper treatment, it is possible to save the plant and help it regain its health. This section will guide you through the steps to treat root rot in pothos, including removing affected roots, repotting the plant, and using fungicides if necessary.

Removing Affected Roots

The first step in treating root rot in pothos is to remove the plant from its pot and carefully shake off excess soil, enabling you to closely examine the roots. Identify the damaged and rotting roots, which may appear black, weak, and mushy, and use small pruning shears to trim them away from the healthy roots(The Indoor Nursery).

Once you have removed the affected roots, it is important to disinfect the remaining healthy ones to prevent further spread of root rot. You can do this by using a solution of water and hydrogen peroxide to clean the roots(Gardenine).


After removing and disinfecting the roots, it’s time to repot the pothos plant. Choose a well-draining potting mix that promotes good root health and new growth. Make sure to repot the plant in a clean pot with drainage holes to prevent excess water buildup, which can lead to root rot(Plant Comfort).

When repotting the pothos, place it at the same depth it was in the previous pot, ensuring that the root system is adequately covered by the potting mix. After repotting, water the plant lightly and avoid overwatering in the future, as it could lead to the reoccurrence of root rot.


In some cases, using a fungicide may be necessary to control and prevent fungal infections causing root rot in the pothos plant. Choose a fungicide that is specifically designed to target root rot and follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to apply it(Plantophiles).

Always use fungicides with caution, and remember that proper care and environmental conditions are crucial in preventing root rot in the first place. By monitoring the plant’s moisture levels, providing well-draining soil, and ensuring proper ventilation, you can decrease the chance of root rot reoccurring in your pothos plant.

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