Why Are My Pothos Stems Turning Brown: Top Causes Explained

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Brown stems on pothos plants can be an alarming sight, but there are a few reasons why this may happen. In this article, we’ll explore the possible causes of brown stems on pothos and offer some tips on how to prevent and treat this issue.

Common Causes of Pothos Stems Turning Brown

Lack of Water

Pothos plants need a consistent water supply to maintain their health and vitality. When they don’t receive adequate amounts of water, they struggle to absorb essential nutrients from the soil and keep their stems and leaves hydrated. As a result, the leaves and stems may turn brown and eventually die off due to dehydration.

It’s crucial to find a proper watering balance for your Pothos plant to prevent an underwatered plant from wilting, drying, and having weak and limp stems.


Conversely, another common cause for pothos stems turning brown is overwatering. Overwatering can lead to root rot, which can cause the plant’s stems to turn brown.

To avoid overwatering issues, ensure that the soil is appropriately drained, and water the plants only when the topsoil feels dry to the touch. Consistently monitoring the watering needs of your Pothos plant will help you avoid overwatering and promote a healthier plant.

Soil Issues

Soil conditions also play a significant role in the health of your Pothos plant. Several soil-related factors might cause your Pothos stems to turn brown, including incorrect soil composition and poorly-drained soil.

To prevent soil-related issues, provide your Pothos with the proper soil mixture that offers adequate drainage and aeration. This will ensure that the plant’s roots are properly oxygenated, and water can circulate effectively, which reduces the chances of the stems turning brown.

By addressing these common causes, you can support the overall health of your Pothos plant and prevent its stems from turning brown due to lack of water, overwatering, or soil issues.

Pests and Fungal Infections

Root Rot

Root rot is a common cause of brown stems in pothos plants. It occurs when the plant’s roots are consistently exposed to excessive moisture or standing water, promoting bacterial and fungal growth. This infection can spread up the plant and affect the stems, turning them brown and weak. To prevent root rot, it’s important to ensure proper drainage in your plant’s pot and avoid overwatering.


Mealybugs are small, white, cotton-like pests that can infest pothos plants, often leading to brown stems. They feed on the plant’s sap, which weakens the stem and leads to discoloration. To address a mealybug infestation:

  • Regularly inspect your pothos plant for signs of these pests
  • Remove any infected leaves or stems by pruning them
  • Use a cotton swab dipped in diluted rubbing alcohol to remove mealybugs from the plant
  • Treat the plant with insecticidal soap or neem oil to deter future infestations

Proper care and attention to your pothos plant can prevent these pests and fungal infections from causing brown stems. Maintain a consistent watering schedule, ensure proper drainage, and monitor your plant for any potential threats.

Environmental Factors

Temperature Stress

Pothos plants are sensitive to temperature changes, and their stems might turn brown due to temperature stress. These hardy plants thrive in temperatures between 65°F and 85°F. However, when exposed to extreme temperature fluctuations, such as too hot or too cold conditions, the plant may experience stress, leading to browning stems.

To keep your pothos healthy, maintain the recommended temperature range by placing the plant in a location with stable room temperatures. Avoid placing it near heating or cooling vents, drafty windows, or other areas prone to temperature extremes.

Humidity Issues

Another environmental factor playing a significant role in pothos health is humidity. When the surrounding air has high humidity, it can create an unfavorable environment for pothos, as their stems may turn brown from improper air circulation. On the other hand, very low humidity can make the stems dry, stiff, and discolored.

To prevent humidity issues, follow these recommendations:

  • Maintain moderate humidity levels in your home, ideally between 40% and 60%.
  • Place the pothos plant in a well-ventilated area, avoiding cramped spaces or spots with poor air circulation.
  • Use a humidity tray or a humidifier to adjust the air moisture around the plant.
  • Regularly mist the plant with water to maintain adequate humidity around it, without making it too wet.

By closely monitoring temperature and humidity levels in your home and providing the proper care, you can prevent the pothos stems from turning brown due to these environmental factors.

How to Save Your Pothos Plant

Diagnose the Problem

To save your pothos plant when the stems are turning brown, you first need to diagnose the problem. Potential causes of browning stems may include underwatering, over-fertilization, or waterlogged roots. Determine the root cause by checking the soil moisture, assessing the roots, and monitoring the plant’s environment.

Proper Watering Techniques

The right watering technique is crucial for preventing browning stems in your pothos plant. These plants typically require watering once per week and once every two weeks during winter. To avoid overwatering, allow the top two inches of soil to dry out before watering again. This approach ensures that the roots remain wet, but not waterlogged. Using filtered or distilled water can also mitigate the negative effects of chlorine on the leaves and stems.

Optimizing Soil Conditions

To promote healthy growth, it’s essential to optimize soil conditions for your pothos plant. Over-fertilization can cause the stems to turn brown, so flush excess salts by running water through the soil. Ensure that your planter has drainage holes, which will allow water to flow freely and prevent waterlogged roots.

In case roots are already waterlogged, gently repotting the pothos in fresh soil can help improve nutrient and oxygen uptake, reducing stem browning. Aside from a well-draining soil mix, make sure the plant receives the right amount of sunlight—avoiding direct exposure—and maintains a suitable temperature for healthy growth..

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