Pothos plants are low-maintenance, easy-to-care-for plants. With the scientific name Epipremnum aureum, these plants have pointed, heart-shaped leaves and some varieties are variegated with yellow, white or pale green striations. They are popular indoor plants, but they can also be prone to diseases like root rot if they are not provided with the correct growing conditions.
How to identify pothos root rot
The common signs of root rot in pothos include the following:
1. The roots become soft and brown.
Check the roots and examine their color and texture. If they are black and mushy, they likely have root rot. Saggy roots also indicate root rot, and these might break off and get left in the soil when you try to uproot the plant. You may also notice an unpleasant smell coming from the roots.
2. The leaves turn yellow.
If the leaves of your pothos are turning yellow, it could be due to root rot. They may also wilt, which is an indication that they are not receiving sufficient nutrients from the soil. This is because the roots have already been damaged by this fungal disease. If it is just the older leaves that are yellowing, it may be due to the natural aging process; however, if the younger leaves are also affected, root rot may be the cause.
3. The soil is damp.
Another indication that root rot may be thriving under the soil is if the soil is constantly damp. To check the dampness, push your finger into the soil, or use a moisture meter for a more accurate reading. Do this at least three days after you last watered the plant. If the top one or two inches of soil is damp, there may be too much water in it.
4. There is mold or fungal growth on the soil.
Another sign of root rot in pothos plants is any kind of fungal growth on top of the soil due to excess water. This fungal growth results in root rot, which can spread to infect other parts of the plant.
5. The plant’s growth is stunted.
Delayed or stunted growth is another indication that your plants are unhealthy and could have root rot. Aside from stunted growth, the plants will have smaller, curling leaves, shorter stems and a thinner appearance. All of these symptoms indicate that root rot is preventing the roots from being able to function as they should.
Causes of pothos root rot
Pothos plants do not require very much water, unless it is used as their growing medium. Too much water in the soil limits oxygen supply to the roots, resulting in suffocation and plant stress.
Poor soil drainage
Another possible cause of root rot is poor soil drainage. If excess water does not drain out of the pot fast enough and pools around the roots, it stresses the roots just as overwatering does. The roots will not have access to oxygen and will suffocate, resulting in the perfect conditions for the development of root rot. Over time, this could lead to the death of your plants.
Insufficient drainage holes in pots
If your plants are showing signs of root rot despite having well-draining soil and not being overwatered, the pots could be the culprit. Make sure there are enough drainage holes so that water can pass through freely. Without these, the soil will remain wet for a longer time than necessary and this will encourage the growth of root rot.
Incorrect pot size
Your plants could also be dying from root rot because they are in pots that are too big or too small. Larger-than-necessary pots accommodate more soil which can hold more water, which could be harmful for the roots since it will remain wetter for longer. Meanwhile, too-small pots allow the roots to bind together, clogging the containers and making it more difficult to drain excess water.
Various types of pathogens could infect your plants’ roots. These pathogens can live in the soil or the water, or could be spread through infected gardening tools.
You can save your plants from root rot by trimming off all the infected roots. Clean the remaining roots and treat them with a fungicide to disinfect and protect them. You will need to repot the plants in new pots, using a fresh soil mix. If the root rot has become severe, you may have to start over with new plants.
Pothos plants have heart-shaped, variegated leaves that make them popular as indoor plants. However, these easy-to-care-for plants could become susceptible to root rot if they are overwatered, have poor soil drainage, or become infected by fungi or bacteria. To treat root rot, trim off all the infected roots, apply fungicide to the healthy roots and replant the pothos in a fresh potting mix. If the infection is severe, it may be too late to save the plant.
Image: istockphoto.com / FeelPic