If the leaves on your pothos plant are wrinkled, it means that there is an environmental factor that is causing the plant stress. The source of the stress may be benign, or it could be due to something that might cause further decline in a matter of days. In order to fix this change in the leaves’ texture, you need to be able to identify what caused the problem.
The most common causes of wrinkled pothos leaves are overwatering and root rot, underwatering, too much fertilizer, temperature changes, pests, and insufficient light.
In this article, we will discuss the different causes of wrinkled pothos leaves, and how to remedy each one.
Why are my pothos leaves wrinkled?
1. Overwatering and root rot
One of the most common mistakes that a pothos owner can make is to accidentally give the plant more water than it needs. This could be done by giving the plant more water than necessary each time you water it, or by watering it more often than you should. It can also happen if you do not adjust the watering schedule according to seasonal changes, if the pot you choose does not have drainage holes at the bottom, or if the soil does not drain sufficiently well.
When the plant’s roots stand constantly in waterlogged soil, they will have no access to oxygen, which the plant needs to survive. This is why it is so important to let the plant’s roots dry out between waterings. In constantly soggy soil, the roots will essentially drown. The dead roots can no longer do their job of absorbing water and nutrients from the soil, and they will start to rot. They will then be susceptible to opportunistic pathogens, like fungi and bacteria, which will exacerbate the spread of the rot to the rest of the plant. Before you know it, the entire plant will be affected. When the leaves are affected, they will become wrinkled because the plant is unable to absorb water and nutrients properly.
If you are able to catch the overwatering in its early stages, you can still save the plant. Stop watering it immediately and let the soil and roots dry out for as long as they need to. Do not water the plant again until all of the soil has dried out.
If you think that your pothos plant has root rot, remove it from the pot and wash off as much of the old soil as possible. Be gentle as you do this, since the roots are very fragile at this point. If there are any brown or black roots, you need to cut them off because they are rotten. Use a sterilized knife or pair of scissors to do this, so that any disease in the rotten roots does not infect the healthy roots. Spray the remaining healthy roots with fungicide and let the plant air-dry for a few hours. When the plant has dried, replant it in a pot with drainage holes at the bottom, using well-draining soil.
To avoid overwatering your plant, you need to know how to tell when it needs watering. The best way to do this is by feeling the top two inches of soil in the pot. If the soil is dry, water the plant, but if the soil is still damp, wait one or two days before checking it again.
If you give the plant less water than it needs, it will be underwatered, and this can also cause the leaves to wrinkle. The wrinkling is due to the loss of moisture, because when a plant has a limited amount of water stored in its body, it will prioritize its survival by choosing the most essential parts to keep alive. Leaves and other foliage are the least important because the plant can always grow new ones once it has recovered. The water in the plant will be used to keep the roots alive.
Underwatering can also happen if you expose the plant to high temperatures or other conditions that cause the soil to dry out too quickly.
Fortunately, underwatering is much easier to remedy than overwatering. If you see that the soil in the plant’s pot is too dry, water it as soon as possible. Soak all of the soil with water until the excess water flows out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. If the soil has been dry for too long, it may have become compact and hard. Loosen the soil up before watering it so that it is more easily penetrable. You may need to water the plant more frequently than normal until it has recovered. Once it has recovered, you can go back to watering it only when the soil is dry to the touch.
Remember to adjust your watering schedule according to the season of the year, the climate where you live, and the current weather conditions.
3. Too much fertilizer
If you give your pothos more fertilizer than you should, you will overfeed your plant. Fertilizer is provided to boost the plant’s metabolism, but this only works when the plant is actively growing in the spring and summer. When you give the plant fertilizer in the fall or winter, when it is not actively growing, you are essentially forcing it to metabolise when it does not want or need to. The excess fertilizer will cause the soil to become toxic, and the increased levels of minerals and nutrients in the soil can stress the plant and cause its leaves to wrinkle and curl.
If you think you have given your plant too much fertilizer, you can either change all of the soil in the pot or you can flush out the mineral buildup in the soil with lots of water. Allow the water to flow freely out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.
4. Temperature changes
Pothos plants are not very sensitive when it comes to the temperature around them, provided it is not in the extremes. They do not like the intense heat that comes with direct sunlight, which will dry out the soil and the leaves due to the accelerated transpiration of water in the leaves. The wrinkling and curling of its leaves is the plant’s way of saving itself. By reducing the surface area of the leaf exposed to the sun, less damage will be inflicted.
If you want to keep the pothos outdoors, keep it on the porch or on the patio. You can also place it under a large tree or under a garden net.
If you keep the plant indoors, keep it away from heating vents, furnaces, radiators and fireplaces, because the heat emanating from these will also dry out the plant very quickly.
Keep the plant in a temperature-neutral part of the house so that it is healthy and happy.
Another reason your pothos may have wrinkled leaves is the presence of pests. The most commonly observed pests on pothos plants are thrips, scale insects, spider mites and mealybugs. These pests can cause the leaves to wrinkle because they feed on the juices, or sap, of the plant, drying it out and causing the textural changes.
Before treating the plant, make sure that it is quarantined in a different part of your house. You do not want the pests to spread to your other plants. You can use a pesticide that is specifically made for houseplants, or you can use a solution of neem oil and water and spray it on the plant. You can also use a garden hose to knock the pests off the plant with a blast of water.
Repeat the treatment once a week for a month to make sure that all of the pests have been eradicated.
6. Not enough light
Pothos plants need at least eight hours of bright, indirect light per day to undertake their most basic functions, such as photosynthesizing, absorbing water and nutrients, and preserving their beautifully variegated leaves. If you keep the plant in low light conditions, you will notice wrinkling and curling of the leaves. You may also notice that some of the stems and leaves are becoming leggy. This is because the plant is desperate for light and is literally growing in the direction of the nearest light. This is not fatal to the plant, but it will affect the overall aesthetic of the pothos.
If you are keeping the plant outdoors, this is great since the plant gets lots of light, but make sure it is not under direct sunlight, as this could result in sun damage. Place the plant under a large tree or under a garden net.
If you are keeping the plant indoors, keep it near a north- or east-facing window. If the only window available is one that lets in harsh light, you can diffuse the light with a sheer curtain.
During the winter, when light is scarce, use a grow light on your plant so that it is still able to get the light it needs every day.
Your pothos leaves are wrinkled due to an environmental factor that is causing the plant stress. The cause of the stress can be benign, but it also may be so serious that you will need to resolve it in the next few days, or risk losing your plant.
The most common causes of wrinkled pothos leaves are overwatering and root rot, underwatering, too much fertilizer, temperature changes, pests and insufficient light.
The sooner you are able to identify the cause of the problem, the faster you will be able to resolve it and have the plant recover completely.
Image: istockphoto.com / king_tut