Root Rot Symptoms in Pothos Plants: How to Identify and Treat

Milosh Potikj | October 24, 2023 | 9 MIN READ

If you are a homeowner or enjoy tackling indoor gardening challenges, pothos plants can be a great addition to your houseplant collection. But as with many foliage plants, there’s always the risk of root rot if the environment is too wet.

Root rot occurs when fungus takes hold in the soil and consumes parts of the plant’s root system, disrupting its natural process for absorbing water and preventing it from getting enough nutrients from outside sources. If left untreated, this infection can cause irreparable damage to your beloved foliage plant – so keeping an eye out for potential symptoms is key to ensuring your pretty greenery stays healthy!

In this blog post, we'll walk through how to identify tell-tale signs that your pothos has been hit by Fusarium or Pythium root rot and discuss strategies for treating it effectively.

Identifying Root Rot in Pothos

Identifying Root Rot in Pothos

The first step in protecting your Pothos from root rot is understanding what to look for. Recognizing the symptoms early can make all the difference between a thriving plant and one struggling to survive. Let's delve into the key signs of root rot in Pothos.

  1. Yellowing Leaves: One of the first signs of root rot in your Pothos plant is the yellowing of the leaves. This results from the root's inability to absorb nutrients, causing the leaves to turn yellow as they starve. Paying attention to this change is essential, as early detection can save your plant.
  2. Wilted or Drooping Leaves: If your pothos leaves are wilting or drooping despite regular watering, this could indicate root rot. When the roots are infected, they can't properly absorb water, dehydrating the plant and causing the leaves to sag.
  3. Brown or Black Roots: Healthy roots of a pothos plant should be white or light tan. If root rot sets in, the roots start darkening, turning brown or black. If you notice this color change during repotting, initiate treatment immediately.
  4. Rotten or Unpleasant Smell: Lastly, a less obvious yet telling sign of root rot is a foul smell that can emanate from the soil. This is due to the bacteria and fungi that cause rotting, which produce a musty, unpleasant odor. If you've been noticing a strange smell around your plant, it's time to investigate for root rot.

More: Root Rot in Aloe Vera

Types of Root Rot in Pothos

Types of Root Rot in Pothos

There are primarily two types of root rot that commonly afflict Pothos plants: Fusarium and Pythium. Each of these root rots has unique characteristics, and understanding them can help you combat the disease in your pothos effectively. Let's explore each of these types in detail.

Fusarium Root Rot

The Fusarium fungus causes Fusarium root rot. Fusarium is a soil-borne pathogen that is particularly harmful to Pothos plants. It can survive for extended periods in the soil, lying dormant and infecting the roots when conditions become favorable, such as when the soil is overly saturated from overwatering or poor drainage.

This type of root rot is often characterized by a noticeable plant wilting, accompanying the typical yellowing of leaves seen in many root rot cases. A distinctive feature of Fusarium infection is often the presence of reddish-brown streaks or spots on the roots. If you suspect Fusarium root rot, acting quickly to manage the disease and prevent further spread is imperative.

Pythium Root Rot

Pythium root rot is another common disease that can plague Pothos plants. Pythium, a group of parasitic oomycetes, causes it. Unlike Fusarium, Pythium thrives in waterlogged soils and is, therefore, more likely to strike plants sitting in water for extended periods.

The most common symptoms of Pythium root rot include a sudden wilting and yellowing of leaves, often accompanied by a noticeable soggy appearance of roots. The roots may turn from light brown to black and become soft and almost mushy. When examining the roots, if you notice a slimy feel and a foul smell, these are tell-tale signs of Pythium infection.

Swift action must be taken to halt the progression of Pythium root rot and save your Pothos plant from further damage.

Steps to Treat Root Rot in Pothos

Steps to Treat Root Rot in Pothos

Treating root rot in Pothos can be challenging, but with the right approach, you can nurse your plant back to health. The treatment process involves several critical steps to halt the disease and promote healthy growth. Now, let's take a closer look at each of these steps.

Removing the Infected Plant from its Current Soil

The first step in treating root rot is isolating the infected plant from its current soil. This is crucial to prevent the spread of the fungal pathogens to other parts of the plant and nearby plants as well. So, here's how to do it:

  1. Start by gently loosening the soil around the plant. Be cautious not to damage the roots further.
  2. Carefully lift the plant out of the pot or planter.
  3. Examine the roots and remove the affected parts using a pair of clean, sharp pruning shears. Make sure to sterilize the shears before and after to prevent further contamination.
  4. Dispose of the infected soil properly without reusing it for other plants.
  5. Clean the pot thoroughly with a bleach solution to kill any remaining pathogens. Allow it to dry completely before replanting.

Washing the Roots

Once you've removed the affected plant and gotten rid of any infected soil, the next step is to wash the roots thoroughly. This helps to remove any lingering pathogens and provides a clean start for the plant. Here's how you should proceed:

  1. Use lukewarm water to wash away the remaining soil from the roots gently. Be careful not to damage the roots in the process.
  2. Inspect the roots again. If you spot any additional infected areas that you missed earlier, cut them off.
  3. Once clean, pat the roots dry with a clean towel. This helps to minimize moisture, which can encourage fungal growth.
  4. If the infection is severe, you may wish to soak the roots in a fungicide solution for added protection before replanting. Make sure to follow the product instructions properly.

Read More: Root Rot in Orchids

Pruning the Infected Roots

After washing the roots, the next crucial step in the treatment process is to prune the infected roots. Pruning helps to prevent the disease from spreading further up into the plant. Follow these steps to effectively prune your plant:

  1. Identify the infected roots: They will be discolored (often a dark brown or black) and may be soft or mushy.
  2. Using a sterilized pair of gardening shears, cut off the infected roots. Aim to cut at least an inch above the infected area to ensure you've removed all parts of the disease.
  3. Dispose of the pruned roots properly. Do not compost infected plant material, as the disease can survive in compost and infect other plants.
  4. Sterilize your gardening tools after pruning to prevent the spread of the disease to other plants.

Replanting in New, Well-Draining Soil

After removing, washing, and pruning the roots, the final step in treating root rot in Pothos is to replant in new, well-draining soil. This is critical in preventing future root rot, as soggy, water-logged soil is a primary cause of the disease.

  1. Select a potting mix that is well-draining. A mixture of equal parts peat moss, perlite, and coarse sand can be a good choice. The goal is to provide a medium that holds enough moisture for the roots to absorb but drains excess water to prevent waterlogging.
  2. Choose a clean pot with sufficient drainage holes. This allows excess water to escape, reducing the chance of water accumulating at the bottom.
  3. Place a layer of new soil at the bottom of the pot. Then, position the Pothos plant in the center and carefully add more soil around the roots, ensuring they are fully covered but not overly packed.
  4. Water the newly potted plant until water runs out of the drainage holes, indicating that the soil is thoroughly moistened.

Moving forward, remember to water your Pothos plant appropriately. Overwatering is a common mistake that can lead to root rot. Always check the top inch of soil before watering — if it's dry, it's time to water; if it's still damp, wait a little longer. With proper care and attention, your Pothos should recover from root rot and return to its lush, vibrant state.

Implementing Preventative Measures

Prevention is always better than cure, especially concerning diseases like root rot in Pothos plants. Implementing preventative measures can help you maintain the health of your Pothos and prevent future occurrences of root rot. Here are some effective preventative strategies:

  1. Watering Carefully: Overwatering is one of the main causes of root rot. Always check your plant's moisture level before watering. If the top inch of soil is still moist, wait before watering again.
  2. Good Drainage: Ensure the pot has sufficient drainage holes to prevent water from accumulating.
  3. Use of Sterilized Potting Mix: Always use a sterilized potting mix, as it is free from pathogens that could cause root rot.
  4. Regular Inspection: Regularly inspect your plants for any signs of disease. Early detection can prevent the spread of root rot.

By following these measures, you can create an environment where your Pothos can thrive and stay disease-free. Remember, a healthy plant is a happy plant!

Tips to Prevent Root Rot in Pothos

Tips to Prevent Root Rot in Pothos

Taking care of your Pothos plant doesn't stop after you've successfully treated root rot. To ensure your plant continues to thrive and stay healthy, you must focus on three key areas:

  • Ensuring Proper Watering

Watering is a crucial aspect of plant care but is also a common cause of problems like root rot. The key is to understand your Pothos plant's watering needs. Typically, it's best to let the top inch of soil dry out between watering sessions. Overwatering can easily lead to waterlogged soil and subsequent root rot.

  • Choosing the Right Soil

The soil you use can greatly affect the health of your plants. For Pothos, well-draining soil is essential to avoid water retention. A mix of equal parts peat moss, perlite, and coarse sand has been found to work well. Healthy soil retains enough moisture for the plant but drains off any excess, reducing the risk of root rot.

  • Regular Inspection for Early Detection

Regularly inspecting your plants allows for early detection of any potential problems. Check your pothos leaves and roots regularly for any signs of disease. Early detection of symptoms like yellowing leaves or dark, mushy roots can save your plant from severe damage by root rot. Remember, the sooner you identify and treat the disease, the better the chances of your plant's recovery.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you identify root rot in pothos?

Identifying root rot in Pothos involves examining the plant's above-ground parts and root system. The first signs usually appear on the leaves, which may turn yellow or brown, wilt, or fall off. A closer look at the roots often reveals a more concerning picture, with discolored (brown/black), soft, or mushy roots indicating probable root rot.

How do you identify and treat root rot?

To identify root rot, look closely at your plant's root system. Healthy roots are typically white or light brown and firm to the touch. However, if the roots are dark in color, soft or mushy, or smell foul, these are strong indications of root rot. Treating root rot involves removing the plant from its soil, washing the roots, trimming away the infected parts, and replanting in fresh, well-draining soil.

Can you save pothos from root rot?

Yes, you can save a Pothos plant from root rot by acting swiftly and giving it the proper care. It involves removing the plant from the pot, trimming the affected roots, and replanting it in fresh, well-draining soil. Regular monitoring and appropriate watering are also crucial to helping the plant recover and preventing future occurrences.

What fungicide is used for pothos plants?

For treating root rot in Pothos plants, fungicides containing active ingredients like mefenoxam or fosetyl-Al can be effective. These fungicides work by inhibiting the growth of the fungi responsible for root rot, thereby helping the plant recover. Always remember to follow the manufacturer's instructions when applying any fungicide.


Proper care and preventative measures are essential in maintaining the health of your Pothos plant and preventing diseases like root rot. By following the guidelines outlined in this article — ensuring proper watering, choosing the right soil, regularly inspecting for early detection, and implementing effective treatments when needed — you can enjoy your Pothos plant's lush, vibrant beauty for years to come. Remember, a happy plant is a sign of a happy gardener.


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