The popular Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) is a vigorous plant with waxy, heart-shaped leaves and stems that cascade over a pot or climb up a moss pole with aerial roots. But something has gone wrong when it loses vigor and droops with wilted, yellowing leaves that sometimes fall off. So you might ask yourself, “why is my pothos droopy?” What can you do to fix it?
To keep it happy, you need to mimic your plant’s native conditions as much as possible.
Pothos plants come from the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific, running along the ground or climbing up trees to a length of 40 feet. Their native environment is warm and humid with periodic rainfall, so they need 65-85-degree temperatures, 40%-70% humidity, and just the right amount of water.
While most households can provide adequate temperature and humidity for these plants, watering too much or too little can be a problem. Pothos only need to be watered when the soil is dry down an inch or two from the top.
The Two Primary Causes of Droopy Pothos
Overwatering occurs when the soil is not allowed to dry out. It can happen when the pot doesn’t have a drainage hole, and the roots sit in water. It can also occur when pothos plants are watered too frequently, and the soil can’t dry out, even if the pot has a drainage hole.
Soil is a structure of solids and air spaces. When the small air pockets in the soil are filled with water, and it doesn’t drain, no air can get to the roots.
They can’t breathe, and root rot, a fungal infection, will set in if the situation isn’t remedied. This can cause the plant to droop, its leaves to turn yellow, and the plant to eventually die.
If your pothos is droopy and its soil is soggy, it’s probably been overwatered. Gently pull the plant and its roots out of the pot, shake the soil off, and wash the roots so you can get a good look at them.
Healthy roots should be firm and white. If the roots are black and smelly, they have begun to rot (root rot).
Cut the black roots off and then prune the plant back with clean shears in proportion to how much you’ve cut the roots (one-half of the roots/one-half of the foliage).
Scrub the pot, then disinfect it with bleach to eliminate any remaining infection.
Dip the roots in an antifungal preparation such as Neem oil, and repot the plant in a fresh, well-draining potting mix. Water it well, then allow the soil to dry down an inch or two from the top before watering again.
Underwatering occurs when the soil is allowed to dry out completely, the plant’s tissues lose their stiffness, and the stems and foliage wilt. In this case, the best thing to do is give the soil a good soaking.
It’s essential to do this right since some soils, like those with a high peat content, can become hydrophobic, meaning they won’t readily absorb water.
Encourage the soil to absorb water and allow the roots to draw it up and replenish the plant’s tissues by setting the pot in a tray or sink of 2-3 inches of tepid water for an hour or two.
When the soil is soaked up to about half an inch from the top, you can water it from the top to complete the treatment.
After the soil is thoroughly soaked, let it drain out of the holes, and make sure to discard any excess water that drips out.
5 Other Causes of Drooping Pothos
If you’re sure that your pothos is not overwatered or underwatered, other factors can cause it to have droopy leaves. For example, low humidity, too much direct sun, a rootbound pot, recent repotting, and pests can all contribute to a limp, droopy plant.
1.) Low Humidity
Average household humidity (40% -60%) should be OK for pothos, but humidity levels can drop to around 30% in the winter when the heat is on.
Since they are tropical plants that naturally thrive in humid environments, low humidity levels can stress the plant and cause it to droop. Raising the humidity is an easy fix.
You can set the pot on a tray with pebbles (pebble tray) and water, making sure that the pot is above the water line. The water will evaporate around the plant, boosting the humidity.
You can also use a humidifier if you have one, and giving your plant a daily misting will help. In addition, grouping your plants together will benefit them since they continuously release water vapor through their stomata (pores).
2.) Direct Sun
In their native habitat, pothos lives in dappled sunlight or bright shade. Too much direct sunlight will burn pothos leaves, so place your plant in bright, indirect light out of the sun’s direct rays.
3.) Rootbound Pot
When too many roots crowd together in a pot, it’s difficult for them to absorb water, and the soil becomes depleted of nutrients. This can cause yellow leaves that drop.
To fix this, gently pull the plant and its soil out of the pot. If the roots are crowded, circling the soil, and growing out of the drainage holes, they are rootbound and need a bigger pot.
Loosen the roots and replant them in a pot one size larger than the current one.
4.) Recent Repotting
After repotting, pothos plants have to adjust to a new soil environment and grow new roots. This can cause it to droop and possibly lose some leaves. But don’t worry – this will be a temporary problem, and your plant should recover after a few weeks.
Pothos are susceptible to disease and pests, such as aphids, whiteflies, spider mites, scale, mealybugs, thrips, and fungus gnats, any of which can cause the plant to droop.
If you notice critters on your plant, run water over the foliage to remove as many insects as possible. Then wipe the leaves and stems with rubbing alcohol to kill any remaining pests, and treat with insecticidal soap, Neem oil, or horticultural oil.
Pesky fungus gnats need a different treatment altogether. They lay their eggs in the soil, and larvae chew on the plant’s roots when they hatch. Then, adult gnats emerge from the soil and buzz around the plant.
To kill the larva, add one part 3% hydrogen peroxide to four parts water and pour it through the soil. It won’t hurt the plant, and you may need to repeat this treatment when the plant is ready to be watered again.
Catch the flying adults with sticky traps so they can’t continue laying eggs in the soil. An alternative fix is to rinse the roots with the hydrogen peroxide solution and completely change the soil in the pot.
If you discover any pests, quarantine your infested plant ASAP so the critters won’t take up residence in the rest of your houseplants.
Nancy has been a plant person from an early age. That interest blossomed into a bachelor’s in biology from Elmira College and a master’s degree in horticulture and communications from the University of Kentucky. Nancy worked in plant taxonomy at the University of Florida and the L. H. Bailey Hortorium at Cornell University, and wrote and edited gardening books at Rodale Press in Emmaus, PA. Her interests are plant identification, gardening, hiking, and reading.