Pothos Leaves Curling

What should the leaves of your pothos look like? This houseplant should have glossy, healthy, sturdy and almost straight heart shaped leaves.

Yes, they do tend to curl a bit at the very tip, and they have a slight curve, but how about when they are curling? The answer is that your pothos is not healthy.

If your pothos looks droopy or the leaves are curling, chances are your plant is underwatering. Sometimes the pothos gets so dry that when you water it, the water flows through it. If this appears to be the case, let your plant sit in the water for a few hours to get as much water from bottom to top as needed.

So, if your beloved trailing houseplant has curling leaves, just read on and you will find out both the causes and possible treatments for your ailing pothos.

Six Reasons Why Pothos Leaves Curl

Six Reasons Why Pothos Leaves Curl

If the leaves of your pothos are curling, there it may be due to one of the flowing six causes. Not all are as serious, though; some are more worrying than others

  • Underwatering is possibly the most common reason why Pothos leaves curl. It is easy to forget about this plant, which often ends up neglected on top of cupboards.
  • Temperature stress; sudden changes of temperature, too much heat and too much cold can all make your pothos curl its leaves.
  • If you fertilize your pothos excessively, its leaves may curl; being generous with feeding is not always good with plants, including with pothos.
  • Wrong light quantity and exposure; too much or too little light, direct light and in general wrong exposure can also result in curling of the leaves of your pothos.
  • Root rot; this is the most serious of all causes; it usually comes with other symptoms and it is difficult to treat.
  • Infestations; sometimes, the pests weaken the plant and it ends up curling its leaves.

Pothos Leaves Curling: Should You Worry?

If the leaves of your pothos, or Epipremnum aureum as botanists call it, curl, the first thing you need to do is assess which one is the reason for this. Once you have done that, you can choose the right treatment for the specific reason.

So, the first thing we need to do is to look at the six reasons in turn and in detail…

Pothos Leaves Curling: Is It Underwatering?


As we said, underwatering may well be the main reason why your pothos is curling its leaves. When water is scarce, the plant loses turgor, which means that the cells become flaccid, as it is the water that keeps them turgid. 

This becomes more apparent in leaves and flowers, which do not have a rigid structure as strong as stems.

But What Can You Do About It?

  • First, assess if it is underwatering, by checking that the soil is dry. Just use your finger or a skewer pick; if the soil is almost fully dry, then it is very likely the cause.
  • Do not be tempted to overwater.
  • Do not be tempted to give it cold water; when we are thirsty, cold drinks give us a sense of freshness, but when it comes to plants, sudden changes of temperature may stress them.
  • Leave the water in an open bowl or vessel for 30 minutes. This is to make it room temperature and allow chlorine to disperse in the air. Rain water would actually be better.
  • Water your pothos; you can do this from above, under the leaves.
  • Do not water again until the top 2 inches (5 cm) of soil are dry.

The answer to underwatering is watering it appropriately and regularly, it is not overwatering!

Pothos Leaves Curling: Is the Temperature Wrong?

When the leaves of your pothos curl, another common reason may be that there’s something wrong with the temperature.

Whether it is too hot, too cold or your houseplant has suffered from sudden changes of temperature, it may want to show you this by curling its leaves. Pothos has a very limited temperature range it can bear, so, be careful.

What Can You Do About It?

  • First of all, track the temperature your pothos is exposed to and eliminate other causes. You don’t have to measure it exactly unless you are a professional. It is enough to make a mental record of cold and hot moments.
  • Also, check that the temperature where you have your pothos is fairly steady day and night. It will only take you a day to realize that the temperature drops too much at night or gets too hot during the day.
  • Now, as a first measure, make sure your pothos is not near any heater, source of heat or even air conditioning vent. Unfortunately we tend to pout them on shelves near or directly on top of heaters. This is no good at all for your plant.
  • Very importantly, move your pothos to a place with a steady and mild temperature. Pothos needs to have a temperature between 60 and 85oF, which is 15 to 29oC. It is a very small bracket indeed. Anything under 50oF (10oC) will actually kill your pothos.

As a rule of thumb, always keep an eye on your pothos when the weather and season change; it is very likely to suffer from it, and curling leaves will be the first symptom.

Have You Fertilized It Too Much?

Have You Fertilized It Too Much

If you give your pothos too much fertilizer, it will have excessive nutrients, and this imbalance can cause the leaves of your houseplant to curl. Pothos do not like to feed too much, in fact they like little fertilization but regularly.

You should never fertilize your pothos more than twice a month.

What should you do if you realize that you have given your plant too much fertilizer? There are two cases:

  • You have given a bit too much feeding to your plant.
  • You have given far too much feeding to your plant. In this case, there will also be other signs, like yellowing of the leaves, abnormal growth etc.

In The First Case The Solution Is Simple:

  • Suspend feeding for a while. Start with a month, and see if the plant recovers.
  • When the plant recovers, restart feeding but with reduced doses.
  • Then, slowly increase the dose till you get to a normal regime.

In Case There Are Other Signs, And The Plant Is Suffering Severely, You Will Need Some Drastic Action:

  • First of all, uproot your pothos.
  • Next, remove all the soil from the roots.
  • To finish this, use a soft brush to clean the roots.
  • Finally, repot your pothos into new, well drained potting soil.

After you have done this, wait before you fertilize it again; there may still be excessive nutrients attached to the roots.

Pothos Leaves Curling: Is the Light Wrong?

Is the Light Wrong (1)

Pothos is very sensitive to light exposure as a houseplant. In a way, it will tolerate moderate light, but it will not stand direct light indoors. If outdoors, partly shaded areas are best indicated.

The fact is that pothos is a plant coming from a specific island, called Mo’orea in French Polynesia, which is covered in rich forests that shade it from direct sunlight. The leaves can easily burn if exposed to direct light, especially indoors.

On the other hand, just because of its resilience to dimly lit places, people tend to put it in corners or on top of shelves and cupboards where the light is actually too low.So, the first thing you need to find out is whether the light is too much or too little. You can do it using common sense, but if you want a test, check how the leaves behave:

  • If the leaves of your pothos stretch towards the light source, then the place is too dark.
  • If the leaves of your pothos curl away from the light source, then the place is too bright.

The solution is simple: Move your pothos where there is more or less light accordingly.

In any case, never expose your pothos to direct light indoors. Plenty is fine, but only if diffuse and indirect.

Pothos Leaves Curling: Is It Root Rot?

Is It Root Rot

Root rot can cause the leaves of your pothos to curl as well.

However, this ailment also causes many other symptoms, including rotting at the base of the stem, the leaves will also yellow, with an unhealthy shade of this color; then its leaves eventually turn dark brown and rot.

Root rot is a very, very serious problem: the life of your pothos is at risk!

So, take this seriously and try to act as fast as possible.

Here is what you need to do. It is an operation better done after sunset, and you will find out why in a second…

  • Get yourself a new pot and new potting soil.
  • Uproot the pothos.
  • Using a soft brush, clean all the soil from the plant’s roots.
  • Sterilize a sharp blade (like a grafting knife) with alcohol and cut all the rotting roots. Better be safe than sorry at this stage. Absolutely make sure you only leave healthy tissue on the roots of your plant.
  • Using the sterile blade, remove all the rotting leaves and stems.
  • Take some organic sulphur powder and sprinkle it on the roots, making sure all the wounds are covered. This is necessary to prevent the bacteria that cause root rot from spreading to the other roots and rest of the plant.
  • Leave the pothos in a cool, shaded and ventilated place for a few hours. On this point, you may want to do this in the evening and leave your pothos out at night. This is because you want to allow the sulphur to kill the bacteria, but you don’t want to stress the plant. At night, it is not only cooler, but the plant has a slower metabolism, and it will suffer less.
  • Repot your pothos in the new pot and new potting soil.

Keep an eye on your pothos after you have repotted it; this is a major treatment, and you will need to make sure it is recovering well.

Pothos Leaves Curling: Is It an Infestation?

Sometimes, insects and pests cause plants to lose energy and this makes them curl their leaves. It happens with pothos too.

Especially pests that suck the sap out of your plant can cause it to weaken, and the first signs will be leaves that droop or curl.

The best way to go about this is to prevent it; of course, a balanced ecosystem is the ideal answer, but this is very hard to obtain indoors. But there are other ways of preventing this from happening:

  • Use essential oils that repel pests; you can put a few drops of a piece of wood (a pine bark chip will do) in the pot. String ones are peppermint, thyme and spearmint. Peppermint is the most general one; very few insects can stand it.
  • Keep checking the leaves and stems of your plant; do check in particular under the leaves.
  • Avoid places that are too humid or badly ventilated; these will encourage pests.
  • A potpourri of strong aromas will perfume your room and discourage pests.

If it is too late for prevention, keep it in mind for after the treatment. However, there are very easy home remedies like neem oil or even soap water, or, if you prefer, garlic water, to get rid of pests, depending on the species.

Garlic water is a strong repellant, and it will work with most pests; don’t worry, your pothos will not stink of garlic for long.

We Humans can only smell it for 24 hours after applying it, and then only animals, who have a much better sense of smell, will be able to.

It is so effective that it is the only pest control system used for the amazing rose garden of in Buckingham Palace.

  • Fill a spray bottle with water.
  • Crush a few cloves of garlic and put them in.
  • Leave the garlic in the water for one or two days.
  • Take your pothos outside (on a balcony, terrace or in your garden).
  • Spray your pothos abundantly.
  • Bring the pothos back indoors after 24 hours.

If you want to make it even stronger, just add a chili pepper with the garlic.

If you have pests that need to stick to the plant, it is easy to get rid of them by using soap water. This makes it impossible for them to hold on to the plant.

  • Take a bar of natural soap and grate it into a bowl of water.
  • Heat the water to melt the soap.
  • Let it cool.
  • Fill a spray bottle.
  • Generously spray your pothos.

Repeat after a week or two if necessary.

With some very strong pests, however, like mites, you may need to use a natural insecticide. The most common one is neem oil.

  • Take a cloth and dip it in neem oil.
  • Rub the whole plant carefully, in particular under the leaves.

That’s it. This, I will remind you, is not necessary with most pests, only very hard ones, and, in any case, it is also a repellant, so, you can do it to prevent infestations, which is always better.

Pothos Leaves: Are They Perking Up?

Pothos is a very sensitive plant in many respects. Funny because people only look at it as a low maintenance plant, which is true.

The point is that it requires very little care as long as some conditions (feeding, watering, light and temperature) are right.

Once you get these right, your pothos will be no hassle at all. Still, remember to check on its leaves regularly, because if they curl, something is not right…

Whether it is too much feeding, underwatering, wrong light or temperature, an infestation or even root rot, if it curls its leave it’s because it is asking you for help.

Amber Noyes

Written By

Amber Noyes

Amber Noyes was born and raised in a suburban California town, San Mateo. She holds a master’s degree in horticulture from the University of California as well as a BS in Biology from the University of San Francisco. With experience working on an organic farm, water conservation research, farmers’ markets, and plant nursery, she understands what makes plants thrive and how we can better understand the connection between microclimate and plant health. When she’s not on the land, Amber loves informing people of new ideas/things related to gardening, especially organic gardening, houseplants, and growing plants in a small space.

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