Steps to Save Overwatered Pothos + Underwatered: Like a Pro

Potted plants, such as pothos (Epipremnum aureum), are more susceptible to overwatering than outdoor plants. Due to the water being constrained to a pot, unable to spread out like in nature. So, don’t feel bad if it happens.

Although, you’ll want to ensure your watering is appropriate. Overwatering or underwatering can cause issues such as root rot, dead leaves, etc. But fear not; we’ll show you how to water correctly and save overwatered pothos plants.

Watering Best Practices to Avoid Overwatering

Pothos plants are tropical and require regular watering. The soil should be well-draining to help avoid overwatering. You can keep the soil moist but should ensure it isn’t soggy. These plants are susceptible to root rot if they are overwatered.

It’s best to water pothos using the ‘soak-and-dry method. First, let your plant’s topsoil dry out between waterings. Then, use your finger to test the soil, and then if it feels dry, give your plant water.

Pothos plants should be watered regularly during growing and then reduced in winter. More watering methods will be explained below.

Will Your Pothos Plant Tell You?

If you know the signs to look for, you can tell when your pothos is being overwatered before it becomes a severe problem.

An overwatered pothos will have several telltale signs of something wrong, including limp yellowing or browning leaves, brown spots or water blisters on the leaf’s foliage, soggy soil, and even fungal problems.

If there is too much water, it will fill the gaps between the soil particles. As a result, it reduces the oxygen that can get to the plant roots. If the roots don’t have enough oxygen, they will die and decay. The plant’s roots will become rotten, and your plant may start to smell.

15 Signs of Overwatering Pothos

1.) Soggy Soil

One of the most common indicators that your pothos has been overwatered is exceptionally wet and soggy soil. It shouldn’t feel wet if you stick your finger into the soil.

Another telltale sign is if excess water is seeping out from the bottom of the pot when you lift it.

2.) Yellowing Leaves

pothos leaves turning yellow and with leaf spot

One more common sign of overwatering your pothos is when the plant leaves turn yellow, especially the older leaves near the base of the plant. This is because the roots will begin to rot when they are overwatered. This causes the leaves to turn yellow around the edges and eventually all over.

If the roots are rotted, they will no longer be able to perform their functions. This will heavily affect the plant’s ability to uptake nutrients and water. If the plant isn’t getting enough nutrients, it will show in the leaves in the form of necrosis (yellowing). Moisture stress can also lead to yellowing leaves.

3.) Brown Leaves

pothos leave turning brown

If your pothos leaves are yellowing, you may also see brown spots on the leaves, which can occur on the same or new leaves.

4.) Soft or “Limp” Leaves

Another classic sign of an overwatered pothos vine. These houseplants are naturally perky, not limp or droopy, foliage.

5.) Shriveled and Mushy Appearance

If your pothos begins to look weak and mushy, it is likely your pothos is overwatered. The brown parts of the plant will feel soft and squishy when touched. These areas may also smell musty or moldy.

6.) Curling Leaves

There are a few reasons that your pothos leaves might be curling. One possibility is that you are overwatering the plant. When the leaf curls downwards, it is a sign that there is too much water and the plant cannot get the nutrients it needs. 

The lack of water transport to the leaves causes them to curl and become unhealthy.

The plant’s roots cannot transport water to all the different parts of the plant, including the leaves. 

So, the leaves curl up as a way to conserve water. This reduces the surface area of the plant and, therefore, the transpiration rate. It’s a way of adapting to drought conditions.

7.) Water Blister

It’s not uncommon for the leaves of pothos to develop water blisters or brown spots when overwatered. This is known as leaf edema, which means the plant’s roots are consuming more water than the leaves are able to. 

Therefore, causing the cells to rupture, resulting in water blisters or water-soaked brown spots. You can usually spot this on the underside of the leaf.

8.) Brown Spots

An overwatered pothos may have brown or discolored spots on the top or underside of its foliage. These discolorations feel soft and limp, which indicates that the pothos has bacterial leaf spot. If the spots feel crunchy, the problem is probably an underwatered pothos.

9.) Wrinkled Leaves

If there is excessive water, the pothos leaves will have a wrinkled appearance due to water blisters that may form. 

Leaf curling and brown leaf tips can also cause wrinkly plant foliage from overwatering. Damaged areas will always affect the overall look of the leaves.

10.) Wilting

Pothos that has been overwatered will require more work to save them than those that have been underwatered. You cannot simply add water to an overwatered plant to reverse the wilting, as you can with an underwatered plant.

The damage to the roots is so significant that the plant can no longer get the water and nutrients it needs.

11.) Root Rot

healthy pothos roots
Healthy pothos roots.

During waterlogging, the roots are the first to get affected because they serve at the frontline regarding water absorption.

If the roots of a plant are submerged in water, the oxygen supply is reduced, so the cells don’t receive enough oxygen. As a result, the energy generated through respiration declines, so plants tend to die.

12.) Smelly Odors

Pothos can only take in a certain amount of water; providing it with too much will make the water stale. Over time, the plant will start to give off a bad smell ranging from musty to rotten eggs. The smell is a sign of root rot.

13.) Fungal & Pest Problems

Pothos plants that have been overwatered are under a lot of stress, which makes them more likely to be attacked by pests and fungus. When pothos plants are weakened, it is harder for them to fight off the attackers.

14.) Soil Mildew, or Mold

If mold or mildew is on top of the soil, it is a sign that the pothos has been overwatered. This fungal growth can cover the entire soil surface or be in one area. It can even start to grow on the base of the pothos stem.

These molds probably have gotten the chance to grow because the condition is ideal. The soil is moist, there is little to no air circulation, and the temperature is warm.

15.) Fungus Gnats

If you notice an increase in fungus gnats, inspect your pothos plant for other signs of overwatering.

7 Steps to Saving An Overwatered Pothos

If you have overwatered your Golden pothos, don’t despair—it can be saved! The most important thing to do is to stop watering the plant immediately. Then, look at the plant and determine the extent of the damage.

The most effective next step is to replant it in new soil. This will enable your plant’s roots to air out and potentially revive your plant. Whether or not you can save your plant depends on how much of the root system has been impacted by root rot. 

Use these steps to treat and replant your overwatered pothos plant successfully.

3 Items You’ll Need to Gather First

Before treating your pothos for root rot, you must get some supplies. Here’s a list of three items you’ll need:

1.) Plant Pot

You may not need to repot your pothos if it has root rot from overwatering. You can try washing and disinfecting the old pot before replanting. But consider if the pot was contributing to the root rot issue. For example, the container could have had poor drainage.

A larger amount of soil takes more time to dry out, allowing bacteria to multiply. Therefore, your pot should ideally only be slightly wider than your Pothos’ clump of stems.

Inspect the base, and ensure the water can drain out of the pot. If not, the plant will likely get too much water, which can lead to problems. You may need to find a new pot with better drainage.

2.) Soil Mix

Mix some potting soil for your pothos. First, you’ll probably need to get rid of the old soil since it’s probably full of harmful bacteria. Just like with the pot, drainage is essential. A soil that absorbs and holds onto the water is more likely to give your pothos root rot.

Most commercial potting mixes hold a lot of water, which is usually not ideal for your plants. The main exceptions are specialty mixes designed for aroids, the plant family to which pothos belongs. You can also create your own mixture with peat moss, coconut coir, and perlite.

3.) Tools

You’ll need a small pruner to save an overwatered pothos, but even ordinary scissors should work if they’re sharp.

Also, get a disinfectant and a rag or microfiber cloth. You don’t want to transfer microbes from an infected root to a healthy one. Swabbing down the blades with sanitizer before every snip helps remove these microscopic hitchhikers.

For disinfectant, you could use:

  • 3% Hydrogen peroxide: Can also be used after trimming to rinse the roots (needs further dilution).
  • 9-part water to 1-part household bleach mixture.
  • 70% Isopropyl alcohol

7 Simple Steps to Follow

1.) Assess plant roots

First, you must figure out how bad the damage is by taking your plant out of its pot. This will let you see the plant’s roots, determine if root rot has set in and if you can save the plant.

2.) Reduce Watering

Immediately reduce watering if the roots seem healthy. Then, when the soil appears dry, you can water the pothos.

To determine the moisture level, push your finger 2″ into the soil. If it feels wet, wait a few more days and check again—only water when the soil feels dry.

3.) Remove soil

Remove as much soil as possible. If the soil is wet and waterlogged, it will affect the plant’s roots- throw it away. Please don’t use the soil again, as it could infect other plants.

4.) Dry Soil

Once you have determined that your plant is overwatered, you need to take action to dry out the soil. You can do this by increasing air circulation and lowering humidity around the plant. 

You should also raise the temperature slightly, as this will help to evaporate any excess moisture in the soil.

5.) Remove Rotten Roots

The roots of a pothos plant should be firm and, if cut, will look white in the middle. Rotten roots feel mushy and are black or brown inside. You can remove rotten roots by cutting them off with a sharp knife.

6.) Repot With New Soil & Fresh Pot

When it’s time to repot your pothos, use new soil and a new or freshly cleaned pot. Pothos need well-drained soil, so a light and airy mix is ideal. To help with drainage and air pockets, add a layer of stones or gravel to the bottom of the pot.

Wait one week until watering again. Letting it dry out is best. When you resume watering, be careful not to overwater your plant again.

7.) Remove Dead Leaves

Now that the plant is in a fresh pot and soil, you can remove any dead leaves.

Should You Use a Watering Schedule?

It is generally best to not rigidly adhere to a watering schedule but instead to follow the cues of your plant to determine when it needs water. 

Seasonal changes can affect how often a plant needs watering – they typically require less water in winter than in summer.

Different factors that affect how often you should water your plant include the amount of light it is getting and the temperature. For example, if the sun is shining bright, you might need to water your plant more often. 

Temperature also plays a significant role in how much water your plant needs. For example, your plant will require more water in hot temperatures than in milder and humid conditions.

Considering all factors, it is ideal for watering your plant once every one to two weeks.

Two Alternative Methods to Water Pothos

Bottom Watering Method

Although less common, this watering strategy effectively avoids excessively watering your pothos. In this case, get a large bowl or tray of water and allow your plant’s pot to sit.

Allow water to flow from the lower water tray upwards through the drainage holes until all the soil is saturated. Then, the roots will take in what they need, leaving less room for overwatering.

You can remove the pot from the water tray occasionally. Also, check the moisture levels in your plant’s soil using your finger.

Watering From Above

This is the typical watering method for pothos. Pour water over the topsoil until it starts draining out of the pot’s holes. Ensure to water the plant thoroughly each time, and allow the soil to dry between waterings.

Note: Avoid getting water on the leaves, making them more susceptible to fungal infections.

Avoid Water With High Amounts of Salt

Do not use tap water high in salt to water your pothos plant, as it can harm the roots. Use filtered water or rainwater instead. If you must use tap water, let it sit for at least 24 hours before watering your plant.

Underwatered Pothos vs. Overwatered

There are some key indicators if you need clarification on whether you have a overwatered or underwatered pothos. For example, oversaturated, wet soil is often a telltale sign of overwatering. 

Similarly, if you water your plant and it seems to revive quickly, likely, it was previously underwatered.

If your plant looks wilted and sad after you have given it extra water, it may be a case of over-watering. 

5 Signs Your Pothos Might Be Underwatered

Pothos that are underwatered will appear wilted, dry, and brown. You may also notice that the plant looks thinner or smaller.

Plants lose water through transpiration. So when plants don’t have enough water, roots must work hard to absorb moisture from the soil. 

The soil’s moisture level is a significant indication of whether a pothos is underwatered or overwatered. 

An underwatered pothos will have dry soil that may start to crumble away from the pot’s sides. Water is needed to keep cells full, so when there is a lack of water, cells shrink. 

If the drought continues for days or weeks, pothos plants will look smaller and eventually die.

1.) Crisp, Papery Leaves

If a pothos plant does not have enough water, the leaves will appear limp and feel dry and crisp to the touch. In addition, the leaves may have a thin, papery texture.

2.) Curling Leaves

Pothos leaves can curl from both overwatering and underwatering, but the leaf curling from underwatering typically appears much sooner.

3.) Check Browning Edges

You can tell if a plant needs more or less water by feeling the edge of its leaves. For example, the plant needs more water if the leaves are dry and crispy. 

The plant has too much water if the leaves are limp and soft.

4.) Brown Tips: New or Old Leaves…or Both?

The brown tips on new leaves are usually a sign of overwatering. However, old and new leaves can develop brown tips for underwatering.

5.) Slow Growth

When you underwater your pothos, it can still grow, although much more slowly than expected. As a result, when new plant leaves appear, they will be smaller than healthy pothos typically produce.

Bringing Underwatered Pothos Back to Life

To save your plant, you can water it well. You may also need to move the plant out of the sun. Pothos shouldn’t be grown in direct sunlight as too much heat, and light can cause dehydration, and the leaves may even get sunburned.

If a plant does not have enough water, it will usually get better, and the damage will start to go away after it has been watered regularly. However, if a plant has too much water, the damage can stay for a long time even after the plant has been watered properly.


What happens if I do nothing to a pothos that has been overwatered?

A pothos can recover independently, depending on how overwatered it is. If it only happened once or twice, it should be able to come back as long as you have fixed the problem. So no need to panic if you accidentally overwatered your pothos.

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Davin is a jack-of-all-trades but has professional training and experience in various home and garden subjects. He leans on other experts when needed and edits and fact-checks all articles.