Why Are My Pothos Leaves Turning White? 8 Causes & Solutions

If you are a new plant parent, pothos is a perfect choice for you for its bright green or variegated leaves and lush appearance with a tropical vibe. They are known as easy-growing plants, but you would still face challenges. 

You might witness your pothos leaves become pale yellow or even white. Before you start panicking, keep reading because white leaves are a common problem with pothos, and in most cases, you can save your plant. The first step is to detect the cause.

Follow this “pothos leaves turning white” guide to help identify any potential issues and how to save your plant.

White Leaves on Pothos Plants Can be Normal

snow queen pothos plant leaf

There are many variegated forms of pothos plants. Some Epipremnum Aureum varieties have white patches, or even almost whole leaves are white.

Before you start to treat your plant, you can try next:

Check Out What Variety You Have

Varieties such as Marble Queen pothos, Tricolor, Neon, Manjula, Glacier, or Albo-Variegata Pothos have more or less white-colored leaves.

Determine the Overall Health 

If the leaves are firm and healthy-looking, without traces of pests, and the soil has a pleasant smell, without molds or salt buildups, your plant is probably fine. 

When your pothos plant leaves suddenly become pale or white, it signifies an underlying problem.

8 Reasons For Your Pothos Leaves Turning White

white pothos leaves

If you have a cultivar that is not supposed to be white, and your plant is healthy, read on to discover eight probable causes and ways to save your plant.

1. Improper Lightning

Pothos are tropical plants native to rainforests, living in the shadow of tall trees. When we grow them as houseplants, it’s best to mimic their natural conditions. 

As houseplants, pothos best thrives in indirect but bright light. Too little or too much light can cause pothos leaves to turn white.

Specific Symptoms

Plants that grow in low-light conditions become pale and leggy. If your pothos plant leaves are variegated, they will probably first lose their variegation and revert to green to compensate.

If the plant receives too much direct light, it can cause sunburn. Sunburn first affects leaves, destroying chlorophyll and leaving pale spots. Leaves become scorched and bleached out.

How to Save Your Plant

Change the Location

The ideal position for placing your pothos plants in the house is near the east-facing window. If it’s impossible, move it away from the window that provides too much direct sunlight, or use sheer curtains.

Use Artificial Lights

If you don’t have access to an east or north-facing window, you can use artificial light for growing pothos. A plant needs at least 10-12 hours of artificial light. You can gradually increase the time to 14 hours. Place growing lights 6-12 inches above the plants.

2. Temperature Stress 

Pothos plants best thrive in temperature ranges of 60-80 degrees F (15-29 degrees C). 

Specific Symptoms

Temperature stress can lead to the development of white leaves. In more severe cases, when the temperatures are below 50 or above 90 degrees F, the leaves will develop discoloration and wilt.

Temperature fluctuations can also cause stress to pothos plants, leading to white leaves. 

How to Save Your Plant

If your pothos plants’ leaves have turned white due to temperature stress, move the plant to a place without temperature changes and remove damaged leaves. It can help prevent further damage. 

Choose a place away from cold drafts, doors, windows you open frequently, radiators, and other heat sources.

3. Overwatering

watering pothos plants by a window.

Specific Symptoms 

When you overwater a pothos the stems and leaves become pale yellow or white, soft, and mushy. The soil has an unpleasant, rotting smell. When you dig roots, they are watery and dark, later decaying, and almost non-existent.

How to Save Your Plant

You can remove damaged roots, repot a plant in fresh soil, and avoid watering for some time.

To prevent root rot, allow the top layer of the soil to dry out before watering the plant again. You can check the moisture level with your finger, sticking it in the substrate. 

The pot must have drainage holes so that excess water can drain out. If a plate is underneath, empty it regularly, and don’t allow your plant to sit in water. 

4. Underwatering

Specific Symptoms

Unlike overwatered plants, leaves are dry and crispy. Underwatering for a prolonged period can cause the leaves to turn brown and fall off.

How to Save Your Plant

To avoid underwatering, don’t wait too long and water the plant when the top inch of the soil feels dry. During the warmer months, water your plant thoroughly until water starts to drain out.

Water frequency depends also depends on the type of soil.

5. Wrong Soil

Using the wrong type of soil for pothos plants can lead to the development of white leaves due to various factors. 

How the Soil Type Affects the Plant

Little girl showing the best soil for pothos plants.
Soil Is Too Heavy or Dense

Heavy soils usually have high amounts of clay and can hold onto excess moisture and cause the roots to become waterlogged. This can result in poor oxygenation and nutrient uptake, leading to stress on the plant and eventual discoloration of the leaves.

Soil Is Too Light or Loose

Those are soils rich in sand, and they may not hold onto enough moisture and nutrients for the plant to thrive. This can lead to dehydration and malnutrition, which can also cause the leaves to turn white or pale. Can also happen when too much perlite is added to your potting mix.

Too Acidic or Alkaline Soil 

Soil pH affects the availability of nutrients. If the pH is too far outside of the optimal range for the plant, it may not be able to absorb the necessary nutrients to maintain healthy green leaves.

How to Save your Plant

To prevent these issues, it’s important to use a high-quality potting mix designed explicitly for houseplants. Ensure that the pH of the soil is within the appropriate range for pothos plants – 6-6.5 (1).

If you’re still unsure, read our guide to creating the best soil for pothos plants.

6. Nutrient Deficiencies

yellow pothos leaves

Specific Symptoms

Insufficient nitrogen, magnesium, potassium, or iron can produce white or yellow leaves. Those elements are involved in building chlorophyll; leaves will lose color without proper feeding.

How to Save your Plant

To address this issue, you can use a balanced liquid fertilizer every four weeks during the plant’s growing season or add slow-releasing fertilizer to the soil at the start of the growing season.

By taking these steps, you can ensure that your pothos plants have access to the nutrients they need to thrive and produce lush and colorful foliage.

7. Over-fertilizing

It’s important to avoid overfertilizing pothos plants, as they can be sensitive to excessive amounts of fertilizer. In addition, overfertilization can lead to a buildup of salts in the soil, which the plant can absorb and accumulate in its leaves.

Specific Symptoms

This accumulation of salts can cause the leaves to become discolored, turning white or yellow. Apart from white leaves, over-fertilization can also result in other symptoms in pothos plants, such as brown tips on leaves, slow growth, and even plant death in severe cases.

How to Save Your Plant

To prevent over-fertilization and avoid white leaves in your pothos plant, follow the manufacturer’s instructions while applying fertilizer, and don’t exceed the recommended dosage. It’s also best to avoid fertilizing during the winter when the plant’s growth is slower.

If your pothos plant shows signs of over-fertilization, there are two things you can do. 

  • Water the plant thoroughly, wait until excess water drain out, and repeat until the water becomes clear, or 
  • Flush the roots and repot the plant in a new pot with fresh potting mix

8. Pest and Diseases (Have a Pothos With White Spots?)

Pothoses are disease and pests-hardy plants. Still, some can cause damage and yellow or white leaves.

Mealybugs

Those tiny, white insects feed on the sap, causing damage and discoloration of the plant. They spread quickly and are pretty hard to get rid of.

You can get rid of them using alcohol and a q-tip. First, spray a plant with water, then wipe it down with alcohol and a q-tip. You may need to repeat this procedure a couple of times. If the infestation is bad, repot the plant because mealybugs lay eggs in the soil.

It’s crucial to isolate infested plants from other ones because of their quick spreading.

Spider Mites

Those are tiny arachnids, hard to spot. You can detect their presence by the small webs and yellow spots they make when feeding. Spider mites feed on plant sap, causing wilting and discoloration in rear cases of heavy infestations.

You can eliminate them by cleaning plants with water or using neem oil or horticultural soap.

Scales

Scales are insects that look like small bumps on the stems and leaves, brown colored, and can be easily mistaken for plant material. They feed on plants and cause wilting and discoloration. Sometimes, they produce honeydew, a sticky material that is a base for developing sooty mold.

Scales are invasive and could be the best to discard the severely infected plant. If you fight against them, remove visible ones manually and apply insecticide.

Powdery Mildew (White Spots on Pothos Leaves)

It is a fungal disease that commonly affects pothos plants because it thrives in the same high-humidity environment as the plant. Symptoms are white spots or a layer on a leaf’s surface that prevents photosynthesis and leads to plant discoloration and death. 

It spreads quickly to other plants, so you need to isolate affected plants. Remove all damaged leaves and stems and treat a plant with a fungicide. Improve air circulation by properly cutting and installing fans to prevent fungal diseases.

You can also apply fungicides as a preventive measure.

FAQ About White Pothos Leaves

Can a pothos plant survive with white leaves?

Chlorophyll is in charge of photosynthesis and is green, which means that white leaves are ones without chlorophyll. However, plants can survive if there are green leaves or if the white ones have at least green margins. Variegated plants usually are less robust than their green cousins.

Can Golden pothos have white leaves?

Golden pothos is usually green, with golden-yellow spots. Sometimes it can develop partly or even completely white leaves due to mutations. It is normal; those plants are healthy if there are not too many white leaves.

Is it possible for white pothos leaves to become green again?

If the leaves are yellow or white, they can’t turn green again due to stress. However, when growing in low-light conditions, variegated leaves may revert and become green again, to compensate.

Sources

  1. https://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.html?number=B1318
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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.