Pothos Roots ~ Keep Them Healthy & How to Fix Damaged Roots

Maintaining your pothos (Epipremnum Aureum) houseplant’s health mainly depends on the roots. But, unfortunately, it’s not easy to know how your pothos roots are doing beneath the soil’s surface. So, how can you ensure your plant’s roots are strong and healthy and fix them if they’re damaged?

We will cover the basics of pothos roots, including how to prevent problems from arising and what to do if they do. You’ll clearly understand how to keep your pothos roots healthy.

First: Knowing If Your Pothos Roots Are Healthy

pothos roots growing out of nodes

Have you ever wondered what healthy pothos roots look like? Well, they should be white or slightly yellow-brown in color. The width of the roots may vary, with the oldest roots being larger.

When you tug on them, healthy roots feel firm and somewhat springy. Additionally, they should be widely dispersed throughout the soil. While some root tangling is typical, plenty of potting soil should be mixed with the roots.

Sometimes, your pothos plant’s roots grow above the soil surface. These are called aerial roots and are really important for the plant. Aerial roots help the plant cling to various surfaces as it grows, like trees and stones. Although indoor plants will use coir or moss poles.

Aerial roots help the plant pull oxygen from the air, along with water vapor. So, it’s essential to refrain from pruning these roots! In addition, aerial roots are usually darker in color than the plant’s underground roots, so they’re easy to spot.

Pothos Root Rot & How to Treat It

pothos leaves turning yellow and with leaf spot

Devil’s Ivy plants are a popular indoor houseplant that can thrive for up to a decade if grown in the right conditions. Unfortunately, they are also prone to Phytophthora root rot ¹, which can be fatal if left untreated.

But don’t despair! With these five simple steps, you can treat pothos root rot like a pro and save your plant’s life.

Step 1: Remove the pothos from its pot. Be gentle when removing the plant from its container, supporting the stem base and tapping the container to loosen the soil. If the soil is compacted, use a sterilized knife, shears, or sharp scissors to separate the soil edges from the pot.

Step 2: Prune the infected areas. Identify and remove the infected roots and any dead or decaying foliage. Sterilize your pruning tools between each cut to prevent fungal spores from spreading.

Step 3: Remove excess soil. Shake the pothos gently to remove excess damp soil, and carefully loosen the roots to remove any additional soil if necessary. Rinse the roots to remove stubborn soil.

Step 4: Disinfect the roots. Soak the roots in a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water, or use a fungicide such as a neem oil or warm, soapy water. This will help eliminate any bacteria or fungi causing the root rot.

Step 5: Re-pot the pothos. Plant the pothos in a sterilized pot with fresh soil to prevent reinfection. Let the soil dry out completely before watering the plant.

So if you notice your pothos suffering from root rot, don’t give up hope. Instead, follow these five simple steps to save your plant from certain death!

What Do Fuzzy Pothos Roots Mean?

If you see a thin layer of fuzzy substance on your Pothos plant’s aerial roots, don’t panic. This fuzz is a natural occurrence that helps the roots pull in moisture and helps the pothos climb vertically. 

In the wild, aerial roots are designed to cling to rocks and trees, and this fuzzy substance, which looks like plant hair, assists them.

However, this fluff could also be mold, so further investigation is essential. You can wipe the roots to see if the fuzz comes off easily (use a Q-tip or paper towel). 

If it doesn’t, then it might be harmless root hairs. But if it’s mold, you’ll need to check the soil’s moisture level, as it may be too wet. Additionally, look for brown or black spots on the stems or leaves, which can signify root rot.

What About Space: Do Pothos Like Being Rootbound?

showing a rootbound pothos plant

These houseplants can tolerate being slightly rootbound, but the last thing you want is to have your pothos completely rootbound. Pothos need space to grow and thrive. 

If you keep your pothos in a pot that’s too small, you’ll know it’s unhappy because its leaves will turn yellow or pale, and its stems may droop.

When pothos’ roots are confined, they become matted and tangled. This can cause problems for the plant because it may not get enough water and nutrients. However, the main issue with root-bound plants is slow growth, leading to more significant problems that could ultimately kill your plant.

Some plants, such as Aloe, Spider, and Snake plants, have adapted to survive in dry climates and don’t mind being rootbound. However, pothos plants are different. 

Determining If Your Pothos is Rootbound

a rootbound cebu blue pothos plant

If your pothos plant is not growing despite having sufficient sunlight, water, and fertilizer, it could be a sign of root binding. The leaves may also begin to wilt, but these symptoms are not always a surefire sign. They could also be the result of issues like over-fertilization or low humidity.

However, a more alarming symptom of root binding is a pot that cannot hold water. This is because as Pothos roots grow, they may take up all the space in the container, leaving very little soil to absorb water. Therefore, if you notice water not draining to the bottom of the container immediately after watering, it is a strong indication of root binding.

But the most effective way to confirm root binding is to check the roots themselves. The roots appear coiled together like a rat’s nest if the roots are bound. 

So, to prevent root binding in your pothos, watch for these symptoms and provide regular maintenance to keep your plant healthy and happy.

Repotting, or Not?

Little girl showing the best soil for pothos plants.

When your plant has outgrown its container, there are two options to fix it. The easier option is to move it into a bigger pot about 2 inches wider in diameter than the current one. However, choose a slightly bigger container if the roots are severely tangled. And remember to ensure it has the proper drainage holes.

First, prepare a loose and airy potting mix, which we will cover in more detail below. Then, dampen the mixture slightly, like a wrung-out rag. Then, add soil to the bottom third of the new container.

Gently separate the roots of your pothos, making room for them to spread out. Don’t worry about evenly distributing them, as it’s unnecessary and may cause damage. Finally, plant your pothos in its new pot, burying the roots.

After repotting pothos, your plant may slump for a few weeks. It’s normal because the roots need time to adjust after being disturbed. Keep the plant out of direct sunlight, don’t fertilize it immediately, and be careful not to overwater it. 

Your plant will also appreciate if you maintain high humidity levels at this time too.

Don’t Want to Repot? Prune The Roots!

So, you have a root-bound Pothos and are not too keen on repotting it into a larger container. Well, there’s another solution, which may sound strange, but it involves pruning your plant’s roots.

Believe it or not, root pruning can be beneficial for your pothos. It will help keep the plant manageable and prevent the roots from getting too tangled. 

To do this, you’ll need a serrated garden knife and some rubbing alcohol or bleach solution to sterilize it.

Start by removing the plant from its container and turning it upside down. Hold onto the stems firmly and cut off the bottom third of the root ball. Don’t worry; this won’t harm your plant. You can then place it back in the same container or give it a new pot with fresh soil.

You can repeat this process every other year instead of repotting into a larger container. However, it’s best to do this in early spring when the days are getting longer, as your plant will recover faster. 

Give it the same care and attention you would after repotting and watch it thrive. It may feel strange initially, but with practice, it will become a regular part of your plant care routine.

The Importance of Potting Soil to Root Development

holding a rare pothos plant variety

It’s essential to give your pothos roots enough oxygen as well. Good potting soil should be loose enough to allow for proper airflow. Overwatering can lead to the roots being cut off from oxygen, so it’s important to water only until the soil dries up.

Choosing the best potting soil for pothos is also essential. A light, aerated material should make up the bulk of the potting soil, with more porous materials added for moisture retention. 

Many professional horticulturists recommend a pothos soil mixture containing 30% coconut coir, 20% orchid bark, 40% perlite, and 10% vermiculite (worm castings) for the best results. 

FAQ

My pothos plants’ roots are severely rotten; what should I do?

We recommend following the above steps to remove the root rot and propagate your pothos by trimming some vines and creating new plants. Then, if the damaged plant dies, you still have a plant/s. You can grow the pothos cutting in fresh potting soil, water, or LECA.

How do pothos roots grow?

Pothos plants are impressive; their roots emerge from nodes inside their stems. Once put in soil or water, they will start to grow roots.

References

1: PP340/PP340: Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) Diseases: Identification and Control in Commercial Greenhouse Production. (n.d.). PP340/PP340: Pothos (Epipremnum Aureum) Diseases: Identification and Control in Commercial Greenhouse Production. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/PP340

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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.