8 Reasons for a Pothos Vine With No Leaves & Easy Solutions

Do you dream of a lush pothos plant (Devil’s ivy) winding through your living spaces, purifying the air, and adding natural beauty? These adaptable plants thrive in most homes, but what if they start losing leaves, leaving behind bare vines? 

Fear not! Here are eight causes and solutions to restore your pothos to its former glory.

Why Pothos Vine With No Leaves

Leafless pothos vines may result from inadequate light, imbalanced watering, nutrient deficiencies, or pests. To promote leaf growth, provide proper lighting, balanced watering, essential nutrients, and monitor for pests, ensuring a healthy and attractive pothos plant.

The 8 Reasons Explained In-Depth

Despite their hardiness and versatility, pothos plants can still face some common issues that result in leaf loss. These problems include:

  1. Not pruning 
  2. Nutrient deficiency
  3. Overwatering 
  4. Pest infestations
  5. Inadequate light
  6. Temperature and humidity
  7. Root bound
  8. Diseases

By addressing these issues, you’ll encourage bushier, healthier pothos plants.

Problem 1: Not Pruning

showing pothos pruning with scissors

People often think because pothos is so hardy, they don’t need any maintenance. But, these plants need regular pruning to maintain their best appearance. Pruning prevents the plant from becoming “leggy” and encourages fuller growth near the base.

Solution: Pruning Your Pothos

Prune your pothos plant to promote new leaf growth. Use sanitized gardening shears or scissors and cut the vine just below a node, as close to the base as desired. 

You can even propagate the cuttings to create new pothos plants. Which is not as difficult as it may seem. Pothos propagation can be completed quickly and easily.

Just cut off a stem-cutting around 3-4″ in length and has at least one node. Then, you can put the pothos cutting in soil or a jar of water to grow new roots. No rooting hormone is required.

Problem 2: Nutrient Deficiency

pothos plant leaves turning yellow

Pothos plants are generally low-maintenance but may suffer from nutrient deficiencies if potted for a long time. Yellowing or pale leaves on the vine indicate a nutrient deficiency.

Solution: Fertilize Your Pothos

Fertilize your pothos with diluted liquid fish or kelp fertilizer once or twice a month, or add a slow-release granular fertilizer or high-quality compost when repotting. These additional nutrients will boost growth and increase leaf size on trailing vines. However, be cautious not to over-fertilize; always dilute liquid fertilizers before application.

Problem 3: Overwatering

watering pothos plants by a window.

Overwatering is a common issue with houseplants, and pothos is no exception. Too much water leads to root rot, leaf loss, and potentially killing the plant. Signs of overwatering include drooping, yellowing growth, and leafless vines.

Solution: Improve Drainage and Repot

Ensure proper drainage by repotting the pothos in a larger container with drainage holes. Use a well-draining soil mix (perlite offers good drainage) and avoid compacting the soil. Water only when the top 2-3 inches of soil are dry.

Problem 4: Pest Infestation

scale on pothos plant

Pests such as mealybugs, scale insects, and spider mites can damage your pothos plants, causing leaves to fall off and vines to appear lifeless.

Solution: Treat Pests Effectively

  1. Mealybugs: Wipe the leaves clean or spray them with a weak neem oil solution to kill and repel mealybugs.
  2. Scale: Scrape off scales’ hard brown growths with a fingernail or knife and then wipe the area with a diluted neem oil solution.
  3. Spider mites: Bring the plant outside and spray the leaves with a gentle water flow to dislodge the mites.

Problem 5: Inadequate Light

pothos plant living outside

Significant gaps between your pothos leaves indicate your plant is not getting enough light. Pothos can survive in low-light conditions but still require a good amount of indirect sunlight.

If the plant is all vine and has few leaves, it needs to get more light.

Solution: Move to a Brighter Spot

Pothos survive in low-light conditions but still require 4-8 hours of bright indirect light daily. So, if your plant is getting less than that, locate it closer to a window, but avoid direct sunlight. If needed, use an LED grow light to supplement. Be patient, as seeing new growth may take a month or two.

Note: Variegated varieties of pothos, such as Marble Queen, will need more sunlight than an all-green cultivar, such as Neon pothos. This is because the variegation blocks some of the sunlight, preventing photosynthesis. 

Problem 6: Temperature & Humidity

pothos mist on leaves

Pothos plants thrive in temperatures ranging from 60°F to 80°F (15°C to 27°C). However, extreme temperature fluctuations or exposure to drafts and cold can cause leaf drop. 

Humidity also plays a vital role in the health of your pothos plant. These tropical plants prefer moderate to high humidity levels, between 40-60%. Low humidity can lead to brown leaf tips and reduced growth. 

Solutions

Maintain a consistent temperature to keep your pothos healthy. Keep away from any drafty areas or HVAC vents.

To increase humidity around your pothos:

  • Use a humidifier
  • Place a tray or saucer filled with pebbles and water beneath the pot, ensuring that the pot doesn’t sit in the water directly

Note: Avoid misting. Read our Article: Should I mist my pothos plant?

Problem 7Repotting: Addressing Root-Bound Pothos

Little girl showing the best soil for pothos plants.

Pothos plants may become root-bound, leading to poor growth and leaf loss. First, check your plant’s roots for signs of being root-bound by gently removing the plant from its pot. If the roots are densely tangled and wrapping around the pot, it’s time to repot.

Solution

Repot your pothos into a container one or two sizes larger with fresh, well-draining soil. Loosen the root ball gently before placing it into the new pot. Water the plant thoroughly and put it in a bright, indirect light location.

Problem 8: Disease Prevention: Protecting from Infections

pothos brown stems up close in a pot

Bacterial and fungal infections can affect pothos plants, causing leaf yellowing, wilting, and loss. 

Prevent infections by:

  • Ensuring proper air circulation around the plant by not overcrowding it with other plants or objects
  • Avoiding overwatering, as wet leaves and soggy soil can promote the growth of harmful pathogens
  • Removing any affected leaves and disposing of them properly to prevent the spread of infection
  • Sterilizing your gardening tools before and after use to minimize the risk of transferring diseases

Solution

If you suspect a bacterial or fungal infection, treat your pothos plant by:

  • Pruning affected leaves and stems, ensuring to sanitize your tools before and after use
  • Applying a fungicide or bactericide, following the product’s instructions carefully
  • Keeping a close eye on the plant for any signs of recurring infection and repeating the treatment if necessary

Signs of Recovery: Identifying a Healthier Pothos Plant

on table showing the benefits of pothos plants.

After addressing the issues mentioned in the article, looking for signs of recovery in your pothos plant is essential. Indications that your plant is recovering include:

  • New leaf growth appearing along the vines
  • Improvement in leaf color, transitioning from yellow or pale to a healthy green
  • Increased leaf size and thickness
  • Enhanced root growth when checked during repotting or watering

Remember that recovery might take several weeks or even months, depending on the severity of the issues and the plant’s overall health.

Leggy Growth vs. Pothos Growing With Long Vines and No Leaves

leggy looking pothos plant on a table

These two issues are similar. Essentially a leggy pothos is the beginning of growing long vines without leaves. To address a leggy plant and not let your vines get out of hand, follow these three tips:

  1. Leggy pothos plants are often caused by a combination of low light, too much fertilizer, lack of support, or the plant’s natural growth habits. Insufficient light leads to etiolation ¹, which causes long, thin vines and smaller leaves.
  2. Over-fertilizing can cause unnaturally fast growth, and bare vines, while lacking support, can cause the plant to seek something to climb. The pothos will remain leggy in a hanging basket with trailing vines instead of climbing (its natural habit).
  3. To fix, cut and propagate the plant, trim long vines and propagate them in soil or water. Add the propagated cuttings back to the original pot to create a fuller appearance. Adjusting the plant’s growing conditions will also help make it a fuller plant.

Final Thoughts

Even though Golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum) plants are known for being low-maintenance houseplants, they still require specific care to thrive. A pothos vine growing with no leaves or dropping leaves can be a sign that your plant needs attention. 

By addressing the eight issues above, you can help your pothos plant regain its lush, beautiful foliage. With a little effort, pothos plants are highly resilient and will quickly return to their former glory.

References

1:Etiolation – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. (n.d.). Etiolation – an Overview | ScienceDirect Topics. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-444-52512-3.00224-2

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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.