Why Are My Pothos Leaves Curling? 11 Causes & Easy Solutions

Finding curling leaves on your pothos plant can be disheartening. If you’re a beginner houseplant parent, you’ll probably ask yourself: ‘What am I doing wrong? Is my pothos dying?’.

The good news is that most of the time, your plant just needs more water or more humidity. But in some cases, curling pothos leaves can be a sign of something more serious, such as root rot or pests.

With a bit of care, curled leaves can go back to normal. And once you identify what the issue is, fixing the problem is often a piece of cake. 

Let’s start with the most likely cause.

1.) Your Pothos Is Thirsty

The most common reason for pothos leaves curling downwards, and inward is underwatering. When the plant is thirsty, it will try to reduce water loss through transpiration by decreasing the surface area of its leaves. In simple terms, the plant will start curling its leaves. 

How To Fix It

This is the most manageable pothos problem to fix. Simply give your plant a thorough watering using the soak-and-drain method. The leaves should uncurl in a matter of hours. 

2.) Root Rot

healthy pothos roots
Healthy pothos roots.

Root rot and overwatering go hand in hand. If the soil in the pot is waterlogged or has poor drainage, it can harbor pathogens like Rhizoctonia and Phytophthora, which will kill your plant’s roots. 

The most common symptoms of these diseases are brown or black leaf spots. But in some cases, they will also lead to leaves curling and turning yellow.

Interestingly, root rot causes curling leaves for the same reason as underwatering: your pothos is thirsty. As the roots rot and start dying, the plant can’t use them to absorb water from the soil. Many beginner gardeners will simply give their plants more water at this stage. 

Unfortunately, this only makes the problem worse. 

How To Fix It

If your plant’s leaves are curling and the soil in the pot is very wet, don’t wait for it to dry. Instead, immediately take the plant out of the pot and inspect the roots. 

Use a sterilized blade and trim any roots that are dark brown, black, soft, mushy, or have an unpleasant smell. 

Rinse the remaining roots with a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution. Throw away the old soil, and disinfect the pot. Then repot your pothos using a fresh, well-draining potting mix.

3.) Low Humidity

Pothos can tolerate humidity levels as low as 40%. But if the air in your home is too dry, its leaves will start curling inwards in an attempt to preserve moisture. 

As a rule, plants with velvety leaves need higher humidity levels than those with leathery leaves. This means you’re more likely to notice this problem with Scindapsus varieties, such as Satin Pothos

Meanwhile, Golden Pothos or Dragon Tail Pothos have a higher tolerance to low humidity due to their leathery leaves. 

How To Fix It

Try to keep the humidity in your home above 40%. You can use a pebble tray to increase humidity around your plant or keep it in a humid room, such as a bathroom or kitchen. 

If everything else fails or your home’s average humidity is 30% or lower, your best choice is to buy a humidifier. 

4.) Hot Drafts

During the colder months, indoor heating can increase the temperature around the plant while also lowering humidity. If your pothos is sitting too close to a radiator or heating vent, hot drafts can cause the leaves to curl.

How To Fix It

Move your pothos at least 3 feet away from any heat sources. Test the soil in the pot, and give the plant some water if the top 2 inches feel dry to the touch. The leaves should perk up after a day or so. 

5.) Cold Drafts

Pothos plants do not tolerate temperatures below 59°F (15°C). Therefore, if you expose them to temperatures below 50°F (10°C) for more than half a day, the roots can also suffer damage. 

In winter, cold air from a drafty window or door will lead to leaves curling and drooping. 

How To Fix It

Keep your pothos away from cold, drafty areas. If you like to keep your plants outside during the summer, remember to bring them indoors as soon as nighttime temperatures drop below 59°F (15°C).  

6.) Too Much Sun

Direct sunlight exposure can cause curling leaves if you keep your pothos close to the window. However, this problem is driven by more than just the amount of light but by how it changes your plant’s growing conditions. 

For example, a pothos plant will have no problem with a few hours of direct sun in a room facing east or west. But in a south-facing room, the sun is far more intense. This will lead to higher temperatures and lower humidity, triggering leaf curling.   

Direct sunlight exposure usually causes leaves to curl inwards in Scindapsus species. 

Meanwhile, Epipremnum varieties tend to develop dry, brown leaf spots when exposed to intense light. This is most noticeable in species with large white leaf sections, like Manjula, N’Joy, or Epipremnum Albo Variegata

baltic blue pothos leave uncurled.

Try to uncurl the pothos leave, and see if it shows any signs of burning or discoloration. (pictured Baltic Blue pothos)

How To Fix It

Try moving your pothos away from the window and out of the intense sun. Bright indirect light is best for this plant. 

It will ensure healthy growth without causing any damage to the foliage. In a south-facing room, you can also use sheer curtains to help filter the sunlight.

7.) Pests

Pest infestations are the most common cause of pothos leaves curling up. The pests most likely to cause this are spider mites, thrips, and mealybugs. 

Aphids and whiteflies can also cause the leaves to curl and twist. But unless you have an open balcony, it’s unlikely you’ll find them on your pothos indoors.

How To Fix It

Use a solution of 1 part 70% isopropyl alcohol and 4 parts water to deal with spider mites and mealybugs

For thrips, use a systemic pesticide. And if you’re unfortunate enough to have aphids and whiteflies indoors, use an insecticidal soap solution to get rid of them.

8.) Your Pothos Needs Repotting

As your plants grow, the roots will slowly fill up the pot. Sometimes, your plants can become so pot-bound that their roots will struggle to absorb water. And if your pothos is thirsty, its leaves will start to curl. 

How To Fix It

Repot your pothos once every 2 years, preferably in spring or summer. 

If your plant has been living in the same pot for more than 3 years, it’s best to repot it even if it hasn’t outgrown its container. Old soil can become hydrophobic, especially if your potting mix contains peat moss. 

If the soil can’t retain moisture, then your plant’s roots won’t be able to absorb water and nutrients properly.  

9.) You’re Using the Wrong Container

This may surprise you, but using the wrong type of plant container can result in curling leaves. 

For example, if the pot is too small, the soil will dry out too fast, and your pothos will go thirsty. But if the pot is too big, it will hold on to too much moisture, which leads to overwatering problems. 

The pot material also matters. Plastic retains soil moisture, so your pothos will need less frequent watering. On the other hand, terracotta pots wick moisture from the soil. This means the soil doesn’t stay damp long enough to give the plant enough time to absorb all the water it needs.

Last but not least, pots with no drainage holes are also a problem. They can cause overwatering and root rot, which can manifest through symptoms such as leaves curling and wilting.

How To Fix It

Always use the correct pot size for your pothos, especially when repotting. Also, make sure that the new container has drainage holes. 

Whenever possible, use a plastic pot for this plant. If you use terracotta or unglazed ceramic, remember that the soil will dry out faster, so you’ll need to water your plant more often.

10.) Transplant Shock

You may notice pothos leaves are curling after repotting your plant. This is a sign that the roots were stressed or damaged during the repotting process, and that your plant is suffering from transplant shock.

This is rarely a problem for mature plants. However, you may encounter it when transplanting rooted cuttings into the soil. The transition from water to soil can stress young plants, which will start curling their leaves in self-defense.

How To Fix It

Water your pothos plants thoroughly after repotting them. This will help the plants become established and reduce the risk of transplant shock.

When transplanting water-propagated cuttings, keep the soil evenly moist but not soaked. 

The young roots will need time to adjust to their new growing conditions, and too much or too little water will kill them. You can also cover the pot with a transparent plastic bag. This will create a humid environment that will help them establish sooner.

11.) Too Much Fertilizer

When Silver pothos leaves start curling, it may signify too many salts from fertilizer. This could be from the fertilizer used, application method, or season. And cause root burn, along with the plant being unable to absorb nutrients and water correctly.

How to Fix

Fertilize your pothos with an adequately balanced fertilizer such as an NPK 10-10-10, diluted to half strength during spring and summer when the plant is actively growing.

Alternatively, we recommend using worm castings. What’s fantastic about worm castings is you don’t have to worry about over-fertilizing. Instead, it naturally releases minerals and nutrients the plant needs at the proper rate.

Although, with any fertilizer, remember to cut back during winter.

Bonus: Why Are My Pothos Leaves Curling in Water?

You may notice this problem in two cases: when you’re propagating cuttings or if your pothos is growing in water. 

Curling Pothos Leaves During Propagation

Rooting cuttings in water is the best way to propagate pothos. Yet this method only works if your cutting has a growth node. 

Pothos cuttings don’t grow roots from the bottom of the leaf stem but from small nodes located where the leaf petiole meets the stem. If your plant has no node, it can’t grow roots. 

The leaf will absorb water for a while using capillary action, but without roots, it will slowly begin to die.

If the leaves of your pothos cuttings are curling, the best explanation is that your cutting has no growth node. But, unfortunately, there’s no way to fix this. You can only take a new cutting, make sure it has a node, and propagate it instead.

Another possibility is that the growth node is sitting above the water level. In this case, simply top up your propagation glass with more water until the node is submerged. 

Leaves Curling on a Pothos Plant Living in Water

You can grow pothos in water or in a hydroponic system. However, when you first move the plant from soil to water, the transition may shock the plant. 

To fix the curling leaves, you need to give the plant more time until the roots adjust to their new growing medium. 

It’s also possible that the water you used was too cold, and this shocked the roots. If that’s the case, replace it with room-temperature water. 

If your pothos has been living in water for several years, there are several factors that could cause curling leaves. They could be anything from root rot, to sudden exposure to hot or cold drafts. 

Check out the common causes and fixes mentioned above, and find out which best applies to your plant.

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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.