Pothos, aka “devil’s ivy”, is a fantastic way to begin developing your green thumb if you haven’t had plants before. It’s easy to care for and even thrives when it’s a bit neglected.
This is why it’s called devil’s ivy- it’s nearly impossible to kill!
Even though pothos is a wonderfully easy-going plant, it will let you know if it’s not happy, often in the form of leaf curling.
Here are some possible causes of pothos leaves curling:
- Moisture issues
- Sunlight issues
- Soil conditions
- Temperature changes
Today, you’ll learn the details of each of these possible causes of pothos leaves curling, and you’ll pick up some tips and tricks on how to fix them.
1. Not Enough Moisture
Pothos may be difficult to kill, but like just about every other plant species it does need water.
It’s a good idea to give your pothos a good drenching on occasion (I water mine about once a month!) and allow them to dry out between waterings.
However, too-dry soil can lead to pothos leaves curling. The first thing you may notice as the soil dries out is your ivy will start to droop. It’s just sad to see a drooping ivy- and this is usually the best time to give your pothos some water.
But we have busy lives and since our pothos is usually up high and you don’t see it every day, you may miss this sign and find your pothos leaves curling.
Also, since pothos is native to tropical regions, it prefers a fairly high relative humidity- typically above 50%.
Curling pothos leaves are just an attempt by your ivy to try and retain some moisture until the next watering.
That’s alright- it’s salvageable!
Solution: Give Water Regularly
Give your plant a good dousing and go back to your busy life- your pothos will thank you!
But if your pothos needs a little extra attention in the watering department, there are a few ways to go about it:
Aim to water your Pothos on a schedule. If you’ve got multiple pothos plants (everyone does, right?) then water all of them on the same day.
My pothos are watered at the end of each month unless I notice some drooping, then they’ll get watered a little bit early.
Check the soil regularly and use the finger test to determine if your soil is too dry. If the soil is solid or you can stick your index finger in with no soil crumbs sticking to it when you pull your finger out, your pothos ivy probably needs some water.
Water just enough to soak the soil but not leave any standing water.
Use a plant humidifier. Pothos takes in moisture not only through its root system but also through its foliage.
A humidifier is a great way to give your pothos the airborne moisture it needs. Depending on the size of your growing area, you may only need a small model to create sufficient humidity.
Visit our plant humidifier review post for some shopping recommendations and more information on how humidity affects plants.
2. Too Much Moisture
Too much of a good thing is not a good thing- especially with plants.
If your pothos leaves are curling, make sure you’re not giving them too much water.
Besides leaf curling, other signs of over-watering include:
- Leaves turning yellow
- Brown, unhealthy-looking edges or spots
Don’t worry: Just like with under-watering, this too can be fixed!
Solution: Pull Back on Watering and Ensure Good Drainage
Do the index finger soil test or hand soil moisture test. If your finger comes out muddy or water comes out when squeezed, there’s too much water in your pothos pot.
Allow the plant to dry out for at least a week then test the moisture again.
Set a schedule for watering your pothos ivy. Less often is better, but look for the signs (curling leaves, yellow leaves and brown, crispy spots) and adjust your schedule from there.
Make sure your pot has good drainage and don’t leave standing water. Some gravel at the bottom of the pot and high quality potting soil can help with drainage and moisture retention.
3. Not Enough Light
Pothos leaves curling could also mean your ivy is not getting enough light.
These low-maintenance plants usually like indirect sunlight and do well in places like the space above your kitchen cabinets, on the dresser in your bedroom, or even on a stand next to your couch.
But even though they don’t have high light needs, pothos leaves will curl and turn yellow when the plant isn’t getting enough sunlight.
If you’ve got your pothos in very minimal light (like the photo shows) it’s probably not enough.
Solution: Increase Light Exposure
Move your pothos to a sunnier spot in your home.
This ivy needs about four to six hours of indirect sunlight per day to thrive, and after you move it you should see the leaves turning a brighter green with less curling.
NOTE: Be sure to keep your pothos away from children and pets as it is considered poisonous.
According to the Wisconsin Horticulture division of the University of Wisconsin, in humans, pothos can cause burning in the mouth and irritate the skin.
And according to the ASPCA pothos fact sheet, the toxic effects can be even worse in pets:
- Increased drooling
- Mouth irritation
- Trouble swallowing
So pick a sunny location that still keeps your pothos safely out of reach for children and pets.
4. Insect Attacks
If you’ve got your pothos plants indoors it’s less likely to happen, but insects and disease can lead to curling pothos leaves.
These infestations can also lead to deformed and stunted growth of leaves. There are a few insects to watch out for, including the following:
- Mealybugs: Appear like small cotton balls on leaves
- Scale insects: Look like dark bumps on leaves and stems
- Spider mites: Tiny red dots under a magnifying glass or red film under leaves
- Aphids: Small, brown/green insects under leaves
Solution: Eliminate the Pests
Any time you bring home a new pothos ivy or houseplant, look it over before bringing it inside your home.
Use the options listed below to remove and deter insects from your pothos ivy:
- Remove insects by hand, with a cotton swab moistened with alcohol, or with a natural insecticidal soap. It’s best if you do this daily until you don’t see insects anymore.
- If there are a high number of insects, try taking your Pothos outside and spray them off with water.
- Spider mites prefer dry conditions, so run your Pothos through the shower and try keeping a humidifier in the room to deter these insects.
- If it appears the insects are located on an isolated area of the plant, remove the portion of the plant and destroy it.
- If your Pothos has a large infestation or is highly damaged, sadly it’s probably best to dispose of the plant and get a new one.
Catching these insects early can not only prevent them from causing damage to your pothos plants but also prevent their multiplying and spreading to any other plants.
Clemson Cooperative Extension Home & Garden Information Center has a helpful resource page where you can learn more about the different types of household plant insects and common treatments.
5. Excessive Fertilizing
Pothos, as a low-maintenance houseplant, does not require fertilizer to grow in most cases.
As long as you use a good quality potting soil your pothos will do just fine. In fact, this ivy doesn’t even require soil to grow in its native habitat!
Now if you don’t have great soil or you want to help your pothos grow faster, you can use a balanced fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (N-P-K as indicated on fertilizer bottles and bags).
However- just like with water- too much of a good thing is not a good thing, and you may notice your pothos leaves curling from overfeeding.
Solution: Remove Retained Minerals and Fertilize with Caution
If you fear you’ve overfed your pothos, address the problem quickly by one of two actions:
- Water your plant thoroughly to flush out the retained fertilizer, giving water until it runs out the lower drainage holes.
- Repot your pothos in clean soil.
For the future, remember: Fertilizer for pothos is usually not required! But if you do choose to add supplemental nutrition, follow these guidelines:
First, make sure what you’re using is balanced (for example: 5% nitrogen, 5% phosphorus, 5% potassium) for healthy, busy growth for your pothos.
Here’s what these essential nutrients are responsible for:
- Nitrogen: needed for photosynthesis, stimulation of growth of leaves
- Phosphorus: needed for root growth
- Potassium: water intake regulation, disease response, more resilient plants
Next, choose the right form of fertilizer for your pothos and make sure to follow manufacturer’s directions for use.
- Liquid fertilizers must be diluted and dosed appropriately
- Granular fertilizer is added to soil, which does not release over time and is probably not best for pothos
- Compost is all natural, organic, but the exact amount of nutrients is not usually known.
Choose the fertilizing method that works best for you and your pothos and follow the package recommendations.
Here’s a liquid houseplant fertilizer you may want to look at. It has a 4-3-4 concentration, so it’s fairly well-balanced, and it also has sulfur to help your pothos to readily absorb the nutrients.
NOTE: This is a highly concentrated formula; you’ll need only 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of fertilizer to 2 cups of water.
Aim to fertilize your pothos no more than every 2 months, and forgo fertilizers altogether during the winter dormancy period.
6. Temperature Out of Safe Range
Pothos ivy prefers warmer climates, generally somewhere between 65 and 85 degrees F. This is why they do so well as indoor houseplants.
High ambient temperatures are the most common cause for pothos leaves curling. But anything below or above pothos’ preferred range can bring on some curling of the leaves starting at the tips.
Solution: Maintain the Right Temperature
Check your room temperature and make sure it’s within range for healthy pothos growth.
If you’ve got your pothos in a room with excessive heat, try moving it to a cooler area of the house.
Remember, pothos can tolerate low-light conditions, so don’t be afraid to move your plant to a shadier corner during the hot summer months.
And during the winter months, make sure your pothos is a least a few feet away from any heater vents.
It’s less common, but too-cold temperatures can also affect your pothos. For example, we once endured a long cold snap with power outage that caused the temperature in our home to dip near freezing for several days.
Three of our (well-established and old) pothos plants weathered the cold just fine. But the fourth one, which was recently purchased and repotted about two weeks before, did not fare so well.
The leaves started curling and turning yellow, and they popped off the main plant very easily.
Fortunately, a month of TLC including increased sunlight exposure, trimming off dead leaves and brown tips, a bit more watering, it was looking much better.
Frequently Asked Questions about Pothos Leaves
Curling Pothos leaves may seem intimidating when concerned about your plant’s health, but there are several easy fixes once you’ve figured out the source of the problem.
Pothos is a beautiful, easy to maintain, colorful addition to any home or office. In fact, it can not only withstand quite a degree of neglect but actually thrive as long as you cover the basics:
- The right amount of sunlight
- Good-quality soil
- Moderate ambient temperature
Try one out and see how it can bring joy to your space!
Have you ever had pothos leaves curl on you? Do you have any other questions about caring for a pothos plant?
Let us know in the comments!