Brown Roots in Your Pothos Paradise? Fear Not! The Cure is Crystal Clear (and Watery)!

When cultivating pothos plants in water, encountering brown roots can be a cause for concern.

Typically, brown roots result from problems like water quality or the presence of pathogens. Being vigilant about the condition of your pothos roots, especially when trying hydroponic methods, is crucial to prevent adverse outcomes such as root rot.

This condition can stem from various reasons, from the lack of oxygen in water and an imbalance in fertilizer to stagnant water that encourages fungal growth.

Proactively managing these factors and providing an ideal environment for your pothos can lead to lush growth and vibrant foliage, even in a water setting.

Key Takeaways

  • Brown roots in water-grown pothos may indicate health issues like root rot.
  • Signs like odor and slimy texture can accompany root discoloration.
  • Managing water quality and environment helps maintain healthy pothos roots.

Why Pothos Roots Become Brown In Water

Brown Pothos plant roots visible from the water

When I notice my pothos roots turning brown while growing in water, it’s usually a red flag for insufficient oxygen in the water.

Here’s what I’ve found out about the causes and solutions for this issue.

Main Reasons

Lack of Oxygen: The primary culprit for pothos roots browning in water is often a lack of oxygen. When roots can’t breathe, it leads to decay, hence the browning.

Water Quality: Using tap water can often introduce chemicals like chlorine, which might contribute to the problem. In addition, stagnant water can become a breeding ground for bacteria, further harming the roots.

Environmental Stress: If the environmental conditions are not optimal—too cold, too hot, or lack of light—my pothos’ resilience goes down, putting more stress on the root system.

Cuttings’ Health: Sometimes, when I propagate cuttings, they may already be stressed or damaged. If the cuttings’ health is compromised, the roots are more prone to browning.

How To Fix Brown Pothos Roots In Water

Regular Water Changes: I make it a point to refresh the water regularly to prevent build-up of pathogens and ensure a supply of oxygen.

Trimming Infected Roots: Anytime I spot browning, I gently remove my pothos plants from water to inspect and trim off the brown parts. This includes brown stems too.

A Node for New Growth: If I find myself with a stem but no roots, I ensure there’s at least one node remaining. This is the lifeline for my pothos, where new, healthy roots can emerge.

Transition to Soil: If the browning persists, it’s probably time to transition the pothos to soil, as continuous life in water may not be sustainable for its health.

By addressing the root of the problem—no pun intended—I can usually get my pothos back on track to displaying lush green roots and thriving in its aquatic environment.

Caring for Pothos in Water

Growing pothos in a vase or jar with water is an attractive way to display these hardy houseplants. My experience has taught me that the health of pothos roots in water hinges on a couple of critical care factors.

Optimal Watering Practices

When I maintain pothos in water, I ensure the roots are fully submerged, while the leaves and stems remain above water to prevent rotting.

My routine includes changing the water every week to keep it fresh and oxygen-rich, which is necessary for healthy root growth and the prevention of brown roots.

I always use room temperature water to avoid shocking the plant’s roots. I let the water settle for at least 24h not only to get the proper temperature but also to let the toxic gases evaporate.

Preventive Measures and Solutions

To prevent issues like brown stems or inadequate root development, I usually start with clean, clear water— typically filtered or left out overnight to allow chlorine to evaporate.

I keep my pothos away from direct sunlight but ensure they get plenty of indirect light to promote vibrant leaves and strong root systems.

If my pothos begins to show signs of wilting or stem discoloration, it could be a lack of nutrients; I sometimes add a drop or two of liquid fertilizer to the water.

Schultz Liquid Plant Food fertilizer for pothos fertilization
My go-to Schultz Liquid Plant Food fertilizer for pothos fertilization

However, caution is key to avoid over-fertilization. In the event of any root discoloration or signs of an infestation, adding a fungicide to the water can sometimes help, but I also inspect the plant thoroughly for any pests or diseases that might be causing distress.


I’ve observed that when my pothos roots turn brown in water, it often signals a problem. There’s no need to panic, as this can typically be addressed with some care and attention.

Key Takeaways:

  • Monitor Water Quality: Changing the water every one to two weeks prevents stagnation and oxygen depletion.
  • Keep an Eye on Root Health: Inspecting the roots regularly can catch root rot early, a frequent culprit behind browning.
  • Consider the Environment: Ensuring that the water cutting is in a well-lit area, but away from direct sunlight, promotes healthier roots.
  • Opt for Proper Nutrition: Adding the right dose of liquid fertilizer keeps the water nutrient-rich for optimal pothos root health.

Being attentive to these aspects has helped me maintain healthy water-cultivated pothos plants. Remember, brown roots aren’t always a death sentence for your plant. Often, a few adjustments are all that’s needed to restore vigor to those vital water-submerged roots.

If you consider switching to planting your pothos in soil, you may find useful my post about pothos in water vs soil.

I encourage fellow plant enthusiasts to stay observant and responsive to their pothos’ needs, ensuring a thriving, vibrant water-grown pothos.


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