This is a complete guide to pothos plant care.
In fact, the techniques that I’m going to discuss will help you to grow large pothos leaves, help them grow faster, and achieve fuller vines with lush appearance.
Finally, you will be able to enjoy the beauty of a plant with decorative marbled leaves, and doubles as an excellent air cleansing machine!
So if you want learn how to grow and care for your pothos like a pro, you’ll love today’s guide.
Let’s get started.
The Basics of Pothos Plant Care
One of the things I really love about Pothos plant, is the fact that it is a very easy and low maintenance indoor houseplant.
The plant can grow even in a water-filled bottle (alone for a reasonable period of time) with frequent water refills or complete water change, of course.
That’s pretty exciting:
I have been growing plants for a while now. And I can tell you for sure, very few plants are this less finicky.
Pothos Other Names and Origin
Pothos is scientifically known as Epipremnum aureum by botanists.
Other common names are – The Devil’s Ivy Plant, Silver Vine, Ivy Arum, Solomon Island’s Ivy, and Taro Vine.
A native of Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Guinea, pothos’ evergreen and waxy leaves are heart-shaped, alternate and simple or beautifully variegated with white, cream, yellow and various shades of green.
Colour variegation and sizes of foliage are extremely variable depending upon lighting conditions and other cultural factors.
In the native setting, this plant produces trailing stems when it climbs up trees and these take root when they reach the ground and grow along.
There are six popular pothos varieties. Let’s go through them one-by-one:
Silver Satin Pothos
Silver Satin Pothos has intriguing silver and green tear shaped foliage with a tendency to trail and cascade. The plant tolerate extremely low light levels making it a perfect match for a beginner.
Pearls and Jade Pothos
Pearls and Jade is a variety of Pothos that is small in stature compared to other cultivars of Epipremnum aureum.
The mature leaves of 'Pearls and Jade' are smaller in contrast to the long leaves of its parent 'Marble Queen'.
This cultivar has very pretty variegated foliage, with leaves displaying many irregular streaks and blotches of green, white, and grey coloration.
The only drawback is that Pearls and Jade variety grows much slower in comparison to the rest of the cultivars.
Marble Queen Pothos
Marble Queen pothos has green leaves with white variegation
Golden pothos has green leaves with bright yellow variegation
‘Jade’ pothos has uniform dark green leaves without variegation.
‘Neon’ pothos has bright chartreuse green-colored leaves with no variegation.
Pothos vs Philodendron (Vining type)
If you are like most people (me included), you may or will confuse between a pothos plant and the vining philodendron.
Not your fault at all.
These two plants have uncanny similarities that some gardeners have kept a philodendron in their house for years thinking it is a pothos and vice versa. Lucky for them, the general care of these plants are equally similar.
However, this would not be a complete guide on pothos plant care if it doesn’t mention the differences that will help you identify the two.
Let’s get to it:
The Five Main Differences Between Pothos and Philodendron
- Vining philodendrons have heart-shaped leaves with pointier tips which pothos don’t have.
- Pothos have a textured feel as opposed to smoother philodendron leaves.
- Given optimum growing conditions, philodendrons have longer internodes.
- Philodendrons have thinner, longer, and clustered aerial roots while pothos have got thick, blunt, shorter, aerial roots along the vine.
- Philodendrons have persisting cataphylls (you can google what cataphylls are).
You can learn more about this topic by reading this article – Pothos vs Philodendron
How to Propagate Pothos Plant
You can easily propagate a large number of pothos simply by taking stem cuttings and rooting them in water or in potting soil.
All you need is a mother plant that you can purchase at your nearest garden center or request for vines from your friends and family.
Once you have the vines, cut it one centimetre below and above the leaf (as shown in the picture above). Repeat, until you have several cuttings. It is advisable to only use medium-aged leaves. Leave out the older and younger shoot.
Root the cuttings in a glass full of clean water or directly into the potting soil. If you choose to root your pothos in water, make sure to change the water frequently and transfer the seedlings into a pot after the roots emerge.
That is it!
You need to take care and ensure your pets don’t ingest the pothos plant.
This is because this plant contain crystals of calcium oxalate and toxic proteins which can cause irritation of the skin and mucous membrane.
It is the exact reason, ASPCA lists pothos as poisonous to both cats and dogs if ingested.
For a complete list of poisonous plants for dogs, check this article - Poisonous Plants for Dogs: 51+ Toxic Plants to Watch Out
The Benefits of Pothos Plant
1. Pothos plant is a very effective pest repellent.
The component that makes the plant poisonous is also beneficial – a case of silver lining or blessing in disguise.
The plant on its own is able to repel slugs and termites thanks to the presence of calcium oxylate.
In addition, the calcium oxalate crystals are being involved in defense against termites and other home pests. This makes pothos plant one of the most effective natural pesticides.
2. Indoor air purification
According to the NASA/ALCA study on the use of common indoor plants for indoor air purification, Pothos, specifically Golden Pothos is one of the top three plants besides Philodendron and Spider plant that has been labeled the most effective in removing formaldehyde.
Formaldehyde is a contaminant of particular concern in most homes.
It is released by many household products, among them pressed woods, some types of foam insulation, paper products, some paints and varnishes, and permanent-press fabrics.
Having a pothos plant in your house will go a long way into purifying the air you breath!
The Complete Beginners Guide to Pothos Plant Care
Watering Your Pothos
Most people think watering potted plants is such a simple and straightforward thing. But it’s not. In fact, of all the care given to houseplants, watering is one that brings the most problems.
Water too much and you risk getting root rots.
Water too little and you risk your plant wilting to death.
Just like most houseplants, pothos like to have their soil dry out completely between waterings.
If you’re totally new to growing houseplants, you can begin by poking your finger about an inch into the potting soil to determine its dryness.
Alternatively, there are inexpensive watering gauges you can find at most online stores or hardwares which you can use to learn when your pothos is thirsty.
When watering, apply enough water so some comes out the drain hole at the bottom of the pot.
This flushes out salts that can lead to root injury, and ensures you are not merely watering the surface of the soil.
Do not let plants sit in excess water, though. It will be reabsorbed and, thus, the salts dissolved in the water will be reabsorbed.
Plus, the plants will stay too wet, leading to root rots.
How often should you water your pothos?
Most experts advice to water indoor pothos after every 3 to 7 days and 2 to 4 days for outdoor grown pothos.
While this is a good starting point, I’d advise against watering on a fixed schedule for instance every week or every five days.
The reason is simple:
A fixed schedule does not necessarily give your pothos the water when they need it.
In fact, watering on a fixed schedule may mean plants are over-watered at one time of the year but under-watered at other times.
Instead, it would be a good idea to get on a fixed schedule to check them for water, until you know your plants and how fast they dry out.
As a general rule with few exceptions, plants should be watered when the soil feels dry to the touch. This means the frequency of watering will vary with the rate at which the soil dries out.
Plants should be watered when the soil feels dry to the touch. This means the frequency of watering will vary with the rate at which the soil dries out. #GardeningTips
Light is essential for the purpose of plant photosynthesis.
However, not all plants are created equal. Some require more light that others. Pothos for instance can tolerate extremely low light levels. This trait make it one of the best low light houseplants to accessorize your interior.
It is also important to mention that light requirements vary depending on the type of pothos. For example, while Jade Pothos can tolerate low light levels, variegated ones like Golden Pothos will revert to complete green in the absence of enough sunlight.
As a general rule, grow pothos outdoor in shade to partial shade while indoors they prefer bright but indirect light.
As a general rule, grow pothos outdoor in shade to partial shade conditions while indoors they prefer bright but indirect light. #GardeningTips
Temperature and light are the ying and yang of plant life. A balance between the two almost always guarantees optimum growth.
You need to keep pothos under a temperature of between 18 to 24 degrees Celsius. Which lucky for you, is the common room temperature.
By all means, avoid any temperatures below 10 degrees Celsius. Because temperatures lower than 10⁰C will force pothos leaves to turn yellow and develop spots.
Later in this article, we will discuss the common pothos plant problems. So stick with me 😉
Temperature and light are the ying and yang of plant life. A balance between the two almost always guarantees optimum growth. #GardeningTips
Pothos are humid loving plants – this is the main reason why they are such perfect candidates for bathroom plants.
But don’t fret if you’re unable to provide them with adequate humidity. They can tolerate low humidity just as well.
However, if you really want massive lush growth, humidity is very important just like they receive in their native wild environment.
You can increase humidity around your pothos by placing them close to other plants, put off the fan in case of an indoor environment, or shower the leaves with water.
Caution: Ensure that you only shower your pothos on the leaves in the morning to allow them enough time to dry. Preferably, do this when the weather is hot and not gloomy.
Pothos are humid loving plants – this is the main reason why they are such perfect candidates for bathroom plants. #indoorgarden
After a while, your pothos is likely to outgrow the pot in which you’ve placed it in. You will know this, when you observe stunted growth, smaller and unhealthy leaves.
Check the roots as well to establish if they are too much root bound.
If this is the case, consider repotting your pothos if the roots have consumed the pot. Choose a container one size larger than what you are taking it out of and add fresh potting soil.
Pruning and training – How to Make Pothos Fuller
Pothos can and do tolerate heavy pruning. This is good news for us since we can always cut them back any time of the year. Besides, pruning also serves another purpose – making the plants fuller!
It ultimately reaches a time when the vines become bare. Pruning them back encourages more lateral shoots that will give your vine a fuller and lush appearance. Take the opportunity to train the vines to grow as you desire them to.
How to prune a pothos plant
Step #1: Examine the vines of the pothos and locate leaf node. If the plant has a leaf, the area where the leaves attach to the main stem is the node. Look for a horizontal line, caused by the leaf node, on the stem of plants.
Step #2: Cut through the stem 1/4 inch above a leaf node using a clean knife or scissors. The pothos sends out new stems at scars beneath a cutting point, resulting in a fuller, shorter plant. You can cut back the stems as far as necessary to maintain the desired size.
Step #3: Remove all pruned plant material from the pot after cutting back the pothos. Water the pothos until the soil feels moist after pruning to avoid drought stress as the plant recovers.
Step #4: Propagate the pruned-off pothos stems or vines for more plants.
Pothos plants are not heavy feeders.
All you need to do is to apply a balanced houseplant fertilizer occasionally to boost the growth.
Pest and diseases
Just like fertilizers, pothos are not on the pest’s list of favourite plants with an exception of mealybugs.
To get rid of mealybugs, apply an insecticidal soap and they will be gone before you know it. Keeping mealybugs at bay is the surest way to make your pothos grow faster.
Here’s a great guide to common organic garden pesticides.
7 Common Pothos Plant Problems to Watch Out
1. Pothos vine with no leaves
Pothos vines with no leaves is an indication that your plants are not getting the bare minimum light required.
In addition, pothos will shed more of the older growth if they are drying up in between soakings. When water isn’t abundant the plant sheds some of the leaves in order to preserve the new growth.
To correct this problem, cut the long vines back, feed your plants with a balanced houseplant fertilizer, water them well, check for root-bound and repot where necessary, and lastly, place them somewhere with enough sunlight.
2. Pothos leaves curling
Curling of the leaves is a sign that there’s a problem with your watering.
When leaves curl up or 'cup' at the tips and the margins, the plant is trying to retain moisture. Any form of downwards curling usually indicates overwatering or overfeeding.
If the leaves are curling up, you need to water your pothos but first check the soil and vice versa.
3. Pothos plant leaves turning yellow
A. In older leaves
The yellowing of older leaves is pretty common on most houseplants as they occasionally shed the old while growing new foliage.
So if the leaves that are turning yellow are the oldest ones, near the bottom of the stems not the ends, it might just be this natural process.
B. Younger leaves
The most common cause of yellowing leaves among Pothos plants is improper soil moisture–in particular, overwatering.
When there is too much moisture and the pot drainage is poor, the roots will start rotting which will manifest as yellowing of the leaves. You can avoid this by improving the pot drainage and limit watering.
Another reason for pothos plant leaves turning yellow is continuous exposure to extremely low temperatures. Any temperature lower than 10⁰C will cause the leaves to turn yellow.
4. Pothos leaves turning brown or black – brown spots
Similar with yellowing, over-watering a pothos plant may result in brown spots on the leaves, especially if the soil is heavy and dense.
When soil becomes waterlogged, oxygen cannot reach the roots, which stresses the plant and prevents it from taking up water and nutrients. As a result, brown spots may appear on the foliage.
5. Variegate pothos leaves turning green
If your variegated pothos are turning back to green, it means they are not getting enough light. Variegated type requires a little bit more light than green type (Jade Pothos).
To control the problem, place them near a bright window with a light screen.
6. Pothos not growing at all (stunted)
Stunted growth is primarily caused by lack of enough moisture and using compact soil. You can see why mastering the best watering practice is key to the survival of your plants.
Please feel free to refer back to topic on watering.
7. White spots on pothos leaves
Although rare, it is a sign of powdery mildew infection.
Powdery mildew is a fungal disease. Initially, it produces circular powdery white spots on the foliage of plants.
As the disease spreads, the entire plant material can be affected with the fluffy white fungus. Over time parts of the plant will succumb to the disease and die.
You can use neem oil-based fungicide to control powdery mildew in your pothos.
It’s time to wrap up this pothos plant care guide.
I hope you are now in a position to identify different varieties, tell the difference between pothos and the philodendrons, and that you are able to comfortably propagate a bunch of pothos plant.
But most importantly, you are able to grow large pothos leaves faster, and achieve fuller vines with lush appearance.
Finally, you will be able to enjoy the beauty of a plant with decorative marbled leaves, and doubles as an excellent air cleansing machine!
Back to you:
Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
Featured Image Credit: anthropologie.com