Pothos Plant Care: Meet the Vine That Thrives Just About Anywhere

With its trailing growth and tolerance to medium light, pothos is an easy-care houseplant that can add greenery to your home or office.

By Mark Wolfe | Updated Jul 28, 2021 2:27 PM

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pothos plant care

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Among indoor plants, pothos is a longtime fan favorite for a few reasons. It’s super easy to grow, tolerating a wide range of sunlight, moisture, temperature, and humidity. It works as a trailing plant, climber, or mass of mounding foliage, depending on the way it is trained. And, there are lots of colorful pothos varieties from which to choose, making it a fun plant for collectors.

First timers and houseplant aficionados also enjoy growing pothos because it is so easy to propagate. When a pothos is growing well, it’s one of the easiest plants to share. If you want to learn the easy-care techniques of growing and propagating pothos, read on.

Pothos Plant Care At a Glance

Common Name: Pothos, Devil’s Ivy
Scientific Name: Epipremnum aureum
Soil: coarse, well drained
Light: medium to bright
Water: low to medium
Food: feed monthly with general purpose 20-20-20 plant food
Temperature and Humidity: 60 to 90 degrees and moderate humidity
Propagation: stem cuttings
Safety: keep away from pets and toddlers

Pothos Plant Characteristics

The tropical pothos vine originated in forests of Southeast Asia, where it grows in bright, indirect light. The climate is warm and humid, and the soil drains well. In gardening—even with indoor plants—it is normally best to try and replicate a plant’s native environment as closely as possible, but these plants are very tolerant of the conditions you give them.

pothos plant care how to care for pothos plants

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When pothos grows as an indoor plant, it tolerates a wide range of sunlight, moisture, and temperatures. And, pothos are not picky about the soil in which they grow. They perform well in low or bright light, dry soil, or a water-filled vase.

Some of the variegated forms need a bit more light to maintain their best coloration. In low light, variegated leaves, like those on Golden Pothos plant, might revert to green. Another point of flexibility is in the plant’s growth habit. This trailing vine, also known as pothos ivy, performs equally well in hanging baskets, standard containers, or when trained to climb on a moss pole, trellis, or along the tops of furniture.

Types of Pothos Plant

  • Golden Pothos is the traditional pothos featuring large, green, heart-shaped leaves streaked with golden yellow variegation.
  • Marble Queen Pothos is a popular cultivar with green heart-shaped foliage and creamy white variegation.
  • Neon Pothos is a striking selection for good light conditions that features bright chartreuse leaves with no variegation.
  • Manjula Pothos displays 4-color variegation, with silver, cream, white, and light green markings abounding.
  • Cebu Blue Pothos is a true collectors’ cultivar, with deep blue-green, non-variegated leaves that exhibit a subtle metallic sheen.

Selecting Soil for Pothos Plants

When repotting a pothos plant, the new pot should be no more than 2 inches larger than the rootball. Pothos soil should dry out somewhat between waterings. Most high-quality, general purpose potting soils work well. Choose a potting mix with a good amount of perlite and composted forest products for added drainage. Too much peat moss might retain excessive amounts of moisture, which can be problematic.

Pothos can also grow in a vase of water. Simply take cuttings from the tips of longer vines, snipping them off just above a node, or leaf junction. Strip off the lower two or three leaves and insert them into a vase filled with fresh water. Change the water two or three times per week to prevent algae buildup.

Related: The Dos and Don’ts of DIY Potting Soil

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The Right Light

The ideal lighting for all pothos varieties is bright, indirect sunlight. A room with south-facing windows is perfect. This bright light will allow the color to reach its most vibrant level, which is especially important for variegated varieties, but even the solid Neon cultivar responds best to bright light.

That said, pothos plants grow well even in low light (not “no light”). Under low-light conditions, variegation tends to revert back to solid green, but the plant will still live and grow slowly. If lighting is severely lacking, pothos leaves might drop off.

Watering Pothos Plants

Pothos plants growing in potting soil need to dry out between waterings. Allow the soil to crust over slightly before watering. Then, when it is time to water again, immerse the pot in a bucket of water to thoroughly saturate the soil again.

This wet-dry cycle works best if the plant is sized properly for the pot. If the pot is too large, the soil might retain water for too long, which could lead to root rot. If the soil does not retain adequate moisture, the plant might need to be repotted into fresh soil.

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Related: The Best Watering Cans for Indoor and Outdoor Gardens

Fertilizing Pothos Plants

Pothos plants thrive in rich soil with ample nutrients, but also grow well in lean soils if they receive regular fertilizing. Potting soil provides an initial feeding, but will need to be supplemented with additional nutrients after about a month. Apply 20-20-20 fertilizer monthly, according to the fertilizer label instructions for the container size. Liquid, granular, slow-release, and organic fertilizers all work well for pothos.

For a more consistent supply of nutrients, consider fertilizing more frequently. To do so, avoid overfertilizing by cutting back the application rate accordingly. If you prefer to water weekly with a liquid fertilizer, for instance, divide the monthly application rate by four.

Setting the Temperature and Humidity

Pothos grow well at normal room temperatures and humidity levels. However, many houseplant owners choose to move plants outside during the growing season and back inside for winter. Pothos should never be left outdoors or in an unheated room where the temperature will drop below 55 degrees. Outdoor summertime high temperatures are generally fine, as long as the pothos plant is not situated in direct sunlight.

In winter, the humidity in a heated home typically drops, so pothos plants might develop brown leaf tips. Elevate the humidity around the plant by placing it on a tray filled with pea gravel and water, or mist the plant with a spray bottle daily.

Propagating Pothos Plants

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Choose whether you wish to grow the propagated plant in soil or water. After rooting out the cutting in one medium, it is difficult for it to transition to the other. It takes one to two weeks for the cutting to root out. Four-inch containers work well for rooting cuttings.

Trim a 6-inch cutting with four to six leaves and at least two nodes, cutting just above a leaf node. Strip off the lower leaves, leaving just the top two. For water propagation, place the lower half of the cutting into a water-filled vase, and place the vase in a warm, bright location. For soil-based propagation, insert the lower two nodes into a soil-filled pot. Moisten the soil and place the pot in a warm, bright location.

Related: 11 Indoor Gardening Projects Absolutely Anyone Can Do

Safety Considerations

As with any tropical houseplant, plant owners should ensure that children and pets do not ingest pothos. In this case, calcium oxalate raphides (needle-shaped crystals) in the plant can act as an oral and digestive irritant, and can cause nausea or vomiting if ingested. They also act as a skin irritant for those with sensitive skin.

Potential Pests and Diseases

Easy-going pothos plants have no real insect pests, and only one potential disease issue. Phytophthora root rot is a soil-borne fungus that infects plant roots. It is typically associated with wet soil and low oxygen levels that suffocate the roots, making them susceptible. An infected plant typically shows wilting or yellowing leaves, even while the soil is moist, ultimately killing the plant. This problem is avoidable with well-drained potting soil and proper watering.

FAQs About Pothos Plant Care

Ready to learn more about growing and caring for pothos plants? Read the answers to these common questions.

Q. Are pothos poisonous to touch?

The sap of pothos plants contains microscopic needle-shaped crystals called calcium oxalate. It is a known oral and digestive irritant that can cause serious discomfort for children and pets who consume any part of the plant. Handling the plant or brushing against it with the skin might cause mild skin irritation in some people, but no toxic or adverse reaction.

Q. How many hours of light do pothos need?

Pothos appreciate bright, indirect light for 12 or more hours per day. However, slightly lower light or fewer hours will not cause problems. Pothos growing in low light lose color intensity and might produce smaller leaves.

Q. Do pothos like to be misted?

It is fine to mist pothos, although the effects of misting are questionable. The mist quickly dries up, leaving the plant in an arid room. A better solution for dry air is to place the pot on a tray filled with small stones and water. As the water evaporates, it raises the humidity slightly.

how to care for pothos plants

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