How to Care for Pothos, the Nearly Perfect Houseplant

Originally published October 2019, Updated April 2021

Pothos (Latin name Epipremnum aureum) is a fantastic houseplant for beginners and experts alike. It is inexpensive, easy to find, extremely tolerant, and absolutely beautiful.

Table of Contents

How do you care for pothos?

What kind of lighting do Pothos prefer?

Epipremnum aureum prefer and thrive in bright indirect light.

What is bright indrect light ? It generally means the plant can tolerate a few hours of direct sun each day and indirect light for the rest of the day.

More than a few hours of direct sun may cause a Pothos to begin to fade or wilt from overexposure.

Epipremnum aureum can also tolerate low light conditions. Low light can be defined as an area where you can read a book without needing supplemental lighting throughout the day.

While low light conditions will slow your Pothos plant’s growth and may cause your Pothos to push out less variegated growth, it is fully capable of living in lower light.

You may also notice that Pothos in lower light conditions will have leggier growth – meaning that the places where leaves emerge (nodes) are farther apart.

If your Epipremnum aureum is not growing or is no longer producing variegated growth (and you would like to change this), try moving it to an area with more light.

How do I know when my Pothos needs to be watered?

Pothos like to dry out from top to bottom before being watered. They are much more drought-tolerant than they are flood-tolerant, so it is best to underwater rather than overwater these plants.

Pothos will visually tell you when they are thirsty by drooping when it is time for watering. Their leaves also become softer and less plump when they are in need of a drink!

My neon pothos before and after watering, 12 hours in between – notice how it perks up!

They can also tell you if they are being overwatered. When Epipremnum aureum has too much water, it will shed excess water through its leaves. You can see this as water droplets forming on its leaf tips and drip periodically.

While occasional dripping is not a huge problem, consistent or non-stop dripping might be a sign of overwatering.

This is especially true if it is coupled with yellowing leaves, rotting stems, the presence of fungus gnats, or a lack of growth. Your plant may also need more light in this situation as well!

The process the plant uses to remove excess water through its leaf tips is called guttation.

My golden pothos when it wasn’t getting enough light and wanted to get rid of extra water through guttation

What kind of soil should Pothos have?

As with most houseplants, Pothos love well-draining soil. These plants are prone to root rot if they sit in wet soil for too long.

Their Latin genus Epipremnum means “upon a trunk” because these plants grow naturally by climbing up trees, where their roots are exposed to air and never in wet conditions for long.

So, the airier the potting mix it is in, the better! This means adding ample amounts of perlite, pumice, bark chips, or other media that increases the aeration in the soil.

What type of pot is best for a Pothos?

Just as Pothos want well-draining soil, they also want well-draining pots!

Some great options could be:
1. Pots that have good drainage holes and are placed inside pretty cachepots
2. A Terracotta pot that has drainage holes and the ability to wick moisture itself due to its clay medium
3. A pot with drainage holes of a different medium

As long as the pot has good drainage, this plant will be fine!

What common pests should I be on the lookout for?

Pothos are fairly resilient plants, but they do occasionally get pests. Here are the three I have dealt with on pothos!

Mealybugs

The most common is mealybugs, a cottony white little insect that is attracted to new growth and likes to hide in the intersections of stems or under leaves.

Scale

Scale are bugs that look like its name: small scaley bumps on the stems or leaves of the plants that don’t move and slowly suck the sap from your plant.

Spider mites

Spider mites might be the most annoying (for me anyway) as they are so small and can go undetected until they’ve created quite a colony.

They are VERY tiny bugs that form webbing between leaves and stems and create brown spots and mottled areas on the leaves.

They can sometimes be seen to the naked eye as tiny clusters of dots on the undersides of leaves. They almost look like dust or a tiny bit of dirt stuck to the underside of the leaf.

Are you dealing with a pest and need a remedy? Click here to check out posts on each pest and how to control them

Any well-balanced fertilizer can be used during the growing season once per month. If it is a chemical fertilizer, the recommended strength can be cut in half. If it is an organic fertilizer, you can use it at full recommended strength.

Cutting a chemical fertilizer to half-strength ensures that you will not accidentally over-fertilizer your plant, which can cause salt-build up in the soil that can burn the roots and hurt the plant.

You could also use a fertilizer that is higher in nitrogen, to promote foliage health and growth. However, it isn’t necessary to do this in order to have a healthy plant.

To learn more about fertilizers, click here to see my post answering the most common fertilizer questions.

When should I repot my Pothos?

There are 3 main indicators that pothos give when its time to repot:

  1. Your pothos is droopy shortly after watering it
  2. Your pothos needs to be watered every few days
  3. Your pothos has roots coming out of the bottom of the pot

If your plant is exhibiting at least one of these signs, it might be time to repot!!

The best way to officially confirm is to pull the plant out of its pot and see what its roots look like. If the roots are dense and winding around sides of the pot then congratulations are in order because your pothos is ready for a bigger pot!

How can I get my Pothos to be a fuller, bushier plant?

You can achieve a fuller, bushier plant in multiple ways! Here are a few of the most popular:

  1. Pruning – if you prune your pothos back, it will grow new stems from those newly pruned areas, creating a fuller plant.
  2. Propagating – you can take cuttings off of your plant for propagation that can be planted back into the pot to add more rooted stems, which will fill out the pot!
  3. Pinning – You can also take your pothos vines and pin them back into the pot around the nodes (places where leaves and aerial roots emerge). Their aerial roots will grab onto the soil and plant itself there permanently after some time!

Should I prune my Pothos?

Sure! While you don’t have to prune your pothos, you absolutely can! Reasons you might consider pruning:

  1. to promote healthier, bushier growth
  2. to remove leggy, sparse growth
  3. to remove growth that has reverted to green
  4. to propagate some cuttings
  5. to cut back a plant that is getting a little too long or adventurous for the space you have

How do you propagate a Pothos?

Pothos are super easy to propagate by taking cuttings and rooting them in water. Simple instructions for how to do this are below.

If you would like to see pictures, check out my post for hoyas here. The method to use is the same and there are pictures for each step in the hoya post.

Here are step-by-step directions:

  • Take a cutting that includes at least 2 nodes with leaves
  • Remove the leaves from the bottom node (or the node that was closest to the soil/the node closest to where you cut). This is where your roots will grow
  • Place the node where you want roots to grow in a container submerged in water and wait
  • Change the water weekly
  • Let roots grow in the water until they reach 2 or 3 inches in length
  • Transfer the cutting to soil and keep the soil moist (not sopping wet) for the first week or two to help the water roots get used to its new soil medium
  • Then you can water your cutting like a normal pothos rooted in soil!

How pothos grows in the wild

Epipremnum aureum are part of the Aroid or Araceae family, which includes a vast array of popular and beautiful houseplants. Aroids have become one of, if not the, most popular group of houseplants worldwide.

Aroids are known for their characteristic flowers, called inflorescences, that consist of a central stalk (known as the spadix) and sometimes a leaf-like structure surrounding the central stalk (called a spathe).

Aroid inflorescence that includes both spadix and spathe

Photo by: Ryan Durand, Source

Aroid inflorescence with only a spadix

Photo by: Nicolás Baresch Uribe, Source

However, Epipremnum aureum is almost never witnessed blooming. It has evolved to propagate itself vegetatively instead, meaning that one small section of vine can grow roots and begin growing again as a separate plant.

It has gotten so good at propagating itself that its become invasive worldwide in tropical areas, where it can survive winter.

Here’s a fun video exploring this on Youtube!

Epipremnum aureum was found on an island north of Australia called Moorea. In its natural habitat, it is an epiphyte climbing and clamoring among trees.

As it climbs, the leaves become larger and beefier. It can form leaves that are multiple feet wide!!

Photo by: Andrew Ashby, Source

As it continues to grow larger, it will eventually grow mature, fenestrated leaves or leaves that have cuts and slits on the side (somewhat similar to a Monstera deliciosa).

These newly-slitted leaves are described as pinnately divided.

Photo by Steve Maldonado Silvestrini, Source

What types of Pothos are available to purchase?

The number of cultivars available in stores and online are growing steadily over time. I’m sure there will be even more in the future, but here’s a chart that shows a bunch of them!

This chart includes: Golden, Hawaiian, variegata, Manjula, Jessenia, Glacier, Marble Queen, N’Joy, Jade, Pearls & Jade, Green Genie, Emerald, Global Green, Neon, Shangri La, Variegated Neon, and Japan. 17 different varieties!

Tip: The more variegated a plant is, the more light it needs to retain its variegation – so if your pothos isn’t growing as much variegated foliage as you would like, try moving it to a brighter location!

What about Cebu Blue Pothos, Satin Pothos, and others not mentioned here!?

There are several other plants that are labeled as pothos but are not the same species as Epipremnum aureum. These plants are very similar in care and are very beautiful as well, but have been determined by botanists to be different species or different genera in some cases.

The Cebu Blue Pothos is Epipremnum pinnatum ‘Cebu Blue’, which is a different species from the pothos we discussed in this post.

The Satin Pothos is Scindapsus pictus ‘Argyraeus’ and the Satin Pothos Exotica or Silver Splash is Scindapsus pictus ‘Exotica’, both of which are in a different genus.

We will discuss these plants in more depth, along with some others, in another post! Scindapsus, in particular, is one of my favorite genera of plants. I can’t wait to dive into that one!

Why are Pothos only nearly perfect and not perfect in my opinion?

Pothos would be the perfect houseplant IF it were pet and kid-safe. Unfortunately, pothos is toxic if ingested, SO it isn’t perfect. But let’s be real, who is perfect!? I certainly am not… so my Epipremnum aureum are staying, but will definitely be out of reach of pets and kids. 🙂

Resources used for this article:

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.