How to Care for Pothos, the Nearly Perfect Houseplant

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?

Pothos prefer bright indirect light, well-draining soil, and to be watered when their soil has completely dried out. However, these plants are very forgiving and will survive many conditions while you are learning how best to care for them.

To learn more detailed information about how to care for Epipremnum aureum and see some of the beautiful cultivars available, keep reading!

What kind of lighting do Pothos prefer?

Epipremnum aureum prefer and thrive best in bright indirect light. Bright indirect light generally means up to a few hours of direct sun a day and indirect light for the rest of the day.

Bright indirect light does not mean that the plant cannot handle any direct sunlight, which is often what the label leads a new houseplant owner to believe– myself included when I was on a mission to better understand my plants!

However, more than a few hours of direct sun will cause a Pothos to begin to fade or wilt. So placing a Pothos directly in a South-facing window where it will receive direct sunlight all day will be too much for this plant.

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 form on its leaf tips and drip periodically.

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

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

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

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!

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.

As the name suggests, they are not accustomed to dwelling in soil. Their roots are well-adapted for lots of air, climbing, and absorbing water as it runs down the trees during rain.

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!


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.

~~~ How to treat mealybugs: Mealybugs can be removed by hand, removed using a cotton swab with rubbing alcohol on it, or controlled using a spray.

I personally like to remove any I can by using rubbing alcohol and then spraying the plant using a mixture of water, neem oil, and mild dish soap (17 ounces water, .5 tsp neem oil, .75 tsp mild dish soap)


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.

Sometimes these guys are particularly tricky to identify on pothos because pothos also have aerial roots that form at the nodes and look like scaley nodules. However, if those nodules start multiplying out from the nodes or are fairly easy to pick off, they just might be scale!

~~~ How to treat scale: Scale can be picked off by hand and then the plant can be sprayed using insecticidal soap.

The homemade spray I mentioned above for mealybugs does not seem to be effective for scale, unfortunately.

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 to me.

~~~ How to treat spider mites: Spider mites can be washed off in the sink with water, then sprayed with the homemade pest spray mentioned above (17 oz water, .5 tsp neem oil, .75 tsp mild dish soap).

Spider mites thrive in dry conditions, so it would also be beneficial to mist the plant regularly for a while or run a humidifier near it to discourage the mites from living there.

**All treatments may need to be repeated to be effective**

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.

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

Where is Pothos found in the wild?

Epipremnum aureum was found on an island north of Australia called Moorea. In its natural habitat, it is an epiphyte growing up trees. As it grows and climbs pothos becomes quite large, forming leaves that are multiple feet wide and developing cuts down the leaf margins (or leaves that are pinnately divided).

Epipremnum aureum are part of the aroid or Araceae family, which includes a vast array of popular and beautiful houseplants.

“The Araceae are a family of herbaceous monocots with 125 genera and about 3750 species including the Lemnaceae.

The vast majority of the genera occur in the New World tropics. Members of the family are highly diverse in life forms, leaf morphology, and inflorescence characteristics. Life forms range from submerged or free-floating aquatics to terrestrial (sometimes tuberous), and to epiphytic or hemiepiphytic plants or climbers. Leaves range from simple and entire to compound and highly divided, and may be basal or produced from an aerial stem. The family is best characterized by its distinctive inflorescence, a spadix with bisexual or unisexual (sometimes with sterile region) and subtended by a solitary spathe on a long or very short peduncle.”

Information from the International Aroid Society, Inc.

Pothos are considered an invasive species in many tropical parts of the world.

If you are in a warm enough climate for pothos to grow year round outdoors, make sure to carefully dispose of plants and prevent them from growing and overtaking native plants in your area.

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!

What types of Pothos are available to purchase?

The number of cultivars available in stores and online are growing steadily over time. As of this post, I am aware of: golden, marble queen, snow queen (which is a marble queen that has predominantly white leaves with green speckling), jade, neon, Manjula, pearls and jade, and n’joy.

Special thanks to the owner of the Instagram account @theboredwife for creating and agreeing to share with us the amazing photo below!! Here you can see each of the cultivars I mentioned above and a few of the closely-related plants as well!!

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!

Image captured by @theboredwife on Instagram

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. 🙂

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