Over the last few years, houseplants have become a popular trend, especially among younger generations and beginner gardeners. While there are many varieties to choose from, one of the most low-maintenance and sought-out species is the pothos plant. If you’ve been eyeing one of these beauties, it’s time to learn about the basics of pothos plant care.
Like other plants such as peace lilies and snake plants, pothos are some of the easiest houseplants to grow. They bring a pop of nature into your home and are a great and natural way to cleanse the air.
If you don’t have a ton of time to devote to plant care but still want some plant companions, then this pothos plant care guide is for you. You’ll learn how to create the perfect conditions for your beautiful green baby so it can thrive and grow into a healthy and vibrant plant.
What Are Pothos Plants?
Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) are popular houseplants native to Southeast Asia — French Polynesia, to be exact. Also known as devil’s ivy and Ceylon creeper, pothos is often confused with philodendrons, a plant with similar heart-shaped leaves. To make sure you’re buying the right plant, check the plant tags or ask a staff member at your local garden center.
Pothos plants possess an aerial root system that allows them to both sprawl across forest floors and climb tree trunks due to their excellent vining skills. In fact, they can grow up to 10 feet long, even indoors!
Due to these characteristics, they’re perfect for placing on top of bookshelves or adding to hanging baskets as they’ll flow down naturally and create beautiful curtains of green foliage. They can also be trained to grow as climbers if given the right trellis-like structure. Such versatility makes pothos suitable as both outdoor and indoor plants.
Toxicity note: If you have pets, keep in mind that pothos contains calcium oxalate crystals and toxic proteins, which may cause skin and mucous membrane irritation when ingested. Therefore, it’s best to keep these plants in areas where your cat or dog cannot reach. If your cat loves nibbling plants, consider growing some cat grass to entertain your furry friend and prevent them from chewing the wrong plant.
Pothos Plant Varieties
The pothos family comprises many different subspecies, all with similar water, sunlight, and soil needs. However, certain pothos types have specific requirements. For this reason, it’s crucial to find out what those requirements are before selecting a variety.
While there are plenty of pothos plant choices out there, here are the four most common types:
- Golden pothos: Golden pothos is perhaps the most popular and common species found in garden centers, and for a good reason. According to experts, they are one of the top three plants — the others being philodendron and spider plant — which are most effective in removing formaldehyde from the environment. This harmful substance is present in most homes as it’s released by many construction materials, such as foam insulation, paint, and varnish. Golden pothos is characterized by its variegated leaves, which are deep green and dotted with yellowish-gold patches.
- Marble queen pothos: If you’re looking for a houseplant with a quirky personality, the marble queen is your girl. This variety possesses creamy, white streaks which are sprawled over grayish-green leaves. These types of pothos plants tend to grow slower than golden pothos and other pothos species.
- Jade pothos: Jade pothos has uniform dark green leaves free of variegation, which may have its benefits. (More on that in a bit.) This pothos subspecies grows best in low light conditions, making it perfect for homes and apartments that don’t have a lot of natural light.
- Neon pothos: Neon pothos leaves make it easy for you to distinguish this variety from other pothos species. With their bright chartreuse-green color and lack of variegation, these vibrant and vivacious plants are sure to brighten up the darkest corners of your living space.
The Basics of Pothos Plant Care
According to Feng Shui, pothos plants bring wealth and prosperity to your home, which also means they make for beautiful and thoughtful gifts for friends or family members who just moved to a new place. If you know someone who has a black thumb — the opposite of green thumb — gifting them a pothos plant can be a great way to boost their gardening confidence.
While pothos plant care is relatively straightforward, there are a couple of things you should keep in mind before buying one. Let’s get started.
Unlike more demanding plants, the pothos plant soil needs are quite simple. All they need is a good-quality organic potting mix that’s light in nature and provides proper drainage, as pothos don’t enjoy having “wet feet.”
By supplying them with well-drained potting soil, you’ll prevent your plants from developing root rot, a common occurrence caused by too much water and poor drainage.
Sun exposure is one of the most crucial aspects of pothos plant care, especially if you select a plant with variegated foliage — such as golden pothos or marble queen.
While pothos plants generally tolerate low-light conditions, species that show leaf variegation may lose their beautiful patterns if they’re in the shade for long periods. If you’ve bought a pothos plant for its unique leaf design and want to preserve it, make sure you place it in a spot where it has access to bright indirect light.
Pick a location with enough light but avoid places with direct sunlight, as this may lead to scorched yellow leaves and plant wilting.
The second most crucial factor of pothos plant care — and the number one cause for premature houseplant death — is water. Or should we say, overwatering.
While they are native to high humidity environments, pothos plants do not enjoy soggy soil, so you must water them appropriately. Like most houseplants, they prefer to have their soil dry out completely between waterings. To check if it’s hydration time, poke your finger about an inch deep into the soil. If it comes out dry, it’s time to water.
Water your pothos plant until the water seeps out from the pot’s drainage holes. This not only provides proper hydration but also helps to flush out salts that can cause root injury. If your pothos pot has a saucer, make sure to discard any residual water to prevent overwatering.
Pothos are perfect plants for bathrooms, where humidity levels are usually high. Alternatively, you can sprinkle the leaves with a water bottle — in the morning and during hot weather — or place them closer to other plants to encourage lush growth. Since plants increase humidity in the air, the closer your pothos is to other plants, the more humidity it will receive.
Some gardeners opt to grow pothos plants in water-filled bottles without any soil. This method is called hydroponics, and has been used for centuries as a cultivation system.
A fun and sustainable way to use this technique is with the Back to the Roots Water Garden. This self-watering planter provides the perfect, worry-free environment for you to grow your pothos plant and many other species.
Pruning and Repotting
Pothos plants benefit significantly from vigorous pruning, as this helps to make the plant fuller and encourages new growth.
When you prune your plant, you stimulate the growth of lateral shoots that will give the lovely pothos a more lush appearance. It’s also a great way to train the new vines to grow as you desire.
To prune, use a sharp knife or a pair of scissors and cut the stems directly above the joint where the leaves meet the branch. Remove all pruned material and water the plant until the soil feels moist to avoid drought stress during the plant’s recovery.
If your plant looks droopy, even if you’re using a proper watering protocol, it may be a sign that it has become “rootbound” — the roots have taken up all the space inside the pot. To check that, wait for the soil to dry completely and remove the plant from the pot.
Select a larger container that is a couple of inches wider than the previous one, and repot the pothos plant. This is best done during its growing season, which begins in the spring.
Pothos is one of the easiest houseplants to breed. Once your plant is big enough, you can start creating brand-new plants and gift them to your friends and family, or simply add them to other rooms in your place.
To create a new plant, it’s best to use stem cuttings from the mother plant. This is how to do it:
- Cut off a stem that contains at least two leaves.
- Place the stem cutting into a container with water (like a small vase or glass).
- After a few weeks, the cutting should begin to develop roots.
- Once these new roots are about 3 inches long, transplant your new baby plants into a container with potting soil.
While pothos plants are not really prone to bug infestations, keep an eye out for mealy bugs. These small, white insects love to feed on pothos leaves and usually leave behind a waxy and powdery residue. If you encounter these annoying creatures, treat your plant with neem oil or simply soak a cotton swab with rubbing alcohol and clean the foliage.
Pothos Plants Are Easy to Grow and Perfect for Aspiring Gardeners
If you don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to gardening but still want to bring a bit of nature into your space, houseplants are a great and affordable option to spruce up your place.
Pothos plants are undoubtedly a fantastic choice if you have zero experience in gardening and are looking for a low-maintenance and drought-tolerant plant that can survive in the hands of even the deadliest plant killers. For more gardening tips, be sure to browse our Back to the Roots blog.