How to grow Pothos

A houseplant for the ages!
by
Plant Doctor Christopher Satch

General Information

While I’m not generally thrilled by aroids (oh boy… yet another GREEN LEAF…yawn), I actually have a lot of respect for pothos.  It’s a super resilient, tough plant.  Anyone who is new to houseplants, or has never cared for an indoor plant before NEEDS to start with this one.  It’s very easy to grow, and forgiving of less-than-ideal conditions.  It’s The Plant Doctor’s favorite!  If you are having trouble with pothos, keep reading this article and trying again until you get it right!  Remember, practice makes perfect!

Ecology and Environment

The Pothos, or Epipremnum aureum, has the reputation of being one of the easiest houseplants to take care of. Its common name, Pothos, comes from the genus it was once classified under: Pothos aureus. Hailing from the Society Islands in French Polynesia[1], this plant is a tropical vine that climbs up trees and other things, propped up by its aerial roots, and like other aroids, changes leaf shape with age, size, and light.

Often, this plant is grown in hanging baskets, which is fine, but the plant is actually a climber.  You will notice that as the plant grows, it curls up at the ends.  This is indicative of plants that are climbers, not trailers.

As you will see from my Aroids 101 article, the ancestor to all aroids was a swamp-dweller.  That means that you can propagate your pothos in water, as you will see on instagram ad nauseum.  Now, just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean that you SHOULD do something.  While you can definitely get a cutting started in water, or grow it in water indefinitely, over time, in the water, the plant will decline.  It’s better to grow your pothos in potting mix.

Why? 

Now the sensitive folks and the nay-sayers may be offended at my suggestion that one should always grow these plants in soil (and they SHOULD BE!), but in its native environment, it’s a land plant, and not an aquatic plant.  So, while it can temporarily stay in water, you are honestly better off propagating it in moist soil.  You don’t have to transplant it, and it will grow faster, stronger, and better.  I guarantee it.

A Pothos, growing perfectly fine on the ground in Florida

Now, because there are so many “insta famous” folks out there creating 99,999,999 different mixes, I have to write this last part.  You don’t need to blow your money on any fancy mix for these guys.  I mean, they can grow in water for a while… which is devoid of all nutrients.  They are pretty adaptable.  Do yourself a favor, and save your wallet – plant these in potting mix.

General Care

Growing pothos is fun and easy!

Light

Normally, I rant about more light, but this one actually thrives in bright, indirect light or dappled sun.  Not suited for intense, direct sun.  I recommend these for north-facing windows, or as a plant “right off to the side” of a window.

Water

Water whenever the soil is dry.  Tolerates moist soil, but if it doesn’t dry out, you’ll get fungus gnats.  And they’re annoying.  Harmless, but annoying, like my mother at Thanksgiving.

Humidity

The waxier the leaves, the less the plant cares about humidity, and this plant does not care at all.

Temperature

Average home temperature of 60-85°F (15.5°-24°C). If you’re comfortable, the Pothos is comfortable.  Err on the warmer side for faster growth.  But you knew that tropical plants like warmth, right? 😉

Common Problems

SYMPTOM: Wilting plant, dry potting mix
CAUSE: Thirsty plant, underwatered

SYMPTOM: Yellowing leaves, black stems, fungus gnats
CAUSE: Soil is too wet; let dry more and increase light

SYMPTOM: Crisping brown as irregular patterns, often with yellow on the leaves
CAUSE: You got a fungus.  Return the plant and demand a refund OR chop off all the infected parts AND stop misting the plant.

Other Notes

Most aroids produce asbestos-like crystal raphides inside their leaves to deter herbivory.  Irritating ONLY if ingested. Best practice is always to keep houseplants out of reach of small children and pets.

Have any questions about a pothos?  You should message me @botanictonic on instagram or botanictonic@gmail.com !  If you like what I am writing, please leave me a tip on Venmo!  @C-Sat (if it asks for a number, it’s 9898)


References

[1] http://powo.science.kew.org/taxon/urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:87014-1

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