Instructions on how to care for Pothos plants, Epipremnum aureum and cultivars
While I’m not generally thrilled by aroids, 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, 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. They are looking to climb, and will if you give them something to climb on, such as a moss pole or coir pole. 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.
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.
Now, because there are so many “insta-famous” folks out there creating over 9,000+ different mixes, I have to write this last part. You don’t need to blow your money on any fancy potting mix for Pothos. 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 regular potting mix.
Over the longterm, Pothos will continue to vine, and rarely flowers indoors. If you give it enough direct sun and allow it to climb and not hang, you will see the leaves start to transform into larger sizes as well as fenestrate like a monstera when they reach maturity. This plant is best for folks who just want green and aren’t particularly interested in plants, as this is a rather boring plant, horticulturally-speaking (boring as in doesn’t flower or produce anything edible… it just grows…).
General Care Instructions for Pothos
In the wild, aroids often grow on the forest floor and have adapted to surviving in many conditions, including low light. In the horticulture industry, we market these plants as “low light” plants, but the truth is, is that no plant really likes to be in low light. Most aroids prefer dappled sunlight. In their native environment, they are understory plants and are shaded, but the sun is not completely obscured.
So again, I REPEAT, DO NOT PUT THESE PLANTS IN LOW LIGHT. No plant likes to be in low light. Failsafe is to put any plant in a window.
Give these plants 1-4h of direct sun indoors, increasing the level of direct sun with the size of the plant. The bigger the plant, the more light it will need. If the plant is not getting enough light, it will drop leaves starting at the base of the vines, and newer leaves will be smaller than previous leaves. The new vines may look leggy as well.
Allow potting mix to dry out before watering. Soil about 1-2” down should be dry to touch. Water more frequently during warmer months and fertilize during the growing season. Generally, the plant will droop to show that it needs more water.
Contrary to popular belief, aroids (except Alocasia and “thin-skinned” aroids) do NOT CARE about humidity.
65°F-85°F (18°C-30°C). It’s best not to let it go below 60°F (15°C), or growth will stunt and the leaves may sag and turn somewhat watercolor-y yellow-chartreuse.
When propagating, be aware that water is devoid of nutrients. Just because you can propagate in water, doesn’t mean you should keep it in water forever. The plant will not grow as well as if you planted it in soil.
Most aroids are prone to mites, but occasionally scale and mealybugs attack them as well. Treat the plants according to my pest guide here.
SYMPTOM: Leaves EVENLY turning brown and crispy at leaf edges
CAUSE: Under watered, high salts, or potassium deficiency
SYMPTOM: Yellow Leaves
CAUSE: Could be a lot of things! Anyone who tells you that yellow leaves automatically means overwatering has no idea what they are talking about. Yellow leaves is just a distress call. Combined with another factor, and the diagnosis becomes clear.
- Yellowing + leaf curl OR drooping + dry soil = underwatered
- Yellowing + moist soil = overwatered
- Yellowing + moist soil + drooping = too hot
- Yellowing in blotchy way = plant is cold OR staying too wet between watering
- Yellowing + browning of old leaves + stunted growth = needs fertilizer
- Yellowing + blackened stems = root rot; overwatering
- Yellowing of lower/older leaves alone = just old leaves
Irritating to cats, dogs, and humans if consumed, but probably not lethal. Best practice is always to keep houseplants out of reach of small children and pets. Aroids are not particularly hard to grow, and are tolerant of many conditions. Just be mindful of the environment in which you place them, and be aware of the seasons, indoors and outdoors.