Pothos is a plant that grows naturally in forested, tropical areas. The vines can grow long with marbling on the heart-shaped leaves. The variegated colors of some subspecies give it unique names, like Golden Pothos or Snow Queen Pothos. It is sometimes called the devil’s ivy because it is devilishly tricky to kill, even for people who fail to give it proper sunlight and water. Since it will accept a fair bit of variety for its lighting and soil environments, it is an ideal choice for gardeners who have never successfully maintained an indoor plant, or those new to the hobby in general.
Quick Pothos Tips
The Pothos plant is native to the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. These islands are home to thousands of plant species that exist nowhere else. Pothos is a survivor, which means that people do not necessarily have to create that forest environment in order for it to do well. Best practices for caring for the plant include:
- Light and Placement: Pothos needs moderate, indirect light, and can do well in artificial or low lighting scenarios.
- Watering and Humidity: The plant prefers higher humidity, but does not need to be watered very often.
- Ideal Soil Mixture: Almost any soil mixture is acceptable for Pothos, although it prefers soil with moderate drainage.
- Common Issues: Overwatering is the most common problem, but insects can also cause damage.
- Propagation: Pothos plants are easy to propagate in water, but should be transferred to soil as soon as the roots develop.
- Toxicity: Mildly toxic, this plant can cause a rash or vomiting.
This plant is fairly forgiving, but generally cannot be forgotten. Periodic attention can keep it healthy and encourage larger leaf growth.
Light and Placement for Pothos
Like most indoor plants, Pothos prefers moderate, indirect lighting. However, it is more flexible than most, because it will tolerate a range of lighting environments. People do not need to place it in a spot that gets tons of bright, indirect sunlight. In fact, they can put it in a room with no windows that only gets fluorescent lighting. The most important part of the plant’s placement is temperature. Parts of the home that get cold or drafty will stop growth, even if the lighting is sufficient. This is also true for placement in rooms that rise above 90 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer.
It is important to remember that the wonderful variations in leaf colors depend on the lighting. Many people buy Pothos plants because they love the marbling effect of some types. However, only the green parts of the leaves produce energy that the plant needs to survive. If you bought a variegated pothos (such as a Golden, Manjula, or Snow Queen) but place it in a low-light environment, the leaves may turn exclusively green as a way to increase photosynthesis. Increasing the amount of light the plant gets may allow the color variegation to return. Remember that some varieties will not have variegation no matter the lighting conditions.
Pothos Watering and Humidity Preferences
The Pothos plant prefers moderate watering and humidity, but it can grow reasonably outside of these conditions. People who are growing Pothos in water simply need to add water before the level drops below the root structure. For Pothos plants grown in soil, it is important not to let them dry out too much. While some indoor plants require waiting until the soil is dry to a minimum depth, Pothos does best when it gets water before the soil is dry to a maximum of one inch in depth. This may be once a month or more frequently, depending on its lighting and placement. Too much watering may lead to root rot.
Pothos is used to a tropical environment, which means that its region of origin is quite humid to begin with. Many people mist indoor plants because central heating and air conditioning reduce the room’s humidity. Some regions are simply too dry for certain plants to survive, but this plant is hardy and may survive in a variety of environments.
Pothos Ideal Soil Mixture
The ideal soil mixture for Pothos is surprisingly flexible. Almost anything goes for this hardy plant. This means that the options range from well-draining soil made of cactus potting mix and perlite, to a simple vase full of water. The trick is using the correct frequency of watering for the soil mixture.
The right way to fertilize the plant depends on people’s preferences. Experts usually recommend starting with soil that does not contain additional fertilizers, so that people can be deliberate in their choices. However, this may not be necessary for the plant to grow well. Pothos that are grown in soil should not be fertilized more than once every month during the growing season (spring and summer). Pothos grown in water may tolerate liquid plant food added as often as once a month.
Troubleshooting Pothos Issues
Overwatering is the most common problem with the Pothos plant. This tropical forest species needs moisture and humidity, but don’t get carried away with your watering schedule. As a general rule, people should let the soil dry out a little bit between watering. If the soil is completely dry for extended periods of time, it can cause the plant to lose its leaves or turn brown. Insect infestations are the next most likely issue, particularly mealybugs. A cotton swab dipped in alcohol will kill these pests, as well as a horticultural oil spray meant for plants. It is better to address insects before they are too numerous, as that can make the problem much harder to eradicate.
The plant can occasionally have problems with the leaves. “Crunchy” leaves may be an indication that the plant is getting too much direct sunlight. Sun damage is relatively easy to correct, by placing it away from windows that open to the south or west. Too much fertilizer also turns the leaves yellow. Yellowing is also a sign of overwatering.
Pothos is not difficult to propagate, but people must pay attention to the process. As a fast grower, owners might find themselves pruning their plant relatively often. You can use these cuttings to propogate. Spring is a good time to consider propagating for placement in another pot or as a gift.
People should start by cutting a piece that is four to six inches long, with at least four leaves on each cutting. Remove the oldest leaf and set it aside to callous. Place the cut end of the stem into water out of direct sunlight. Growth happens best when the spot is 70 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, but will stall in temperatures that are higher or lower. Although Pothos can thrive in either water or soil, it is difficult to transfer from one to the other once the root structure is extensive. People who plan to grow it in soil should transplant the cutting into a pot before the roots are two inches long. Otherwise, it may fail once transferred.
The Pothos plant is an amazingly easy indoor plant for people to grow, even if they do not have any experience. It will tolerate “not ideal” conditions more than many indoor plant species. It also handles most lighting arrangements with ease, from minimal artificial lighting to a near-constant stream of indirect sunlight. With good care, Pothos will grow long, large and beautiful.