12 Tips For Growing Great Pothos Plants Indoors
Featuring at least once in almost every houseplant collection, Pothos plants have only grown in popularity over the years. Beloved for their low-maintenance nature, they can grow almost anywhere without a fuss. However, there are a few tips to make your Pothos grow and look even better, requiring that extra bit of effort from committed plant parents who go the extra mile.
Thinking of planting a pothos in your home, or welcoming one home from the plant store into your indoor garden space? These versatile plants require very little maintenance, and can live just about anywhere, including on top of your refrigerator. But in order to maximize their lifespan and health, you need to provide them the proper care.
Most hobby gardeners know the basics. Adequate sunlight, and proper watering are key. But are there any other things you should know before attempting to welcome one of the many pothos cultivars into your home?
We’ve put together a list of 12 different tips to help your pothos flourish. From greener leaves, to longer vines, by following the tips we’ve outlined below, you’ll be sure to have a new houseplant that’s the envy of all your indoor gardening friends. Check out the following tips to grow a great pothos indoors!
A great pothos starts with the right pot. It may seem like an insignificant second thought, but pot choice can actually make or break your pothos growing journey.
We’ve all seen an amazing recycled pot or ceramic container that would look perfect with a pothos. However, if that container doesn’t have drainage holes, your plant will eventually die. Excess moisture in the soil will lead to fungal growth and root rot, ultimately killing your plant.
Although some recommend placing stones on the bottom of a container to replace drainage holes, this has problems of its own. Besides still leaving the bottom roots sitting in water, this stagnant water can also attract bacteria, causing further problems with diseases and overall plant health.
Always choose a pot with at least one drainage hole, preferably more. If you found a pot you like without drainage holes, you can also drill your own. Be careful with materials when drilling as many pots can split or crack easily.
Material is less of a concern as, unlike other epiphytic houseplants like hoyas, pothos prefer their soil to remain slightly moist. Light baskets made from coir or plastic are easier for hanging, while stronger terra cotta or ceramic pots are more stable for shelves and countertops.
When planting or repotting houseplants, you can’t use any old soil you find lying around your garden. Garden soil generally does not drain well enough for growth in containers and can harbor pests and diseases. Potting soil is better but generally designed for outdoor containers where water evaporates quickly.
For houseplants, you need a soil mix that drains well and delivers oxygen to the roots. You can purchase premixed houseplant soil online or at your local nursery, but to grow a great Pothos, it’s far better to make your own.
Making your own soil mix allows you to tailor the conditions to your indoor environment. You can also try to replicate the same texture as the existing soil, keeping it consistent and limiting any chances of transplant shock.
Houseplant soil is generally made up of a combination of potting soil amended with perlite (the small white rocks made of volcanic glass) and peat moss or its sustainable alternative, coconut coir. These materials are not costly and if you have many houseplants to repot, it ends up being cheaper than buying pre-mixed soil each time.
Pothos are beloved as wonderful low-light plants that grow in almost any condition. They have even been labeled almost impossible to kill due to their tolerance of neglect. However, the bare minimum won’t give you a great pothos, especially if it is variegated.
At minimum, you should place your Pothos in bright indirect light, right next to a window but away from the path of the direct light. In these conditions, most cultivars will grow around 12 inches per month during the active growing season, retaining their wonderful color and high levels of variegation.
In the cooler months when sunlight isn’t as intense, you can even give them an hour or two of direct morning sun. This gentle light is enough to give the plant a boost of energy without scorching the leaves.
If you don’t have a spot in your home with bright enough light, place them right in front of a south or west-facing window and filter the sun with a sheer curtain. This provides ideal lighting conditions and keeps the pot warm, which pothos plants love.
How and when you water your pothos is incredibly important. However, what few houseplant parents consider is what you water with.
Depending on your region and water quality, watering with plain tap water may be doing your pothos harm. The chemicals used to treat the water can lead to a build-up of salts in the soil, stunting growth over time.
The first step is to understand your water quality. Check your local resources or purchase a water test kit. Although they are not the most accurate, they will give you a general idea of your tap water quality for yourself and your plants.
If the quality is not up to scratch, you have a few options. The first is to install a filtration system that cleans the water as it comes out of the tap. Many options are available online for a wide range of systems. You can also run the water through a separate filter before watering, but this can be tedious and time-consuming.
Buying distilled water is also an option but can get pricey. Unless you are already buying distilled water continuously for yourself, there is little reason to go that extra mile for your houseplants.
The most cost-effective solution is to simply leave the tap water out in a glass for 24-48 hours before using it on your houseplants. Over time, some chlorine will evaporate, making it safer for use. The jury is still out on how much chlorine evaporates and the effects largely depend on your tap water and conditions, but it’s an easy practice for those who struggle with low-quality water.
You may have come across a number of infographics online providing a time period to water your pothos, normally around 7-10 days. What this advice fails to explain is the differences in conditions between homes and between seasons that can impact when is best to water.
Watering on a strict schedule can quickly lead to problems with under or overwatering. At the height of summer and in a bright area, your pothos may need water slightly more often than once a week. Left without much indirect sunlight in winter, they can often go a few weeks without water, and watering any sooner will only lead to root rot.
Rather than setting a specific time to water, test the soil every couple of days with your finger. Once the top 2 inches have dried out completely, it’s time to water again. This can differ between seasons and even day to day, so try to check the soil every 2 to 3 days to determine the perfect time to water.
Moisture meters are also useful tools when it comes to watering. Sticking them at the right depth in the soil, they test the level of moisture and indicate when it has dried out, letting you know when it’s time to water.
Like most houseplants, pothos plants don’t like dramatic changes in conditions or much disturbance. Open windows with strong drafts, especially at the height of winter or summer, can lead to several growth problems. For your Pothos to truly thrive, it needs to be moved away from this area as soon as possible.
The same can be said for spots in front of air conditioners or radiators. Not only do these appliances change the temperature around the plant dramatically, but the rapid changes when they are switched on or off can result in stress. The soil also dries out far too quickly and the lack of humidity will eventually cause the leaves to turn brown.
Keep your pothos in consistent temperatures and conditions to have them looking their best. They should have some airflow to prevent diseases, but not so much that it causes stress.
Invest in a Humidifier
Humidity has more of an impact on plant health than many may assume. After watering and light, it tends to be neglected as one of those factors that is a nice to have rather than a necessity. However, for these tropical plants, high humidity is essential.
Lack of humidity around your pothos will result in brown, shriveled leaves and browning at the stems. If the air is very dry, the plants may become stressed, stunting growth. In essence, recreating their natural environments is key to a perfect Pothos, and humidity is an important factor in this process.
Pothos plants are generally happy with humidity above 40% but more is always better. They are accustomed to at least 70% in their native habitats, and that’s during the dry seasons.
There are a few quick solutions to improve humidity, such as misting or placing your plant on a tray filled with pebbles. These do work to some extent, but can be time-consuming and don’t improve conditions significantly if your humidity is well below 40%.
Instead, committed pothos owners should invest in a humidifier. They can be pricey, but these gadgets are wonderful for all your houseplants, including your pothos. Humidifiers allow you to replicate the rainforest conditions houseplants are used to, dramatically improving growth and keeping the leaves lush.
When repotted often, pothos plants don’t typically rely on fertilizer. However, using the right fertilizer at the right time can go a long way in improving the growth and health of your pothos.
Pothos plants that haven’t been repotted recently could use a nutrient boost in spring and summer for optimal growth. Balanced fertilizers contribute to overall health, but you can also choose a fertilizer higher in nitrogen to promote strong leaf growth.
For a quick fix, liquid fertilizers are available to the plants immediately, but they tend to wash out of the soil faster, requiring repeat applications. Slow-release fertilizer sticks can be buried in the soil to break down over time, taking care of the plant for the entire season.
While fertilizer can improve growth, it can also hinder it if applied incorrectly. Never apply more than is recommended on the packaging as this can burn the roots and leaves, continuing to do damage until the soil is flushed. Start with a half-strength dose and work your way up if you find the plant needs more help.
The quick growth of pothos plants can often get out of hand, with vines from hanging baskets or shelves eventually trailing down to the floor. Unless this is the look you’re after, your hanging Pothos would grow and look better with an occasional trim.
Pruning helps keep the plant dense and promotes new growth. Vines that are longer without access to the soil also require more energy to keep alive. Eventually, long vines will become leggy and the leaves lackluster.
But, instead of seeing pruning as an annoying task that has to be completed once a year, see it as your chance to propagate even more pothos. These plants are some of the easiest to propagate from stem cutting. Simply remove a stem below a node, trim it into four-inch sections, and pop in a glass of water to grow roots.
When the roots have grown a few inches long, grab several cuttings together and plant them into a new pot for a brand new Pothos plant at absolutely no cost.
Most pothos plants are quick growers. They can grow 12 inches or more per month in spring and summer. Even the slower-growing variegated varieties grow quickly when compared to other houseplants. This means they can quickly outgrow their pots, requiring more space to expand.
Pothos don’t mind being confined. If you are happy to keep their growth contained, you can limit your repotting to once every two to three years or sooner if you notice problems with growth. However, repotting annually will ensure there is always space for the vines to keep growing, giving you the lushest and healthiest Pothos possible.
Repotting frequently is also an easy way to maintain soil health. A continuous refresh limits the risk of pest and disease problems and ensures there are always enough nutrients available to the plants.
Wipe the Leaves
The small leaves of a pothos don’t collect as much dust as some larger houseplants, such as the ever-popular Fiddle Leaf Fig. But that doesn’t mean they don’t collect dust at all.
The surface of the leaves will eventually become covered in a film of household dust by nature of being indoors. This layer hinders photosynthesis and gas exchange in the leaves, preventing further growth and potentially resulting in stress.
A simple wipe down with a damp cloth every couple of months is enough to prevent this from ever becoming an issue. Keep your pothos in clean areas with enough air around them to limit dust settling. Make sure you wipe the leaves gently to avoid damaging them or the stem in the process.
This quality time with your pothos also allows you to follow the next tip, checking for pests and diseases.
Check For Pests and Diseases
Indoor gardeners aren’t as stressed about pests and diseases as those outdoors. However, these issues can be as problematic for your houseplants, potentially leading to their demise if not dealt with quickly.
Pests and diseases are difficult to get rid of and rapidly get out of hand, making discarding the plant a far simpler and more attractive option than trying to resolve the issue before it spreads to your other houseplants. That’s why frequent checking of the leaves and stems is vital in keeping your pothos happy and thriving.
Every week or so while watering, check the undersides of the leaves and the top of the soil for any signs of pest and disease infestation. Prune away any problematic areas straight away and apply insecticidal soap or neem oil to prevent any pest eggs from hatching.