How Long Can a Pothos Plant Last Without Water?
If you are headed out for a few days, you may be wondering how long your pothos plant can live without water. In this article, organic gardening expert Logan Hailey walks through exactly how long your pothos plant can go without watering, and when it's a good idea to call in some help to water your plants while you are away.
Pothos are some of the most resilient houseplants around, but that doesn’t mean they’re totally invincible. This tropical vine is easy to please thanks to its drought tolerance and willingness to grow in lower light conditions. Many beginners opt for pothos (Epipremnum aureum) plants in their homes because of these qualities, however, they often forget that pothos still need some care to truly thrive.
If you are considering buying any type of pothos plant and have a knack for going on regular vacations or forgetting to water your plants, you might be wondering how long this verdant vine can last without water.
The short answer? A week, maybe two or three. The real answer? There is no magic number. The length of time depends on the soil quality, type of container, and climate. If you want to grow a low-maintenance plant that will still be alive after a 3-week vacation without any water, you’ll need to prepare with a few simple steps. Let’s dig in!
How Long Can Pothos Last Without Water?
With proper preparation, pothos can last up to 2 or 3 weeks without water. However, if you don’t provide the plant with ideal conditions, it can die of thirst within a week or so.
To keep pothos alive as long as possible without watering, begin by preparing the ideal soil, container, and indoor climate described above and then take a few steps before leaving your plant to fend for itself.
Factors Affecting Pothos Drought Tolerance
Droughts are very common in areas where pothos grow wild. In fact, its native tropical regions like French Polynesia, Southeast Asia, and Australia undergo regular cycles of dry spells where pothos get by without any rainfall for months at a time.
Instead, they use their roots to draw on pockets of groundwater held inside the soil. They also grow aerial roots that help them climb and cling to surfaces while also absorbing humidity from the air through little holes in their leaves called stomata.
The alternating dry season and moist monsoon seasons of the tropics give us lots of clues on how to water pothos and help it persist through longer periods without water. As an indoor plant, the length of time pothos can go with no water comes down to three main factors: the soil it’s planted in, the container it’s growing in, and the climate of your home.
The type of soil you grow your pothos in will affect how quickly the water will pass through or stay put. A plant growing in quality soil will last the longest period of time without water.
Wild pothos root and ramble at the floors of tropical rainforests. These tropical soils are known for their fast drainage and rusty red color that is caused by the leaching of minerals during heavy rainfall. When growing pothos indoors, it’s very important to provide soil that drains quickly, but can also hold onto some water. You can do this through the addition of organic matter such as compost, coco coir, or peat moss.
Paradoxically, organic matter improves drainage while also improving water holding capacity. Pothos enjoys this happy medium. If you want a low-maintenance pothos plant that can last up to 2 weeks or more with no water, you will need to start with a high-quality soil blend.
The best soil for pothos will quickly infiltrate and absorb water without pooling up at the top. The soil should be able to get thoroughly saturated and drain water out of the bottom of the container without ever getting soggy or waterlogged. Pothos absolutely hates “wet feet!”
The best combination I’ve found is a blend of 1 part standard organic topsoil, 1 part high-quality compost, and 1 part perlite. If adding coco coir or peat, be sure to pre-wet the material before mixing it into your pothos pot, as it can be very hydrophobic (meaning it repels water, which we don’t want to do).
Type of Container
The type of container you grow your pothos in will ultimately affect how long it can go without water. A small plant in a small container is going to need water more frequently, especially if it is rootbound. Smaller pots dry out the quickest and ideally should be up-potted before a long stint of drought-like conditions. An actively growing large plant with a large amount of soil will be able to last longer with little to no water.
Pothos plants are usually grown in pots or hanging baskets. If you are growing in a pot, be sure that it has a large drainage hole and a catchment tray to ensure that water can properly filter through.
This bottom drainage hole is also helpful for bottom-watering your plant. You can do this by filling the tray with water or placing the pot in a bucket of water to soak up from the roots. This will provide your plant with enough water to last 2-3 weeks.
For hanging baskets, it’s best to move the basket outside during deep waterings, allow it to drain through the bottom holes, and then return it to its place indoors. Consider placing the hanging basket inside a water-filled bucket or tray while you are away.
Climate and Temperature
If you live in a dry climate, plants will naturally require more water due to the lack of humidity and the way that water filters through the air and soil. Because plants can also absorb moisture through their leaves, the humidity of your home will drastically affect the pothos’ ability to withstand long periods with no water.
A wet or humid climate, on the other hand, will be more amenable to leaving pothos without water for a week or two. Houseplant enthusiasts often opt to use a humidifier to keep their plants hydrated from the outside-in.
To maintain humidity and avoid excess drying, avoid keeping pothos by super-bright windows where sunlight could dry out the soil too quickly. This will also help prevent leaf burn.
If you are leaving for an extended vacation, consider moving your pothos to the most temperature-moderated and humid part of your house near a north or east-facing window that offers diluted sunlight. Often a kitchen or bathroom will do the trick.
Lastly, avoid leaving your plant anywhere too hot, as the temperature will also affect the plant’s drought tolerance. Ideally, cool indoor weather between 60 and 70°F will help the pothos last the longest without water.
Tips For While You Are Away
There’s a few different things you can to to ensure that your plant won’t die while you are away from your home. While these plants are hardy and can last up to 2-3 weeks with no water, there are still some actions you can take to ensure that they last on the longer end of that spectrum without causing too much harm to your plant. Let’s take a look!
Deep Water Before You Go
Next, deep water your pothos before you leave. The best way to do this is to water from the top and thoroughly moisten the entire root zone until water runs out of the bottom drainage hole. It can also help to submerge the pothos pot in a tray of water for 10-15 minutes so water can thoroughly soak every soil crevice.
Soak in Water
Some people prefer to keep their plants in a sink or tray filled with 1-2” water while they are gone. Just be careful not to drown the plants. They should be able to slowly soak up the water through their roots and drainage holes as they need it.
Add Seaweed Fertilizer
If you really want to optimize the pothos’ drought tolerance, consider also adding a diluted seaweed solution to your watering can. This will promote strong root growth that can scavenge every last bit of water in the soil while you are gone.
How to Water Pothos
Recall back to those monsoon and drought cycles of the tropics. Pothos really prefer deep waterings with enough time to dry out in between. Always check the soil before watering by sticking your finger 2-3” deep. If it feels dry and your finger comes out mostly clean, it is time to water. When you remove your finger and has soil on it and it feels wet, let it dry out for longer.
If you plan to go on a long vacation, be sure that the soil is still able to fully drain and moderately dry out while you’re gone. A soggy root zone will ultimately kill the plant by suffocating the roots or causing a fungal infection. This is why quality, well-drained potting mix is so important for pothos.
Pothos Watering Issues
Pothos are eager to please, but their most common issues are related to watering. Some people neglect them altogether, while others give them an excess of moisture that essentially rots the plant’s roots. Find a happy medium by looking for signs from your plant.
Signs of Underwatering
A wilted, sad plant is never a good sight. Pothos will quickly tell you when it is being underwatered. The leaves will look droopy and maybe even have crispy browning around the edges. Thankfully, these plants perk up really quickly once their thirst is quenched. Pay attention to clues from the leaves to know if you are underwatering.
How to Revitalize a Dehydrated Pothos
If you come home to a dead-looking pothos plant, don’t panic yet! These plants are remarkably resilient, so don’t give up on them. Soak the bottom of the pot in a bucket of water with diluted seaweed for 10-15 minutes and then take it out to drain.
Repeat this process twice a week and see if the plant bounces back. Prune off any damaged leaves and see if your pothos perk up and regrow new leaves in the next few weeks.
Signs of Overwatering
Believe it or not, overwatering is equally damaging. Ever heard of too much of a good thing?
Pothos really don’t like a soggy or waterlogged root zone. Overwatered pothos plants may appear yellow and limp. Sometimes they develop whitish or brownish watery blisters on the leaves. There may also be a bad smell coming from the root zone, which is a sign of root rot.
How to Revitalize an Overwatered Pothos
To save an overwatered pothos, begin by holding the plant at the base and gently turning it over to examine the roots. Prune off any rotten pieces and shake off some of the soggy, stagnant soil. Next, re-plant the pothos in a high-quality, well-drained soil mix inside a container with plenty of large drainage holes at the bottom. Then, allow the pothos to thoroughly dry out in between waterings using the finger check method described above.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long can pothos go without being watered?
Pothos are fine with a little neglect. Depending on where you live, indoor pothos plants can last 1, 2, or even 3 weeks without water. The length of time ultimately depends on the potting soil, the container, and the climate of your home.
What happens if you don’t water pothos?
Pothos is a very forgiving and drought-tolerant plant, but it only has a certain amount of roots in a potted container. This houseplant will likely die after 3 or 4 weeks without getting watered. But sometimes dehydrated, wilted pothos plants can be brought back to life by soaking them from the bottom in a bucket of water with seaweed solution for 10-15 minutes and repeating every week for 2-3 weeks.
How long does it take for plants to die without water?
Droughts (long periods without water) happen all the time in nature. Every plant has a different tolerance for drought depending on its genetics, soil health, and the climate it is growing in.
Pothos plants, for example, are common houseplants that can survive 2-3 weeks without getting watered if they are prepared properly. Garden crops like lettuce may die within a few days of hot temperatures and no water. Succulents and cacti, on the other hand, can last many months with no water.
Pothos can last longer than other house plants without water. When prepared properly, these resilient vines are perfectly fine for a 2 to 3-week vacation without being watered.
But if you don’t prepare properly, you may come home to a very sad or dead plant. The secret to keeping pothos happy and hydrated is planting it in quality soil, a good container (with a drainage hole!), and the proper location in your home.