How to grow and care for Pothos Indoors

Houseplant, Pothos

Botanical name: Scindapsus aureus
Synonym: Epipremnum aureum
Family: Araceae

Pothos are popular colourful houseplants with air purifying properties. They are easy to grow even for the beginner as they easily adapt to a wide range of growing conditions. Pothos are low maintenance and generally pest resistant. If kept away from draughts, direct sunlight and with moderate watering, they will thrive. They can be treated as a trailer or climber, reaching up to 6 ft or more under good conditions. The aerial roots need to be provided with support: a moss stick is ideal to provide support and feeding. The stems can also be allowed to trail from a hanging basket or wall display. Pothos are native to Southeast Asia, New Guinea, Queensland and parts of western Pacific Islands. According to a study carried out by NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), Scindapsus aureus was found to get rid of common VOCs like xylene, toulene, benzene, formaldehyde and ammonia from indoor air.

Many varieties of Pothos are available. The easiest one to grow is the Golden Pothos also called Devil's Ivy probably to suggest the vigour with which it grows even under adverse growing conditions. Golden Queen is more yellow than green, Marble Queen is near white and Neon is almost yellow. Silver Vine bears white edged-leaves; the leaves have silver splashes on the upper surface of the foliage.

How to Grow Pothos

Light

Pothos prefer a well-lit spot away from direct sunlight. They can tolerate low light but the variegation will fade in poor light. Learn how to ensure your plant receives the correct light in this guide on understanding light for houseplants.

Water

Water Pothos liberally during the growing season while allowing the top 2 in. of soil to dry out between waterings. Reduce watering during the cold season to keep the soil slightly moist. Avoid waterlogging as it can lead in root-rot. Learn more on how to water houseplants.

Temperature

Average warmth with a minimum of 120C is ideal for Pothos. Protect the plant from cold draughts as they can cause leaf drop. Learn more on temperature for houseplants.

Humidity

Average room humidity is ideal for Pothos. Mist the leaves occasionally and clean them by damp-wiping with a soft cloth.

Feeding

Feed Pothos with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer every 4 weeks during the growing period. Withhold feeding during the cold season as growth is minimal and feeding at this time may lead to fertilizer burn. Learn more on feeding houseplants.

Repotting

Repot Pothos during the growing season only when the plant has become pot-bound. Use a rich, free-draining soil and a pot one size larger. Ensure the pot has a drainage hole(s) to prevent waterlogging which can lead to root-rot.

Pruning

Pruning Pothos involves frequent removal of any dead foliage. Pinch off the growing tips to encourage bushyness and prevent the plant from becoming leggy. Cut back the stems at the beginning of the growing season when they become straggly to rejuvenate growth. The foliage emanating from the pruning can be used to propagate new plants. Learn more on how to prune houseplants.

How to Propagate Pothos

Pothos can be propagated at the beginning of the growing season from stem cuttings.

Propagating Pothos from stem cuttings in soil
Take a stem cutting from a healthy Pothos plant. Ensure the cutting has at least two leaf nodes and some aerial roots. Strip off the lower leaves and insert it in moist rooting soil, ensure at least one leaf node together with the aerial roots are covered under soil. Place in a warm shaded place and maintain moist through out. To hasten rooting, cover the set up with polythene to create a greenhouse effect. Rooting should take place in about 2-3 weeks and the new plant will be ready to be transplanted in about 2-3 months.

Propagating Pothos from stem cuttings in water
Pothos can also be rooted in water. Take a stem cutting from a healthy Pothos plant. Ensure the cutting has at least two leaf nodes and some aerial roots. Strip off the lower leaves and place it in a jar of plain water, ensure one leaf node is covered in water as wells as the aerial roots. Place the set up in a well-lit spot and change the water every once a week. Rooting should take place in about 3-4 weeks. When the roots are about 2 in. long, start acclimatizing them to grow in soil by gradually adding soil into the rooting jar. The plant is ready for transplanting when the roots have grown to about 4 in. long.

Common Problems in Growing Pothos

  • Yellowing and falling leaves and rotting stems
  • Waterlogging Pothos is the cause of yellowing and falling leaves and rotting stems. Pothos cannot survive in waterlogged soil. This is an indication of root-rot disease.

  • Brown leaf edges; brown spots on leaf surface
  • Underwatering Pothos is the cause of brown leaf edges and brown spots on the leaf surface. Maintain the soil moist while allowing the top 2 in. of soil to dry out between waterings but neve allow the root ball to dry out completely. Learn more on how to water houseplants.

  • Curled limp leaves and rotting stems
  • Sudden change in air temperature for Pothos is the reason for curled limp leaves and rotting stems. Pothos are extremely sensitive to sudden drop in temperature. Protect Pothos from cold draughts. Learn more on temperature for houseplants.

  • Brown-black and shrivelled leaf tips
  • There are a four reasons for brown-black and shrivelled leaf tips in Pothos. One reason is too dry air; mist the leaves more frequently or set the pot on a wet pebble tray to raise humidity. The second reason is waterlogging; Pothos do not like to be waterlogged and they respond with brown-black leaf tips. Repot the plant in fresh soil. Ensure the soil is draining properly and do not leave water standing in the saucer. The third reason is underwatering; if there isn't enough moisture in the soil for the plant to take up, the leaf tips are the first to suffer. They begin to dry up, turning brown and later black. Water the plant when the top 2 in. of soil dry out; avoid delayed watering. The fourth reason is overfeeding or accumulation of chemicals in the soil; too much fertilizer in the soil will cause damage to the roots which means that the plant cannot take up adequate water from the soil. Brown tips is the first sign that the roots are in distress. Regularly flush out any excess chemicals from the soil.

  • Pests
  • Common pests in Pothos are Spider Mites and Mealy Bugs.

Toxicity

Pothos (Scindapsus aureus) are toxic to both humans and pets. The plants contains Calcium oxalate. In ingested it causes burning and swelling in the mouth and throat, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pains. Keep these plants from the reach of children and pets.

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