Epipremnum aureum, commonly known as pothos, is a ridiculously easy plant to care for in your home. It is an unfussy, ultra forgiving tropical vine that can be grown in almost all indoor spaces. The irregular heart shaped leaves can be left to trail out of a pot or trained to grow up a trellis. The pothos is an ideal plant if you want to curate an effortlessly crafted green space but with minimal upkeep.
Let’s dive in and learn everything you need to know about E. aureum in this pothos care guide!
Quick Care Guide
- Mature Size: 6-10 feet in length (indoors)
- Sunlight: bright, indirect light
- Water: filtered water when top half of soil is dry
- Soil: light but water-retaining potting soil
- Temperature: 60°F-90°F is ideal
- Hardiness Zone: 10
- Propagation: cuttings grown in soil or water
While pothos is widely known and present in virtually every garden store in the United States, it is indigenous to the island of Mo’orea in French Polynesia. It has since been introduced to areas of the world with similar tropical environments such as Australia, southern areas of Asia and South Africa.
Pothos have long trailing evergreen stems with leaves that grow and change shape as the plant ages. Baby plants display small, tender leaves in their juvenile form. As the plant ages, under the right conditions (which, of course, we will discuss in detail!), these delicate leaves grow larger and thicker until they reach 2 feet in diameter. Don’t worry, this won’t happen in your home, but how amazing is it that a pothos leaf can get that big in nature!
The most common pothos that started the pothos craze is Epipremnum aureum, or the Golden Pothos. You will find this at almost any garden store or nursery, but there are so many more beautiful varieties out there waiting for you! A stunning variety with white and green variegated leaves is the Epipremnum aureum ‘Marble Queen’.
If you’re looking for a pop of color, search for the Epipremnum aureum ‘Neon’. The color is vibrant, neon (duh!) green that screams “look at me”! The Manjula Pothos is similar to Marble Queen but has broader leaves that display more of a contrasting marbling effect.
An important note to those of you who live in warmer climates, like Florida, that would allow for outdoor growth: DON’T PLANT OUTDOORS! Outside of its indigenous origin, pothos is considered an invasive species and will quickly take over your yard, killing most other plants. So please, enjoy and care for your pothos indoors only!
Like I said, caring for a pothos is easy! They are extremely unfussy and will grow just about any part of your house, so go ahead and liven up that dim office with these babies! The biggest rule is to avoid long exposure to direct sunlight because the leaves can burn easily.
The most ideal space for your pothos is in a room that is bright for the majority of the day. What does this look like? Bright indirect light starts just beyond the reaches of direct sun rays that beam into a room. Shadows created in bright indirect light will produce recognizable shapes but lack the crisp edges of those in direct light.
In the northern hemisphere, you can place your pothos right in east facing windows. Arrange your pothos farther away from windows or behind sheer curtains in rooms with south or west facing windows.
Pothos can even grow in offices or cubicles under fluorescent lights. Plants in these conditions will grow much slower, but will slowly adapt and do just fine.
Tip: variegated pothos, those with multiple colors, do best in bright light. The colors won’t contrast nearly as well, and may even revert to a solid color, in an office setting with artificial light. Too much light and the leaves can look washed out. It’s all about balance but remember, pothos are forgiving!
While pothos naturally grow in moist, humid environments, they really don’t like soggy roots! I recommend watering when the top half of the soil is dry. You can easily determine how often to water pothos by gently sticking a wooden chopstick into the soil, halfway down the pot. Then pull the chopstick straight out. If there is minimal to no soil on the chopstick, it’s time to water. If moist soil easily sticks to the chopstick, wait a couple more days and check again.
Overwatering is the most common cause of plant damage which manifests in pothos leaves turning yellow.
I water my pothos with filtered water from my refrigerator. You can also use water filtered through other filtration systems or even use rain water. While water from the tap is usually fine, I like to avoid using it because tap water can have added chemicals.
I have two different ways to best water your pothos depending on what kind of container it is planted in.
- Planter with drainage holes – I water pothos in these containers by placing them in the kitchen sink and pouring water into the soil until water begins to flow out the drainage holes. I then let the pot sit until drainage stops and will then put the plant back in its normal spot!
- Planter without drainage holes – This can be a bit trickier because it poses a higher risk for standing water at the bottom of your pot, but can definitely be done and done successfully. You need to know the amount of soil in your pot (ex. 3 cups of soil) and you need a measuring cup. I will water a pothos in a planter without drainage holes with ⅓ the amount of water as there is soil. For example, if I have a pot with 3 cups of soil, I will only give it 1 cup of water.
While pothos do not like their roots to be wet, they do like humid environments. This can be achieved in a couple of different ways. You can lightly mist the leaves daily. You can also place your potted pothos on a homemade pebble tray. To make your own, fill a 2 inch deep water tray halfway to the top with medium sized pebbles and fill with water to the pebble line. This allows for slow evaporation to create a more humid environment around your plant.
The best soil to use for a pothos is indoor potting soil. Most general potting soils at stores will work just fine. I look for soil with the following components:
- Pearlite and/or bark for drainage
- Coconut coir and/or peat moss for appropriate water retention
- Fertilizer or other added nutrients such as earthworm castings
If you really want to show off your plant skills, you can also grow your pothos in water! It is super easy to care for pothos in this medium and adds an additional whimsical feature to an already appealing plant. You can choose any type of container. I like ones that are transparent so the root system is visible and ones that have a tapered top to keep the stems upright.
To start growing your pothos in water, cut a stem off an existing plant. Make a clean cut at the base of a stem that has at least 3 nodes. Nodes are the thickened areas on a stem that are fairly regularly spaced; this is where new growth comes from! Place your stem (or stems) cuttings into the new container and fill with ⅔ filtered water. Light requirements for pothos grown in water is the same as a pothos grown in soil so find an area of your house that has bright, indirect light.
When caring for a pothos in water, be sure to replace the water at least every 2-3 weeks or whenever it starts to become discolored and/or cloudy. It’s important to remove the plant completely and scrub the inside of the container when replacing the water.
Fertilizing is necessary whether you choose to grow your pothos in water or in soil. Fertilizers with equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are best. You will likely see this displayed on fertilizer containers as “NPK 10-10-10” or “NPK 20-20-20”. For optimal results, fertilize your pothos every 4-6 weeks during its growing season through spring and summer.
Remember to read the instructions on the fertilizer container to determine the correct amount needed. Once this is established, I then dilute the fertilizer further to a half strength solution.
If you want to give your pothos the best care that best mimics its natural environment, your house will be hot and sticky! Most varieties of pothos grow best in temperatures between 70°F-90°F…not the best temperature for humans trying to relax indoors.
To keep both you and your pothos happy indoors, be sure to aim for temperatures above 60°F. Remember that pothos like humidity, so mist the leaves daily, make a pebble tray or use a small humidifier close to the plant!
Lucky for us, pothos have a fast growth rate which means they can produce lots of new plants via propagation. If you read the section above about growing pothos in water, you pretty much have all of the steps! But if you skipped that section, let’s go into detail on how to propagate pothos and care for your new baby plant.
There are two methods in which to propagate and grow new pothos plants. You can grow your newly cut plants directly from new soil or start the new cuttings in water. Both ways follow the same beginning steps, so I’ll discuss that first!
- Choose stems with healthy leaves to cut. Make a clean cut just above the bottom most node (remember, nodes are the thickened areas, or bumps, on a stem where new growth begins!) on a stem that has 3-4 leaves. You can also make a cut on a stem that has just one leaf; cut at least 1 inch below the leaf.
- Once you have fresh cuttings you can either plant them in soil or place them in a container with only water.
Before placing a new cutting in soil, I suggest dipping the cut ends in rooting hormone. Then plant the pothos cutting in fresh potting soil, gently covering the stem approximately 1.5-2 inches soil to provide stability. Water once per week. Additionally, moderately mist the soil once per day to keep it moist. After approximately one month, roots will begin to appear and you will then water your pothos as we discussed above.
If you want to grow your newly cut pothos in water, fill a container with clean, filtered water to ⅔ up the stem. Exchange the water weekly until you begin to see roots appear. At this point you can transplant into soil or continue to grow in water. See the next steps under the soil section!
Tips and Tricks
- Be aware, pothos plants contain calcium oxalates which are toxic to humans and pets. If any part of the plant is ingested, it can cause GI irritation, vomiting and irritation to tissues, especially in the mouth and throat. While likely not deadly, I still suggest keeping this plant away from curious hands and mouths!
- Just like with any other plant, rotate your pothos each time you water so all sides of the plant get even light exposure.
- Pothos plants can get leggy! This means there are increasingly larger spaces between leaves and can make the plant look sparse. The most common reason that a pothos is leggy is that it isn’t receiving enough light. You can prune back leggy stems! This is not only a quick fix but actually stimulates new growth!
- If you allow your pothos to trail downward, the new leaves will grow smaller and smaller because the stems lose adequate support the more the plant droops. If you want to encourage leaves that are large, train your pothos to grow up a moss pole or a nearby trellis!