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Caring for Pothos; Devils Ivy, "Philodendron", Epipremum Aureum

Updated on May 17, 2012
Pothos | Source

Pothos Varieties vs Philo Cordatum

Pothos The Houseplant World's Jack of All Trades

Pothos is arguably the easiest house plant to care for. Pothos is often commonly called a Philodendron, it is actually not a Philodendron at all. It does have some incredible similarities to the Philodendron Cordatum, which causes this typical misidentification. The video and link to the right contain more information that will help distinguish a Cordatum from a Pothos if needed, Otherwise know that a Pothos is a Pothos, or Epipremum Aureum, incredibly hardy in almost every way.

Pothos can be subjected to all types of caregiver handicaps and it just keeps on keepin on . It is vigorous grower who can also tolerate and adapt most indoor lighting conditions quite well. This houseplant would definitely be #1 on my list of recommendations for anyone who is new to indoor plants or has had difficulty with houseplants in the past. Pothos will demonstrate effects of both over and under watering, but are so hardy in indoor environments that they allow for a great deal of learning and correction to be had by the caregiver without spontaneous fatalities. Pothos are also incredibly easy to create new starts from cuttings, they can be grown in water, it is very rare that they are attacked by pests, and due to their vigorous growth they require pruning but generate new growth very quickly. A pothos provides the opportunity to experience and practice all of the basic elements associated with plant care, and due to their hardiness they allow for a pretty exceptional learning curve that other plants will not tolerate. On top of it all they are one of many plants listed as an indoor clean are plant, they reduce VOC's (Volatile Organic Compounds) in our indoor living and work spaces.

In order to keep our Pothos happy looking full there are some things that we should know about properly caring for them.

Where to Put Your Pothos

Pothos can handle and survive well in most indoor lighting conditions, ideally the best choice would be moderate diffused light.

  • In high light Pothos have a tendency to become Chlorotic because they are such vigorous growers, and can possibly burn if they touch a hot window, but they have proven to survive just fine in a high light condition as long as they are provided plenty of water, trimmed on occasion, and given proper fertilizer to combat nutrient deficiencies. Basically High light will do but your attention to maintaining the plant in high light will need to be increased.
  • In low light (not the same as no light) a Pothos will slow down and should have its watering decreased. The most common issue's experienced with a Pothos in low light will be the same or similar to a plant that exhibits symptoms of over watering. This happens if the plant has to make a quick adjustment to this new lower lighting condition but still has resources equivalent to what was needed in its more ideal environment, or if we as caregivers continue to water it as if it was still in a much more productive environment. Simply put less light less water.
  • Fluorescent and Broad Spectrum lighting can provide plenty of light for a Pothos to live a happy healthy life. Evaluate and adjust watering according to how close the plant is to the light source. A Pothos will tell you very quickly and clearly if it is not getting enough water or too much.

Consider Airflow; a Pothos placed near a heating or cooling vent will use its water much more quickly than one that is placed in an area with little airflow. Watering will need to be adjusted accordingly based on a the plants exposure to moving air in it's environment. Most commonly Pothos placed in an area with heavy airflow will exhibit symptoms of under watering due to increased evaporation of moisture in the soil, and increased transpiration (a plants equivalent to human perspiration). Basically more airflow more water, less airflow less water.

Consider temperature; a Pothos in a cooler space indoors will use less water than one in a warmer place indoors. More heat equals more water, cool conditions equal less water. A Pothos like most houseplants is a tropical plant it will not tolerate temperatures below 55 degrees, and should not be kept in an environment above 95 degrees. The temperatures that we find comfortable indoors are the same for our friend the Pothos, keeping within about 10 degrees more or less than 70 will keep your Pothos, and other houseplants for that matter, very happy.

Natural Habitat of Pothos Southeast Asia

Watering Pothos

For best results a Pothos should be watered through and then allowed time to dry before watering again. How much and how often this should be done depends on the conditions discussed above; the amount of light the plant receives, the amount of airflow, the temperature, and also the size of your plant. If you have a new Pothos that is very full it will require more water than one that you may have had for some time that has thinned out.

When learning how often and how much to water your Pothos I recommend checking it once a week on the same day. Feel the soil when you find that it is dry to the touch water thoroughly. If the plant is in a high light heat or airflow situation make sure it has a plastic liner to hold some extra water to get it through the week. A Pothos in lower light, cooler conditions, and or a spot with little airflow will not necessarily need excess water left in its liner.

A Pothos will very clearly demonstrate symptoms of over watering or under watering to let you know if it has gone out of balance in one way or another. The links to the right will explain in detail both over and under watering.

The most common pest issue associated with Pothos is Fungus Gnats. They are directly related to issues of over watering, or dead leaves left of the soil surface. With Pothos it is most common to get Fungus Gnats in a case where the plant has been chronically left in standing water and has developed some degree of root rot, the decaying material in the soil is what the Gnats feed on. To the right is a detailed article on identifying and correcting Fungus Gnat issues. Otherwise it is rare but not unheard of to find other common houseplant pests on Pothos. Mealy bug and Scale are usually only found in very extreme and unusual cases were a Pothos is directly exposed to the Pest from another plant, or if the plant has been put into a unduly stressful environment.

Trimming Pothos

Trimming Pothos and More

An important part of keeping your Pothos healthy lies in periodic trimming. If a Pothos is allowed to grow as it pleases it will trail out and begin to kill off the leaves closest to the pot in order to support the exploratory leaves at the end of the trailing vines. Letting this go causes a great deal of work for your plant and in the end will create the all too familiar long empty Pothos strand with two leaves on the end. You know the ones, strung around office cubicles held up by paperclips, or laid across someones draperies. Do your Pothos a favor, make it's job easier, let it be full and beautiful, cut those back!

It is very simple to trim a Pothos take the trailing vine in need of cutting and with a pair of scissors clip it off just ahead of the last leaf at the desired length. If you have one on those barren vines cut it all the way back to the soil. Your Pothos will thank you for this.

Pothos cuttings are very easy for creating new plant starts. You will notice little brown bumps on the Pothos stem, each of these bumps is a root node just waiting to sense some moisture so it can begin to contribute to the plant. If you clear a cut stem of leaves except for those on the end and place it in some water you will soon see some roots begin to grow out from these little nodes on the stem. You can keep pothos cuttings in water, or add them back into your existing plants, or make a new plant, they are very simple and fun to play with. Yet another bonus to trimming your Pothos.

As with most houseplants it is a good idea to dust your Pothos from time to time to keep it looking fresh and keep its leaves free of debris so they can do their jobs.

Make sure to remove yellow or dead leaves from your Pothos as they occur. If you are experiencing a large amount of discolored leaves of any kind your Pothos is most likely trying to tell you it has been either over or under watered, make sure to look deeper into these topics to correct the issue.

Pothos are so simple and fun, go ahead have a great time watching them grow and allowing them to teach you.

Questions & Comments Welcome!!!

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    • Lisabean2202 profile image

      Lisa Bean 

      14 months ago from Nevada

      I bought one of these and didn't realize it was recommended as a beginner/new to indoor plants and I'm glad that I bought it! I've had great luck growing plants outside but somehow, the ones in my home don't always thrive as much as I'd like. I think I've been overwatering mine since it's not in a largely sunny spot. I also didn't consider your suggestion of where air vents are placed in the home. I think that may be part of the problem with another one of my plants. Thanks for the great info! :)

    • thoughthole profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Utah

      Snlee I agree, Pothos are very versatile and afford room for experimenting they can be great just about anywhere. It's fun to watch how fast cuttings generate roots in water with no help from root stimulator. Cheers, to Pothos in every room at any size!

    • snlee profile image


      7 years ago from Asia Pacific Regions

      Very suitable for decorating the bathroom.... I grow them in water


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