Growing and Caring for a Pothos Plant
A houseplant mainstay for decades, there's nothing to dislike about a hardy and graceful pothos plant. Here's how to grow and care for them.
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Hugely popular since the 1970s, pothos plants are an indoor-loving (and sometimes outdoor-dwelling) vine you’ll see practically everywhere. They’re at home cascading down bookshelves, spreading out on window sills or crawling up a moss pole or other plant support, like in this viral TikTok hack.
Relatively easy to grow, a pothos plant is a perfect choice for rookie plant owners.
What Is a Pothos?
A pothos is one of 15 species of plants in the arum (Araceae) family. It goes by the scientific name Epipremnum aureum, but you may know it as pothos, devil’s ivy or hunter’s rove. Native to Southeast Asia and the western Pacific, in tropical areas it’s grown outdoors as ground cover. It can often be found tangled up in trees.
“In Florida, these plants climb to the top of palm trees and their leaves split, so they look like variegated monstera plants,” says Lisa Steinkopf of The Houseplant Guru.
Basic characteristics of common types of pothos plants include:
- Glossy, heart-shaped leaves.
- Various colors. Lime to bright-green (neon); with lemon-colored splotches (golden); white and green (N’Joy); creamy marble variegation (Marble Queen, Pearls and Jade), and shades of silver, white, cream and light green (Manjula), to name a few.
- Stems are ribbed and can turn brown at the ends.
Why Are Pothos So Popular?
Super hardy with a plethora of varieties, pothos are great plants because they’re:
- Versatile. Dangle them from hanging pots, or train them to climb a trellis or frame a window.
- Fast growing. Cut vines if they get too long.
- Tolerant of indirect and low-light conditions.
How To Care for a Pothos Plant
Pothos plants are easy-going, so growing one shouldn’t be a challenge.
Pothos can grow in direct sunlight or in a dimly lit corner of a room. That, and their beauty, make them excellent choices for first-timers. Pothos plants are best suited for low-to-medium bright light. “A north, east or west window is perfect!” Steinkopf says.
Note: If you place one in low-light conditions, the bright colors and variegations could fade. Moving it to a sunnier spot will eventually allow new growth to sprout variegated leaf markings.
Steinkopf recommends adding vermiculite and perlite to a commercial houseplant potting mix to ensure there’s good drainage. “I use a 1-1-1 ratio, but do tweak it for different plants,” she says.
You don’t want the soil to dry out completely, but don’t let the plant stand in water, either.
Fertilize pothos from March to September when plants are actively growing. This timeline can vary depending on the growing zone you live in.
Steinkopf never uses fertilizer at full strength. “I use liquid fertilizer at half-strength at every fourth watering,” she says. If it’s easier, opt to feed the pothos with liquid fertilizer at one-quarter strength with each watering.
Pothos aren’t known to suffer from serious pest problems, although they can occasionally be bothered by common household insects like mealybugs, spider mites and scales. Pesticides or insecticidal soap can be used to rid of infestations.
Pro tip: Steinkopf says pothos plants will often develop long runners that are bare except for leaves at the ends of the stems. To keep your pothos plant at its fullest, she recommends cutting some of the stems back to the soil line. From there, the vines will resprout.
How Often To Water a Pothos Plant
Keep the soil evenly moist by watering weekly. Pothos will react negatively to too much water (the plant collapses) or too little (leaves turn yellow). Another good thing about pothos: Even if it dries out, it often recovers.
Pro tip: In the low-grow winter months, water less frequently.
Are Pothos Plants Safe for Pets and Children?
Pothos can be toxic, though not fatally so, to humans and pets.
According to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the plant contains insoluble calcium oxalates. If ingested, it can cause oral irritation; intense burning and irritation of the mouth, tongue and lips; excessive drooling; vomiting and difficulty swallowing. If your child or pet is prone to nibbling on plants, keep pothos out of their reach.
How To Propagate Pothos Plants
Luckily, pothos are relatively easy to propagate. All you need are:
- Scissors or garden shears;
- Potted pothos plant to take cuttings from;
- Pot with potting soil (soil method);
- Glass jar of water (water method).
- With scissors or garden shears, choose a vine/stem and cut it just below the “node,” the nobs between leaves. This is where the roots will grow from.
- Place freshly cut stems in a moist potting medium and let them root on their own. Cuttings only need one leaf and a piece of stem, although Steinkopf likes to use a four- to six-inch cutting with multiple leaves.
- Keep new plantings well-watered and in bright light to keep the variegation prominent.
Steinkopf says if you add multiple cuttings to a pot, you’ll get a much fuller plant.
- Cut stems per directions in the soil method and place them in a glass jar of tap water. About three inches of the end of the cutting should be in the water.
- Wait until roots are approximately an inch or two long (approximately one to two weeks), then follow steps two and three for the soil method above.
- Or you can leave pothos in water indefinitely. Steinkopf recommends feeding periodically with liquid plant food and changing the water every few months or so, or when green algae has taken over.