Houseplant Profile: Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

Easy-Care Plant for the Home or Office

Pothos plant
ProBuild Garden Center / Flickr / CC 2.0

Pothos is arguably the easiest of all houseplants to grow. This long-growing, leafy vine can reach 70 feet or more in tropical jungles. It usually confines itself to about 6 to 10 feet in containers, but don't be surprised if yours just keeps growing. One advantage growing pothos is that they are high on the list of plants that can help purify indoor air of chemicals such as formaldehyde, trichloroethene, toluene, xylene, and benzene.

Description

Pathos is a trailing vine with pointed, heart-shaped green leaves, sometimes variegated with white, yellow, or pale green. The vines do not cling to trellises and supports on their own, but they can be trained onto supports to give the appearance of twining. These tropical plants are known to grow to very long in their natural settings. As indoor plants, specimens 30 feet long are common, though most are kept much shorter. These plants can get leggy left unpruned, and if allowed to dry out, the stems may become bare to the base, leaving leaves only on new growth.

Pathos rarely are seen to flower, except when treated with hormone supplements.

Botanical Information

Pothos carries the taxonomical name of Epipremnum aureum. It is native to the island of Mo'orea in French Polynesia, but has become naturalized in many tropical and subtropical forests in Southeast Asia, South Asia, and the Pacific islands; it is considered seriously invasive in some areas. It can serve as a perennial outdoor plant in USDA hardiness zones 10 and 11 but is normally grown as an indoor houseplant.

Pothos carries many different common names, including golden pothos, silver vine, and taro vine. It is sometimes known as devil's vine or devil's ivy, because it is nearly invincible and thrives even in the dark. It is sometimes mislabeled as philodendron in plant stores.

Many varieties of pothos have been developed with different types of leaf variegation featuring white, yellow, or light green patches interrupting the predominant deep green. There are also cultivars with leaves that are a solid light green.

Uses

Pothos is a perfect houseplant for areas that don’t get a lot of sunlight and for people who tend to forget to water their plants. They are excellent for busy people, non-plant people, even for those with black thumbs. They're excellent plants for locations such offices and dorm rooms; they can thrive on nothing but fluorescent lighting.

You don't have to limit your pothos plants to indoor growing. They can be used in containers and borders in the summer. They will die back with the first frost, but you can always bring them back indoors or simply take cuttings.

Growing Pathos

Outdoors, pothos can be grown in shade to partial shade. Indoors, pothos prefers bright but indirect light. Variegated plants sometimes lose their leaf pattern and revert to all-green plants if they don't get enough light; moving them to brighter conditions usually restores the variegation.

Pothos plants thrive in ordinary, well-draining potting soil, preferably with a slightly acidic pH. Pothos like to have their soil dry out completely between waterings. If left continually in damp soil, the roots will rot. Let the plant tell you when to water—when it starts to droop, it needs a good drink. However, don’t wait until the leaves start to shrivel or you will lose some leaves.

Pothos aren’t heavy feeders, but since there are no nutrients in most potting soils, feed monthly to bi-monthly with any balanced houseplant fertilizer.

If you do choose to let your pothos grow into a long vine, it can be secured on hooks along walls and over window frames. Vines left to grow on their own can get very tangled, so shake them loose every now and then to keep them from becoming a mess.

Eventually, your pothos will become pot bound. When the leaves droop, no matter how much or often you water them, the roots have probably filled the pot. Carefully lift the plant and check to see if this is the problem. When the plant has reached this stage, you can re-pot in a container one or two sizes larger, filled with fresh potting soil.

Keep the stems trimmed relatively short to keep foliage full along the full stems. If stems grow bare, they can be cut back to the soil level, and new stems will sprout.

This plant is easily propagated simply by taking stem cuttings and rooting them in water or in potting soil. Move cuttings rooted in water into the soil as soon as possible so they can begin getting nutrients.

Recommended Varieties

Some recommended pothos cultivars include:

  • 'Marble Queen' has exceptionally attractive white-and-green variegated leaves. It needs more light than most pothos.
  • 'Pearls and Jade' is a white-and-green variegated form with small dots of green.
  • 'Neon' is a bright chartreuse variety, great for darker spaces.
  • 'Silver Satin' has thick gray-green leaves with silver splotches. It is very tolerant of drought and low-light conditions.

Problems

Pothos are usually pest free, but they can get infested with mealy bugs. Insecticidal soap works against them, but the easiest method is to simply dab the insects with an alcohol-soaked cotton swab.

Most pothos problems are caused by poor growing conditions:

  • Black spots on the leaves and the sudden collapse of the plant indicate the soil has been kept too wet.
  • Dry, brown edges mean the plant was kept dry too long.
  • Loss of variegation can mean the plant needs a bit more light.
  • Suddenly paler-looking leaves mean the plant is getting too much sun.

 It's important to note that all parts of the pothos plant are poisonous if ingested. Be on alert if you have dogs or cats.

Pothos plant
Mature pothos plant. sweetlouise / Pixabay / CC By 0