Known as the perfect plant for those who routinely kill houseplants, pothos plants are natives of Old World tropical forests and, when grown in these humid and hot environments, can grow incredibly large. The trailing vine grown indoors is a miniature version of this large climber, toned down by its cultural environment more than anything else.
Pothos plants are known for their beautiful and vibrant foliage. This plant tends to have light green or white or yellow variegated heart-shaped leaves that are slightly pointy. Pothos is often found in hanging baskets where it is quite happy. It can also be trained to a support for robust vertical growth. Plants will grow about six to ten feet in containers - more if grown in the ground outside.
Pothos is reportedly a flowering plant. However, you may never see a flower on a pothos plant grown indoors; it usually flowers when it reaches 35 - 40 feet in size and typically must be grown outside in the ground to do so. There's no real way to encourage flower growth; they will generally flower under the right conditions when the plant gets big enough.
Common Species and Names
The most commonly found species is the Golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum) with green and yellow variegated leaves. Also popular are:
- 'Marble Queen', which has white variegated leaves and is slow-growing
- 'Tricolor', which has mottled or yellowish, green, or light green leaves
- 'Neon', which has solid chartreuse leaves
- 'Golden Queen', which has bright yellow coloration
The pothos plant's habit has earned it several names such as ivy arum, taro vine, centipede vine, Solomon Islands vine, Australian monstera, and money plant.
It is often called Scindapus aureus too, a name rightly belonging of a very similar-looking and closely related climber. Pothos and philodendrons with heart-shaped leaves are also similar, but pothos has no leaf sheaths.
One of the easiest house plants to grow and maintain, pothos has earned a permanent place in interior decoration. Not fussy about light, water or nutrients, they hardly ever die of neglect. They keep their variegation even in low light conditions, but bright light brings out glowing colors and the best shine.
If you can't source a piece of the vine from a friend, buy a potted plant. You get wider choice, too. Take your pick from the local nursery or order online. A little damage in transit won't kill them. They'll bounce back unless you drown them with excessive watering. That said, the pothos vine can be easily grown in water too.
You can propagate pothos using the following steps.
- Cut stem sections with two nodes, and then stick it in a pot of soil with good drainage, covering the lower node with soil.
- There is really no need for rooting hormone; but dipping the lower end and node in it can't hurt.
- Water the cuttings regularly, but don't keep the soil too wet.
- Give the pot a bright spot and maintain 55 - 65 Fahrenheit (F).
Now comes the long wait for new growth; about one month will go by before roots appear and two to three months before a new plant will form.
There have been instances where people waited in vain for weeks or months simply because they planted the cuttings upside down! Avoid this mistake by dipping the cut end immediately in soil to distinguish it from what should be the upper end. The direction of leaves may not guide you here because the leaves may grow twisted in a hanging plant. It's best to root one to two foot long growing tips of the vine.
Pothos ivy can be grown as a hanging plant or upright on a moss stick. The same plant will show two different growth patterns, with the one growing upwards on the moss stick becoming sturdier by the day and putting out increasingly larger leaves, but the hanging ones will retain their habit.
New stem growth indicates rooting. When the cuttings are ready, follow these steps:
- Fill the pots half way with rich, well draining soil and place two or three rooted cuttings in each pot.
- Equal amounts of sand, compost, and garden soil will give you a home-made potting mix. Fill the pots up two-thirds and tamp down the soil around the plants.
- Water well to settle the soil and allow it to drain off.
- Add more soil if necessary.
Your potted plant should do well in a bright spot with occasional watering and feeding once every three months.
Growing Pothos in Water
All you have to do is cut a one to two foot long piece from your hanging plant and stick it right side up in a bottle half filled with water. At least one node should be submerged. You'll see new roots growing out of the node or an existing aerial root branching out. Top up with more water whenever necessary.
Adding a few fertilizer granules will give the plant a boost, so will occasional pruning. Drain out the water completely once a month to prevent root rot. You can add pebbles or glass marbles into the bottle if you find the roots too ugly. This is a great way to save you trimmings when you're not ready to pot them up. Also, you can add a bit of greenery to every nook and corner of your house.
Growing Pothos Outdoors
If you live in USDA growing zones 10 and 11, your pothos plant will survive outdoors. It is best to grow pothos in a shady location - as the hot sun of warmers climates can be too much. In areas of South Florida it is not uncommon to see pothos, with very large leaves, climbing up trees or covering large areas of ground.
Pothos is not particular about soil and will pretty well take care of itself after planting. If you wish to control this plant, just remember to keep up on trimming it back when it gets too large.
Pests and Diseases
Pests and diseases rarely trouble this robust house plant. Wipe off aphids and mealybugs with cotton dipped in alcohol or wash them out with a strong spray of water.
The plant is toxic to cats and dogs; and causes itching and vomiting not only in pets, but even in people accidentally ingesting parts of it. Even contact with the sap can cause skin and eye irritation.
That shouldn't discourage you from decorating your house with them since pothos is an excellent indoor air purifier and highly attractive. It sucks up the household toxins formaldehyde and benzene. Just keep the plants out of reach of pets and kids.
If you need to discard your pothos plant for any reason, do it responsibly as it can take root wherever it touches the ground. Florida has a warning of invasive species against this plant.
The Money Plant
Pothos is not a plant of economic importance except in nursery trade. However, it's widely known as money plant, probably because the combination of yellow and green represents gold and jade. They are both signs of wealth and highly treasured in Chinese tradition.
Easy and Attractive
If you are after a great looking houseplant that is hardy and attractive, a pothos will not let you down. Think of this when you want to give your friends of family members without a "green thumb" a no-fail gift or just desire a little pick-me-up somewhere in your home.