How to Care for a Pothos Plant
Pothos plant care couldn't be easier, and these horticulturist-approved tips will ensure yours has a long, healthy life—no green thumb necessary
Our editors and experts handpick every product we feature. We may earn a commission from your purchases.
If you’re new to plant parenthood, resist the urge to buy based on looks. A gorgeous but finicky plant can fool you into thinking you’re not made for plant care. And while you could opt for artificial plants, we have a better idea: Consider the pothos, also known as devil’s ivy. Pothos plant care is super simple—in fact, these indoor plants are considered some of the easiest houseplants to own. And yes, they’re also beautiful in just about any space.
“Whether you’re a complete novice or an experienced plant parent, pothos ivy is resilient and tolerant of a wide variety of indoor growing conditions,” says Leslie F. Halleck, a certified professional horticulturist, author of Plant Parenting and University of California, Los Angeles, extension horticulture instructor.
These beauties have chartreuse heart-shaped leaves and grow long vines, making them stand out on shelves or in hanging baskets. “The pothos is a low-maintenance and durable plant that comes in a myriad of brilliantly colored leaves and many different forms for all sorts of personalities and homes,” says Lindsay Pangborn, a gardening expert with Bloomscape.
You don’t even have to visit a nursery to bring home a pothos plant—you can buy plants online from the comfort of your sofa. And while you’re at it, you may want to pick up a few more low-maintenance indoor plants (like tall plants that add depth and texture to your space). Just make sure the place you have in mind for this houseplant receives plenty of natural light. Otherwise, you’ll want to consider low-light indoor plants so you don’t have to be concerned about how to bring a dead plant back to life.
|3 to 10 feet via vine
|Full or partial sunlight
|Neutral to slightly acidic
|Toxic to pets
Where to put a pothos plant
Pothos plants are easy to grow as long as they have sufficient bright, indirect sunlight. Without enough sun, however, growth will be slow. “This type of light can be found next to a south- or west-facing window with a sheer curtain to filter out any harsh rays that could burn the foliage,” says Pangborn. “You could also place your plant a few feet back from the window so it doesn’t get scorched.”
Although pothos plants are tropical, they are adapted to live in indoor environments with different temperature levels. “Pothos ivy is quite content in temperatures ranging from 70 to 90 degrees,” says Halleck. “They can tolerate a bit cooler [temperatures], but don’t expose plants to temperatures below 40 degrees to avoid cold damage.”
As for humidity levels, your plant will handle low humidity just fine. Aim for a relative humidity range of between 50% and 70%, says Halleck.
While sunlight, temperature and humidity are important to consider before deciding where to put your new plant, they’re not your only concerns. Pothos plants are toxic to cats and dogs if ingested, so you’ll need to keep yours out of reach of your fur babies.
One final consideration? Where the plant will look its best. Pothos plants grow long vines, making them great indoor hanging plants. Consider placing them on a shelf or in a hanging basket to fully enjoy the foliage. Bonus: This placement may make it harder for pets to nibble on them.
Pothos plant care
Pothos plant care is so easy, you may find yourself doubting your plant could be healthy with so little fuss. So how do you know yours is A-OK? “If the plant’s leaves are glossy, vivid-colored and perky, the plant is happy,” Pangborn says.
If you spot pothos leaves curling, though, the plant may be underwatered or in need of more humidity, she says.
When you see pothos leaves turning yellow, you may be giving your plant too much water, so check if the soil is soggy. Of course, there are other reasons your plant’s leaves may be yellow. “Yellowing leaves may also be a sign of low humidity, which can be solved with an occasional misting,” says Pangborn. “It can also occur if its environment receives very low light or if it is experiencing an insect infestation, allowing bugs and pests to suck the moisture out of the plant.”
Aside from sunlight and humidity, there are a few additional aspects of pothos plant care that newbie gardeners should be aware of. Paying attention to the soil, water and fertilizer will go a long way toward ensuring your pothos lives a long life.
The pothos is an adaptable plant and can grow in many types of soil. “Use a loose, well-aerated potting mix for indoor plants,” recommends Halleck. “As a semiepiphytic plant, pothos ivy does not need a large terrestrial root system, or a lot of growing media, to thrive.”
Semiepiphytic plants—those that partially derive nutrients and moisture from the air—do best in smaller containers rather than large pots. This helps reduce the chance of root rot and overwatering, explains Halleck. If your pothos came in a large pot, don’t worry; you can repot the plant.
“Pothos ivy [is] quite tolerant of frequent light waterings or infrequent deep waterings,” says Halleck. “As a semiepiphytic vine, they are adept at pulling moisture out of the air and don’t need a lot of constant water at the root zone.”
If you’re wondering how often to water pothos plants, there are a few factors to consider, including the size of the plant, how warm your home is and how much light the pothos plant receives, explains Halleck. The soil is a good indicator of when to water. “A pothos plant should be watered when 50% to 75% of the soil volume is dry,” says Pangborn.
The leaves provide another clue: When they droop or curl, it’s time to water. “They may also curl inward and feel limp to the touch,” says Pangborn. “Water them thoroughly, and it will be back to normal within a couple of hours with no issues.”
Your pothos will benefit from fertilizer feeding every now and again. According to Halleck, the growing conditions will influence how often your plant needs to be fertilized.
“Pothos aren’t picky, so choose any foliage houseplant or general fertilizer with a 1-1-1 or 3-1-2 NPK ratio bimonthly,” says Halleck. With that advice in mind, you could purchase a fertilizer with a 6-6-6 or 20-20-20 NPK guaranteed analysis or a fertilizer with a 15-5-10 guaranteed analysis. Or try your hand at making your own compost for a natural fertilizer.
Types of pothos plants
- Golden pothos: This plant “is a classic for good reason, thanks to its bright, cheerful green-and-yellow variegated leaves,” says Pangborn. Halleck, too, is a fan of this reliable variety.
- Silver pothos: This plant, part of a different genus but resembling a pothos, has silver-and-green variegated leaves. “Their coloration easily meshes with many different decor styles, adding a pretty accent without pulling too much attention,” says Pangborn.
- Marble queen pothos: This variety has white, yellow and green leaves that will add visual interest to any space. Decorating with plants has never been so easy.
When pothos are healthy and receive sufficient nutrients, they aren’t frequently affected by houseplant pests. “Stressed plants in either dry, warm conditions or wet, cool conditions can suffer from pests such as spider mites, scale and mealybugs, and soil-born diseases such as root rot,” says Halleck.
Notice pothos leaves curling? It’s not just a sign your plant may need more water or greater humidity. It can indicate that spider mites or other pests are bothering the plant. “Spider mites are a common sight on pothos plants, since they are sap-sucking insects looking to drain the plant’s moisture,” says Pangborn.
If you notice any pests lurking on your pothos plant, take action ASAP, she says. Insects can take over the plant quickly. Next, learn about the optimal care for jade plants.
How to propagate pothos plants
As soon as you have one pothos, you’re going to want more of these vining plants. And you’ll no doubt want to spread the love by gifting them to friends and family. Propagating pothos plants—or creating more from a cutting of your plant—is easy. One of the simplest methods is to propagate pothos in water.
Here’s how to propagate pothos:
- Find a stem with a minimum of three leaves. Cut it at an angle half an inch below the last leaf using a sterile knife.
- Remove only the lowest leaf from the stem.
- Place the cutting in a cup or jar of water, making sure the leaves aren’t in the water. Within a few weeks, roots should form.
- Once the roots are several inches long, transplant or place the cutting into a pot.
- Treat this plant just as you would other pothos plants.
Don’t fret if you see fungus balls in the soil. But if you notice powdery mildew on your plants or brown tips on the leaves, take action right away. Once you’ve worked out just how to care for your pothos plant, consider adding some air-purifying plants or medicinal herbs to your indoor garden.
Get Reader’s Digest’s Read Up newsletter for more home, tech, cleaning, travel, humor and fun facts all week long.