This Is How Much Light Pothos Actually Need

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I feel like I’m on the same crusade for Pothos as I was for snake plants. Both are frequently touted as low-light loving plants, and both prefer a lot of light.

Now, technically Pothos don’t need a lot of light to survive.

They’re pretty good at working with what they’ve got. But your life will be a lot easier if you grow them in as much light as you can.

Can Pothos grow in low light?

Yes, a bit. Pothos start their life on the rainforest floor, where the light levels are medium at best.

HOWEVER

It’s every Pothos’ dream to live in full sun. They’re epiphytes by nature, so they’ll find a tree and climb up it, attaching to it using aerial roots.

They can grow in low light, because in the wild, they need to. But they have a master plan. They” just endure the low light for a bit, and then the light will get brighter as they grow and mature.

If you keep a Pothos in low light, it’s entre life, it’ll never mature. So you’ll get crappy, leggy growth.

Not only that, but your Pothos will stay in a pretty weak, flimsy state. Any issues like pests, root rot, or dehydration will be a MUCH bigger deal than a plant that’s grown in bright light, because the plant will have the energy to both protect itself and recover well.

Yes, Pothos can grow in low light, but the growth will be rubbish.

There are some people that claim their Pothos is thriving in low light. This is just a genetics thing. You know how some people can live happily on 1200 calories a day, and others need 2000? Same with plants. Some grow better in adverse conditions than others.

Can Pothos grow in a room without sunlight?

Yes and no.

Pothos can’t grow in a room without light. No plants can – not well at least.

Plants need to photosynthesise to function.

As I said in the previous section, there will a few out there that will grow happily (albeit slowly) in 8 hours of office lighting, no window. Not many though.

You can, however, grow a thriving, mature Pothos, under grow lights. Sunlight isn’t a necessity – but light is.

How much light does a Pothos need?

It varies from plant to plant, but if you want your pothos to grow well (by which I mean not super leggily) it’ll need medium light at least. Mine is about 6 feet from a north-facing window and it’s growing well.

If you have a window, put your Pothos within six feet of it and it’ll likely be fine.

But Pothos are tropical plants. They grow well in bright sun – they’re not designed to live in medium light long-term.

If you want a plant that likes to live in low light, you need to go for a Calathea, ZZ plant or Aglaonema.

Just be aware that true low light plants like Calathea tend to need things like high humidity and wont tolerate the cold, drying out, or some tap water.

How do I know if my Pothos needs light?

Look for:

  • long internodal spacing
  • small leaves
  • pale growth

In general, if you’re worried that your Pothos isn’t getting enough light, you’re probably right. the good news is that if you increase the light, it’ll help most issues.

When you increase the light, the plant can grow better, and fight of pests and diseases better. It works quickly too.

If your pothos is really unhealthy and sad, really increasing the lighting can do the world of good. Sure, you run the risk of burning it, but you can remove the burnt leaves and new growth will come in surprisingly quickly.

If your pothos isn’t looking that bad, and you’re more patient than I am, you can gradually increase the light over a couple of weeks.

Remember that Pothos like to grow up, not trail. If you do let them trail, they tend to get pretty leggy, even if you have pretty good light. If you want a full, trailing Pothos, you need to do a lot of chopping and propping.

Can Pothos grow in full sun?

Yes, very well actually. They grow wild in Polynesia and Hawaii (and Florida – #invasive species)

They’re actually not *technically* an invasive species because they very, very rarely flower and spread seed. You can simply pull them up (they don’t root deeply) and be done. They’re just fast growers.

Can Pothos grow under LED lights?

100%. If you want your Pothos in a room without windows, you can stick it under a regular lamp and it should grow…ok.

Not anywhere near as well as it would under proper grow lights (which are usually LED, but are waaaay brighter) and you’d need the pothos to be a couple inches from the bulb and run the light for 16 hours a day.

You can get grow bulbs to fit in regular lamps though, so that’s an option.

Final thoughts

Pothos grow a LOT better in bright light than low light. The reason that they’re often sold as low-light plants is that they begin life in low light and can therefore deal with it a lot better than other plants.

However, to get the best out of your Pothos (and have it be easier to care for) give it as much light as you can.

Before you go, you might like these articles:

Caroline Cocker

Caroline is the founder and writer (and plant keeper) of Planet Houseplant

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