How to Take Care of Pothos/Epipremnum Aureum

This post may contain affiliate links. Read the full disclosure here.

This article is about Epipremnum Aureum care, the common name of which is Pothos.

Just to make everything very confusing, there is a genus of plants with the scientific name 'Pothos' that aren't kept as house plants (at least, not widely). 

Epipremnum aureum used to be in the Pothos genus, but then it was discovered that they were actually Epipremnums. But the common name stuck.

There are 59 Pothos species, none of which are, you know, Pothos Pothos.

Aren't plants fun??

In my opinion, Pothos are a great plant for beginners to try to keep alive. Not because they’re extremely easy to care for (though they’re not difficult), but because they’re cheap, easy to replace, and not easy to kill.

They’re also quick growers, which is rewarding for newcomers to plant parenthood.

Not just that, but when you become a master Pothos, er, keeper, you could get a humble Golden Pothos to look like this:

mature golden pothos

Who needs a variegated Monstera when a £5 Golden Pothos can grow into this?

There are dozens of different types of Pothos, some of which are easier to care for than others, but you’ll find that they all require the same basic care.

  • Light: bright, indirect to low
  • Humidity: 50%+, can tolerate lower
  • Temperature: 18C/65F – 24C/75F
  • Watering: water thoroughly when dry. Tap water is fine
  • Fertilise: any gentle fertiliser every month or so
  • Potting medium: well-draining aroid mix
  • Propagation: cuttings
  • Pests: mealybugs, scale
  • Bloom? not indoors
  • Toxic? yes

Pothos come from the rainforest, so if you provide warmth, indirect bright light, and humidity, you’ll probably do ok with most Pothos. However, the more commonly available, commercially grown varieties are extremely tolerant of neglect.

That doesn’t mean we should do it though. If we give Pothos a TONNE of care, they will reward us generously.

Heavily variegated pothos can be a bit of a roller coaster of brown spots and dead leaves and can put off a beginner. My N-joy refused to grow for an age and now is happily putting out leaves (in December).

Humidity is KEY for the white parts of plants (and a nice pinch of acceptance).

epipremnum aureum

Satin pothos* are easy to care for, but beware: they have a habit (at least mine does) of dropping their biggest leaf just before a growth spurt. It’ll turn an alarming shade of yellow and then drop off, before a load of new leaves appear.

*Although technically a Scindapsus, not a Pothos. Heartleaf Philodendrons also look like Pothos, but, er, aren’t.

It turns out NOTHING is an ACTUAL Pothos, except Pothos, which aren’t house plants.

The first time this happened I panicked, assuming either it wasn’t getting enough light or I had overwatered it. So, if you have a satin pothos and just one leaf has turned yellow, say your goodbyes to that leaf and prepare for new growth. If you have multiple yellowing leaves, it may be a light or root issue.

monstera leaf

Where do Pothos come from?

Pothos originally hails from French Polynesia, but can now be found pretty much anywhere between there and, er, India (assuming you travel east from India, of course, it’s not growing wild in Basildon).

As you can probably guess if you’ve ever grown a golden Pothos, it’s considered an invasive species in many countries.

KIND OF

So Golden Pothos have been planted along roadsides in many countries, and it’s spread like wildfire – it’s classified as invasive in parts of the US.

EXCEPT

Many other countries refuse to classify it as such because it can’t produce seeds on its own*, due to a lack of a hormone called Gibberellin. In order to spread, it just climbs, and then roots as and when nodes hit the ground.

It’s endemic to ONE small island. It was us that took it elsewhere. There were no seeds accidentally stowing away on boats.

So other countries refuse to classify it as invasive because it has be taken and planted. To get rid of it, you just remove it.

it’s ability to grow quickly is the key to its success – any other plant that couldn’t produce seeds wouldn’t have got this far.

Honestly, I find Golden Pothos very impressive.

mature epipremnum aureum

*This is a generalisation obvs – they’re plants, and plants produce seeds BUT Epipremnum aureum flower very, very rarely. Like, it’s been documented six times. But this guy on Reddit had one bloom accidentally, which is extremely cool. The guy’s like ‘what’s this?’ and ended up being urged to call scientists (which he did) because it’s that rare.

Where should my Pothos live?

Pothos are happy in a lot of places – they would really like an east-facing windowsill, but would also be fine on a bookcase or on a coffee table a few feet away from the window.

They’re happy anywhere really, as long as they get enough light, and aren’t sitting in a draught.

Whilst I do think they should get a decent amount of light, they are a plant that you could put somewhere like a spare room that you don’t necessarily see every day.

I’m very anti-hanging plants, because they’re a pain to water BUT Pothos (and Hoya, actually) are good options because they don’t mind a bit of underwatering.

How much light does my Pothos need?

Pothos can survive in low light, but you won’t necessarily see much growth. There’s one at my work that receives virtually no natural light, but is still producing (small) growth in December. It gets about 14 hours of artificial light a day, from a regular light bulb about 3 feet away.

Pothos are a bit like Monstera when it comes to light.

TECHNICALLY bright, indirect light most closely mimics their nature environment, so they should be happiest.

However, if you give them a tonne of bright direct light, you’ll get bigger, faster growth.

The caveat here is that you’ll need to acclimate your Pothos properly, and move it a little closer to the the brighter spot over the course of a few weeks.

Or

You can throw caution to the wind, throw it outside on a sunny day and watch it burn to a crisp. Pick off all the dead leaves, keep it well-watered (but not overwatered – though outside plants usually need watering every day in summer), and wait for the new growth (which is better adapted to the light and shouldn’t burn).

What temperature range does my pothos prefer?

In their natural habitat, Pothos will be used to getting temperatures of between 65-85oF (15-28oCish) and that what they would ideally like.

Going too much hotter isn’t a great idea, but if your humidity is relatively high (70%+) then you probably won’t have issues.

Pothos are slightly more cold-tolerant than a lot of other tropical plants (mine regularly endure temps of 9oC, which is 48oF). I wouldn’t recommend it necessarily, but it’ll probably be totally fine.

What humidity levels do Pothos like?

Pothos have medium-thick leaves – somewhere between a Monstera adansonii and a Monstera deliciosa.

They tolerate humidity levels of 40% (or less) but you’ll get the best growth and leaf size if you give them as high humidity as possible.

I grow a Marble Queen Pothos in my terrarium and she LOVES it

that’s not fenestrations, it’s slugs

Not only does she grow super fast, but the white parts of her leaves stay whiter, and her aerial roots are activated by the high humidity so she can use them to climb (or she could, if the terrarium was taller).

High humidity isn’t necessary for plant care, but it makes it SO much easier. You have to water less, and the leaves are somehow lusher. I have an article all about it here.

How do you water a Pothos?

Pothos can go for a decent amount of time between waterings – even in summer mine only needed watering every ten days or so.

The secret to watering pothos is to give them a really thorough soaking and then leave them to dry out almost completely. It’s best practice to water them when the moisture metre is reading about a 2, but I’ve let mine get to 1 (and under, oops) plenty of times and they’re still growing like mad.

Pothos aren’t too susceptible to root rot, but they grow best when they’re allowed to dry out a bit. Overwatering can lead to stem rot.

They can also get edema and end up with transparent leaves, which ain’t great.

I use aquarium water on my Pothos, and they like it just fine. They’re also fine with tap water, so I don’t think they’re that bothered. That being said, the chemicals in tap water can cause brown marks on white variegation (though tbh it’s more likely to be a humidity issue).

Can you grow Pothos in water?

Yes, you can – they’re a popular plant to grow in aquariums because they’re nitrate-hungry and can help water parameters (they are NOT a replacement for a filter).

You can wash all the roots of a soil plant and put it in water (not an aquarium – you’ll end up with mud from the soil), aerate it properly (using java moss, an air stone, or changing the water regularly).

After a while, it’ll start growing water roots, which are typically whiter and furrier than soil roots. I wouldn’t put it in an aquarium until all the soil roots have dropped off (or you’ve pulled them off) and it has a decent network of water roots.

Don’t submerge Pothos leaves in water.

Aquatic plants grow in water, and land plants grow on land. There are precious few amphibious plants. Rumour has it that you can grow Monstera adansonii under water but there’s a very specific process that doesn’t always work.

Certainly don’t submerge terrestrial plants in an aquarium – you’ll end up poisoning your fish.

How do you fertilise Pothos?

Many people swear by not feeding Pothos at all, and for a long time I just used a very gentle fertilizer on them.

Currently, I’m using the General Hydroponics Flora series on all my plants and all the Pothos love it – whether they’re in soil or leca.

The marble Queen in the terrarium is growing the best, and it’s a bio active terrarium so we don’t add fertiliser – the warm, humid environment plus springtails and isopods means that the substrate breaks down in nutrient-rich material.

It’s impossible to tell how much of a difference the natural fertiliser has over the chemical one, just because the terrarium conditions are so perfect – I suspect the difference between natural and synthetic fertilisers is pretty small.

monstera leaf

Pests common to Pothos

Mealybugs and scale (of which the former is a type of the latter) are the most common pests found on Pothos.

I’ve also found that for some reason variegated pothos is much beloved by fungus gnats, but not enough to do any damage.

Pothos are a bugger for collecting dust, so your best course of action for both cleaning and pest prevention is to clean the leaves regularly (well, every couple of months MINIMUM, weekly is best) with warm water with a dab of neem oil mixed in.

Also thrips, but there are very few plants that thrips don’t like, except for peace lilies.

monstera leaf

Potting mix for Pothos

Any well-draining aroid mix will be great for Pothos – there’s a recipe here. I make my own potting mix, but pothos aren’t typically picky. If you buy a good quality potting mix (Fox Farms (US) or Westland (UK) and add some perlite, it’ll be all good.

As I talk to more and more people in this hobby, especially beginners I realise how important it is to make your potting soil work for you, rather than your plant. If you tend to overwater, use a chunky soil mix, if you’re more of an underwaterer, use a denser mix. Obvs not too dense, but store bought potting mix is fine.

monstera leaf

Pot type for Pothos

It entirely depends on their care. I have an article here about the pros and cons of different pot types

They are pretty good candidates for self-watering pots though – the cheap ones with the string-wicking system.

monstera leaf

How to propagate Pothos

It’s easy to propagate a lot of different types of Pothos. Chop a vine off, ensuring it has a node and then put it into either water or soil.

Roots should appear in a few days.

I prefer initially rooting the cuttings in water purely because I like to see what’s going on, and then pot them back into the plant with the parent – this is a great way to produce a fuller-looking plant.

Apparently regular pruning encourages the plant to grow bushier, and it definitely stops the plant looking leggy. If your Pothos is already looking a bit leggy, I have an article here on how to rein that in.

I personally like the look of bushy and spindly Pothos, so don’t think that one is better for the plant than the other, but in general, plants that are growing upwards (like up a pole) will have bigger leaves than those left to dangle. I assume it’s to do with the amount of light.

monstera leaf

Is Pothos toxic?

Yes. Don’t let your dogs and cats eat it. And don’t you eat it, since it’s mildly toxic to humans too.

I can’t find information on whether or not it’s toxic to bunnies (they digest plant matter better than us), but I wouldn’t risk it.

Can you keep Pothos in Leca?

I have a Marble queen in leca (I have two, they’re one of my favourite plants), and she loves it.

marble queen pothos in self watering pot

This was actually the first plant I ever switched over to LECA and it took to it very well. I am TERRIBLE at diligently washing the soil of the leaves but it didn’t seem to mind.

I do have to say though, that a LOT of YouTubers that use a lot of leca refuse to switch over Pothos because they’re picky, so maybe don’t start with your favourite one.

Propagating cuttings in leca is a great way to get started without risking a whole plant.

monstera leaf

Notes

  • If you can get a golden pothos to bloom, you’ll be the first person to do so since 1964 #goals.
  • If you’ve read this post on house plants blooming, you’ll know all about gibberellin, which is the hormone that aids flower production. Golden Pothos don’t have it, so they’re the ONLY aroid that can’t flower without human interference – and we can’t do it very well.
  • Scindapsus (not a Pothos, but I like this story so I’ll continue) bothered botanists in the 1800s because they were pretty sure it was a distinct genus, but they were all found in Asia except one which cropped up in South America
  • These are the same botanists than never agree on anything, so all decide to name an classify plants differently, hence why some people still call Monstera split leaf-Philodendron, despite being classified as being their own genus in 1860
  • Golden Pothos has an Award of Garden Merit, which means it grows ok in the UK (you’re allowed a heated greenhouse)
  • It’s called a money plant. I think ALL plants are called a money plant somewhere.

Caroline Cocker

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

Leave a comment