How To Care For Low-Maintenance Golden Pothos Houseplants
Golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum) is an incredibly resilient and adaptable plant, making it a perfect choice for houseplant beginners—or anyone who wants a dramatic touch of green in their space. Here's what to know about this wonderful starter plant and how to care for it indoors.
The golden pothos.
Native to southeastern Asia, the golden pothos is a crafty vining plant, discernible by its heart-shaped yellow and green leaves. It's a type of pothos—a plant species that is now native to many tropical regions around the world (though it can be confused for a philodendron; read up on the difference here!).
Like most pothos varieties, golden pothos really isn't picky and it can quickly spread just about anywhere. "It can grow, survive, and look well even in bathrooms, basements, or places without any natural light," says Vladan Nikolic of the houseplant care blog, Mr. Houseplant.
When you have a happy golden pothos, there's no telling how long this trailing plant will grow. "I have seen vines in people's homes that are more than 20 feet long!" says Nika Linn, botanist and founder of Chez Flora, a northern-Colorado-based houseplant consultation service.
It also doesn't hurt that golden pothos are proven to be effective at clearing the air, so to speak. Just ask NASA.
You're sure to find the wildly popular plant at your local nursery, home improvement store, or online without trouble.
Types of pothos plants.
The golden pothos is one of dozens of pothos varieties that can thrive as houseplants. Here are a few other popular ones:
- Manjula pothos (Epipremnum aureum Manjula): Patented in a Florida lab, the heart-shaped leaves of Manjula pothos grow big, wide, and curvy and refuse to lie flat.
- Jade pothos (Epipremnum aureum 'Jade'): Not to be mistaken for the pearl & jade pothos variety, jade pothos lack variegation of any kind. Another cultivated variety, it has large, deep green leaves.
- Golden pothos: Golden pothos appear in the wild and you can spot them by the yellow-golden flecks painted on their leaves. It gets its nickname of "Devil's Ivy" because it's so quick to spread and nearly impossible to kill.
Caring for the plant indoors.
If you haven't already realized, golden pothos is one tough plant! It can handle areas of lower light and long periods without water. "This plant has adapted itself so that it can literally grow in any place," CEO of plant-centered lifestyle brand Live Long and Plant Ellise Uyema tells mbg. "They can tolerate neglect very well."
So while you don't have to work too hard to minimize its conditions, even this houseplant has some living standards. Here's how to help it thrive in your space:
"While this plant does grow in low light, you'll want to have more light exposure in order to keep the creamy golden color," says Uyema. Bright, indirect sunlight will be ideal for your golden.
Give your pothos time to dry in between waterings. Contrary to belief, Nikolic tells mbg that "you should never have a strict watering schedule." Instead, hold off on watering until the top half of your plant's soil is dry to the touch. He adds you can also use a chopstick to get an idea of how wet or dry the soil is.
Temperature & humidity:
"Even though pothos is a plant that comes from a tropical area, it actually adapts very well to low humidity," says Nikolic. As long as you aren't keeping your home below 50-degrees Fahrenheit, your pothos should be just fine.
Any well-draining potting soil that's rich with nutrients will make a good home for your pothos houseplant.
Fertilizing & repotting:
Golden pothos is a fast grower, and it can get squished (or root bound) if it stays in the same pot for too long. But being a little root bound isn't always a reason to move it to a new pot. "Depending on how much the plant has grown, a plant can stay in the same pot for many years," explains Linn, so you'll just want to look out for these signs that it really needs a new home.
When you do decide to repot, loosen up the root ball a little bit, and nestle it in a bigger pot with new soil. Stick to a pot that's 1 to 2 inches wider. "You don't want to get too big because then the plant is focusing on growing roots rather than leaves," Savannah Toal, the founder of Plant Savvy, tells mbg.
Striking the right balance between fertilizing and repotting is also important for this plant. "If you're repotting your plant once a year, it'll get plenty of nutrients from the fresh new soil," says Nikolic. While it's fine if you want to keep your plant in the same pot, you'll just want to add a little fertilizer every once in a while in that case.
Common problems & how to fix them.
Here are some common problems to look out for with your golden pothos and how to remedy them:
- Yellowing leaves. This could be an underwatering or overwatering issue. Remember: Use a chopstick to tell you how wet or dry the soil is before watering.
- Mealybugs. Mealybugs love pothos. "They like to hide under the leaves and in the shoot areas," says Toal. If it's a small infestation, she says you can take some alcohol or a natural insecticide like neem oil and wipe down the leaves. If you've got a bigger infestation on your hands, Uyema recommends repotting in new soil.
- Root rot. "Inconsistent watering can cause root rot," says Linn. "The roots have dried out and can't take up the water you give it." In this case, slowly reintroduce the pothos' roots to water using the method outlined here. If you notice a smell, Linn suggests cutting your losses and propagating a few of your plant's leaves instead and starting from scratch. (Luckily, it's easy to do!)
How to propagate.
Step 1: Grab your gloves & prep your station.
"I'd recommend wearing gloves as the sap may cause an allergic reaction," Uyema tells mbg. You'll also want to keep any curious dogs or cats away from your propagation station. Besides gloves, you'll need a container, either a sharp knife or scissors, and well-draining soil or an alternative medium. (More on those below!)
Step 2: Make your cut.
Next, it's time to snip a few healthy leaves from your pothos to be propagated. "Make a cutting that includes at least one 'node' or growing point," says Linn. Try to keep the cutting between 3 and 6 inches long or however long it needs to be to keep at least two leaves.
Step 3: Place the cutting in your growing medium of choice.
- Moss/Perlite/Leca/Sphagnum. Place your cutting into a pot or glass container of your medium of choice, ensuring that it's damp but not soggy.
- Water. Placing your cutting into a jar of water, make sure the leaves don't touch the water. (Check out some more keys to successful water propagation here.)
- Soil. If you're placing your cutting directly into a pot with soil, place it deep enough that you can gently tug with any budge.
Note: If you want a fuller plant, Linn suggests planting multiple cuttings together. You can even add in leaves from other pothos varieties for a more dynamic look.
Step 4: Transfer to soil.
After roughly two weeks, small white roots will start to form from your cutting. Unless you planted your cutting directly into soil in Step 3, this is your time to transfer your newly rooted plant into damp soil. Then, all that's left is to wait for growth!
Tips to keep in mind.
Here are some final tips to keep in mind with this green beauty:
- It's OK if your pothos loses leaves. "Leaves retire," Linn tells mbg. It's all a part of growth. Simply snip off any yellow or brown leaves you see, as they won't grow back.
- The stems and leaves of pothos are toxic to pets and people, so be mindful of where your pothos ends up.
- According to Linn, the vines of this houseplant are more on the brittle side, so "Be careful not to snap them when rearranging the vines or attempting to train them."
- Due to its invasive nature, Uyema recommends keeping this plant indoors and letting it flourish there instead of bringing it out to your garden.
- Place your pothos in a hanging planter and let it trail down for a lush jungle look indoors.
Golden pothos is a tough, forgiving plant that makes a wonderful addition to any home. Whether you train it to climb up a windowsill or let it hang above your bed, you can enjoy the greenery without worrying about being a bad plant parent. Because along with the almighty ZZ plant, this has got to be one of the all-time easiest houseplants to care for.
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