Learn how to care for pothos plants! Pothos plants, aka epipremnum aureum, are some of the easiest houseplants to care for. Learn what your epipremnum aureum needs to thrive!
Epipremnum aureum & how to care for pothos
One of my earliest plant posts I write many years ago was a post about how to propagate pothos plants from cuttings. It did so well that I thought, wow—maybe people want more of this? I hadn’t originally even thought to include plant content into my DIY website.
But, honestly, the houseplants and DIY go hand-in-hand for me. Both are a learning process and help you develop a variety of important skills. Also, I love plant-related DIYs! So now as I write this, it’s May 2022.
And that means this post was super outdated compared to how I now write my posts now. I decided to update it since epipremnum aureum is such a classic houseplant. Perfect for beginners, and I have posts on tons of different epipremnum aureum varieties now.
Table of contents
- What is epipremnum aureum?
- Where are pothos plants from?
- What is the difference between pothos and philodendron?
- Is Epipremnum aureum the same as pothos?
- Do pothos purify the air?
- How much light does a pothos need?
- How often do you water pothos?
- What kind of soil and drainage does epipremnum aureum need?
- Temperature & humidity
- Epipremnum aureum and pest vulnerability
- Should I fertilize my pothos plants?
- When should I prune or repot pothos?
- Is epipremnum aureum toxic to humans?
- How to propagate epipremnum aureum from cuttings
What is epipremnum aureum?
So we’re getting back to basics today. Instead of talking about a specific epipremnum aureum variety, we’re going to talk about the species epipremnum aureum as a whole. Epipremnum is the genus, while aureum is the species.
But you’ll likely just hear it referred to as “pothos.” Golden pothos, devil’s vine, devil’s ivy, silver vine, taro vine, and more. There are so many names that this plant can be called! And, as I mentioned, there are a ton of different epipremnum aureum varieties.
Here are a few epipremnum aureum varieties I have care posts on:
- Global Green Pothos Care
- Marble Queen Pothos Care
- Neon Pothos Care
- Pearls and Jade Pothos Care
- Manjula Pothos Care
- Lemon Meringue Pothos Care
The care needs for these varieties are largely the same, but by far the easiest varieties of epipremnum aureum are also the most common: golden pothos and jade pothos. That’s mostly what you’ll see throughout this post, but I will label all of the varieties in the captions!
Where are pothos plants from?
Pothos plants are native to French Polynesia. It’s wild to think that this plant hails from so far away from where I am sitting, yet many of the houses in my neighborhood probably have it growing as a houseplant!
It has become naturalized in tropical and sub-tropical regions around the world, including Southeast Asia, South Asia, Australia, the Pacific Islands, and more. It actually grows so prolifically that it has caused ecological damage in some of these areas.
The plant has no natural enemies, so can quickly and completely overtake forest floors and trees, disrupting native growth. But that’s not something I have to keep in mind where I am.
It gets well below freezing where I am, meaning the change of the seasons would kill off any pothos I have planted in the ground. Just something to keep in mind if you happen to live in a year-round outdoor growing area (this includes Florida, for example.)
What is the difference between pothos and philodendron?
There are a bajillion different types of philodendron. The type of philodendron that pothos is often confused with is a heart-leaf philodendron, or the philodendron hederaceum.
Pothos plants do share a similar leaf shape and trailing habit when compared to a heart-leaf philodendron. However, they are totally different plants. Pothos is an epipremnum, which is a genus totally separate from philodendron (which is also a genus).
There are a few ways to easily differentiate between the two plants. First, pothos plants typically have very shiny and waxy-looking leaves, while the heart-leaf philodendron leaves have a more matte finish.
I also think that the stems on the heart-leaf philodendron are thinner and have more pronounced joints where the leaves meet the stems. Pothos seems much bushier to me.
Is Epipremnum aureum the same as pothos?
Yes, “pothos” is the common name most likely to be associated with the plant epipremnum aurem, including the many varieties of epipremnum aurem (pearls and jade, marble queen, global green, the list goes on…). That said, pothos is also used to refer to other types of epipremnum.
The most other types of epipremnum you’re likely to encounter are epipremnum pinnatum and epipremnum amplissimum. Below are a couple varieties of these plants you can check out, including their common names, which you’ll see mostly include “pothos.”
- Epipremnum Pinnatum Ablo Variegata
- Epipremnum Pinnatum Baltic Blue (aka baltic blue pothos)
- Epipremnum Pinnatum Cebu Blue (aka cebu blue pothos)
- Epipremnum Amplissimum Care (aka silver streak pothos)
Do pothos purify the air?
If you Google this question, you will see A LOT of results claiming that yes, pothos plants purify indoor air. This claim is based on a NASA study conducted in 1989. You can read the original study for yourself here. And it’s a classic example of people extrapolating narrow scientific findings in ways they shouldn’t be.
The study’s goal was to research ways to clean the air in sealed environments like space stations. Its results suggested that some common indoor plants may also provide a natural way of removing volatile organic compounds (VOCs—benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene were tested).
Sounds great—but what does that really mean? It means that in highly controlled, sealed environments, there could be some benefit. However, this is not the same thing as a regular building. In such buildings (like homes and offices), air circulation systems and indoor-to-outdoor areas already remove VOCs at a rate that could “only be matched by the placement of 10–1000 plants/m2 of a building’s floor space” (source here).
An additional review of the information in 2014 (read that here) later shared that later studies failed to replicate the information from the 1989 study. Here is an excerpt: While the plant’s ability to take up VOCs is well documented in laboratory studies, the effect of plants on indoor air in complex environments like offices requires further investigations to clarify the full capacity of plants in real-life settings.”
That said, I love being surrounded by plants, and they make me happy! So, even though pothos plants (and other common houseplants) likely don’t purify the air in your house, they are still well worth adding.
How much light does a pothos need?
Pothos plants can do well in a variety of different lighting conditions from abundant sunlight to florescent lighting in a cubical. However, it will thrive in higher light conditions. My pothos plants by sunny windows do the best.
Pothos varieties with patterns on the leaves (referred to as variegated plants) can lose their variegation and become all green if they don’t get enough light. Leaves become pale when the plant is getting too much sun.
The pothos plant can also be grown outdoors in shade and partial shade. It does not tolerate frost and will die off or start looking ratty if it gets too cold. However, since it’s a great houseplant, you can just bring it inside for the winter.
I have found that my pothos plants absolutely explode with healthy growth when I have them outdoors in bright shade. The last two years, I had them on my covered patio, which got dappled sunlight from the deck slats above. They were super happy!
How often do you water pothos?
Epipremnum aureum aren’t picky. I like to let mine tell me when they need water; they’ll start drooping when they need a good drink, and I water immediately. They perk back up within a day. If you don’t want to wait until they start drooping, let the top several inches of soil dry out between waterings. It will forgive you.
Don’t over-water. Pothos plants are prone to root rot from continuously damp soil. Leaves with black spots could indicate over-watering, but I’ve never had that happen. When I over-water, a couple of the leaves usually turn yellow. I pluck them off, apologize to the plant, and let it dry out before watering again!
In general, your watering schedule will be around once a week in the spring and summer and a bit less in the fall and winter. Get to know your plant and the conditions you have it in—this will help you determine how quickly your plant’s soil dries out.
What kind of soil and drainage does epipremnum aureum need?
Well-draining soil is the best choice because pothos plants are prone to root rot. I like to add a bit of perlite to my regular houseplant soil just to encourage a bit more drainage.
Ideally, a planter with a drainage hole and saucer is best. However, many of my pothos plants have been in hanging baskets or sitting high on shelves so they can trail down. One tip for doing this while keep your plants in a nursery pot with drainage holes is to simply set your pot down into your hanging planter.
You can also just water the plants in the sink or shower, letting the excess water flow out before hanging the plants back up. Sometimes I water my plants and set them on a towel on the counter to dry a bit more before hanging them back up.
Epipremnum aureum plants can attract a lot of dust on the leaves, so having well-draining soil and a pot with drainage holes also means that I can rinse off all of that foliage when I water the plant in the sink. I definitely couldn’t do this wouldn’t drainage holes—it would flood the plant!
Temperature & humidity
Pothos will be happiest above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and they generally prefer a room temperature between 60 and 80 degrees. But they are adaptable. They aren’t going to die if your AC breaks and your house gets to 90 degrees.
Pothos plants love high humidity and will flourish in it, but they also do just fine in low humidity. We run a humidifier in Ramona’s room through the winter, and the pothos right above her crib did AMAZING this winter! As did the pothos in the second bathroom. This used to be tiny cuttings!
The second picture below of me with a giant golden pothos also shows how happy this plant was by the end of the summer. It lived outdoors on my covered patio all summer, and the humidity and warm temperatures led to some seriously awesome leaf sizes!
I plant to take some of my pothos outdoors for a summer vacation every summer. The difference in growth—at least for the climate where I live—is amazing.
Epipremnum aureum and pest vulnerability
Pothos plants are vulnerable to the common houseplant pests: mealybugs and fungus gnats, mostly. I have never had any problems with pests in my pothos. If you have problems with gnats, try backing off the watering.
Fungus gnats are attracted to moist soil, and they lay their eggs in the top inch or so of soil. Therefore, if you let the top few inches of soil dry out between watering sessions, it will help make the soil an inhospitable home for them.
If you notice mealybugs on your plant (learn about mealybugs and how to get rid of them), dab the larger clusters with a q-tip soaked in alcohol. And then I would recommend thoroughly spraying the plant down with a store-bought insecticide.
Should I fertilize my pothos plants?
It’s not really necessary to fertilize a pothos. They’ll do just fine without it. But they’ll thrive if you occasionally give them some fertilizer meant specifically for houseplants. I give mine a little extra worm castings for nutrients.
If you do choose to use a fertilizer, I recommend a non-chemical fertilizer that will replenish the nutrients in your plant’s soil without the risk of chemical burns. Some chemical fertilizers freak me out, but that’s because I have burned plants at the root level before!
When should I prune or repot pothos?
Pothos plants don’t like to be super pot bound (when the roots fill the pot). If your plant is droopy even after watering, or if some of the leaves are curling and turning yellow (see pics below), it probably needs a bit more room to grow. Repot it in a bigger planter with fresh soil, and it will flourish.
I don’t prune my pothos plants a ton. I like to let them grow long and trail the vines along things in the house. The vines can grow 25+ feet long! However, much like long hair, it’s only pretty if it’s healthy. If the vines look long and scraggly (you’ll hear them referred to as “leggy”), I cut them off.
Here’s a hanging pothos was was getting really leggy and potbound. It needed trimmed (including the roots) and repotted. I sadly neglected it for a bit in my daughter’s room.
Is epipremnum aureum toxic to humans?
All epipremnum aureum varieties are considered toxic if ingested because of the calcium oxalate crystals. That’s why I keep most of mine hanging from the ceiling or high up on shelving where the kitties can’t get to them.
Keep in mind that, while toxic, pothos plants are perfectly safe to have in your home. The toxicity is a result of ingesting the plant, which can lead to varying levels of gastrointestinal issues depending on the subject and the amount of calcium oxalate crystals ingested.
How to propagate epipremnum aureum from cuttings
It’s so easy to grow pothos from cuttings. Here’s a shot of a few cuttings I had left over from a pruning session. They are rooting in a jar of water. See a detailed post about propagating pothos plants in water for more!
The skinny of it is simple: Take small cuttings from a plant, making sure that each cutting has a few leaves and a few exposed nodes (the area where the leaf meets the stem). Put them in water and refresh the water every week or so.
Once the plants grow roots that are a few inches long, you can transplant the cuttings to soil. Keep the soil moist as the new plant’s water roots are adjusting to soil. Once the plant perks back up, ease off watering and treat the plant as normal.