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Nice variegation in leathery leaves

Nice variegation in leathery leaves

Pothos are native to tropics extending from Northern Australia through Indochina into China, Japan and India.  Its leaves are a waxy, heart shaped, beautiful forest green variegated with a lighter green, yellow or white depending upon the variety.  It grows quickly as a vine 1-10’ (.3 – 3 m) or more in length and makes a lovely display cascading down from a shelf or bookcase.  In its native habitat the leaves will be as much as 2’ (.6 m) in length but in your home they will average 2-8” (5-20 cm).  Pothos is a very easy houseplant to care for and pruning will encourage branching out to keep it looking full.  It can be staked up or trained and secured to frame a window.  Pothos is one of the plants that NASA has tested to be efficient at removing indoor pollutants such as formaldehyde, xylene, and benzene.

Light and Temperature

While the Pothos will thrive in bright, indirect light it will also do well in low light.  It will not tolerate direct sun.  Provide 400-1000 foot candles if measuring this way.  The more yellow or white variegation in the leaves the more light the plant will need to retain this color. Due to the waxy leaves it can tolerate a bit of draft from a forced air furnace or an entryway. It grows best with night temperatures of 70-75°F (21-24°C) and day temperatures of 75- 90°F (24-32°C) but will tolerate temperatures as low as 65°F (18° C) during the winter months when you also cut back on the watering.




During the growing season, early spring through fall, let the soil dry down about 1 – 2” (2.5 – 5 cm), then water until you see the water run through.  Do not leave water in the tray under your plant unless the pot is raised up out of the water on pebbles so the bottom of the pot is not touching the water.  From late fall until early spring let the soil dry almost completely.  This plant will be tolerant if you forget to water it now and again and does not need high humidity although drier air can encourage pests.  Stems will rot at soil level if given too much water.




You can fertilize your plant once a month from spring through fall with a balanced, diluted fertilizer.  It is best not to feed this plant from late fall until early spring as this is its rest period and will do fine with the nutrients in the soil.


1 part loam or humus, 1 part aged compost, 1 part coarse sand and 1 part perlite will be a good mix for this plant.  You can use a soilless mix of 1 part sphagnum peat, 1 part perlite, and 1 part vermiculite or pine bark fines.


Potted plants will probably not flower but in the wild they have flowers formed in a boat shaped spathe similar to the Peace Lily.


Water your plant a day or two before you intend to re-pot so the roots and leaves are not dehydrated and are best equipped to handle the move.  Late winter or early spring is an ideal time to repot as this is the beginning of the active growth season.  Re-pot when your plant is pot bound.  Use the next size pot with the light, well drained medium described above.  When placed in a pot too large it will focus on root growth and you may see little leaf growth.  Fill the bottom of a clean pot about 1/3 full of the fresh medium described above.  Gently remove most of the old dirt from the roots of your plant being careful not to damage tender roots.  Place the roots lightly over the dirt in the new pot and while holding the plant at the desired level add more dirt to fill in around the roots, gently tamping as you go.  Fill to the same level the plant was before and make sure you have sufficient room for watering above the soil level and below the rim of the pot.

Give your plant a drink to help it settle in.  It will not need fertilizing for 2-3 months as there should be adequate nutrients in the fresh loam-based medium.


With one leaf or a trail of leaves cut from a plant you can put the base of the leaf-nodes (where the leaf meets the stem you can see a bump) in the medium described above or in water and they will root easily.

Pests and Problems

Pothos can attract Mealy bugs, Spider mites, Scale, or Thrips.  Please see the section on “The pests that can bug your houseplants” for descriptions of the symptom, how to identify the pest itself and how to control each pest infestation.

If leaves have scattered brown patches, usually located in the center of the leaf it may be due to an abrupt change from high to moderate temperature.

Too dry air causes leaves to curl. Leaves becoming smaller with time could be due to lack of light or fertilizer.  Both of these symptoms would be easily taken care of.

Trailing down bookcase

Trailing down bookcase


To train your Pothos to grow upward you can plant a mossy pole in the dirt and the nodes at the base of the leaves will root onto this pole and hang on tightly so you will not need to tie it up risking injury to the plant.

You can take cuttings from your plant and root them in water.  They will quickly form water roots and grow just fine.  They can be placed on top of an aquarium and allowed to grow roots in the water.   The plant will clean the aquarium while using the nitrates in the water for growth.  Plants grown for a time in water will not then do well if moved into soil and plants rooted in soil will not have the roots necessary to grow well in water.

If ingested by a child or pet it may make them very sick but it is not fatal.



aureus ‘Wilcoxii’ or ‘Golden Pothos’ has greenish yellow leaves streaked with gold.

aureus ‘Marble Queen’ has smooth waxy pale green leaves with yellow and cream variegation.  This variety thrives in more light than the Golden Pothos.

aureus ‘Tricolor’ marbled and spotted pale green, deep yellow and cream on medium green. This variety thrives with more light and warmth than the Golden Pothos.

‘Satin Pothos’ Scindapsus pictus   (still retains this genus name) Alias: Epipremnum pictum has thick leather-like leaves, bluish-green with green-silver blotches, 2-3” in length and Scindapsus pictus argyraeus that adds a white edge to its leaf.

Aliases:  Rhaphidophora aurea   ‘Golden Pothos’ and ‘Marble Queen’  This is yet another genus name found in a few places which explained that flowers were found that were different from a Scindapsus and meant it could no longer belong to Scindapsus. 

Scindapsus is the name you’ll find in most sources.

Epipremnum aureum   ‘Golden Pothos’  It appeared under this genus also. Devil’s Ivy ‘Golden Pothos’ Taro vine ‘Marble Queen’

Commonly mistaken for the closely related Philodendron scandens oxycardium found from Puerto Rico to Central America.

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