Pothos: location, cultivation & winter care

Katja
Katja
Katja
Katja

I study landscape ecology and through my studies have discovered a love for plants. Plants are not only beautiful, but also have countless fascinating survival strategies. To bring a bit of nature into my home as well, I nurture my houseplants and herbs on every possible windowsill.

Favourite fruit: rhubarb and all kinds of berries
Favourite vegetables: onions and garlic

Pothos are real warmth-lovers and can only be kept as houseplants. Here you will find everything you need to know about where and how to grow Epipremnum plants.

Green and white leaves of pothos epipremnum
Pothos is one of the most popular houseplants [Photo: pongsatorn imudom/ Shutterstock.com]

Versatile, decorative, and easy to care for: that pretty much sums up pothos (Epipremnum). Whether trailing from a hanging basket, as a climbing vine or an ornamental addition to your windowsill – devil’s ivy looks great everywhere! Its filtering abilities make the plant popular in aquariums as well as in offices and homes. For example, pothos can absorb toxins such as formaldehyde from the air and store them. These toxins are then processed in the plant and turned into harmless substances.

Pothos: origin and characteristics

Like many popular evergreen houseplants, pothos originally comes from the tropics. The different pothos species – there are 15 of them worldwide – come from a wide range of countries in the tropics and subtropics. The popular golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum), for example, stems from the island of Moorea in the South Pacific. Other species have their roots in countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. Pothos feel most at home in dense, tropical rainforests. There, they climb up larger trees into the canopy, growing up to 20 metres tall under optimal conditions. In our climate, however, pothos can only be cultivated indoors.

Hanging epipremnum vines
In warmer countries, pothos can also be used to cover outdoor walls [Photo: BlackstarRedbuff/ Shutterstock.com]

Pothos plants are herbaceous, evergreen plants that grow perennially. With the right care, they can develop shoots up to 10 metres long. They form adventitious roots (roots made from non-root material) which they use to cling to the surface of host trees or plants. It has leathery, heart-shaped leaves that vary in size depending on the species. The leaf colour also varies greatly with the species and variety. The base colour of the foliage comes in various shades of green while the leaf pattern on top ranges from striped to patterned in yellow, white, silver and light green.

As a houseplant, pothos hardly ever develops flowers. This is because the plant must reach a certain size first and be kept in optimal tropical conditions to produce flowers. In tropical rainforests, pothos produces rather plain-looking greenish white flowers.

Epipremnum plant climbing up tree outside
In nature, pothos climbs up trees [Photo: ezphoto/ Shutterstock.com]

Pothos is also known as devil’s ivy because of its resemblance to common ivy (Hedera helix), a fellow evergreen, climbing plant. But that is just about all they have in common! They actually both come from different families: common ivy belongs to the Araliaceae family, whereas pothos belongs to the arum family (Araceae). Devil’s ivy has many other names including golden pothos, Ceylon creeper and centipede tongavine.

Tip: Like other members of the arum family, pothos is also poisonous. To be on the safe side, wear gloves when handling the houseplant. Make sure to remove fallen leaves rather than leaving them on the ground.

Pothos or philodendron:

It can be quite tricky to tell these two very similar looking plant species apart. Nevertheless, there are some differences between the two plants:

  • Leaf shape: philodendron is usually more heart-shaped than pothos.
  • Leaf texture: philodendron leaves are delicate and thin, whereas pothos leaves are leathery and waxy.
  • Aerial roots: philodendron can develop several thin aerial roots per leaf node, whereas pothos only develops one root at each node.
Potted plant with dark green heart-shaped leaves
It can be hard to tell the difference between pothos and philodendron [Photo: Ivan Widiyatno/ Shutterstock.com]

Where to keep your pothos plant

Finding a location that meets your Epipremnum’s needs is half the battle. Once the houseplant feels at home, pothos plant care is very easy.

Light and temperature conditions

To recreate the plant’s natural conditions under the canopy of the tropical rainforest, keep your devil’s ivy in a semi-shady spot out of direct sunlight. Avoid a south-facing window, but the pothos still likes the morning and evening sunlight. Some pothos species with lighter leaves also tolerate a little more light. Keep the room temperature around 20°C all year round and do not let it drop below 16°C. If the plant is in your bedroom, make sure to provide enough humidity. Place a bowl of water near the plant or spray your pothos occasionally with lukewarm, low-lime water. In other rooms like bathrooms and kitchens, the humidity is usually higher. Avoid a location with draughts.

Tip: In summer, if temperatures are above 16°C, you can move your pothos to a sheltered spot outside. When temperatures drop too low at night and in winter, always bring the plant back indoors.

hanging-pothos on garden wall
You can also put your pothos outside in the summer [Photo: PARINYA ART/ Shutterstock.com]

The right soil for pothos

For growing pothos in soil, it is best to use a high-quality potting soil. Alternatively, it is possible to cultivate pothos in a hydroponic system, which does not require soil. The growing medium, however, must be permeable to avoid waterlogging. A potting soil, like our Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost, which is peat-free and made from natural raw materials, is ideal for Epipremnum plants. In the first few months, this compost also provides the devil’s ivy with all essential nutrients, so there is no need to add fertiliser. When potting, add a third of crushed expanded clay to two thirds soil so that the growing medium remains structurally stable for longer – this reduces the need to carry out the tricky task of repotting the climbing plants.

Organic All Purpose Compost, 40L
Organic All Purpose Compost, 40L
  • Perfect for all your house, garden & balcony plants
  • For strong & healthy plants as well as an active soil life
  • Peat-free & organic soil: CO2-saving composition

Tip: You can also keep devil’s ivy in an aquarium, provided it is a freshwater aquarium. Here it helps to filter phosphates and nitrates out of the water. You only need to place the roots of the plant in the water for this.

Does devil’s ivy need a climbing aid?

Devil’s ivy grows very long shoots! It is up to you how you want to deal with this. For example, you can let the ivy climb up a climbing aid. This could simply be a shelf or nails placed in the wall to hang the plant from the leaf axils. However, it is also possible to have a hanging pothos plant by placing it in a hanging basket, macrame pot or on top of a cupboard.

Epipremnum plant in a hanging basket
Devil’s ivy looks great trailing from a hanging basket [Photo: Phodsapon Longvilai/ Shutterstock.com]

How to plant pothos

After buying a devil’s ivy, you should repot the young plant as soon as possible. Cuttings for propagating pothos need to be planted eventually too. To do this, prepare your plant pot by creating a drainage layer of broken clay, expanded clay or pebbles. Make sure the pot has a drainage hole and place it on a saucer or in a planter. Now add a layer of potting soil, place the root ball of the pothos on top and fill in any gaps with extra soil. Finally, press down lightly on the soil and water. Plant several small plants in the same pot for a bushier looking plant later on.

Planting pothos summary:

  • Lay a drainage layer in the pot
  • Put a layer of soil in the pot
  • Put on gloves
  • Plant the ivy
  • Fill in the gaps with soil
  • Press down lightly and water

Tip: In the first few months after planting, the pothos gets all the nutrients it needs from the soil. After that you should regularly apply a fertiliser, such as our Plantura Liquid Houseplant Food.

Pothos plant in partial shade
Ivy prefers a spot in partial shade [Photo: Amir Hafidz/ Shutterstock.com]

Is pothos winter hardy?

Pothos is not winter hardy. It needs to be kept in temperatures above 16°C, even during the winter months. Between October and March, pothos grows much more slowly because of the low light and does not need fertiliser. You can also reduce watering: just apply when necessary to avoid the root ball drying out completely.

Philodendron scandens looks remarkably similar to pothos. Discover our tips on where and how to grow this beautiful houseplant.

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