Golden Pothos: soil, light requirements and full growing guide

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Written By Martin Cole

Plantsman, gardener, plant-obsessive

Golden Pothos

Pothos is a fairly popular and easy-to-grow house plant that has attractive, glossy leaves that can be green, variegated, or even golden.

It can tolerate low light, drought, and some neglect, making it a good plant for beginners and busy people. But that does not mean you shouldn’t take car of your Pothos – and you will find everything you need to do that here. You can also read our separata article about general house plant care.

Pothos can be displayed in hanging baskets, on shelves, or as a climbing plant with a moss-pole support. Pothos is also known for its air-purifying abilities, as it can remove toxins such as formaldehyde and benzene from the indoor environment.

The naming of Pothos

As with so many house plants, there are multiple names by which Pothos is known.

The accepted scientific name is Epipremnum aureum, but the plant is also often known (and sold) as Scindapsus aureus or Pothos aureus.

Technically Epipremnum and Scindapsus are distinct plant geni, although the only real difference is that Epipremnum produces a single ovule in each ovary, whereas Scindapsus has multiple ovules. In truth, the difference is barely noticeable, especially as the plants rarely flower as house plants.

Pothos is more often called Devil’s Ivy in the UK, but in the USA it is generally known as Golden Pothos.

There are multiple Pothos varieties, generally with different kinds of variegation on their leaves, such as Hawaiian Pothos, Pearls and Jade Pothos, Snow Queen Pothos, Harlequin Pothos, Marble Queen Pothos and Pothos NJoy.

Pothos: the plant of longing and desire

The name Pothos is related to Greek mythology, where Pothos was one of Aphrodite’s Erotes (winged gods of love), who represented longing or desire. Pothos was the brother of Eros, the Greek God represented love.

As the god of yearning, Pothos evoked powerful feelings of wanting someone unavailable or far away. While Eros represented the passion of love itself, Pothos governed yearning for a loved one who could not be reached.

In ancient Greece, the white asphodel flower was sometimes referred to as “pothos.” However, instead of symbolizing romantic pining, the asphodel signified mourning and death. This link between Pothos and the sorrowful asphodel hints that Pothos embodied not only erotic craving, but also grieving for an absent loved one lost permanently in death.

Golden Pothos: key facts

  • Scientific name: Epipremnum aureum, (synonyms: Scindapsus aureus, Pothos aureus
  • Meaning of name: Derived from the Greek words ‘epi’ (on) and ‘premnon’ (stem), which describe how the plant grows on other plants or structures.
  • Common names: Pothos, golden pothos, devil’s ivy, money plant, silver vine
  • Plant family: Araceae
  • Place of origin: Southeast Asia and western Pacific islands
  • Type of plant: Evergreen vine
  • Size (grown indoors): Up to 10 feet (3 meters) long indoors
  • Foliage: Heart-shaped leaves with green, yellow, white, or cream variegation (depending on variety)
  • Flower: Rarely blooms indoors; produces small greenish-white flowers in spathes
  • Fruit: Rarely fruits indoors; produces small berries that are toxic to humans and pets
Golden Pothos

Golden Pothos growing conditions

Pothos is a fairly low-maintenance plant that can adapt to a variety of conditions. However, for optimal growth and health, it prefers the following:

Golden Pothos care guide

  • Light: Bright, indirect light; can tolerate low light but may lose variegation; avoid direct sun
  • Water: Water when the top inch (2.5 cm) of soil feels dry; avoid overwatering or soggy soil; reduce watering in winter
  • Humidity: Moderate to high humidity; mist occasionally or place near a humidifier
  • Temperature range: Minimum 65°F (18°C), maximum 85°F (29°C)
    • Minimum: 50°F (10°C)
  • Soil: Well-draining, organic-based potting mix with perlite or vermiculite
  • Fertiliser: Apply a balanced liquid fertiliser diluted to half-strength once a month during spring and summer; do not fertilise in winter
  • Propagation: Cut a stem with at least one node (where the leaf attaches) and place it in water or moist soil; roots will form in a few weeks
  • Repotting: Repot every two years or when the roots fill the pot; use a slightly larger pot with fresh potting mix
  • Pruning: : Prune back the stems to maintain the desired shape and size; remove any dead or damaged leaves

Light

Golden Pothos can grow in low-light conditions, but it will grow faster and more vigorously in bright, indirect light. A good spot for Pothos is near a window that receives filtered light or weak morning sun.

If Pothos does not receive enough light, it may lose its variegation and become leggy.

Pothos sunburn

Avoid placing Pothos in direct sun, as it can scorch the leaves and cause them to fade. This is because the plant adapts to lower light conditions and have soft thin leaves with more chlorophyl in order to photosynthesis. Plants adapted to full sun have tigher leaves, often with protective waxy or hairy coatings.

House plant bright light
Golden Pothos: ideal location for optimum light

Soil and feeding

Golden Pothos can grow in any standard houseplant potting mix that is well-draining and rich in organic matter. You can also use a chunky, well-draining aroid mix that contains perlite, orchid bark, or coco coir.

Pothos does not need much fertiliser, but you can feed it monthly with a balanced house plant food during spring and summer .

Do not overfeed your Pothos, as this can cause salt buildup in the soil and damage the roots. But, if you notice yellow leaves or stunted growth, your Pothos may need a feed.

Watering

Golden Pothos is drought tolerant and generally prefers to be watered moderately, although more frequently in Spring and Summer. Here are the key points to remember:

  • Allow the top 2 inches of soil to dry out completely between waterings.
  • Water sparingly in winter, when the plant is dormant and less thirsty.
  • Do not overwater your Pothos, as this can cause root rot and fungal diseases.
  • If you notice brown tips or wilting leaves, your Pothos may need more water.

Pruning

Golden Pothos can grow very long and vine-like, so you may want to prune it to keep it compact and bushy. Here is how:

  • You can prune your Pothos at any time of the year, but spring is the best time to encourage new growth.
  • Use sharp scissors or pruning shears to cut off any unwanted stems or leaves just above a node (a lump where a leaf or branch grows) .
  • You can also pinch off the growing tips of your Pothos to make it branch out more.
  • You can use the cuttings to propagate new plants or discard them .

Propagation

Golden Pothos is very easy to propagate from stem cuttings. You can propagate your pothos at any time of the year, but spring is the best time for faster rooting.

There are two main methods to propagate your pothos: water propagation and soil propagation.

Water propagation

Cut off a stem that has at least one node on it. Place it in a glass or jar filled with a few inches of water. Make sure the node is submerged in water.

Change the water every few days to keep it fresh. Wait for roots to form, which can take from a few days to a few weeks.

Once the roots are about an inch long, you can pot up the cutting in a small pot with a very well draining potting mix (lots of grit or perlite) and water it well.

propagating Golden Pothos

Soil propagation

Cut off a stem that has at least one node on it. Dip the cut end in some rooting hormone powder (optional).

Insert the cutting into a small pot with moist potting mix. Make sure the node is buried in the soil.

Cover the pot with a plastic bag or dome to create a humid environment. Place the pot in a bright, indirect light spot. Keep the soil moist but not soggy.

Wait for roots to form, which can take from a few weeks to a few months. You can check for roots by gently removing the pot or looking for any roots at the drainage hole.

Once the cutting is rooted, you can remove the cover and care for it as usual.

Golden Pothos common problems and solutions

Golden Pothos is generally pest-free and disease-resistant, but it can suffer from some common problems if the growing conditions are not optimal.

Here are some of the issues that can affect Pothos and how to prevent and treat them:

Golden Pothos troubleshooting quick guide

Leaves and shoots

  • Yellowing leaves: This can be caused by over-watering, under-watering, low light, or nutrient deficiency. Check the soil moisture and adjust the watering frequency accordingly. Move the plant to a brighter spot if possible. Fertilise with a balanced liquid fertiliser during the growing season.
  • Brown leaf tips: This can be caused by low humidity, dry air, or salt buildup in the soil. Mist the leaves regularly or place the plant near a humidifier. Flush the soil with water every few months to leach out any excess salts.
  • Wilting leaves: This can be caused by under-watering, overwatering, root rot, or pest infestation. Check the soil moisture and water only when the top inch (2.5 cm) of soil feels dry. If the soil is soggy, repot the plant in fresh potting mix and cut off any rotten roots. Inspect the plant for any signs of pests such as mealybugs, scale insects, or spider mites and treat them with insecticidal soap or neem oil.
  • Leggy stems: This can be caused by low light or lack of pruning. Move the plant to a brighter spot if possible. Prune back the stems to encourage bushier growth.

Roots

  • Root rot
  • This is a fungal disease that affects the roots of the plant when they are overwatered or sit in soggy soil. It causes browning, mushy, and smelly roots and wilting, yellowing, and dropping of leaves.
  • Prevention: Use well-draining soil and a pot with drainage holes. Water your plant only when the top 2 inches of soil are dry.
  • Treatment: Remove your plant from its pot and trim off any rotten roots. Repot your plant in fresh soil and water sparingly until it recovers.

Pests

  • Mealybugs
  • These are small, white, cottony insects that suck the sap from the plant and leave behind sticky honeydew. They can cause yellowing and wilting of the leaves.
  • Prevention: Inspect your plant regularly for any signs of infestation and isolate it from other plants if you find any mealybugs.
  • Treatment: Wipe off the mealybugs with a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol or spray them with insecticidal soap or neem oil.
  • Spider mites
  • These are tiny, red or brown spiders that spin fine webs on the undersides of the leaves. They also suck the sap from the plant and cause yellowing, speckling, and curling of the leaves.
  • Prevention: Keep your plant well-watered and humid as spider mites thrive in dry conditions.
  • Treatment: Spray your plant with water or a miticide to dislodge and kill the spider mites.

Diseases

  • Root rot (see above)
  • Leaf spot: This is caused by fungal or bacterial infections that create brown or black spots on the leaves. To prevent it, avoid overwatering and splashing water on the leaves. To treat it, remove the affected leaves and apply a fungicide or bactericide spray.

Golden Pothos toxicity to cats and other pets

Is your Pothos plant toxic to pets?

The short answer is yes. Your pothos plant is toxic to pets (and humans) if ingested. This is because it contains calcium oxalate crystals that can cause irritation, swelling, vomiting, or difficulty breathing.

Keep your plant out of reach of children and pets, and contact your doctor or veterinarian if you suspect poisoning.

Winter care

Golden Pothos plants can survive in a range of temperatures, but they prefer warmer conditions. In winter, they may need some extra care to keep them healthy and happy, such as:

  • Move them away from cold drafts: Pothos plants can tolerate temperatures as low as 50°F (10°C), but they may suffer from leaf damage or wilting if exposed to colder air. Move them away from windows, doors, or vents that may let in cold drafts and avoid sudden temeprature drops.
  • Reduce watering frequency: Pothos plants need less water in winter, as they grow slower and use less moisture. Water them only when the top 2 inches of soil are dry, and avoid overwatering that can cause root rot.
  • Increase humidity levels: Pothos like high humidity levels, but they may dry out in winter due to indoor heating systems. Increase the humidity around them by misting them regularly, placing them on a tray of pebbles and water, or using a humidifier.

Read more about how to overwinter your house plants here.

Golden Pothos: Frequently asked questions

How often should I water my Golden Pothos

Pothos is drought tolerant, but needs to be watered regularly in the growing season (spring and summer). How often you water Pothos depends on the growing environment and how quickly it dries out between waterings.

The importnat point to remember is that Pothos does not tolerate waterlogged soils. So let the top inch (2.5cm) of soil dry out between waterings.

Also, reduce watering frequency in winter. This is because the plant is dormant and takes up water much less slowly through its roots. Overwatering in winter is the biggest cause of root rotting problems in Pothos.

How often should I fertilise my Golden Pothos plant?

You should fertilise your Pothos plant once a month during spring and summer with a balanced houseplant fertiliser diluted to half strength. Do not fertilise in winter, as the plant is dormant and does not need extra nutrients.

How do I propagate my Golden Pothos plant?

You can easily propagate your Pothos plant by taking stem cuttings that have at least one node (a bump where a leaf attaches) and placing them in water or soil. In water, change the water every few days and wait for roots to form. In soil, plant the cuttings in moist potting mix and keep them in bright, indirect light. See further details above.

Why are my Golden Pothos leaves turning yellow?

There are several possible reasons why your Pothos leaves are turning yellow, such as overwatering, underwatering, too much sun, nutrient deficiency, or pest infestation. To fix it, check the soil moisture, adjust the watering schedule, move the plant to a shadier spot, apply fertilizer, or treat pests accordingly.

Can I grow my Golden Pothos plant outdoors?

You can grow your Pothos plant outdoors if you live in a warm climate (USDA zones 10 to 12) where the temperature does not drop below 50°F (10°C). However, you should acclimate your plant gradually to outdoor conditions and protect it from direct sun, strong winds, and frost.

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