Pothos are fairly easy to care for, especially when it comes to watering.
To water your pothos plant, slowly add water to the pot until it drains out of the bottom. Then, empty the drainage tray, so your plant isn’t in sitting water. Be prepared to water your plant every 1 to 2 weeks, being sure to check the soil at least once a week, both between and before watering.
Like many houseplants, pothos can seem daunting, but once you know what you’re doing, they’re easy to care for! If you’re someone who forgets to water your plants, a potho will be great for you, as they don’t require a lot of attention. They only need to be watered once a week, and are usually free of insects. However, there’s a lot to know when it comes to watering them- how to check the soil, how to tell if you’re overwatering or underwatering, and how to save them when you’ve done something wrong.
When to Water
When starting to care for your pothos, you will find it very beneficial to keep a watering schedule. Even a simple calendar app on your phone will help. It is vital to keep track of when you watered your plant and how much water you gave it. This will help prevent overwatering and underwatering your plant. Whether or not you use a calendar, you may also find it beneficial to designate one day a week to checking your pothos’ soil. This routine will help familiarize you with your plant’s needs.
When watering your pothos, it’s best to keep the soil moist, but be careful not to overwater. Pothos do best when their soil dries out between each watering. Check the soil regularly so you know when to water- once a week is best. If you have a small pot, use your fingers to prod into the soil; for bigger pots, grab a handful of soil, or use a soil probe. (An easy soil probe is to take an unfinished chopstick, stick it into the soil, and see if the wood is wet.) Moist soil will stick to your fingers and clump together in your hand. At the very least, the first two inches of soil should be dry; in most cases, it’s best to wait until half the pot’s height is dry soil before watering again.
Signs of Overwatering
Overwatering refers to frequency of waterings, not to amount of water you use. It’s not best to use a lot of water, but it’s acceptable if you only water your plant as it is needed. Overwatering can lead to root rot and plant death.
Yellowing leaves can be a sign of both over-and under-watering. A plant that isn’t watered routinely, thus shifting wildly from being too dry and too wet, will be stressed, causing the leaves to yellow. Brown and yellow spots on the same leaf is a specific sign of overwatering. The brown spots will be soft and limp, mushy and swollen with excess water. The swelled part will look like blisters, and will leave brown lesions when popped.
An overwatered plant will have a mildewy odor, like laundry that’s sat in the washer too long. Another sign is wrinkled leaves: when there is too much water in the soil and in the plant, it slows the process of water moving from the stem and leaves. This will cause the leaves to wrinkle and wilt, as if they didn’t have enough water. In some cases, when the water can move freely in the plant, the leaves may even curl downwards with excess water.
White powder on the surface of the soil is mold, which is caused by overly damp soil. Mold and excess water will draw all kinds of insects, which will eat away at the plant and cause even more damage.
Root rot is a consequence of overwatering. Pothos roots need air. When you water too often, the roots are constantly wet and will lack oxygen, which can lead to the growth of molds and fungus. A pothos plant with root rot will slowly begin to wilt and turn yellow, even though the soil is wet. If you check the roots, they may feel soggy and look brown or black. The plant may become stunted, as the rotting roots will prevent natural growth. Rotting roots and overly wet soil will draw insects, and cause more damage.
How to Save an Overwatered Plant
Many pothos plant owners will say that the only way to deal with root rot is to throw the whole plant out. But it can be saved. First, take a look at the extent of the damage; then you can wake a plan for solutions. You must reduce the moisture in the soil. Drain the excess water from the pot, and prevent overwatering it even more. Restrict the water you give your plant- in fact, only provide enough water to keep it alive. It’s already got water in excess, so there’s really no need to add more. But, when restricting or denying water entirely, be sure to regularly check the soil.
Trim decaying leaves. If more than a third of your pothos’ leaves are yellow, trim them over time instead of removing them all at once. When trimming, be sure to disinfect the blades of your scissors after each cut, to avoid spreading disease. If left alone, these leaves sap away vital and scarce nutrients that could be used elsewhere in the plant. Once the leaves die and fall, they rot on the soil and encourage pests to take up residence on your plant.
Digging and overturning the soil can help, as well. This will dry the soil faster, by rotating the waterlogged soil from the bottom to the top. This will also add more space in the pot for pockets of air. It might help to entirely repot the pothos plant in new soil.
Once the soil is completely dry, water the plant with a mix of hydrogen peroxide and water. I know what you’re thinking: won’t hydrogen peroxide kill the plant? It’s used for cleaning and disinfecting, not gardening. But here’s the science bit: hydrogen peroxide (H202) has one more oxygen molecule than water (H20). This will help aerate the soil, and kill any bacteria and fungi that have grown on the roots. Bacteria and fungi cannot survive the extra aerated environment.
Well-Draining Soil Mixes to Prevent Overwatering
The drainage in your plant’s pot is very important, as is the soil in which it was planted. Plant your pothos in light, fast-draining soil, and be sure the pot has drainage holes in the bottom to prevent standing water at the roots. Pothos will do well in any soil, as long as it is well-draining and rich in nutrients. When choosing soil, keep a few things in mind:
Nutrient-rich soil is vital. Pothos are fast-growing plants, often growing anywhere from 12 to 18 inches in a month. To aid this speedy growth, they absorb most of their nutrients from the soil.
- Moisture Retention
Pothos are picky plants. They don’t like to be wet, but they don’t like to be dry, either. If the soil dries out too quickly, your pothos will struggle to grow well.
- Soil Aeriation
If the soil is too tightly packed and doesn’t allow roots to breathe, your plant may suffer stunted growth.
If the soil does not drain properly, your pothos will develop root rot and might die
Most ready-to-buy, pre-packaged soils won’t be enough for your pothos. By mixing your soil by hand, you’ll be able to ensure it meets your pothos’ requirements. If you would like, you can supplement your mix with houseplant fertilizer, once or twice a month. Here are two recipes to help you:
The first is a mix, two-parts cactus soil, one part compost, and another part peatmoss or cocopeat. Pothos plants don’t like cactus soil, as it is too dry, but with added peatmoss or cocopeat, the soil will retain moisture well. The compost will supply the needed nutrients.
The second recipe is one half MiracleGrow indoor potting mix, half perlite, pumice, or coarse sand. Even if your pothos isn’t an indoor plant, we recommend using it, as the mix will hold moisture and provide nutrients. The sand, pumice, or perlite will help with soil aeration and drainage. Even mixing in lava rocks will increase soil aeration.
Be sure to keep an eye on the acidity of your pothos’ soil, as well. Pothos prefer slightly acidic soil (anything from pH 6.1 to 6.5) Anything pH 5.8 or lower is too acidic, and can damage roots, stunt growth, and cause leaves to wilt.
Watering can also depend on the light conditions your pothos plant is growing in. Pothos can survive in a range of light conditions, from dim to bright. Pothos prefer bright, indirect sunlight, but can thrive in shady areas, or even fluorescent lighting. If your pothos’ leave suddenly look pale, it means the plant is getting too much sun.
If your plant is growing in bright light, water when half the soil in the pot is dry. If your plant is in low to medium light, you can allow the soil to be dry almost all the way through the pot, as long as it doesn’t sit dry for long periods of time. Try to water during daylight hours, so the moisture can evaporate; if you water your pothos in the dark, the soil will stay moist for too long, causing rot and fungi growth.
Don’t mist your pothos, as fungi grow in moist soil. Avoid watering the leaves; if the leaves of your pothos are too wet, too often, they can develop mold. When watering, pour your water directly into the base of the plant.
A good indicator of when to water is when the leaves start to wilt. Water your plant just as it begins to wilt, but be sure not to wait until the plant collapses. Although visual indicators are helpful, be sure to always feel-check the soil. This will help you avoid overwatering and underwatering your plant.
The first sign of underwatering is curling leaves, but this is easily fixed; the leaves will perk up soon after a decent watering. Drooping, yellow leaves with brown crispy spots are a sign that your pothos is lacking sufficient water. If leaves begin to fall or the soil begins to pull away from the outside of the pot, your plant desperately needs more water. You may also notice that your plant is giving off new growth less frequently, or that the new leaves seem small and stunted.
Saving an underwatered plant is much easier than saving an overwatered one. Give your pothos plant a lot of water, and make sure it gets to the roots. Consider watering more often. Try to give your plant the same amount of water each week, and remember to record how much and when you’ve watered. About 2 cups of water for plants 2 to 3 feet long, and 3 cups for plants 3 to 6 feet long. Of course, the amount of water your plant needs will change depending on the season and the conditions your plant is in.
If your soil is drying out too quickly, consider repotting your pothos plant– it might need more room. A general rule of thumb is to repot your pothos plant every year, to give it plenty of room to grow. If the problem persists, you might consider changing the soil, adjusting the mixture to allow more or less drainage.
The bigger your pothos gets, and the bigger the pot it has, you will need to adjust its watering routine. Always, always, always check the soil for moisture and rot before adding more water. Once you get into this routine and become more familiar with your plant’s individual needs, you’ll be able to tend to it better, and avoid overwatering and root rot entirely.
Now that you have a basic idea of how to water a pothos plant, you shouldn’t have much problem with beginning to care for your pothos. Be sure to keep a schedule and regularly check for your plant’s soil, and you shouldn’t have too many problems. Good luck!