Pothos may be nearly indestructible and thrive on neglect, but they can get leggy and sparse if not cared for using the proper steps.
I’ll admit- life, work, and other concerns have distracted me from properly caring for my pothos ivy, so there’s a personal investment here.
And you’re probably right here with me because you’re wondering how to make your pothos leaves bigger or how to make pothos fuller.
So we’re going to discuss the following techniques for doing just that:
- Proper pruning
- Create group plantings
- Supporting your pothos
- Getting enough sunlight
- Watering appropriately
- Adding fertilizer
Let’s dive in!
The first method of beefing up your pothos is learning how to prune properly.
This houseplant will grow anywhere and across or down anything, especially towards a sunny window! Pruning will maintain shape as well as encourage new growth.
Here’s the why and how behind pruning your pothos:
For Optimal Health
Pothos, like many plants, will channel most of their resources to try and revive a dying leaf, which in turn will make the whole plant suffer. You’ll see less new growth, leading to a leggy pothos that just looks sparse and unhealthy.
Examine the leaves on your pothos, looking for any that are wilting or brown and crispy on the edges. Trim off dead edges and clip off leaves at the base of the stem.
Same with the stems. If they are growing bare or turning brown, clip these where a stem meets the branch and about 1/4 inch above a knot to encourage new growth.
To Regulate Size and Growth
Pothos can get pretty large and leggy if allowed to grow unchecked in optimal environments.
Moving in the direction of a bushy, dense shape may mean:
- Trimming off trailing vines
- Cutting back leaves
- Cutting off older vines that don’t have leaves
The sky is the limit-your pothos will be fine as long as you don’t remove more than one-third of the total foliage and stems.
To Revitalize an Older Plant
As pothos age they can thin out and appear to have fewer leaves, so pruning may include taking off some of the long trails of leaves to promote growth at the base of the plant.
It takes a LOT of energy and resources for pothos to maintain long vines of leaves, so trimming some of these back can revitalize your older pothos.
To Control Insects and Disease
There are a few types of insects that can affect pothos, including:
- Scale insects
- Spider mites
Insect-infested leaves can become shriveled or fall off altogether, leaving your pothos looking sparse.
Pruning removes these insects or the damage they leave behind, controlling the spread as well as keeping your pothos healthy.
This is the best reason in my opinion!
It’s so easy to prune a pothos sprig, stick it in a jar of water, and watch the root system start. You can also stick a pothos sprig directly back into the soil to grow a new plant.
Make a cut just below a knot, like the picture shows:
Each knot will grow a root, and each root means potential for a new plant!
Make sure you’ve got sharp scissors or pruning shears and clean before using on your pothos. This will keep your plants healthy and prevent the spread of diseases.
2. Create a Pothos Group Planting
This solution is great for two reasons:
- Instant gratification
- Pothos plants like having friends in pots
If you’ve got a pothos in a pot that has room, plant another pothos there.
In the first photo, the current pothos only takes up half the space in the pot, making for a sparse look:
And here’s a look at the same pot after adding a new stem cutting (this is where you can put your newly-pruned to good use!).
It already looks fuller! And as this cutting takes root, it will grow into another full-sized plant that will eventually fill in all the empty space.
Want some truly immediate results? Here’s a photo of a newly-purchased Marble Queen pothos that really helps fill the space in another pot:
Be it a cutting or a full-size plant, be sure to leave enough room for the roots of both plants to grow without fighting for nutrients in the soil.
3. Provide Support
Pothos is low-maintenance, so providing support for the trailing stems is not usually necessary.
However, if you want your pothos to appear fuller, it helps to provide them with something to grow on or up.
Trellises, sphagnum moss poles, or any kind of plant stick support can be used to support pothos. Of the three, moss poles are probably the most common.
Here’s a photo of what your pothos can look like supported by a moss pole:
You can place a moss pole can in the middle or side of a pot, with trailing vines wrapped around and up in whatever shape you like. This 2-pack is a popular option on Amazon.
If using sphagnum moss poles, use some florist pins to attach the vines to the poles. These floral pins on Amazon would be great for pinning pothos.
Also, be sure to talk to your pothos at once a week for emotional support!
4. Get Sufficient Light
As a native to the rainforest floor, pothos prefers indirect sunlight and a temperature between 65o and 85o F.
Good spots for pothos include:
- That space above your kitchen cabinets
- On your bedroom dresser across from a sunny window
- A plant stand next to your couch
However, your pothos still needs some light to produce healthy, full foliage. If your plant isn’t getting the sunshine it needs, it may drop leaves or dramatically slow leaf production.
If you think low sunlight might be the case, move your pothos to a brighter location. An east or north facing window is a great option for bright but indirect light.
You may see that the leaves and new growth will be directed towards the available sunlight in the room, so be sure to turn your plant to give all sides equal sun exposure.
5. Water Appropriately
If your pothos is getting too much or too little moisture, you may see leaves starting to drop off, leaving you with bare spots and a thin appearance.
Most importantly: Don’t water too frequently or allow water to stand in the pot. Pothos does not like wet roots, and they are vulnerable to root rot, a fungal overgrowth that can weaken or kill your plant.
Before giving any water, check the soil using the finger test to see if water is needed. If the soil feels dry to your touch about an inch down, it’s time for a drink!
For pothos in water, make sure the water level is above the base of the stem and no roots are above water. If the water becomes cloudy, pour it out and replace it with fresh water.
I’ve got my pothos on a watering schedule so I don’t over- or underwater anyone (I’ve got 7 pothos of different varieties-5 in soil and 2 in water).
6. Fertilize Carefully
Pothos are not very fussy and fertilizer is not usually necessary for this low-maintenance plant.
However, getting a nutrient boost can help your pothos produce new, denser foliage and more vibrant color.
When choosing your fertilizer, look for one with a balanced formula. This means whatever form you use (liquid, granular, etc.) needs to have the same amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (i.e. 10% Nitrogen 10% Phosphorus 10% Potassium).
Follow the manufacturer’s directions for dilution and application to prevent burning your pothos.
My neglected and leggy pothos have started getting this indoor plant food from Miracle-Gro!
Bonus: How to Make Pothos Climb
I know we’re addressing the topic of encouraging your pothos into a bushier growth habit. But as a natural vining ivy, pothos can also look fantastic while doing its natural thing: Climbing.
So let’s talk about how to make pothos climb in a controlled and beautiful manner!
Your pothos will grow long vines of leaves, but unlike some other vine varieties it will not really cling to anything on its own.
A decorative trellis, like this customizable set, can be both an attractive decor feature as well as a support for your pothos. Loosely tie some garden twine around each vine to hang them on the trellis in your preferred pattern.
Another method is putting hooks on your cabinets or walls where your pothos is growing to support the vines and create a jungle-like effect.
You can also put hooks across a kitchen window to create a pothos curtain or frame a doorway! These clear plastic hooks blend right in with your wall.
The great thing about pothos is it will grow wherever you direct it. As long as it’s getting what it needs (sunlight, water, etc.) it will return the favor with long, leafy growths we know pothos for!
Frequently Asked Questions about Pothos Growth
There are MANY different variations of pothos species including golden, marble, neon, and jade.
Those that have variegation (including marble varieties) may grow more slowly due to the color variations and lower levels of chlorophyll.
Solid green leaves such as neon and jade have higher levels of chlorophyll, and therefore usually grow a bit faster.
There are a few things to check here-
- Is the ambient temperature too cool? Pothos like it warm but not too warm!
- Is your pothos getting enough sunlight? Aim for 4-6 hours of indirect sun daily.
- Soil and Water. Does your cutting in soil need fertilizer? Does the water for the cutting in a vase look cloudy?
- Is the pothos in soil too wet or too dry? Either situation will slow down growth of pothos cuttings.
- Insects and disease. Do you see any insects on your pothos cuttings? Any signs of disease? If so, remove insects or start with new, healthy cuttings for the best outcome.
I find the easiest way to shine up my pothos leaves is with a damp paper towel. Not too damp-just enough to wipe each leaf and remove the dust or debris and allow the leaves to dry quickly.
There are multiple other techniques including mineral oil or mayonnaise (weird, right?) wiped across the leaves sparingly to keep leaves shining for weeks.
Both! Either method works just fine.
Actually, having pothos in water can be lower maintenance as watering is done by refreshing the water in the vessel about once a week.
Be sure your pothos are not getting root bound if you notice their growth has slowed.
If you see roots emerging from pot drainage holes, it’s likely your pothos is root bound and needs repotting!
As a (somewhat) responsible plant owner and lover of pothos, I am taking my own advice. Whenever I utilize these steps with my own pothos plants, I see great improvements in plant growth and size.
Most of these tips require little time or money and can really make your pothos happy and full.
So if your pothos needs some help and revitalization, take the steps above and in no time you’ll have a fuller, brighter and happier pothos.
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