Thursday, August 30, 2012

How to Propagate a Pothos

Many, many years ago, my husband (then boyfriend) and I purchased a houseplant for my condo.  It was similar to plants I looked at everyday at work - a Pothos, also called a devil's ivy or variegated philodendrum.  It's latin name is Epipremnum aureum and it grows vines with leaves that are either bright green or variegated in white, yellow or paler green.  Every office space I ever worked in featured these green plants sitting atop the rows and rows of file cabinets.  Pothos are one of the best houseplants for purifying air and are able to thrive in lower light.  No wonder it's a popular office plant! 
Petey hanging in the bathroom of our first house.
We were hopeful that we would keep our pothos alive.  He (we named him Petey) did stay alive.  In fact, he thrived.  Years later, I read that pothos are nearly indestructible, making them ideal for busy, non-plant people and those with black thumbs.  Ha.  Clearly it was not just my hidden gardening abilities that kept him around.

Over the years, we've propagated Petey (and his offspring) hundreds of times.  Propagating pothos is so easy that I've never needed to purchase another one outright. Keep reading to see how you can propagate your own pothos too.

How to Propogate a Pothos
  • A healthy pothos with several inches of vine
  • Cup, glass, or small vase
  • Water
  • Scissors or small garden snips
General How To:
  • Locate a vine on the healthy pothos with a section at least 4-5 inches and containing at least 2-3 healthy leaves.
Healthy vine ready to propagate
  • Cut just below the root node using snips or scissors.
    Note:  Root nodes are little brown bumps below each leaf.  This is where the new root system forms.
Root Node on pothos vine
  • Remove the bottom leaf and place the cutting in a cup, glass or vase.  Pour enough clean water to cover stems and root nodes.  Add liquid fertilizer if you want.
    Note:  Do not submerge any leaves.
  • Keep cuttings in a bright location, out of direct sunlight and add water as needed.
    Result:  The cutting will sprout a root in about a week or so.
Pothos clippings sitting in water, growing new roots.
Root grew out of node - this cutting is ready to pot.
Because I prefer to decorate with live houseplants, rather than silk, as much as possible, I use lots of Petey's offspring throughout my house.  Once the cuttings sprout roots, I either plant the cuttings in dirt or place them in a vessel with rocks or glass beads to grow in plain old water.  
That's right - plain old water.  You don't ever need to place your pothos cuttings in soil for them to thrive.  Pothos cuttings kept in vases or other vessels filled with river stones or glass beads are super easy to maintain and can live happily for years and years - as long as the root system stays in water and there is filtered sunlight.  

Last week, I even reverse potted a plant - I removed a pothos from dirt and am now growing it in rocks and water.  Seriously.  Here's how I did it:

How to Grow a Pothos in Water:
  • Determine that your pothos plant is not happy in the dirt.
  • Note:  I was not watering this this plant enough to keep up with the higher amounts of sunlight and warmth it received.   So, the dirt was dry and pulling away from the sides of the pot, and the leaves were beginning to droop and yellow.
A not-so-happy pothos, potted in dirt.
Dry dirt pulling away from the pot - time to address this issue.
  • Remove plant and soil from pot.  Tap root ball to remove dirt from root system using a trowel or shovel.
    Note:  Do this outside or over a large garbage can.
Plant ready to shed its dirt.
Tap the dirt off the root system.
  • Place a few river rocks in the bottom of a container sized appropriately for the plant.
    Note:  I used a large plastic container. 
Place a single layer of rocks in bottom of container.
  • Place the pothos into the container and fill in with more river rock.
Place plant in container.
  • Arrange the plant to evenly distribute vines. 
Place root nodes into the rocks - they will take root and strengthen the plant.
  • Pour water in the container high enough to cover roots, stems and nodes.  No leaves should be in water. 
Make sure no leaves are in rocks, just root nodes and stems.
  • Remove any yellow or dead leaves.
Remove dead and yellowing leaves, as well as any leaves that would be in water. 
  • Conceal the container in decorative pot/vessel and  place it in a bright location, out of direct sunlight and add water as needed.
    Result:  You are done.  You saved a plant from certain death and made your plant management routine a whole lot easier.
Pothos, reverse potted into rocks and water. 
Within a few days, the leaves will perk up.  As long as you keep water in the container, the pathos will trhive for years to come.   Here is what the plant looks like one week post-reverse potting:
One week after reverse potting.  Much happier!
Living with Pothos:
Below are some examples of how I've displayed my propagated pothos throughout the house, both in dirt and in water:

Pothos plants above our kitchen cabinets,
potted in wallpaper soaking trays.
New cuttings, potted in soil and displayed on a plant stand.
Behind the sink - pothos love the filtered, indirect light.
In a rectangular planter, atop the wall separating the shower from the tub. 
 One pothos vine in a clear vase with clear, glass beads.  
In a large plastic cup filled with rocks and water, disguised inside a pretty pot.
Other Spaces:
Several cuttings in a vase filled with rocks and water
In a small pot - three root nodes on a longer vine are submerged
in the water and rocks to add bulk.
Two vines in a keepsake vase on the mantel
A pothos planted in soil, disguised in a
larger crock, placed on a plant stand.
Have a leggy pothos in the house?  Propagate it.   Have a pathos you cannot remember to water?  Reverse pot it and plant it in water.


  1. A cutting should start to root within 7-10 days. You can plant the cutting as soon as roots appear.

  2. How many stems should you cut from good plant to propogate a pothos ?

  3. Good question - I suppose it depends on how full you want the resulting plant to look. I have used single, long vines (8 leaves) in a vase of water. I've also planted anywhere from 4-10 cuttings (with at least 2 leaves per stem)in dirt. Plant more cuttings for an immediately fuller look. Most important thing, to me, is that there are at least 2-3 leaves above the node on the cutting. Best of luck!

  4. So I cut off a vine that had areas with no leaves and others with. Can I still keep the empty vine which still has the nodes on?Is it possible that it will produce leaves?

    1. It should work, as long as the node takes root. The process may take a lo-o-ong time, so be patient with it. Best of luck!

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. I have pothos growing in soil. I have tried to propogate it in water. So far I have tried 4 times and each time they seem to grow well but soon the leaves start to develop brown spots and then they die. I keep them where they can get light but no direct sunlight and make sure they have enough water. Can you please tell me what might be wrong and how I can avoid it?

  9. Will the mother plant continue to grow from the place where you cut? The one I'm asking on behalf of has turned dry and brown at the point where I cut. It's an office plant, so I'm nervous.

  10. Our office has a healthy Pothos however, the root nodes are three feet long. Should they be left alone, or clipped (node)?