How can you tell when your Pothos is thirsty? It’s a crucial question when you’re caring for an Epipremnum. Letting it get dehydrated can damage its leaves and stunt its growth, while watering too much can kill it. Recognizing when your Pothos needs water is a vital part of keeping it healthy. Here’s how to spot a thirsty Devil’s Ivy plant.
In general, your Pothos needs water whenever the top 1-2 inches of soil in its pot dry out. If you don’t spot this early indicator, the leaves will show distress signs like wilting, curling, and discoloration. Check the moisture levels in the potting mix every few days to avoid these issues.
Dehydration symptoms can also result from root problems or harmful environmental conditions. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to your plant’s surroundings and your own care habits. It’s a lot easier to be certain your Devil’s Ivy is thirsty if you can remember when you last watered it! The following 4 signs can also clue you in that your Pothos needs water:
#1: Dry Soil
Here’s the most important piece of Pothos care advice we can give you: check the soil regularly and water when the top inch or two is dry. Reacting to your plant’s needs works much better than watering on a set schedule.
Poke your finger into the dirt every 2-3 days, watering when it feels dry. You could also get a soil meter to probe closer to the roots. The pot will generally be wetter near the base than at the top, which is good – Epipremnum roots like to stay a bit damp. When the meter says the bottom of the pot is only slightly moist, it’s time to give your Pothos a drink.
If the soil is so dry that it’s shrinking away from the sides of the pot, your Pothos is drastically underwatered. Water it right away, and if the potting mix contains lots of peat moss, submerge the entire container underwater to rehydrate it. Hold it there until air bubbles stop floating to the surface. No, this won’t drown your Pothos (as long as you let it drain afterward).
Note that when a Pothos sits in the same pot for a long time, its roots displace the moisture-retentive organic matter in the soil. As a result, the small amount of remaining dirt won’t stay damp for long no matter how much you hydrate it. If your Pothos perks up after you water, but starts wilting again the next day, it could be root bound.
If you’re vigilant about checking the potting mix, your plant may never get thirsty enough to display the other symptoms on this list!
#2: Wilting and Curling Foliage
Epipremnum leaves only stay upright because of the internal pressure from the moisture in their cells. When they get too dry, they sag like deflated balloons. They also tend to curl in on themselves, making them look shriveled.
Underwatering is the most likely suspect when your Pothos is wilting, but there are lots of other possibilities. Just about any kind of stress will make your Pothos slouch: cold shock, pest infestation, an excess of direct sunlight, etc. See if there are any obvious signs of these other issues, like scarring from bugs or papery brown spots from sun scorch.
If not, refer back to our previous advice and check the soil. Wilting can have many causes. But your Pothos pretty much always needs water if the potting mix is dry.
The only exception is when your plant has root rot. This disease is caused by overwatering, but once it sets in, it can persist even after the soil dries out. If you give your plant a drink and it stays wilted, check for root rot – we have detailed instructions in this article.
#3: Yellowing Leaves
When your Pothos leaves go without water for long enough, they’ll start to lose the chlorophyll that keeps them green. This usually begins with the leaves furthest from the roots, which get cut off first when the supply dries up.
As with wilting, yellow Pothos leaves have many possible causes. If it’s only happening to one or two of the older leaves, it’s likely just the ordinary aging of Pothos leaves. On the other hand, if lots of leaves near the base of the plant are turning yellow at once, your plant could be overwatered. Refer to the article on root rot for guidance on treating this issue.
Other possible causes for yellow Pothos leaves include sunburn, nutrient deficiency, or temperature stress.
When the leaves are turning yellow because your Pothos needs water, they’ll generally be wilting and curling too. Otherwise, our money is on one of the other issues we mentioned. As always, check the soil moisture levels if you suspect underwatering.
#4: Brown, Crispy Leaves
Severely underwatered Pothos leaves will dry out completely. They’ll turn brown, shrivel up, and become papery and brittle. Often, the leaf starts dying from the outside in, with the edges getting crispy first.
Almost anything that puts a severe strain on your plant’s system can lead to dead leaves. Crispy edges are particularly common when your plant is overfertilized, overheated, or suffering from low humidity. The good news is that a nice long soak should help with all three of those issues, though you’ll also need to resolve whatever is stressing out your plant.
Remember that once Pothos leaves turn yellow or brown, they stay that way, even after you water your dehydrated plant. We recommend pruning off any dead tissue with disinfected clippers. This will free up resources so your plant can focus on producing healthy new growth.
Watering Your Thirsty Pothos
Once you figure out that your Pothos needs a drink, give it a good long one. Some people water their plants in small sips because they’re worried about overwatering. This is counterproductive, though – it tends to keep the soil soggy without ensuring that all of the roots get enough water.
Instead, soak the soil all the way through until a healthy amount of water drains out the bottom. This helps to get all of the roots equally wet. It also washes away excess fertilizer that might otherwise mess with the roots.
You don’t usually need to worry about the type of water you give your Pothos. Distilled water and rainwater are best, but tap water is also fine unless your region has very hard (mineral-rich) water. Make sure the water isn’t too hot or too cold, either. Epipremnum is a tropical plant that doesn’t deal well with temperature extremes.
How Long Can a Pothos Go Without Water?
What if you take a long trip out of town, or simply forget to check on your plant for a while? How long can your Devil’s Ivy hold out without being watered?
In theory, a Pothos can survive without water for 2-4 weeks. In practice, this depends a lot on its environment. Here are a few important factors that affect your plant’s watering needs:
- Sunlight: An Epipremnum that’s getting lots of light will grow faster than one in a dim corner. The moisture in the soil will also evaporate more quickly. Both factors increase the need for hydration.
- Temperature: Hot weather makes your plant shed moisture faster. A Pothos can go much longer without water in the winter than in the summer.
- Soil quality: Good Pothos potting mix should contain a decent amount of organic matter, which retains moisture and protects against dehydration.
- Humidity: More moisture in the air means that your Pothos loses less water vapor from its leaves. A humidifier can help it last longer between waterings.
- Container type: Terra cotta pots “breathe”, letting moisture escape from the sides as well as the drainage hole. They dry out faster than impermeable materials like plastic.
- Length of time since repotting: As we discussed earlier, a root bound Pothos typically has very little soil left in its pot, so it can’t hold much water.
When you’re planning a trip, you can take a few precautions to help your Pothos avoid dehydration. First, move it away from any windows to slow its metabolism and reduce its sun exposure. If you have other tropical plants, place your Devil’s Ivy near them – the cluster of plants will raise the local humidity slightly. Finally, give your Pothos a thorough watering before you leave.
When you’re trying to figure out if your Pothos needs water, the very first thing you should check is the soil. Unless your plant is suffering from root rot, it can always use a drink when its potting mix is dry. The other symptoms on this list should mostly serve as reminders to poke your finger in the pot! The good news is that if your Pothos is thirsty, it should revive quickly with a healthy dose of water.