Most plants, Pothos included, need to be trimmed back from time to time. But how do you know that time has come? And why is it necessary? In this post, we’ll review the 6 main reasons for clipping your plant’s foliage, so that you’ll know when it’s time to prune your Pothos. And we’ll give you a practical guide on how to clip back your plant correctly.
When is the right time to prune a Pothos? One sign that it’s time to prune your Pothos is that the foliage is overgrown. However, trimming also helps invigorate the plant if growth is sparse or leggy. And it’s good to clip aging, damaged, or decaying foliage off of your Pothos.
Don’t sweat this too much – Pothos pruning is fairly simple, and these fast-growing plants generally grow back quickly after even an intense trim. We’ll give you a few tips on how to ensure your plant gets the maximum benefit from its haircut. Correct timing plus proper pruning technique should equal a healthy, happy, and beautiful Pothos. Here are the 6 main scenarios in which you should trim your plant.
#1: Your Pothos Is Overgrown
The first and most obvious reason to trim your Pothos is that it’s gotten bigger than you want it to be. When you’re talking about the foliage, this is mostly a judgment call. Some people like a gigantic spreading Pothos, while others prefer a tidy, compact plant.
If you’re in the latter group, you’ll need to make a regular habit of pruning your Pothos. Epipremnum aureum grows fast. With the right amount of sun, water, and fertilizer, you can expect the vines to gain 10-18 inches of length per month. (That’s at the height of the growing season, but it’s still impressive.)
To keep your Pothos at a manageable size, we’d suggest doing at least one substantial maintenance trimming each year. The best time to prune your Pothos is in mid-spring, when it’s beginning to ramp up its growth for the year. Then you can monitor it through the growing season and give it an additional clipping if it’s still getting too big for your liking.
One important note: the roots of your Pothos will still be growing even as you’re pruning back its leaves. If you really want to ensure that your plant remains at a compact size, you’ll also need to prune its roots every couple of years. We offer detailed instructions in this article.
Signs that your Pothos needs root pruning include:
- Stunted growth
- Pot failing to hold water
- Roots poking up from the soil or creeping out of the drainage hole
- Cracked or bulging pot
#2: Your Pothos Has Aging or Damaged Leaves
Sometimes, despite your best intentions, the leaves of your Pothos die. This isn’t always a sign that the plant has an issue. Even healthy leaves go through their own cycle of birth, aging, and death.
However, it’s still a good idea to remove these older Pothos leaves when they start turning yellow and shriveling up. Your plant has limited resources to put toward growing and maintaining its foliage. Proactively trimming leaves that are on their way out frees up room in the plant’s budget for new ones. This helps your Pothos grow more vigorously.
Of course, sometimes leaves do die for more urgent reasons. Dehydration, overwatering, sun scorch, fertilizer burn, temperature shock…just about any type of stress can damage a Devil’s Ivy’s leaves. And any parts of the foliage that get yellow or brown and crispy stay that way, even after the plant gets healthy again.
So once you remove the immediate source of stress, it’s time to prune your Pothos and remove the dead tissue. As we noted above, this will allow your plant to devote more energy to its recovery. Clip any leaves that are completely dead, then trim off the crunchy edges of partially damaged leaves. It’s generally best to leave any green parts in place – they’re still photosynthesizing and bringing your plant energy.
#3: Your Pothos Has Infected Foliage
Withered, dead patches on your Pothos leaves are bad enough. But squishy wet spots are even worse. This is a sign that your plant has a fungal or bacterial infection. If you leave it in place, the infection can spread and infect even more of your Pothos.
When you notice leaves or stems getting discolored and soggy, prune your Pothos right away. Clip off every part of your plant that feels mealy, squishy, or slimy. You don’t want to risk missing a spot, because the infection will likely spread and you’ll have to trim the plant again in a few weeks.
Make sure to disinfect your pruning scissors before and after every cut. This is always a good idea when trimming a plant, but it’s especially important if you’re dealing with disease. Wiping the blades down with rubbing alcohol should prevent germs from stowing away on the tool and finding their way to a healthier part of the plant.
Note that if your Pothos has soggy spots on its leaves or stems, check for root rot after pruning. Infections of the foliage often begin underground.
#4: Your Pothos Is Getting Sparse
Over time, Pothos plants sometimes begin to get a little ragged. The leaves seem thin or small, and the stretches of bare vine between them get longer and longer. Instead of a lush profusion of jungle foliage, your plant looks limp and sparse. There are two common reasons for this.
One is that your plant is trailing more than it prefers. Pothos like to climb, which helps them reach more light in their native environment. If you let your plant’s vines trail down, the leaves tend to get smaller the closer they get to the ground. Eventually, the stems may become totally bare.
A Pothos can also get leggy because it’s low on light. Epipremnums have a well-deserved reputation for being able to thrive in more shade than most plants. However, with too little light, they’ll become etiolated – stretching out and leaving big spaces between their leaves. This strategy lets them focus on getting longer and hopefully reach a sunnier spot.
In either case, pruning can help your Pothos grow back bushier. By trimming the scraggly-looking vines back, you’ll be giving it a bit of a reset. The new growth will be coming from a more vigorous and healthy section of the plant.
If any of your stem cuttings have decent-looking leaves, you could also plant them in the soil to make your Pothos look even fuller and bushier. Note that any stem segment you plant needs to have at least one node underground. Otherwise, it won’t be able to grow roots. (The nodes are the bulgy spots on the stem.)
Remember, if your plant is leggy due to lack of sun, the only permanent fix is more sun. After you prune your Pothos, give it more light too.
#5: You Want Your Pothos to Branch Out
Pothos vines normally only grow in one spot: the very end of the stem. They don’t typically spread out to the sides. But some targeted pruning can encourage your plant to split for a fuller appearance.
First, choose the spot where you’d like to see your Pothos branch out. Then trim the plant back to that spot, stopping just past a node. Now wait for your plant to start growing again.
Here’s the most important step: as soon as a new leaf starts to emerge, prune it off. Timing is everything here! Your goal is to trim the growth point before it can generate hormones that block the side nodes from sprouting. This may take a few tries, but with persistence, you can often get a Pothos vine to branch. Read more on this process here.
#6: Your Pothos Is Losing its Variegation
Many indoor gardeners love variegated Pothos plants for their bold splashes of color. But these multicolored plants sometimes revert, sending out plain green foliage.
If you’re trying to keep your Pothos variegated, it’s best to prune these green interlopers as soon as you spot them. All-green leaves have more chlorophyll, meaning they photosynthesize more efficiently. There’s a real risk that they’ll crowd out the variegated portions of your Pothos.
So cut your plant back to the next node that’s clearly on a variegated part of the stem. With a little bit of luck, the new foliage that emerges there will also be variegated.
How To Prune Your Pothos
As we’ve mentioned, the best time to prune your Pothos is the spring. This doesn’t take much preparation – just get a good set of trimmers and some disinfectant. Rubbing alcohol is our preferred sanitizer, but you can also use household bleach diluted to 10% strength.
Garden gloves are often a good precaution too. Pothos, like other aroid plants, have calcium oxalate in their sap. These pointy crystals can irritate skin and mucous membranes.
Use a clean rag or cloth to apply your disinfectant to your clippers. Then choose the spot where you’ll make your cut. If you’re pruning a stem, snip it at a 45-degree angle. Make firm, clean cuts to avoid ragged edges that could get infected. Then sit back and watch your Pothos produce vigorous new growth.
Recognizing when it’s time to prune your Pothos is important if you want your plant to look its best. Trim the foliage when it’s looking sparse, overgrown, damaged, or infected. And if you have a variegated Pothos, prune it if it shows signs of reverting. These simple strategies should help you maintain your plant’s vigorous growth.