Why won’t your Pothos get any bigger? Epipremnum aureum tends to get longer and produce new leaves pretty quickly. If your Pothos isn’t growing, it’s usually because it lacks one or more important environmental factors. This post will help you figure out what your plant needs and how to get it back on track.
Lack of sunlight is the most common cause when a Pothos isn’t growing, so check whether your plant is under-lit. You should also make sure your plant is getting the right amount of water and fertilizer. Too much or too little of either can damage a Pothos and hamper its growth.
We’ll explain how to recognize each of these issues, along with a couple of less-common problems that can hold back the growth of your Pothos. But first, an important piece of advice: don’t try to fix everything at once. Correct the most likely problem and then wait for 2-3 weeks to see if your Pothos begins growing again. Changing too much at once will probably just stress your plant out.
Is Your Pothos Really Growing Slowly?
Before you start trying to correct your Pothos plant’s growth rate, you should make sure you know what’s normal. You’ll often hear that these plants are fast-growing, but what exactly does that mean?
Most Pothos cultivars on the market are variants of a single species called Epipremnum aureum (AKA the Golden Pothos or Devil’s Ivy). They grow as clusters of long trailing or climbing vines. When the plant is well-cared for, those vines will generally grow around 10-18 inches per month. That should translate to at least 4-6 new leaves each month.
That’s just a rough average, though. Pothos plants with lots of variegation don’t grow as quickly, because their leaves don’t have as much chlorophyll. The all-green Jade Pothos is the fastest-growing. The Marble Queen, which is heavily speckled with creamy white, is at the slower end of the spectrum.
Silver Pothos, also called Satin Pothos is even slower. These plants belong to a different genus – Scindapsus – which often only grows about 12 inches in a single year.
It’s also worth remembering that Pothos are tropical plants, and winter weather tends to shut them down hard. Don’t freak out if your Pothos isn’t growing in the middle of January. The typical season for new growth runs roughly from April through September, though this can vary from region to region.
But what if you’re in the middle of the prime season and your Pothos isn’t growing new foliage? Here are a few possible reasons why.
#1: Your Pothos Isn’t Getting Enough Light
A Pothos won’t have the energy to grow much if it isn’t catching plenty of rays. This is by far the most common reason for a stunted Epipremnum plant.
That’s partly because Pothos has gained a reputation as a good plant for dimly lit spaces. While it’s true that Devil’s Ivy can survive with limited light exposure, it won’t get big. If your Pothos isn’t growing, take a good look at how bright its location is. A lux meter is a great tool for this. Pothos plants prefer 10-20k lux, ideally for at least 8 hours per day.
You can also look for some telltale signs of an under-lit plant. A Pothos receiving too little light may get “leggy”. The leaves will be small, pale, and widely spaced along the vine, making the plant look sparse and sickly. A Pothos with variegated foliage might also revert to pure green in low light as it’s producing more chlorophyll to try to get the most out of its limited sun budget.
If your Pothos needs more light, look for a brighter spot to keep it. An east-facing windowsill is great if you have one available. Rooms with southern or western exposure can also work if you place your plant 5-6 feet back from the windows. Don’t leave your Pothos directly in the path of the sun’s rays for more than 2-3 hours each day. See this article for more on Pothos lighting.
When you’re transitioning your Pothos to a brighter space, start with an extra hour or two per day. Then step up its exposure gradually. It should take about two weeks before your Devil’s Ivy is living in the new spot around the clock.
#2: Your Devil’s Ivy Is Dehydrated
No matter how much sun your Pothos gets, it can’t photosynthesize without water. In your plant’s ideal world, its roots would be mildly moist at all times. Every time they dry out, growth grinds to a halt until you water again.
The best way to prevent this is to keep a close watch on the soil. Once the top 1-2 inches feel dry, water your Pothos thoroughly. The deeper parts of the pot dry out more slowly, so this watering pattern should keep the roots from getting thirsty.
The soil should never get dry enough to turn into a crusty mass and pull away from the sides of the pot. When you see this, it means you’re not checking on it often enough.
Other symptoms of a dehydrated Pothos usually show up in the foliage. The leaves will, curl up, turn yellow, or dry to a crispy brown. These indicators aren’t definitive, however. They can result from other issues, such as over-fertilization or waterlogged soil (see below). So your clearest guide to whether your Pothos needs water is the level of moisture in the soil. You can use a moisture meter if you want extra precision.
#3: You’re Drowning Your Pothos
Balance is everything in houseplant care, and too much water is every bit as bad as too little. In fact, it can be even worse, because your Pothos may develop root rot. When you keep the soil constantly drenched, you’re cutting off your plant’s oxygen supply. Roots need air as well as water!
If your Pothos isn’t growing and the soil is noticeably damp, you might be watering too often. Possible signs include:
- Soil surface staying moist for days at a time
- Leaves turning rapidly yellow
- Fungus gnats moving in
- Leaves or vines getting limp or mushy
- Nasty smells coming from the pot
You should be able to avoid this by following the watering advice we gave in point #2. However, if the soil is too dense, it may retain more water than you realize. A Pothos plant will thrive best when a bit more than half of its potting mix consists of chunky ingredients like perlite or orchid bark.
If you’ve already overwatered your Pothos – especially if it’s turning mushy or smelling bad – you should check for root rot. Clip off any and all roots that are discolored, mealy, or slimy. Then repot your Pothos in fresh soil. Moving forward, try to let it dry out a bit more before watering. (Read this article for more details on root rot in Pothos.)
#4: Your Plant Doesn’t Have Room to Grow
Your Devil’s Ivy has to grow underground as well as aboveground. When the roots run out of space to expand in the pot, they double back on themselves. In time, this can cause them to pack so tightly that they have trouble taking in water and nutrients. We call this getting root bound.
Along with slow growth, this can cause other signs of dehydration, such as leaves drooping and turning brown. This will happen even if you’re watering very frequently. One common sign of a root-bound plant is that the pot doesn’t seem to hold any water – it drains out as soon as you pour it in. That’s because the roots have taken up almost all of the available space. There’s not much soil left to soak up moisture.
Other indicators include roots poking out of the drainage holes or stretching up and out of the pot. However, a firm diagnosis requires taking your Pothos out of the soil and looking at the roots. If they’re jammed together like dried ramen noodles, your plant is root bound.
The only solution for a root bound Pothos is to move it into a bigger container. Sizing up about 2 inches in diameter is usually plenty. You may want to pry the roots apart a bit before burying them in the new pot.
For extremely root bound plants, it’s sometimes necessary to cut off the bottom ⅓ or so of the root mass. This helps encourage the roots to spread out in the new space instead of continuing to curl in. Use a serrated garden knife, but make sure to disinfect it with rubbing alcohol first.
Your Pothos will sulk for a week or two after being repotted. But it should start putting out new growth again soon.
#5: Your Pothos Is Malnourished
Every houseplant needs fertilizer to grow. Your Epipremnum relies on you to supply the nutrients it uses to build and repair its roots, vines, and leaves. If your Pothos isn’t growing, and you’ve ruled out the other possibilities above, it might be time to add more nutrients.
Why are we stressing that “if” so much? Because adding fertilizer when your plant’s growth is held back for other reasons will make things worse. The mineral salts it contains will build up in the soil if your Pothos can’t use them. If the concentrations are high enough, they can harm the roots and dehydrate your plant.
Slow growth is the earliest sign of a fertilizer deficiency. A more severe shortage will cause other symptoms depending on what specific nutrients are missing. Leaves might look pale, small, or misshapen. They could also develop holes, or ugly yellow or brown spots.
Once you’ve confirmed that your Pothos isn’t suffering from another problem that’s blocking its growth, try adding some liquid fertilizer. Don’t worry too much about diagnosing exactly what nutrients your plant is lacking. A generic houseplant fertilizer should supply all the supplements a Pothos needs.
If you haven’t given your plant any nutrients before, start with half of the concentration recommended on the bottle. If your Pothos is already on a fertilizer regimen, but it seems to need an increase, boost it a little bit at a time. Increase the dosage by ¼ or ½ at first.
After the first application, wait a few days to see if your Devil’s Ivy appears over-fertilized. The most common symptoms are crispy leaves and sudden wilting and yellowing. Assuming your plant is okay, start adding fertilizer on a regular basis. Every 4-6 weeks during the growing season is usually frequent enough.
If you have over-fertilized your Pothos and you see signs of it, you should do a soil flush right away to remove as much of the excess as possible. To flush the soil, run water through your Pothos soil and out through the drainage hole for two or three minutes in the sink. This won’t undo any damage, but it may keep the plant from any further harm.
#6: Your Pothos Isn’t Settled in Yet
Moving is stressful for all of us. It takes time to adjust to a new space. That’s true for plants as well, especially if they’ve been literally uprooted!
Have you recently moved your Pothos from one pot to another? Did you just bring it home from the garden store or get it shipped to you by an online seller? Have you transferred it from one room to another in the last few weeks?
If so, it’s not unusual that it isn’t growing. Many plants, Pothos included, tend to freeze up a bit when their environmental conditions change suddenly. They usually bounce back after a few weeks, but it’s not unheard of for a plant to take 2-3 months to adjust. The effect is often more pronounced if the new space has less light than the old one (which is probably the case if you bought your Pothos from a commercial greenhouse).
Be patient with your plant. Don’t try to fix anything yet unless you see clear danger signs like mushy spots or hard-packed soil. Just provide the right amount of light and water, as described above, and wait. Your Pothos will most likely come around soon.
If your Pothos isn’t growing, check whether it’s getting enough light or water. Then you can move on to less common causes like lack of root space or nutrition. Make sure you give your Pothos time to recover after any change! You should have it producing healthy growth in no time.