You wanted a Pothos plant overflowing with lush, trailing vines, but what you have looks more like a bushy nest of leaves. What’s stopping your Devil’s Ivy from forming those long, cascading tendrils you were picturing? We’ll highlight the most likely reasons your Pothos isn’t vining and give you some ideas on kickstarting its growth.
If a Pothos isn’t vining, it generally means it isn’t growing much at all. The most common reasons for this are insufficient light, poor soil, or lack of water. Once you’ve corrected those issues, you should also think about whether your Pothos has enough fertilizer and humidity.
It’s also worth checking for pests – damage from insects and mites can stunt a Potho’s growth. And make sure your Devil’s Ivy is at a healthy temperature. These plants naturally form creeping vines when given the opportunity. So once you remove the obstacles to its growth, your Pothos should quickly begin to trail and vine.
How Long Does It Take a Pothos to Start Vining?
Patience is important for every indoor gardener, and trying to “fix” problems that aren’t there can make life harder for your plant. So before you get frustrated that your Pothos isn’t vining, ask yourself: is it really going slower than normal?
In optimal conditions, a fast-growing Pothos variety like a Jade or Golden Pothos can stretch its vines out more than a foot each month. In theory, that means it can start to trail noticeably after just two to three months.
Which months are we talking about, though? If you bought your Pothos in the winter, you’ll usually have to wait until April or May before conditions are truly ripe for growth. These plants don’t hibernate, but their development does generally slow to a crawl during the winter.
A recent transplant can also set back your plant’s growth temporarily. In the long run, your Pothos needs regular repotting to thrive. But every time you uproot and move it, the plant will slam the brakes on its growth. It often takes a month or so to get established in a new container and start steadily growing. And that process takes longer if you repot outside the growing season.
The specific type of Pothos you have matters too. Plants with more chlorophyll (the green pigment used to absorb sunlight) almost always grow faster. So if you have a heavily variegated Pothos, you can expect it to take longer to start vining.
As a general rule, your Devil’s Ivy will gain length faster the less white or yellow its foliage contains. Jade, Golden, and Global Green Pothos are fast-growing varieties. Heavily speckled cultivars like the Snow Queen and Manjula Pothos are slower.
But what if you have a Pothos with lots of green, it’s been in the same pot for a while, and you’re in the middle of the growing season – but it’s still not trailing? Here are seven possible explanations.
#1: Low Light Slows Pothos Vining
Sunlight is an important growth requirement that often trips up Pothos owners. Many of us don’t really grasp how dim our indoor spaces can be compared to the plant’s native environment. You’ve also probably been told over and over again that Pothos is a good “low-light plant”.
It’s more accurate to say that it’s an “indirect light plant”. Your Devil’s Ivy can get scorched if it sits in a bright sunbeam, but it will gobble up as much reflected or filtered light as it can get. Keeping it in an overly shady spot is a reliable way to stunt its growth.
If your Pothos isn’t vining, try testing the spot where it sits with an illuminance meter. The right brightness level is between 10,000 and 20,000 lux. If you don’t feel like getting that scientific, just try moving it into a slightly brighter space.
The right spot should receive bright light most of the day but only two to three hours of direct sun. East-facing windows are usually great, as are south-facing windows shielded by thin curtains. You could also put your Pothos five to six feet away from a bright, unfiltered southern or western exposure. Or, use a grow light!
Don’t make the change in one fell swoop. Your Pothos will be more sensitive to sunburn if it’s been growing in low light. Start by giving it a couple of hours in the sunnier space. Then gradually lengthen those trips until your plant is fully transitioned. You should see your Pothos growing longer vines after it’s been getting enough sun for a month or two.
#2: Your Pothos Won’t Trail If Its Roots Can’t Breathe
Good soil conditions are also critical for good growth in a Devil’s Ivy. Sadly, the potting mixes sold in stores are often much too dense for aroids (members of the Araceae family) like Pothos. They retain too much moisture and don’t have enough gaps for air. This results in smothered roots that can’t fuel proper growth.
Look at the soil in your plant’s pot. Does it have a fine, uniform consistency, without many chunks? If so, this could be the reason your Pothos isn’t vining. Consider repotting it in a grittier mix.
Make sure you’re watering correctly, too. Wait for the top one to two inches to dry out before giving your plant more to drink. Otherwise, you’ll swamp the roots and could even cause them to start rotting.
If you do repot your Devil’s Ivy, remember that it will need a month or so to settle in. But once it’s in proper soil, it should quickly start forming lovely trailing stems.
#3: A Thirsty Pothos Will Stop Vining
Underwatering isn’t as dangerous as overwatering for a Pothos, but it can definitely limit your plant’s growth. Make sure you’re giving your plant enough water to keep it vining and trailing.
We explained above that you need to let the soil dry out between waterings, but it should still stay loose and crumbly. If it’s clumping up into a hard, dry brick, you’re being too stingy with the watering can. Try to check at least twice a week to see if the upper soil is dry enough to water.
And keep in mind that if you followed our earlier advice and increased your plant’s light exposure, its watering needs will probably increase. The faster a Pothos grows, the more water it needs. Adding light and warmth also makes moisture evaporate from the pot more quickly.
#4: Your Pothos Needs Fertilizer to Grow Vines
A nutrient shortage is another possible reason for the lack of trailing growth. Are you giving your plant regular doses of fertilizer? If not, when was the last time you added some compost or slow-release nutrient granules?
In general, your Devil’s Ivy should get a fresh round of slow-acting fertilizer every spring or a moderate dose of liquid fertilizer every four to six weeks during the growing season. If you haven’t been steadily supplementing your plant’s diet, now may be the time to start.
Try a ¼ or ½-strength dose at first. That will often be enough to get your Pothos growing again, and you don’t want to overdo it. If you decide to increase the amount of fertilizer you’re providing, step it up a little bit at a time. Cut back immediately and flush the soil with an extra-heavy watering if the leaves start to crisp up.
#5: The Right Climate Helps Pothos Vining
Your Pothos likes its air to be warm and humid. Your home probably isn’t cold and dry enough to threaten your plant’s health, but it might be more willing to trail if conditions were a little more tropical.
The ideal humidity range for Devil’s Ivy is between 60% and 75% relative humidity. Test the air with a hygrometer if you’re not sure it’s humid enough. If you’re a couple of percentage points short, try putting your Pothos on a tray of pebbles and water or grouping it near other moisture-friendly plants. A larger shortfall may require a humidifier to correct.
As for temperature, try to hold it steady between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. If it’s too cold, it will be reluctant to grow. Your plant should start vining more readily once it’s nice and cozy.
#6: A Pothos Can’t Trail If Its Pot Isn’t Big Enough
To grow big, curly vines, a Pothos needs room to spread out in the soil. If the plant sits in the same pot for too long, the roots grow until they start tripping each other up. This is called being root bound, and it can sharply limit how much water and fertilizer your plant can absorb.
It’s generally best to repot your Pothos into a roomier container every one to two years. If it’s been longer than that since you moved yours, there’s a good chance it’s root bound.
You can often confirm this by watching what happens when you water. A pot that’s overcrowded with roots usually can’t hold much moisture. Any water you add will start draining out the bottom almost immediately, and the pot won’t be noticeably heavier afterward. Your Pothos may also start wilting again very quickly, even after you give it a big drink.
If your Pothos isn’t vining because it’s root bound, move it into a container that’s two to three inches wider. You might also want to cut off the bottom ¼-⅓ of the root mass if it’s badly tangled and cramped. This sounds drastic, but it won’t hurt your plant as long as you disinfect the blade with rubbing alcohol first. A serrated garden knife makes a good tool for this.
#7: Pests Can Stop a Potos From Vining
There are lots of nasty bugs that can throw a monkey wrench in your plant’s growth by draining its juices. At first, it may not be obvious that this is happening to your Pothos. Many bugs are quite good at hiding in the nooks and crannies of the foliage.
Warning signs of pest infestations can include:
- New leaves failing to open or growing warped and shriveled
- Patches of tiny yellow or brown speckles on the foliage
- Sticky slime
- Odd bumps and blisters on the vines
- Dingy-looking webbing under the leaves
- Splotches of white fuzz
You may need a magnifying glass to spot the bugs themselves, especially tiny ones like thrips or spider mites. But if you’re seeing a few of the symptoms above, there’s a good chance you have a pest problem.
Quarantine your Devil’s Ivy and try to rinse off most of the bugs. If the plant is small enough, you might even be able to drown them by dunking your Pothos underwater for a half hour or so. Then wipe down the leaves and stems with rubbing alcohol and let them dry. Finally, spray the whole plant with some water mixed with neem oil or insecticidal soap.
One round of treatment probably won’t be enough. You’ll likely have to repeat the following steps a few times before your Pothos is pest-free. But you won’t get that beautiful trailing Pothos until you rid your plant of parasites.
When your Pothos isn’t vining or trailing, it means something is holding it back. In the right environment, these plants happily grow long and luscious vines. Remember to give your Devil’s Ivy enough time to adjust after you treat it. It might take a few months, but if you get your Pothos healthy again, it will reward you with expansive new growth.