What should you do if your Pothos has all vine and no leaves? Pothos are reliable growers, thriving in most conditions.
Disease and pests don’t stand a chance against them, and they’ll quickly take over indoors if you give them enough water and nutrients.
However, if you get one of these things wrong, your Pothos will grow long vines that are almost bare instead of the green leaves we all love.
Low light conditions are the most common cause of leggy Pothos. To fix it, move the Pothos to an area with brighter, indirect light. Other possible causes include overheating, overfeeding, or mismatched pot size. You can also make a plant look fuller by winding long vines around the pot or putting new plants in it.
What is a Leggy Pothos?
A leggy Pothos has long vines with a small number of leaves. Instead of making new leaves or roots, the plant puts most of its growth into making long stems.
This process of extending the length is called etiolation.
Etiolation is a form of growth that isn’t normal. It suggests that essential needs are not being met or, in some cases, simply out of balance.
Fortunately, legginess in a fast-growing plant-like Pothos can be easily corrected, so let’s look at what causes it and how you can jumpstart your spindly sweetheart.
Causes of Leggy Pothos
Lack of Light
Poor light levels are the most common cause of legginess in Pothos. If they don’t get enough light, they’ll stretch their vines out to find it.
Pothos is a climbing plant in the wild, snaking its way up trees and other constructions.
Long, thin stems allow them to ascend in the dark and seek better opportunities.
They’re actively trying and will climb fences, walls, and even houses if given a chance!
Those long vines of your indoor Pothos are doing their best to find a bright spot where they can spread their leaves.
It won’t waste time growing new leaves until it locates a location with adequate lighting.
Move the Pothos to a brighter part of your growing area.
They don’t require a lot of light; a moderate amount of diffuse light is sufficient, and some varieties, such as the Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum), can even grow under standard fluorescent lighting.
The more variegated the leaves are, the more light the Pothos requires.
For example, a very pale Marble Queen Pothos will need bright indirect light, whereas a solid green jade or satin Pothos will do well in moderate to low light levels.
Remember that there can be too much of a good thing. For example, avoid placing your Pothos in direct sunlight to prevent sunburned leaves.
Pothos are opportunists, and if given an abundance of fertilizer, they will make the most of the opportunity to expand their territory.
They won’t waste time making leaves; instead, they will send out long shoots that look for places to root before making leaves. Excess fertilizer could be to blame if your Pothos is well-lit.
First, stop adding fertilizer. Pothos don’t need much to thrive. They are hardy plants that can grow well even in soils with little nutrients.
If your Pothos is otherwise in good health, it’s best to let this one play out.
Eventually, the plant will use up all of the extra nutrients and produce new leaves. So stop fertilizing for a couple of months.
If you see burned leaf tips or salt crystals on the top of the soil, you need to remove the extra fertilizer.
Start by scraping away salt deposits from the medium’s surface and then repeatedly flushing the pot with clean water. This procedure will clear the excess fertilizer from the soil.
I use a balanced liquid fertilizer (amazon link) to feed my Pothos once a month during the growing season.
Adding it to the watering can ensure the plant gets all the nutrients it needs without overfeeding or causing it to go into overdrive.
Repotting Pothos can be tempting to move to a larger pot with more room for growth, but this is a sure-fire way to end up with a leggy plant.
Pothos thrives best when the roots are bound. The Pothos will be encouraged to spread out in their pot if there is too much room for expansion.
What’s the result? Only the vine remains, with almost no leaves.
There are two approaches to a Pothos in an overly large pot.
The first option is to relocate the Pothos to a smaller pot. You only need an inch or two more around the plant’s perimeter.
Much more than that, and you risk a slew of issues ranging from root rot to legginess or worse.
The second thing you can do is fill in the blanks. You can use cuttings to fill in the gaps or wind the vines across the surface.
Over time, they’ll grow roots and make a fuller plant.
Pothos is a tropical plant that thrives in hot, humid conditions. A heatwave will provide an extra boost to the Pothos, inspiring them to send out long vines.
Consider taking your temperature if all other conditions are ideal. Your Pothos may simply be overheating!
Transfer the Pothos to a cooler part of your growing area.
Keep it away from heating vents or radiators, and keep an eye on the light levels – light and heat go hand in hand, so keep the plant well-lit no matter where you put it.
How to Fix Leggy Pothos
Trimming Leggy Pothos plant
A leggy Pothos can be dealt with efficiently by snipping off the vines and using them to thicken the plant.
Cuttings are easy to make, and when they are planted in the same pot as the parent plant, the whole Pothos changes from a thin plant to a full one.
If the parent plant is in good shape, you can always throw away the trimmings or use them to grow an entirely new plant.
How to Propagate Pothos Cuttings:
To do this, you will need:
- Clean scissors or shears
- Vessel of clean water
The First Step:
You must identify the vines that you intend to remove.
Cut through the growth points or nodes. A node with a single leaf and an aerial root is called a “node.” Make sure there are at least two or three nodes on the cutting.
Put the new cutting in a clean container and remove leaves from the bottom node.
Keep the aerial root on the bottom node wet to promote root development.
Any container will do. Glass vessels are ideal because they allow you to monitor growth.
Old jars and bottles that are too pretty to throw away but too small to benefit me are perfect for my projects. I like to use them.
Put the vessel in a warm place with plenty of bright, indirect light. You should see new growth in as little as a week, depending on the conditions.
Regularly check the water level and replace it if it becomes cloudy or green.
It’s time to plant your cuttings when they have roots that are at least two to three inches long.
Use a chopstick or spoon to dig a small hole for your cutting if you’re replanting them in the same pot as the parent plant.
Plant the cutting carefully, ensure the root is covered, and water well. After a few weeks, the Pothos will begin producing new leaves.
You can always plant the cutting in its pot or leave it in water for as long as possible.
Pothos can grow in water and makes an excellent set-and-forget plant for the forgetful gardener.
Using the Proper Pot Size
When repotting a Pothos plant, please resist the urge to move it to a large new container; they’ll start stretching their legs.
Pothos is one of those rare plants that thrive when allowed to become rootbound.
Therefore, they should only be repotted once every two years and three times if your Pothos is particularly large.
When repotting, I try to use a pot that is only an inch or so more expansive than the old one.
A pot of that size will provide enough fresh soil to revitalize the Pothos without causing excessive growth.
You can use pots only a few inches across for Pothos plants that have just been grown from seeds.
However, they do not need to be overly broad as long as they are deep enough to hold the roots.
You should always have at least three drainage holes evenly spaced around the base of your pot, regardless of what you decide to use it for!
Pothos cannot tolerate wet soil, so the more drainage holes, the better!
Repotting with the Correct Soil
Once you’ve decided on a pot, it’s time to select the appropriate soil. Pothos prefer a light, chunky mix with good drainage.
Soil that retains too much moisture or lacks air pockets will stunt the plant and contribute to other issues later on.
One part orchid mix, one part potting soil, one part perlite, and one part either moss or coco coir.
The orchid mix provides excellent structure, and the moss or coir will keep the roots moist without suffocating or drowning them.
The orchid mix provides excellent structure, and the moss or coir will keep the roots moist without suffocating or drowning them. Pothos
If you have enough Pothos but want to keep the vines under control, you can pinch off the tips of the vines as new leaves emerge.
Because the Pothos grows from the tips, it’s possible to keep it small and manageable by removing the fresh leaves as they appear.
Give Enough Light
Pothos is a low-light plant, but there is a significant difference between low and no light. A leggy plant is indicating that it requires more light.
Variegated Pothos cultivars such as Snow Queen and Marble Pothos are especially susceptible to low light issues.
While the species handles low light well in general, the lack of green pigment in variegated leaves makes it more difficult for the plant to produce food.
They require more light than most Pothos cultivars. A room with windows facing the south or southeast is ideal.
Maintain Low Temperature Around Leggy Pothos
Pothos prefers temperatures ranging from 70 to 90°F (21-32°C). If your Pothos has developed legginess, keep them at the cooler end of the temperature range.
If you avoid overheating, their growth will slow and become more manageable.
However, you don’t want them to become too cold. They are tropical plants that will stop growing if frozen. I’ve written more about it here.
Can I Remove The Top of My Pothos?
Pothos plants lack a distinct ‘top’ in the same way that palms and corn plants do.
Because their tops are simply the ends of vines, there is no harm in chopping the top off.
Instead, you can prune a Pothos at any point along the vine, allowing you to shape the plant into whatever shape you want.
They are incredibly resilient and will regrow around the cut.
How Do I Make My Pothos Bushy?
As previously mentioned, planting propagated cuttings into the parent plant is an excellent way to thicken a Pothos.
Alternatively, you can coil and pin the existing vines to create a bushy Pothos.
Make sure the aerial roots are facing down by winding the vines and laying them on top of the potting mix.
Pin them with an open hairpin or a cultivation pin to ensure the roots remain in contact with the soil. (Amazon link)
In time, the aerial roots will change direction and grow downward into the soil.
I find that burying the nodes in the medium helps, but sometimes this causes the nodes to drop their leaves.
Once the node is rooted, a new vine will sprout, resulting in a bushier overall plant.
Why Does My Pothos Have Only One Vine?
Pothos plants are vines that can climb. When grown in a pot, they usually only anchor at one point, letting the vine grow.
In the wild, that single vine would find a tree or cliff face and climb up it before sending out new shoots.
A single vine is usually all an indoor plant will produce, especially if it has no support.
So instead, the single tendril looks for something to climb but never gets high enough to make more than one vine.
This is a simple problem to fix. The best way to get the plant to grow new shoots is to coil the Pothos vine in the pot and pin it from above.
Then, each node that touches the ground has the chance to grow into a whole new vine.
You can also take cuttings and replant them in the original plant pot.
Then, even though one plant doesn’t have many vines, each new plant will send out its vines, making the Pothos thicker and fuller.