A Love Letter to the Pothos

 Here’s to a plant that is green and lush, and whose sheer will to survive inspires us all.

Overdramatic yes, but the pothos really is all of that. 

Epipremnum aureum is known as pothos or golden pothos, money plant (though there are many plants that take this nickname), or devil's ivy. As a vine, it grows these long stems that make it great as a trailing or climbing plant. It has heart-shaped leaves that are green, or green with yellow/white. The latter comes out usually when it is placed in bright light.

It grows big and long and lush

This is its biggest impact. In my experience, this plant just grows and grows. Often, the plant puts all its energy into lengthening a single stem, but since this stem is not rigid, it can be positioned and entwined to give a desired coverage. Moreover, it is so easy to propagate (surefire way is to cut a part of the stem that has an aerial root) that you can just cut off a part of a stem that has grown too long and place it back into the same pot so that you have more stems.

Because of this, the pothos is one of the easiest ways to introduce foliage into any room with a big impact. I embrace it as a trailing plant, which means I like to hang it, or just put it at some height, so its long stems can flow down and do their dramatic effect.

It survives

My it does. Here’s a list of places where I have abused it:

  • across the draft of an air conditioner
  • in a low light room
  • on a bathroom counter where it would regularly get soap on it
  • in a pot with almost no soil

These are things that you should NOT DO. The pothos will produce smaller leaves, sometimes it will turn yellow or brown, and stop growing. But amazingly, the plant can survive. Yes, it is one of those plants that can survive with low light, but at the very least have two sets, and rotate between low light place and a place indirect bright light.

It cleans the air, and it can even clean the water

NASA’s clean air study, which you should read because it has an amazing list of plants that are good for cleaning air, lists pothos as being able to filter out naxylene (from rubbers and adhesives) and toluene (from paints and rubbers), formaldehyde (from tobacco smoke), and benzene (from motor fuels and tobacco smoke), all of which are harmful to us at significant amounts.

And, as anyone who has tried to solve fish waste cleaning issues for aquariums knows, pothos can be grown with its roots submerged in water, and because it sucks nitrates out of the water, you can get away with less water changes. 

What it is not

First, it isn’t completely safe to have around for pets or small kids that my put it in their mouths. Note that pothos is poisonous. Though it rarely results in death, ingesting the plant will cause irritation and vomiting, so do be careful.

Second, it isn’t one of those structured plants. It’s not going to extend out majestic branches. While I’ve seen it grown on a moss pole, and it does well, there are other plants that grow tall and have dramatic branches.


■■■■ Number one plant to recommend to a beginner

I will always have pothos plants, just because they are so easy to grow and are a small-effort big-impact way to produce foliage into a room. They are the number one plant I would recommend to a beginner, because they will tell you that you are doing something wrong and they’ll give more than enough time before they die on you.

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