Do Pothos Plants Actually Flower or Bloom?
The pothos plant has become a fixture for many beginning gardeners and seasoned gardeners alike. They are popular indoors, and in urban gardens. But do these popular houseplants actually bloom? Organic gardening expert Logan Hailey examines what you can expect when it comes to pothos plants and if they actually flower.
You can find pothos vining its gorgeous leaves through homes and buildings just about everywhere these days. This popular houseplant has risen to fame for its incredibly easy-to-care-for cultivation and ability to tolerate low light, irregular watering, and even slight neglect. But one thing you may be wondering is, do those golden-splashed or marbled pothos leaves ever produce flowers?
Unlike many popular house plants grown for their flowers, pothos are most commonly cultivated for the vibrant foliage that can climb trellises or walls around your home. These vines are known to be able to grow up to ten feet long indoors.
However, you may be wondering whether or not these plants flower. Well, they do – just not as you would expect. Read on to find out
What is a Pothos?
Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) is a tropical vine native to French Polynesia, Australia, and Southeast Asia. Known for its resilience and beginner-friendly growth habit, they are nicknamed “Devil’s Ivy” because it is so difficult to kill.
This has garnered a special place in the hearts of beginner gardeners and houseplant enthusiasts alike. These gardners typically choose them for their remarkable adaptability to indoor environments. As a result, they have been spread all over the world in various new varieties. From Golden Pothos to Jade Pothos to Snow Queen Pothos, Marbled, and everything in between.
Pothos is a member of the Arum family, Araceae, which includes more than 3,500 species of flowering plants such as Epipremnum (pothos), Philodendron, Monstera, the medicinal plant skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus), and the food plant, taro (Colocasia esculenta).
Aroids tend to be warm-weather perennial plants with little frost tolerance. They all have the characteristic spathe-shaped flower, funnel-shaped bract, and a rod-shaped spadix in the center.
Do Pothos Plants Flower?
Pothos are flowering plants, however, they do not typically flower in containers in your home. To understand why we have to take a look at the natural life cycle of the plant in its wild habitat.
You can find them growing wild in the dappled shade of tropical rainforests or vining up massive trees and buildings to reach for the light. But these wild plants relatives are often hard to recognize for those of us who have only seen this plant in a pot. Just like a fish in a fish tank or a bonsai tree in a small pot, the plant never reaches its full glory when constrained by indoor growth.
How Do They Reproduce Naturally?
In its native tropics, adult vines can grow incredibly large, with leaves up to 30 inches wide and vines over 65 feet long. Once it reaches its full adult state, the large leaves begin to form holes or fenestrations in the leaves (similar to their cousins, Monstera plants), which leads to a more broad palm-like appearance of the leaves.
The vines begin forming aerial roots (which require the high humidity environment of the tropics) that they use to climb higher and higher, clinging to whatever surface they can. This is part of what makes pothos cuttings so easy to root in domestication. This is a form of vegetative propagation, which is simply the plant cloning itself with more and more new stems.
When it comes time to sexually propagate via seed, these wild mature plants will bloom large spade-shaped creamy flowers. They eventually grow long conical seed heads that almost look like pale yellow corn cobs. Pothos’ Latin name Epipremnum aureum actually translates to “golden flower on the tree stump”.
Vegetative vs. Reproductive Growth
The key underlying concept at play here is a core tenant of botany and applies to all plants. Basically, plants have two distinct growth phases that are similar to humans. There is the vegetative (juvenile) phase and the reproductive phase.
Vegetative or Juvenile Phase
When you are young or in the juvenile phase, you cannot reproduce. Your body is focused on growing new tissues, bones, and maturing your organs. You grow and change drastically from birth until puberty. The same applies to plants.
During the juvenile or “vegetative” phase, plants are focused on growing leaves, stems, and roots. They rapidly develop new tissues and continue expanding their photosynthetic capacity. They do this through more and more new leaves and deeper roots to anchor their bodies in the ground.
The length of this stage depends on the environmental conditions and whether a plant is an annual (completes its life cycle in one year), biennial (completes its life cycle in two years), or a perennial (lives more than 5 years, like a pothos).
Generally, the trigger(s) that shift plants from vegetative to reproductive growth can be related to photoperiod or day length (amount of sunlight), temperature, or hormonal changes. Pothos tend to stay in this phase indefinitely when they are in a pot in your home. They also spread often by vegetative reproduction (aerial roots) in the wild.
When you hit puberty, your body undergoes a series of major changes that make it possible for you to begin the reproductive stage of your life. There are huge changes in your hormones, body chemistry, and physical appearance. Plants undergo similar shifts.
For pothos, the shift is marked first by that change in leaf shape from the small heart-shaped leaves into much larger, pinnate-looking leaves. Then, the plant’s gene for gibberellin (a flowering hormone) is activated and it may begin to put its energy into growing those spathe flowers.
Reproductive growth is drastically different from vegetative growth because it focuses on the development of flowers, fruit, and eventually seeds (the plant’s progeny). As a “shy-flowering” plant, it is not fully understood what triggers pothos to move into the reproductive phase, however, it has only been documented to flower in domestication in the United States at tropical botanical gardens in South Florida.
Do Pothos Plants Flower Indoors?
Potted pothos house plants live almost indefinitely in the juvenile phase with small heart-shaped leaves with smooth margins (no indentations or fenestrations), 1 to 10 foot long vines, and no flowers. They cannot flower indoors because of the limited growing conditions.
Consider the similarity to a pet turtle or fish. These animals don’t usually reach their full reproductive maturity inside the enclosures of our homes. Pothos are not likely to try to reproduce when they are stuck in a dwarfed environment.
How Do I Get My Pothos to Flower?
Flowering pothos is an extravagant sight to see. Creamy white spathes grow up to 9” long with little brown seed spikes and are shielded by a unique pointy bract. Unfortunately, we will likely never see this extravagant show amongst our indoor plants.
The E. aureum vines in our homes are kept perpetually in the juvenile stage. This is due to the size of their containers, the indoor climate, and the sheer physical limitations of indoor growth.
If the plant gets big enough in a greenhouse or subtropical conditions of the southern United States, it will flower. It needs to be under an ideal environment of proper humidity, regular temperatures above 60°F, and an abundance of space to grow. However, it usually needs to reach at least 35-40 feet in size before this is a possibility.
In general, the species also has a low level of gibberellin (a plant hormone responsible for flowering). This makes it “shy-flowering” in any condition. Perhaps this is why E. aureum is so easy and popular to propagate by cutting.
Caring for Pothos
Caring for pothos in the proper way will ultimately get you closer to the possibility of flowering. It will at least help you maintain the happiest, most lush plant possible.
If you want to try to get your pothos to flower, you will probably need to build a greenhouse. This is especially true if you are in any growing zone colder than USDA zone 9. Pothos can grow perennially outside in zones 10 through 12 (parts of southern Florida, California, Texas, and Arizona). However, you should be careful because it is invasive in some areas.
In order to flower, the plant needs to be grown in the ground and temperatures kept consistently above 70°F year-round. A humidifier inside a greenhouse can help maintain tropical rainforest conditions that will be more amenable to flowering. Placing a pothos outdoors, regular misting, and the shade of other trees may help counteract a dry climate.
Because pothos is used to its fast-draining tropical soils, you should amend soil heavily with peat moss or vermiculite to ensure quick drainage. This applies whether growing in a pot or in the ground.
To mimic the tropical monsoon cycles of southeast Asia, pothos prefer to be watered very deeply (a lot of water at once) and then allowed to dry out for at least the top 2-6” of soil before watering again. Pothos can even wilt a little bit to show you it is thirsty.
The biggest mistake people make with their care is overwatering, which can easily rot the roots of the plant and will definitely inhibit any possibility of flowering.
While your pothos may not bloom beautiful flowers like Peace Lilies, they will continue to grow gorgeous shiny leaves to decorate your home as long as you provide them with pleasant growing conditions. Pothos love moderate humidity, room temperatures between 70 and 85°F, fast-draining soil, and deep waterings with time to dry out in between.
If you want to see Epipremnum aureum flowering, consider traveling to a tropical region or a botanical garden in South Florida to see how different the plant looks in its mature phase. Pothos is truly a fascinating plant that is very easy to grow for beginners, even if it never flowers.