How to Propagate Pothos Plants in 6 Easy Steps
Are you looking to propagate a pothos plant, but aren't sure where to start? Luckily, pothos propagation is fairly straightforward! The most common method for this (and easiest to do) is by pothos cuttings. In this article, gardening expert Logan Hailey takes you though six easy steps to propagate your pothos plant!
Epipremnum aureum are quite possibly the easiest houseplants to grow. Known as “Devil’s Ivy”, these plants are laid-back and low-maintenance, no matter which type of pothos you choose to grow. But they can be a little expensive to purchase at the garden store, so why not replicate your own? If you want to get a bunch of free baby plants from your pothos vine, cuttings are the quickest way to multiply your plant collection.
Because pothos plants rarely reach maturity indoors, propagating them sexually (by seed) is not plausible. Instead, we can use a form of asexual or vegetative propagation. This method of propagation is a lot more simple than it sounds. It requires little more than sanitized scissors, a jar of water, and a basic understanding of the plant’s physiology.
Let’s dig into all the details on how to take cuttings, identify nodes, and root new baby plants with minimal effort to propagate pothos!
- 1 Video Walkthrough
- 2 Materials Needed
- 3 What Are Cuttings?
- 4 What Are Nodes?
- 5 Water vs. Soil Rooting
- 6 6 Easy Steps For Pothos Propagation
- 7 Final Thoughts
If you’d prefer not to sit and read the entire article below, we’ve created a very helpful video walkthrough that you can watch below. If you prefer to read, keep on going to explore the 6 simple steps for propagating your pothos plant!
Everything you need to propagate pothos should be sitting right around your house. But the most important tool is the “mother” pothos plant you plan to take cuttings from. After all, a baby is only as strong as its parent.
- A healthy, vigorous pothos plant (the “mother”).
- Scissors, pruners, or a sharp knife (with bleach or alcohol to disinfect).
- A jam or jelly jar.
- Optional: small pot or container filled with half peat moss, half perlite.
- Optional: rooting hormone.
Once you’ve gathered your supplies, all you need is a bit of knowledge about how the cutting process works.
A cutting is a piece of stem or root that is used to produce new plants from an existing one.
Taking a cutting of a plant is essentially like cloning it. In the case of pothos, we are specifically going after the stems because they easily grow new roots in water or soil. Eventually, each stem piece can be transplanted into a pot and grow as a new plant entirely.
But there is a key caveat: cuttings will only root if they have properly submerged nodes.
Nodes are the grayish-brown “nubs” growing along the stem (we’ll cover how to identify them below). They can be found in every area of the pothos stem where it intersects with a leaf. This is where the new roots or leaves sprout from. These buds are also where most of the cellular growth action happens in a plant.
The high amounts of meristematic tissue in pothos nodes are the main reason that these cuttings establish roots so quickly. Meristematic tissue cells are groups of “stem cells” that hang out in the shoots and root tips. These unspecialized cells congregate in the nodes of the pothos plant, waiting for the right signals or conditions to grow into roots, stems, or leaves.
When we put pothos stem cuttings into water, we are basically telling the plant “grow roots from those submerged nodes.” The meristematic cells then rapidly begin forming into roots.
All nerdy plant biology aside, the ability to spontaneously root from stem cuttings is a pretty impressive evolutionary advantage. In the wild, pothos can dig their vines into new soil and expand their populations very quickly without relying on the slower process of flowering and seeding.
As houseplant owners, we get to reap the benefits of pothos’ eager replication by getting free plants for minimal effort.
The easiest way to propagate pothos is simply by taking cuttings and rooting them in a jar of water. After a few weeks to two months, the rooted cuttings can be transplanted into soil.
However, some people prefer to root their cuttings in soil to begin with. Soil-rooted cuttings may take a bit longer to establish, but they are often more vigorous and less prone to transplant shock.
The key caveat is that they can be more susceptible to rotting at the base or failing to establish roots.
Here are the main advantages and disadvantages of rooting cuttings in water versus soil:
Rooting Pothos Cuttings In Water
Rooting Pothos Cuttings in Soil
|Fastest turnaround (about 3-5 weeks)||Slower establishment (2-3 months)|
|Most beginner friendly||Better for dedicated houseplant owners|
|Hands-off, low-maintenance approach||Requires a bit more attention|
|Lower risk for rot||Higher risk for rot|
|More prone to transplant shock||Easier to up-pot and less prone to transplant shock|
|Need to change the water to keep it oxygenated||Need to maintain proper soil moisture level|
|Roots are visible through glass and make beautiful propagation station displays||Roots are not visible and need to be grown like standard potted plants|
Whichever method you choose, the process of taking cuttings and getting them to root is the same.
6 Easy Steps For Pothos Propagation
If you live in a temperate northern climate, the best time to propagate pothos plants is in spring or summer when the plant stems are actively growing and there is plenty of daylight for photosynthesis. In warm southern climates, any time will do.
Before you get started with propagation, check the temperature and humidity of your home. Pothos cuttings thrive in the same warm, humid environment that adult pothos plants crave. Temperatures between 65 to 85° are ideal. Relative humidity of 50-70% keeps the foliage perky and happy.
When cutting into any plant, it’s always best practice to start with sharp, sanitized tools. Just like a human surgery, you don’t want to introduce any pathogens into the plant stems or foliage. You also want to be sure you get a clean cut so that the stem can adequately take up water as it begins to grow new roots and shoots.
You can take cuttings with a variety of tools:
- Kitchen scissors or shears.
- A sharp knife.
- Garden pruners.
- Needle nose pruners.
Use bleach or alcohol to wipe down the edges of your tools. Then, prepare your parent plant. Your cuttings will be the exact same variety and coloration as the mother plant, so make sure it is a variety that you really like. Check that your pothos plant is strong and healthy enough to replicate.
A healthy “mother” pothos should have:
- Vibrant growing leaves (no yellowing or wilted and dying leaves).
- Plenty of foliage (barren or “leggy” vines can still be propagated, but may take longer).
- No signs of disease.
- Strong green stems (not damaged, brown, or rotten).
- Vigorous, actively growing vines.
If you have a pothos plant that is “leggy” or in need of major pruning, it can still be a great candidate for taking cuttings. In fact, the time of pruning is the best time to take cuttings because you get a 2-in-1 deal: you are simultaneously making the parent plant healthier and ensuring that all those stems don’t go to waste.
In the video above, I explain more about how to take stem cuttings from prunings.
Find a long, vigorous main vine and identify the nodes. Recall that nodes are gray or brown nubs growing from the “elbows” where the leaf petioles attach to the main stem. You need to have at least 3-4 nodes and leaves on each cutting.
Count back 3-4 leaves from the tip and make a clean cut at a 45-degree angle about 1 inch below the lowest leaf. Use your scissors to cut off the lowest leaf so that it doesn’t get submerged under soil or water. You can leave behind the top foliage to photosynthesize enough energy to fuel the new growth.
Continue taking as many cuttings as you’d like from the stems, ensuring that each cutting is at least 4” long and has healthy nodes.
In general, more leaves mean faster rooting. But as you can see in our video, it is still possible to root stem cuttings that don’t have any leaves at all (especially those taken from pruning “leggy” vines) But it takes longer and requires more attentiveness to the node placement.
I recommend taking multiple cuttings at once to maximize your output. Just be sure you don’t over-prune your mother plant. Pothos are very vigorous and resilient, so this usually isn’t a problem.
Once you’ve gathered all the cuttings you want to take, it’s time to get rooting! In the chart above, we explored the pros and cons of water versus soil rooting for propagation. Take your pick or experiment with both to see which plants end up the strongest.
Rooting cuttings in water is my favorite method because it is simple, low maintenance, and the most beginner-friendly. You can watch the roots develop through the glass and create stunning wall displays out of your “propagation station.”
To root in water, all you need is a glass container. I prefer jam jars, quart-sized mason jars, or cleaned glass bottles. You can also get creative with wine bottles, kombucha glasses, or test tubes. Anything is game as long as the container has 4-6” of free space for roots to develop below the cuttings and a rim that allows the foliage to comfortably stay above the surface.
Fill your glass container about ¾ of the way with purified water.
Like most houseplants, pothos can be sensitive to chlorine in tap water. Fill your jars with purified bottled water or allow the tap water to sit out in the open for an hour or two to let the chlorine dissipate.
Submerge the lower 1-2 nodes of your pothos cuttings in the water with the leaves up above. Make sure that no leaves are submerged, as this could lead to rot.
If you have a pothos cutting (more lateral growth with lots of close nodes), you can place it horizontally in a wider-rimmed glass bowl to let it root at multiple points. This will result in a plant with dense foliage and lots of vines from one root ball.
On the other hand, a single-rooted cutting will result in one vigorous vine. Sometimes I like to plant multiple of these single vines in one pot for a fuller look:
Although water propagation is my go-to, rooting in soil can grow more vigorous plants.
If you want to root your cuttings in soil, follow all the steps for taking cuttings above, then prepare a planter or cell tray for rooting.
Check that your pot or tray is at least 4-6” deep and has a large drainage hole the bottom. Then fill it ¾ of the way with a well-drained propagation mix. The ideal combination of rooting medium is half coco coir or peat moss, and half perlite.
Optional Rooting Hormone
You may recall that pothos have a lot of meristematic tissue in their buds, which means they eagerly produce new roots from their nodes when submerged in water. However, dipping the end in a rooting hormone can speed up this process and “communicate” to the nodes that they should specialize into root cells.
While not necessary, this hormone can help prevent them from rotting below the surface. Rooting gel is easy to use and promotes vigorous root establishment.
Place the lower 1-3 nodes of each cutting in the soil and hold your stems in place to keep them upright as you backfill. Keep the upper leaves above the surface and ensure that no foliage is buried in the soil.
Water the cuttings thoroughly until water comes out of the drainage hole. The soil should stay evenly moist, but never soggy.
Pothos cuttings prefer to grow in the same conditions as their parent plants. Bright indirect sunlight is the key! Remember, that this means filtered sunlight. If the light is too harsh, the foliage may get burned or dried out. However, too little sunlight will result in weak growth or an inability to establish strong roots.
The ideal place for pothos cuttings is a few feet back from a south or west-facing window. The center of a room or a shelf with several surrounding windows allows the cuttings to stay protected while still getting that filtered light they crave. You can also root cuttings in a windowsill of a north-facing window.
Every building is different, so take a little time to pay attention to how the light hits throughout the day. Not only is this a great mindfulness practice, but it will help you grow happier houseplants.
If you don’t have much natural light in your home or office, you can also use artificial lighting to root cuttings. LED and fluorescent lights suspended 2-4 feet above cuttings are great choices.
Pothos cuttings can start developing roots very quickly, but they tend to take 3-8 weeks to grow roots that are strong enough to be transplanted. This depends on the warmth, light, humidity, and whether you choose to root in water or soil (water-grown cuttings tend to root the fastest).
During this time, it is important to change the water every week or so to keep it oxygenated. If growing in soil, keep the medium evenly moist but be careful not to over-water or you may inadvertently rot your cuttings at the base.
Once the cutting’s roots are 2-4” long, it’s time to transplant! While you can technically grow pothos in water indefinitely, its ability to proliferate will be limited. If you want more lush plant life vining through your home, transplanting into soil is key.
Choose a hanging basket or pot with plenty of drainage holes. Fill it with a store-bought houseplant-friendly soil mix or make your own with one of these DIY recipes:
- 1 part perlite, 1 part compost, 1 part potting mix
- 2 parts peat moss, 1 part perlite, 1 part fine pine bark
- 1 part cactus/succulent potting mix, 1 part compost
Check out this article and video about how to transplant pothos.
The trick to happy transplants is timing. If you root your cuttings in water and then leave them for several months, they will have a much harder time adjusting to soil. This is because the pothos’ roots that grow in water are finer and more delicate than those in soil. They take some time to adjust and may become shocked by the soil after growing in water for their whole life.
If you want to ease the transplant shock, either root your cuttings in soil to begin with or slowly acclimate water-rooted cuttings by adding a bit of peat moss or coco coir to the water each day until the glass is full of soil.
Pothos is one of the easiest houseplants to propagate. It is eager to please and loves to replicate itself! A little bit of experimentation with cutting size, seasonality, and placement in your home will help you determine which method is best for you. When in doubt, take some prunings, identify the nodes, and put them in water to see what happens.
The most important thing to remember is that pothos cuttings prefer all the same conditions as full-grown plants, including:
- Plenty of aeration and oxygenation in the root zone.
- Excellent drainage.
- Bright, indirect light.
- Room temperature warmth.
- Moderate humidity.
If you want to grow an indoor jungle of these delightful houseplants, there are many different varieties to choose from, and you can even grow two different varieties in the same pot!