If your pothos plant has become too overgrown, you will need to prune it back to a manageable size. However, you do not have to throw away the stems you prune off; you can use them to grow new pothos plants to add to your collection or to give away as gifts to friends and family.
Fortunately, pothos is some of the easiest plants to grow indoors, and they are even easier to propagate. Their beautiful, heart-shaped leaves and trailing vines make great decor in any living space, and they happily tolerate low-light conditions, making them great office plants, too. You can never go wrong with having lots of pothos in your life!
In this article, we will discuss how to prune and repot pothos cuttings, as well as why the entire plant may need repotting and how to go about this.
If you are considering propagating your pothos at home, keep reading to learn more before you start the process.
How to prune an overgrown pothos
Pothos plants grow very quickly and can reach over 15 feet high if you allow them to. If you want to manage the size of your plant, you may need to trim it back periodically. And, rather than discarding the stems you cut off, you can easily use those for propagation.
To prune the pothos in such a way that the cutting can be used for propagation, use a sterilized knife or pair of pruning shears and cut just below a leaf node. It is important to include a leaf node in the cutting because this is where the new roots will grow from. Choose a stem that is at least several inches long; do not worry about cutting too much off of the stem, because these plants grow quickly and the entire length will grow back in a short time. You can even remove an entire stem and cut it into smaller lengths, again making sure that each cutting includes at least one node.
How to repot pothos cuttings
Prepare the tools you will be using, such as a sterilized knife or pair of scissors, clear containers of water, new pots for the cuttings, and well-draining potting soil.
As mentioned above, choose a stem or vine and cut off a length that includes at least one leaf node. If you want to be more productive in terms of the number of new plants you propagate, you can also cut the length of vine into individual sections with their own nodes. You only need to leave a small piece of vine attached to the bottom of each leaf, making sure a node is present.
Next, you will have to root the cuttings. Do this by placing each cutting in a clear container filled with clean, room-temperature water. The node and the cut end should always be submerged in the water, but the leaf should remain dry.
Place the cuttings in a spot where they can get lots of bright, indirect light and refill the water when the level drops below the node or the cut ends. If the water starts to smell or become murky, change it. Leave the cuttings to grow new roots for a few weeks.
The reason for using a clear container is to be able to see the growth of the roots. After several weeks, they should be a few inches long. It is important to allow them to grow to a few inches before repotting them so that the new plants will have an easier time growing in the soil.
Try not to let the roots grow too long, though, as they may then struggle more to adjust to the soil than if they were planted when the roots were two to three inches long.
Not all of the cuttings will grow roots at the same time; some will be faster than others. Once a cutting’s roots appear long enough, remove it from the water and set it aside. Leave the other cuttings with shorter roots and let them grow a bit longer.
Prepare the new pots by filling them about two-thirds full of fresh, well-draining potting soil. You can use one large pot to grow all the cuttings, or you can plant each cutting in its own smaller pot. Either way is fine. Make sure the roots are properly buried in the soil so they can start establishing themselves.
Water the soil slowly; do not overwater it. The water should be able to drain all the way to the bottom of the soil and there should be drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. When you see excess water flowing out of the drainage holes, you will know to stop watering.
Place the pot in a spot where it can get bright, indirect light, and you have now successfully propagated your pothos.
Another way to repot pothos cuttings is by planting them directly into soil without first rooting them in water.
Follow the same first steps, choosing a vine from which to take your cuttings. The cuttings must be a few inches long and have at least one node each. The node is important because this is where the new roots will grow from.
Prepare a new pot and fill it about two-thirds full of fresh, well-draining potting soil. Place the cutting on the soil, making sure the node is facing down into the soil, because this is where the roots are going to sprout from.
Water the soil until there is excess water flowing out from the bottom of the pot.
Place the pot in a spot where it can get lots of bright, indirect light and water it only when the top two inches of soil are dry. You can check this by sticking your finger into the soil. If the soil is still damp, wait one or two days before checking it again.
When is the best time to repot a pothos plant?
Now that we have discussed how to repot pothos cuttings, let us talk about repotting the entire plant. There are certain circumstances that will require you to repot your pothos for the sake of its overall health:
When the pothos is rootbound
One of the most straightforward reasons to repot your pothos is when it is rootbound. A plant becomes rootbound when its pot has not been replaced for years, and the roots inside the pot have become overgrown and taken over all the space. At first, the roots will start growing around the root ball as they seek more space to grow into, but as the available space becomes less and less, the roots will start to mat and create a root mass that consumes most of the space in the pot, even displacing the soil until there is significantly little soil left. Eventually, out of desperation, the roots will start growing out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot and may also become visible above the soil.
The leaves of rootbound pothos will turn yellow and the stems will become droopy and weak. This is from the lack of nutrients in the soil and the inability of the water to reach all the roots because everything is so tight inside the pot.
This also places the plant at risk of getting root rot. Root rot happens as a result of overwatering, which can result from various scenarios: You may be giving the plant too much water every time you water it, you may be watering the plant more frequently than it needs, you may have forgotten to adjust your watering schedule to the change of season or the weather, you may be using a pot that does not have drainage holes, or you may have used soil that is not well-draining.
In the case of a rootbound plant, the roots have created such a compact root mass that, when you water the plant, the excess water can no longer seep through to the bottom and flow out of the pot, so it remains in and around the roots. If the roots stand in waterlogged soil for long periods of time, they will drown because they can no longer dry out sufficiently to absorb the oxygen they need to survive. Naturally, the dead roots will begin to rot and become susceptible to pathogens present in the soil. These pathogens will cause the rot to spread even faster and more aggressively to the rest of the plant until the entire plant is affected.
In order to avoid these issues, you should always keep a lookout for any signs that your plant may be rootbound.
When the foliage looks unhealthy
If the leaves on your pothos are starting to turn yellow or if the plant looks generally unhealthy, it may be time to repot it. These signs can mean your plant is rootbound, or it could also mean the soil in the pot needs to be replaced because all the nutrients have been depleted. Remember that nutrients in soil are limited, especially in a pot, which is also why plants need to be fertilized to replenish them.
Do not worry about the yellow leaves; they will be replaced when they fall off, provided you address the problem immediately.
When the plant has watering problems
Another reason your plant needs repotting is to replace an inadequate pot. If you are giving the plant the correct amount of water but the soil still does not dry out as fast as it should, it is possible that you are using the wrong kind of pot. Plastic and metal containers are not the best choices for a pothos. These materials are dense and non-porous, and do not allow the free passage of air or water, meaning that moisture is locked in around the roots and soil for longer than it would be in, say, a terracotta or clay pot.
Terracotta and clay pots are more porous and will allow water to seep through them so that the soil dries out faster.
How to repot a pothos plant
As mentioned above, repotting is necessary if the plant has become too big for its old pot. Because pothos are fast-growing plants, they usually need to be repotted about once a year. If you leave the plant to grow in a pot it has outgrown, the roots will wrap around themselves, worsening over time. The situation can get so bad that the pot can actually crack from the pressure of the root mass inside.
Another reason we have already mentioned is the possibility of root rot. If the plant has root rot, the only way to save it is to repot it.
The night before repotting your pothos, water it generously so that it is properly hydrated. This will help the plant deal with the stress of the process, and will also make it easier to remove it from its pot.
The next day, lay the plant’s pot on one side and pull the plant out as gently as you can so that minimal damage is inflicted on the roots. If the plant is stuck in the pot, you can run an old knife around the edges of the soil to help loosen it. If it still cannot be removed from the pot, you might have to break the pot.
Inspect the roots by removing as much of the old soil as you can without damaging the roots. If there are any roots that look dried out or dead, or if they are brown or black, you will need to remove those. Use a sterilized pair of scissors to cut off the damaged roots.
Prepare the new pot and fill it halfway with fresh soil. The new pot should be just one size larger than the old one. You might be tempted to use a pot that is much larger than the plant needs so that you do not need to repot it again for several years, but this is actually not a good idea. A bigger pot means more soil is needed to fill it, more soil in the pot means more water will be retained, and the more water is retained, the higher the possibility of overwatering the plant and causing root rot.
Place the plant in its new pot and fill in the spaces around it with more soil. Water the plant thoroughly until all the soil is wet, and then move it to a spot where it can get bright, indirect light. Keep an eye on your watering techniques to keep the plant happy, and always be on the lookout for any signs that it is becoming rootbound.
Pothos cuttings can be repotted if you want to propagate your plant, or if the parent plant is dying and you want to continue its line by collecting cuttings.
Remove a cutting from the parent plant by cutting a vine off below a node with a sterilized knife or scissors. Place the cutting in a container of water to let it root for a few weeks before transferring it to a pot with soil once its roots have grown long enough.
You can also just plant the cutting directly into the soil, making sure that the node is facing downwards into the soil because this is where the roots will sprout from.
Once the cuttings have established their roots, you can care for them as you would a regular pothos plant.
Image: istockphoto.com / Firn