Houseplant enthusiasts are all familiar with Pothos, those elegant vining plants with shiny, heart-shaped leaves that spill gracefully over the sides of a hanging basket. When grown as houseplants, their leaves usually stay small, with smooth edges and no slits or holes in the leaf blades.
But when Pothos plants, and others like Monstera, are able to mature and grow large leaves as they climb up trees in their native habitats, they DO develop natural slits and holes in their leaves. Resulting in a fenestrated pothos.
What Are Fenestrations For?
There are several scientific thoughts on the reasons for foliage fenestration. One is that wind can move through the large leaves without damaging them. Another theory is that the holes allow for more surface area to cool the leaves and to better capture light.
Yet another theory says that the holes and slits in their foliage allow rainwater to move through the leaves to reach the ground since Pothos grow thickly on tree trunks.
But whatever the reasons are for these fenestrations, they are valued, and plant lovers want to encourage them in their Monsteras and Pothos.
How Can I Get My Pothos To Fenestrate?
In order for your plants to get to the point where they will develop those coveted splits and holes in their leaves, you’ll have to allow them to climb.
Pothos plants growing down in hanging baskets will remain in their juvenile stage, and their leaves will never fenestrate. They’ll only mature if they can climb, and providing moss poles is the best way to give them that support.
In addition to their soil roots, Pothos plants use their aerial roots to absorb water and nutrients from the support they’re climbing on, whether it’s a tree in the rainforest or a moss pole that you provide for them indoors.
You can use either a commercial moss pole or one you make yourself with sphagnum moss (not peat!) and coated wire mesh.
To make your own moss pole, moisten the sphagnum moss, fluff it up, and lay it along the length of wire mesh. Roll the mesh into a tube and secure it with cable ties.
Then push the moss pole into the potting mix and loosely attach the Pothos stems and aerial roots to the pole with twine or gardener’s Velcro.
Will All Pothos Varieties Fenestrate?
The answer is yes and no. It may take years, but when Pothos plants are allowed to mature, they will begin to fenestrate. If they are kept at an immature, juvenile stage of growth in a hanging pot, however, they will only produce small, entire, heart-shaped leaves with no pothos fenestration.
Three Pothos varieties produce fenestrated leaves more frequently as houseplants than other varieties: Baltic Blue, Cebu Blue, and Hawaiian or Giant Pothos. Most Pothos varieties will take 20 years or so to come to this point, but these three varieties take much less time.
Baltic Blue and Cebu Blue Feature Pothos Fenestration
Both Baltic Blue and Cebu Blue Pothos are gorgeous cultivars of a different species (Epipremnum pinnatum) than most other Pothos varieties (Epipremnum aureum). They have narrower leaves that are blue to blue-green rather than the green and yellow-green of the Epipremnum aureum plants.
Baltic Blue Pothos (Epipremnum pinnatum ‘Baltic Blue’) is thought to fenestrate sooner than other Pothos, often in a matter of months if allowed to climb. It is similar to Cebu Blue (Epipremnum pinnatum ‘Cebu Blue’) except its leaves are smoother and larger, and are a darker greenish blue without the metallic sheen.
Cebu Blue is more silvery-blue than Baltic, and its leaves have a bumpy surface. It is thought to begin to fenestrate after about 6 to 7 years.
Hawaiian, or Giant Pothos (Epipremnum aureum ‘Hawaiian’), is a beautiful variety, similar to Golden Pothos. It has rounded, heart-shaped green leaves with golden stripes from the midveins to the edges. When given a chance to climb and mature, it will also begin to fenestrate after about 6 to 7 years.
What Else Can I Do?
When you’ve supplied your Pothos with a moss pole, there are still other things you can do to encourage fenestration. Your best chance for growth and maturity of the foliage is by providing your plant with optimal conditions for its health.
The conditions you need to pay attention to are light, temperature and humidity, soil, water, fertilizer, pruning, propagation, and pest and disease control.
Pothos naturally need filtered or indirect light similar to the sunlight they receive as understory vines in the rainforest. Choose a window or area of the house that gets bright indirect light, that is neither direct sunlight nor low light.
If you bring your Pothos outside to enjoy the summer weather, make sure that it is in a shaded area, such as on a covered porch or under a tree. Direct sunlight outdoors will burn their leaves.
Temperature and Humidity
Pothos plants grow best in temperatures from about 65 to 75 degrees F. They can handle temperatures up to 90 degrees, but above that, they will wilt and die. Outdoors in the summer, keep your Pothos cool in the shade.
In the fall when temperatures are beginning to drop, bring your plant in when it is predicted to go below 50 degrees F.
Rainforest plants love high humidity, but average household humidity levels are generally lower than they like, especially in the winter when the heat is on. Pothos are adaptable, but for best results, boost the humidity around your plant by setting it on a pebble tray with water, misting it daily, or using a humidifier if you have one.
Rainforest plants need loose, well-draining soil amended with peat moss, coco coir, perlite, or orchid bark. A good commercial potting mix will be fine for your Pothos, as long as you add some amendments to keep it well-draining and aerated.
When you choose a pot for your plant, it’s important to make sure that it has at least one drainage hole in the bottom so that the roots don’t sit in water.
Water your Pothos when the soil is partially dry, about one to two inches down from the top of the soil, depending on the size of the pot. Allow the water to run through the soil until it comes out of the drainage hole. Then empty any remaining water from the dish or tray underneath the pot.
Remember that potted plants outside will require more frequent watering than plants indoors. And during the winter when the heat is on indoors, the soil will also dry out faster than at other times of the year.
And don’t forget to keep your moss pole moist. Water the sphagnum occasionally so that it doesn’t dry out.
To encourage its best growth, add a half-strength liquid fertilizer to the potting soil every three weeks during the spring, summer, and early fall when the plant is actively growing. As an alternative, you can add some slow-release granules to the soil twice during the growing season.
Pruning your Pothos is a way that you can encourage the plant to become fuller with new growth. Cut the stems in between the nodes (the places where the leaves meet the stems) with clean scissors or shears.
Once you have stem cuttings from pruning your plant, you can propagate pothos in water or soil. If your leaves have grown and are beginning to mature to a larger size than before, these propagated cuttings will continue with the same-sized leaves.
Put your cuttings with at least four or five nodes into a clean jar with fresh water. Remove all of the leaves below the water line. Set it in a warm spot in bright (not direct) light, and you should see roots developing within two to three weeks.
You can put your cuttings with four or five nodes into a very loose, well-draining potting mix. Just like with water propagation, remove all the leaves that will be below the soil line.
To encourage them to make roots, you can dip the ends into a powdered rooting hormone before putting them into the soil. This is optional, but it’s an added measure to ensure growth.
Set the pot in a warm spot in bright light and roots should begin to form in three to four weeks.
Pest and Disease Control
A healthy, pest and disease-free plant has its best chance at maturity. Inspect your Pothos regularly for signs of pests. They are especially susceptible to aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, and scale.
You can treat aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites with insecticidal soap or Neem oil, but scale needs to be treated differently. Hose the plant to knock as many scale insects as possible off, then wipe the foliage and stems down with rubbing alcohol to get rid of the rest.
The main disease that attacks Pothos plants is root rot, which is a fungal disease that comes when the plant is overwatered with insufficient drainage and aeration. If your plant is droopy and its leaves are yellowing and dropping off, check the roots to see if it has root rot.
Tip the plant on its side and pull out the root ball. Shake off the soil and wash the root so that you can see them clearly. Healthy roots should be white and firm, but if you see black, shriveled roots that smell bad, cut them off with clean scissors or shears.
Treat the roots with a fungicide like Neem oil, then replant them in fresh soil. Make sure to only water your plant when the soil is partially dry and then let it drain after you water it. You can invest in a moisture meter to test the soil moisture if you want to be sure you’re not overwatering.
The main things that will encourage fenestration in your Pothos are keeping your plant as healthy as possible by providing the right conditions for its growth and giving it a moss pole to climb.
Nancy has been a plant person from an early age. That interest blossomed into a bachelor’s in biology from Elmira College and a master’s degree in horticulture and communications from the University of Kentucky. Nancy worked in plant taxonomy at the University of Florida and the L. H. Bailey Hortorium at Cornell University, and wrote and edited gardening books at Rodale Press in Emmaus, PA. Her interests are plant identification, gardening, hiking, and reading.