How Often To Water Pothos: 6 Rules to Avoid Rookie Mistakes

Pothos are best known for being beginner-friendly plants that are impossible to kill. But don’t let that fool you. The easiest way to kill a pothos is making one very simple mistake: watering it too often or not enough.

Many beginner gardeners assume that pothos needs frequent watering because it’s a tropical plant. Also, it’s easy to think that watering it on a 1 – 2 week schedule will keep it happy. In most cases, however, this is guaranteed to weaken and slowly kill your plant.

Knowing how often to water pothos is the first step in providing it with proper care. And once you understand its water requirements, you’ll never have to worry about your plant wilting or developing root rot.

6 Must-know Pothos Watering Rules

watering a pothos plant

Before we take a closer look at how and when to water your pothos, let’s discuss the six rules that apply to all pothos plants and all indoor conditions.

Read them, remember them, apply them, and you can start calling yourself a pothos watering expert.

1.) Always Provide Drainage

This is the most critical watering rule and the easiest way to prevent all water-related issues.

Plant your pothos in a pot with drainage holes, and use a well-draining potting mix. If your container doesn’t have drainage holes, the excess water will build up at the bottom of the pot. And if your soil mix is too compact and poor-draining, it will become waterlogged.

Both scenarios will inevitably lead to root rot, pests, and other plant diseases.

2.) Wait Until the Top of the Soil Dries Out

This is the second most important rule and the easiest way to know when to water your pothos.

Always let the soil in the pot dry to a depth of 2 inches before watering your plant. If you’re using containers 8 inches wide (approximately one US gallon) or bigger, allow the soil to dry to a depth of at least ⅓ of the pot’s height.

3.) Don’t Water on a Schedule

When you bring a pothos home, it’s tempting to water it once, then set a reminder to water it again in a week. Unfortunately, this is a common mistake for many beginner gardeners.

Your watering schedule will change throughout the year depending on several factors. And if you use a strict routine, you’re more likely to overwater or underwater your plant.

Also, don’t rely on apps or watering charts to tell you when to water your pothos. The tags and labels that come with your plant aren’t reliable either. At best, you can use them as a reminder to check the soil moisture.

4.) Don’t Be Afraid To Give Your Pothos Lots of Water 

A common misconception is that giving your plants too much water will lead to overwatering. In reality, the problem is not caused by the amount of water but by the watering frequency.

You should always water your pothos generously to ensure healthy root development and green, beautiful leaves. Giving this plant a gallon of water rather than a single cup is better. Small amounts of water will fail to properly hydrate the soil, keeping the plant thirsty and stunting its growth.

Remember: if you use well-draining soil and allow it to dry between each watering session, you can dunk your pothos in the bathtub without overwatering it.

5.) Use Room-temperature Water

Cold water will shock pothos roots and can lead to sudden wilting. You can prevent that by leaving the water in a jug or watering can overnight so that it reaches room temperature.

6. Water Your Pothos Consistently

Although pothos plants like to dry out slightly, they are not drought-tolerant. Therefore, if the soil stays dry for too long, it will stress the plant. This will result in leaf discoloration, leggy growth, small pothos leaves, and a weakened plant vulnerable to pests.

How To Tell if a Pothos Plant Needs Water

The easiest way to tell that your pothos needs watering is by testing the soil with your finger. Stick your finger in the pot to a depth of 2 inches. If the soil feels dry, it’s time to water your pothos. If it still feels wet or damp, wait a few days until it dries out more.

If you don’t want to get your hands dirty, you can also test the soil moisture using a chopstick or skewer. Push it deep into the soil, until it reaches the bottom of the pot. If it comes out dry and clean, the soil is dry. The substrate is still wet if it’s damp and has bits of soil on it.

Of course, if you have a lot of plants, you probably won’t have time to check each and every one of them. Luckily, there are a few visual clues that your pothos needs water, or worse, it’s been watered too much.

Signs That Your Pothos Is Thirsty

The most common signs that your pothos is thirsty or underwatered are:

  • Soft, wilted, or limp leaves
  • Droopy stems and vines
  • Yellow leaves
  • Brittle leaves
  • Curling leaves
  • Dry, browning leaves

If your pothos is showing these symptoms, check the soil and give your pothos a thorough soaking. You’ll need to water more frequently.

Signs That Your Pothos Is Overwatered

The most common signs that your houseplant is overwatered include:

  • Yellowing leaves
  • Soft, brown leaf spots
  • Black leaf spots
  • Blackened stems
  • Brown leaf spots with a yellow outline (also an obvious sign of root rot)
  • Water blisters or leaf edema
  • Wilting
  • Shedding leaves
  • Mold on the top of the soil
  • Fungus gnats flying around the plant

Most of these symptoms take a while to manifest. However, your plant’s health is in serious trouble when they become noticeable. 

For example, black pothos leaves and stems indicate that your pothos has been living in soggy soil for weeks and that you need to act immediately if you want to save it.

Also, these signs aren’t always reliable because they indicate a wider range of problems. For example, yellowing leaves are a sign of dehydration but also a sign of pests, overwatering, or nutrient deficiency. 

Limp leaves can indicate that your pothos is thirsty, overwatered, or that it’s been exposed to low temperatures.

Always go directly to the problem’s root when in doubt and check the pot’s soil.

Is It Worth Buying a Soil Moisture Meter?

Soil moisture meters can be a worthwhile investment. However, they’re not suitable for pothos plants because the readings they provide aren’t always accurate.

For example, the soil profile can provide wrong readings. Chunky soil mixes that contain lots of orchid bark can read as ‘dry’ even after you’ve watered your plant. 

Roots can also interfere with the reading. If your pothos is rootbound, the meter can read ‘wet’ or ‘moist’ even if the plant is actually thirsty.

Please note that these tools don’t measure how wet the potting soil is. Instead, they measure electric conductivity in the soil based on several factors, including moisture levels.

To avoid overwatering and underwatering your pothos, it’s always better to test the soil moisture using your finger, a chopstick, or a skewer.

How To Water Pothos Plants

The best way to water your pothos is by using the soak-and-drain method. This ensures that the soil is evenly moist and that all the roots get enough water. It also dislodges anaerobic pockets in the soil and helps flush out fertilizer salts.

Here’s a simple step-by-step guide you can use.

  1. Take your pothos pot off its drip tray and put it in a sink, shower, or bathtub.
  2. Slowly pour water over the soil’s surface using a jug or watering can. Do this for several minutes until you see water dripping through the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. Keep watering slowly for another 2 – 3 minutes, until the soil is completely saturated.
  3. Let the excess water drain for at least 15 minutes before placing the pot back on its drainage tray.

Some gardeners like to use a shower head for the soak-and-drain method. This fantastic alternative also lets you knock off potential pests and wash the dust from the leaves.

Top Watering vs. Bottom Watering: What’s Best?

Both top and bottom watering have their merits. For many gardeners, the method they choose is a matter of personal preference. But if you want to keep your pothos healthy and mimic its natural growing conditions, top-watering is your best choice.

There are two cases when it’s better to use bottom-watering for your pothos:

  1. If the soil in the pot is so dry, it becomes hydrophobic.
  2. If the plant is rootbound.

In both cases, more than top-watering is needed to properly hydrate pothos roots.

And in both cases, bottom-watering is just a temporary fix for a more severe problem. For example, if the soil in the pot is so dry it repels water, it’s better to change the entire potting mix and maybe use coco coir instead of peat moss. 

Similarly, if your pothos is rootbound, you should repot it rather than let the roots struggle in a pot that’s too small.

Many gardeners prefer bottom watering because it helps control fungus gnats. But, admittedly, if the top of the soil stays dry, adult flies won’t lay their eggs in it.

Yet fungus gnats are inevitable when growing indoor plants. If you find them in your home, you can easily eliminate them using beneficial nematodes or mosquito dunks. 

This is a far more efficient control method than watering your plants from the bottom.

7 Factors That Influence Your Pothos Watering Schedule

The amount of water your pothos needs will change depending on several factors, including your indoor conditions, soil mix, the season, and even the type of pot you use.

1.) Light

Light is one of the main factors that influence your watering routine. For example, a pothos plant living in a south-facing room or under grow lights will have a faster growth rate and need more water. 

Meanwhile, a houseplant living in a dark corner or a north-facing room will grow slower and require less frequent watering.

2.) Potting Mix

Pothos needs a well-drained soil mix to stay healthy. There are several potting medium combinations you can use. Each takes a different amount of time to dry out, influencing how often to water your pothos.

For example, a mix of two parts peat moss and one part perlite will stay moist longer, so you’ll need to water your plant less frequently. On the other hand, a mix of equal parts peat moss, perlite, and orchid bark will dry out faster and require more frequent watering.

Potting mixes can also influence how long often to water your pothos. For example, peat moss and orchid bark are hydrophobic when dry. Because they repel water, water the pothos longer to moisten the soil. 

Meanwhile, coco coir is non-hydrophobic, so it will absorb water quickly.

3.) Temperature

Always check the temperature level in your home and water your houseplants accordingly. For example, if you keep your Golden pothos in a room with temperatures above 77°F (25°C), the soil will dry faster, and the plant will need more water. 

On the other hand, in a room with temperatures between 64°F and 77°F (18°C to 25°C), the soil will stay damp longer, so you can cut back on watering.

4.) Humidity

The humidity level in your home will influence how fast the soil in the pot takes to dry. The lower the humidity, the higher the evaporation rate. This means that a pothos living in a very dry room will need more water than one kept in a humid room.

5.) Season

Seasonal changes can impact your watering schedule even if your pothos plant is living indoors. Light and temperature levels will fluctuate from one month to another. This will change your plant’s growth rate and the amount of water it needs.

In the summer, your plant will need more water because your home is brighter and warmer, which triggers faster growth.

In the winter months, low light levels and lower temperatures will make your plant enter a brief period of dormancy. Unfortunately, this means that you’ll need to reduce watering until spring.

6.) Pot Material

The type of pot you use for your pothos will also have an effect on the soil moisture level. The plastic keeps the soil wet for longer, so you’ll need to water your plant less often. 

Meanwhile, terracotta or unglazed ceramic pots wick moisture from the soil, so your plant will need more frequent watering.

7.) The Age of Your Plant

Rooted cuttings and mature pothos plants have different watering needs. Young plants and newly planted cuttings have smaller root systems. Although they need moist soil to grow, their roots will absorb less water, so you’ll need to water them less frequently.

Mature plants have well-developed root systems that absorb water from the soil quickly and will need frequent watering. Also, rootbound plants tend to dry out very fast, so you may need to water them at least once a week.

FAQ

How Long Can Pothos Live Without Being Watered?

This depends entirely on your indoor conditions. For example, a pothos plant living in bright indirect light, that’s warm and dry room typically needs water once a week. But if you keep your pothos in a dark, cold, humid room, you may only need to water it once every 3 – 4 weeks.

Do All Pothos Varieties Have the Same Watering Needs?

For the most part, yes. All plants in the genus Epipremnum aureum have the same watering requirements, including species like Devil’s Ivy, Marble Queen, N’Joy, Baltic Blue, or Cebu Blue. But Scindapsus plants, such as Satin Pothos, prefer to dry out almost completely before you water them again.

Should I Mist My Pothos?

No. If you mist your pothos, it will only improve the humidity around your plant if you do it several times daily.

Please remember that misting the top of the soil does not count as watering. The soil surface will be wet, but the rest of the potting mix will be bone dry. This ‘watering method’ will only damage the roots and kill your plant.

Can I Use Tap Water for My Pothos?

Absolutely. Your pothos plant will be completely fine if you use regular tap water. The only thing to avoid is cold water, which can shock the roots.

How Do You Water Pothos Plants When You Go on Vacation?

If you’re going on vacation for more than a week, start by giving your pothos a good soak the day before you leave. Next, move the plant to a slightly darker location, so that it needs less water, and group plants together to preserve air humidity. Then, set up a wick-watering system to keep the soil moist until you return.