A trailing pothos can turn your home into a veritable indoor jungle. But if your pothos is growing very long vines with bare stems or very few leaves, that’s a sign that it’s becoming leggy.
Pothos usually become leggy in response to a combination of low light and too much fertilizer. Mature pothos plants that are several years old can also start getting leggy if they have nothing to climb on. And some pothos varieties are simply more predisposed to leggy growth than others.
Luckily, fixing a leggy pothos plant is not that complicated. A few changes in its growing conditions are enough to prevent spindly growth. Meanwhile, regular pruning will give your plant a bushier look and encourage pothos to start branching out and growing more stems.
Why Is My Pothos Getting Leggy?
A leggy pothos is a stressed plant. Pothos is very resilient, and they will often continue to grow despite being neglected. But if the plant is deprived of ideal growing conditions for long periods, it will show signs of unhappiness.
Here are the three main factors that will stress a pothos plant and make it grow leggy with bare stems.
1.) It’s Not Getting Enough Light
The main reason your pothos is getting leggy is insufficient light.
Pothos needs bright indirect sunlight to thrive. If it’s growing in a shaded location, the plant will start sending out long vines in search of a better light source. But because the plant is not receiving enough light to begin with, it won’t have enough energy to spend on both stem and leaf growth.
As a result, the space between each leaf node will grow wider and the vines will get thinner. The leaves will also get smaller and have a pale, yellow color.
This process is called etiolation¹, and it’s a sign that your pothos plant is struggling.
2.) It’s Receiving Too Much Fertilizer
Giving your pothos too much fertilizer can also give it a leggy look. Essentially, this triggers an unnaturally fast growth sprout. The plant will use the extra nutrients to grow long vines in search of something to climb on to.
In the process, the space between the growth nodes will stretch out, and the new leaves will have a stunted look. In some cases, you may even notice that there are no leaves growing from the nodes, resulting in bare vines.
3.) It Wants To Climb
All pothos species are natural climbers. In the wild, they use their aerial roots to attach themselves to tree trunks and climb towards the canopy, where they have access to more light.
If a pothos doesn’t have a support to grow on, it will grow long vines in an attempt to find something to climb on to. The longer the plant has to search for support, the bigger the space between each leaf node will get. After several years, this will result in long, bare stems, and a leggy look.
Some pothos varieties are more susceptible to becoming leggy than others. For example, Golden Pothos, Satin Pothos, and Cebu Blue have a fast growth rate and can become leggy quicker than Pothos N’Joy or Pearls and Jade when growing in the wrong conditions.
Lack of support will also have a negative impact on the way the foliage looks.
Satin Pothos (Scindapsus pictus) will grow smaller, less variegated leaves, while species of Epipremnum pinnatum (including Cebu Blue Pothos) will also lose their leaf fenestrations.
How To Fix a Leggy Pothos
The easiest way to fix a leggy pothos plant is to cut and propagate it.
First, use a sharp, sterilized blade, and cut ⅔ of each vine. Then cut the vine into individual stem cuttings. If the space between each leaf node is too long, you must trim ½ an inch (about 1 cm) above and below the node.
You can then propagate your cuttings in soil or water — check out our pothos propagation guide for more details.
Don’t throw away your bare pothos vines. As long as the stem has growth nodes, you can propagate it even if it has no leaves.
Cut the long vines into individual node sections. Then, put them in a wide, shallow tray filled with sphagnum moss or a mixture of equal parts perlite and moss.
Keep the propagation medium moist using a spray bottle, and cover it with a lid to preserve moisture. The bare node cuttings, known as “wet sticks, “will take about 2 – 3 months to start growing roots and leaves.
When the cuttings are ready to plant, you can add them to the same pot as the mother plant. This is a great way to fill in the gaps at the top and give the pothos a bushier/fuller look.
References & Resources
Etiolation – link