Pothos, or Devil’s Ivy, is a low-maintenance, fast-growing tropical vine. Like all plants, it uses photosynthesis to create its own ‘food’. But as it grows, it will also need some fertilizer to support its vigorous growth.
Fertilizing your pothos once a month with a balanced fertilizer is enough to help them grow faster and stay healthy. You can use many fertilizer types for this plant, and you can go for something synthetic or organic, store-bought or homemade.
Using the correct type of fertilizer can improve your plant’s looks and development. However, you’ll also need to adjust how much fertilizer you give your pothos based on your indoor growing conditions and ensure you don’t accidentally overfeed your plant.
Kinds of Fertilizer For Pothos
Pothos (Epipremnum) plants require three primary nutrients to live: nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. These macronutrients promote root and leaf growth and help the plant with vital processes such as photosynthesis and water intake.
Your plant will also need other macronutrients that sustain plant development, such as calcium, sulfur, and magnesium, and essential micronutrients like iron, copper, zinc, manganese, and boron.
Always use a balanced fertilizer to ensure that your pothos gets all the necessary nutrients.
The product label should list the fertilizer N-P-K ratio or the amount of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) that it contains.
For example, a balanced synthetic fertilizer will have an N-P-K ratio of 10-10-10 or 20-20-20, while an organic one will have an N-P-K ratio of 1-1-1 or 2-2-2.
Types of Pothos Fertilizer You Can Use
Plant fertilizers come in either liquid or solid form.
Liquid fertilizers are your best option for pothos. They’re cheap, versatile, and easy to use. Depending on your preference, you can use a fast-acting synthetic fertilizer or go for an organic alternative, such as liquid seaweed, fish emulsion, or blood meal.
Solid fertilizers come in several forms, including spikes, pellets, pods, and granules. Most of them are slow-release, so you don’t need to use them too often.
But if you don’t apply them properly, they can fail to distribute nutrients evenly throughout the soil and may cause fertilizer burn.
If you’re looking for an organic alternative, you can use well-rotted compost or worm castings instead.
Best Fertilizer for Pothos: Organic vs Synthetic Fertilizer
Both organic and synthetic fertilizers are suitable for your pothos. What matters most is that you use them correctly. This means you will need to pay close attention to their N-P-K ratio, dilution rate, and how often to use them to prevent damaging the plant’s roots.
Synthetic fertilizers are mostly made out of salts, and they contain concentrated amounts of nutrients. As a result, they’re cheap, act quickly, and, when used properly, they’re an efficient way to encourage faster growth.
But if you overuse them, they can burn the roots and create a buildup of salts in the soil.
Organic fertilizers are more eco-friendly and better for soil and root health. The downside is that they are more expensive, they act slowly, and they will require more frequent applications.
Is Foliar Fertilizer Good Plant Food for Pothos?
Foliar fertilizers are liquid fertilizers that you can spray on plant leaves. Your pothos will absorb the nutrients through the microscopic pores on its foliage.
You can use a foliar fertilizer for pothos, but remember, it’s inefficient.
Roots absorb nutrients far better than leaves do. Also, the amount of nutrients that enters the plant through the leaves are relatively small.
This means you’ll have to apply the fertilizer more often. In the long run, you’ll spend more money feeding your pothos this way.
7 Signs Fertilizing Pothos is Needed
It’s doubtful that your pothos will suffer from serious nutrient deficiencies. But if you have an older plant that’s been living in the same pot for more than a year, it will definitely benefit from a nutrient boost.
Here are seven signs that you need to fertilize your pothos:
- Pothos is not growing any new leaves and stems
- New leaves are getting smaller
- Leggy or bare stems
- Yellowing or pale green leaves (also a sign of nitrogen deficiency)
- Leaf edges turning yellow (a sign of potassium deficiency)
- Old leaves turning a very dark green or purple (a sign of phosphorus deficiency)
- Brown or purple leaf spots
Please remember that some of these symptoms can also indicate problems such as low light, incorrect watering, or pests. So before giving your pothos any fertilizer, please ensure that the plant is healthy and that you’re meeting its ideal growing conditions.
How to Fertilize Pothos Plants
The way you apply your fertilizers depends on which type you’re using for your pothos.
If using a liquid fertilizer, dilute it to half or a quarter of the strength recommended on the label. For example, dilute to ½ strength if you’re using the fertilizer once a month or ¼ strength once every two weeks.
Then simply water your pothos as usual, ensuring you get the soil evenly moist.
Fertilizer pellets and granules are best used when repotting your pothos. This way, you can ensure they’re evenly distributed throughout the soil.
Each time you water your plant, it slowly dissolves and releases nutrients into the soil.
If you’re using fertilizer spikes, simply push them into the soil. Use one spike per pot, then water your pothos thoroughly. The spikes will dissolve into the soil and need replacing after about three months.
How Often to Fertilize Pothos
On average, you will need to fertilize your pothos once every 4 to 6 weeks throughout the growing season (from early spring until early fall).
However, like all tropical plants, pothos will enter a brief period of dormancy during winter, so you don’t need to give it any extra nutrients during the colder months. Having said that, your plant feeding frequency will depend on many factors, such as:
Plants that get more light will grow faster. If you’re keeping your pothos in a room with bright indirect sunlight, you can fertilize them as often as twice a month.
Plants living in low light will need less fertilizer, so you can cut down to feeding them once every two months. Also, if you’re using grow lights, your pothos won’t go dormant during winter, so you can keep fertilizing them.
You can feed your pothos more often if you’re using an organic fertilizer. For example, you can apply liquid seaweed once every 7 – 10 days.
However, it’s best to use liquid synthetic fertilizers once a month to avoid a buildup of salts in the soil. And if you’re adding slow-release fertilizers to your potting mix, you will only need to use them once a year.
The type of potting medium you use for your pothos will also influence fertilizer applications. Unlike soil, substrates such as coco coir, LECA, sphagnum moss, perlite, and pumice have no nutrients. This means that you’ll need to fertilize your plant more often.
Similarly, if you’re growing pothos in water, you must mix a small amount of fertilizer every 2 – 3 weeks to keep your plant healthy.
Can You Over-Fertilize Pothos?
Despite your best intentions, giving pothos too much fertilizer can be very harmful. The excess nutrients weaken your plant and cause several long-term issues, from leggy growth to fungus gnat infestations.
In severe cases, it can lead to fertilizer burn, destroying the roots and killing your plant.
Signs that your pothos is over-fertilized include:
- Yellowing leaves
- Brown or black leaf tips and edges
- Curling leaves
- Sudden leaf loss
- Sudden wilting
- A white salt-like crust on top of the soil
- Stunted growth
If you’re not sure how much fertilizer to give your pothos, the best option is to read the information on the label. This will give you a basic idea of how to dilute it and how often to apply it.
Also, avoid mixing different fertilizer types or using a slow-release product with a liquid one. This is guaranteed to create a nutrient imbalance in the soil, eventually killing your plant.
What To Do if You Gave Your Pothos Too Much Fertilizer
The easiest way to fix an over-fertilized pothos is to flush the excess fertilizer from the soil. Put the pot in a sink, shower, or bathtub, and slowly run room-temperature water through the soil for 10 – 15 minutes.
Another option is to repot your pothos using a fresh batch of soil. You can use this method if you don’t see any signs of improvement after flushing the plant’s soil.
Avoid giving your pothos any more fertilizer for the next two months. This will give the roots time to heal and allow your plant to recover from the stress.
Organic DIY Pothos Fertilizers
Using homemade fertilizers for your pothos can be very tempting, especially if you’re looking for a cheap, organic alternative. Some easy-to-make DIY options include:
- Compost tea
- Fertilizer tea made from weeds
- Aquarium water
- Water used for washing rice
- Banana peel tea
- Died and shredded banana peels
- Crushed eggshells
- Water used for boiling eggs
- Used tea leaves
- Used coffee grounds
- Granulated gelatin
- Epsom salt
Several scientific studies confirm that fertilizers made from kitchen scraps and organic waste work and can help your plants grow.
However, please keep in mind that it’s impossible to find the nutrient value or N-P-K ratio of homemade fertilizers (unless you send them to a lab for testing).
This makes it difficult to tell if your plants are receiving the correct amount of nutrients to sustain healthy growth.
So if your pothos plants suffer from severe nutrient deficiencies, it’s better to use a pre-made balanced fertilizer instead.
- Organic homemade fertilizers in general: https://hortintl.cals.ncsu.edu/sites/default/files/documents/as2018062216034580.pdf
- Rice water: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1742-6596/1351/1/012097/pdf
- Banana peel tea: https://www.proquest.com/docview/2528490014
- Gelatin: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6072858/ (shorter and easier to follow version: https://ecommons.cornell.edu/handle/1813/39345)