Pothos Pruning 101: Simple Guide to Trimming Pothos Plants

If you love plants but don’t have a big budget for them, you might want to consider purchasing a trusty pothos. Known to the scientific world as Epipremnum aureum, this indoor plant is prolific and easy-growing.

Although pruning is something you’ll need to know for proper plant care, don’t worry, we’ll teach you everything you need to know about pothos pruning.

three pothos plants that have been trimmed

Benefits of Pruning Pothos Plants

Pothos (Devil’s Ivy) are popular houseplants in no small part because they require little maintenance. But occasional pruning can greatly benefit pothos growth. 

Many garden centers sell pothos as a tidy and compact houseplant, but pothos is a vine plant. 

In the wild, pothos vines can stretch up to 40ft long. However, indoors, pothos can still reach an impressive 30ft long. 

Each vine produces waxy, heart-shaped leaves. 

In suboptimal growing conditions, the space between leaves will elongate, and subsequent leaf development will become smaller. Inadequate light quality can especially cause this legginess as the branches stretch farther and farther to access any available sunlight. 

Pruning can remedy this sparse, leggy growth. Essentially, new cuts encourage new growth and branching. So pruning allows you to manipulate the plant growth pattern. 

Want a houseplant that resembles a small shrub rather than a winding snake? 

You can prune to stimulate bushy and thick leaf growth close to the crown. Or you can prune back vines to make leaves appear at more frequent intervals. 

Pruning pothos is also a cheap and easy way to multiply your houseplant collection. (More on propagation in a bit.) 

And perhaps most importantly, pruning pothos helps eradicate diseases such as leaf spot. 

Leaf spot disease causes yellow halos to appear on the underside of leaves. If you fail to address it, leaf spot disease will cause new growth to develop a brown color and a mushy texture. 

If you notice these halos forming on a pothos leaf, remove the diseased part of the plant. 

pothos plants that need trimming

When to Prune Your Pothos

The best time to prune your pothos is during its peak growing season. This period spans from spring to early fall. Of course, the exact start and end time will vary depending on the climate your pothos inhabits. 

Although there isn’t technically a wrong time to prune pothos, pruning during winter won’t encourage new growth. Pothos plants usually enter a period of dormancy from late fall to early spring. 

If you prune your pothos during the growing season, the pothos will develop and grow new leaves throughout this period. As a rough guide, it will take pothos about one to two months to grow new leaves after cutting. 

You should also prune pothos as soon as you notice any diseased or yellow leaves. 

Removing these unhealthy leaves will help your plant conserve energy. It can also prevent the spread of leaf-based diseases. 

All varieties of pothos can benefit from pruning. However, adjust the frequency of your pruning regime to match your pothos plant’s growth speed. (Popular varieties such as Marble Queen pothos tend to grow more quickly than highly variegated varieties like Snow Queen.) 

How to Prune Pothos Houseplants: A Step-by-Step Guide

1. Sterilize Pruners

You can remove pothos leaves by hand. But using a knife, pruning shears, or sharp scissors will give you the tidiest cut. 

Once you’ve selected your pruning tool, sterilize the shears by wiping them with 70-100% isopropyl alcohol. If you’re using an old rag or cloth to wipe the shears, make sure it is also clean.

(And if you’re using gloves, make sure they are clean as well.)

Maybe this step doesn’t seem necessary. Germs are a part of nature, right? 

Taking a few minutes to sterilize your gardening equipment can reduce the spread of bacteria and infection between houseplants. 

holding up a marble queen pothos plant.

2. Inspect the Leaves

The next step is deciding where on the plant you want to cut. The best cut location depends on what you hope the pruning will achieve. 

If you want to reduce legginess, you’ll look at the long trailing vines. Pothos might grow new foliage at the end of a leafless stem. But it will not develop new leaves along the length of the old stem. 

So to reduce stretches of bare stem along a vine, you will have to cut back the vine to the point where leaves grow more densely. 

If you want to encourage new growth on a bushy pothos, you’ll need to snip closer to the crown (where the stems meet the roots). Leave bottom leaf growth, but remove the smaller new leaves. 

To propagate pothos, you need to find a portion of the stem that contains at least four healthy leaves. 

showing closeup of pothos node locations

3. Find the Nodes

Once you’ve selected the general area of the pothos you want to prune, you need to find the node. 

The leaf node is a small brown bump on the stem. It is the point from which new leaves and new stems grow. 

showing pothos pruning with scissors

4. Trim the Stem

After locating the node, make a cutting a half inch above this point to encourage new growth. 

Make any stem cuttings at a 45-degree angle. Cutting at this angle will help the plant heal more quickly. 

showing propagated pruned pothos cuttings

5. Propagate the Snips

Pothos are easy-to-propagate houseplants. So if you’re pruning, you might as well make the most of your pothos cuttings! 

Place the cut end into a container filled with water. Use filtered, chlorine-free water for best results. Make sure the leaves sit above the water. 

Set the cutting in a location that receives bright, indirect sunlight. You will need to change the water every two to three days to maintain the oxygen levels necessary for plant growth. 

The cutting should begin to form new roots within 20 days. Once roots have formed, you can plant the pothos in soil where it will develop a more complex root system. 

Note: If you’re making a cutting specifically for propagating, take a cutting from healthy vines and leaves.

pothos leaves turning yellow and with leaf spot

Troubleshooting for Pothos Houseplants

Several factors can influence whether your pothos becomes a trailing vine or a bushy plant. Pruning pothos fixes many aesthetic issues. But there might be another source of your pothos problems.

Here’s a quick troubleshooting guide. 

  • Pothos Isn’t Vining: If you want your pothos to form a long vine, ensure it can grow vertically or horizontally. Pothos plants have aerial roots that allow them to grow long vines. But these roots need something to which they can attach, such as a trellis. Gravity does not encourage vining, so don’t use a hanging basket if you want lengthy vines. 
  • Yellow Leaves: Yellowing leaves are most often an indication of over-watering. Make sure the bottom of the pot has drainage holes and is not sitting in water. Test soil surface before re-watering; let the soil dry out completely between waterings. Yellow leaves can also reflect stress from rapid temperature changes or repotting. 
  • Change in Variegation: Leaf variegation often changes depending on light exposure. Low light can cause leaves to lose all variegation. Direct sunlight will produce the most dramatic variegation but can sometimes burn the leaves. Bright, indirect light is usually best for pothos plants. 
  • Pests: If you notice pests on your pothos (usually white flies, spider mites, thrips, or mealybugs), apply insecticidal soap on paper towels. Then, gently wipe the bugs from the leaves.

In addition to pruning, remember to keep up regular maintenance: applying liquid fertilizer (every couple of weeks) and repotting (once a year).