Pothos is a natural-born climber. This vigorous vine will use its aerial roots to attach to pretty much any surface it comes into contact with. But when growing indoors, you may find that, despite your best efforts, your plant will simply refuse to grow on its support.
You’ll probably ask yourself: ‘How can I make my pothos climb? Is there a special method that I should know?’.
The truth is that getting pothos to climb is very easy. However, not all surfaces are suitable for climbing. Moss poles and coir totems are your best choice. You can also grow your pothos on a tree, a trellis, or a stake, and even train it to climb on the wall.
But before we discuss training methods, it’s important to understand how this plant will — or won’t — grow on the support you give it.
8 Things To Know About How Pothos Plants Climb
- Pothos plants use adhesive aerial roots to grab onto any damp, porous, and textured surface. This could be anything from a tree or moss pole to a wooden fence or a wall.
- All pothos varieties need to climb. Letting your plant trail or hang will inevitably lead to smaller leaves, wider internodes, and bare stems after a few years, regardless of your growing conditions.
- Climbing also allows pothos to enter their mature stage. The plants you see in stores or nurseries are all in juvenile shape. But when they start climbing, their leaves will get bigger, often measuring at least a foot wide, and begin developing splits or fenestrations.
- Pothos roots can either attach to a surface or grow into it. If you’re using moss or coir poles, the roots will grow inside the poles. The roots will attach to the surface if you use a dense texture support, such as a plank of wood, a fence, or a wall.
- Pothos will not climb on anything its roots can’t ‘stick’ to. This includes thin trellises, stakes, and string.
- If you use small plants, you will have the most success teaching pothos to climb on a pole. If your pothos has long vines, trim them down to just 3 – 4 nodes.
- Avoid using cuttings or plants that are less than six months old. These plants will spend the first months of their life growing roots in the soil, rather than growing aerial roots for climbing.
- Bright indirect light and high humidity are a must if you want to help your pothos climb faster.
With these tips in mind, let’s look at which methods you can use to teach your plant to climb and how to use them successfully.
How To Make Pothos Climb a Moss Pole
Sphagnum moss poles are the best type of support for your pothos. They provide a surface that mimics what pothos will naturally climb on in the wild.
In addition, they’re not as dense as coir poles or planks of wood and have excellent water retention. This helps the aerial roots attach to them quicker, and you’ll notice your pothos start climbing after just a few weeks.
Most importantly, sphagnum moss poles are the fastest and easiest way to get large pothos leaves, vibrant colors, and leaf fenestrations.
A Satin Pothos climbing on a sphagnum moss pole
You can either buy pre-made poles or create your own. Here’s our step-by-step guide for how to make a simple DIY moss pole and attach your pothos to it.
- Take a roll of 0.5 inches (13mm) plastic-coated wire mesh.
- Cut the mesh into an 8-inch wide (20 cm) piece using a wire cutter or a sharp pair of pruning shears. The length of the piece depends on how tall you want the pole to be. A height of 2 feet (60 cm) would work best, especially if this is your first time making a moss pole.
- Take some dry sphagnum moss and soak it in water for at least 10 minutes, then squeeze out the excess moisture.
- Take a pot with drainage holes and measure its height. Your pole will need to reach the bottom of the pot, but the part of the pole that will be below soil level does not need to be filled with moss.
- Put one or two handfuls of moss on top of the wire mesh piece. Remember to leave the part that goes inside the pot empty.
- Roll the mesh into a cylinder and use cable ties or plastic-coated wire ties to fasten the edges of the mesh together.
- Put your finished pole inside the pot. Take your pothos and plant it next to the pole, then backfill the pot and the bottom of the pole with a well-draining potting mix.
You will need to manually attach the vines to the support to train your pothos up a moss pole. You can use paper clips or gardening staples.
Also, make sure that the aerial roots are directly touching the moss. Avoid using twine or string, as it won’t keep the vines in place properly.
The next part is all about watering. The secret to successfully training your pothos to climb a moss pole is to water the pole, not the soil. Check the moss regularly, and when it feels dry to the touch, slowly pour water into the top of the pole until it is completely soaked to the bottom.
Using this technique, your pothos will take between 4 to 8 weeks to start climbing the moss pole. You will need to attach each new vine by hand for the first few weeks. But once your plant gets a hang of it, it will start growing roots inside the moss.
How To Train Pothos To Climb a Totem or Coco Coir Pole
Totems or coir poles are a type of plant supports made out of coconut fiber. They’re cheaper than sphagnum moss poles, and because they’re ready-made, they’re easier to use for your pothos.
These poles are also hollow in the center and have an opening at the top. So if you need to extend them, all you need to do is stick a new pole on top of the old one.
There are two things to keep in mind about coco coir totems.
First, coco coir poles and sphagnum moss poles are not the same. However, many stores will sell coir totems or poles under the name ‘moss pole.’
Knowing the difference is essential because the technique you use to make your pothos climb will vary depending on the type of pole. Always check the label for which material the pole is made from.
For example, if the label says ‘coconut fiber’, that means it’s a coir pole, not a moss pole.
Second, avoid buying coir poles with a smooth surface and a slightly sticky feel. These poles are usually treated with an antifungal coating. This means the pole will repel water, and you will have little success getting your pothos to climb on it.
Instead, look for coir poles with a rugged, stringy texture. They provide a better grip for the aerial roots and have better water retention abilities.
Now that you know what type of pole to buy for your pothos, here’s our step-by-step on how to train it to climb.
- Stick the coir pole deep into the pot, about 2 inches (5 cm) away from the base of the pothos stems.
- Use a few paper clips or small garden staples to secure the vine to the pole. Make sure that the aerial roots touch the pole, and push the staples into the pole at a 45° angle for better grip.
- Use a spray bottle to keep the surface of the pole moist.
- To help your pothos attach to the pole faster, try increasing the humidity in your home to at least 60%. High humidity will increase the growth rate of aerial roots and help them attach to the totem.
- Pin the vines to the pole as they grow, and remember to mist your totem daily.
- After a couple of months, the roots will become fully attached, and your pothos will start climbing the pole without your help.
Growing Pothos on a Stake or Trellis
Stakes and trellises are an easy way to make your pothos grow vertically. You can use any trellis you like depending on your design preferences.
You can use metal, plastic, or even bamboo canes for the stakes.
To keep your pothos from falling over, you will need to tie it to its trellis or stake. Velcro plant ties are ideal for the job because they’re easy to put up or remove, and because they’re wider, they won’t cut into the stems. But if you can’t find any, you can also use jute string, plastic-coated wire ties, or loosely tied cable ties.
One of the best things about using trellises and stakes is that they allow you to be creative with how you want your pothos to climb. For example, you can use hoops or circular climbing supports to tie the vines around the trellis.
Or you can create a teepee-shaped support out of bamboo stakes, use string to attach the vines and let them trail back down after reaching the top.
Will Pothos Climb a Trellis?
Technically speaking, no. Metal or plastic supports and bamboo canes are too thin, smooth, and dry, which means that the pothos roots will not attach to them. Also, pothos is not a twining vine, so it will never wrap around its support.
Of course, you can tie pothos vines to the trellis to keep it vertical. But unless you manually tie each stem as it grows, the weight of the vines will cause them to fall over, and your plant will end up hanging or trailing.
If you want to grow your pothos on a trellis, your best alternative is an untreated wood lattice. This material provides a wider surface for the roots to attach to.
Use garden staples to secure the vines and keep the wood moist, and your plant will eventually start climbing on its own.
How To Get Pothos To Grow on a Wall
You can use a climbing pothos to liven up an empty wall in your home.
This decor idea works well if you have a plant with long stems. The result will look like a veritable living wall covered in luxuriant, creeping vines.
To hang your pothos on a wall, you will first need something to attach it with. J hooks are a good choice as they can also support the weight of longer vines. But if you don’t want to drill into your walls, you can also use self-adhesive wall hooks.
Put your pothos pot close to the wall, then use the hooks to attach each vine in whichever shape or pattern you like.
Can Pothos Damage Walls?
Pothos can damage drywall, paint, or wallpaper. If the walls in your home have wooden paneling, they can also attach to them. This plant’s roots are similar to English ivy’s; when growing outdoors, they can also damage soft mortar.
Luckily, the roots are not strong enough to cause any structural damage. And if you use hooks or self-adhesive clips, it’s doubtful that the roots will start growing into the actual wall.
To avoid potential damage, ensure that the aerial roots never come into direct contact with the wall itself.
How Do You Get Pothos To Climb a Tree?
You can grow pothos outdoors if you live in a humid, tropical climate or USDA zones 9b and higher. And if you have a tree in your garden, you can easily get your pothos to start climbing it.
Start by planting your pothos outdoors. You can do this in mid to late spring. Pick a part of your garden that gets partial shade and is sheltered from the intense midday sun.
Plant your pothos at the base of the tree, and use garden staples to secure the vines to the trunk. Make sure that the aerial roots are touching the trunk.
After a few months, your pothos will attach to the tree and start climbing naturally.
How Long Does Pothos Take To Climb?
Depending on the support you’re using, your pothos will start climbing in a few weeks or months. For example, it will attach to a sphagnum moss in a matter of weeks but may take at least two months to start climbing on a coir pole.
Why Is My Pothos Not Climbing?
The most likely causes are low humidity, low light conditions, or the fact that you’re not using the correct type of support. For example, always ensure the pole is damp if you’re using a sphagnum moss or coir pole. Also, remember that your pothos will never climb a trellis or stake on its own, so you’ll need to tie the vines manually each time.
How Can You Make a Pothos Climb Faster?
Your pothos will need more light and humidity. Bright indirect sunlight is ideal for this plant. If you’re using a sphagnum moss pole, make sure the pole never dries out completely.
If you’re using a coco coir pole, mist the surface daily to keep it moist. You can also increase the humidity in your home to 60% – 70%, which promotes faster aerial root growth.
Can Pothos Climb on String?
No. Pothos vines do not twine, meaning they will not wrap around a piece of string. You can, however, use string to tie the vines to a stake or trellis.
- Firth, R. (n.d.). Vines of Hawaii. https://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/uhmg/news/V12-Firth-vines.pdf
- Exotic Rainforest. (n.d.). Natural variation within aroid and plant species. https://www.exoticrainforest.com/Natural%20variation%20within%20aroid%20and%20%20plant%20species.html