Pothos plants, otherwise known as ‘Devil’s Ivy,’ are known for their low requirements and forgivingness. You can place these beautiful vining plants anywhere in your home, and they will reward you with long, abundant vines and lush green leaves.
Forgot to water them? No problem. These plants will bounce right back after a little bit of neglect.
But don’t be fooled! Like any other plant, even Pothos can give you a rough time when it doesn’t receive its preferred conditions. At that point, we’re often asked, “why is my pothos not growing?” Luckily, these problems are quickly identified and fixed.
8 Reasons For Pothos Not Growing
1. Too Little Light
Houseplants like Pothos require sunlight to photosynthesize. Through photosynthesis, plants create energy, which they need to be able to grow new, healthy leaves.
Without enough sunlight, your Pothos may grow leggy, long stems and small leaves, and variegated versions, like the Golden Pothos, will put out fully green leaves without any variegation.
Low light conditions are also the most common reason for a stunted growth habit in Pothos plants. Leaves may appear small and crooked due to the plant not having enough energy to develop them properly.
Just like plants need light, they also need ample amounts of water. Water is essential because it delivers nutrients from the soil into the plant, aids photosynthesis, and helps the plant sustain its stems, leaves, and roots.
Pothos plants can withstand some slight underwatering, but frequent periods of drought will cause issues in the long run. Underwatering is one of the most common reasons for stagnated growth in houseplants.
Ideally, the soil of your plant should be moist at all times. This way, the plant has access to moisture whenever it needs it. Other dehydration symptoms include dry, shriveled-up leaves, compacted and hydrophobic soil, leaf loss, curling leaves, and wilting.
When you are overwatering your Pothos, you are essentially drowning its roots. Due to the excess water in the soil, there is little airflow to reach the roots. The high water content in the soil causes the roots to suffocate.
As the roots are struggling, they can’t deliver any water or nutrients to your plant’s foliage, which is why we will see yellow leaves, stunted growth, leaf loss, and brown spots due to overwatering.
Your Pothos will put all of its energy into trying to rescue and restore its roots rather than growing new leaves. If your plant is frequently overwatered, it will likely develop root rot. This disease is very common among indoor plant owners and is deadly to your plants.
4. Lack Of Nutrients
Producing leaves takes a tremendous amount of energy from a plant. Pothos needs a balanced amount of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus to produce healthy new foliage. Your plant may cease growing if there is an imbalance or a deficiency in these nutrients.
Even though they don’t require lots of fertilizing, living in the same pot for years can cause nutrient deficiencies over time.
Both over- and underwatering can also contribute to deficiencies because giving too much water will flush the nutrients out of the soil, and too little water will fail to deliver the nutrients to the leaves.
5. Plant Is Too Root-Bound
When a plant is root-bound, there’s little room left in the soil for the roots to grow and expand. You will know if your Pothos is rootbound if you remove it from its pot and see that roots have taken over most of the soil.
When this happens, it cannot absorb and deliver water and nutrients because very little soil is available around the roots. This lack of space can lead to dehydration and malnourishment over time.
6. Temperature Issues
Either too hot or too cold temperatures can cause your Pothos to stop growing. The ideal temperature range for a Pothos is between 70 and 90°F (21–32°C). Avoid temperatures below 50F (10C) and above 90F (33C), as your houseplant may become stressed and stop growing.
It may be winter where you are. This could also cause a lack of growth in your Pothos. Due to less sunlight and colder temperatures during the cold winter months, your plant may have gone dormant.
Dormancy means that it is preserving energy so it can grow bigger and stronger in spring.
8. Pests Infestations
There are many houseplant bugs that your Pothos can fall victim to, such as aphids, spider mites, or mealybugs. These pests suck the life out of plants by feeding on the nutrient-rich sap inside your plant’s foliage, causing slowed plant growth and leaf damage.
Some other symptoms of pest infestations include webbing on the leaves or stems, small black or white-colored specks on the foliage, white, fuzzy substances on the leaves or brown bumps on the leaves and stems.
Pests can significantly weaken your pothos’ immune system, making them more susceptible to disease and bacterial infections. Keeping up with regular pest control is important to keep your plants healthy and protected.
6 Ways To Encourage Your Pothos To Grow
Now that you’ve identified the cause of your Pothos not growing, it’s time to figure out how to encourage it to put out new leaves again. Luckily, these plants are resilient and will likely recover quickly.
1. Revision Your Watering Schedule
Pothos plants like to remain moist between waterings. The best way to ensure the plant stays hydrated without drowning is by checking the soil with your fingers. Feel the soil about halfway down. If it feels dry, go ahead and give your plant a drink.
Please wait a little longer if it still feels wet to the touch.
The type of soil and pot you use for your plant is also important. Using a planter with drainage holes in the bottom is crucial. This helps to reduce the risk of overwatering and root rot significantly, as the holes allow excess water to escape from the pot, so the soil doesn’t remain wet for too long.
A well-draining soil mix will also help ensure the proper moisture levels in your plant’s soil. Dense soils that hold onto too much moisture can increase the risk of overwatering, and soil that’s too sandy or airy will dry out too fast, which doesn’t give your plant roots a good chance to drink.
For Pothos, the best soil mix consists of potting soil with additional perlite and orchid bark.
2. Ensure Proper Lighting Conditions
Keeping your Pothos in bright, indirect sunlight is optimal. Variegated Pothos varieties like the Marble Queen Pothos will require more light than an all-green version, such as the Jade Pothos, or Baltic Blue. The lighter the leaf, the more light it needs.
These plants can handle some direct morning sun, but harsh afternoon sunlight will burn the leaves. Aim for bright, indirect light.
A west- or east-facing window gives the plant a few hours of the soft morning or late afternoon sunlight without the risk of burning the foliage by direct sunlight.
3. Keep Your Pothos Well-Fertilized
On average, Pothos will like to be fertilized monthly during the growing season, from March to October. A balanced, water-soluble fertilizer is sufficient.
We recommend diluting the solution of liquid fertilizer to 50% of the recommended strength to reduce the risk of overfeeding and root burn.
Don’t fertilize your Pothos if one of the following is true:
- It is currently winter in your area.
- You repotted your plant within the last six months.
- You’ve fertilized Pothos within the last two months.
Overfeeding can be just as harmful to your plant as underfeeding. Excess salts in liquid fertilizer can draw moisture from the roots, which is called root burn.
Overfertilized plants will have yellow or brown leaf edges, yellow leaves, and leaf loss. Left untreated, it can lead to root rot and kill your plant.
If you suspect you’ve overfed your Pothos, stop fertilizing for at least three months and continue to water the soil thoroughly. Flushing will rinse out any buildup created by the excess fertilizer.
4. Repot Your Plant If Needed
If your plant is very root-bound, it will benefit from a repot. You are dealing with a root-bound Pothos if you see roots poking through the drainage holes or the top of the soil.
When repotting, be very gentle with the roots. Excessive root damage can lead to transplant shock.
Choose a new pot about 1-2 inches (5-7cm) larger in diameter than the previous pot. Avoid potting up too big because this can also lead to overwatering.
5. Prune Your Pothos
Pruning your plant can encourage it to put out new foliage, primarily if it has grown leggy due to low light. To prune your Pothos, take some sterilized pruning scissors and cut off a vine.
You will want to ensure that you are cutting below a node. A node is the thick part of the stem where the leaves and aerial roots (little brown knobs on the stems) grow from. This is also where the plant will continue to put out new growth after being cut.
The parts of the plant you’ve cut can easily be used as propagations to create a new plant. Place the cutting in a water vessel, ensuring that the leaf nodes are submerged. After a few weeks, the cutting has grown roots, and you can transfer them to a soil medium.
6. Rule Out Pests
Sap-sucking insects will drain your plant of nutrients and energy, so your Pothos must remain pest-free to stay healthy and keep growing. Keep pests at bay by using an organic insecticide regularly according to the package instructions.
If you find bugs on your Pothos, continue with treatment as soon as possible. If you catch a pest early on, you can significantly reduce the damage that is to come.
Rinse off the plant entirely in the shower. Sometimes you need to manually remove bugs, such as scale insects, from your plant’s leaves.
After rinsing the plant, spray it with insecticide and isolate it from the rest of your plant collection.
You can treat most houseplant pests reasonably quickly. So if you find a pest on your Pothos, don’t panic! After successfully treating the pest, your plant will continue to grow beautiful and lush before you know it.
So, there you have it. Eight causes, and six ways to avoid having to ask the question, “why is my pothos not growing?“. Now that it’s growing, want to know how to make pothos grow faster?
Davin is a jack-of-all-trades but has professional training and experience in various home and garden subjects. He leans on other experts when needed and edits and fact-checks all articles.