For today, I’ve written a bit of an update for one of my most popular blogposts — a look at the different pothos varieties + my top tips for keeping them looking their best (originally posted in March 2019). I’ve also updated the photos to show how my plants are looking right now in 2020. All these plants are generally called pothos so I’ve included a range of plants as I thought it would be helpful to share some identification help + care tips for this interesting + increasingly popular group. I hadn’t quite realised how many types of pothos I had until I started putting together this post. There are new cultivars coming onto the market every year + top of my wish-list at the moment is a Scindapsus pictus ‘exotica’… more on that later.
I think the popularity of pothos is a result of their easy-going nature + sculptural, trailing growth habit (trailing plants are so popular) that will really brighten up any room. Not as demanding as the other popular hanging plants like string of pearls, string of hearts + the hoya gang, pothos are perfect for beginner houseplant enthusiasts. They form a solid part of my plant collection + I have them all over my home. I also have a few pots of multiples of the same plant — I like to do this to test out different places they are happy to grow, but mainly because I just find them so enjoyable to look after! I’ll start the post with some general care tips before focusing on the specific types.
Pothos are quite good at showing you visually when they require water + can certainly handle an element of neglect in this respect, though I don’t like to do this to mine too often. I wait until the top 1-2 inches of the soil is dry before watering with tepid water or until they begin to look a bit droopy. If you haven’t watered your plant for a long time + the potting mix has dried out, the leaves will also curl up.
Browning of the foliage is caused by dry air or watering with water that is too cold. Also, showering the leaves every few weeks can help keep the plant free from dust and looking vibrant. Small brown spots (not on the edges) can sometimes appear which can signal under-watering.
Keep away from draughts + sudden drops in temperature; pothos roots are very susceptible to frost damage, so bear this in mind in colder months. Yellowing leaves is a sign of overwatering at this time of year too; make sure the compost doesn’t become waterlogged.
A note on variegation: be aware if you want to take cuttings to grow your collection, the more variegated cuttings will produce more variegated growth. If you want to make up a new plant from leaf cuttings it’s a good idea to have a variety of variegation to create a balanced plant. Light plays a part too of course — if your plant is somewhere too dark, new growth will often be less variegated.
Perhaps the most common of all varieties is the ‘one with the many names’; golden pothos, devil’s ivy + also referred to as epipremnum aureum or scindapsus aureus. It’s the easiest to grow + can be allowed to climb or trail. When grown up a pole with enough warmth, the leaves can get pretty big! It’s golden variegation fluctuates depending on the light conditions in its environment. Lower light produces largely green leaves, whereas in brighter spaces, the foliage is speckled with a warm golden hue. It’s name deriving from ‘aurum‘ — the latin for gold.
If I had to pick one, I think the marble queen variety is my favourite — the delicately speckled foliage is quite something + it was the one that I searched the hardest to get my hands on when I was building my plant collection some years ago. I received some cuttings from my friend Fiona + when I managed to buy a larger plant, I didn’t hesitate… that’s a sign that I love a plant if I start keeping multiples! As it is variegated it needs brighter conditions, so this sits in my south facing window + has been growing really well. I love the creamy variegation on these leaves:
I think my n’joy has been a bit underrated in my collection as it’s been sitting in the same position for ages + when I moved it for watering the other day, I admit I was so surprised by how much it has grown + what an elegant plant it has blossomed into! Compared to the marble queen, the leaves are more painterly, in a ‘brushstroke’ sense, rather than speckled.
Compared to the larger leaves of the marble queen + manjula for example, n’joy has a neat leaf size that makes it the perfect plant for a table top (before it starts to trail!). I keep mine on my dresser most of the time + it effortlessly tumbles down the side.
This is the newest cultivar of pothos I have + in my experience is the most difficult out of all the other varieties (it’s still pretty easy as a pothos, but not as forgiving as some of the others). There is some confusion between these newer varieties that have come onto the market but the best way I can describe the manjula is that it generally has larger, more ‘wavy’ undulating leaves. See the largest leaf in the photo below as an example. Visually, the variegation is a pretty even cross between the n’joy + marble queen. On some foliage, there can be a grey-blue tint present in the patterning. It is also marketed as manjula pothos ‘happy leaf’ from some sellers + it’s easy to see why — these leaves do look pretty happy!
I don’t have this variety of pothos, but wanted to mention it briefly here because I get some questions on instagram about the difference between manjula, n’joy + pearls and jade. As far as I can establish, pearls + jade has smaller leaves than manjula but is similar, in that the variegation is a cross between n’joy + marble queen. Both the manjula + pearls and jade varieties are patented by the University of Florida.
The foliage of the scindapsus pictus (even though it’s commonly known as pothos) is generally smaller than the other plants here, most similar in size to n’joy I think. It’s also called a silver vine because the satin leaves are speckled with a silver patterning which really does sparkle in bright conditions. I would say it is probably one of the harder to grow varieties + can get looking ‘leggy’ quite quickly. These plants are also the quickest to curl up their foliage if they aren’t happy or under-watered. They do unfurl over a day after watering but it can look quite alarming initially!
Within this group, there are quite a few varieties emerging onto the market; silvery ann has more light variegation (see below) + there is also ‘exotica’ which has much larger leaves — I really want to get my hands on one of these!
As the photos here hopefully show, the leaves are slightly bigger + some leaves are more variegated, with greater silvery patterning. When the sunlight is bright, these more variegated leaves look magical + shimmering. The pot to the right is a new plant I’m currently making out of cuttings from the other pot (it got straggly over winter).
The neon pothos is quite a striking plant + one that divides opinion due to its vibrant colouring, those that dislike it often ask ‘what’s wrong with that plant? Why is it so…yellow?’ I wrote a blog post about how to style it if the colour seems a bit overwhelming, which you can read here . In lower light the leaves turn more towards a lime green as opposed to a sulphur coloured yellow, I notice my plant over winter looking darker + less vibrant. It generally has smaller foliage than the golden pothos + its leaf shape is slightly more elongated.
*It is also worth mentioning the conflation of the species names ‘scindapsus‘ and ‘epipremnum‘ which is a bit of a confusing area but generally (as I understand it) scindapsus is more traditionally used in the UK, whereas epipremnum is the more common term in the US. In my vintage gardening books, all these plants are classed as scindapsus, see here Dr Hessayon’s Gold Plated House Plant Expert (P.101) above. In later editions of the book, golden pothos is also referred to as ‘rhapidophora aurea’ instead of epipremnum aureum. Plant classification is always in flux + so names will change from decade to decade… scindapsus + epipremnum are different genera within the Araceae family but are conflated under the common name ‘pothos’ to this day. Houseplant marketing also plays a part with growers using both botanical + colloquial names for the plants they sell which adds an extra layer of confusion. I must add I am not a botanist, but find this area fascinating… I would love to know more about this, so if you have any interesting references please send them to me on Instagram. Regardless of their ‘correct‘ names, these plants really are some of my favourites + are classics in my collection.
There are a few others that aren’t in this post as I can’t get hold of them in the UK — the Jessina pothos + Cebu Blue varieties. Jessina is most similar to marble queen in leaf shape + patterning, but the variegation is more like the chartreuse/sulphur colour of a neon pothos in tone. Cebu blue is perhaps the one that looks least like the other plants here — the leaf shape is more arrow-like + as the name suggests it has a blue tone, sort of like the hues in a ficus elastica tineke. Mature plants will even produce monstera-like slits!
To conclude this post, I will share the easy method I use to help keep my pothos plants looking nice + full. Certain types can look a bit leggy after a time — satin pothos in particular! To give these lanky plants a new lease of life, I will prune the longer stems at the start of the growing season in Spring + cut them up to root in water. You can also root directly in soil if you prefer. If you want to see more about this process have a look at my Repotting Diaries blogposts here+ here!
Once rooted, the cuttings can either be used to create a new plant or added back in the top of the existing pot to give a bushy look.
Finally, here is a behind the scenes photo from watering day at HPH…! My pothos plants all have really similar watering needs + by keeping most of them in my bedroom they get the same environmental conditions + I water + shower them together in the bath like so:
Hope you enjoyed this updated post + if you don’t currently have a pothos in your home, I hope this has inspired you! For starters, I would recommend a golden pothos as one of the easiest-of-all-houseplants in my opinion!
One thought on “Pothos varieties: identification guide + care tips”
There are so many cultivars that were not around in the 1980s, but the first three are quite traditional.