Keeping Pothos in Water: The Pros and Cons
While not all substrates are optimal for pothos plants, they seem to be fine with growing solely in water. That’s right! Just water, no potting mix whatsoever.
Often, when propagating a pothos plant, stem cuttings are rooted in water instead of soil. So, it’s not entirely a surprise that a pothos plant will continue to grow in water, even after it rooted. This proves yet again how fuss-free pothos are as a houseplant.
So, grab a glass jar or a vase and let me walk you through the pros and cons of growing pothos in water as opposed to growing them in a substrate.
Pros and Cons of Growing Pothos in Water
Glass vases and jars make for a fashionable growing vessel for these plants that need little care regardless of the growing medium.
Still, there are some differences when it comes to pothos plants grown in soil versus those grown in water.
To help you decide which option is better both for you and your plant, here are the pros and cons of growing a pothos plant in water.
- It’s easy
- No need to replace potting mix
- No need to worry about overwatering or underwatering
- And no need to worry about root rot
What attracts most of us to grow a plant in water is that it seems simple and straightforward.
You don’t need to deal with the quality of the potting mix or make a mess while potting the plant.
You also don’t need to worry about adding too much or too little water, or maintaining a watering schedule, or actually watering the plant, for that matter.
Also, you don’t need to stress about root rot caused by overwatering, which is often the leading killer of pothos plants.
Clearly, the benefits of growing pothos in water are multiple. But there are some caveats too.
- Stunted growth
- Leaf problems
- Water quality
When grown in clear glass and exposed to sunlight, algae will naturally grow inside your jar or vase, which means you’ll often need to remove the water and scrub the glass clean of algae build-up.
A solution to this is to use darker-colored vases. Algae will still build up, but more slowly, which cuts down the time you’ll need to spend on scrubbing the sides of your vase or jar.
Another potential issue is stunted growth. Your pothos may not get the nutrition it needs from water alone, so you’ll need to add fertilizer to the water.
Dosage, however, can be tricky.
So, you’ll need to experiment with the quantity of fertilizer that’s just enough for your plant to stimulate growth, but not so much that it may end up burning it.
Leaf problems can also appear, but that’s not exclusive to pothos plants grown in water. Still, if your pothos plant is receiving too much sunlight or inadequate amounts of fertilizer, or even too much fertilizer, then its leaves can become yellow or brown.
And the last issue with growing a pothos plant in water is that you’ll need to use chlorine-free tap water for best results.
Water that contains chlorine or chemical disinfectants can cause leaf discoloration in your pothos plant.
If you watch out for these factors, there’s no reason why you can’t successfully grow a pothos plant in water.
How to Care for Pothos Grown in Water?
To make sure you don’t run into troubles when growing pothos in water, here are my time-tested tips on how to care for these plants when you grow them in water:
1. Use a dark-colored vase or jar
Dark-colored glass works better for growing pothos plants in water. Because dark-colored glass will block some of the light, it can slow down the growth of algae, which means less time spent on cleaning the vase.
2. Use chlorine-free water
Chlorine and other chemicals in tap water aren’t a good match for pothos plants. Allow tap water to aerate overnight before using it for your plant.
3. Replace the water often
To prevent clouding, algae growth and bad water chemistry, simply replace the water weekly or every 2-3 weeks, depending on how soon it clouds. Replacing the water also replenishes oxygen levels.
4. Fertilize every 4-6 weeks
Water alone cannot provide the nutrients needed for your plant to thrive. Adding fertilizer is needed to feed your pothos plants and help them grow.
5. Keep leaves above the water line and roots below the water line
Leaves that get into the water can cause rotting that will foul the water and extend to the roots as well. So keep leaves above the water line and remove any leaves that may have fallen into the jar. Likewise, keep the roots below the water line to keep them from drying.
6. Scrape algae off the sides of the glass
Every now and then, check the inside of the jar for algae build-up and scrape off any debris and algae.
How to Propagate Pothos in Water?
Pothos plants lend themselves to easy propagation in water. Here are the steps to follow for successfully rooting a stem cutting:
- Choose a healthy section of the stem, making sure it has a couple of leaves on (3 leaves are plenty).
- Cut a section that’s around 4-6 inches long. Cut an inch below a leaf node.
- Remove leaves that are at the bottom and place the cut end in some rooting hormone.
- Place in chlorine-free water so that at least two leaf nodes are under the water line.
- Place in bright indirect light.
- Replace the water often (every 3-4 days).
- Once roots have formed and are a couple of inches long, you can transfer the cutting in a pot or continue to grow in water.
How Long Can You Grow Pothos in Water?
You can grow pothos in water indefinitely. If given the right conditions and provided with enough nutrients, there’s no reason why the plant won’t do well.
As long as you replace the water every 2-3 weeks, keep the inside of the glass jar debris-free and algae-free, and feed the plant every 4-6 weeks, it can grow in a vase or jar filled with water.
If something doesn’t sit well with your pothos plant, it will usually let you know. Leaves becoming scorched or going pale might mean you’re exposing your plant to too much direct sunlight.
Browning leaves or other leaf discoloration issues may mean you’re overfertilizing or even under-fertilizing.
Stunted growth or small leaves can mean your plant is not getting enough light or it may not be getting enough nutrients.
Don’t be afraid to make changes in your plant’s growing conditions if your plant is not thriving. Move the plant to a different location, replace the water, add less or more fertilizer to see how your plant reacts.
How Fast Can Pothos Grow in Water?
If you’re rooting a pothos stem cutting in water, roots will start to form within 7-14 days. This timeframe is usually when conditions like temperature and light are optimal for this plant.
If conditions aren’t as great, roots may take a bit longer to form, but they will eventually appear within 4 weeks or so.
In terms of growth pattern, the plant will grow faster in the first 2-3 years of its life, then growth will slow down as it matures.
If for whatever reason, your pothos isn’t developing or new growth does not appear for weeks and months on end, you need to check whether the plant is getting enough light or nutrients.
You should also check whether the temperature (within 70-90 °F) or humidity levels are within the range needed for this plant.
If no amount of tweaking the environment of your pothos seems to be producing results, try potting the plant.
This is actually something that I tried with one of my pothos that was simply refusing to put out new growth when kept in water.
Some pothos may naturally do better if potted, so see if that’s also the case with your pothos plant.
Do You Fertilize Pothos Grown in Water?
Yes, pothos that grows in water needs fertilizing too. Water alone, whether tap or bottled, doesn’t contain all the nutrients a plant needs. So, supplementing with a liquid feed is essential.
As a rule, fertilize your water-grown pothos plants every 4-6 weeks with a balanced liquid fertilizer. This frequency is about the same frequency for potted pothos as well.
Dilute the fertilizer to ¼ strength of the recommended dose, or if you’re worried about adding too much fertilizer, start by only adding a few drops in the beginning and adjust the dose, depending on how your pothos is doing.
Cut back on fertilizing during the winter, add fertilizer only every 6-8 weeks or so.
Can Pothos Grow Under Water?
No, pothos plants don’t grow underwater and as such, aren’t good aquarium plants. They can be used if the leaves are kept above the waterline (they’ll rot otherwise) and they can contribute to the microbiology of the aquarium, but only if it’s a freshwater aquarium.
It’s no doubt that it just seems so much easier to grow a pothos plant in water than in soil. Still, there are potential issues with this method as well, so it’s not exactly a carefree method.
Even so, if you follow the recommendations that I discussed in this article, you may indeed have an easier time with a pothos plant grown in water than with one grown in soil.