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Why are Pothos Leaves So Small?

In their natural habitat, pothos plants produce leaves that can grow to over one foot in length. Indoors, leaves usually range in length from 4 to 8 inches, depending on the variety.

But what if your pothos plant produces small leaves, especially if it’s a variety that’s supposed to have larger leaves?

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Plant Index

Lack of light, depletion of nutrients, hectic watering are just some of the reasons why pothos plants fail to produce large leaves.

While these are the prime reasons for stunted leaf growth in pothos plants, there are plenty of other causes that I’m going to discuss below.

Lack of Light

With reduced light comes reduced photosynthesis, which results in smaller leaves. A lack of light also causes stems to thin and elongate in search for more light.

Pothos plants are often listed as plants that can adapt in low light conditions. And while that’s partially true, an acute lack of light will cause the plant to put out smaller leaves, longer and thinner stems. Not at all how a healthy pothos plant should look like.

Therefore, moving your small-leafed pothos plant to a brighter spot in your home will improve its health, provide the plant with plenty of energy for photosynthesis and better leaf growth.

Without enough light, leaves can also become pale and variegated varieties will lose their variegation.

Fertilizing

Another common cause of small leaf growth in pothos plants is lack of nutrients. Pothos plants are relatively fast growers, so the plant needs nutrients to sustain its growth.

When nutrients in the soil get depleted, especially when the plant is in its growth stage, the plant may not be able to divert enough energy into growing larger leaves.

Often, small leaf growth can be a sign of nitrogen deficiency in a plant. Therefore, in the growing season, it’s best to choose a fertilizer that’s higher in nitrogen.

The other extreme — too much fertilizer — can also cause stunted growth and will eventually cause root burn that will end up killing your plant.

Watering

Pothos plants can take some neglect in their watering schedule, but they do much better if they’re watered on a constant basis every time the top layer of the soil dries.

A shrinkage of leaf size can be the result of a hectic or inconsistent watering schedule, and it’s the plant’s way of adapting to its environment. Both overwatering and underwatering can cause leaf shrinkage.

The amount of water your pothos needs also depends on how much light it gets, how warm it is and how much humidity there is in the room.

Because these factors can change from week to week, setting up a watering schedule isn’t easy. That’s why I recommend that you actually check the moisture level of the potting mix.

If the top layer of the potting mix is dry, you can go ahead and water your pothos without fearing that you’re overwatering it.

If you’re using tap water for your houseplant, I recommend that you let the water aerate overnight, so chlorine gases can escape. Otherwise, chlorine can harm your pothos plant.

Temperature

The temperature range in which pothos plants thrive is between 70-90 F. Extreme temperatures outside of this range can either cause tissue damage and kill the plant or stunt its growth and cause leaf shrinkage.

Leaves can also become more sparse, not just small. Therefore, make sure your pothos plant is placed in a warm area, where there are no cold drafts, or the plant isn’t getting blasted directly with too much heat.

Humidity

Another potential cause of leaf shrinkage in pothos plants is the lack of humidity. As tropical plants, pothos plants grow in high humidity environments.

The air inside our homes can become dry, especially during the winter months. Lock humidity can cause small leaf growth.

To increase the humidity levels around the plant, you can try using a humidity tray (tray with pebbles half immersed in water), you can mist the plant, or invest in a humidifier, especially if humidity levels in your home are lower than the recommended 40%-60%.

Small Container

A pothos plant will not mind being pot-bound but only to a certain point. If the pot is visibly too small and the rootball is so large that there’s very little potting mix remaining in the pot, you need to transfer your plant as soon as possible.

Pothos plants that are heavily pot bound will put out new growth in an attempt to stay alive.

However, the new growth will be weak and leaves will be small because there are no nutrients left to support their growth.

When repotting, don’t oversize the pot. The new pot should only be one or at most two times bigger than the previous size.

If the pot is oversized, the potting mix may take longer to dry after watering, which in turn can cause root rot issues.

Therefore, if you have a pothos that puts out small leaves and it’s also pot-bound, try transferring it to a bigger pot.

Disease

Pothos plants aren’t as prone to diseases as other houseplants, but pests and leaf diseases can affect them too.

Whether it’s a spider mite infestation or an aphid infestation, if pests are left unchecked on your plant, they can cause leaf damage and weaken the whole plant. This can cause small leaf growth.

Leaf spot and blight can also weaken the plant and weaken any new growth.

Keep the leaves of your pothos plants clean and dry to reduce the chances of pests and diseases. Also, quarantine any new plants for a couple of weeks before putting them close to other plants.

Diseases and pests can also be transferred from the tools you’re using when harvesting stem cuttings or when trimming your plant.

Will Small Leaves Grow Bigger?

Small leaves on your pothos plants that have matured will not grow bigger. Same goes for curled leaves — once damaged, the leaves don’t revert back to their previous state.

If you change light conditions, watering, humidity and anything else that might have caused the leaf shrinkage, the new leaves that form will grow bigger.

Small leaves that are just newly formed can be helped to grow bigger if you make the necessary adjustments that support bigger leaf growth.

Pothos plants can be stimulated to grow bigger leaves by changing how much light they receive, how often they’re watered, how much humidity there is, and how often they’re fertilized.

New leaves that form as a result of these changes will grow bigger and denser.

Should You Cut Off Small Pothos Leaves?

If the development of your pothos plant suffers and stems are weak with small leaves, cutting off the leaves themselves is pointless. What you need to do is prune back the plant.

Of course, you also need to make changes in the plant’s environment to ensure that its requirements are met.

Besides making sure that your pothos plant receives plenty of bright light and its other requirements are met, you should also regularly prune the plant to stimulate a bushier growth pattern.

Depending on how much you want to prune back, you can leave longer vines if you’d like or prune back the plant more dramatically.

When pruning, you need to examine the vines and prune vigorous, healthy vines just below a leaf node. This means keeping the leaf node on the stem and cutting about ¼ inch below it.

What this will do is stimulate the plant to shoot out new vines from that leaf node. This will lead to a bushier growth pattern.

Now, when a pothos plant is weakened and fails to produce large leaves, a light pruning may not have the desired effects.

Instead, you’ll need to do a more dramatic pruning that will force new growth from the base of the plant.

Luckily, pothos plants can be pruned way back to the base, so that you’ll be left with only a couple of inches of the plant.

Dramatic pruning coupled with a change in the plant’s environment and upkeep will lead to a healthier plant that will grow bushier and put out larger leaves.

Will Pothos Regrow Leaves?

When the environment in which pothos plants are kept doesn’t sit too well with them — and especially when the plant doesn’t get enough light — you’ll often notice long stems without any leaves.

This could be the result of leaves falling off or simply the result of an increasingly weakened plant.

These stems are also often thin and weak, so keeping these stems on in the hope that leaves will eventually grow is not desirable.

A pothos plant that has weakened to this point will not have the energy to put out new leaves, let alone any sizable leaves.

Therefore, pruning these back will help the plant divert more energy into other parts of the plant, and with changed conditions, eventually shoot out new growth.

If you’ve removed the leaves on the stem instead of pruning back the stem, you’ll also have to make peace with the idea that leaves will not regrow on a weak and lanky stem, so pruning back is your best bet to kick-start new growth on your pothos.

How to Make Pothos Leaves Grow Bigger?

Besides ensuring optimal care for your pothos in terms of light, watering, temperature and humidity, you’ll also need to focus on the following:

  • Prune your plant back regularly — light pruning done regularly will help your pothos grow fuller and thicker. The plant will shoot out new vines and grow larger leaves when pruned regularly.
  • Train your pothos to climb upright — when a pothos plant is helped to climb upwards on a moss pole, instead of allowing it to cascade down the sides of a pot, it seems to be better at producing larger leaves.

Fertilizing, repotting, and disease management should also be in your toolkit when trying to get the best leaf growth out of your pothos plant.

Conclusion

Your pothos plant isn’t supposed to have tiny leaves. Not even indoors. So, when your pothos is struggling to grow leaves, you can bet on it that something is wrong.

Whenever this happens, you can start with the usual suspects — light conditions, watering, fertilizing, humidity, etc. Regular pruning and generally taking good care of your pothos plant will help in kick-starting a better growth pattern and in preventing leaf shrinkage issues in the future.

Posted in Pothos - Updated: November 8, 2021

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