Need Help Propagating Your Pothos Plant in Water?

  • Posted on: 13 August 2019
  • By: TheoryBeyondDesign

As much as I love shopping for new plants, propagating them has become my absolute favorite way to grow my indoor garden collection. The Pothos plant is where I started because everything I read on the matter suggested that this plant was relatively easy to propagate.

Thus far, I have had great success with my cuttings but I've spoken to several people who haven't had quite the same experience and have wondered why.

This post is not an end-all-be-all guide on propagating the Pothos plant, or any other plant for that matter. In fact, my only experience with the Pothos is with the Golden variety. Even still, upon actually paying attention to what it is I do when I am setting up and maintaining new cuttings, I have realized that there are a few steps I do a tad differently that may or may not help my cuttings along to sprouting roots.

Having said that, this post is merely a collection of the tidbits I've gleaned that make up my personal process for creating and maintaining my plant propagations. Let's start with a few facts about Pothos plants, shall we?

Pothos Facts
  • Scientific Name: Epipremnum aureum
  • "Also Known As": Devil's Ivy
  • Light Preferences: Tolerates low light but flourishes under medium to bright light (even flourescents)
  • Water Preferences: Allow the top 1-2 inches to dry out between waterings
  • Size at Maturity: Trailing stems can grow as long 8 feet or more
  • Random: Can be displayed as a hanging plant or trained to climb
My Propagation Steps
  • Cutting Tools: Most instructions I have read encourage you to use clean, sharp shears. When I'm at home, I will typically wipe down my garden shears with a little bit of rubbing alcohol. At the office, I wipe down my regular office scissors with hand sanitizer or a soapy paper towel. Just like washing your hands, cleaning your cutting instrument helps prevent against the spread of any bacteria between plants or anything your scissors have come in contact with. Make sure the blades are dry before cutting. Even though my shears are much sharper than my pair of basic office scissors, I have not personally noticed a difference in the success or failure of my cuttings as long as the cuts are relatively clean. If you find that you are having to "shred" the stem to cut it loose, your scissors are not sharp enough.
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  • Choosing a Vessel: Because I place heavy emphasis on decorating with plants, choosing what to propagate my plants in is pretty fun! I have seen them placed in opaque vessels and those will certainly work. I, personally, enjoy keeping an eye on the root progress (and getting disproportionately excited at the first sprout - just me?) so I prefer to use clear glass vessels. My favorites are 6-inch test tubes (this is a good time to check out some of the propagation decor items I have in my shop...just saying...) and the little glass Yoplait Oui jars. The shape and size is best determined by how large your cutting is and how much you intend for the roots to grow while in the vessel. There are so many decorative jars, viles, tubes, vases, etc. to choose from so take your pick!
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  • Making the Cut: As I mentioned above, how you cut is very important to the health of your propagated plant. Something else to consider is where on your plant to make the cut. I will start with the most recommended way and that is to find a node and cut an inch or so below it. A node is where the plant splits of into two or more growth sections. On the Pothos plant specifically, these can usually be identified with little brown "nubs" that look dormant or dead. They are not. In fact, when submerged in water, these nubs are what typically form the new roots for your cutting. Because growth is already supported from the nodes of a plant, they are likely to be more successful at continuing that process during propagation and usually pretty quickly. I have personally had 100% root-sprouting success (so far) with with these types of cuttings. The other method is simply cutting the stem of a leaf without including its node and placing it in in water. Thus far, this method has worked about 50% of the time for my own plant propagation. I have found that the stem can succumb to rot before sprouting roots and the leaf just wilts. I will still continue to try this method but I must admit is has been less successful.
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  • Water Maintenance: Water maintenance is where I feel my methods differ slightly from instructions I have found on the Internet. Most will instruct you to change the water out completely a couple of times a week to introduce new oxygen into the system. I wholeheartedly believe that this works perfectly. However, I could never remember to do that and I was always afraid that I risked shocking the plant by temporarily removing it from its container and back. I also think I was equating it to that shocking cold you feel after climbing out of pool water that your body has just acclimated too. I don't know if it is the same for plants but it certainly wasn't pleasant for me! Anyway, in my experience, I have found that between water absorption by the plant and just plain evaporation, I am reminded to top off the water to keep the nodes, stem, or sprouted roots fully submerged. This still regularly introduces new oxygen to the system while allowing me to learn the rate at which my cuttings go through water in different types of vessels. I kind of prefer this. Call me lazy, but I keep so many plant propagations now that completely swapping out each vessel would just be too time consuming! AIN'T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT. Well, some of you do, I guess.
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  • Lighting: Excessive light can be very harsh on a plant that has been removed from a stable support system and essentially been asked to regrow itself. Some light sources (like sunlight and incandescent bulbs) also provide heat. While this can be helpful in maintaining proper ambient temperature, it can also aid in the dehydration of your leaves. It has been useful for me to start with the mature plant's light requirements and then dial it back a bit. To err on the side of caution, you should aim for slightly lower light levels until roots start to appear. Pothos varieties have such a wide range of light tolerances that it has been okay for me to just keep my cuttings in bright, indirect light until I see roots.
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  • To Pot or Not to Pot: At this point, we've been eagerly watching the progress of our cutting's root growth (again, that might just be me...) and wondering whether or not it's time to transplant it to soil. Let me just add that I have always planted my cuttings in soil. I have also seen where you can just let them "live" in the water let that be that. I would like to try this but I need to find the right vessel first because the test tubes I use do not seem like they would be able to support this in the long term. More on that later... Okay, back to dirt. I honestly, do not have a set time frame for this stage in the process. I do, however, watch for two things. First, depending on the size of the plant, I make sure my cutting has sprouted at least two roots that are a few inches long. Once that has happened, you will typically find yourself refilling the water supply much more often than in the beginning, bringing me to my second tell-tale. Because you've now got a healthy root system, the plant is pushing for increased growth and taking in more water (this is assuming the environmental conditions haven't changed drastically like reduced humidity). This has always been a good time for me to plop my new Pothos plant into moist soil. So far, so good!
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Wrapping It Up

Most of my propagated Pothos plants have done extremely well which is the only reason I feel comfortable sharing my slight method differences. A few of them have grown large enough for me to take new cuttings from them and that just feels good! Like I said in the beginning of this post, Pothos plants are known for being easy to grow and propagate but don't feel bad if some of your cuttings haven't succeeded. Tweak your methods a bit and find what works!

What are some personal tips and tricks you use to successfully propagate your houseplants in water? Share them below!

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