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How much fertilizer can my Epipremnum aureum Take?

August 6, 2009

How much fertilizer can my Epipremnum aureum (AKA Pothos)Take?

I want my Epipremnum aureum to grow as much as possible with oversized leaves and thick branches. The plant loves Miracle Grow 10-15-10. I overfertilize a lot. I recently gave it 4x the recommended dosage. This did not harm the plant at all.

How much more can I fertilize without killing or harming it? Is there a stronger or better mix for this type of plant?


Comments (27)

  • Mentha

    The trick to big leaves is you'll have to give the guy room to climb. It won't get large leaves without a lot of light and almost tropical settings year round. It will also get smaller leaves if it hangs. You can feed it all you want but without these things it will just burn.

  • dragon49

    I have southern exposure on my windowsill where the plant is. In the summer months it gets a lot of sun.

  • terpguy

    Just rumor but I think mentha got it with the climbing. I've heard once that they don't develop large leaves unless they are able to climb. My only concern with the light comment, and maybe mentha will address this for me cause I'm speaking on a thin limb with this, is that light usually has a dwarfing effect since it doesn't need as much leaf surface area to get the same amount of light as a leaf in shade....hence large leaves on tropical understory plants. I could be very wrong here but I do have quite a number of thes in LARGE south windows getting sun most of the day and they don't get very large leaves. Quite the contrary. *shrugs* I dunno.

  • PRO

    You (Dragon) need to read Liebig's Law of the Minimum. You cannot make a plant grow more by supplying nutrients in an overabundance. It just doesn't work that way.

    To maximize growth, use a well-aerated soil and supply nutrients in a range from adequate to luxury. Supplying nutrients in concentrations beyond the luxury range, makes it more difficult for the plant to absorb water and the nutrients dissolved in water, so it actually DIMINISHES growth.

    No plant uses more P than N at any growth stage. There is virtually never a reason to use a fertilizer that supplies more P than either N or K. You are simply wasting the P and adding unnecessarily to the electrical conductivity and total dissolved solids in the soil, which brings us full circle to Liebig's Law and fertilizing at higher rates higher than necessary. It's much closer to accurate if you'd said your plant tolerates the 10-15-10 than it loves it. You can supply all the NPK your plant needs in a FAVORABLE ratio, by using a fertilizer that supplies nutrients in (extremely close to) the same ratio the plant uses. That would be a 3:1:2 RATIO fertilizer like MG or Peter's 24-8-16, MG 12-4-8 (liquid) or Foliage-Pro 9-3-6.

    Large leaves are produced under low light conditions, but so are long internodes. You may not want the long internodes, so there is a choice. Bright light reduces leaf size and shortens internodes. Tight roots also reduce leaf size AND shorten internodes. Your best bet to accomplish your stated goal is a very large container with a very fast soil and bright light but not full sun. This also guarantees the plant will grow closer to its genetic potential than any other soil/light combination.


  • jonvanzile

    I'm still new here, but I'm really enjoying these threads. As for the pothos vines, in my experience, they only develop "mature" leaves if they're allowed to climb. I can't recall ever seeing an Epipremnum with mature leaves in an indoor setting (outside of a tropical conservatory). Where I live (Zone 10b), however, they grow into tree-swallowing monsters. And yes, they will grow up a tree and into full subtropical sun. The mature leaves are usually variegated and much more deeply lobed than the immature variety grown in pots. I've never tried this myself, but if you wanted to stimulate mature leaves, try making a moss pole for the plant to climb and give it year-round warmth and plenty of water. Beyond that, use best-practices for soil composition and fertilizing. More fertilizer won't do the trick -- you can't fool them into thinking they're home.

  • Mentha


    I live very close to Santa Barbara, and other areas where aroids are planted in the ground. The only time I've seen Pothos with large leaves is from greenhouse grown plants, or plants grown outside and allowed to climb a tree. It's just observation that they do get larger leaves in better light and allowed to climb. They will not get huge leaves inside unless they are given tropical settings. Go ask on the aroid forum, and see that most if not all of the growers will say the same thing as I did.

  • terpguy

    S'all good Mentha. Its just that contradicted what tiny nugget I know. I only within the last few months discovered that pothos leaves actually can get that large, and NEVER hear about them getting that big. The only time I heard anything was that one time when I heard they will only get big if they climb, and there was no elaboration. So I dont' know anything about getting them large. But I totally agree with you. I am an interior landscaper, dealing with pothos indoors is my job, and I have NEVER seen a large leaved pothos that didn't originate in a nursery.

    Al, what a beautifully circular argument :)

  • PRO

    I hope that you meant the part that brought the conversation back to Liebig's Law and not that I was chasing my tail. ;o)

    I want to clear something up. I don't really even know much about pothos because I don't grow them, but I DO know something about physiology. I wasn't contradicting anyone directly. I was speaking more in generalities, but what I said was true.

    Lets imagine 1 leaf on a pothos vine. The same leaf, growing in the same position on the vine and all cultural conditions equal, would have more surface area in dim light than in bright. That might be a better way of explaining it. Plants in low light need more surface area to absorb more light (more photons will strike the larger surface. The plant 'captures' these photons during photosynthesis & turns them into little batteries [molecules of sugar]), so the leaves grow larger. In sun, they need LESS surface area, so they grow smaller. We also know that plants get leggy in low light, and that's because the internodes (spaces between the leaves) grow longer.

    I'm going to muse for a second about the larger leaves on pothos allowed to climb. There are two points I will mention. The first is that many plants are genetically programed to produce progressively larger leaves as the branch/stem elongates. Look at any Ficus and note how the mature leaves grow larger as they get closer to the ends of the branch. This is one thing that may be in play with pothos.

    The second is this: In bonsai, we often use a sacrifice branch that we allow to grow completely wild. It often looks very ugly because it's not intended to be a part of the composition. It's there to to increase the vitality of the plant & help it gain energy prior to the next major procedure in the plants path toward becoming a bonsai. Thanks for being patient. I told you all that, so I could say this: We usually train these sacrifice branches to grow vertically. Those vertically growing branches will increase in mass at greater than twice the rate of branches that are trained to horizontal positions, and always produce larger leaves. I suspect that the larger leaves on climbing pothos is a close parallel to one or the other of these known reactions, or a combination of both.


  • karen715

    There is another aspect to Epipremnum growth. There is a marked difference between juvenile and mature foliage. The foliage doesn't just get bigger, it changes form. Plants grown in typical household conditions (low light, low humidity, generally hanging rather than climbing) retain their juvenile foliage (small, oval to somewhat heart-shaped, entire) indefinitely. Plants grown in their natural habitat, or in environments that successful mimic their natural habitat, grow mature foliage (much larger, with an elongated heart-shape, and with splits like those of Monstera.) So the change in size is part of a different stage in the plants development, and not the same reaction to light demonstrated by plants that whose leaves retain a consistent form, if not a consistant size, throughout their natural life cycle.

  • PRO

    Good point, K - another aspect that can be added under genetic influences. We, like plants, go through several life stages. Embryonic, juvenile, adolescent (intermediate in plants), and (sexually) mature, are stages also roughly mirrored in plants. Where we vary greatly is in the way our cells age.

    I'm not sure the 'stage change' idea is the whole answer though. I still lean more toward the cultural influence of the vertical growth than my other possibility or yours. I also don't think that whether a plant hangs or grows vertically can ultimately influence it to remain in juvenile phase or to advance to a more mature phase because phase change is determined by ontogenic age (more on that in a sec), which has a direct relationship to the number of cell divisions a plant or plant organ has undergone.

    First, posters are reporting that plants grown vertically produce larger leaves. It would seem to be possible that the production of larger leaves could coincide with phasal changes in the plants development, but then the reports would be sporadic - leaf size on some plants would increase, but not on others that have not reached the necessary phase. What we're hearing is that a change to vertical growth increases leaf size across the board, which doesn't support phasal change as the answer.

    More importantly though, growth phases are determined by the ontogenetic age of the plant, not the chronological age, as it is in humans. In animals, body cells all mature at approximately the same speed. Plants grow by consecutive divisions of cells at the growing points (meristems), so their various parts are different ages (the top of the plant is younger than the basal portion, chronologically). However, once a plant has reached a sufficient age to have mature tissues, the plant carries that phase with it through vegetative cloning. An example of this is seen in fruit trees that may take 10 or more years to bloom/fruit in a container, but when sexually mature scions are grafted to immature understock, the trees bloom and often fruit in the next growth cycle.

    Since virtually all pothos are cloned by cutting or tissue culture, they will retain the (undoubtedly) sexually mature phase of the parent material. In other words, they are already in the sexually mature phase, a plant's last and most mature phase, when we buy/acquire them, which would seem to preclude phasal change as the explanation as well.


  • karen715

    Why do you assume that the original plants from which our Epipremnum are cultured had reached maturity? I have grown one of their relatives, Monstera deliciosa, a few times from seed. You cannot get any more juvenile than that. Yet, I was able to take and root cuttings from young plants before they reached maturity (developed leaves with the characteristic splits) since they, like Epipremnum, produce aerial roots quite early in their development.

    My position was not that the development of mature foliage is entirely a function of age. My mother had plants which had belonged to my grandmother that were more than 30 years old, grown in good, but not excessively bright light, with smallish, juvenile foliage. Rather it is that certain conditions must be met (most importantly a chance to grow vertically) before the plant will advance to the next stage of larger leaves. We all agreed that fertilizer won't do it. I was further taking issue with the idea that light was the determining factor. In her book Aroids, Plants of the Arum Family, Deni Brown states that typical growth pattern of Epipremnum pinnatum 'Aureum' in places where it has escaped into the wild is that it will "carpet the ground with juvenile foliage, but starts to climb and abruptly changes leaf size when as soon as it reaches a vertical surface".

    *bolding mine

  • jonvanzile

    For anybody who has seen Epripremnum grow in the ground, in a habitat they're acclimated to ... there is no question that the plants only develop mature leaves when they begin to climb. I've seen many, many situations, whole forests, where the young vines cover the ground with immature leaves that look just like conventional pothos vine. But that vine hits a tree and starts climbing, and sometimes within a few feet of the ground, the mature leaves start to develop. These leaves are markedly different--in coloration and form--from juvenile pothos. They are deeply variegated, lobed and much larger, often up to a foot across. It has nothing to do with the age of the plant, nor is it a function of how much light the plant has. Inside, I can keep a pothos vine for years and it will never reach maturity. But I put it outside, let it climb, and viola, mature leaves.

    Monstera, as aroids, are somewhat similar, but there is not the same marked difference between immature and mature forms. Moreover, monstera will develop mature leaves no matter where they are planted ... container grown monstera will quickly develop the same leaf form as climbers. This is not the case with pothos.

    It's funny, though, because it sounds like everyone pretty much agrees on all these points. More to the point, I think for the poster, is that it's takes extraordinary circumstances indoors to coax mature leaves from a pothos.

  • Mentha

    thank you Karen,

    I would have mentioned mature growth, but was in a rush and huff last night. Having a lot of repairs done on my house now. I had to clean out my whole kitchen to have the floors repaired and I feel like I'm being invaded by needless stuff.

  • PRO

    Karen - just because foliage is small does not make it juvenile. That's like saying human dwarfs will always be children, or they can never grow into 'sexually mature adults'. Both you and Jon are assuming that the leaves suddenly change phase when they start to climb, but I doubt that. They may change, but to say they suddenly change phase is going to be difficult to support physiologically, no matter what the book said.

    It is far more believable to suggest it is something cultural that causes the simple change in the leaves than to believe a plant that is 30 years old would not be mature. I think you and Jon are using a term that describes a plant phase (juvenile) to describe the appearance of the leaves, and that is not technically correct. If the plant has reached a sexually mature phase, the leaves are not juvenile, no matter what their appearance, and that they do change appearance is not necessarily an indication they have matured - only changed. Wouldn't it be logical to say that the (30 year old) leaves are mature and something cultural causes morphologic changes?

    I'm perfectly willing to admit if I'm wrong. I think we can isolate the two positions by saying that you (Karen, Jon, perhaps others) are saying that it is the fact that a 30 year old plants begin to climb that causes an actual phasal change (which would logically be from juvenile to sexually mature) that in turn changes the shape and or size of the leaf. My position is that a 30 year old plant is already sexually mature and at the most mature phase of it's life cycle, and it is something cultural that causes the change in leaf appearance.

    This is as close as I could come to anything definitive. It comes from this page,


    which appears very credible, if you'd like to take a peek, but there is nothing there that addresses our issue specifically:

    "We call the changes that occur during the life of a plant morphogenesis, i.e. the changes seen as a specimen grows from a juvenile to an adult. The scientific name for the "morphing" process is ontogeny" (note my offering above). "Think of it as the life of a child. As children grow they constantly change in appearance. If you just look at your own childhood photos or those of your grown children you are looking at those changes in ontogeny."

    If you can find something dependable that shows this plant remains in juvenile phase until it begins to climb, you'll have proven your assertion. I'll keep looking as well - for something that shows the change to be cultural. ;o)

    Interesting discussion. Too bad it hinges on such a fine point.

    Take care.


  • jonvanzile

    I've continued to look into this question a bit tonight. Here's a passage from "The Tropical Look," by Robert Lee Riffle. Not a scientific study of the pothos, but a well-researched book: "All have large to very large leaves whose juvenile forms are markedly different from the mature leaves; juvenile leaves are smaller and not lobed, whereas the mature leaves are lobed and gigantic. In reality, it would seem the leaf form is not so much a function of age as it is of environment: the leaves never assume mature form, no matter how old the plant is, unless the plant climbs into nearly full sunlight. All species travel over large areas of ground until they reach a support upon which to ascend. ... Fortunately, cuttings taken from the climbing stems tend to keep the mature leaf form even when they can no longer climb."

    So ... this supports your earlier point about mature plants remaining mature after they've been cloned, but also supports the idea that the pothos remains in immature form until certain cultural conditions are met (e.g., climbing), independent of age. Now, my question is: why? I grow many species of aroids, but I've never actually dug into why this particular genus (containing 8 species) acts in this interesting way. Any idea?

  • jonvanzile

    My last thought: has anyone ever seen a pothos flower while it still has immature leaves? I personally haven't, but that's just my observation. I've only seem them develop flowers as mature, large-leaved climbers. If these plants only flower once they've developed mature leaves, then doesn't that imply that the change is more profound than morphological?

  • karen715

    Al, you are either deliberately putting words into my mouth, or seriously misunderstanding me. I never said, nor do I believe I implied, that foliage is juvenile just because it is small. Growing in size is part of changing phase, but it is not the only part. It is my contention that plants like my mother's remained effectually juvenile because their foliage has retained its juvenile shape and structure: the leaves have not become elongated (different from just getting big; I have seen very large Epipremnum leaves that have not taken on the elongated adult shape, though they are approaching the adult size) and the leaves have not developed the characteristic splits.

    Your dwarf analogy falls flat. Little people remain short, but they clearly take on other aspects of their adult form and maturity, including sexual maturity. Rather, I would compare Epipremnums in typical home culture to female gymnasts that compete at the Olympic level. Many of those girls, despite being in their mid-to-late teens, do not menstruate or otherwise show signs of sexual maturity typical of young women their age, because their physical regimens do not allow them to mature in that way. They look like little girls. I would not, however, consider them otherwise less mature in other ways than other teens. Likewise, the Epipremnums do not appear to achieve sexual maturity; their physical regimen (typical home culture) does not appear to allow it. They look like juvenile plants, even if they are thirty years old. I have never seen nor heard of such Epipremnums flowering. If you can find me an example of an older Eprimemnum with leaves that have retained their juvenile appearance that has also demonstrated its maturity by flowering, then you will have proven your assertion.

  • dragon49

    Thanks for the replies.

    I have much more information about Epipremnum aureum than I asked for.

    It is a great all purpose plant. I have overwatered, underwatered, overfertilized, underfertilized and given these plants many different sources and intensities of light. I have yet to kill any. They all have grown and thrived.

    Here are pics of 2 of my children:








  • Mentha

    Your plants look extremely leggy. Is it possible ot let your plants have a vacation outside under a tree or porch hanging? I would also assume with the white crust on your pots that they need to be flushed of salts and fed less. All speculation because the quality of your pictures are fuzzy, but I don't see anything but darkenss in the pots, which give the idea that your soil is heavy also.

  • PRO

    I suppose in the end it's not all that important and nothing to get too excited about. I think any of us is willing to relinquish our position if something definitive comes up. If I come across anything, I'll let you know, and I hope you'll do the same.

    Take care, guys. ;o)

    Sorry if we bored you, Dragon.


  • dragon49

    I was not bored - I was soaked with knowledge.


    Sorry about the out of focus pictures - I was tired when I shot them. Good catch with the observations. The white crust is from too much nutes. The soil is very heavy now, as I recently flushed both plants with 2.0 liters of water.

  • Mentha

    I would suggest dealing with the soil, over feeding, and then the light before you attempt to make the plant produce mature leaves. Take the plant to the shower and let it run for about ten or so minutes, then use vinegar to disolve the white crust on the pots, use an old toothbrush. Do not get it in the soil or else you will kill any microbes still living in it.

  • dragon49

    I have 2 followup questions:

    1 - Please identify an insect that I sometime see on the leaves: It is tiny, black, and it flies.

    2 - I would like to transplant a cutting outside, however, my zone has real winters. Will it simply die when it starts getting cold?

    Thanks again

  • PRO

    1) Odds are it's a fungus gnat, especially if the soil remains wet for extended periods, but not enough info to tell.

    2) Yes


  • saravanan j

    @dragon49..... first of all keep in mind that, Epipremnum is a potential parasite. The thick spikes you see on the nodes are really suckers that penetrate trunk of trees. once more of suckers persuade the tree, they start getting juices from the tree for free. then comes the monsterous leaves due to over indulgance. That is why Epipremnum when let over tree trunks produce big leaves( i had witnessed leaves the size of banana trees).When these plants dont get a potential host trees the spikes modify as roots and thrive. in total this the most opportunistic species i have ever saw in my life.

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    I'm not sure the point of adding to a 10 year old thread but the above comment is incorrect. Epi's are no more parasitic than English ivy!! The aerial roots they produce while climbing are only for attachment - they do not pierce the trunk nor do they suck any juices or nutrients from the tree. The tree is only a support system.

  • tropicbreezent

    I agree gardengal, the parasite comment is totally incorrect. But looking back up the rest of the thread there's quite a few erroneous comments. They don't grow larger leaves because they're in low light and smaller leaves when in brighter light. It's the other way round. There's many rainforest species that stay juvenile for years, even decades, and only mature when conditions become right. If the conditions become right sooner, they mature sooner. Not a matter of age. So the E. aureums mature when they get up high. From up top they send down vines through the air to the ground (unattached to the tree). Even though from a mature plant these vines have immature leaves. They grow across the ground until they reach another tree. It's only when they finally get higher up the other tree that they start to produce mature leaves.

    I also have Epipremnum pinnatum and E. amplissimum, both of which have mature leaves and flower much closer to ground. E. aureum on the other hand is an altitude freak.

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