Guide to Pothos Pruning: How-To, Tips & Tricks

Most new pothos (Epipremnum aureum) owners would never think to trim back the lush vines of this popular houseplant. But there are a few reasons why pruning pothos can be better for both the plant and its growing environment.

Routine pruning can keep a vigorous pothos plant under control. Or it can promote new growth to form on a pothos that has seen better days. 

Whatever your reason for cutting away at your favorite potted plant, this guide will teach you everything about pothos pruning and related upkeep.

Reasons Why Pothos Needs Pruning

Unlike some other common houseplants, pothos rarely need pruning. Failing to prune your pothos vine won’t stress or damage the plant. While pruning is completely optional, it can do a world of good for a pothos plant that has outgrown its space or lost its natural vigor.

The biggest reason I recommend pruning pothos is to control the plant’s size and shape. These tropical vines can grow 20 feet or longer, even when kept in a small planter, and may need pruning to keep from getting too big.

Reasons Why Pothos Needs Pruning

Another common reason to prune a pothos is to encourage new growth. Cutting the vines near nodes (sections of the stem where new growth develops) can trigger more vines to grow from said nodes. This technique results in a bushier, better-looking pothos plant when done correctly.

Last but not least, you might want to prune your pothos plant for propagation! Pothos stem cuttings readily grow new roots. You can use this strategy to clone your original Pothos plant.

Best Time to Prune Pothos

Pothos plants are incredibly hardy and don’t mind being trimmed during any time of the year. There are still a few good rules of thumb worth following when planning your houseplant upkeep.

If you want to encourage more vigorous growth, I highly recommend pruning in the spring or summer. This is when the plant is most active (pothos tend to go semi-dormant during winter) and will grow back most readily.

Pruning your pothos in the fall or winter won’t do any damage. The plant will take longer to ‘bounce back’ from its routine haircut.

I also don’t recommend pruning a plant already stressed by its environment. While there are some cases where pruning can help a sick or damaged plant, more often than not, it will only cause more stress. 

How Often to Prune

It’s best to prune your pothos only as needed. This could mean pruning once per year or much less frequently. If your pothos is particularly vigorous, you may even reach for the shears multiple times in a year!

How to Prune Pothos — Step-by-Step

Hiring a professional landscaper to prune your pothos plants is unnecessary. These houseplants are super adaptable and don’t mind a bit of haphazard chopping as long as their needs are met.

Knowing a few basic tricks and tips can go a long way in making your pothos’ pruning as simple and stress-free as possible. 

Equipment Required

  • Garden gloves
  • Pruning shears

Start by ensuring you have the proper tools for the job, and then I’ll walk you through a few basic steps!

1. Grab Your Supplies

You don’t need much to properly prune a pothos vine. The most important thing you’ll need is a pair of clean, sharp pruning shears or scissors. 

I always stress the importance of using clean shears for all pruning tasks. The number of diseases spread from plant to plant on unclean tools is incredible. Taking the time to sanitize your pruning shears before or after each plant will protect your plant collection from potential health issues.

While gloves aren’t necessary the way they are when pruning something like a rose bush, it’s still a good idea to wear them. Some people are sensitive to the oxalate crystals inside pothos sap. Wearing gloves will also help keep your hands clean of potting soil as you work.

2. Examine Your Pothos Plant

Before you start hacking and chopping, step back and decide what your pothos needs most. Are you trying to tame some overly long vines? Or do you want to encourage a bushier growth habit? Your specific goal will influence how you approach pruning and shaping your pothos plant.

3. Remove Brown or Yellow Growth

Regardless of your ultimate goal, I recommend cleaning up your pothos by locating and removing damaged leaves or stems. Cut above the brown or yellow growth, about an inch or so, into normal, green tissue. If yellow leaves on your pothos plant is becoming a problem, I recommend you follow this link to understand what may be causing it.

Remove Brown or Yellow Growth

Removing entire leaves is usually best, even if only part of the leaf is damaged. The exception to this rule is if your pothos plant has very few leaves. If that is the case, you may want to remove only the damaged parts so the plant has enough leaf surface area to photosynthesize.

4. Trim Away Unwanted Growth

Now you can get to work. Follow the advice below based on whether you want to remove excess growth or encourage new growth:

To remove excess growth: Determine which stems are longer than you’d like and remove any excess. It doesn’t matter where you make your cuts on the stem. 

Note that you’ll be removing the stems’ growth points, so no new leaves will emerge from the tips of cut vines. But new stems and leaves can still grow from the remaining nodes along the cut stem.

Be careful not to remove more than one- to two-thirds of the whole plant, depending on its size. Doing so will put undue stress on the pothos. 

To encourage new growth: Decide where you’d like to promote thicker growth on your pothos plant. Select an adjacent vine and locate a node near the point where you’d like new development to form.

Carefully use your pruning shears to cut just below the node — i.e., the node in question should remain attached to the plant. Your pothos will direct growth hormones to this node and, with some luck, a new branch will form in only a matter of time.

Again, don’t remove too much of the plant at once. Your pothos will need energy to generate new growth, so you must remove less than two-thirds of the plant at a time for the best results.

5. Evaluate Your Work

Don’t lose sight of the big picture. Every time you finish pruning a section of your pothos, step back and decide what more (if anything) needs to be removed.

I recommend rotating the plant (or walking around it) to get a good view from every angle. You don’t want to accidentally leave your pothos with an ugly bald spot — I may know from personal experience — because you weren’t paying attention to where you were making your cuts.

6. Propagate the Cuttings (Optional)

Any healthy stem or leaf cuttings taken from your pothos can be set aside for propagation. I won’t go into the details here, but you can easily propagate most pothos cuttings in plain water or moist potting soil.

Propagate the Cuttings (Optional)

Caring for Your Pothos After Pruning

You may be tempted to move your pothos to the plant ICU after a hearty pruning session. However, there’s really no need.

The best thing you can do is to continue caring for your pothos as you always have. Put it back in its original location after pruning is finished. If you must relocate your plant, choose a location that receives the same type of temperature, humidity, and light.

I generally avoid fertilizing immediately after pruning since it can be somewhat stressful. Wait until a week or two after fertilizing so the plant can adjust.

One thing to note is that your pothos may appreciate a little bit more water than normal after pruning. But be careful not to overwater, as that can do more harm than good!

Common Problems After Pruning

In my experience, there aren’t many problems caused by pruning a pothos. It may be a complete coincidence if your pothos show signs of stress after pruning.

Some potential issues associated with pruning include dieback and lack of new growth.

Dieback After Pruning

Dieback could be a sign that you simultaneously removed too much of the pothos. According to the University of Wisconsin, if necessary, pothos can be cut back to 2 inches above the soil. However, houseplants rely on their leaves to make energy, so cutting away too much growth at a single time can essentially ‘starve’ the plant.

Delayed Growth After Pruning

Aggressive pruning can also slow or completely prevent new growth from forming. For example, pruning away all of the leaves on a pothole vine typically causes the vine to stop growing altogether. Again, the best way to prevent this is by pruning conservatively and removing less than two-thirds of the plant at a time.

FAQs Pothos Pruning

When should you prune pothos?

The best time to prune a pothos plant is in the spring. In the spring, your plant will be just exiting winter dormancy and gearing up to put on a ton of new, healthy growth.

Citations

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Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.