Pothos (Epipremnum Aureum) is one of my all-time favorite plants, bar none. I love the radiant variegation of Golden Pothos, the deep greens of Jade Pothos, and the casual sophistication of Njoy or Snow Queen – no matter the variety, it never fails to charm.
Otherwise known as Devil’s Ivy, pothos vines hail from the tropical rainforests of the Solomon Islands.
To get the best from your pothos, their soil must hit all the same beats as that found on the forest floor.
It’s far easier than it sounds, and once you have our favorite pothos soil mix recipe in hand, you’ll find that almost all the drama of growing them indoors vanishes overnight.
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Why Mix Your Own Pothos Soil?
It’s no secret that I love mixing my own potting blends. It’s a mixture of pride and pragmatics. When you mix your own blends, you also can tinker with the type of soil and engineer the best potting soil for different species and for each plant.
My Golden Pothos will grow ruggedly in just about anything I throw them in, but my Snow Queen and Africna Violets are somewhat fussier and prefer a slightly different blend.
It’s really rewarding to make a small change and see a big result.
I also find it much simpler to keep a bag of each main ingredient to hand rather than a commercial blend suited to each and every type of plant in my collection.
It takes all of five minutes to blend the perfect soil, free of synthetic fertilizers or harmful fillers, and it’s the best way to give plant roots exactly what they need right when they need it.
These types of well-draining soils even work well with plants like Aloe Vera, so it’s versatile enough to use around your garden.
Fun Fact: Pothos are considered lucky plants in the home and make great alternatives to other bad luck plants. They are also perfect for those with plant allergies, as they have little to no allergic impact.
Pothos Soil Mix Essentials
Indoor plants have more complex needs than plants growing outdoors in garden soil.
A potted plant’s whole world is contained in the soil within its pot. Get it right, and you’ll see your plants thrive effortlessly. Mess it up, and you set the stage for poor plant growth, malnutrition, and root or crown rot.
There are a few important factors to consider before you start mixing your own potting mix.
Drainage and Aeration
Good drainage provides good aeration – they go together. Excess water drives out air, but good drainage supports good air circulation through the soil.
No matter the species, all plants need oxygen around their roots to thrive, and Pothos is no different.
You can incorporate air pockets into your soil blends in a few ways.
One is to include material that holds pockets of air. Perlite, rough chunks of bark, clay pebbles, and volcanic rock-like pumice all hold air within them no matter how wet they become.
Incorporating these porous materials into your blends ensures the roots get what they need, even after heavy rain or deep watering.
Hydration is another key element for soil mixes.
Some plants need soil that retains a lot of moisture, like peace lilies, calatheas, or ivy. Others need soil that dries quickly – a succulent or cactus is actively harmed by too much moisture smothering its root system.
Organic matter mixed into your blend will help it retain moisture.
Peat and sphagnum moss have fantastic moisture retention, but other organics work well too. Coco peat (not to be confused with coco coir) is a more sustainable choice, and manure and compost retain water and serve as a natural fertilizer too.
Vermiculite, a mineral, also retains water well and won’t break down over time.
Use a high proportion of water-holding material for plant species that want moist soil and less for those that don’t. While pothos like to dry out occasionally, they benefit from an organic like coco coir in the blend.
Like most plants, pothos prefer mildly acidic soil. They do their best with a low soil pH of 5.5 to 6 but are pretty hardy. They’ll put up with soil outside a little that pH value without too much fuss.
You can achieve this acidity by incorporating organic material into your own soil mixture. Sphagnum and peat moss are mildly acidic and will drop the pH level naturally.
Not all plants have the same nutritional requirements.
It may even surprise you to learn that Pothos are fast-growing plants that don’t need much nutrition at all. They’ve evolved to make the best of scarce resources, producing spectacular displays of yellow and green leaves despite the fierce competition from other tropical plants in tropical climates and rainforests.
Many other recipes suggest adding some organic fertilizer to your pothos’ soil, like earthworm castings, compost, or even coffee grounds.
While it won’t hurt your pothos plants to add them, they don’t need overly nutrient-rich soil. They won’t use the nutrients, most of which will likely leach from the soil long before the plant gets to it.
How To Mix the Best Soil for Indoor Pothos
The ideal blend for an indoor pothos contains one organic element, one to provide proper drainage, one for texture, and one to hold the lot together. They need well-drained soil type with lots of texture for their root system to chew on, so to speak.
I like an equal mix of the following:
- Perlite: Perlite is an expanded volcanic rock with the texture of popcorn, and it holds oxygen efficiently no matter how wet it becomes. It also helps absorb nutrition from fertilizer and prevents it from leaching out. Because it’s a mineral, it won’t break down over time but will keep doing its job indefinitely – so consider adding at least one part perlite to your mix.
- Coconut coir: This fantastic amendment absorbs a third of its weight in water. It’s also more sustainable than peat or sphagnum moss, as it’s an agricultural by-product that doesn’t need to be harvested from the wild.
- Orchid bark: The secret weapon in all my tropical blends, orchid bark supercharges well-draining soil. It supports good water flow-through and soil aeration and perfectly mimics the rainforest floor’s natural conditions.
- Good quality potting blend: The foundation for just about any kind of soil, good commercial soil fills the gaps left by the other three ingredients. It holds the other components in place beautifully and sets the stage for good soil structure.
To get the best result, use your pot as a measuring cup. When potting Pothos cuttings, I layer a quarter of each ingredient into my pot and fill it to the brim. Once full, I combine the mix in a tub or basin.
This gives you precisely the right amount with no wastage at all. You’ll have leftovers if you’re repotting, but in general, it’s a very exact way to do it.
Speaking of pots, there’s no point in having the best pothos soil mix recipe if you put it in a rubbish pot. A pothos pot needs as many drainage holes at the bottom of the pot as you can manage. Most nursery pots are ideal.
Potted Exotic Pro Tip: Rocks placed in the bottom of the pot are no substitution for good drainage. They create a perched water table, forcing water higher into the soil. The end result? A waterlogged root ball and a sickly plant.
How to Tell if Your Pothos Has Bad Soil
There are a few ways to spot if your pothos is in the wrong soil.
First, you can just up and inspect the soil itself. Does it drain freely, or does it take a long time for water added to flow through? How about texture?
You should be able to move it around easily with a finger. It should also have next to no aroma and certainly no fungus gnats!
You can also monitor the plant itself.
These are fast-growing plants in ideal conditions. I’m in sub-tropical Australia, and at the height of the growing season, my pothos grows like literal weeds. The soil may be to blame if yours has slowed, despite good light and temperatures.
Yellow leaves and dropped foliage are other signs of poor soil.
Leaves dropped from too much water or wet soil will be floppy and sodden, with the youngest leaves falling first. Too little, and the whole plant will droop. It will shed the older leaves first.
Check the pothos roots, too – if they’re brown, mushy, or smell bad, you need fresh soil pronto.
FAQ About Pothos Soil
Can I Use Succulent or Cactus Soil for Pothos?
Growing pothos in pre-mixed succulent soil or cacti soil is perfectly fine. So long as it’s free draining but capable of holding enough water, it’ll get the job done. You can find pre-mixed soil like these at almost any local garden center.
Personally, I avoid using any type of dry soil with a lot of sand or gravel on my own pothos. It can compact over time, crushing the root ball, and doesn’t really hold enough moisture for my growing conditions.
Light soils like these make the perfect pairing for a hanging basket, which allows for creativity in flare around your home. My back prefers the far lighter blend listed above too!
Does Pothos Grow Better in Soil or Water?
If you want big, lush pothos pumping out vines, you’ll need to get them into soil sooner rather than later. They’ll grow in water, but each cutting only has a certain amount of the vital minerals needed for growth stored away in their leaves.
In time, the minerals will run out.
Can You Put Pothos Cuttings Directly into the Dirt?
One of the things I love about pothos is how vibrantly they grow, no matter what you throw at them. Put a fresh cutting straight in a pot of appropriate soil, and you have an even chance of it setting root and taking off.
The trick to vigorous pothos cuttings is to ensure they have at least one mature, healthy node. A node is a point of growth, easiest to find in pothos as a leaf with a root popping out underneath.
If you’ve kept your pothos in high humidity conditions, these aerial roots can become real beasts, two or even three inches long (5 to 7cm).
To prepare a cutting, remove it half an inch below the node and snip away the leaf. Let the tissue dry a little – no more than an hour or two – and you can pop the whole thing straight into the dirt.
For more reliable results, it’s a good idea to propagate pothos in water or on damp sphagnum moss or coir.
Sometimes the natural microbes in soil cause cuttings to rot. Water propagation reduces this likelihood significantly due to the anaerobic conditions in the water. Moss and coir are acidic enough to act as an antiseptic. Both options give you an almost infallible strike rate.
How Often Do I Need to Repot My Pothos?
Pothos require potting into a new pot every two years or if they become root-bound, but they don’t mind close quarters as long as you fertilize them regularly.
A dose of liquid fertilizer, diluted to half strength, is often enough to provide essential nutrients even if the plant is crammed into a small pot.
It’s the best time to re-pot when the pothos stops putting out new leaves and starts dropping the older ones. You may find it’s always limp, no matter how much water you give it, and the soil never remains damp for long.
You may also see the plant’s roots wending their way out drainage holes or that the holes are entirely blocked, and no water drains at all.
Upgrade your pothos to a bigger pot, at most two inches larger across the top than the last. The roots won’t take long to expand out into the new soil.
Go too large, and you risk developing stagnant areas in the soil, where water sits for extended periods beyond the reach of the roots. This can cause fungal disease and is to be avoided.