When Pothos Leaves Do the Splits

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 Split leaves on my pothos. Photo: laidbackgardener.blog

Should I be taking my pothos out to a bar to celebrate? Because my blue pothos (Epipremnum pinnatum ‘Cebu Blue’) has reached adulthood … after over 20 years of care, just like a human.

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Immature blue pothos (Epipremnum pinnatum ‘Cebu Blue’) with its small, entire leaves. Photo: stayathomeplantmom, pinterest.com

As with many aroids (the best known of which is the so-called Swiss cheese plant, Monstera deliciosa), the pothos has a juvenile form, with smaller, entire leaves, in this case about 3 inches (7 cm) long, and thin stems. Then, as it matures, and if conditions are right, the leaves get bigger and bigger and the stems get thicker.

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The adult form of blue pothos looks so different from the juvenile one, you’d swear it was an entirely different plant! Photo: kensnursery.com

At some magical point, the plant reaches “adulthood” and the formerly entire leaf becomes huge (up to 2 feet/60 cm long) and begins to split, eventually becoming pinnate, looking like a palm frond, with thick stems. It will even flower at some point (although the blooms are, I’m told, nothing to shake a stick at).

My Story

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Leaves of the mother plant are 3 to 4 inches (7 to 9 cm) long and uncut; the largest leaf of the baby is 13 inches (33 cm) long and deeply cut on one side. Photo: Photo: laidbackgardener.blog

I have probably half a dozen blue pothos at my place, most in their juvenile state. In fact, the original plant is still very juvenile. But others are maturing at various rates, with larger and larger leaves. What’s the difference?

It depends on how you grow them.

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The original plant dangles down and bears only small leaves. Photo: laidbackgardener.com

My original plant grows in a wall pot and is allowed to dangle. Dangling is not conducive to mature growth, so it has only tiny leaves. Dangling is what this tropical Asiatic liana does in the wild when it loses its grip on the tree trunk it is climbing on. As it trails downwards, the leaves get smaller and smaller, then disappear entirely.

When my plant does this (produce bare stems with no leaves), I trim off the bare part to force it to produce more foliage: dangling bare stems are just not that attractive. In the jungle, though, the now bare stem keeps growing downward, eventually reaching the jungle floor when it now begins to creep along, leafless, until it finds a new trunk. Then it will start growing upwards again and to produce small leaves once more. They then get bigger and bigger as it grows up into better light and eventually, the plant reaches adulthood and new giant cut leaves form.

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The green wall in my bathroom. Photo: laidbackgardener.blog

My mature and variously maturing pothos are all growing upwards … on my green wall. Growing upwards is conducive to enlargening leaves. Eventually they get to the top (said wall is only 7 feet/210 cm tall, after all, not the 100 feet/30 m or so the plant can attain in a jungle!), so I cut them off and reroot them at the base of the wall. They don’t lose a beat and continue to grow upwards … and in size.

Actually, I just pulled my mature stem from the wall (it had reached the top) and will be starting it from the bottom again. I’m sure it will continue to mature to even bigger, more deeply cut leaves (the longest is currently 13 inches/33 cm in length and only cut on one side) on its next trip upwards.

Your Pothos

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This is the popular golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum). Photo: http://www.alphaplantes.com

The most common pothos in homes is not my blue pothos, but rather the golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum, syn. Scindapsus aureus), with heart-shaped leaves splashed with yellow or, on certain clones, white.

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Mature golden pothos with huge split leaves. Photo: Daderot, Wikimedia Commons

But it will also grow, eventually, into a jungle giant with large split leaves if you let it grow upwards, say on a moss-covered stake it can root into. When it gets to the top, cut it back and reroot it, then plant it back at the base of the stake so it can climb further. Most people grow it in a hanging container from which it will dangle and thus always remain a juvenile. But if you grow it upwards, you can—slowly!—watch it become an adult.

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See how big pothos leaves can become if you let the plant climb? Photo: http://www.morningdewtropical.com

I think you’ll be kinda proud when your baby pothos reaches adulthood, don’t you?

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7 thoughts on “When Pothos Leaves Do the Splits

  1. Kee Kee

    Thanks for all the info. Not only did I not know what I bought (“Hello My Name Is Houseplant” is on the Exotic Angel, Costa Farms Badge from Lowe’s), I had no idea it would split like that. Thank you so much for taking the time to post this article — including all the pictures. This is extremely helpful!

  2. Kee Kee

    I have a question. I combed the internet looking for an answer after I read your article, but I have found nothing. Maybe you can help. What would happen if instead of removing your plant from the wall and making it continually climb upwards, you instead took a cutting from the nodes of the top big leaves, rooted it in water or soil, and made that cutting start the climb? Does that question make sense? Basically, can you start a whole new plant from the biggest leaves you have instead of zig-zagging it upward every time it reaches the top? Thanks!

    • I’m not sure I totally understand the question, but if you meant can you take a leaf cutting from a pothos or other aroid climber, the answer is no: they won’t root from a leaf cutting. You need at least a piece of stem with a leaf for rooting to occur. And if you cut the stem, the plant will no longer be climbing (until a new one grows in.

      • Kee Kee

        Thank you for replying!

        Sorry my question was a bit convoluted. When the pothos is small (say, in a hanging pot), you can cut a piece off of the hanging stem — with the leaf, at the node, where the air roots are coming out…place that leaf and node in water…roots develop.. and viola, you have new plant to put in soil. My question was whether you could take the same sort of cutting from the top of your plant, where the big leaves are (at the node, with the stem and leaf), root that in water, and make another plant that already has big leaves that ultimately only get bigger when the plant starts to climb. Does that make sense?

      • Got it! Yes, you can. It will at first produce slightly smaller leaves than the one you harvested, but it will already be on the road to increasing in size, so as long as you grow it so it’s directed upward, it will soon produce leaves as big at the first one, then bigger ones.

  3. Kee Kee

    That is amazing!!! It will take my Cebu a long time before it ever reaches anything close to your size, but I can’t wait. I love watching things grow. Thanks so much, again, for sharing all your knowledge.

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