Pothos Roots: A Complete Guide

Written by Em Casalena
Updated: March 11, 2023
© Rebekah Zemansky/Shutterstock.com
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The maintenance of its roots plays a significant role in pothos houseplant care. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to see the condition of one’s pothos roots underneath the soil. How can you know whether the roots of your plant are strong? How can you maintain those roots or repair them if they are damaged? 

Maintaining pothos roots requires balance and dedication to routine. By only watering until the top one or two inches of soil feel dry, you may avoid watering too much or too little and potentially damaging the roots. Every one to two years, you should also repot or cut the roots of the plant to ensure that the container is the proper size for the roots.

Outside of these practices, you’ll need to be vigilant about caring for your pothos in other ways. This involves paying attention to your personal care practices, such as how frequently you water your plants, how dry the soil gets, how much sunlight the plant gets, the type of fertilizer being used, and when you last repotted them. The most probable offender when something bad happens to your pothos roots is unfortunately the person caring for it.

This article will explore all of the basics of pothos roots, including how to prevent issues with pothos roots and how to handle issues should they manifest. With the help of this guide, you will be able to understand exactly how to maintain the health of your pothos plant’s roots.

How to Care for Pothos Roots

To start, water is the most important thing to keep an eye on when it comes to the growth of your pothos roots. Hydration is important for taking care of your pothos plant’s roots and overall health. The healthiest pothos plants have consistently slightly damp roots. 

Checking the pot every two to three days is the best method to ensure your pothos is getting what it needs. Poke the ground with your finger, about one inch deep. It needs watering if it seems dry. Wait a day and repeat the test if the area is still moist. When your plant needs water, don’t be stingy with the watering can; completely soak the soil until water comes out of the drainage holes at the bottom. This will guarantee that the entire root system gets the moisture they need.

Pothos roots also require oxygen. Good potting soil is sufficiently loose enough to allow air to reach the roots. However, if you water too frequently, you’ll bury the roots in mud. For this reason, you should continue to water just until the soil dries up as previously noted.

Additionally, you must provide your pothos with the proper potting soil. A little bit more than half of the soil should be made up of rough, aerated material. The rest can be made of more porous materials that hold moisture. In general, many horticulturists like to use a pothos mix of 40% perlite, 30% coconut coir, 20% orchid bark, and 10% vermiculite for the best results.

Neon pothos plant
Pothos plants (pictured) can grow well in pots as long as they have adequate space, water, soil, and air.


Signs of Healthy Pothos Roots

What will you notice if you remove a healthy pothos plant from its container and look at the roots? Although they may be slightly masked by the soil, healthy pothos roots will be white or yellowing-brown in color. The largest and oldest roots will normally be roughly as thick as a cable wire, though the roots’ width might vary quite a bit. They will feel hard and somewhat springy when you pull at them. They ought to be somewhat dispersed as well. Even in healthy pothos plants, some of the roots will overlap and entangle, but there should be a good amount of dirt distributed throughout the roots.

A pothos plant may occasionally form roots above ground as well. Your plant utilizes these aerial roots to latch onto other objects as it climbs. Plants with aerial roots use them to climb across surfaces like trees or stones in nature. They can also take water vapor and oxygen out of the air using their aerial roots. So, definitely do not prune these roots! Compared to the plant’s subterranean roots, aerial roots usually have a deeper brown color.

Do Pothos Like Being Root Bound?

The answer to this question is a simple “nope!” Your pothos doesn’t like being root bound. Being contained in a too-small pot prevents this plant from growing as it should. Luckily, if your pothos is unhappy with its current home, it will let you know. For instance, as the plant tries to reach the sun, the leaves may yellow or become pale and the stems may grow droopy.

The roots of a pothos that is root bound will be matted and knotted. This collection of roots hinders the plant from absorbing enough water and nutrients, which might cause issues. Slow growth is the major problem with root bound plants, but it can also result in more significant problems that could kill your plant completely.

Some plants, like aloe and spider plants, don’t mind being root bound. In fact, some plants require strict container confinement to survive. This is because they are native to dry areas and require little in the way of water or soil. This isn’t the case for the tropical pothos, though. Preventing root-bound pothos from occurring in the first place is the best method to remedy the situation. You can ensure that the roots of your pothos plant have the room they require to expand by performing regular maintenance and care. 

Giant jade pothos plant (Epipremnum aureum) growing wild
Pothos plants (pictured) prefer to have plenty of room for their roots to grow.

©iStock.com/Suprabhat Dutta

Can a Pothos Plant Live Through Being Root Bound?

Depending on how bad the problem is, a pothos may be able to survive being root bound. The plant might be able to thrive without any issues if the roots are only somewhat entangled. The plant might not be able to absorb enough water or nutrients if the roots are heavily matted and compacted, though. Its longevity will also depend on how long you leave your pothos plant root bound. The plant might not be able to recover if you put off repotting it for too long. Depending on the size of the pot your pothos is in and the overall age of the plant, waiting too long to take action (anywhere from a few months to a year) could result in a dead plant.

A root bound plant may occasionally live longer if it is older. This is due to the plant’s bigger root system and ability to withstand prolonged pot confinement. However, a young plant might not be able to endure being root bound for very long. The basic conclusion is that as soon as you detect that your pothos plant is root bound, you should repot it immediately. Your plant will have a higher chance of surviving if you take action quickly. Your pothos plant needs regular care to stay happy and healthy, so don’t neglect it!

How to Identify a Root Bound Pothos

There are a few different ways that a pothos will let you know that it is root bound. To start, it will have a slower growth rate, which is unusual for this fast-growing species. A plant that is healthy will grow out steadily, but one that is confined by its roots would grow out more slowly. To determine how quickly your pothos plant should be developing, you may compare its growth rate to that of other plants. You should also pay attention if your pothos is growing less quickly than it did in the past. Your plant is probably root bound if you observe that it is developing more slowly than the plants around it.

Just as well, more visible roots are the most evident indicator of a pothos plant that is root bound. In other words, the roots can be seen when you look into the soil, or they might be poking out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot. It’s time to repot your plant if roots are seen growing out of the pot’s bottom. If the roots are allowed to develop in this manner, the issue will only become worse and may possibly lead to the death of the plant.

Also, the leaves of a pothos plant that is root bound won’t appear as lush or healthy as they should. The leaves might be smaller than usual, have a pale yellow or green coloration, or have yellow spots. Since root bound plants have a harder time absorbing water, the leaves may also appear dried up, which is frequently the reason why a pothos’ leaves would start curling. The leaves of plants that are significantly root bound will also eventually fall off.

Lastly, the presence of fractures in the pot your pothos plant is in is a positive sign that it has outgrown the container. Growing roots may cause the pot to shatter as they press up against the sides of the pot. This is particularly true for terra cotta or clay pots, which are more brittle than other kinds of pots. It’s time to repot your pothos plant into a larger size if you see cracks in the pot.

With all these signs in mind, the solution is simple. Remove your pothos from its pot, clear out the soil, try to separate the roots, then repot the plant in a larger plant with new, damp, fertilized soil. Your pothos will thank you!

Browning Pothos Leaf 1
Pothos plants (pictured) will show signs of yellowing, browning, and leaf dropping if root bound.


Are Fuzzy Roots Normal for Pothos?

You might notice what seems to be a thin layer of fuzz on the aerial roots of your plant. There might not be a need for concern if you notice this fuzz. When the aerial roots come into contact with another surface, have been submerged in water, or are in an environment with very high humidity, those roots begin to appear fuzzy. This fuzzy material is actually a thin layer of plant “hair” intended to aid the roots in absorbing moisture and adhering to different surfaces. Remember, the purpose of aerial roots is to stick to trees and rocks in nature. It’s perfectly normal. However, that fuzz could also potentially be mold.

Try cleaning the roots with a moist paper towel if you’re worried it could be mold. Mold is typically pretty simple to remove. If the fuzz persists, you’re most likely just dealing with harmless root hairs. Be aware that if mold is discovered, you should determine if the soil is too wet and needs to be dried out. On the stems or leaves, look for patches that are brown or black. This can indicate root rot.

Pothos plants are pretty low maintenance, but it is vital to care for their roots if you want your pothos to grow as large and beautiful as possible. Caring for the roots isn’t too difficult to do either, as long as you have some extra time to dedicate to their maintenance.

Want to learn more about the eye-catching pothos houseplant? Check out our in-depth guide to everything you need to know about pothos!

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A 'Marble Queen' pothos plant with roots exposed
A 'Marble Queen' pothos plant with roots exposed during repotting.
© Rebekah Zemansky/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

I'm a lover of all things sustainability, from urban farming to not killing houseplants. I love carnivorous plants, indigenous crops, and air-cleansing indoor plants. My area of expertise lies in urban farming and conscious living. A proud Southwest Institute of Healing Arts graduate and certified Urban Farming instructor.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

How to pothos roots grow?

Pothos roots grow from nodes located inside of the stem. Because of this, those nodes need to be buried deep enough in soil for a healthy pothos to grow.

Do pothos plants like to be rootbound?

Pothos can tolerate being slightly rootbound, but they do prefer a bit of space in a larger pot.

What should I do with the aerial roots on my pothos?

You can propagate your pothos by cutting the stem below the aerial root and placing it in water.

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