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Plant of the Week: Variegated Philodendron

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture does not promote, support or recommend plants featured in "Plant of the Week." Please consult your local Extension office for plants suitable for your region.

Plant of the Week

Golden Pothos, Devil's Ivy
Latin: Epipremnum aureum

No photo available.

What makes one houseplant so popular that it is grown on window sills throughout the world while others never attain this superstar status? I suspect the answer lies in the simple Darwinian principle of survival of the fittest. Through the years, we gardeners have tried them all. The fancier plants may catch our eye but the ones that stay with us are those that will best tolerate our level of benign neglect.

The golden pothos, sometimes referred to as the variegated philodendron, is a member of the arum family and comes to us from the Solomon Islands which are northeast of Australia. My references fail to tell me when pothos was first introduced but it probably was picked up during the voyages of discovery during the 18th century, possibly by Bougainville who explored the island in 1768. The islands were discovered 200 years earlier by Spanish explorers but they did not travel with naturalists on their expeditions as the northern European countries did during the 18th century.

Pothos, which is said to be a native name for the plant, is a vining plant that is typically seen in its immature form. In this juvenile state, the leaves, which alternate up the rope-like green stem, are heart-shaped and up to five inches long. The leaves are blotched with irregular patches of gold and serve as a kind of mood ring for the plant. When it is healthy and happy and all is well in its world, it will reward you with lots of golden variegation. When it is sulky or feeling mistreated it will turn almost completely green.

To see the adult form of pothos is impressive. The leaves maintain the same general shape as the juvenile form, but they are huge -- as much as 20 inches long. They will often be dissected from the margin to the midrib. The adult form of growth only occurs when the plant is allowed to climb on something and grow upright.

A short stake won’t do the trick either. It wants a tree to climb on and usually only shows the adult leaves when the vine is well above the ground. The adult form produces the flowers which are a typical greenish aroid flower about 6 inches long.

The golden pothos is easy to propagate by single-node cuttings, or as the growers call them, single-eye cuttings. A piece of stem is cut into individual segments with the cut above the leaf about 1/2 inch from the leaf . After cutting the stem into pieces, the longer part of the stem will be below the leaf. Stick 10 or 15 of these cuttings into a pot and then keep it watered until roots appear in about six weeks. Each of the "eyes" will produce a vine and a nice full plant will result.

Pothos is a tropical plant but, unlike many true tropicals, it doesn’t resent a little exposure to cold drafts, dry air or even drought. Because it grows in the forest under story it is also adapted to very low light levels. These characteristics of toughness make it an ideal houseplant. About the only thing that will kill pothos is to let it sit in water. Any excess water that accumulates around the base of the pot should be drained away after each watering. It will occasionally get mealy bugs or spider mites, but these insect pests are usually not fatal.

By: Gerald Klingaman, retired
Extension Horticulturist - Ornamentals
Extension News - October 22, 1999


The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture does not maintain lists of retail outlets where these plants can be purchased. Please check your local nursery or other retail outlets to ask about the availability of these plants for your growing area.