I am looking for a recommendation of an easy-to-grow houseplant to start out with at home. Hope to have success with my first foray into growing houseplants.
— Leticia Brooks, Evanston
Pothos are tropical vining plants that are easy to care for, so will make a great choice for you. There are different cultivars of pothos, which will give you a variety of foliage colors and patterns to choose from, but all lack flowers, so you grow them for foliage. Pothos are also readily available to purchase. They tolerate a wide range of interior environments and perform well in bright, indirect light as well as lower light conditions, giving you a lot of flexibility in where you can grow them at home. If you purchase a heavily variegated cultivar, it may not grow as well in low light or may lose its variegation if the light is too low — especially if the variegation is white. Only the green parts of the leaves can make energy for the plant, so it must be able to get enough light for energy or its growth will slow or the leaves will compensate for the lack of light by increasing the amount of green in the leaves. As an additional benefit, pothos plants help improve indoor air quality. They do not do well in direct sunlight though. Pothos plants are poisonous and can cause irritation and vomiting if eaten, as they contain calcium oxalates. The sap from the plant’s leaves and stems may cause highly sensitive people to break out in a rash.
Pothos vines do not cling to trellises and supports on their own, but they may be trained onto supports to give the appearance of twining. If you are growing them in a pot, prune them as necessary to control their growth. Pothos work well in hanging baskets, plants stands and bookshelves. Use any growing medium formulated for containers or houseplants when you need to repot your pothos. Pothos plants tolerate moderate periods of dry conditions, so let the growing medium dry out before watering again. Plan to water more often when the plants are in brighter light and less often in lower light conditions. Leaves that start to yellow and black stems both indicate overwatering, while wilting signals underwatering. You may fertilize your pothos plant once every one to three months for faster growth, but most gardeners get sufficient plant growth with very little fertilizer.
For more plant advice, contact the Plant Information Service at the Chicago Botanic Garden at [email protected]. Tim Johnson is senior director of horticulture at the Chicago Botanic Garden.