As one of the most popular beginner-friendly plants around, many houseplant lovers have at least one type of Pothos in their home. These fast-growing plants are incredibly easy to care for and offer a host of benefits in addition to their ornamental value. However, if you want your Pothos to thrive, you’ll need to add some additional fertilizer to the soil in the peak growing period. Follow this guide to learn everything you need to know when fertilizing Pothos plants at home.
- Fertilizing Pothos Plants – The Essentials
- Fertilizer Explained
- Signs Your Pothos Plant Is Lacking Nutrients
- When and How Often Should You Fertilize Pothos Plants?
- The Best Fertilizer for Pothos Plants
- How to Apply Fertilizer
- Key Considerations
- Fertilizing Pothos Plants FAQs
- Wrapping Up
Fertilizing Pothos Plants – The Essentials
Fertilize your Pothos with a low-concentration balanced fertilizer in spring and summer. Stop fertilizing in the colder months, resuming once the weather warms and growth begins again. Always read the instructions on your chosen fertilizer to avoid burning the roots and permanently damaging the plant.
Plants require a number of nutrients in specific amounts to grow well.
These nutrients are found in the soil, replenished by the decaying organic matter that falls around the plants. In containers, especially indoors, the soil cannot be improved naturally.
That’s where fertilizer comes in.
Most fertilizers contain three main components: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
- Nitrogen (N) aids in leaf growth.
- Phosphorus (P) is mainly used to improve flowering and fruiting.
- Potassium (K) helps root growth and photosynthesis.
Although they each have these primary roles, all nutrients work together to improve the plant’s overall health and can help them fend off common pothos pests and diseases.
Macronutrients and Micronutrients
These three primary nutrients are called macronutrients, but they aren’t all plants need.
There are also secondary nutrients like calcium, magnesium, and sulfur, usually required in smaller amounts than macronutrients.
Calcium, for example, helps build strong cell walls that keep the plant upright and functioning correctly.
You may also see fertilizers that contain micronutrients. Elements like copper, iron, or zinc are also essential to plant growth but are only needed in tiny amounts.
Commercial fertilizers will list an NPK value, indicating the values of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium used to create the mix. A good fertilizer will also list some other components, either secondary or micronutrients, that provide the plant with everything it needs for strong growth.
Common Forms of Fertilizer:
- Water-soluble fertilizers are diluted or dissolved before adding to the soil.
- Dry fertilizers are sprinkled onto the soil just before watering and break down with moisture.
- Slow-release fertilizers are also a popular option. These are worked into the soil around once per season and slowly release nutrients over time.
Signs Your Pothos Plant Is Lacking Nutrients
The soil Pothos plants come in will likely have a good amount of fertilizer mixed in. This should keep the plant happy for a couple of months, but once the nutrients start to deplete, you will see signs that your Pothos needs fertilizer.
The first indicator is a lack of growth. In the right lighting conditions, Pothos plants grow quickly. They should put out plenty of new leaves in spring and summer, growing around 12-18 inches per month (and will typically need repotting every year or two to accommodate). If there is no new growth, the plant may not have enough nutrients for adequate growth.
If the problem persists, the leaves can turn yellow and start to fall off the plant. The stems can also become weaker and more diminished. You’ll need to consider pruning your pothos plant as well to encourage new healthy growth to return.
Since these signs also indicate several other Pothos problems, it can be hard to tell if lack of nutrients is the issue.
Consider the plant’s age and the last time you fertilized. If you haven’t fertilized in several months (or not at all), or if the plant has been in the same pot for several years without a soil refresh, lack of nutrients is probably the cause.
In addition, be aware variegated pothos plants are typically very light feeders.
When and How Often Should You Fertilize Pothos Plants?
It’s best to fertilize regularly during their growing season in spring and summer. Fertilizing in the colder months can stress the plant to produce new, tender growth when conditions are not right, so avoid fertilizing in fall and winter.
Depending on the temperatures in your home, you can begin fertilizing towards the end of winter to give your plants an early spring boost.
However, it’s important not to do this too early. Unless you’re adding a slow-release fertilizer, the nutrients will only be available for a short time and won’t be taken up in large amounts if the plant is not actively growing.
Water-soluble houseplant fertilizers are typically added to the soil once a month, slotted into your regular watering schedule. But different fertilizers have different strengths or concentrations and may need to be applied more or less often.
Always check the packaging to determine how often to fertilize and how to dilute the mixture to avoid burning the roots. Most fertilizers can be applied at a lower strength due to the slower growth indoors, but should never be applied more often than recommended.
For more, see our essential guide to propagating pothos plants which require a few additional considerations.
The Best Fertilizer for Pothos Plants
Fertilizing Pothos plants couldn’t be easier. Needing no specific nutrients in larger amounts, the best formulation is a balanced fertilizer with an equal ratio of macronutrients and some secondary and micronutrients thrown in.
A moderate fertilizer with an equal NPK value is most suitable. Higher numbers (like 1-1-1 vs 10-10-10) contain nutrients in higher concentrations, applied less often or diluted more to avoid burning the roots.
You can also use a general houseplant fertilizer with a slightly higher nitrogen value for lush leaves, but the closer to balanced the fertilizer is, the better.
This liquid houseplant fertilizer has a 4-3-4 NPK value suitable for Pothos and a number of other indoor plants. Simply dilute ½ a teaspoon in two cups of water and pour over the soil.
If you don’t want to dilute beforehand, you can try this Miracle-Gro 1-1-1 liquid fertilizer also suitable for most houseplants.
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These lower concentrations are ideal for slow-growing houseplants. They are safe to apply regularly without the risk of burning the roots. Dry fertilizers in higher concentrations should be applied carefully and at a lower strength than recommended. It’s always better to use less than needed than apply more and permanently damage the plant.
How to Apply Fertilizer
If you choose a water-soluble fertilizer for your pothos plant, simply add the recommended amount to your watering can and water as you normally would.
The Miracle-Gro option is pumped onto the soil just before watering to spread to the rest of the soil, limiting the need to dilute.
If you prefer a slow-release fertilizer, fertilizer spikes are a great option.
These compacted sticks, pushed into the soil, release nutrients over time whenever you water the plants. Keep an eye on the NPK values though, as many have higher nitrogen values than needed for Pothos plants.
While they are more tolerant than some other sensitive houseplants, Pothos will not respond well to overfertilizing.
If you notice the leaves turn yellow with brown edging or completely brown soon after fertilizing, the roots are likely burned. Remove the damaged leaves and flush out the soil with filtered water during your next watering to eliminate any salt buildup.
Overfertilizing consistently will ultimately kill your plants. Nutrients are only needed in small amounts, with regular watering and adequate light being the most essential conditions to monitor.
Ensure you’re growing your pothos plants in a suitable location in your home, and always check for other growth issues before reaching for the fertilizer to resolve any problems.
Fertilizing Pothos Plants FAQs
Do Pothos Plants need fertilizer?
As easy-going plants, Pothos are not heavy feeders reliant on frequent fertilizing to look good. However, the nutrients in the soil in containers will deplete over time, requiring an occasional top-up to keep the plants happy.
When should I fertilize my Pothos Plants?
Fertilize around once a month during the growing season in spring and summer, depending on your chosen fertilizer. Stop fertilizing in fall and winter, resuming the following spring again.
What is the best fertilizer for Pothos Plants?
A balanced fertilizer with an equal NPK ratio is ideal for general Pothos plant health. You can also use a fertilizer with a higher nitrogen value for healthy leaves, but it should not be far higher than the phosphorus and potassium concentrations.
Is Miracle-Gro good for Pothos Plants?
The Miracle-Gro liquid houseplant fertilizer is an excellent option for Pothos plants due to its low concentration balanced NPK ratio. It is also easy to use, simply sprayed onto the soil before watering.
Are used coffee grounds good for Pothos Plants?
You can mix coffee grounds into the top layer of soil for some additional nutrients, but it is not a complete fertilizer. It’s best to save the coffee grounds for your compost and use a balanced fertilizer that provides the plants with all the proper nutrients.
Although they are not fussy plants, your Pothos plant will grow far better and look far happier with the right fertilizer. Apply regularly in spring and summer to watch your precious plant shoot up as many brand new leaves as possible.
For more, see our in-depth guide on whether pothos plants are pet friendly.
Madison is a writer and editor with a Bachelor’s degree in History and Political Science. She writes and photographs for various online and print publications in the gardening sphere and is the author of the book The Next-Generation Gardener.