Variegated plants are the new must-have in the houseplant world. There are so many variegated cultivars to choose from when it comes to the Pothos, and it can be hard to pick just one. Whether you have variegated Pothos or many, this guide will tell you how to best care for them and maintain their wonderful variegation.
- Variegated Pothos Plants – The Essentials
- About Variegated Pothos Plants
- Popular Types of Variegated Pothos
- Variegated Pothos Care & Growing Tips
- Common Problems
- Variegated Pothos FAQs:
- Wrap Up
Variegated Pothos Plants – The Essentials
Variegation in Pothos plants results from a genetic mutation that makes some cells unable to synthesize chlorophyll. There are many variegation patterns and colors, from the classic golden flecks to impressive stark white patches. Giving your variegated Pothos the right amount of sunlight will ensure the variegation patterns stick around.
About Variegated Pothos Plants
What Causes Variegation in Pothos Plants?
Although the patterns may look painted on, variegated Pothos plants are entirely natural and rich with meaning and symbolism. Their color is not the result of artificial dyes or manipulation but rather of genetic mutation.
Known as chimeral variegation, the sharp contrasts in color in variegated Pothos plants occur due to the existence of adjacent cells of more than one genotype. Some of these cells cannot synthesize chlorophyll, resulting in their color change or complete lack of color.
While there are many examples of chimeras in the plant world, variegation is the easiest to spot, thanks to this visible color change. It is also the characteristic that makes them incredibly sought-after among houseplant lovers.
As mutations are impossible to create and difficult to induce, you cannot make a Pothos variegated on your own. Mutations occur randomly after successive generations of propagation and sometimes aren’t stable enough to last past a few plant generations.
If you’re looking for a variegated Pothos, you’ll need to stick to the few recognized and stable cultivars available.
Is Pothos Variegation Rare?
Variegation can be pretty rare in some plant species if mutations are not common within that genus. However, when it comes to the Pothos, variegation is not rare at all. The most common type of Pothos, the Golden Pothos (Epipremnem aureum), is variegated – although that variegation is not as sought after as the stark white and cream of some other types.
The newer variegated cultivars are rarer than other Pothos types due to their limited supply. When new mutations emerge, it takes a while for them to become widely available due to the time constraints of propagating successive generations, making newer types rarer.
Pearls & Jade is one of the most recent Pothos types, with attractive cream and white flecked and spotted variegation. But older types with the same levels of variegation, such as the popular Marble Queen, are relatively easy to find.
Pothos Variegation Patterns
Pothos plants have various variegation patterns, separating each cultivar and making these plants sought-after collectors’ items. Look out for these patterns in the various variegated species:
- Flecks: One of the more common patterns, characterized by small dashes of color in the leaves.
- Spots: Some varieties, like Hawaiian, have more circular spotted variegation than the flecks visible in the Golden Pothos.
- Wavy Stripes: Although this pattern is less common, you may see some variegation in elongated striped patterns, typically around the centers or edges of the leaves.
- Patches: Large parts of the leaf are completely variegated and can cover the entire leaf or significant parts of it.
Where Can You Get a Variegated Pothos?
Many variegated Pothos types are common, but they are not difficult to find. Take a look at your local nursery or online retailers, or contact a specialized grower in your area if you’re looking for a specific type.
If you want one of the rarer Pothos cultivars, it’s best to search for them at rare houseplant retailers or online marketplaces such as Etsy. Ensure the seller is reputable before purchasing to ensure you’re getting the right type.
Some varieties will be more expensive than others, based on their rarity and the amount of propagating it takes to replicate the variegation to a sufficient degree. Be prepared to pay more for more variegated types like Snow Queen or N’Joy, as these cultivars are highly sought-after.
Essential Tips When Considering Buying a Variegated Pothos
Before you choose a Pothos, make sure the seller is reputable and that the plant source is reliable. Pothos plants can often be mislabeled, either by accident or on purpose, in an attempt to fetch a higher price.
Go in knowing exactly what plant you’re looking for and its characteristics to avoid paying a higher price for a common cultivar.
Popular Types of Variegated Pothos
Most Pothos types, bar a few popular options like Neon and Jade, are variegated to some degree. What sets each one apart is the pattern and color of the variegation.
Deep green leaves with flecks of yellow variegation give the plant its memorable name.
One of the oldest heavily variegated cultivars. They have a similar variegation pattern to the Golden Pothos, but the leaves are primarily a creamy white with spots of green instead.
A less common type closely related to Marble Queen. The variegation is higher and closer to white than cream.
Large dark green leaves with spots and flecks of yellow variegation, producing greater contrast in color than the Golden Pothos.
A mix of spotted and flecked variegation in a creamy yellow color.
Once of the few types with irregular stripes of variegation along the leaves in white, giving the appearance of a glacier.
Small leaves with large patches of white variegation, typically sticking to the outside edges of the foliage.
Pearls & Jade:
A combination of patchy and flecked variegation very similar to N’Joy. To tell it apart from N’Joy, look for spots of green in the white patches.
Variegated Pothos Care & Growing Tips
Potting & Planting
Pot up your variegated Pothos as you would any other houseplant.
If you’ve purchased from a nursery, they should be happy in the same pot for a while. But, if you’ve received cuttings of a rarer type – either from a generous friend or online retailer – group them together and plant them into the same pot for a full and healthy-looking plant.
It’s best to keep your Pothos confined to a container rather than planting them outdoors. Some Pothos plants are rapid growers and can become invasive in areas if their spread is not controlled.
The growth rate of your variegated Pothos will depend on the level of variegation. As heavily variegated varieties contain far less chlorophyll than others, less photosynthesis occurs, slowing the growth rate.
In the right conditions, you can expect your Pothos to grow around 10-18 inches per month during the peak growing seasons. Like the predominantly white and patchy N’Joy, some types may grow slower than that. Providing optimal conditions and care will ensure the quickest growth rate.
Temperature & Humidity
Pothos plants are native to the tropical jungles of the islands of French Polynesia and can be found growing rapidly in warm climates around the world. They are used to higher temperatures and humidity, similar to the conditions we enjoy indoors.
Keep the temperatures between 65F and 85F for the best results. They can handle some deviation in either direction but will stop growing if temperatures reach far beyond this range.
As for humidity, aim for around 60% for optimal growth. They should be happy in any conditions above 40% throughout the year but will start to turn brown at the tips if the humidity drops below that level.
Sunlight is the most critical factor in variegated Pothos care.
As these plants contain less chlorophyll naturally, they need to use all they can to stay alive. If the light levels are not high enough to ensure a strong enough rate of photosynthesis, the plant will begin to produce more chlorophyll to make up for the lack of energy. This chlorophyll can seep into the variegated areas, turning them green.
Variegated Pothos plants need as much bright indirect sunlight as possible to maintain their color. Moderate light is suitable for some types, but low light is not recommended. If your plant begins to lose its variegation, move it to a brighter area.
Keep your Pothos away from harsh direct sunlight as this can scorch the leaves. An east-facing window with gentle morning sun is acceptable, but any midday or afternoon sunlight will damage the leaf tissue. For more, see our in-depth guide to the best locations for pothos plants in the home.
Pothos plants are not particularly thirty and prefer their soil to dry out slightly before the next watering, like most houseplants. Heavily variegated types typically grow slower and have smaller leaves, meaning they will use even less water than un-variegated types.
Water your Pothos when the top 1-2 inches of soil have dried out. Make sure to test the soil moisture often rather than watering on a schedule as moisture levels can change day by day as environmental conditions change.
You can either get your hands (or, more specifically, your fingers) dirty or use a moisture meter to test the soil.
Feeding & Fertilizing
Variegated Pothos plants are not heavy feeders. Again, the growth rate has an impact, as heavily variegated types will use up fewer nutrients than the others.
When you first purchase your Pothos, it should be happy in the same pot for several months. Apply a balanced liquid fertilizer once every 4-6 weeks in spring and summer if growth begins to slow. For highly variegated plants, you can wait as long as two months before fertilizing again.
Never apply more fertilizer than is recommended on the packaging. This will not make your variegated Pothos grow faster but will actually burn the roots and leaves, having the opposite impact.
Depending on how quickly they outgrow their pots, most Pothos types will require repotting every 1-2 years. It’s best to hold off on repotting until necessary, as it can result in transplant shock.
Variegated Pothos plants will take longer to recover from shock, so it’s best to mitigate it rather than risk the health of your plants.
Follow our Pothos repotting guide here for instructions on the best ways to repot your variegated Pothos.
Pruning is not a requirement for Pothos plants, but it can improve overall health and growth when done correctly. When it comes to variegated types, it’s essential to be extra careful as it can take them longer to bounce back from shock if pruned too heavily.
If you want to keep your variegated Pothos bushy and compact, trim an inch or two off the end of each stem just above a node. Make sure the node stays intact and on the plant, as this is the point where new growth will emerge.
Cutting in this way will produce hormones within the plant that tell it to produce new growth at the wound site. However, if too much of the plant is removed, it can lose its ability to heal and go into shock. Rather err on the side of caution and take off too little rather than too much.
If you want to encourage your variegated Pothos to grow longer stems, remove any underperforming or side branches to direct energy towards extending the healthy, dominant growth. Again, don’t remove too much at once – no more than ¼ of the total plant.
Those who want to greatly reduce the size of their plants (for example, in cases where the stems have become overgrown and leggy), don’t remove it all at once. Prune lightly, give the plant a month or two to recover, and prune again to avoid any long-lasting damage.
To maintain the variegation of your Pothos, you’ll need to propagate by stem cutting. Luckily, this is also the simplest and most common method of Pothos propagation.
To find out how successfully propagate variegated pothos plants, follow the instructions in our guide here. All you need is a healthy Pothos, a new pot with some propagating mix or a glass filled with water, and a sharp pair of shears.
Yellowing leaves on pothos plants have several causes, from lack of moisture to pest and disease issues. However, the most common cause is typically overwatering.
Overwatering your Pothos will cause the roots to become mushy and can lead to leaf loss. Due to the damage, they cannot transport any water and nutrients around the plant, causing the leaves to be yellow.
Yellow leaves can also be a sign of a nutrient deficiency or overfertilization at the other end of the spectrum. This yellowing is usually spotty but does not resemble the flecked variegation of some Pothos types.
Leaves browning at the tips indicates either underwatering or a lack of humidity. Both issues are linked to lower the moisture content in the leaves, which causes them to dry out and die off from the edges moving inwards.
Brown spots in patches can also indicate sunburn due to exposure to direct sunlight. White variegated areas are more susceptible to burning as they don’t contain any chlorophyll to absorb some of the sun’s rays. Keep the plants in indirect sunlight or cover the light source with a sheer curtain to protect the foliage.
Spotted leaves on your Pothos can be hard to spot, especially when your chosen variety has flecked or spotted variegation. However, a closer look at the spots will usually reveal a brown center with yellowing edges and may even still have a pest in the center of it.
Pothos plants, like all other houseplants, are susceptible to pest damage. Spider mites, mealybugs, thrips, and scale, among others, feed on the leaf and stem tissue and sap the plant of its energy, resulting in the spotting and deformation of the leaves.
Apply insecticidal soap or horticultural oil at regular intervals until all signs of pest issues are gone. You can also prune off heavily damaged leaves but remember not to remove too much of the plant at once.
Variegated Pothos FAQs:
Why is my Pothos Losing Variegation?
Pothos plants in low light conditions struggle to photosynthesize and produce the food essential to their survival. Under this stress, they will produce more chlorophyll that seeps into the variegated areas, causing them to recede slowly. If the plant is left in low light for long periods, the leaves may even turn completely green.
Can You Regain Lost Variegation?
Some variegation can return to normal or even spread if the lack of sunlight is resolved. Providing the optimal lighting conditions will keep your Pothos as variegated as possible.
How do I get More Variegation in Pothos?
Place your Pothos in a spot with plenty of bright indirect light for as many hours of the day as possible. Avoid direct sunlight as this will burn the leaves.
Do Variegated Pothos Grow Slower?
Due to the lower photosynthesis rates, variegated Pothos plants do tend to grow slower than un-variegated ones. Generally, the higher the levels of variegation, the slower the plant will grow.
Can Variegated Pothos Handle Direct Sunlight?
Variegated Pothos cannot handle direct sunlight and are susceptible to burning with just an hour or two of intense direct sun. Move them away from any direct sun spots or filter the light with a curtain or other sheer material.
Variegated Pothos plants are all the rage, and it’s not hard to see why. These stunning varieties have tons of character and are low-maintenance enough for beginners and experienced plant parents.
For more, see our in-depth guide on whether pothos plants are pet friendly.