Have you noticed that the new leaves of your pothos are staying small? Or would you simply like to encourage the growth of larger leaves to see your plant thrive? Whether you’re addressing an issue or ensuring that you are giving your pothos the best growing conditions, this information will help guide you.
You can start seeing larger pothos leaves by giving it more bright indirect light, increasing the humidity, keeping the temperature consistently warm, adding structural support, watering & fertilizing your pothos properly.
If your pothos just got some new leaves and they’re smaller than the older leaves, don’t worry. The new leaves will start off small but then will eventually grow and get bigger. However, if you are seeing that leaves are staying small for a long time, you need to take action.
1. Give it More Bright Indirect Light
The amount of light your pothos receives is the number one growing condition affecting the leaf size.
While pothos plants are known for being tolerant of low light, this isn’t ideal for their growth. In fact, the pothos thrives in bright indirect sunlight. This is especially true for the variegated varieties.
With lower light conditions, you may start to see new leaves that remain small well after they have unfurled. This is because plants require sufficient energy to grow large leaves.
Plants obtain this energy through carbohydrates using the process of photosynthesis, which requires a light source. Therefore, your pothos will be unable to expend the energy needed to grow larger leaves if it doesn’t receive adequate light.
To encourage the growth of larger leaves, ensure your pothos is getting as much bright indirect light as you can provide indoors.
Place your pothos near a window with medium to bright indirect light, or use grow lights if needed.
Additionally, you can measure the light intensity in your space for accuracy.
According to Costa Farms, pothos plants fall in both categories of medium and bright light plants. The “medium-light” requirement is between 200-400 foot-candles, and “bright-light” is between 400-800 foot-candles.
This means they tolerate lower light of a minimum 200 foot-candles but do best in bright indirect light of up to 800 foot-candles.
A good rule of thumb is to provide your pothos with as much indirect light as possible for the best growth.
2. Increase the Humidity
The pothos is a tropical plant native to southeastern Asia. Therefore, it grows best in environments with humidity.
Unlike some other tropical indoor plants (such as the calathea), your pothos doesn’t require high humidity for survival.
However, remember that minimum requirements are not the same as the ideal conditions for maximum growth.
Pothos will tolerate a wide humidity range, but they may not grow large leaves in low humidity environments.
The recommended humidity range for a pothos to thrive is 50-70%. If you can provide this humidity level, your pothos will be much “happier.”
With higher humidity, the pothos will be encouraged to grow larger leaves as they would in their native tropical habitat.
Try keeping your pothos in a room with higher humidity or using a humidifier to achieve the optimum range.
You can monitor the humidity in your home with a humidity gauge. This will help you ensure that the humidity is high enough for your plants but not too high for your household.
3. Keep the Temperature Consistently Warm
Again, the pothos is a tropical plant that has adapted to growing indoors. Like other tropical plants, your pothos benefits from a warm environment.
While the pothos does well inside our homes, it still responds to cold stress from drafts and chronically low temperatures.
The minimum temperature that a pothos needs is between 60-85 ºF (15-29 ºC). However, the recommended temperature for optimum growth of a pothos plant is between 70- 90°F (21-32ºC). Temperatures outside of this range can stunt the plant’s growth.
If you’ve been keeping your pothos near a cold draft and notice small leaves, it may be time to consider relocating it. Your pothos will grow best in a spot with stable warm temperatures in your home.
4. Give Your Pothos Structural Support
Since the pothos are aroid plants, their new leaves naturally start out smaller and grow larger after unfurling. Your pothos requires the right growing conditions to encourage larger leaves.
In its native habitat, the pothos is a climbing plant. It uses ariel roots to cling onto trees and climb up from the forest floor towards the canopy seeking light.
Our indoor cultivar has the same nature to climb. Many houseplant enthusiasts place their pothos in a hanging planter to enjoy cascading vines, a beautiful way to grow this plant.
However, a hanging pothos grows downward instead of its natural habit of climbing upwards toward the light. As a result, you may see leaves that remain small towards the bottom of the vines.
One way to encourage larger leaf growth is to stake your plant by providing a moss pole or trellis for your pothos to climb. This is also a beautiful way to watch your plant grow.
FURTHER READING: 3 Ways To Train Your Pothos to Climb As They Do in the Wild
Using this method provides the benefit of mimicking their natural habitat. Also, light is more evenly distributed throughout your plant’s leaves.
5. Avoid Common Watering Mistakes
You are likely familiar with the risks of overwatering and underwatering indoor plants. However, not everyone realizes that watering mistakes can also affect leaf size.
Your pothos may experience stress if you water inconsistently. We recommend watering your pothos before it shows these signs of stress from underwatering:
- Wilting to the point of collapsing
- New leaves that stay small
- Browning leaves
We recommend watering your pothos when you first notice the soil is becoming dry throughout.
Usually, you will see minor wilting of its leaves when your pothos is getting thirsty. This means it is time to water now.
If you wait until the point that all of its leaves are collapsing, your pothos may have temporary stunted leaf growth.
FURTHER READING: How Often Should You Water Pothos?
While it is advised not to wait until the leaves have fully collapsed, your pothos can easily recover. With more consistent watering, the leaves should resume normal growth.
If underwatering results in browning leaves, the plant has reached a critical state of drought. When this occurs, you may lose some leaves as your pothos diverts energy to survive.
Likewise, overwatering may also lead to small leaves. They usually turn yellow, indicating root rot.
Be sure to check the soil regularly to ensure your pothos gets the right amount of water to avoid stunted growth.
6. It Might be Time to Fertilize
Moderation is important when it comes to fertilizing your pothos. We’d first like to preface that underfeeding is better than overfeeding.
While we don’t want to over-fertilize and burn the plant, your pothos needs occasional fertilization.
When was the last time your plant was fertilized? Remember that it may have been fertilized the last time you repotted it.
Most potting mixes include a slow-release fertilizer, and the nutrients will naturally deplete after repeated watering over time.
If you used soil with slow-release fertilizer added, wait six months before fertilizing again.
However, if your pothos leaves aren’t growing as they’ve done in the past, it is wise to consider a lack of nutrients as a possibility.
During the growing season of spring and summer, fertilize your pothos every 2-3 months (for soil mixtures without pre-added fertilizers). Providing nutrients will encourage the growth of additional leaves and larger leaves.
Lastly, it is worth mentioning that slow growth can also be a symptom of overfertilization. If you suspect you may have overfed your pothos, leach out excessive salts by top-watering.
What if You’ve Tried Everything Above and Still Have Small Leaves?
If you’ve tried everything on the main list and still have small leaves, it’s time to look at the roots and consider repotting. Although your pothos doesn’t respond well to being repotted often, it will eventually need to go up a pot size.
When your pothos becomes root bound, the roots have nowhere else to grow. Your plant may let you know it has run out of space by having slow growth and producing smaller leaves.
You can also prune your pothos back to encourage new growth, especially if you see that the vines have gotten “leggy” (meaning fewer leaves per vine and more space between each leaf node).