How to Care for Pothos in Winter: 7-Step Plant Survival Guide

Bears hibernate for the winter. Plants go dormant. Similar to hibernation, dormancy helps plants survive the season when temperatures drop and the sun shines less frequently. 

If you’re caring for pothos, you’ll need to make a few adjustments to your plant-care routine. 

This “How to Care for Pothos in Winter” guide will give you steps for keeping your beloved houseplant alive through the bleak midwinter. 

Biggest Risk Factors Caring for a Pothos in Winter: Signs & Causes

Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) is native to tropical climates. So, unsurprisingly, this plant enjoys high temperatures (70-90 F), high humidity (50-70%), and lots of dappled sunlight (otherwise known as “bright indirect light”). 

In general, these plants enjoy similar growing conditions across all pothos varieties. So whether you have Golden pothos, Marble queen pothos, Jade pothos, or Neon pothos, try to give them these conditions.

Depending on where you live, and if you’re growing your pothos outdoors or indoors, the winter months bring many conditions that are far from tropical. (Plant parents living in USDA Hardiness Zones 10-12 ¹ will not have to worry about these seasonal changes.) Unfortunately, these unfavorable conditions make pothos plants more susceptible to diseases and infestations. 

Here are a few pothos plagues to watch out for, particularly in the winter. 

Yellow Leaves

pothos leaves turning yellow and with leaf spot

Limp, yellow leaves can indicate a few different ailments. Give the soil a sniff. If it smells like rotten eggs, this smell (plus the yellow leaves) suggests that the pothos has root rot. Pothos plants can also exhibit yellow leaves when the temperature gets too low. 

Black Leaves

Black leaves can also indicate root rot. (Again, sniff the soil to confirm this suspicion.) But if indoor temperatures plummet severely, your pothos may develop frostbite. 

Changes in Variegation: Pothos plants produce heart-shaped leaves with various streaks, patterns, and marbled appearances — known as variegation. If your pothos begins to lose this variegation and revert to solid green leaves, the plant is not receiving enough sunlight. 

Mold on Soil

Mold on soil isn’t really an issue in itself. However, it can indicate that the soil is too damp. And excess soil moisture can lead to other problems, such as pest infestations and root rot. 

Pests

Although pest infestation is rare for pothos, insects such as spider mites, mealybugs, white flies, scale, and thrips occasionally target this houseplant. These pests will be visible to the naked eye, though you might have to look closely. If you notice bugs swarming around the pothos, the pothos soil is likely too moist.

As you can see, many of these issues lead back to overwatering. But insufficient heat and light also contribute to pothos problems during the winter. 

Fortunately, you can make a few simple adjustments to prevent these risks. 

How to Care for a Pothos in Winter: 7-Step Guide

Pothos care in winter can easily be handled with these seven steps:

1. Adjust Your Watering Schedule 

watering pothos plants by a window.

As temperature and available light decrease, you need to decrease how often you water your houseplants.

It is doubtful that you will need to water your pothos more than once a week during the wintertime. You will probably find that the houseplant is happy with watering once every two or even three weeks. 

Overly moist soil can cause root rot. Decreasing watering frequency helps prevent this issue, as well as mold and pest infestations.

Many factors influence a plant’s irrigation needs. For example, moisture evaporates more quickly in hot, sunny environments. So, pay attention to soil moisture rather than stick to a rigid schedule. Ideally, the soil should dry between waterings. 

Don’t forget to remove any water in the saucer under the pot. Also, make sure that the drainage holes have not become blocked. 

2. Maximize Available Light

pothos plant with water and sunlight to help it grow faster.

Pothos can survive in low light conditions. But they’ll do best in bright, indirect light.

In the depths of winter, the days are at their shortest. Shorter days mean that even the sunniest spots will receive less sun than they would at the height of summer. 

So a pothos that does well in partial shade during July might prefer more direct sunlight in January. If you do decide to relocate your pothos for the winter, try to do so gradually. Dramatic changes in light levels can stress the plant. 

Consider using a grow light to supplement sunlight in cases where you receive very little sunlight. 

Another way to help meet pothos’ light needs is to dust the leaves. Like any other static object in your house, pothos plants collect dust. Removing these particles from the leaves will make it easier for the plant to perform photosynthesis. 

3. Pause Fertilizer Application

Little girl showing the best soil for pothos plants.

Yep. You can stop fertilizing pothos entirely during the winter months.

Nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium help a plant grow. But pothos plants enter a period of dormancy during the winter, meaning they stop growing. So fertilizer is unnecessary

Also, potted plants are restricted by the container in which they grow. As a result, they can’t access nutrients beyond what you provide. Likewise, if you over-fertilize the soil, you can’t count on rainwater to flush away excess nutrients. 

Believe it or not, plants can have too many nutrients. In addition, fertilizer increases the salt content in the soil. This buildup can burn pothos roots and leaves. 

4. Provide a Stable Temperature 

on table showing the benefits of pothos plants.

Pothos grow best in temperatures ranging from 70-90 F. If you’re trying to lower your energy bill, these houseplants will tolerate temperatures as low as 50 F. Below that, the plant will begin to struggle. 

But it’s not just low temperatures that can cause issues. 

Pothos need reasonably stable temperatures. Exposure to sudden blasts of hot air can also harm the plant. 

Whether you have an electric heater or air vents, remove the plant at least a foot away from any heat source that doesn’t provide a constant temperature. 

Similarly, move pothos away from cold drafts from windows and doors. 

5. Catch Critters Early

scale on pothos plant

Pothos pest infestations almost always result from overwatering. So the best way to prevent pests is to avoid overwatering the pothos

If you notice pests on pothos, the best way to get rid of them is to remove them by hand. Apply insecticidal soap on a cloth and gently wipe the insects off the stems and leaves. 

The faster you notice insects on your pothos, the better chance you’ll have at eradicating them. But, unfortunately, it’s challenging to get rid of them once they make their way into the soil. 

6. Avoid Pruning & Repotting

trimming a pothos plant with scissors

Reduced sunlight impacts a plant’s ability to perform photosynthesis. And reduced photosynthesis means that the plant produces less energy. 

As such, during the winter, it’s essential to minimize stress so that the pothos doesn’t have to expend energy unnecessarily. 

Houseplant lovers prize pothos for being easy to propagate. However, you should avoid taking stem cuttings in the winter. 

If the pothos plant has gone dormant, it will not produce new leaves. So by pruning the pothos, you are further limiting its ability to perform photosynthesis. 

Similarly, winter is not the time to re-pot your houseplants. Again, this process stresses the plant. 

7. Keep an Eye on Humidity Levels

pothos mist on leaves

Cold air struggles to maintain moisture. Combine this scientific fact with a roaring fire or a churning furnace, and the air inside your house can become dry during the winter. 

If you notice the leaf tips on your pothos begin to turn brown and crispy, you might need to increase the humidity around the plant. (You can also measure a room’s humidity using a hygrometer.) 

Using a humidifier will increase the entire room’s humidity. You can also mist the pothos or place the pot on a pebble tray for a more localized approach. 

Just remember that these methods will add moisture to both the air and the soil. Therefore, you don’t want to overwater your plant as you correct for humidity.

Slightly lower-than-ideal humidity levels won’t kill your pothos. But overwatering might. So if in doubt, do without. 

Fall Preparation: When Pothos Winter Care Starts

If possible, prepare your pothos for winter before winter arrives. Here are a few easy preparations to give your plant the best chance of surviving sub-optimal conditions. 

Check the pot size. Do you notice roots growing out of the drainage holes or soil separating from the sides of the container? If so, it’s time to re-pot the pothos. (Typically, you only need to re-pot pothos every 2-3 years.) Increase pot size by two inches in diameter for small tabletop pots and 3-4 inches for larger floor pots. 

Apply a slow-release fertilizer. This type of fertilizer will provide a steady trickle of nutrients rather than a potentially-damaging onslaught of nitrogen. Dilute the fertilizer to quarter strength to avoid burning the pothos roots.

Remove yellow or brown leaves. These leaves will not heal. Removing them allows the plant to redirect precious energy toward healthy leaves. Also, remove any excess organic matter on the soil surface; doing so will prevent mold growth and insect infestation.

And if any of your potted pothos plants live outside, don’t forget to move them indoors before the first frost.

References

1: USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. (n.d.). USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/

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Davin is a jack-of-all-trades but has professional training and experience in various home and garden subjects. He leans on other experts when needed and edits and fact-checks all articles.