Pothos Growing Small Leaves? How to Fix in 6 Simple Steps

In the wild, pothos plants display incredible, large heart-shaped leaves. Unfortunately, indoors, these plants produce smaller leaves. But you can still do a few things to encourage big leaf growth. 

Want to increase your footprint? Then, check out this guide on how to fix small leaves on pothos plants. 

What Causes Small Pothos Leaves?

showing the different sizes of pothos leaves.

Small leaves on pothos may indicate that you have not provided the necessary conditions for optimal growth. If you notice a dramatic decrease in leaf size, you should take this as an indication that your pothos is unhappy. 

Here’s a quick overview of the ideal conditions for growing pothos indoors:

  • Light: bright indirect sunlight 
  • Water: should dry between waterings
  • Soil: well-drained, nitrogen-rich
  • Temperature: 70-90 F
  • Humidity: 50-70%

Additionally, the pot needs to be just big enough to prevent the plant from becoming root bound. You will also need to prune occasionally. 

Before you get out the garden gloves, check the variety of your pothos. Some types of pothos produce larger leaves than others. No amount of fussing will change that fact. 

Hawaiian Pothos and Golden Pothos grow some of the largest leaves, with foliage measuring 6-24 inches long. 

giant hawaiian pothos plants
Hawaiian pothos
golden pothos plant under ideal lighting
Golden pothos

Marble Queen Pothos is a popular variety that displays creamy variegated leaves. It will produce leaves as long as 5-15 inches in the right conditions.

Neon Pothos, Manjula Pothos, and Baltic Blue Pothos can all produce leaves that measure 6-12 inches long. 

But then you have varieties such as Silvery Anne pothos and Global Green Pothos, whose leaves, even in ideal conditions, will only reach about 4-8 inches in length. 

It’s also worth mentioning that a pothos producing smaller leaves might just be a younger plant. Mature pothos plants (3+ years) grow larger leaves than young plants.

And remember, indoor pothos will inevitably produce smaller leaves than outdoor pothos. So don’t expect your living room pothos to reach the upper limits of leaf dimension. 

Once you’ve confirmed that your mature variety of pothos can produce big leaves, consider making the following adjustments.

6 Steps to Fixing a Pothos Growing Small Leaves

If you notice your pothos leaves getting smaller, here are the six ways you can fix your plant.

1. Adjust Light Levels

pothos with light shining on a wood table.

Sunlight is a crucial component of photosynthesis, the process through which plants create energy. 

Pothos plants can survive in low light conditions. But if you want to increase pothos leaf size, try to meet the plant’s sunlight preferences.

Like many houseplants, pothos prefers bright indirect light. 

Indirect sunlight is exactly what it sounds like: sunlight that does not hit the plant directly but is filtered or refracted. Glass windows, gauzy curtains, and either other plants can help achieve these lighting conditions. 

Sometimes, increasing light levels will help increase leaf size. If your pothos sits deep in a room, try moving the plant next to a window. (South or west-facing windows will give you the most reliable light.) 

If your living space does not receive adequate sunlight, consider buying an artificial light source such as a grow light. 

As you make adjustments to light levels, try to do so gradually. Sudden changes can stress the plant, further stunting its growth. 

Also, remember that too much light can harm houseplants. Depending on where you live, direct sunlight can burn leaves

While increasing light exposure, keep an eye on the plant’s leaf tips. You might need to move the pothos to a slightly shadier spot if they become crispy and brown. 

2. Keep a Consistent Watering Schedule 

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

Plants need water to survive. But too much water can be just as harmful as too little. So when you’re watering houseplants such as pothos, consistency is vital.

Unfortunately, that does not mean you can set a recurring reminder on your phone and go on autopilot. Instead of following a set schedule, you must pay attention to the soil. 

Ideally, you should let the soil dry out completely before watering the pothos. 

There’s an easy way to test soil conditions. Insert your finger in the top inch of the soil. If damp dirt sticks to your finger when you remove it, it’s not yet time to water the pothos. But if your finger comes away clean, water the pothos until water begins trickling out of the drainage holes. 

If the pot is sitting on a saucer, remove any excess water. 

When in doubt, let the soil dry out. Too much water can cause root rot, insect infestations, mold, and other issues. 

3. Apply Fertilizer

Little girl showing the best soil for pothos plants.

If you are growing pothos in a pot, it will only have access to the nutrients in that container. Like all plants, pothos plants use their roots to absorb nutrients through the soil. So over time, that soil will run out of nutrients if you don’t replenish them.

Giving your pothos plant food will help make up for nutrient deficiencies in the soil. 

Most commercial fertilizers are a mix of Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), and Potassium (K). Manufacturers list this ratio as the N-P-K ratio. Therefore, all-purpose fertilizers will have an equal amount of these three ingredients. 

Small leaf size often results from a nitrogen deficiency. So to increase leaf size, select a water-soluble fertilizer with a slightly higher nitrogen content. 

During the peak growing season (late spring to early fall), fertilize the plant once every two weeks. Reduce to once a month during the winter. 

To start, follow the dilution recommendations on the bottle. Full-strength fertilizer can burn the plant. 

Over-fertilizing the plant can also stunt leaf growth. So be patient before applying more pothos fertilizer

4. Change the Container

woman working on a pothos pot

If your pothos is exhibiting small leaves, it might need a larger pot. 

Take a look at the container. Has the soil separated from the sides of the pot? Can you easily lift the plant out of the pot? Are roots poking out of the drainage holes? If you answered yes to any of these questions, the pothos has likely become root bound. 

In other words, you’re going to need a bigger pot.

Increase pot size by two inches in diameter. It might be tempting to whack the pothos in the biggest pot you can find, wipe your hands, and assume you’ll never have to re-pot again. 

But avoid this temptation. The larger the pot, the more soil it contains. And more soil will hold more water — sometimes more moisture than the roots can absorb. 

Another thing to consider is the type of container. 

Hanging baskets are popular for pothos. But dangling vines will not produce big leaves. 

So instead, try to give your pothos something to climb, such as a stake, trellis, or moss pole. Even a taut line of string will give the pothos’ aerial roots somewhere to attach. 

5. Check Temperature & Humidity

neon pothos in bathroom

Pothos plants are native to tropical climates. Short of turning your living room into a rainforest, you want to mimic tropical temperature and humidity.

Pothos will grow the biggest leaves in temperatures ranging from 70-90 F. 

In temperatures above this range, pothos will survive but may display wilted leaves. You might need to water the plant more frequently when it’s this hot, especially in dry climates. 

Pothos will continue to survive if temperatures dip slightly below this range, but new growth will likely be sparser and smaller. Temperatures below about 60 F can damage the tissue of pothos plants. And in severe cases, cold weather can kill your beloved houseplant. 

You can easily monitor and adjust the indoor temperature using a thermostat. But that isn’t the only consideration. You also want to pay attention to drafts, vents, radiators, and other “extreme” temperature sources. 

Position the pothos somewhere that it will enjoy a relatively consistent temperature all day. 

Humidity is slightly more complicated, but not impossible, to change. 

First, you can measure a room’s humidity using a hygrometer and increase it using a humidifier. 

Pothos plants want relatively high humidity ranging from 50-70% for indoor spaces. This range is slightly higher than what’s recommended for living spaces. 

Fortunately, you can make localized adjustments. For example, spraying the stems and leaves with a fine mist will increase humidity around the plant (although we suggest a humidifier over misting). Placing the pot on a humidity tray (a tray of pebbles with a small amount of water) will also help. 

You can also move the plant to your kitchen or bathroom. (Only make this adjustment if that space also features the necessary light conditions.) These rooms tend to be the most humid in a house. 

6. Prune & Maintain

trimming a pothos plant with scissors

It sounds counterintuitive, but sometimes you need to remove small leaves to get larger ones. Pruning pothos encourages the plant to produce new leaves. 

This maintenance especially helps make vines less leggy. Leggy vines are trailing stems that produce smaller leaves at sparser intervals farther away from the base of the plant. 

To prune, first, identify the nodes. These tiny nubs along the stems are the points from which new growth will form. Next, cut an inch or two above a node. 

If possible, you should avoid pruning pothos during the winter months. The plant slows new growth as it concentrates energy on surviving colder temperatures. In addition, if you prune foliage at this point, you might hinder the plant’s ability to perform photosynthesis.

It’s also worth mentioning that once a leaf has reached full maturity, there is nothing you can do to increase its size. However, pruning gives you the option to start again.

As you maintain your pothos, watch for diseases (root rot, leaf spot, blight) and pest infestations (aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, fungus gnats). Pothos is relatively resistant to these ailments. But any time the plant undergoes excess stress, leaf size can suffer.

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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.