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9 Pothos Production Overview
K. Steinkamp, A.R. Chase and R.T. Poole'
University of Florida, IFAS, 3 0 1994
Central Florida Research and Education Center-Apopka
CFREC-Apopka Research Report RH-92-16 University of Florida
Epipremnum aureum, commonly known as pothos, is a climbing vine native to the
Solomon Islands. Other common names for this plant are devil's ivy and hunter's robe.
Juvenile leaves can grow to 12 inches long, are heartshaped and sometimes variegated, with
yellow, white or silver green streaks depending on the cultivar. Adult leaves are large and
waxy, often reaching 30 inches across, with perforations between veins. Plants in their
natural habitat typically produce mature growth when they become well established;
however, most cultivated plants produce only juvenile growth. Pothos have enjoyed long
term popularity with consumers, probably because they tolerate indoor growing conditions
and a wide range of soil moisture levels. For these reasons and because pothos are utilized
in many different ways (totems, hanging baskets, dish gardens and various pot sizes from 3
to 10-inch), they will probably continue to be one of Florida's major foliage crops for many
years. The following report is a summary of some articles concerning optimal propagation
and production regimes for pothos species.
Stock Plants and Cuttings
Much of the pothos crop produced in central Florida was grown from cuttings
obtained locally until the 1970's. Growers maintained stock plants under shadecloth in large
beds (raised or in the ground), or purchased cuttings from local propagation nurseries. In
1969, Conover (5) reported that 50-60% shade (4000-5000 ft-c) and 60-650F night and 90F
day temperatures were best conditions for pothos cutting production. Increasing slat shed
shade levels from 40 to 80% decreased cutting weight and yields. Three fertilizer levels
were tested, 500, 1000 or 1500 lbs N-P205-K20/A/yr (.011, .022 or .034 lbs/ft2/yr) from a
1-1-1 source, but apparently fertilization level did not affect plant growth (11). Addition of
dolomite and Perk0 at rates of 7 lb/yd3 and 3 lb/yd3, respectively, to propagation beds did
not effect rooting or growth of pothos cuttings grown in peat beds (10).
In 1972 researchers recommended 0.8 to 1.0 lbs P205, 1.7 to 2.0 lbs K20/1000
ft2/month (.009 to .012 P205 and .02 to .024 K20/ft2/yr) and light levels of 3000 to 4000 ft-c
for optimum shade house production of pothos stock plants (9). Reduction of fertilizer rates
by 30% in winter was advised for pothos in unheated propagation areas since plants utilized
less fertilizer under winter conditions (9).
'Technical Assistant, Professor of Plant Pathology and
Professor of Plant Physiology, respectively, University of Florida,
IFAS, CFREC-Apopka, 2807 Binion Road, Apopka, FL 32703.
By 1987, much of pothos cutting production had moved to warmer tropical areas,
mainly the Caribbean Basin. Cuttings from these areas spend a minimum of 2-4 days in
shipment to Florida. Researchers at CFREC-Apopka examined the effects of shipping time
and temperature on pothos cuttings (16). Cuttings propagated after storage for 4, 8 or 12
days produced healthy salable plants, although propagated cuttings grew slightly slower as
storage time increased. Cuttings were not affected by storage temperatures of 50, 55, 60, or
65 F. In another test, cutting growth was also unaffected by ambient air temperatures of 65,
70, 75, 80 or 850F for 24 hrs prior to propagation (16).
Reyes, Chase and Poole (20), produced 6-inch pots of golden pothos stock plants
using 14, 42, 70 or 98 mg/N/6-inch pot/week from soluble liquid source, and maximum light
levels of 2000 to 6000 ft-c, depending on time of year. During winter, best stock plants
were produced at 3500 ft-c and 42 mg /N 6-inch pot/week. Best quality stock plants grown
during summer were produced with 6000 ft-c maximum light and 70 mg N/6-inch pot/week.
Cuttings harvested from summer-grown stock plants were allowed to root for 5 weeks, with
maximum growth occurring on stock plants receiving 98 mg N/6-inch pot/week.
Poole and Chase found that N rate was more important than N source in golden
pothos stock plant and cutting production (13). Nitrogen source only slightly affected stock
plant growth and cutting quality. Stock plants receiving only nitrate nitrogen had fewer
nodes per vine, although cuttings from these stock plants had slightly higher grades than
cuttings from plants fertilized with ammonium nitrogen or ammonium nitrate. In contrast, N
rate was very important for good stock plant growth and cutting production. Highest quality
stock plants and cuttings grown in this test, conducted during the summer season, received
112.5 mg N/6-inch pot/week from a soluble liquid source.
In another series of tests, good quality pothos were produced with 4 g urea/6-inch pot
(2). These plants were comparable to those grown in other tests using ammonium or nitrate
N sources applied at rates of 42 to 56 mg/6-inch pot/week soluble fertilizer (12, 20).
Nitrogen rate was more important for quality stock plant and cutting production than
potassium (K) rate when plants were grown with a urea formaldehyde N source (2).
Potassium in moderate amounts was essential for optimum growth. N:K ratios did not have
a significant effect on stock plant growth but the combined amounts of N and K that plants
received influenced growth and quality. Electrical conductivity of medium leachate and top
quality grade were highly correlated. Additional research showed cutting quality was
enhanced when K rates were increased from 0 to 6 g/6-inch pot, even though outward
appearance of stock plants was not affected by K increases (3, 4).
Best quality cuttings are obtained from stock plants receiving a higher light intensity
and fertilizer level than recommended for pot crop production. Light intensity should be
5000 ft-c in stock plant areas for best growth and quality of cuttings. Maintaining higher N
levels in stock plants compared to pot crops seems to benefit pothos cutting growth in the
early stages of propagation. Maintaining higher N levels in stock plants may ensure a good
N source during early stages of cutting growth, even though these levels are not directly
beneficial to the stock plants themselves. Results of recent tests show a fertilization range of
about 70 to 100 mg N/6-inch pot/week, depending on air temperatures and irrigation levels
produce best quality cuttings. A 3-1-2 analysis fertilizer will supply adequate P and K.
LIGHT AND FERTILIZER. Light level and fertilizer rate recommendations are lower for
production of acclimatized golden pothos compared to those made for stock plants which
never leave the production area (6, 8). Conover and Poole recommended 3000-4000 ft-c
light intensity and 34-11-23 N-P20,-K20 lbs/1000 ft2/yr (15.4 g N/ft/yr) (8). The most
current recommendations, published in 1990, are about 1500 to 3000 ft-c light intensity and
16 g N/ft2/yr (6). Pothos in 6-inch pots getting a 3-1-2 fertilizer such as 19-6-12
OsmocoteT (Grace-Sierra Co., Milpitas, CA 95035) should receive 4.0 g/pot/3 months.
Pothos in 6-inch pots receiving a 20-20-20 soluble liquid fertilizer such as PetersT
(Grace/Sierra Co., Milpitas CA 95035) would get 1.3 g/pot/month.
In 1990, Poole and Conover used the pour-through method to determine leachate
electrical conductivity levels associated with good quality, acclimatized 'Marble Queen'.
OsmocoteTM 19-6-12 3- month release rate fertilizer, surface applied at rates ranging from
7.2 to 24.0 g/6 inch pot/3 months, produced good quality plants with leachate electrical
conductivity ranging from 1,200 to 5,600 C/mhos/cm(15). A broad survey, measuring
elemental composition of 26 species of good quality foliage plants, was conducted to
determine range of elemental levels in tissue samples associated with good quality plant
growth. Good quality golden pothos plants were found to have tissue levels of 2.5-3.5%-N,
0.2-0.35%-P, 3.0-4.5%-K, 1.0-1.5%-Ca, and 0.3-0.6%-Mg (19).
TEMPERATURE AND IRRIGATION. Fresh weight and plant grade of golden pothos were
lower when plants were grown at 100F or 105F compared to 90*F or 95F maximum air
temperature (17). The recommended maximum air temperature for production of golden
pothos is 90F, which takes into account worker efficiency.
Bodnaruk, Mills and Ingram reported bottom heating at a constant 70F reduced crop
time of golden pothos in 3-inch pots by 35% in winter when maximum air temperature was
maintained at 60F (1). Crops were salable in 9 weeks compared to 14 weeks for pots
without bottom heating. Shoot length and number of leaves were not affected by 45F
minimum air temperature with 70F constant medium temperature, although foliage was
chlorotic and plants unsalable. Plants grown at 50F minimum air and 70F constant
medium temperatures were, however, of marketable quality.
In another experiment where minimum air temperatures were tested at spring and
summertime levels (60, 65, 70, or 75F), medium temperature did not influence plant
growth or quality (14). Increasing air temperature from 60 to 75F in winter increased
growth and plant grade of golden pothos, but 70F was recommended as the minimum
production air temperature after economic factors (air heater use and fuel costs) were
Poole and Conover also found that growth and grade of golden pothos greatly
improved as night air temperature was increased from 60 to 700F, but growth was not
affected by temperatures of irrigation water (40, 50, 60 or 700F) (18). No differences in
growth were found in pothos watered for 16 weeks with deionized water, deep well water or
sewage effluent although vine weight increased when plants were watered 4 compared to 2
times per week in the same test (7).
Best quality golden pothos are grown in 1500 to 3000 ft-c light intensity and fertilized
at 16 g/N/ft2/yr. This means pothos in 6-inch pots getting a 3-1-2 fertilizer, such as 19-6-12
OsmocoteTM, would get 4.0 g/pot/3 months. When a soluble liquid fertilizer such as
PetersTM is used, pothos in 6-inch pots would get 1.3 g/pot/month. Since N source is not
important to plant growth, fertilizer can be selected based on economic considerations. A
production air temperature range of 70F to 90F is recommended for good plant growth and
labor efficiency. Bottom heating is not important as long as air temperatures remain in this
Pothos production practices have changed in the last 20 years as shipping and storage
technology improved. Many pothos cuttings are now produced off-shore, in tropical regions,
where total production costs may be many times lower than production costs of a comparable
crop grown in the U.S. Formerly, most producers maintained stock plants or purchased
cuttings from local sources where growing regimes could be readily observed. Today cutting
purchases can be an international affair, sometimes handled by a third party, the plant
brokerage firm, where the main concern may be price. Foliage plant producers need to
consider more than cost per unit when buying pothos cuttings. Before the purchase contract
is signed, buyers should investigate supplier's stock plant production regimes, as well as
environmental conditions under which cuttings are shipped and length of time cuttings will be
in transit. This will maximize predictability of cutting performance after propagation.
1. Bodnaruk, W.H.,Jr., T.W. Mills, and D.L. Ingram. 1981. Response of four foliage
plants to heated soil and reduced air temperatures. Proc. Fla. State Hort. Soc.
2. Chase, A.R. and R.T. Poole. 1992. Effect of urea nitrogen and potassium ratios on
golden pothos stock plants and cuttings. Univ. of Fla., IFAS, CFREC-Apopka Res.
3. Chase, A.R. and R.T. Poole. 1991. Effect of potassium rate, temperature and light
on growth of pothos. Univ. of Fla., IFAS, CFREC-Apopka Res. Rpt. RH-91-11.
4. Chase, A.R. and R.T. Poole. 1991. Effect of potassium and potting medium on
growth of golden pothos. Univ. of Fla., IFAS, CFREC-Apopka Res. Rpt. RH-91-14.
5. Conover, C.A. 1969. Foliage plant stock production. Fla. Fol. Grower 6(5):1-9.
6. Conover, C.A. and R.T. Poole. 1990. Light and fertilizer recommendations for
production of acclimatized potted foliage plants. Nursery Digest 24(10):34-36, 58-59.
7. Conover, C.A. and R.T. Poole. 1985. Use of sewage effluent as an irrigation
source for foliage plants. Nurseryman's Digest 19(4):34, 36, 38 and 39.
8. Conover, C.A. and R.T. Poole. 1978. Selection of shade levels for foliage plant
production as influenced by fertilizer and temperature. Fla. Nurseryman. 23(10):74-
9. Conover, C.A. and R.T. Poole. 1972. Fertilization practices for foliage plant stock
production. Fla. Fol. Grower 9(3):4,5.
10. Conover, C.A. and R.T. Poole. 1972. Influence of propagation bed nutritional
amendments on selected foliage plants. Fla. State Hort. Soc. 85:392-394.
11. Conover, C.A. and R.T. Poole. 1972. Influence of shade and nutritional levels on
growth and yield of Scindapsus aureus, Cordyline terminalis 'Baby Doll' and
Deiffenbachia exotica. Proc. Trop. Reg. Amer. Soc. Hort. Sci. 16:222-281.
12. Poole, R.T. and A.R. Chase. 1991. Growth of pothos cuttings affected by nitrogen
fertilization of stock plants. Univ. of Fla., IFAS, CFREC-Apopka Res. Rpt. RH-91-
13. Poole, R.T. and A.R. Chase. 1991. Influence of nitrogen source and rate on growth
of Epipremnum aureum stock plants and quality of cuttings. Univ. of Fla., IFAS,
CFREC-Apopka Res. Rpt. RH-91-16.
14. Poole, R.T. and C.A. Conover. 1990. Effect of bottom heating regimes on growth
of three foliage plants. Univ. of Fla., IFAS, CFREC-Apopka Res. Rpt. RH-90-22.
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15. Poole, R.T. and C.A. Conover. 1990. Leachate electrical conductivity and pH for
ten foliage plants. J. Environ. Hort. 8(4):166-172.
16. Poole, R.T. and C.A. Conover. 1988. Storage of philodendron and pothos cuttings.
Proc. Fla. State Hort. Soc. 101:313-315.
17. Poole, R.T. and C.A. Conover. 1987. Heat stress of foliage plants. Univ. of Fla.,
IFAS, CFREC-A Res. Rpt. RH-87-2.
18. Poole, R.T. and C.A. Conover. 1981. Growth response of foliage plants to night
and water temperatures. HortScience 16(1):81-82.
19. Poole, R.T. and C.A. Conover. 1976. Chemical composition of good quality tropical
foliage plants. Proc. Fla. State Hort. Soc. 89:307-308.
20. Reyes, T., A.R. Chase and R.T. Poole. 1990. Effect of nitrogen level and light
intensity on growth of Epipremnum aureum. Proc. Fla. State Hort. Soc. 103:176-