Pothos, meet moss pole (instant BFFs)!
Pothos are often grown in hanging pots. But houseplant lovers may not know that growing them upward will produce lusher, larger plants that are healthier and more attractive. Grow a pothos on a moss pole, and you’ll see dramatic results!
We also know pothos as devil’s ivy or by its botanical name ‘epipremnum aureum’. It grows natively in a range of tropical regions, but originated in Southeast Asia.
Pothos have become invasive in areas like Florida, where they began as decorative foliage but adapted to thrive in the state’s warm, humid climate.
There are nine types of pothos commonly grown, of which three are particularly well known: marble queen, neon and golden pothos. Pothos can appear quite similar to each other, which makes it easy to mistake one variety for another.
Added to this, plant tags can be inaccurate. However, if you struggle with plant identification, there are many plant apps that can be helpful.
Pothos are toxic to children and furry friends. Avoid pothos if your child (or pet) has a curious nature and is inclined to bite or gnaw on houseplants.
Wild vs domestic pothos growth habits
In the lush jungle environments from which these stunning plants originate, you’ll often find them growing up trees. In suburban areas they climb up houses, much like the ivy we’re familiar with in the more northerly reaches of the world.
As a pothos grows upward, its leaves become much larger. The plant’s aerial roots will reach in and around whatever it’s climbing upon (see photo above — a great example of this growth pattern).
Domestically grown pothos, specifically those grown in hanging baskets, look nothing like the plants we see in our friends’ tropical vacation photos. Hanging plants rarely get leaves larger than palm-sized. Plants that grow in the wild grow up to 40’ tall, with leaves up to 3’ wide!
The benefit of using moss poles for pothos
Moss poles are becoming popular in gardening communities for all the right reasons. They make great DIY projects, a variety of plants enjoy using them, they’re often attractive and good conversation starters.
The logic behind using moss poles comes from how plants that benefit from them grow naturally outdoors, specifically via aerial roots. Those strange little nubs that stretch out from a plant’s vines serve an important purpose. When growing in natural environments, these roots help vining plants scale trees to reach the light at the top of dense canopies.
Pothos’ aerial roots both anchor and increase potential for health and growth, and the plant’s leaves increase in size as it grows upward and matures.
Aerial roots also act as natural aerators for plants growing in waterlogged areas.
Moss poles vs trellis
It does work, to some extent, to grow a pothos on a trellis. However, the primary benefit of the moss pole is that it gives climbing plants something to dig their roots into. A moss pole is, of course, also similar to the bark and moss it would encounter in nature.
With moss poles, you can also mist your plants regularly to maintain a moisture level similar to what it would encounter in its natural habitat. A trellis simply dries off shortly after being misted.
How to grow pothos on moss poles
As long as your pothos doesn’t need repotting, it won’t be a massive undertaking to attach it to a moss pole. The smaller the plant, the easier the process will be, but you can move any size pothos onto a moss pole system.
Once you’ve made your moss pole (see the end of this article for a basic how-to guide) or purchased one, soak it thoroughly.
Insert the pole at the back or middle of the plant, depending on how you wish the ultimate result to look.
Begin by gently wrapping the longest vine up the pole, securing as you go.
You can secure the vine in a variety of ways, with floral pins, velcro strips (usually supplied with purchased moss poles), orchid clips, or garden twine.
We share a velcro plus orchid clips method below.
Repeat this step with each vine until only the shortest vines remain. You can leave the vines that are too short to wrap hanging out of the pot or you can leave them at the base of the pole — they’ll eventually climb. You can train your pothos and its growing vines to follow the pole rather than find other items to climb (walls or nearby plants).
Once your pothos is secured to its pole, care for your plant the same way you always have, but add in regular misting. This will replicate the rain that would encourage the roots to grow into the moss and result in a stronger, larger, and more lush plant.
Making a moss pole vs. buying a moss pole
You can buy your moss pole (Amazon sells them, for example), or, if you love a good DIY project, this is a great one for you!
There are tons of guides online about how to make a moss pole with a stake and moss sheets. You can also make one with a PVC pipe, drilled out with soil and fresh moss attached to replicate a natural growing environment.
If you’re determined to make your own, you’ll need:
- PVC pipe or a thick dowel/wooden stake. Ideally taller than the plant.
- Sphagnum moss or coconut fiber sheets (aka coconut coir mats).
- Glue to secure the sheets to the pole.
- Twine, to help further secure the sheets to the pole.
Step by step:
- Glue the first layer of moss sheet to the pole.
- Wrap the sheet layer by layer (ideally an inch or more in thickness).
- Wrap the twine around the sheet moss to secure it to the pole.
- Soak the moss pole before use.
You can find a variety of more complex moss pole projects scattered across the internet. But the basic solution of attaching sheet moss to a pole will give you the results you need.