Pothos Meet Moss Pole! (Instant BFFs!)
Pothos are often seen in hanging pots but houseplant lovers may not know that growing them upwards will produce a lusher, larger plant that is healthier and in my opinion more attractive. Pothos also goes by devil’s ivy or its botanical name epipremnum aureum. They grow natively in a wide variety of tropical regions, but originated in South East Asia. They have become invasive in areas such as Florida, where they began as decorative foliage but quickly adapted to the warm, damp climate. There are nine types of pothos commonly grown. Personally I grow three varieties, marble queen, neon and a small water growing vine of golden pothos. It is very easy to mistake one variety for another and plant tags may be inaccurate. If you’re struggling with plant identification, there are many plant apps that could be helpful. It should be noted this plant is also toxic to furry friends and children. So if your cat, dog, or child has a curious nature and is inclined to biting, or gnawing on your houseplants it may be best to avoid this one.
Wild vs Domestic Growth Habits
In the lush jungle environments that these stunning plants originate from, you will often find them growing up trees. In some suburban areas they even climb up houses, much like the Ivy we are familiar with in the northern reaches of the world. As the plant grows upwards the leaves get significantly larger as the aerial roots reach into and around the trunk or house siding that they are growing on (see the left photo above. It’s a great example of this growth pattern!). This is the reason domestically grown Pothos,specifically in hanging baskets don’t look anything like the plants we see in our friend’s tropical vacation photos. While our hanging plants rarely get leaves larger than the size of our hands, plants that grow in the wild grow up to 40ft in height and with leaves up to 3ft wide! Talk about an incredible difference between the wild versions of our humble domesticated plants.
The Benefit of Using Moss Poles
Moss poles are becoming very popular in gardening communities for all the right reasons. They make great DIY projects, a variety of plants enjoy using them, they are often attractive and good conversation starters.The logic behind using moss poles comes from how the plant grows naturally outdoors.The key to its success in growing upwards comes from the aerial roots on the vines. Those strange little nubs that stretch out from the vines actually do serve an important purpose, when growing in a natural environment those roots help the plant scale the trees to reach the light at the top of a potentially dense canopy.
Though not all aerial roots are created equal, some are used specifically to anchor an upwards growing plant but others will also hydrate and nourish itself. Pothos falls into the latter of the two, using its roots to both create an anchor and increase its health and growth potential. Which is why you will see the leaves increase in size as the plant grows upwards and matures. These roots also act as natural aeriaters for plants that grow in waterlogged areas.
Moss Poles vs Trellis
When I originally saw the trend and the theory behind the moss pole system for pothos I cut corners and stuck my largest pothos on a trellis. It has been working to some extent but there is something to be said about the plant having something it can “grow into”.The moss acts as a substrate that the plant can dig its aerial roots into and is similar to the bark and moss it would encounter in nature. With moss poles (or in my case coconut fibre) you are also able to mist them regularly to maintain a moisture level similar to the natural habitat of the plant. A trellis would simply dry off shortly after being misted.
How to Grow Your Pothos on a Moss Pole
There are a variety of methods on making a moss pole. Personally, I opted for the easier route of shipping one to my house but only due to personal time constraints. Presuming your plant does not need to be repotted, attaching it to a moss pole is not a massive undertaking unless your plant itself is quite large. The smaller the plant the easier the process will be, but all sizes can be moved onto a moss pole system at any time.
Once you have either made your moss pole (see the end of this article for a basic how to guide) or purchased an adequate one. I personally soak the moss poles next, before using them. You can omit this step and just attempt to saturate them with a mister afterwards. The moss pole can be inserted at the back or the middle of the plant, depending on how you wish the final product to look. Gently begin wrapping the longest vine up the pole, securing it as you go.You can do this a variety of ways, with floral pins, velcro strips (they often supply these with the purchased moss poles) or simple garden twine. I will be exhibiting both the velcro method and the use of leftover orchid clips.
Repeat this step with each vine until only the shortest vines remain. If they are not long enough to wrap the pole you can either let them hang out of the pot or leave them at the base of the moss pole and they should eventually start to climb it. You will likely need to intervene at different points to ensure they are trained properly to follow the pole and not seek out other items to climb such as your wall or nearby plants.
Care from this point on stays the same other than the added process of misting the plant/moss pole to replicate the rain that would encourage these roots to secure the plant while it grows and eventually result in a stronger, larger and more lush Pothos.
Making a Moss Pole vs Buying a Moss Pole
If you enjoy DIY projects, then this is a great one for you! There is a plethora of informative “how tos” on making a moss pole with either a stake and “moss sheets’ or some people go as far as creating PVC pipes drilled out with soil and fresh moss attached to further replicate the natural growing environment. Making my own is on my list of projects but realistically I do not have the time right now. Instead I got mine from Amazon and it arrived 24 hours later ready to “grow”.
If you’re determined to make your own……you will need:
- PVC pipe or a thick dowel/wooden stake. Ideally taller than the plant.
- Sphagnum moss or coconut fibre sheets (aka coconut coir mats).
- Glue, to secure the sheets to the pole.
- Twine, to assist with further securing of the sheets to the pole.
Step 1. Glue the first layer of moss sheet to the pole.
Step 2. Wrap the sheet layer by layer (ideally an inch or more in thickness).
Step 3. Wrap the twine around the sheet moss to secure it to the pole.
Step 4. Soak the moss pole before using.
That is the most basic way to create a moss pole but you can find a variety of more complex moss pole projects scattered across the internet. Realistically though the basic solution of attaching sheet moss to a pole will give you the necessary results.
Pothos will always be a personal favorite for me, the easy care requirements and potential to create a true “jungle” feel within the home make them a unique and worthwhile plant to invest in. They are easy to fall in love with and with nine varieties of plants and the potential to grow upwards, as a hanging plant or even as a water feature the possibilities for displaying its beautiful lush vines is endless.
Do you have a preference for growing your pothos? Have you tried a few different methods? Which one has worked best for your plant? Let us know! We would love to see how you’re growing your pothos plant!