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How To Grow Pothos (Devil's Ivy) In Water

Updated on December 11, 2015

Growing Devil's Ivy In Water

Glass vases can be found at thrift stores and are a very cheap container for growing Pothos or other houseplants in water
Glass vases can be found at thrift stores and are a very cheap container for growing Pothos or other houseplants in water | Source

Houseplants Are Beneficial

Houseplants like Pothos (also known as Devil’s Ivy) can improve indoor air quality by removing CO2 and other contaminants from the air around them. In addition to removing contaminants from the air, they provide supplemental oxygen, which as we all know is necessary for the majority of life on Earth. However, potting soil can be messy and remembering to water the plants can sometimes be neglected with disastrous results.

Growing Devil's Ivy In Water

Pothos (Devil's Ivy) growing in water in a glass vase
Pothos (Devil's Ivy) growing in water in a glass vase | Source

Can Pothos Grow In Water?

Instead of using soil, we can grow Pothos in nothing but water with a small amount of liquid fertilizer. No, this doesn’t involve expensive pumps, containers and special fertilizer. I’m talking about growing a plant in nothing but a cheap vase or jar, some tap water and Miracle-Gro! The best part of growing plants in water is that you can see at a glance if they need watering. That doesn’t sound too expensive or involved now does it?

Pothos, like many plants, will root readily from cuttings placed in water and will be content to grow like that as long as they’re provided with some nutrients and enough sunlight. Any container will do, so long as it holds water. Pothos is very hardy and can withstand quite a bit of neglect. In some countries and states, it is considered to be an invasive species as it can compete with native plants. However, there is no danger of Pothos taking over your home!

How To Grow Pothos In Water


First, you’ll need some sort of vase, jar, bottle or similar glass container. These can be found at very low cost at thrift stores such as Goodwill. Clear ones are nice, yet can make a perfect breeding ground for algae (the green slimy goop that typically grows in ponds). If you don’t want to clean your containers frequently, choose a darker color vase/glass/jar that will block out some light and slow the growth of algae.

Next, we’ll need some water. Tap water is usually fine. Plants can survive fairly well on this most of the time. However, if your tap water is chlorinated, you’ll have to let the water sit in an open container for about a day before pouring it in a jar with a new plant or watering an existing plant. This allows time for the chlorine, which can be harmful to plants, to dissipate from the water into the atmosphere.

Now, we’ll need to add just a little bit of fertilizer to the water before adding our Pothos. Any kind of liquid fertilizer will suffice for growing our Pothos. Miracle-Gro is the most commonly available liquid fertilizer in most stores. They produce a liquid fertilizer for African Violets, another common houseplant, and this mixture of nutrients is sufficient for most house plants as well. Simply add a few drops into your water, depending on how large your container is and how much water you have.

Finally, it’s time to add our plant. I suggest that if you know someone who has a Pothos plant, you ask them for a few cuttings. If not, then purchase a plant from your favorite nursery or garden center. When making cuttings select a section of stem, typically on the end of a vine, and cut off enough of the stem so that the individual section has at the very least to 3 nodes (points where roots and leaves grow from). A few more is ok, but the cutting can only support so many leaves until it forms new roots.

Remove a leaf or two from the end of the cutting, but not on the end where all new growth is occurring. Place your cuttings in your container, making sure that the cut ends are covered with water. Wait a few days and you’ll begin to see roots forming on your cuttings. In time, these will grow longer and the cuttings will now be able to support new growth.

Algae Growth In Hydroponics

Algae can grow upon the sides of containers when growing plants hydroponically and can reduce the plants' access to dissolved nutrients
Algae can grow upon the sides of containers when growing plants hydroponically and can reduce the plants' access to dissolved nutrients | Source

Problems Associated With Growing Pothos In Water

Generally, the biggest problem associated with growing Pothos in water is simply, the water! While there may be plenty of it available, you must remember to make sure that the majority of roots are in contact with or below the water line (some roots or sections of roots may be exposed to the air, this is beneficial). This can be easy to take care of and involves no guesswork as to how much water you should add, just look at your container and fill it to an appropriate level.

The other major problem with growing Pothos in water is the buildup of algae. Algae itself is harmless yet it can compete for the nutrients in the container. With Pothos, that’s not such a big deal, as we know it can be an invasive plant, given the chance. However, it can be unsightly and detracts from the overall view of the plant. While you can use chemicals to kill the algae, it’s best not to use them as they may also harm the plant. It’s best to simply use something like an old toothbrush or a cloth to scrub the algae off the glass and rinse it out periodically. If you’re using darker colored containers, the growth of algae will be hindered by the reduced light penetrating the sides of the container.

Maintaining Pothos In Water

Periodically, you should change the water and rinse out the vase/jar/glass that you have your Pothos growing in. This will prevent the water from becoming stagnant and foul. If there is any algae buildup, clean the sides of the container. And, if your tap water is treated with chlorine, be sure to have some prepared in advance to refill your containers. As your Pothos plants grow, they may begin to grow rather long. Simply cut the tips of the plants off and root them in water. Soon, your Pothos will be growing dense and lush in whatever container you use.

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    • profile image

      Ebee 2 months ago

      My pothos is growing new leaves while in the water but roots are not forming

    • profile image

      Daniel 2 months ago

      @Shannon - Did you put fertilizer in the water? It could be too much. If not, the plant might need nutrients. Did you let the water sit for a day before using it? Is there sunlight in the bathroom, and not just a light bulb? Do you always let the water sit when changing it, so that the chlorine can evaporate? Do you re-add nutrients during a change?

    • profile image

      Sean 3 months ago

      Do the roots need to be cut back? Have a pothos with lots of roots in water and heard you can trim the roots back too

    • profile image

      Shannon 3 months ago

      I cut a recently purchased pothos (as instructed, below a node, and with at least 3 or 4 mature leaves), and put it in water in my bathroom... indirect light, and I change the water weekly. The sprouting leaves haven't developed, and the current leaves have gotten yellow and brown spots :( the original plant is fine.. what's wrong with the clipping? Supposed to survive in water but it doesn't seem to be happy

    • profile image

      Nancy 7 months ago

      Pond snails in a glass vase will eat algae and turn it into fertilizer for the plant.

    • jesimpki profile image
      Author

      jesimpki 15 months ago from Radford, VA

      Hi Jessie, that's an interesting option, but looking into it, it seems more suitable for plants grown in soil. Pouring milk into a vase with pothos or some other plant growing in water only, it could lead to a very smelly, yucky mess. Some places online suggest it could also cause fungal growth and rot. A brief check online suggests that some have had success with keeping fish in tanks with pothos growing in them. If using a vase, I'd suggest a large one and keep the roots trimmed up so the fish has room to swim and not get crowded inside.

    • profile image

      Jessie 15 months ago

      I heard that milk is good for plants, is it true?

      I am planning to put some small fishes in the vase to live together with the porthos, is that goods to do so?

    • profile image

      Tinypuffpastry 15 months ago

      Wow, I would've never thought of that. Thank you so much! I will use the coffee grounds since we have a ton here. :)

    • jesimpki profile image
      Author

      jesimpki 15 months ago from Radford, VA

      Hi Tinypuffpastry! As ridiculous as this may sound, you could try sprinkling in a bit of soil as it will have some nutrients in it that plants need, although nowhere near enough what fertilizer would have. This could help, or also maybe sprinkling in used coffee grounds, which have a high nitrogen content. If the leaves started yellowing and fell off, it could be that nitrogen is what your pothos is missing.

    • profile image

      Tinypuffpastry 15 months ago

      Hey there :) I have a piece of pathos that a friend gave me a year ago but recently the roots have root and after cutting them they have failed to grow back. There were five leaves when I first got them now there is only one. I dont understand, despite that i have never put fertilizer (my mom wont let me buy some) I clean the vase every time there is algae and i make sure it has enough sunlight, Is there anything I can do or use instead of fertilizer? It seems as if that is my major problem but I cant buy it.

    • jesimpki profile image
      Author

      jesimpki 2 years ago from Radford, VA

      Hi Hickkat, you might want to try a bit of diluted liquid fertilizer. Has anything changed like the room that it is in or has it been moved near a vent?

    • profile image

      Hickkat 2 years ago

      I have had my pothos ivy growing in a vase of water for two years with no problems. Recently the leaves started turning yellow and there are some brown spots on some of the leaves as well. I have never fertilized it and was thinking of trying to to see if it would help. Any ideas? Could it be a disease?

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 4 years ago from Germany

      Great idea! I have some Pothos in the garden and I want some inside the house. Thanks for sharing;-)

    • profile image

      kay 4 years ago

      I was just wondering if I could fully submerge pothos in water? I have really healthy ones growing in my bathroom, but wanted to attempt a clipping in my fish tank. It's a 3 gal little thing, and would like to have some live plants for obvious beneficial reasons for the plant and my fish. But don't want to put it in there if it will hurt the fish.

    • jesimpki profile image
      Author

      jesimpki 4 years ago from Radford, VA

      Yes, changing the water every few weeks and adding a few drops of liquid fertilizer will help keep the plants healthy.

    • profile image

      Seth 4 years ago

      Do We have to change water every weeks ensuring that the plant is healthy?

    • jesimpki profile image
      Author

      jesimpki 5 years ago from Radford, VA

      cpagnew, it would help with the algae, however it could cause damage to the plant.

    • profile image

      cpagnew 5 years ago

      would a drop or two of bleach help with the algae and not harm the plant?

    • jesimpki profile image
      Author

      jesimpki 5 years ago from Radford, VA

      You can take a plant that's been rooted in soil, wash the soil from the roots and transplant the plant into water.

    • profile image

      Me 5 years ago

      Sorry, I do not understand the "cuttings/rooting" section ): If I buy the ivy from the local nursery they already have roots, rooted in pot/soil so if I take them out of the soil, put in water, would this work?

      Thanks!

    • jesimpki profile image
      Author

      jesimpki 5 years ago from Radford, VA

      You're welcome pedrn44! Some plants are more difficult to root in water, yet Pothos doesn't need any encouragement. :)

    • pedrn44 profile image

      pedrn44 5 years ago from New Berlin Wisconsin

      I love rooting plants from cuttings but usually don't have much luck. I usually use clear vases,and now understand the problems that may occur. Thanks for your suggestions!

    • jesimpki profile image
      Author

      jesimpki 5 years ago from Radford, VA

      That's definitely one way to reuse 'waste' aquarium water! The waste products generated by fish can definitely be used by plants, and is one reason why algae can take over fish tanks.

    • profile image

      Amnonymous9 5 years ago

      Yes indeed it is a great idea. In fact the "dirty" water from a gold fish bowl is truly an awesome fertilizer. I just empty the old water from the vase and replace it with the water from the fish bowl. I also noticed that the water in the vase is crystal clear when I pour it out after two weeks, and the foul smell is gone.

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