to properly propagate a pothos
June 1, 2011 9:12 AM   Subscribe

Why won't my pothos propagate in this place? I feel as though I am doing the right things, and now don't want to give up another little leg of the stuff to a failed propagation.

I've been trying to propagate this pothos for awhile now, to no avail.

What I am doing is: taking a cutting that has at least two little brown stubby roots at the end, leaving some space near the bottom for a glass, putting it in a jar of water (this jar of water) on a windowsill with not too much sunlight (it gets this much direct sunlight a day for about 2 hours then the rest of the day is very little sun), and changing the water reguarly.

What is going wrong? I am guessing there is too much light in this place, am I guessing right? They keep turning yellow and dying. As you can see the english ivy is very happy in the same place, and I know english ivy will practically grow in a puddle if you let it, but I thought pothos (devil's ivy!) would do the same?

I <3 THIS PLANT. help me love it in many places!
posted by ameliaaah to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Maybe your cuttings need a little *more* light? 2 hours of direct and the rest shade doesn't sound like much.

I don't have very good luck propagating plants in water, but rooting powder + dirt works great for my pothos offshoots.
posted by travertina at 10:22 AM on June 1, 2011

I know that it's supposed to be ridiculously easy to grow pothos, but while my mom's has turned her bathroom into a jungle, they just don't want to grow for me. Which is fine, because I don't need one more thing to take care of anyway *sniffs and kicks toe in dirt*.

Reading this makes me wonder if your water is the problem - is it getting "burned by chemicals", and are your cuts as sharp and clean and angled as it says they should be and are you letting your water sit? And this mentions that the roots really hate being waterlogged, so maybe as soon a you see any roots at all, do the plastic bag greenhouse thing?

All that said, my mom always has glasses with pothos rooting in murky water in her bathroom right next to the mother plant, and I'd swear she doesn't even cut it first but just sticks some of it in the water, and cuts it after it has rooted if someone wants some. And, if I complain how it's crawling up the wall and adhering its weird suctiony things to the paint and that I think that's creepy, she'll just hack that stuff off with whatever's on hand and throw it in a glass, and so it grows. Maybe it likes tough love and you're killing it with kindness?

So I'm thinking, don't change your water and make sure the water you have it in has sat out a bit before your cutting goes in; and make sure that it's not just the stem, but the areal roots in the water?
posted by peagood at 10:24 AM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

As peagood says, are you sure about your water? If you're not on well, you might try letting your treated water sit for 24 hours, or use collected rain water. I wouldn't use distilled, unless you put a pinch or two of potting soil or a drop or two of rooting medium in it. I notice you have your cuttings in a glass jar--I use an opaque container or wrap aluminum foil around glass to darken the container. My theory is that roots start better in darkness. *shrugs* Try cutting an inch or so beyond the last root node, and put at least two if not three nodes under water. I cut the sections 8-12 inches and prune back to three or four leaves per section. Long sections seem to take forever. Try putting your cuttings in with the rooted ivy. Someone told me new cuttings are encouraged by already rooted cuttings because of a chemical released in the water. Not sure if that's true, but the roots do seem to come along faster. As far as light, my pothos roots like crazy in a north facing window over the sink and doesn't get much light. Other than that, as long as the cuttings don't appear to be dying....
posted by BlueHorse at 10:48 AM on June 1, 2011

Best answer: Yay, pothos! I have one plant that I have basically been constantly propagating for the last 20 years or so. (It was my grandmother's plant, which I adopted when she died.) This pothos is the only plant that has ever worked for me.

My first suggestion is that you put the cuttings back by the parent plant. If you radically change the light levels, the plant sometimes has to go through an adjustment period. It might literally be getting burned by the sunlight. Obviously the parent plant is happy where it's at, so the cuttings should be, too.

My second suggestion is to use longer cuttings. It sounds like you're only cutting back to one "joint." I take cuttings three or four joints down, then stick the whole shebang in water. A soda bottle works well for this, because it's tall with a narrow neck. A vase would work well too, if a soda bottle is a little too gauche for your taste. (It IS pretty gauche, I freely admit this.)

And my third suggestion is time. It can take 2-3 months for visible roots to start growing, depending on the circumstances. Pothos is not a super fast-growing plant. It takes its time. As long as the leaves are green, just top off its water and leave it be.

Here's a picture of my current cutting. I should really pot it up! I took this cutting about 1.5 years ago. It doesn't live on the window sill - I moved it there to take the picture.

I keep it tucked behind the pot of the main plant, which helps hide the soda bottle. The main plant lurks behind my desk where it can bathe in its preferred indirect light.
posted by ErikaB at 12:01 PM on June 1, 2011

Best answer: I meant to add, I have noticed some seasonality at work with the cuttings. If you take them in spring when the daylight is increasing and the plant seems "juicier," they seem to grow faster. Meaning that now is a great time to start a new one!

I don't even bother trying to set cuttings in fall or winter anymore. Even though houseplants live inside our climate-controlled homes, they do still seem to have a seasonal rhythm.
posted by ErikaB at 12:03 PM on June 1, 2011

when you make the cutting, are your ripping the leaves off (cut 6-9 leaves down, rip off the bottom 3 or 4)? also, maybe stop changing your water? i pour my water straight from the tap into a jelly jar, keep the jelly jar full of water, keep the cuttings by master pothos until they start to water root, and then move them where ever. i've kept them in water for 6-8 months, never changing it, with no problem.
posted by nadawi at 1:22 PM on June 1, 2011

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