Pothos is a popular houseplant, and it is said that they are almost impossible to do away with. However, if they are not provided with favorable living conditions and nutrients needed by them, you may see stunted growth.
Fertilizing pothos is not something everyone thinks of. However, it is crucial to do so. Let’s find out why.
Pothos needs to be fertilized with a balanced 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 fertilizer every 4-6 weeks during their growing season. Lack of nutrients can slow the growth of your pothos; thus, fertilizing them is crucial. Make sure you dilute the fertilizer to half of the regular dosage as strong fertilizer can damage the plant’s roots.
Fertilizing might sound really simple when you are scratching the surface of it.
However, once you get into the depth, you will find out different fertilization options available for your plants, which can be a little confusing.
In this article, we shall discuss all about different types of fertilizers, their dosage, and which one is the best fertilizer for your pothos. So, read this article till the end, so you don’t miss any critical point.
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Why fertilizing your pothos is important
Pothos need fertilization to grow healthy and bushy. Can a pothos plant survive without fertilizer?
Yes, it definitely can survive without water, but it will not thrive under such circumstances.
When we first repot a plant into a store-bought potting mix or any organically rich soil, the plant has enough nutrients in the soil to grow.
However, with time, the soil’s nutrients will deplete, and the plant will need more nutrients to grow.
Yes, the water we add does provide some nutrients to the plant, but that will only be enough for survival and slow growth.
If you want your pothos to thrive, then you need to provide them with a balance of nutrients required by them.
A common misconception among people is that fertilizer is like food for the plants. However, it is far from the truth.
Most plants, including pothos, can produce their own food by the process called photosynthesis.
However, fertilizers are the additional micro and macronutrients that plants need to grow lush, healthy foliage.
In the absence of these nutrients, your plant may still survive. However, the growth rate would be minimal, and the stems, roots, and leaves won’t be healthy and strong.
It can be compared to malnutrition in human beings. As our body needs a wide range of nutrients to remain healthy, the same is true with our plants as well.
Your pothos may struggle to grow if enough nutrients are not provided to them. Some of the signs of nutrient deficiency in pothos are:
- Slow growth
- Leaves losing its variegation
- Yellow/brown edges
- New leaves turning yellow and drooping
- Weaker root growth
- Leggy plant growth
If you can see any of these signs, then it means your plants are deficient in nutrients, and they do need it to supplement their growth.
What nutrients do fertilizers have?
In order to pick a good fertilizer for your pothos, we need first to understand the nutrient element present in them.
Those elements can generally be kept in two buckets, and these include some micronutrients and macronutrients.
Now let us see what these two buckets have:
|Micronutrients||–Iron, Zinc, Copper|
–Boron, Chlorine, Manganese
|Macronutrients||–Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium|
–Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen
–Calcium, Sulfur, Magnesium
Macronutrients are what a plant needs the most. Almost all of the fertilizer include Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium(NPK) as their primary ingredient as these are the nutrients required by a plant for healthy growth.
Some other essential macronutrients are Calcium, Sulfur, Magnesium; these are present in small quantities.
Micronutrients are present in much smaller quantities in any fertilizer. These are all those good to have nutrients that help with the overall healthy growth of a plant.
Compared to macronutrients, most fertilizers include micronutrients in relatively small quantities.
What is the best fertilizer for pothos?
With all the contradicting information out there and a wide range of products to choose from, it can be challenging for any new hobbyist to select the right product for their plant. Thus, we are here to simplify everything for you.
As you might have already read, pothos needs a balanced 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 fertilizer. But what does that mean?
The ratio basically denotes N-P-K, i.e., Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium. A balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer means it contains 10% of Nitrogen, 10% of Phosphorous, and 10% of Potassium.
Different types of houseplants need a different composition of fertilizer for healthy growth. Thus, choosing the right one is crucial.
Now let us have a look at what these different nutrients do for our plants:
|Nitrogen||–Essential for photosynthesis|
–Helps stimulate the growth of leaves and foliage
|Phosphorus||–Encourages root growth|
–Essential for flowering and fruiting plant
|Potassium||–Helps regulate water intake|
–Helps fight off diseases
–Makes plants resilient
Pothos needs a balanced amount of nutrients to grow healthy and bushy. A fertilizer in 10:10:10 or 20:20:20 would be ideal for your pothos.
Now with the basics of nutrients in fertilizer out of the way, let us learn about different types of fertilizer available in the market and what you should choose for your pothos.
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Types of fertilizers
Most of the fertilizers for houseplants can be categorised into three groups. These include:
- Liquid fertilizer
- Granular fertilizer
- Slow-release fertilizers
Liquid fertilizers are one of the most popular fertilizers present out there. It is available in liquid as well as powder form.
You need to dilute it in water and use the appropriate dosage on your plant. Make sure you use 1/4 to 1/2 of the recommended dosage with pothos as strong fertilizer can lead to leaf burn and leggy plant.
Granular fertilizer is a pellet-based fertilizer mixed with the potting soil or directly added to the pot. These are helpful for outdoor plants, but they are not the best ones for your pothos.
They tend to release all their nutrients in one go, which might lead to an excess of nutrients and cause fertilization burn in your plant.
Slow-release fertilizers are also pellet based fertilizer, but the only difference is they are specially coated that helps in a slower release of nutrients.
As you water your plant, a small amount of nutrients will be released in the soil. The only drawback is you cannot control the concentration of nutrients in such fertilizer.
Thus, we can conclude that liquid fertilizers would be an ideal choice for your pothos.
Compost as fertilizer for pothos
If you are more into natural and organic fertilizers, then compost or worm casting may be the way to go.
Compost is made up of natural waste and organic material, which breaks down to form a rich organic mass that can be used to fertilize our plants.
We can add a small amount of compost and water our pothos to distribute the nutrients evenly.
The nutrients present in the compost will slowly sip into the soil, making it rich in nutrients. However, you must be aware of two problems with this:
- Compost can sometimes produce foul smell, that might not be pleasing for everyone.
- You cannot control the amount of nutrients that goes in
Although compost is rich in nutrients, they do not contain all the micro and macronutrients in a balanced ratio, as our pothos plant prefers.
Although adding a small amount of compost won’t hurt your pothos, it is better to supplement it with other kinds of fertilizer and provide a well-balanced source of nutrients to our pothos.
Do pothos like coffee grounds?
Coffee grounds are good for pothos. However, you cannot use coffee grounds directly on your pothos.
You need to compost it or make liquid fertilizer out of it to use it on our pothos.
Coffee grounds contain more nitrogen and a small amount of phosphorous and potassium in it.
You can use it alongside other fertilizers to complement the nutritional need of your pothos.
I do prefer coffee grounds during the dormant season as it doesn’t release a lot of nutrients in the soil, yet it can provide the necessary nutrients needed for the plant’s health.
My recommended fertilizer for pothos
If you don’t want to learn all the science behind the fertilizer and how it works, you probably have directly come to this part of the article.
Anyways, I will recommend two popular houseplant fertilizer that I have been using on all my houseplants, including pothos.
Jacks Classic 20-20-20 All Purpose Fertilizer is by far the most versatile and effective fertilizer I have ever used. Yes, it is a chemical fertilizer, but it works like a charm for all my houseplants.
The recommended dosage is 1tsp. with a gallon of water. However, I use 1/4th tsp.(25%) of what’s recommended, and my plants do wonder.
I do supplement this with compost every other month. The schedule is like if I use this in the current month, I will go with compost the next month and then back to this one in the following month.
Although you can try any good brand compost, I strongly recommend Charlie’s Compost for your houseplants.
Now with that out of the way, I know many you don’t enjoy chemical fertilizer, nor you like the compost’s pungent odor.
For all of you folks out there, a completely organic solution is Espoma Organic Indoor Liquid Organic Plant Food.
This is a balanced fertilizer which can be diluted to 1/2 strength. A regular dose would be around 7-8ml to half a gallon of water.
You can use this to fertilize most of your houseplants once a month. The pack size is smaller and may not last long if you are a plant hoarder like me, but it is one of the best organic, odorless solutions out there.
How much fertilizer does a pothos need?
If you are using a liquid fertilizer, you can dose half the recommended dose for your pothos.
And if you are going with compost, add a handful of it into the pot.
Water your pothos plant thoroughly so that the nutrients can sip through every corner of the soil.
How often should I fertilize my pothos
The frequency of fertilization depends upon your pothos’ growth and the season you are growing your plant in.
During the spring, you must fertilize your pothos every 4-6 weeks, depending upon the plant’s growth.
And during the dormant season, you must avoid fertilizing the plant or add a small amount of in 3 months just to rejuvenate the soil.
Also read: Root rot in pothos: Signs, causes and what to do
How to fertilize pothos
Fertilizing your pothos is easy and straightforward. You need to choose the right fertilizer and follow these steps:
- Pick an appropriate fertilizer and prepare half the standard dosage.
- Mix the fertilizer(1/4th tsp. or approximately 1ml) into a gallon of water and use this water on your pothos.
- In the case of compost, add a handful every eight weeks or so.
- Make sure you water the plant before and after fertilizing. Dry soil with fertilizer could be a recipe for disaster.
How do you fertilize pothos in water?
If you have grown your pothos in water, then replacing the water every week with a fresh one will help replenish the nutrients.
You can also add a tsp. of diluted liquid fertilizer once a month to boost their growth.
Avoid using excess fertilizer as it can boost algae growth. Also, make sure you fertilize your pothos only in their growing season.
What happens if you over-fertilize your pothos?
Over-fertilization could be a significant problem for your pothos.
If you feel like your pothos is not doing well even when you are caring for it that much, then probably you are overfertilizing your pothos.
Some of the signs of over fertilization include:
- Yellow and brown spots on leaves
- Stunted growth
- Leaf burn
- Brown tips
- Excess build-up of fertilizer on topsoil.
You may not see the effect immediately as it takes 2-3 days before the plant starts showing these signs.
Due to this, I always recommend using half the regular dosage as we may end up doing more harm than good if we overdo it.
Also read: Why is my pothos dying?
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How to fix an over-fertilized pothos?
Fixing an over-fertilized pothos can be tricky. Although there is a high probability that your plant will survive if the problem is diagnosed early and you follow the following steps:
- Look out for the signs of root and leaf damage
- Clip the brown and burnt leaves leaving behind green foliage only
- Remove any excess fertilizer build-up at the top layer of the soil. For this, you can scrape off one inch of soil and replace it with fresh soil.
- Water your pothos thoroughly to leech away any leftover fertilizer.
- Repot your pothos if the soil doesn’t look good.
- Do not fertilize the plant for 6-8 weeks.
Although most of the damaged leaves cannot recover back, you can still save the leftover plant and provide them with appropriate care so that they can thrive and grow fresh foliage.
Also read: How to propagate pothos?
Does pothos need fertilizer? Yes, pothos does need fertilizer for healthy and bushy growth.
Adding some fertilizer can provide the plant with additional nutrients they need for healthy growth.
If your pothos does not get these nutrients, they may become susceptible to diseases and pest problems.
Add any balanced 10:10:10 fertilizer in an appropriate dosage for healthy growth.
As far as fertilizer’s frequency is concerned, fertilize your pothos every 4-6 weeks, depending upon the development and season.
Also read: 9 tips to grow your houseplants faster
Source: Evaluation of certain potting media and NPK fertilizers for pothos, University of Florida pothos research.
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