The Climbing Pothos Plant
Everybody has seen this plant. The ease with which it grows in low-light areas and the facility with which it roots from cuttings have made it one of those ubiquitous house plants. It creeps and crawls off of kitchen windowsills, office desks, and bathroom countertops. Its vining nature makes it a natural for trailing out of hanging baskets and planters atop room dividers far from its tropical home in the Solomon Islands. It has had several scientific names and one of them even stuck as its common name. Now known as Epipremnum aureum, most just call it pothos, or Ceylon creeper. The word pothos actually comes from the word for ivy in Sinhalese, the language of that tiny nation now known as Sri Lanka.
The specific epithet (the second of those words in its name) refers to the lovely golden spots and streaks that fleck the foliage. When grown indoors, the heart-shaped leaves are just a few inches across, and are shiny and smooth. If you happen to let it go in a greenhouse or outdoors in the tropics (even southern Florida), it will astound and delight with enormous leaves, many more than two feet in length. These adult leaves are reminiscent of split-leaf philodendron. The smooth edges develop deep cuts that make them look like they’ve been slashed by a knife. In the rainforest where this species normally grows, these incisions allow the large volume of rainwater to pass quickly through without causing damage.
In the shade of a tall tree, the vine climbs quickly by leaning up against the trunk and attaching itself with adventitious roots. The once stately tree is lost in the burst of pothos foliage. Will it do that in our Mediterranean climate? Probably not, but, might it be worth a try? I’m thinking about it. The investment is small; little rooted cuttings are available almost anywhere, including the shelves outside your local supermarket. And you might know somebody who has one and can give you a cutting. It will root easily in a jar of water or pushed into some potting mix. From such a tiny slip, you just might grow a tropical wonder.
• If May gray extends into June gloom, watch closely for powdery mildew. Wash spores off foliage early in the day or add 1½ tablespoons vegetable oil, 1½ teaspoons baking soda, 1 tablespoon vinegar, and 1 tablespoon dishwashing detergent to one gallon water and spray leaves well.
• Watch for giant whitefly with its white fuzz. Pick off affected leaves and discard.
• Replenish mulch everywhere up to six inches to provide nutrients and retard water loss.
• Plant all warm-season flowers and vegetables through the end of the month.
Virginia Hayes, curator of Ganna Walska Lotusland, will answer your gardening questions. Address them to Gardens, The Independent, 122 W. Figueroa St., S.B., CA 93101. Send email to email@example.com.