Repotting a pothos plant. Advice needed.

wilsocnDecember 30, 2010

Hi all

There is a pothos plant in the house that has been around forever and it really belongs to my wife and has seen a lot of neglect over a long period of time and im trying to get it back into shape.

This plant was started from a cutting and at one time had another nice sized vine that died on me when I either gave it too much light or fertilized it when I should not have. It turned yellow and then brown and then was gone.

Anyway, it really only has two little sprigs that are growing. There is a third in the pot that is alive but for some reason it stopped growing way back when the other vine that I mentioned died on me.

So I really have two quetions about this plant. First, I want to repot it in a pot that is smaller so it doesnt look so shabby and I was wondering if I should keep all the roots close together so they form a rootball instead of just individual fragments? Second, what do you all recommend to make that small vine start growing again?

Here is a picture of the plant and thanks a bunch for the help. :)

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I should add that the vine im talking about no longer growing is not the little sprig sticking up but rather the vine with the four leaves.

Thanks again

    Bookmark   December 30, 2010 at 9:08PM
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Wil, when you described your Pothos, I was expecting a disaster, but after seeing the pic it's not bad, not bad at all.

I can't tell pot size by the picture. What size is it?
Looks like a 6 or 8"??

If your determined underpotting, if the plant is small compared to pot size, then remove the entire plant, roots and all. 'It might be better if done in late late winter, early spring.'

Tap excess soil. Dead roots should be pruned. Loosen roots, carefully, 'with fingertips' until clumped soil falls off. Or, hose soil away.

By removing all old soil, you'll be surprised how small a pot your Pothos will fit. With room to spare.
You don't want to decrease too much, I hope???
Too large a pot halts growth, which is the reason I'm assumiing your plant stopped growing. You mentioned neglect, therefore it probably hasn't had fresh soil or fertilizer. Right?? :)

Add a little soil on the bottom of its new container. Place Pothos in the center, adding new soil in a circular motion. So all sides are even, plant stands straight.

I wouldn't add liquid or powdered fertilizer, but if you have a time-released, mix in the soil. It won't cause any harm, as long as it's not abused.
I find SuperThrive 'hormone/vitamin' a great product, especially for newly potted plants, cuttings, seedlings..I use it for all my plants, new or old, seedlings or mature specimens. Water with or without, using water that's been sitting overnight.

Although Pothos don't like wet feet, they enjoy humidity. Daily misting or a trip to the sink and given a shower, 'foliage, not soil,' once a week, helps with humidity and keeps leaves clean. I prefer both, daily misting, once a wk showers.

During winter, Pothos need less water than they do in summer, but there's no time schedule. Water when soil feels dry. Looks crumbly. Watering will differ since pot size will be smaller, however, it depends on pot material, 'clay vs plastic vs ceramic,' room temp, and air humidity.

Pothos are semi-slow-growers, so little fertilzer is needed. Half-strength, once a month, during growing season is all that's required.

That's about it. Your Pothos looks healthy, 'unlike the concept you led me to believe, :)' until I viewed the picture. Good luck, Toni

    Bookmark   December 30, 2010 at 9:29PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

FWIW - too large of a pot doesn't halt or even slow growth unless the soil you are using remains so wet it impairs root function. Large pots combined with good watering practices, especially when coupled with highly aerated soils can produce rampant growth in plants, both above and below the soil line. It's likely that at this time of year your plants' growth is so slow either because of low photo-exposure (light) or temperature.

The planting does not appear to need a repot. The only reason to repot this plant now would be if the plant was in serious trouble, and it's not, judging by the photo. It looks reasonably healthy and in no danger of giving up the ghost before spring when the time to make any serious changes is getting closer to appropriate (summer).

Where plants are concerned, things don't always happen when we want them to. Plants have their own internal clocks and rhythms that guide them through their growth cycle. Right now, most of them really want to rest & grow very little. Being patient and working WITH nature instead of trying to take control and fight it, is going to be much better for the plant from the plant's perspective, even if it leaves you fidgeting in the meanwhile. ;o)

Doing anything serious to the plant now will absolutely not make a change in it's growth rate. In fact, it will set it back, and due to the long recovery period that is sure to follow major work (at this time), significant potential will be lost.


    Bookmark   December 30, 2010 at 10:13PM
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Thanks for the replies. I realize that growth is slow at times but I honestly believe that something else is going on with that small one. It literally did not grow for months and then all the sudden it grew a new leaf and this was just before I decided to fertilize it and put it about a foot under a fluorescent bulb where I have some cactus seedlings. That is when the plant started to die and the small vine went dormant again. That was a few months ago also and it is just frozen while the rest of the plant grew and continues to grow new leaves.

It is really strange and I cant figure out what the deal is with it. I will hold off for sure on re-potting it until warmer weather is here. I just wanted to re-pot to make it look a little better. I guess its not too clear from the picture but this pothos looks kinda piddly compared to two others that I have that look really full and robust. They are each in smaller pots and are at least 3-4 times the size of this plant with one being a climber.

Thanks again! :)

    Bookmark   December 30, 2010 at 10:32PM
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Al, sorry, but I have to disagree. 'Most' plants growing in very large containers will prevent or slow-down growth. 'Mainly indoor or indoor-grown plants.'
However, I would agree if we were discussing annuals, especially kept outside.
You commented about rapid-growing plants..Although Pothos are neither rapid nor slow-growing, (unlike most annuals that grow before ones eyes,) IMO, Pothos grow slower than many other viney tropicals. Therefore, whether in a small or large pot, perfect growing conditions, 'perfect for indoors,' Pothos will grow no faster.
Al, I believe you specialize mainly in Bonsai? Bonsais are grown in small/shallow containers, are they not? If you were to repot a bonsai in a huge container, what would take place?

Will, I'm not suggesting you repot your Pothos this time of year, but there are a list of plants hort authors advise shouldn't be disturbed in winter and other plants that don't matter..Pothos is one plant that can be repotted year round. Again, I'm not telling you to repot, just thought I mention in passing.
If you're worried, wait. Spring will be here soon I can't wait.

Like yours, my Pothos are underpotted yet bursting with lengthy stems and robust leaves. Good luck, Toni

A large pot gives the roots too much space to grow into, therefore, the top of the plant won't grow until its roots start filling the container.
Second, too large a container, 'mainly a pot without drainage,' holds too much water and can cause root rot.

Third. Many flowering plants (indoor) will not bloom if roots aren't, at the minium, a little crowded.

Last...Potting a 4" plant in an 8" container looks, (lonely.)

    Bookmark   December 31, 2010 at 12:17AM
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Your aroid commonly called "Pothos" is actually Epipremnum aureum. Epipremnum aureum was originally published to science as Pothos aureus Linden & Andr� in 1880 but that name is now considered non-valid or a synonym of E. aureum.

As aroid botanist Peter Boyce explains in volume 32 of the journal of the International Aroid Society, Aroideana, 2009 (page 15, volume 32), Pothos is a completely different genus containing 65 species. Plants in this genus look very little like Epipremnum aureum. Every genus has a specific set of defined characteristics and with this species several of those characteristics did not match the definition of the genus Pothos. Still, despite the fact it is not a member of the original genus it is commonly called a "Pothos" by plant collectors worldwide.

You appear to have the non-variegated form is less common that the variegated form but is the way the plant was originally discovered in the wild. There was a time when this plant was thought to be Epipremnum pinnatum but that has since been proved to be inaccurate.

Al is absolutely correct on his assessment. Pete Boyce clearly established the species was native to the island of Moorea in the Society Islands, north of Australia. Although not a native, Epipremnum aureum is now common on many Pacific islands as well as Malaysia, in Hawaii, Central and South America, Southern Florida and the Caribbean due to the release of imported plants. E. aureum is so wide spread in Hawaii it is considered an invasive species. It loves light and the plant strives to seek it out as a result of a subject known as scototropism.

Scototropic (sko-to-TRO-pic) growth describes the tendency of vining plants to grow towards the darkness found in the shade of a tree or object such as tall tree or a cliff, which will eventually allow the specimen to climb towards brighter light. The plant loves and needs bright light in order to grow larger as a result of photosynthesis which requires light.

My first suggestion would be to move it near a very bright window and give it something to climb.

The plant changes shape as it grows through a process known as ontogeny, provided it is allowed to climb. In our atrium the largest leaves are now close to 3 feet long but it morphs into many shapes as it climbs. Photos are on the link below.

In a variety of links on this site Al offers very good porous soil mixes that can encourage an aroid to live a long time and grow to a larger size as well as remain healthy. In the wild it lives largely in composted leaf litter and I�ve seen them growing that way at a number of places in the tropics.

When the time is right I would encourage you to consider repotting in a better soil mix but in the meantime, give it more light. Make sure the soil does not stay wet but also remember, this is a tropical plant species and loves water, thus the need for a porous soil mix.

The correct mix and proper watering are far more important than the size of the pot. I start many rare plants in much larger pots than most growers recommend and if you look at the homepage of my site you'll see they grow very large as a result of proper soil mixes, good light and the right amount of water.

Take a few moments and read my page below which was researched with the aid of Pete Boyce, Dr. Tom Croat at the Missouri Botanical Garden and others.

Al, can I suggest you post a link to some of your articles on soil?

Corresponding Secretary, The International Aroid Society

Here is a link that might be useful: Epipremnum aureum

    Bookmark   December 31, 2010 at 11:30AM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Steve, it's great to see you posting again.


    Bookmark   December 31, 2010 at 12:19PM
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Thanks Josh. You do a great job yourself as do a number of folks on this forum.

I failed to say that I also believe the plant appears to be very healthy. Many people prefer they not morph into the larger form and they will do fine for years in a pot just as is shown here. Some of us just enjoy seeing them grow to their mature size.

For anyone interested in how aroids morph the link below may help. Again, I have to say I fully agree with Al's writings. Pot size is not nearly as important as soil mixtures and proper water (along with adequate light) are the most important factors to successful growth.

Like many things in house plant growth, pot size is not well understood nor well explained to many growers.


Here is a link that might be useful: Plant variation and ontogeny

    Bookmark   December 31, 2010 at 5:55PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I've been disagreed with before, Toni. ;o)

So we don't confuse the issue by introducing a lot more variables, one of the things I commented on was the idea that "Too large a pot halts growth, which is the reason I'm assuming your plant stopped growing."

This is not true. To illustrate that it can't be true: If it was, no plant could grow in the landscape because it's roots have unlimited room to 'run'. Some plants grow in a leap-frog fashion - roots then the top - roots, then the top ..... If you damage roots, as I mentioned, the plant sends chemical messengers to the top of the plant to slow it down until the roots catch up - so the roots are able to supply water and nutrients to the canopy. This has nothing to do with container size.

When it comes to container size as it relates to growth, bigger is better. The only time that isn't true is when you are using an inappropriately water-retentive soil and the lack of oxygen in the soil inhibits growth. Since a soil like the gritty mix has no upper limit to container size (you can grow a seed in a 55 gallon drum full of that soil and it will be perfectly happy) you can see it's not the fact that roots have not filled the container "A large pot gives the roots too much space to grow into, therefore, the top of the plant won't grow until its roots start filling the container." it's because growth is impaired by soggy soil. I put very small plants in very large pots whenever I want fast growth.

You commented: "Al, I believe you specialize mainly in Bonsai? Bonsais are grown in small/shallow containers, are they not? If you were to repot a bonsai in a huge container, what would take place?

Let's be clear about something. It's true that most of what I know about plant physiology, soil science, and other technical aspects of husbandry are an outgrowth of my pursuit for greater proficiency in the living art of bonsai, but it would be a grave error to suggest or assume that because someone practices bonsai, the knowledge acquired in that pursuit does not apply to all forms of container culture. I can say, on behalf of bonsai practitioners everywhere, that the practice of bonsai is container culture that has been taken to another level. It is far more difficult to keep plants healthy and compact in small volumes of soil, than it is to simply maintain a houseplant in a healthy state. If anyone suggests otherwise, or that what I know about the plant sciences doesn't apply to houseplants because I practice bonsai, it simply illustrates their own naivete. By default, all accomplished bonsai practitioners MUST be extremely accomplished container gardeners.

"If you were to repot a bonsai in a huge container, what would take place?

You make my case. A bonsai placed in a huge container would exhibit extremely robust growth. Much, much faster growth than the plant when confined to the pot.

The symptoms of tight roots are reduced growth, reduced vitality, often a loss of low or internal foliage on branching plants and outer leaves on plants that don't get woody, reduced branch extension, smaller and fewer leaves.

It is true that we can use the stress of tight roots to our advantage at times to slow growth or induce blooms, but stress is never good for the plant.

Small pots reduce/restrict growth - large pots stimulate fast growth - if you have a soil water-retention problem relative to pot size and soil choice, that's an entirely different matter, and before you hinge your argument on that point, please be sure to reread what you said before you started adding all the qualifiers.

If we have a discussion going here, please stick with the original topic and try to refrain from introducing a number of variables.

The topic is whether or not plants stop growing until roots fill the pot.

It really doesn't matter if they're indoor or outdoor plants, annuals or perennials, fast growing or slow growing, whether the growing conditions are perfect or imperfect.

I do wish you and all a Happy New Year


    Bookmark   December 31, 2010 at 10:41PM
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Al, I believe most here have been disagreed. :)

Wil asked what he could do to downsize his Pothos and suggestions on getting it to grow.
I expressed my opinion..Experiements I have done with my own plants, including various Pothos/Epipremnums.

BTW, when I asked about your Bonsai, my intent wasn't to criticize or accuse. It was just a question. So, please don't put words in my mouth. In another thread, someone pointed out, to you, growing bonsai differs from plants in large containers. A thread that was probably deleted by GW. So, to keep peace, the reason I asked was in no way, shape or form meant as you took it.

All I am saying about pot size is...throughout the years, I have potted plants in both large and small containers.
Those growing in smaller pots grew 'X' times faster than those in large pots.
Obviously, when roots filled the pot, the plant was placed in a larger container. I increase 1-2 sizes larger if needed.
Except for minis, of course. EG: AV's and certain succulents. And bloomers.

Growing in smaller pots works for me. As you know, I mix my own soils/mediums, by using packaged Soil, Perlite, Peat, pebbled Sand, etc. Depending on the plant.
The majority, average people, who shops for a plant, usually purchase a bag of Potting soil.
If a small, 4" potted plant is transplanted in a 10" pot, the average or new gardener would overwater and kil it.

Besides faster growth, smaller pots, or rather pots 1-2" larger than the rootball, dry faster, and save on space.

Exotic...Botanical names are most important,but you know as well as I, most people coin plant names they're used to hearing.
If you walk in a store/garden center, most often than not, a customer will ask for a Spider Plant, not Chlorophytum, Prayer Plant, not Maranta/Calathea, Corn Plant, not Dracaena Fragrans, to name a few out of thousands.
Pothos sold in stores are never marked, Epiprenums. Signs are posted as Pothos.
There are several reasons this is done.
1. Most customers want 'simple.' Simple names, simple care.
2. Most employees don't know a Ficus from a Dracaena.
Plant centers where you're located may use correct names, but most people here can't pronounce let alone spell these names. Ask the pronounciation of Bromiliad or Kalanchoe. Better yet, ask if they sell Bromiliads or Kalanchoes..98% people who work in plant depts/stores won't know what you're talking about.

We do what works for us. If someone can get away potting a little cutting in a 12" pot, so be it. I on the other hand prefer and have better luck growing in reasonable size containers. Toni

    Bookmark   January 1, 2011 at 2:02PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

If you put a small plant in a large pot, and it doesn't grow faster, I guarantee that the limiting factor is NOT pot size. It would most likely be due to your choice of soil, but it could be due to any one of other limiting factors, but not pot size.

You would need to explain how plants in the ground, with unlimited room for roots to run, get along just fine and grow within the limits of limiting factors OTHER than root restriction to mount a convincing argument.


    Bookmark   January 1, 2011 at 2:55PM
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Comparing plants in the ground to those planted in pots in poorly lit living rooms is 'apples & oranges. Light is the limiting factor.

I agree with the previous poster. Plant in a smaller pot with fresh potting soil, increase light. Your plant will turn around.


    Bookmark   January 1, 2011 at 3:09PM
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Al, I stated reasons above.

Outdoor grown plants have great advantage over those growing indoors.
Sun, fresh air, and humidity.

I've grown tropicals in the garden, they handled beautifully. A 7" Brugmansia grew 3' in one summer. 1' Musa 'Bananas' grew 8'..too tall to bring indoors.
However, if a Brug was potted in a 20" pot, kept indoors, it'd be a Spider Mite, Mealy Bug haven.

Al, you're always asking me for proof, now I'm asking you to do the same..Do you have 'recent' photos of small plants growing directly in large pots? 4" tall plants (or less) in a 10" x 12" or bigger pot?

You've seen my plants growing in small pots.

BTW, I am not arguing with you. I'm curious as to what these plants would look like.

JaneNY, thank you. I'm glad you understand. Toni

    Bookmark   January 1, 2011 at 4:34PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Tony - we're not talking about spider mites or mealy bugs being attracted to large pots or the advantages plants have being grown outdoors; and the discussion is certainly not about light, sunlight, fresh air, or humidity. It is about the influence of container size on plant growth - period. Nothing even close to apples/oranges, and introducing multiple other issues has no bearing on the conversation.

, two plants of the same genetic material (cuttings/clones from the same plant) in different size pots will exhibit different growth rates (see links below). The decrease (not increase as you suggest) in growth will begin to become most apparent when the roots have colonized the container to the degree that the roots and soil can be lifted from the container intact (Plant Production in Containers II ~ Carl Whitcomb PhD).

See this link for more clear indication that larger containers = faster growth:


The correlation is very simple: if plants did not grow, as you suggest, until the roots filled the container, plants grown outdoors would never grow because their roots are not restricted. To make this correlation untwistable - Imagine a potted daisy and genetic duplicate of that daisy in the soil right next to it. The daisy in the ground takes off & grows happily, but you're saying the daisy in the pot will not grow until the container is full. I'm saying you cannot support that idea with anything close to settled science.

We ALL know that when roots are tight, growth rates sufferer, potting up or repotting into a larger container reduces or eliminates (in respective order) the limiting influence of a small container. I don't think anyone else will hold that potting down will increase growth unless you bring to play the qualifier that I mentioned - that being the grower using a mucky soil.

All else equal, the daisy on the deck will never grow as large as the daisy in the garden next to it is, the ground is a much bigger pot.

You asked if I had recent pictures, and the answer is YES.

I was contacted last winter by Jeff from Ups-A-Daisy company to run some tests on one of his products that purported to guarantee increased growth in container plantings. I started with very large containers that held about 14-15 gallons of soil each. You can see them over-turned in this picture:

When I plant bedding plants, I always rip the bottom half of the roots off and run my fingers through the remaining roots to separate them. I've mentioned this a number of times here on GW, so you can be sure I'm not embellishing the story. So I removed at least 1/2 of the roots from each of the 4" plantings and potted one into each of the containers:

Half of the containers were fitted with a device from Ups-A-Daisy and and half were not, but that makes no difference. You can clearly see in a picture taken only a few weeks later that these tiny plants in very large volumes of soil put on growth that many would regard as exceptional.

The containers referred to are the two on the far right, but all the light colored, round containers in the last photo were part of the test. For a size comparison, the gray containers with my containers each hold 18 gallons and had 1 small plant in each.

Even in consideration of the intentionally rough treatment the roots received, rapid growth was clearly evident in these plants within only a few days. Growth RATE actually has little to do with this discussion. That they immediately began growth in a relatively HUGE volume of soil is very clear indication that roots do not need to even come close to colonizing the entire pot before growth begins. If I wanted to play the technicality card, I would also point out that ROOT GROWTH is growth, just as sure as is top growth, so it would be impossible for the roots to colonize the container, much less fill it, if the plant could not grow until the container was filled with roots.

I should thank you for asking about the pictures. It's unlikely I would have thought of this additional support, and it's fortunate that I had taken pictures to document my conclusions about the test.


    Bookmark   January 1, 2011 at 10:56PM
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Give the plant more light and put in a smaller pot. I think your problem is an underlit plant. Otherwise, your plant appears healthy.

As shown in the above photo, tomatoes potted in full sun, during summertime will grow quickly. However, your plant is growing in much less light, indoors. Giving it more light will increase growth.


    Bookmark   January 2, 2011 at 3:43PM
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Al, first, your plants are doing well...

Seems we're having a communication problem. I agree, tomatoes, grown 'outdoors' in 'summer,' 'annuals,' do fantastic in large pots.

When I sow tomato seeds, I sometimes use seedling pots/trays or a large, shallow container...seeds are spaced a few inches apart. Once true seeds grow, they're removed from the large pot, then transplanted in 5-6" Peat Pots, or directly in the garden.
I've also sowed flowering/annual seeds directly in large pots..'outside/summer,' each sprouted and grew into beautiful, mature, flowering specimens.

So, we agree so far, right? If not, there's no reason to proceed.

However, the Subject of Posting is regarding indoor, potted, tropicals, in this case, 'Repotting a pothos plant..Advice needed.'

Wilsocn stated he would like to decrease pot size. Now that I think about it, I have no idea how we started talking about increasing pot size which is opposite of his wishes.

Anyway, I will repeat this again. I said, 'plants growing and overwintered indoors, should be potted according to rootball.'
I'm not talking about annuals/perrenials/herbs/veggies, outdoors in summer...on the contrary.
The plants you displayed, 'as far as I can see,' fall in the four groups mentioned above. Which will grow, flower and fruit in large pots and/or gardens.

Tropicals, Subs and Succulents, grown indoors, despite time of year, can, in all probability, die. Be it over-watering, what have you.
OR, if they survive, growth rate slows down. Flowering plants, 'Hibiscus, African Violets, etc' will not bloom until roots fill pot.
This is especially true of Stralitzia 'Bird of Paradise.'

As for your link about Ficus cuttings growing faster in a 6" pot, opposed to 4", anyone interested can Google fifty links stating plants should be repotted 1-2" larger than the rootball. Over-Potting is a No No.

But Al, if you have small tropicals/succulents that do well in a 20" pot, count your blessings.

I on the other hand prefer growing in pots a little larger, or in some cases, snug fitting.
Despite the fact we use different mediums, my soil is well-draining and most pots have drainage.

Wil, I hope this discussion hasn't frightned you away...) Toni

    Bookmark   January 2, 2011 at 4:09PM
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I have tons of small plants that were potted in 20 inch pots or larger that have grown very large. Just look at the homepage on my site and you'll see many of them.

Certainly, you must wait for the roots to grow first since the plant will spend its energy working on the root system before the foliage but it is in fact the quality of the soil mix that gets the trick done.

I have spent a great deal of time studying this subject just as Al has, especially with botanists such as Dr. Tom Croat at the Missouri Botanical Garden and many others. I am also well aware that many people on this and other forums prefer that discussions not be based on science since this is a place where the average grower asks questions. I cannot help but believe many of those people want really good answers to their questions so again my thanks to Al.

Emily Colletti who is the chief aroid grower at the Missouri Botanical Garden and I have spent a great deal of time talking about this as well. They plant seedlings in small pots but as soon as the roots are well developed move them up to larger pots to allow for more growth. I recently wrote an article for the International Aroid Society Newsletter covering this and related subjects. If anyone wants to read a copy just send me a private note and I will end you a copy.

I certainly agree that sunlight is equally important but likely not for the same reasons many people suspect. Sunlight, humidity and good soil mixes are of equal importance.

Many people prefer to grow their plants in a darkened room and if that works, I cannot object. I prefer to follow the lead of Mother Nature and the botanists with whom I often study and do my growing based on science. The idea plants grow differently in a home than they do in the wild is a myth. Growers prefer to try to modify the way plants grow in their home because they like to make it easier on themselves, but the DNA of the plant does not change just because the plant is not in the ground or a rain forest and is now living in a home. The plants in the wild are identical genetically to those we grow.

A lot of the same people that say you must grow in small pots (perhaps not all) as well as in dim light also say a plant should not be misted in a home because it is a worthless task and will not raise humidity. In my opinion misting is very important and in our atrium we mist plants very often. You see, people normally study what satisfies their needs and often never consider the rest of the story. Since I serve as an officer of the International Aroid Society I go to four or five meetings per year with some of the most successful growers and botanists in the world. At almost every meeting there are those that want to argue house plants are different than wild plants but once you spend a few hours with some of the folks that are trained in science many often abandon their preconceived ideas.

Although it is correct misting a plant may not increase the humidity around the plant for long, the misting serves a very useful purpose just as does good light and good soil.

Now, if someone does not like to allow their plants to climb, that is their choice but plants have DNA that cause them to want to climb. Most rainforest vining plants are Scototropic which means they seek the dark in order to find bright light. If they grow toward the deepest shade their DNA knows they will find a tree where they can climb toward the brighter light.

Once it eventually begins to climb a plant does so strictly in order to find bright light since the brighter light allows the plant to produce more chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is the green pigment in every plant that captures sunlight to produce photosynthesis. Plants draw in carbon dioxide and though a process known as being autotrophic where they combine CO2 with water that enters the cells of the leaf as a result of rainfall. Autotrophs create their own food by utilizing photosynthesis. Effectively, if a plant is grown well it does not need a lot of fertilizer but does often need replenished soil just as it receives all the time in nature.
The process of photosynthesis is completed through the reduction of carbon dioxide by adding the hydrogen component of water (H2O) to create organic compounds. In biology, reduction is the separating or stripping of hydrogen from oxygen allowing the oxygen to be released back to the atmosphere while the hydrogen is used by the plant. as is commonly believed, plants don't "make" oxygen, they release it as a byproduct

In green plants an autotroph converts physical energy from sun light into carbohydrates in the form of sugars. They may also form chemical energy by synthesizing complex organic compounds from simple inorganic materials in order to produce fats and proteins from light. The products of photosynthesis produced in the leaf are both sugar and oxygen and the oxygen is given back to the environment while the carbohydrates are used to feed the plant's cellular growth.

Although home growers rarely understand (or care about) the need for brighter light and high humidity to grow their plants, stronger light and misting are essential to healthy growth. The next time anyone tells you misting is not important since the water evaporates too quickly, recommend they read up on "autotrophic" growth and photosynthesis.

It should also be understood plants also need oxygen and draw it in through their roots and that is why soil mixtures like the ones Al writes about are so important. I could write on this for a long time but will try to sum it up quickly.

It isn't the water in the soil that kills many of our plants, it is the saprophytes that thrive in muddy soil. The saprophytes feed on dead tissue and thus deprive the plant's roots of oxygen. Many folks prefer to only water once a week or sometimes only twice a month. the soils Al describes do not support saprophytic growth.

During the summer we often water almost daily just as the rain forest does. Our plants grow as they do in nature since we treat them as if they are in nature. Tropical plants live in a rain forest and despite what most people prefer to believe, if you grow them as they grow in nature (porous soil, good light and lots of moisture) they will do exactly what they do in nature and become even more beautiful.

Now, I can already hear folks saying this is a wasted discussion. Perhaps, but I like my plants to grow big and beautiful and reproduce as they do in nature. Most of us love to go to a botanical garden to see beautifully grown plants but then argue with the methods those gardens use when it comes to house plants.

Whatever anyone choses to do is their business. Any grower is entitled to do anything they choose to do but if my email is any indication there are tons of folks out there that want to know how to grow plants as they grow in nature. We receive about 1/2 million hits to our website every year from all over the world and most of them are seeking scientific answers just as Al provides.

If anyone prefers to do something else than he advises or the information on my site indicates, that is certainly a personal choice. As for me, I will stick with the study of biology and botanical science. It just makes more sense to follow Mother Nature's lead.

If anyone thinks large pots are not appropriate, don't use them. But also look at the few photos on my homepage or go through the nearly 400 pages of info in the site. We have large pots filled with large plants and virtually all were originally planted in over sized pots and given good light, water and humidity.

They love it. Just look at the photos.


Here is a link that might be useful: The ExoticRainforest atrium

    Bookmark   January 2, 2011 at 7:59PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

In my first post I said, "It's likely that at this time of year your plants' growth is so slow either because of low photo-exposure (light) or temperature."

Clinging to the idea that small pots are going to increase growth simply so someone can disagree with me is unfair to the original poster, especially in the face of so much evidence.

We're not having a communication problem. I'm perfectly capable of communicating an idea. We're having an 'evading the issue' problem. I offered all the proof you asked for, including the pictures, then you introduce another dozen unrelated topics that have absolutely nothing to do with the question at hand.

The question is, "Is growth halted in plants until their roots fill the container?" the resounding answer being "NO"; and the question arises from your (Toni's) statements: "Too large a pot halts growth, which is the reason I'm assuming your plant stopped growing. .... A large pot gives the roots too much space to grow into, therefore, the top of the plant won't grow until its roots start filling the container." Not only is this assertion wrong, no matter how it's diced and obscured, but it is counterproductive to the OP's goal of increasing growth, because repotting (into a smaller container) will set the plant back considerably in the present, AND restrict future growth within a much shorter time than if the plant was left where it is.

Plants have their own internal rhythms, and houseplants (except winter growers) naturally slow down in winter. Even if we were able to provide perfect cultural conditions, including light, growth would still be noticeably slower than in summer under the same cultural conditions. This has nothing to do with the question in contention, but it DOES explain why the growth of the OP's plant has slowed so much. As long as the plant is not drowning in a mucky soil, reducing the size of the pot will, without question, be counterproductive.

Do nurserymen and greenhousemen pot up or down to increase growth?

No one seems to be willing to be nailed down to discussing the topic at hand, so I'll let the OP and anyone else following this decide what makes the most sense.


    Bookmark   January 2, 2011 at 8:10PM
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Sounds like a light issue rather than a pot size issue. Id give it more indirect light with a little sun "without" re-potting.
I grow mine in a west window with a shear directly in front of it and no shears to the side of it. It gets some sun but not enough to burn. I think you will see some nice new growth with more light, especially in the spring. Watch your watering. Let the soil dry down before watering again. If the leaves wilt a little. water it thoroughly and the leaves will lift back up again.

Billy Rae

    Bookmark   January 3, 2011 at 12:36AM
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Steve...First, I agree with you wholeheartedly. My tropicals and sub-tropical plants are misted daily; tropicals that require higher humidity are also showered in the sink/tub as often as possible. I have two humidifers, and an indoor fountain.
Al says misting is a waste of time, which is one reason he and I don't see eye to eye. Perhaps you can convince him misting is essential.

Aproximately 50% out of my '300-400' plants are succulents. IMO, succulents shouldn't be misted, especially during our cold, gray winter months. Room one, has south, west and north windows, room two has, south and east windows, both kept cool to cold. Not below freezing.

Tropicals are in warmer and more humid parts of the house. They're misted at least once and up to three times during daylight hours.

All my plants receive artificial light, 6-7 hours per day, along with the amount of sun IL gets.

90% of my plants are summered outdoors.

I mix soils, which consists of potting soil, Perlite, Peat, and when I can find gritty sand, 'which is very difficult locating.' Mixes depend on type of plants that are bring repotted or need a fresh topping.

I've been growing plants 30 plus years, if you want to count a veggie garden at 11-years-old. Was given my first few tropicals in my teen years.

My oldest plants are a Spider, purchased in 1973/4. A Clivia, sowed from seed in 1982, E. Crown of Thorn, 'millii' started from a cutting also in 1982.
The average age of plants range 20 yrs, and since discovering the net, many unavailable locally, 10-13 yrs.

Have I killed plants? Yes, especially those that originate from extremely high-humidity areas, or some that need at least 8 hours of direct sun. Some from neglect. Once personal, and another health reason. In other words, not intentional neglect.

Steve, although my plants don't compare to yours, I do not consider myself a novice, considering I live in IL, z5, with little true sun, and very dry conditions, but attempt parroting all plants' habitats.

Did you think I said plants don't need light? Aside from mushrooms, I can't name one plant, 'possibly others,' that do not need sunlight to survive. Of course, some plants need more than others and visa versa.
My C&S's, citrus, olives, hibiscus, etc, get first priorty to south and west windows. Aroids live at a minimum, medium-bright light. Very few plants are in low light, none in shade.
Steve, you are more than welcome to visit my site, too. I would appreciate any advice you have to offer.

Al...Wil asked about potting his Pothos in a smaller pot. I gave him what I felt the best advice. If the roots of his Pothos are small, there is no reason his plant will not thrive and grow in less accomidations.
Once his Pothos matures, it will then be necessary to repot in a larger container.

Acually, you didn't offer proof. I stated above, annuals/perrenials/herbs, started as seedlings or even seeds will grow in large pots, especially outdoors in spring/summer, but we're discussing tropicals. Perhaps I should have been more specific. I should have asked to see pictures of your young tropicals growing in large containers. My fault.

Al, I said my piece; you said yours. I do not want to get a Friendly Reminder or worse, banned from GW, therefore it's best we drop this subject.
If for some reason you want to continue this discussion, email me in private. Thank you.

Billy, light will sure help Wil's Pothos..BTW, belated, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year's. Toni

    Bookmark   January 3, 2011 at 2:28AM
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I have never, in my life, heard or read or had experience to indicate that a larger than necessary pot is the cause of a plant's lack of growth. That makes no logical sense, whatsoever.

I concur with Al... "too large of a pot doesn't halt or even slow growth unless the soil you are using remains so wet it impairs root function."

In reading this thread, several things emerge... not the least of which are the evasive and diversionary tactics utilized when facts are flown in the face of theory.

It's January, people... a little patience needs to be exhibited at this time of year. Not much growth is going on in any ordinary household that sports houseplants.

The plant in question looks fine... it's not in too big a pot. If I HAD to name a limiting factor or factors just from looking at the photo, I'd name the choice of medium, the fact that we can't see the roots, and we don't have privy to actual applied light levels and watering/feeding habits.

But the number one common sense thing that comes to mind is the season... this is a normal resting time for many plant types. Growth slows. As the days grow longer, growth picks up again.

If it were my plant... and I planned to leave it in the soil it's in... I would ensure it got slightly filtered light from an eastern or southern window exposure, I'd allow the medium to dry out in between waterings, and I'd have a little patience. As spring approaches, I'm betting that growth picks up.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2011 at 3:36AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

FWIW - I agreed that light and the plants natural rhythm are the usual suspects for slowed growth at this time of year, and I said so in my first post.

A dozen paragraphs of new off-topic discussion doesn't change the fact that the premise that growth stops until roots fill the pot is simply wrong, and potentially harmful to the OP's goal of increasing growth because it supports his thought that potting down will help. There is absolutely no evidence to support that idea, and plenty to suggest it will be counter-productive.

Plants are plants. Tomatoes, trees, marigolds, or jade, they will ALL exhibit faster growth in large pots when their roots have NOT filled the pot. Notice too, that I was careful to include the caveat that all other cultural conditions are the same. This eliminates you from the obfuscation of bringing into the conversation variables that might affect 1 plant but not the other - light and soil moisture/air content must be considered as the same to evaluate your statement.

I don't want to get dragged into additional arguments about the other statements you made I disagree with.

My 'piece' is very simple and has remained on topic for the duration. I don't care about 100 other non-related topics introduced in an attempt to shift focus from what's being debated, only that the OP gets accurate advice. I included facts, references, pictures, and my own considerable experience growing small plants in large containers (which I can easily do because of the soils I use) to produce rampant growth. I've mentioned this fact many dozens of times and have never had anyone disagree.

This really has nothing to do with me wanting to continue the discussion, what's driving the debate is pointing to 'errors' in my reasoning that have no basis in reality, and ignoring all the evidence.

I would invite anyone to reread my first post to see if it wasn't a voice of reason. What's to argue with?


    Bookmark   January 3, 2011 at 9:50AM
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I prefer not to argue with anyone, but at the same time I believe understanding the physics, biology and botany is imperative if you want to truly be successful with plant growth. That is why I try to teach it just as I do to the students that visit my atrium from neighboring universities.

All of us are exposed to various "trains of thought" which since they appear logical we then adapt into the ways we grow our plants. That does not mean they are correct! Botanists and scientists disagree all the time on subjects just like this but eventually the science wins out and people that are convinced they are "right" reverse their opinions. I've done it many times when a qualified scientist sat down and explained why "my beliefs" were wrong.

If your plants are healthy with the methods you use, then use them. However, that does not mean science is wrong and you should not considering your method, it just means you are successful at the time. But the question then is how long will you be successful.

After years of study under the direct instruction of some of the best aroid scientists and growers in the US I believe the correct way to grow these plants is with proper soil that normally contains a lot of humus (but not always) and is appropriate to that plant, proper light, proper humidity and the appropriate amount of water.

My atrium is set up with automatic overhead misting systems and they are set to a variety of zones. Those plants that like to stay wet and in really high humidity go to zone 2. Those that like average conditions go to zone 1 and those that like to be a bit dry zone in zone 3. It is very easy to learn what every species needs by researching how they grow in nature and not trying to make that determination simply by the way a plant looks. Scientifically, plants need water to touch their leaves.

Science counts in order to achieve successful growth over a long time basis but it is very difficult to get people to consider changing their minds once they are convinced they are "right".

I just wish we could all consider each other's thought process and reasoning better but that is likely to never happen. So in the meantime, good growing to all but I for one have to agree with the majority of Al's thoughts since mother nature does the same things.

Once I set out to create an artificial rainforest, I would soon learn there is only one right way to grow these plants, Nature's way. As a result I established a motto which controls the way every plant is grown, "Listen to Mother Nature, her advice is best". If you grow a plant the way Ma Nature intended failure is more likely avoided.
Simply, it is just a duplication of nature on a smaller scale.

However, being human we typically want only a very simple set of rules requiring that we do little. We all crave "shortcuts" and are often tempted to try to "force" our plants to grow as we want them to grow, not the way they grow in nature.

The soil in every rain forest is not precisely the same and we need to learn to match what Mother Nature prescribes before committing to anything. In all of her forests there is lots of composting going on since that is the way she returns nutrients to the soil. Much of those nutrients are then washed down a variety of streams and rivers and as a result shared in a variety of levels with other plants in other forests.

Pot size really does not inhibit growth, the right soil, the right humidity, the right light and the right overall growth conditions do. Even Mother Nature does not try to grow every single species in the same forest, she places them where they belong.

To grow plants successfully on a long term basis one must first learn how these beautiful specimens live and grow in the natural forest. Unless you attempt to duplicate their natural conditions your chances of real success are virtually nil. So my when I first began my first efforts required that I learn how a rain forest actually grew.

The first step was to acquire a large library with photo-filled books including Tropical Rainforests of the World, The Rainforests, Rainforests, the Illustrated Library of the Earth, Plant Form, An Illustrated Guide to Flowering Plant Morphology, One River, Explorations and Discoveries in the Amazon RainForests, (the Story of Tim Plowman), Aroids, Plants of the Arum Family and many others including a copy of every botanical dictionary I could locate along with all the printed works of Dr. Thomas B. Croat of the Missouri Botanical Garden. If you truly want to grow these specimens with a successful outcome, you must first understand them and my goal was to understand as much as possible before wasting money on specimens!

Once you understand how the rainforest functions, how the soil in the rainforest is composed and how different it often is from the bagged "mud" you buy in a garden supply center, how often it actually rains and how individual specimens tolerate and utilize so much water, along with the role humidity plays in making plants prosper and the survival techniques employed by the many species, only then will you really be qualified to grow them successfully.

There is a natural balance in the forest between air, heat, soil, humidity and water and it became increasingly obvious as I read there were many things I didn't understand nor had I even considered.

Perhaps some will adopt the same approach and begin to steer away from just accepting they thoughts of a few growers posted on a a gardening site. If so, we can all learn and share a great deal more.


    Bookmark   January 3, 2011 at 10:00AM
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Just a few more points and questions I've been meaning to bring up. My apologies for my typos in the previous post. I get in a hurry and often forget to do a spell check.

First, Toni, since your handle is Hopeful Author, what do you hope to be published writing? And more importantly, have you succeeded in your goals. I've been a published author since 1979 and may been fortunate enough to publish artifices in many major magazines with well over 300 articles. I actually stopped counting in the late 1990's. Writing is a great way to make a living and I wish you success.

Second, I don't wish to see this or any thread become an argument where everyone sticks to their position. I have always hoped sites like this can become useful discussions where all of us will listen to others and discuss our beliefs in an attempt to arrive at the facts. I sincerely hope this thread will continue in that effort.

Lastly, I meant to add more of this information earlier but felt my post was too long already and people tend to just skim after awhile and not learn. For those interested, this is why I believe Al is correct. The info below was lifted directly from one of my recently published articles and was reviewed by an aroid botanist prior to publication.

Any of you are welcome to disagree, but the info is based in science. Just as there are no pots in nature, pot size is unimportant in a collection with perhaps the exception of saving space. We can defend using small pots all we wish, but science just does not back up the belief.

I wish I could have added the photos used to illustrate the article but I've never been able to master that feat on this forum. I refuse to use photo storage sites since I cannot protect my copyright on them an have had many photos ?borrowed" and appear elsewhere with someone else' credit. I am currently in a fuss with eBay over just such a thing and even though they claim they don't allow copyright infringement, you can find other threads on GardenWeb which illustrate just how little people care about using someone else' photos without permission. I spent my life perfecting my photo skills as a working photographer and despite the fact I often give folks permission to use them, I detest it when people just take them.

Best wishes,


"Advice given on the internet is often not based in science but in assumption. Although you are often told on internet discussion sites to water sparingly and buy a "rich" soil for your tropical plants, the soil in the tropical rain forests is typically very nutrient poor and despite advice to rarely water, it does in fact rain often. So who should you believe the internet or Mother Nature? I have learned the answer is obviously Mother Nature as long as you understand the full process and make a few adjustments.

Since my intent is to explain how to make your artificial forest grow naturally, some of the material presented will
have to be modified if you only wish to grow plants in a pot in your dining room. But who knows, by the time you finish reading this article you may already be on the phone to your contractor. If you could visit a rainforest you would quickly learn the soil is composed of leaf litter, decaying wood, compost and the charcoal left behind when a part of the forest burns. If we'll just listen to Mother Nature we can all make our plants grow as they should in nature. In the forest a great deal of litter falls to the ground where it is broken down through natural decomposition via earthworms, insects and fungi.

The shallow roots of very large trees then rapidly absorb almost all of this organic matter. Although many of us grow our plants in air-conditioned living rooms where there is little humidity, in the forest the heat and humidity encourage the further decomposition of the rainforest leaf litter. That does not mean you cannot continue to reuse plant material refuse and create your own compost for future use with your own plants.

In a natural rainforest the frequent rainfall that washes away many nutrients to leave the soil infertile and acidic leaches out the majority of the nutrients that manage to be absorbed into the soil. It is not uncommon for very large trees to fall in a storm but all the seedlings waiting for the patch of light that is left when a giant falls quickly replace them. Space is not wasted in the forest!

The topsoil layers of a rainforest may be only one to two inches deep (often less) and provides only a limited amount of nutrition to the plants. Still, the plant life is lush since the plants store the nutrients inside their own cells as well as produce sugars via photosynthesis rather than gathering a great deal of their food from the soil. Were you to step into a living rainforest you will find far more varied plants dangling from the trees than you will ever find growing in the soil. Even in the trees, plants in the forest have adapted to utilize the falling nutrients from their "brethren" in order to flourish themselves and survive.

When plants decay, others rapidly absorb the nutrients left behind from the dead vegetative matter and reuse them all. At the same time, we tend to "clean up" our plants and just throw the dead leaves in the trash rather than
returning them to our compost for our own soil mixtures! We often just throw away the very nutrients our plants are craving since we often want them to live in a sterile environment. Man often does not think things through logically and just reacts to opportunity. I fear that far too many plants end up in the trash for the same reasons rainforest farmers continue to destroy the plants in nature. As growers, we make too many "assumptions" and do little actual research to fully understand what a specimen in our collection truly needs in order to flourish. If the "rainforest" trash is reused by nature why are we not following her lead?

So, do we also use soil that is devoid of nutrition? Not exactly, but there is a lesson to be learned and that
lesson is to almost always use a soil that drains rapidly. The hot and humid conditions of the forest cause tropical rain forests to be an ideal environment for bacteria and other microorganisms and since they remain active throughout the year they quickly decompose matter on the forest floor. Yet, despite countless years of developing her plants to live with specific soil, rain and water conditions we want any plant we buy to suddenly ignore their DNA and yield to our demands for minimal care by simply buying a "bag of soil" without regard to its contents and dump it into a pot. The very plants we often try to starve for water out of fear are rainforest plants that love and need water!

In order to maintain an artificial rainforest we must learn to adapt our growing style to meet our plant's needs, not ours. However, as will soon be explained it is neither difficult nor expensive to create a rough duplication of the fast-draining soil Nature creates for her plants.

Are you aware your plants breathe in oxygen through their roots? Many people wonder how all those epiphytic plants up in the trees survive without any soil In the forest! Those roots are breathing and storing water. Despite the belief of far too many growers, successfully growing tropical species, especially aroids, is not just about when and how much you water a plant, it is far more about the content of the soil�s moisture! Some aroids grow well in wet soil; others need a period of dryness! In most cases the water quantity is instead about how fast the water flows through the soil that can cause a lack of oxygen to the roots of our plants. We must learn how to control and preferably eliminate anerobic fermentation and saprophytes that can quickly turn into pathogens that are capable of killing our specimens.

Have you ever picked up a pot and were suddenly aware of the strong odor of death? That odor is due to the growth of saprophytes. Saprophytes are organisms including fungus or bacteria that grow on and draw nourishment, often saprophytes utilize dead or decaying organic matter, matter including soggy wet mud-like soil. They are bacteria proficient at the breakdown of the bodies of dead plants and animals returning the organic materials to the food chain. Saprophytic bacteria are usually non-pathogenic but may also contain the pathogens that attack the roots of our plants and cause them to rot. The advice to "slow down on the water" is really about how to control these pathogens.

Fermentation often occurs in muddy soil that will not allow the roots of your specimen to breathe along with the
uptake of fresh oxygen. However, fermentation does not necessarily occur in clean water, which is why we can
cause a plant that is about to die to grow new roots if kept in a clean glass of water. It is necessary to use soil mixes in both your pots and an artificial rainforest that can allow the roots to freely draw in fresh oxygen and will not remain compacted or soggy. The reason plants rot is not entirely as a result of the amount of water given to the plant but can often be due to the structure and content of the soil! These are rainforest plants and many other plants are literally drowned for months at a time during the rainy season and flowing rivers flood and rise!

In order to duplicate Mother Nature as best possible we use a basic mixture on the advice of Emily Colletti,
Horticulturist of the Research/Aroid Collection at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, Missouri. Many of
our specimens have reached or are beginning to reach their adult size and have produced inflorescences for sexual reproduction. The goal of this mix is to allow the roots to freely find places to stretch and extend without
constantly finding soggy soil where they may eventually contact fermentation and rot. If mixed well, this mix will
remain damp but still drain quickly.

Although we mix our soil based on how a species grows in nature, we primarily use a very loose soil mix with 30 to 40% potting soil combined with 20 to 30% high quality peat moss, 20% orchid potting media that has hard and soft woods, charcoal and a small amount of gravel and/or sand mixed with approximately 10% Perlite�. All that is combined and mixed thoroughly with a few handfuls or two of cedar mulch along with finely cut spahgnum moss.
The purpose to include charcoal is to increase drainage but also to take advantage of the tiny air spaces in the charcoal for growing beneficial microbes.

All of these combined help with water retention and oxygen content in the soil. If you are composting your own dead vegetation and have some good compost, feel free to add it. Small pieces of granulated charcoal plus most of the other needed supplies can be purchased from any good orchid supply store. Depending on the species, we sometimes also add small pieces of crushed volcanic rock, also frequently sold in orchid supply stores. The exact
mixture is not critical but all of these ingredients should be mixed as thoroughly as possible.

The common advice on most garden websites to allow a plant to dry between watering is not always good advice. Anyone that has asthma knows the difficulty of getting air out and then drawing it back in. A potted plant is much like your own functioning lungs. As a result we have learned the top layer of a potted plant's soil should not be allowed to dry completely since that dry soil can prevent the intake of fresh air including oxygen! Although plants give off oxygen through their leaves, they must also take in oxygen through their roots. Once the upper soil dries completely it creates a "blanket effect" to hold in the stale moisture and keep out fresh oxygen. The moist layer below cannot easily breathe in order to re-oxygenate the soil. The dry upper layer can actually prevent the capillary effect of the wet surface evaporation when damp soil is exposed to air. Don�t "drown" your plants, just keep them damp.

The next important consideration is light. In almost any rainforest, light is a very precious commodity! Plants fight for position and large ones often deprive small specimens of any light at all! Anthurium and other species climb trees to reach the light (Figs. 7 & 8)! As they grow high on the side of the tree they morph into what often appears to be a totally different species! Although a few, mostly with velvet-textured leaves prefer lower light, most tropical aroids prefer bright indirect light. Some will exist in deep shade like your living room but will often not flourish. Filtered, relatively strong light is best in most cases. The light coming through a window is much stronger than the light from an inflorescent tube. Your plant will reward you with a dramatic change in the production of inflorescences and leaf shape if you give it what it craves!

Depending on the season, in our rainforest we sometimes water every other day of the week but we vary the water schedule to include more water in the heat of the summer and less in winter. Some days we find it necessary to water twice daily. Our system has an automatic overhead misting system that is designed in zones to duplicate a slightly dry forest to a very wet forest. As a result, all our plants are divided by watering zone as well as their light requirements."

    Bookmark   January 3, 2011 at 11:24AM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

I see some great points made in this thread, and have to agree with several here.

It's been great reading and alot to learn from!

Like them, I agree pot size is not the issue. I too have never heard of a pot being too big, slowing down growth!

I have taken many plants and bumped them from a very small container to a much larger one since learning of a better medium to grow in! One that drains well and allows air.

They all took off and grew like crazy!

When we start seeds, we don't spend our whole summer bumping them up just a little, no, when they out grow the six pack they go to a 10" pot!

As Al stated, do commercial growers pot up or down? Up of coarse, they want the faster growth!

""I concur with Al... "too large of a pot doesn't halt or even slow growth unless the soil you are using remains so wet it impairs root function."

I too believe this!

Nothing I have bumped up to a larger pot has slowed down, they all take off.
Inside and out!

I also agree with the simple fact that if too large a container was to slow them down, then landscape plants too would not grow.

We've heard Al state many times, science is facts. That is how it is.

Steve brings up a few great points on that matter in his last posts.

Eventually science wins out.

Steve~ I enjoyed your posts, long as they may be. And I hope others take the time to read them. The links you provided are great too! Good to see you posting here.

Like several here, I too see the mix the plant is in to be more the problem then the pot size.

I have the variegated form of this plant. In Oct. I took it from a 3" pot to a 6". It took off and has recently slowed down. I take the reason being it's winter and nothing more!

I think the photos Al provided show great results, and I have myself posted similar here on GW. The type of plant and where it is has no bearing. Simple fact is , they were placed in a large container and took off growing!


    Bookmark   January 3, 2011 at 1:53PM
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Thanks for the input JoJo.

"Much of what we believe is based on what we have yet to be taught. Listen to Mother Nature. Her advice is best."

Botanical science grows all the time but it is often difficult to keep up.


    Bookmark   January 3, 2011 at 4:01PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Let's consider for a moment that Toni's observation that plants moved into large pots don't start growing until roots fill the pot is something she is actually observing in her unique situation(s). We KNOW that increasing pot size does not limit growth unless there is an issue with the water:air relationship of the soil. To be clear, this is not a problem related to pot size, it is a problem that arises from using a soil that is too water retentive. You saw the very small tomato plants that went into huge pots and growth took off immediately - LONG before the roots even reached the sides or bottom of the container. It's not logical to assume or suggest that a pothos would react any differently .... or a Ficus or a spider plant.

The most likely reason Toni holds the belief that roots have to fill the container before plants will grow is because of her soil choice. As you can see in the pictures above, I put a very small plant in a very large volume of soil. I watered that plant in until water flowed freely out of the drain holes. The soil I chose was one I made, a 5:1:1 mix of pine bark:peat:perlite, which drains very well and holds a large volume of air, even when saturated completely.

Imagine a pot that holds 1/2 gallon of soil and it's 6" deep. It's not at all unusual for bagged soils or even homemade soils comprised primarily of small particles (peat/compost/coir/sand) to support 4" or more of perched water. Perched water is the water that resides in a layer of soil at the bottom of the container and does not drain after you water - it just sits there unless you take steps to remove it.

It's easy to see why someone would hold the belief that roots must 'fill the pot' before the plant will grow, but let's look at that belief a little closer. It the soil has 4" of completely saturated soil at the bottom of the pot after we water, and the pot is only 6" deep, that means that in this example there is only 2" of well-aerated soil at the top of the pot that will support healthy roots; that's only 1/3 of the soil. As the plant uses some of the water, and some evaporates, the roots are able to make inroads into this saturated layer as air returns to it ...... but then we water again, and some of the roots die. This cyclic death and regeneration of roots is sending chemical messengers to the rest of the plant saying, "Hey - hold on here! It doesn't make any sense for you to grow more on top, because we're dying down here and can't support it! How about holding up on that top growth until we can catch up?" So the roots struggle to make inroads into the soggy soil ant top growth languishes.

Now - is that the fault of the pot size? No - it's a soil issue. I can say that because choosing a soil like the one I described, or one like you see in the picture here

doesn't have, doesn't support that soggy layer of soil at the bottom of the pot that is stopping root growth. You can plant a seed or place the tiniest cutting in this soil and have no worry about it being over-potted, and top growth will commence almost immediately after planting. Hundreds on these forums can attest to that fact.

;o) If anyone has $100 they'd like to part with, and thinks plants' roots need to fill a container before it grows, I'll be glad to make the wager. I'll grow a seed, or a tiny cutting from a common houseplant, in a 10 gallon pot (make it $150 and we can use a 20 gallon pot) full of soil and document it with photos. Any takers?

The most likely reason Toni thinks ALL plants stop growing when they are potted into a large container is because hers do - because the soil is so heavy it is preventing the rapid root growth seen in highly aerated soils.

When you use a heavy soil, plantings must 'mature' before the cyclic death and regeneration of roots ceases to be a major impediment to development. After roots eventually colonize the lower reaches of the container, the plant will have grown to the point where it is using the water from the soggy layer faster. As air returns to the soil mass, the entire soil mass can function as it should, and growth rate and vitality improves; but, just think of how much potential growth is lost because of that soil choice.

I'm sure someone will make the argument that container size and soil choice go hand in hand, but that is too broad a statement. Choosing a heavy soil FORCES you to choose a smaller pot so the plant can use the water in the soggy layer faster so air can return to the soil faster and the plant can grow normally. You put yourself at a distinct disadvantage if you have to deal with this scenario - from two perspectives. The first is you need to overcome developmental retardation as the planting matures to the point it is reasonably overcoming the effects of the soggy soil - that being the cyclic death and regeneration of a fraction of the finest, and most important, roots. And second, having to choose a smaller pot to accommodate a soggy soil introduces the second limiting factor of reduced pot size. We know that small pots inhibit growth. If we cannot agree on that statement, I'll phrase it another way. Roots fill small pots faster, so reduced growth is quicker coming in small pots than in large pots.

This has all been studied seven ways from Sunday. Nurserymen/greenhousemen KNOW that potting up before the root/soil mass reaches the point where it can be lifted from the container intact, yields fastest growth, which equates to highest profit. This points directly to the fact that large containers that are not filled with roots offer much greater potential for growth than small containers that are.


    Bookmark   January 3, 2011 at 4:17PM
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Because wilsocn wrote: "There is a pothos plant in the house that has been around forever", that tells me that the plant has not been receiving the proper amount of light for a very long time, not just this time of year. Find that brighter spot like mentioned by several posters and watch it grow stronger and larger. This time next year, it should be a bigger, fuller plant!

Billy Rae

    Bookmark   January 3, 2011 at 5:16PM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

I think I'll hang onto my money. ;-) My plants tell me that's the smartest move. ;-)

I agree, listen to Mother Nature!

Billy Rae~
I agree with several posters here too, it should be getting more light.

I have mine in a east window right now, and I just noticed today 2 new leaves.


    Bookmark   January 3, 2011 at 8:28PM
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Steve, sorry I didn't get back sooner..

Thanks for the article. It makes perfect sense, very informative, especially to those who are starting out and interested how plants live.

I went to your site, but can't get past the first page.. Am I doing something wrong? Thanks much, Toni

    Bookmark   January 5, 2011 at 3:59PM
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I'd bet you are using Google Chrome or another like it.

Try clicking on the info in the gold box first. You should be able to find the list of species I describe.

Then go down the right hand column. Google Chrome and Firefox both divide up the page for reasons I cannot figure out. Info should begin right at the point where the big black patch starts, however if you continue to scroll on down the page you'll find a fairly lost list of articles on a variety of subjects. If anything is underlined you should be able to click on it.

If that doesn't work, and you still have access to Internet Explorer, the entire site should work fine.

I've had this researched and only a couple of browsers programs appear to screw up the first page. I could have all the coding rewritten in another program but I created the entire site for free and don't try to seek advertisers. I wanted it to be available to the public as a source of information that was checked against the science and it already costs hundreds of dollars each year to keep it on the net so I gave up on the idea of buying a new website program since some 1.6 million users have read tons of the pages! Look at the counter on the top of the page.

If none of this works be sure and let me know. I work on the site virtually every day.


    Bookmark   January 6, 2011 at 12:09AM
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dellis326 (Danny)

Hey Steve, I use firefox and I never have any problems viewing your site. In fact at this moment I have it open in firefox, chrome and IE and it looks mostly the same it each one.

Back on topic, last spring at the IAS Midwest meeting in St Louis, I received two anthuriums (1 A. sparreorum & 1 A. barbadoesnse) each in 2 inch pots that were pretty root bound, I move one into a 6" clay pot and the other in a 14" clay pot under a reasonably large monstera. The Barbadoesnse under the monstera has double the growth in the larger pot as the sparreorum. Same room about 10 feet a part, same grow mix, neither get direct sun and the barbadoesnse gets less light as well.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2011 at 8:41AM
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Thanks for the update. I've had a lot of people report the problem to me but others are just like you. I've never been able to figure out why some have a problem.

When Tom gives me plants in those tiny ports I always move them to at least an 8 inch and they grow like crazy. By the end of a year I have to step them up to something even larger but many have gone into 20 inch pots from the beginning including a fairly rare Anthurium glaziovii from Brazil. The thing was about 3 inches tall when it was given to me, put in a hug pot, and it now well over 4 feet tall and climbing a totem in under three years.

Some prefer small pots but I can't see any reason a large pot will stunt growth. I've just never had that experience but do believe the right soil and light is he key.


    Bookmark   January 6, 2011 at 12:01PM
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I have several pothos plants and some are hanging. If I see 4-6 inches of no new growth, I want to trim it back and start a new plant. Should I put the stem in water to grow new roots or can it go directly into good soil & grow new roots in the soil/

    Bookmark   March 22, 2011 at 2:47PM
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Misscoquette. Pothos root in soil or water. I prefer water.
Place 3-4" cuttings in room-temp's best to change water daily or every other day.
Roots start forming anywhere from four to 10 days.
After roots are 4-6", pot in well-draining soil, give a hearty drink of water, and you're set to go.

Always remove bottom leaves, otherwise they'll rot..In other words, the stem that sits in water should be completely leafless.

I keep Pothos in a glass vase, held down with marbles, in water. They're in an area too shady most plants won't grow. Good luck..Toni

    Bookmark   March 22, 2011 at 3:23PM
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Thank you Toni
Should each stem get it's own glass of water?

    Bookmark   March 22, 2011 at 5:31PM
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