Pothos can grow long vines without leaves if they lack sunlight, if they are not pruned regularly, if they dry out and drop leaves or if they lack nutrients. Pothos can also become sparse if they lack humidity. A long, leggy pothos can be pruned back to within 1 foot of the roots, fed with liquid fertilizer and moved to a position that gets at least 6 hours of bright, indirect light.
This will stimulate the plant to grow new leaves and grow bushier. For a dense, bushy pothos, plant multiple stem cuttings in one pot.
This article will explore why pothos grow long vines without leaves and what you can do to help it to grow.
Top reasons why pothos grow long vines without leaves
Here are the most common causes of long pothos vines without leaves. Check out each one to see if it is causing the problem in your plant.
1. Lack of light
Lack of sunlight is a major cause of pothos vines growing long with few leaves. Long, weak stems or ‘legginess’ happens when the stems need more sunlight so grow long to reach. They will reach out for the light prioritizing stem growth rather than leaves.
A lack of light will lead to long, soft stems which look lighter in color. Move the pothos to a position that gets bright, indirect sunlight for at least 6 hours per day. Place it at least 2 feet away from windows to avoid any radiant heat from the glass.
Pothos love as much light as they can get but can get burnt if they are in direct sunlight. If you want to grow them in a darker area of your home get a grow light to give them more UV rays to grow strong.
Pothos grown in bright light will also increase their variegation as they will need to produce less chlorophyll in their leaves to make their food.
For more on how to get your pothos to become whiter, check out my article here: How to get pothos to turn white | Marble Queen + Golden Pothos
2. Not pruning regularly
If your pothos has lost its leaves or is just growing very long stems it will need to be pruned. Trim the stems back to within 1 foot of the base of the vine. This will encourage it to send new vines out from the base of the plant and will encourage new leaves to grow from the cut stems.
Regularly trimming pothos is key to a dense and bushy plant. Each time the stem is cut it will grow new leaves from the cut point. I find these leaves grow closer together and fuller.
Make sure you also provide your vine with regular water, slow release fertilizer and a bright position.
3. Not enough water
Irregular watering or letting the pothos dry out too much can cause it to drop its leaves. This will leave large gaps between the leaves along the vine making it look sparse. You want to conserve each leaf node and support leaf growth by watering regularly.
Pothos are hardy plants but will benefit from water each week over the warmer months in spring and summer. You can slow down watering in winter to once every 2-3 weeks when growth will slow.
Make sure the plant is not sitting in water in the bottom of the pot or pot tray. Allow the plant to fully drain through to avoid getting the water too soggy and causing fungal growth.
4. Not enough nutrients
A lack of nutrients can cause pothos vines to grow long but without leaves. Pothos need good amounts of key nutrients including nitrogen for good leaf growth.
If your pothos has long stems but no leaves you can start by giving it a dose of liquid indoor plant fertilizer. Look for one with a balance of N-P-K to start with. This will give the plant a boost of nitrogen in balance with phosphorus and potassium.
Plants need a good amount of nitrogen to encourage good leaf growth. After 2 weeks add a slow release indoor plant food to continue to feed your pothos. I like to use an all-purpose indoor plant food which lasts for 6 months. I will feed my pothos at the start of spring and fall every year.
5. Not enough humidity
Low humidity levels can cause pothos to grow long vines with minimal leaves. Pothos are tropical vines that thrive in warm, humid weather. To encourage more leave on your vines you will need to recreate a tropical environment to help them to thrive.
In tropical and sub-tropical areas, the air will naturally increase in humidity in the spring and summer. If you live in dry area, you can use a small, indoor humidifier to increase the humidity. Place the humidifier near the pothos and aim for somewhere between 64-75% humidity.
If you don’t want to buy a humidifier you can mist your pothos. For more on this, check out my article here: Should I mist my pothos plant? | Pros and Cons + Best ways
6. Not enough stems
If your pothos looks sparse with long vines but not enough leaves there may not be enough growing stems. The trick to getting a full looking pothos is to grow more than once stem or cutting in each pot.
You can take your own stem cuttings by trimming a 6-7 inch piece of stem off below a growth node. Place this in water to grow roots and then plant it into potting soil. You can plant the stem into the same pot as your existing plant to add an extra vine and lots of leaves.
You can also plant a bunch of new stem cuttings together in a pot for a full and bushy pothos.
Why Pothos Grow Long Vines Without Leaves | Summary
Pothos can grow long vines if they are reaching for light. Move them near a bright light source like a south facing window in the northern hemisphere or north facing if you are in the southern hemisphere.
Pothos love regular water, fertilizer in spring and fall and regular pruning. Pruning stems that are not producing leaves back to within 1 foot of the roots can help to promote new leaf growth.
I am an accredited practicing dietitian, experienced gardener and a dedicated cook. I love writing and sharing my experience so you can learn from my successes and mistakes.