How Cold Can a Pothos Tolerate? (Winter Care Guide for Beginners)
Pothos are heralded as one of the vines that can grow just about anywhere. But how true is this claim to fame? How good is a pothos cold tolerance in climates that drop to freezing temperatures?
The limits of a pothos’ cold tolerance are temperatures above 50° Fahrenheit (10° Celsius). In fact, a pothos will persevere around these temperatures, however it will not grow and most likely enter a dormant phase for survival. Being a tropical plant, the ideal pothos temperature range for a pothos to thrive is in the higher temperature range between 70-90° Fahrenheit (21-32° Celsius).
Welcome to today’s feature article at the Garden Bench Top. We’ll be exploring the cold tolerance of the pothos and how to adjust your care habits during the winter months. We’ll also detail how to identify if your pothos is suffering from frost damage and what to expect after your houseplant is damaged.
So get comfortable and make a cup of hot coffee, because we’re about to learn some winter tricks.
What is a Pothos Cold Tolerance Level?
As we mentioned earlier, being a tropical plant, you cannot expect a pothos (epipremnum aureum) to have a high tolerance for cold weather. In fact, if temperatures begin to approach 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10° Celsius), your pothos may experience shock and tissue damage, eventually succumbing to the bitter cold and dying.
When temperatures are between 50-65° Fahrenheit (10-18° Celsius), your pothos will survive, however it will experience slow or no growth.
The ideal temperatures for pothos are between 70 – 90° Fahrenheit (21-32° Celsius) with medium to high humidity.
What Does Frost Damage Look Like on Pothos?
Pothos are not frost-tolerant and quickly develop symptoms of frost damage when exposed to cold temperatures. Here are the typical signs that your pothos has frost damage.
Limp and Drooping Leaves
As the temperature drops into an uncomfortable range for your pothos, you will notice the leaves and vines will appear limp and droopy.
This is a very typical stress response for a pothos, and is the plants way of communicating to you that something is not quite right.
The change in appearance can happen quite quickly, and it is easily missed if you are not tending to your plant on a regular basis.
Dry and Curled Leaves
When temperatures drop, the humidity also lowers, resulting in less moisture in the air.
We established earlier, pothos requires high humidity and relies on the moisture in the air to retain adequate water levels in the cells.
When there is a lack of humidity, the most vulnerable parts of the leaves, the edges, will begin to dry out. Which causes them to curl inwards and become dry, brown and crispy.
Black Markings on the Leaves
The final stage, and most obvious sign that your pothos is experiencing frost damage, is when the leaves begin to develop dark markings. The marks are not hard to miss, as they are generally black or dark brown, and contrast against the brilliant emerald green of the healthy pothos leaves. They usually develop along the edges of the leaves that are exposed to the cold temperatures.
The black markings come about due to the water in the pothos leaf cells freezing. As water freezes, it expands, which destroys the cell walls and damaging the leaf.
Unfortunately when frost damage occurs, the leaf is irreparable, and it will eventually wilt and drop from the vine.
How to Treat Frost Damaged Pothos
Unfortunately, once the frost damage strikes the affected parts of the plant cannot be saved.
Hopefully you noticed your damaged pothos quickly enough, and it is still alive to be salvaged, rather than it moving on to plant heaven and succumbing to the bitter cold.
If you are fortunate enough to be in this position, here are the next steps to help your pothos back on the road to recovery.
- Warm it Up – Immediately move your pothos into a warmer environment (most likely indoors or part of the house that has a heater or heat source like the kitchen).
- Give it a Drink – Since your pothos experienced frost damage, it is likely some of its water reserves were consumed in the process. Give it some water, and make sure it drains from the drainage holes at the bottom.
- Prune Off Damaged Foliage – After your plant has settled and the healthy parts of the plant begin to look lively (no longer droopy and limp) with some new growth, prune off the damaged parts of the plant. Note: you may not be able to perform this step for a couple of weeks. Each plant will vary in its recovery period. Just give it time to recover. The last thing we want to do is shock it again with a haircut, straight after it endured freezing temperatures.
Pothos Winter Care & How to Prevent Frost Damage
Alright, we know how to identify and treat a frost bitten pothos. What do we do to prevent it from happening again?
Here are our favorite winter care tips for pothos plants.
Adapt your Watering
One of the first things we do when the cooler months set in, is adjusting our watering schedule for our house plants. Or maybe a better way to phrase it, is change in monitoring habits.
The reason for the change is that we never stick to a strict watering schedule for our plants. We let them dictate when to top them up with water.
How do they tell us when they need more water – you ask?
We use the soil moisture finger test to determine when each pothos needs more water. So when winter sets in, we monitor our pothos less, because they will absorb less water from their soil.
Move Your Pothos
If your pothos is outside during the warmer months of the year, we recommend bringing them in for the winter. This will help to protect them from frost damage, and it will be easier to monitor them, rather than you braving the cold to check up on them.
For year-round indoor plants we usually have a summer position and a winter position marked out in the house.
Pothos cannot withstand direct sunlight during the summer. It gets too hot for them, and they may actually receive sunburn and become dehydrated. This means, we move it away from sunny windows, and position them in a spot that only receives indirect sunlight.
Whereas during winter, the days are shorter and the sun isn’t as intense. So it is best to move your pothos to a position that is exposed to short periods of winter sun. This short exposure is acceptable and will not pose a risk to the plant.
Boost Your Plants Immune System
Seaweed fertilizer is like vitamin C for plants during the winter months. Similar to how vitamin C gives our immune systems a boost to fight any viruses and colds during winter. Seaweed solution helps to strengthen the root system of your pothos, making it more resilient to temperature changes.
Keep Your Plant Dry
We know, this sounds completely contradictory to what we have been saying throughout this article. But, let us explain.
It isn’t unusual to give your pothos a good soaking during the hot periods of the year. We try to increase the humidity levels with misting and splashing water all around the plant.
However, during the winter months, we try to refrain from activities that splash water on the leaves of the pothos. The reason is, due to the cooler temperatures, water is less likely to evaporate in winter. If water remains on and around your pothos, it opens the door to fungal diseases, like powdery mildew and rot.
Outside Pothos Plants
So far we have focused on indoor pothos plants or pothos in planter containers. What about outdoor pothos plants that are living in the ground? How do they cope during the winter months?
Can a Pothos Endure Outdoor Winter Conditions?
In their natural environment, in the island tropical forests, pothos don’t have to deal with freezing winters or snow. So can a pothos live outdoors in climates that experience freezing temperatures?
It depends on the type of freeze and how protected they are during the freeze.
In climates that don’t usually drop to freezing temperatures, pothos can endure temporary periods of cold. It will likely lose its leaves to frost damage, however when the spring and summer weather returns, it will regrow the lost foliage.
However, in climates that experience lengthy (hard) freezes during winter, a pothos is unlikely to recover. If the freeze reaches the roots, the water content will freeze and damage the structure of the plant beyond repair.
Closing Comments on Pothos Cold Tolerance
When they are thriving, a pothos can be one of the most delightful plants to look upon. With their whimsical vines and heart-shaped leaves, what more could you ask for?
But, as tropical plants, they are susceptible to frost damage if temperatures drop below a certain point.
Usually the foliage is the most vulnerable parts of the plant to frost, however during deep freezes, the stems and roots can also become damaged.
The best place for pothos during winter is indoors where it can be protected from any extreme weather.