Pothos and Grow Lights: Unlocking the Secrets to Optimal Indoor Plant Growth

Indoor gardening is experiencing a revival, with the humble Pothos plant leading the pack.

Known for its adaptability and toughness, the Pothos is a hit among both seasoned horticulturists and those whose thumbs are more brown than green. But even the hardiest of plants have their demands, and understanding these is the secret to a flourishing indoor jungle.

When it comes to Pothos and grow lights, one thing is crystal clear: light matters. Or in other words, no plant wants to be left in the dark!

Key Takeaways

  • Pothos plants require bright, indirect light for optimal growth and should be protected from direct sunlight.

  • LED lights are a cost-effective and energy-efficient choice due to their full spectrum of light essential for plant growth.

  • Light duration is an important factor in successful Pothos plant growth. Too much or too little can lead to wilting leaves, discoloration, stunted growth or foliage burn.

Understanding Pothos Light Requirements

Healthy pothos plant thriving in bright, indirect light

Pothos plants are known to be hardy, however, they do have preferences. Bright, indirect light is one of them. Such light exposure helps maintain their vibrant leaf variegation and promotes vigorous growth. But what does ‘indirect light’ entail?

Well, only indirect light refers to light that has been filtered or diffused through some medium – like a window or a sheer curtain. This kind of light provides the brightness that Pothos plants love, without the harmful effects of direct sunlight. And while Pothos can tolerate low light conditions, they won’t flourish quite as much as they would in well-lit, indirect-light surroundings.

Direct Sunlight vs. Indirect Light

While direct sunlight may seem beneficial for your plants, it can cause adverse effects on Pothos. When exposed to direct light, Pothos leaves can suffer from burns and wilting. These signs of damage can include yellowing leaves, discoloration, and wilting even when the soil is moist.

Conversely, Pothos plants benefit from indirect sunlight. This is because it provides the brightness that these plants need, without the excessive heat and intensity of direct sunlight. So, if you’re looking for the ideal light conditions for your Pothos, aim for bright, indirect light and avoid intense, direct sunlight.

Low Light Tolerance

Photos suffered from a lack of light

Pothos plants, being one of the best low-light plants, have an incredible ability to tolerate low-light conditions, making them a popular choice for indoor gardening. This tolerance means that the plant can survive and even grow in settings where light exposure is minimal.

While Pothos plants can survive in low light, they won’t necessarily thrive. Under these conditions, the plants may experience reduced growth and produce fewer leaves. They may also develop elongated vines, a sign of them ‘reaching’ for more light.

Despite their ability to manage in low light, Pothos plants flourish best in brighter environments for optimal growth and vitality. In fact, Pothos can even thrive under artificial lighting, making them a great choice for rooms with little natural light.

Choosing the Right Grow Lights for Pothos

Proper placement of grow lights for pothos

Of course, not all indoor spaces are bathed in bright, indirect light. That’s where grow lights come in. Artificial light sources like grow lights are instrumental in providing indoor plants, including Pothos, with the required light for photosynthesis, particularly in places with limited natural sunlight.

You have several options to consider when selecting the right grow lights for your Pothos. Incandescent bulbs, fluorescent lights, and LED lights are all possibilities, each with their distinct advantages and varying levels of efficiency.

However, the selection should take into account factors like the light’s efficiency and spectrum. LED lights, for example, are a particularly good choice due to their energy-efficient and long-lasting nature. Plus, they can provide a full light spectrum, which is essential for the plants’ growth.

Incandescent Bulbs

Incandescent bulbs, while affordable and readily available, are not ideal for growing Pothos. They produce more heat than light, resulting in high energy consumption and low light output. The heat can also harm the plants, causing foliage burn. Therefore, energy-efficient alternatives like fluorescent or LED grow lights are a better choice for your Pothos.

Fluorescent Lights

Fluorescent lights also find popularity in indoor gardening. They’re more energy-efficient than incandescent bulbs and provide a good spectrum of light for your Pothos. However, they’re not as durable as LED lights, and their lifespan is significantly shorter.

Despite these drawbacks, fluorescent lights can still be a good choice for your Pothos. They provide a cooler light source with minimal heat emission, making them a cost-effective choice. However, one thing to keep in mind is that the light output of fluorescent lights might not be sufficient for the entire plant canopy, especially for larger Pothos plants.

LED Lights

Should you seek the top-tier option, consider LED lights. These lights offer numerous benefits, such as energy efficiency, extended lifespan, and versatility. All of these attributes contribute to cost-effectiveness and promote plant health and growth.

What sets LED grow lights apart is their ability to emit precise wavelengths of light essential for plant growth, including red, blue, and white light. This ability to tailor the light spectrum allows LED grow lights to closely replicate natural sunlight, thereby facilitating photosynthesis and fostering robust growth in Pothos plants.

How to Set Up Grow Lights for Pothos Plants

Once you’ve selected the appropriate grow light for your Pothos, proper setup is the next step. To ensure your plant’s healthy growth, it’s vital to get both the placement and duration of light exposure right.

Ideally, you should position your grow light approximately 1 foot above your Pothos plant. This ensures the plant receives sufficient light coverage without being too close to the heat source.

As for the duration, it’s generally recommended to leave grow lights on for about 10 to 12 hours per day, which answers the question of how much light your Pothos needs. This mimics natural sunlight conditions, providing your Pothos with consistent and adequate light exposure.

Light Placement

The positioning of your grow light significantly impacts your Pothos plant’s growth and health. It’s recommended to position the light about 1 foot (approximately 30 centimeters) above the plant. This distance ensures sufficient light coverage for the plant without causing any harm.

In addition to the distance, the direction of the light is also important. The optimal placement for grow lights is directly above the plants. This setup encourages upward growth and ensures the entire plant gets enough light.

Light Duration

Besides correct placement, ensuring the right duration of light is equally crucial for your Pothos plant’s growth. It’s generally recommended to turn on the grow lights for at least 10 to 12 hours each day. This timing attempts to replicate the plant’s natural light conditions, fostering ideal growth.

Supplemental Lighting for Pothos in Different Window Exposures

The exposure of your home’s windows may necessitate adjusting your Pothos plant’s supplemental lighting.

North Facing Window

North-facing windows are known for their indirect and diffuse sunlight, which can be ideal for plants like Pothos that prefer indirect light. However, the light from these windows may not be enough for optimal growth.

To make up for the lack of natural light, I suggest using grow lights all year round to provide your Pothos with the necessary brightness.

LED grow lights or fluorescent lights are both good options for this purpose. By providing your Pothos with about 12 to 14 hours of artificial light daily, you can mimic the conditions of natural daylight and promote ideal growth.

East or West Facing Window

East or west-facing windows offer a different lighting scenario for your Pothos. These windows provide moderate light, with sunlight being the strongest during the morning for east-facing windows and in the evening for west-facing ones.

Even with this moderate light, your Pothos may still benefit from supplemental lighting, especially during dark winter months.

South Facing Window

South-facing windows get a lot of sunlight, which can be too intense for Pothos plants.

If your Pothos is near a south-facing window, it may get sunburned, especially during summer. To protect your Pothos, use sheer curtains or blinds to diffuse the sunlight.

Alternatively, move your Pothos away from the window to reduce the intensity of the sunlight. Monitor your plant’s health and adjust its position if you notice signs of too much direct sunlight, like leaf scorching or yellowing.

In this specific context, grow lights most likely are not required for the successful growth of your Pothos plants.

My Grow Lights

My pothos under grow lights

For my pothos plants, I bought a JCBritw 90W LED grow lamp on Amazon. The lamp has 70 LED beads that produce full-spectrum white light.

So far, I am pretty happy with it! You can read my review here.

Pothos Plant Varieties and Their Light Needs

Variegated Marble Queen Pothos under grow lights

Pothos isn’t a one-size-fits-all plant. There are different varieties, each with their own unique characteristics and light requirements. Whether you’re a fan of the classic Golden Pothos or the striking Marble Queen Pothos, understanding the light needs of your specific variety is key for optimal growth.

For instance, Golden Pothos thrives in bright, indirect sunlight, while Marble Queen Pothos also prefers bright indirect light but should be shielded from direct sunlight to prevent leaf scorching. There are even varieties, like the Hawaiian Pothos, that are known for their tolerance to high light conditions.

Golden Pothos

Golden Pothos is a popular variety known for its heart-shaped leaves and striking yellow variegation. This variety thrives in moderate to bright, indirect light, which helps preserve the variegation on the leaves.

Even though Golden Pothos prefers bright light, it can also tolerate low light conditions. However, in low light, the variegation on the leaves may fade and turn green. So, while this variety is quite adaptable, for the best color and growth, it’s wise to provide it with plenty of indirect light.

Marble Queen Pothos

Marble Queen Pothos is another variety that’s loved for its stunning variegated leaves. However, this variety requires a bit more light than the Golden Pothos to maintain its variegation.

In fact, if the Marble Queen Pothos doesn’t get enough light, its leaves can revert to a solid green color. To prevent this, it’s recommended to provide this variety with plenty of bright, indirect light. Just remember to avoid direct sunlight, as it can cause leaf burn.

Troubleshooting Common Pothos Light Issues

Despite providing the best care, you might still face some light-related issues with your Pothos. Luckily, these are usually easy to resolve once you know what to look for.

Diminished contrast in variegation, yellowing or burnt leaves, and wilting are common signs of excessive light exposure, which can be caused by intense light. On the flip side, insufficient light can result in stunted growth, pale or yellowing leaves, and a weakened root system. To ensure optimal plant health, it’s crucial to monitor and adjust light intensity as needed.

Too Much Light

Oversaturation of light can cause a range of issues in Pothos plants, from leaf burn and browning to diminished leaf variegation contrast. If you notice these symptoms, it’s a sign your plant might be getting too much light.

The solution is usually as simple as:

  • moving your plant to a shadier location

  • lowering the intensity of your grow light

  • if you’re using natural light, try moving your Pothos further away from the window or using curtains to diffuse the light.

Too Little Light

On the other end of the spectrum, too little light can also cause problems for your Pothos. Signs of light underexposure include:

  • wilting, drooping leaves

  • a pale or light green coloration

  • stunted growth

  • fewer leaves

If your Pothos isn’t getting enough light, try moving it to a brighter location or increasing the duration of your grow light. Remember, while Pothos can survive in low light, they thrive in bright, indirect light.


In conclusion, understanding and providing the right light conditions for your Pothos plant is key to its health and growth. Whether you’re using natural light, grow lights, or a combination of both, remember that Pothos prefers bright, indirect light. Too much or too little light can cause problems, but these are usually easy to resolve. With a little attention and care, your Pothos can thrive and become a vibrant, lush addition to your indoor garden.


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