Are you familiar with devil’s ivy? This popular climbing house plant has gained its common name from its remarkable survival skills. Also known as “Golden Pothos”, Epipremnum aureum“ is almost impossible to kill off. For all the houseplant enthusiasts out there who find it hard to keep a plant alive, this may just be the perfect variety for you. Read on!
The devil’s ivy plant (Epipremnum aureum) was originally native (and restricted) to the island of Mo’orea in the French Polynesia islands. No longer endemic to just one island, however, this plant is now naturalised in tropical and sub-tropical rainforests throughout the world. This includes Asia, the Pacific Islands, the West Indies and Australia.
In some of these habitats, this variegated climbing plant species is seen as a highly invasive and uncontrollable pest. It natively overgrows the forest floor and, in turn, causes severe ecological damage.
Devil’s ivy is listed as an evergreen species of flowering plant within the Araceae family. Natively and on very rare occasion, it produces flowerson mature plants in the form of a spathe. These flowers reach an impressive length of 9 inches, (23cm), and are very similar to that of the highly popular Peace Lily.
Its blooms are also enclosed within a sheath and unfurling with a central spadix. As a houseplant though, we don’t rely on the intermittent flowering to bring us pleasure. The foliage takes precedence with mountains of lush, heart-shaped, stunning variegated leaves.
Devil’s Ivy Cultivars
Let’s have a look at the best cultivars suitable for growing at home. Note that these do well either as a climbing plant, or as a trailing vine. We’ll cover how to grow, care for ,and rejoice in the wonders of owning these air-purifying and totally tropical vines.
If you ask around, the most popular cultivar seems to be the Epipremnum aureum. This is the easiest to grow, and pretty much the hardest to kill off. It usually displays a beautiful variegation of mid green and mustard yellow, on heart-shaped leaves.
In the wild, this evergreen vine will grow up to something like 400 metres. When fully grown, its leaves have been known to grow up to 39 inches long, (100 cm), and 18 inches, (45 cm) wide. Its sturdy and thick stems produce aerial roots, which attach themselves to pretty much any structure. This enables them to climb trees high into the forest canopy. In addition, it makes them ideal as climbing plants.
Further stems are produced on mature plants which trail downwards to the forest floor. Once reached, these roots feed on the nutrient-rich soil, whilst continuing to spread horizontally along the ground.
As houseplants, you can expect a growth height of around 3 metres when growing up a moss pole. In time, as your plant matures, the mass of variegated heart-shaped leaves and aerial roots will attach themselves to the pole, making it almost invisible.
Now this is a really lovely devil’s ivy cultivar, which has much lighter variegation on its heart-shaped leaves. As you may have noticed, the marbling pattern is much whiter than the “aureum” cultivar. It provides stark contrast to the mid green leaf, resulting in a truly unusual foliage houseplant. The “Marble Queen” is a slightly slower grower than its sister plant, but has the same clinging aerial roots and easy-care nature.
Planting Options for your Devil’s Ivy Plant
These versatile plants aren’t just ideal for people who usually have black thumbs. They’re also great for adapting to just about any space you have available for them. Furthermore, since they do just as well as climbers as trailing vines, you have several different display options available to you. Let’s take a look at a few of them, shall we?
Planting with a Moss-Pole
As previously mentioned, many commercially grown Epipremnum will come to you already growing up (and attached to) a moss pole. This is perfectly suitable, and if you’re of a certain age, you will remember it well—much as I do.
In the 1970’s and 80’s, almost all households owned extensive plant collections. Most rooms were filled with hanging macramé planters, tropical palms, potted, and overflowing spider plants. During this era, the moss pole was a must-have growing structure for your favourite tropical vines.
I fondly remember having a huge cheese plant, (Monstera delicosa), growing on a moss pole in my bedroom. This eventually took up more space than I did but I was reluctant to let it go—happy times, hey!
It’s also perfectly acceptable to grow your devil’s ivy as a hanging plant. In fact, it’s just perfect for the bathroom, because it thrives in a steamy, humid environment. Just ensure that you choose a sturdy and suitable hanging pot to allow for rapid growth as this can be quite heavy.
Composts and Planting Medium
I would recommend using a high coco coir-based compost mix for potting up your plants. They seem to like the loose texture of coir, and when mixed with peat, you can expect the best results.
Devil’s ivy plants are easy to grow hydroponically and often used for aquarium planting. With the plant roots immersed in water, this method of growing allows the plant to absorb nitrates within the water. This in turn aids in strong plant growth.
Caring for your Devil’s Ivy Plant
Temperature and Light Requirements
You will achieve the best results by keeping your devil’s ivy plant in a temperature range of 18 degrees C to 24 degrees C throughout the entire year. In Fahrenheit, that is 65 – 75 degrees.
Although this is an easy plant to keep alive, your plant will be happier in a situation of bright, but indirect sunlight. In very direct sunlight, plant leaves will become scorched and unhappy. If kept in a very dark area, growth will be very slow and sparse. In fact, it’ll cause the leaves to grow quite far apart.
In an ideal site, the growth will be quite quick with masses of fleshy, bright green and mottled leaves.
I only tend to water my plants when I feel that the soil is dry to the touch. This is dependant on many aspects, but is a sure sign that they need a drink. I would give your plant a good watering, letting the excess water flow out from the holes in your pot. Wait until the soil is dry to the touch once again, and then repeat this process.
Due to its native environment, it can be quite beneficial to mist your plant from time to time. This helps to create a high-humidity habitat.
Throughout the spring and summer months, I recommend feeding Epipremnum every two weeks with a diluted high-nitrogen foliage feed. This will give your foliage an instant lift, enabling sufficient nutrients for good, strong growth to continue throughout the growing season.
Re-potting and Pruning
Your compost can become lacklustre and dusty over time, which means that the nutrients within are well spent. Remember that the devil’s ivy is quite a speedy grower, so will need to be repotted at least every couple of years to keep up with the plant’s top growth. Repot your plant using a good coco coir based potting mix in the Springtime.
You will only need to tie in any untidy or loose parts of your plant: no regular pruning is needed.
The best way to propagate from your mother plant is by way of stem cuttings. This should be carried out in the springtime and is one of the quickest ways to increase your plant stocks.
Cut your stems to around 6 inches, 15 cm, removing the lower leaves and place them in water to root. The new roots will appear from the node, right under the leaf. Once rooted, you can pot your cutting on, using a suitable coir compost mix.
Recognised Benefits of the Devil’s Ivy Plant
Scientists have long recognized that many house plants have air-purifying properties. Fortunately, this particular houseplant is no exception. In fact, it’s an ardent, ecological master at removing harmful household pollutants from the air, such as formaldehyde, toluene, trichloroethene, xylene and benzene.
Possible Plant Problems
Mealy bugs and red spider mites can be quite common pests. Eradicate these easily by using a suitable insecticide available from your local garden center.
Overwatering can cause problems such as fungal and bacterial infections. Always remember to let your plant dry out in between watering and never allow it to sit in water. Prevention is your best cure on this score.
Best Companion Plants
I am a sucker for large-leaved houseplants, so the cheese plant, fiddle-leafed fig, and Indian rubber tree are amongst my favourites for creating an interesting indoor foliage garden. Take a look at the huge choice of plants now available and make your own indoor garden. Not only do they please the eye, they keep your home healthier too!
One final note: devil’s ivy is toxic to pet dogs,cats, birds, and small mammals, just like all other pothos varieties. As such, if you have pets and would still like to grow this plant, please keep it well away from your furry or feathered friends.