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How to care for Devil’s Ivy: watering, repotting and where to position them

Devil’s Ivy may be a climber, but it has roots in the underworld

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24 March 2021

evil’s Ivy is a plant with many names. You may know it as a golden pothos, Ceylon creeper, Scindapsus or you may even have been sold it as a Philodendron. It’s similar in appearance and closely related, which leads to lots of confusion amongst botanists and houseplant lovers alike.

What sets Devil’s Ivy apart from its Aroid family (think peace lilies and monstera), is its golden-green variegated leaves and its ability to survive in ultra-low light. It will even tolerate periods of time in the dark, which is where its relationship with the underworld stems. In the wild it can reach heights of 15 metres plus, with leaves the size of dinner plates. At home, in the constraints of a pot, a two to three metre tall plant with hand-sized leaves would be a more reasonable expectation.

How to care for Devil’s Ivy

Plant power: George Hudson, Head of Plants and Education at Walworth Garden, London

/ Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd

The secret to the success of this plant is in its botanical name, Epipremnum aureum, which in Greek translates to something close to “gold on a trunk”. You’ve guessed it – it’s a climber, and is happiest when you provide something for it to cling to. That’s not to say they won’t trail over the side of a pot for some time quite happily, because they will, but eventually the long dangling stems will begin to curl and the plant will begin to climb up itself. No one wants a plant that’s up itself.

Traditionally, houseplants like Epipremnum have been given a moss pole to climb up, and if you buy a mature Devil’s Ivy, you’ll find this is exactly what has been used. However, here’s the thing with moss poles – they look like you’ve confused your houseplant for a cat scratching post (not that I have anything against cats). Epipremnum, by their nature, will use their aerial roots to stick to any hard organic material or wooden surface. Get creative.

Propagating Devil’s Ivy

Devil’s Ivy lends itself to failure-free propagation. The same aerial roots that allow Epipremnum to climb up the trunks of other trees, will allow you to increase your own house plant population through ground layering. You’ll need an Devil’s Ivy plant with at least one trailing stem that’s 30cm or longer, a medium-sized plastic nursery pot, fresh peat-free organic compost and a stone, pebble or unfolded paperclip.

Place the new pot next to the pot your Epipremnum is in. Then take the stem you wish to create a new plant from, and check it is long enough to reach out of its existing pot and sit comfortably on-top of the new pot, with some length to spare. Carefully remove the one or two of the leaves from the middle section of the stem.

Next, fill the new pot two-thirds full with new compost, then lower the stem in. Hold the stem in place on the surface of the compost and refill the pot until its full. Firm to hold the stem in place, and use the pebble or paperclip to pin the stem in place. Keep the compost moist, and avoid disturbing the plant for a couple of months. The stem will make roots where it is buried, and when you are confident it has rooted, you can cut your new plant from the parent.

If you you want to propagate but haven’t got any stems of a decent length, you can take a stem cutting with a short section of stem with at least three leaves attached, remove the lowest leaf, and make a hole in the compost. Then insert about half of the stem in the ground, refirm around the stem, and keep somewhere humid until roots have formed.