Pothos is one of my all-time favorite plants. This tropical plant is typically grown indoors as an ornamental. And trust me when I say that I have more than a few of these suspended from my ceiling.
But while having an indoor jungle is definitely something to aspire to, there’s also the need to, you know, actually live in your house. And in my case, this means that some of my houseplants have needed to find their way to my balcony instead.
A lush green balcony is seriously the dream (there’s a reason you can find pictures of them all over Pinterest) but, as you can probably guess, it’s not simply a case of moving some plants outdoors and calling it a day. After all, some of these indoor plants are indoors for a reason.
So this is why it’s worth asking the question: can pothos live outside? It’s certainly known for being a hardy plant – but is it hardy enough to cope with the big wide world…or, at the very least, your balcony?
Let’s find out!
Can pothos live outside?
Pothos can live outside, even though it’s popularly known as an indoor plant. In its natural environment in the tropical rainforests in south-east Asia, pothos thrive outside. If you emulate its natural habitat in terms of temperature (65°F – 85°F), light, soil, water, and fertilizer, your pothos will also thrive outdoors.
So how can you best simulate pothos’ home environment in your backyard to ensure your plant doesn’t just survive but grows well too?
- Indirect, bright light conditions. This could include planting your pothos near trees so the tree canopy can provide the shade these tropical plants need. Alternatively, if you want to keep your pothos in a pot, you could hang these from the ceiling on a patio. The patio roof will then make sure these pot plants aren’t in direct sunlight while still ensuring that your pothos’ light needs are being met.
- Light, aerated soil. These are the key characteristics of the best soil for pothos plants as they help ensure the soil drains water well. You definitely don’t want your pothos roots to start rotting because the soil is waterlogged. If root rot isn’t treated early enough, your pothos can die. Safe to say, your pothos needs drainage.
- Only water it when the top two inches of the soil is completely dry. Just like when they’re houseplants, an overwatered pothos due to it getting too much water isn’t a happy pothos. In terms of whether a pothos can live outside, assuming you don’t get monsoon-like conditions, it should be fine. Just check the soil to make sure your pothos is dry enough before watering it as the rain you get may be more than enough.
- Fertilize occasionally during the active growing months of spring and summer. Your outside pothos still need nutrients, so feel free to fertilize them to boost their growth. That said, if you forget to fertilize, you don’t need to worry. I’ve often forgotten to fertilize my pothos, and they continue to grow. Pothos are well-known for tolerating some neglect quite well.
Pros of pothos living outside
There are even advantages to growing your pothos outside! Here’s a few main ones that I discovered:
- If you plant your pothos in the soil outside, you will hardly even need to fertilize the plant. However, if your pothos are in pots outside, you’ll need to fertilize them every 2 months during their active growing season.
- You can take advantage of the outdoors as pothos’ natural habitat – especially if you’re in an area where the the temperature is around 65°F – 85°F (18°C – 29°C), which is perfect for them. Having the right humidity levels for your pothos outside is also a big advantage.
- Rainfall will water my pothos when the plant is outside. So, say, if you go away for a few weeks, you won’t come back to an underwatered pothos. Plus, rain water is healthier for plants – it’s soft water, is more oxygen-rich, and it contains nitrates, which is “gold” for plant growth.
- Your outdoor pothos may flower. This isn’t something that happens when pothos are grown indoors, but planting pothos outside in good soil and emulating its natural habitat can result in pothos flowering when it gets big enough.
- Pothos are natural trailing vines. When pothos live outside, they can trail in any direction they like. Best of all, you don’t need to trim your pothos’ trails as you need to do indoors, which is a great task to cross off the list given how fast pothos plants grow.
- No more rootbound worries when your pothos is planted in a garden. When you grow your pothos inside, you generally have to repot your pothos it into a bigger container every 1-2 years to give the roots more room to grow and avoid your pothos being rootbound. With your pothos now growing outside, this is another item on your don’t-worry-about list.
What’s the pothos hardiness zone?
The recommended United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) plant hardiness zones for pothos is 10-12. Zones 10-12 constitute the warmer states in the US, so includes those located in the deep south and southern coastal areas.
Since pothos is a tropical plant, used to growing in warm, humid climates, zones 10-12 are ideal for pothos, especially when pothos are grown outdoors.
Which major cities fall in the plant hardiness zones of 10-12?
- Honolulu, Hawaii: Zone 12b (which even has its own native type, the Hawaiian pothos!)
- Los Angeles, California: Zones 10a, 10b, and 11a
- Miami, Florida: Zones 11a and 11b
- San Diego, California: Zones 10b and 11a
- San Francisco, California: Zones 10a and 10b
- San Gabriel, California: Zone 10a
- San Jose, California: Zones 9b and 10a
- San Juan, Puerto Rico: Zones 12b and 13a
- Tampa, Florida: Zones 9b and 10a
So in general, zones 10-12 in the USA include southern Arizona, southern coastal and inland California, south Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Nevada, Puerto Rico, and south Texas.
If you aren’t sure in which USDA plant hardiness your area falls (like me!), have a look on the zone map.
What temperature can pothos tolerate?
Pothos grow best in a 70°F – 90°F (21°C – 32°C) temperature range, but the plant may tolerate temperatures as low as 50°F (10°C). However, as pothos isn’t cold- or frost-hardy, it shouldn’t be outside anywhere that drops below 50°F.
Temperatures below that level can damage your pothos and even cause it to die, which perhaps isn’t surprising when you remember that it’s a tropical plant that prefers warm to hot climates.
In the USA, specifically, grow your pothos in the subtropic areas or USDA hardiness zones 10-12. The average temperatures for the warmest months in the US subtropics are 70°F – 80°F (21°C – 26°C) and 45°F – 50°F (7°C – 10°C) for the coldest months.
The subtropical region in the US are:
- The Gulf Coast
- The area from southern Delmarva Peninsula to Florida on the East Coast
- Coastal southern Oregon and northern California to San Diego in southern California
- Sections of the South and Southwest
This means that your pothos can live outside happily in these areas, or any others in the abovementioned temperature range. In those kinds of areas, the pothos will stay alive every year, provided there isn’t a sudden cold front or a once-in-a-decade frost that occurs.
In the subtropical areas, pothos should be planted as an understory vine in partially shaded areas. The best locations for an understory vine pothos is at the base of mature trees, underneath ornamental shrubs, and near your patio where a trellis can help the pothos climb.
If the weather drops below 50°F (10°C) as a one-off, cover your pothos with a row cover or frost blanket. Should the weather stay below that limit for a longer period of time, it’s best to bring your pothos inside.
Can pothos live outside in winter?
Pothos can live outside in winter, but this depends on how cold your winters are. The tropical plant can tolerate temperatures as low as 50°F (10°C). But since pothos is intolerant to cold because its native growth zone is warm-hot and humid, the plant can suffer from cold shock and potentially die or be severely damaged.
So if you have moderate winter temperatures, your pothos will be just fine outside.
For those who live in colder climates during the winter months, move your pothos indoors where it is warmer to prevent cold shock. This is easy if you keep your pothos in containers or pots.
You can also transplant the pothos from a garden bed or planter in your front or backyard into a pot during the winter months.
FYI: If moving your pothos indoors isn’t possible, cover its base with mulch. A frost blanket can cover the rest of the plant. Alternatively, you can also drive stakes into the ground and have a burlap surround or cover the tropical plant.
Is pothos cold hardy?
Pothos isn’t cold hardy because it’s a tropical plant that natively grows in warm and hot climates where the humidity level is high. As such, pothos don’t like the cold because it isn’t something the plant is equipped to deal with. When the temperature drops below 50°F (10°C), it’s likely that cold shock will set in.
If a tropical plant like the pothos is exposed to cold temperatures for an extended period, the leaves will discolor and eventually turn black. There may also be burn-like spots on the leaves, and the leaves and stems can start to wilt or look droopy on your pothos or wilt as they become soft and mushy.
Did you know: When a pothos suffers from cold shock, the plant’s cells collapse and die. Why? The water inside the plant cells turns into ice and expands during this process. The expansion breaks the cell wall, causing the cell to die.
Pothos doesn’t have the ability to activate its cold tolerance. That isn’t to say your pothos will die from cold shock. If only a part of the plant is damaged, the pothos can revive and recover.
What’s the lowest temperature for pothos to survive?
The lowest temperature for pothos to survive is 50°F (10°C). In the case of some specific varieties, pothos can live outside at a lower temperature of 40°F – 45°F (4.4°C – 7°C) but it’s not ideal. Your pothos may shed its leaves in cold climates, and regrow when the temperature warms up.
It’s very possible that the pothos will die when temperatures reach freezing point or lower as the tropical plant truly isn’t cold hardy.
Will pothos come back after a freeze?
Pothos can come back after a freeze depending on the kind of freeze, how much damage the plant sustained, and if the pothos is a young plant. If the freeze damage isn’t too severe, the pothos will lose its leaves but will regrow when the temperature warms up in spring.
A light frost will damage your hardy pothos but not as much as a hard frost. A “light” freeze damages the plant’s foliage. The leaves will suffer from a cold burn, and they will discolor.
With a hard frost, the water inside the plant’s cells freeze, causing a cellular shift and permanent damage to the tissue of the plant. The freeze damage can affect the whole plant, from foliage to roots.
FYI: The most damage after a hard frost occurs when the sun comes up, which is when the pothos defrosts. This kills the stems and leaves.
And if your pothos is extra hardy and doesn’t die, it’ll still be very difficult to help the plant recover.
Can pothos live outside in summer?
Pothos can live outside in summer, provided temperatures don’t exceed 90°F (32°C) for long periods of time. As a tropical plant, pothos grows well in warm and humid weather. States in USDA plant hardiness zones 10-12 are perfect if you want to keep your pothos outside during the warmer months of the year.
Subtropical areas are another good option for pothos to live outside.
However, if you live in plant hardiness zones 9 and below, I recommend you keep your pothos inside.
When pothos grows indoors, you can ensure the plant gets the right amount of sun, shade, water, and humidity much more easily. Plus, you can control the inside temperature during the coldest months of the year to ensure your pothos doesn’t get cold shock or dies because of too-cold temperatures.
Can pothos live in direct sunlight?
Pothos can live in direct sunlight if the plant only gets direct sunlight during the early morning and late afternoon. The rest of the day, pothos should have bright, indirect light. This means the tropical plant needs light that’s filtered from other trees and plants.
Direct sunlight, especially during the hottest part of the day, will damage the plant and lead to your pothos having sunburn. The leaves will look burned, which is when brown, cream, or yellow patches appear on the pretty pothos leaves. The leaves will eventually yellow and brown.
Any damage from too much light exposure is permanent. So you’ll need to remove these leaves and relocate your pothos to an area where there’s bright, indirect, or filtered light.
Do pothos like full sun?
Pothos doesn’t like full sun. The plant is a natural understory vine so in its natural habitat, these plants creep, trail, and vine under shrubs and trees where they are mostly in the shade. Even when pothos grows as a ground cover, the dense tree canopies in the rainforests keep the plant covered.
If pothos is exposed to as much as 3-4 hours of direct sunlight a day, the plant will suffer from leaf burn, scorch, or leaf sunscald, which is the plant equivalent to people getting sunburn.
What’s best for golden pothos: indoor or outdoor?
Both an indoor or outdoor space are great for golden pothos. After all, pothos (and all its varieties) are famous ornamental plants for indoor spaces. However, an outside environment that simulates the golden pothos’ natural growth zone – bright, indirect light, warm temperatures of 65°F – 85°F (18°C – 29°C), and high humidity levels – are also perfect for the golden pothos.
Of course, not everyone is lucky enough to live in areas with warmth and humidity.
So keeping your golden pothos in an indoor space will then work better for you as you can “artificially” trick your golden pothos into thinking it’s growing in its native tropical environment in a rainforest somewhere.