Pothos Light Needs And Requirements (Research Based)

Pothos plants are tropical plant that has very low light requirements. Read this article to learn more about pothos light needs and requirements.

Pothos Plant Light Needs and Requirements

Pothos is one of the most commonly found houseplants.

Because of its easy to care for nature, it is one of the houseplants that most beginners will start with.

Pothos plants are known to be highly adaptable to the conditions and they are rated as a plant that has low light requirements.

But that doesn’t mean you can just leave your pothos plant on a shelf in a dark room and expect it to thrive irrespective of the conditions.

Then, you may ask how much light is needed? How many hours of direct sunlight?

And, that’s exactly what I’m going to share with you in this article.

Pothos Light Needs & Requirements

Pothos plants are known to thrive in conditions with moderate indirect bright light of 10 to 12 hours per day. During the growing season, they can tolerate a maximum of 3 to 4 hours of direct sunlight, but anything more than that will make your plant burn it’s leaves.

Pothos plants are considered to be easy to grow and many will say that you just don’t even need to care about it and it won’t die easily. 

That’s true, but only if you want an ugly looking leggy pothos plant with brown or yellow dying leaves that screams for some love.

On the other hand, if you want a healthy pothos plant that you can be proud of when sharing on instagram, then I dare you to forget about providing proper light.

On average, pothos plants grow at a rate of 10 to 12 inches per month in the growing season. But, based on a couple of studies, a pothos plant can grow at a growth rate of around 18 inches per month if proper lighting is provided.

Some people may ask, why is light so important for pothos plants?

I know, they might have skipped some science class in school :). Either way, I’ll give a brief in the next section.

Why Is Adequate Lighting Important For Pothos Plants?

Pothos is a tropical plant that can adapt to a lot of different lighting conditions. But at the end of the day, it still needs some light to function properly as a plant.

Plants need energy to grow and they make this energy using a process called photosynthesis. 

Irrespective of the pothos type, all leaves have some amount of green colored pigment called chlorophyll which is responsible for the photosynthesis process. Light, water and carbon dioxide are the three necessary elements for this process.

So, just like any other plant, pothos use the energy generated from photosynthesis to grow. 

If your pothos plant does not get enough light or any other ingredients, then leaves will fail to generate the required amount of energy and this makes your plant deprived of energy.

As a result, stunted growth and other symptoms are shown by the plant.

We’ll be looking at all these symptoms in a minute.

Pothos Plants Getting Too Much Light – Symptoms

It is a known fact that if something is not right for your plant, then it will definitely be shown in some way or another. And, that holds true for pothos plants as well.

Your pothos plant will try to communicate with you if it’s getting too much light. The symptoms include leaves curling and wilting, leaf burn, no growth and dry soil.

Let me give you a brief description about each of these 4 symptoms so that you can easily understand whether your plant is actually getting too much light or not.

1. Leaves curling & wilting

When your plant is in distress, the first symptoms are always shown in the leaves. And, it is true for pothos plants as well.

When pothos plants get too much light, the leaves will start curling away from the light source in order to protect it from further cell damage. And as a result of this, you will see leaves curling, drooping and wilting.

Wilting and drooping mostly occur during the hottest time of the day. So, if you see your pothos plant wilting during noon, then most probably it is getting way too much light than what is needed.

2. Leaf Burn

Leaf burn is self explanatory. If your plant is receiving too much direct sunlight, the surface of the leaves will become hot and it will kill the plant cells. And eventually, that area will turn brown. 

Leaf burn may occur on the edges and tips initially, but will progress towards other areas if untreated.

3. No Growth

When your pothos plant is sunburnt, the plant cells will be in a state of stress which results in stunted growth.

Whenever your plant undergoes deep stress, it will not grow for a couple of weeks. It is the same reason why you see stunted growth after repotting, pruning, etc. In all those cases, your pothos plant is in a state of stress.

4. Dry Soil

When you started your plant parenting journey with the new pothos plant, you might have set up a watering schedule.

If the potting soil is always dry, even after a couple of days of watering, then it shows your plant may be receiving too much light than expected. Too much sunlight will dry up the soil quickly.

There are many other reasons for solid drying quickly like underwatering, old potting soil, etc but still too much light can also cause the issue.

Pothos Plants Not Getting Enough Light – Symptoms

Just like getting too much light, too little light can also dampen your plants health and growth.

When your pothos plant is not getting enough light, then leggy growth, plant leaning towards light, no new growth, small leaves, faded leaves and wet soil are the most commonly seen symptoms.

The following descriptions will ensure that you really understand how to evaluate these symptoms.

1. Leaning towards light with leggy growth

When your pothos plant is not getting enough light, the plant vine will lean towards the light source. 

Under this condition, the plant’s main aim will be to move as fast as possible to the nearest light source. That means, elongated weak vine with very low leaf count. 

Even all those sparse leaves will look unhealthy, because the plant is using all its energy to grow vine in the direction of light source.

3. No new growth

Stunted growth is a symptom for both too much light and not getting enough light.

Because of very little light, at first the plant will try to grow in the direction of the light source causing a leggy appearance. 

But at some point, there is no more energy to grow new vine or leaves. And then the growth of the plant will be stunted.

4. Small faded leaves

As I already said, when light is very less, your pothos plant can produce only limited energy using photosynthesis. 

And, it will eventually stop caring about new leaves which in turn make the leaves faded in color and smaller in size than the previous ones.

5. Wet soil

This is just the opposite to what we’ve seen as a symptom of too much light.

When your plant is not getting enough light, the soil won’t drain as fast as it needs to be.

Again, wet soil may not be just because of low light. It may occur due to many other reasons like overwatering, poor drainage in pot, old soil, root rot, etc.

If you see some of these symptoms, but still want to make sure that your plant has some lighting issues, then a light intensity test is a good option.

Check out the next section, I will be sharing three different techniques to accurately measure the quality of light.

Check How Much Light Your Pothos Is Getting – 3 Ways

It is necessary to know how much light your pothos plant is currently getting so that you can change its position and see whether it will make any progress or not.

Even if you don’t have a pothos plant yet and are looking for the best spot in your room, then checking the light levels of different parts of your room is essential so that the best spot can be provided for your plant.

There are three ways you can check how much light a particular spot in your room is getting. They are,

  1. Phone App 
  2. Shadow Test
  3. LUX Meter

Let me share how to do these tests step by step so that you can get it done in a couple of minutes.

1. Phone App Test

This is one of the most easy and free ways to measure the amount of light your pothos plant is getting.

In this digital era, everyone has a smartphone in their pocket that can do a lot of things that most smartphone owners are not even aware of.

And one such feature is its ability to measure light. 

For this feature to work, your smartphone needs to have an active light sensor. And, nowadays the majority of smartphones come with it.

Most of these applications can provide light measurement in different units. But the universal standard is to use either LUX or foot candles.

There are no complex steps here. Download any one of the highly rated light meter apps from play store or app store depending on your phone.

Before testing the light, make sure to find the position of the ambient sensor in your phone. Most phones have it in the front, but there are some exceptions. Refer to your phone’s manal if you don’t know it already.

Then move around and see the values changing depending on the light that falls on the sensor. Make sure that the sensor is pointed towards the light source and not away. Measure the readings so that you can compare and make a decision later.

2. Shadow Test

If you want a free method, but don’t have a smartphone then shadow test is the only choice for you.

This is one of the oldest methods used by historians and sailors of the past to measure intensity of the light. Although this method won’t provide accurate numbers, it can give an overall idea of how much light a particular spot gets.

For this method, you don’t need any props, just your hand is enough.

Find the spot where you are planning to keep your new pothos plant. Just move your hand from that spot and check the shadow.

If you see a well defined shadow, then the spot is having high intensity bright light. On the other hand, if the shadow is visible but has no defined boundaries, then its moderate light.

If you don’t see any shadow or just a vague one, then the spot is probably low light.

As we have mentioned multiple times, pothos plants thrive in medium light. So, if you can get a spot with visible shadows but no defined boundary, then that’s the best spot for your pothos plant.

This method is by far the least accurate to measure light. But, if you have no access to other methods, then this method at least gives you a base.

3. LUX Meter

If you have some money to spend, then a proper LUX meter is a good investment into your plant parenting journey.

LUX meters are the dedicated equipment used by many professionals to measure the intensity of light. The list of professionals include astronauts, cinematographers, botanists, scientists, photographers, etc.

And, using a light meter is the most straightforward approach in measuring light. 

All you have to do is expose the light sensor of your LUX meter towards the source of light. And, it will give a measurement either in foot candles or LUX, you can set the metric of your choice though.

If you are checking the amount of light your plant currently gets, then try to place the meter as close as possible to the leaves of your plant with the sensor pointing towards the light source so that you get an accurate measurement.

The best spot for your pothos plant must have a light meter reading in the range of 800 to 1600 lux (74.3 – 148.6 fc).

How To Fix Pothos Lighting Issues?

Now, you know what are the common symptoms your pothos plant will show if it’s receiving the wrong amount of light.

Analyze your plant and it’s environment to see whether it’s getting too much light or too little. If it’s getting too much light, then any of the following quick solutions will work,

  • Move your plant away from the window
  • Add a semi transparent curtain to reduce intensity
  • Close the window after few hours of light exposure

On the other hand, when your plant is getting very little or no light all, then try any of the below solutions,

  • Move your plant towards the window or door
  • Add a full spectrum grow light

Even after doing these quick fixes if your plant is showing some abnormalities, then probably there’s some other serious issue plaguing your plant like root rot or root bound. You need to fix them as fast as possible, if not you may lose your plant in the long run.

Pothos Light Needs And Requirements – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

In this section, I’ll answer some of the most commonly asked questions on the internet related to pothos light needs and requirements.

Can you grow pothos in low light?

Yes, you can grow pothos plants in low light environments. But, if you want to grow your plant at a fast rate, then medium intensity light is a mandatory condition.

How much sunlight does pothos need?

Pothos plants need moderate intensity indirect sunlight for at least 10 to 12 hours a day during its growing season. It can even tolerate up to 4 hours of high intensity light, but anything more than 4 hours will cause leaf burn and other problems.

Can pothos grow in darkness?

No, you cannot grow pothos plants in complete darkness. Pothos plants are considered to be terrestrial plants with very low light requirements. But, that does not mean it will grow in complete darkness.

Can pothos survive in fluorescent light?

Yes, pothos plants grow well in fluorescent lighting. But, growth may be slower compared to dedicated growth light or medium intensity sunlight. So, it is advised to put your plant somewhere near a window where it gets natural medium intensity light.

Can I put pothos in a room with no windows?

Yes, you can put a pothos plant indoors with no windows. But, make sure that you provide artificial growth light for at least 10 hours with an intensity above 1000 Lux.


Pothos plants are hardy tropical plants that are known to have very low light requirements.

Even though it is rated as a low light plant, you should aim to give it at least 10 hours of moderate light so that your plant will grow fast and make you proud.

If you are not sure how much light your plant is currently getting, try to get a lux meter or light meter app on your phone so that you can measure the light intensity and act accordingly.

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