Is there anything that can be said about Epipremnum aureum that hasn't been said already? I have my doubts. I spent a long time on-line doing search after search after search, trying to uncover something odd, or interesting, or even just new about it, and I got nothing.
It's so ordinary, in fact, that a large percentage of the posts about it at Garden Web are just people asking for identifications on it – it gets mistaken for a Philodendron a lot, but that's not unexpected, since they're related. (If this is a question you yourself have, check out this post, which I believe is as definitive a guide to the difference between Epipremnum and Philodendron as it's possible to get.) It's also had more than its share of names, both scientific and common,1 which makes for confusion.
By and large, though, you know it when you see it, because you see it all the time. It's very tolerant of all kinds of indoor conditions: humidity is no big deal, low light is peachy, and it can go for a long time without water and then bounce right back when it gets it again. It still can get pests, though this doesn't seem to happen real easily or often.2 The only real worry is overwatering: they do not like it, and it will kill them. All of this taken together means that the odds are very good that there is a pothos somewhere within 50 feet of you as you read this, and if you asked, it would probably tell you that it's doing "fine."
Somewhat less widely known is the fact that indoor plants are almost always juveniles; as with Dizygotheca elegantissima,3 Syngonium podophyllum, Hedera helix, and (sometimes) Monstera deliciosa, plants sold as houseplants have a different leaf shape, or growth habit, or both, than fully-grown adult plants. In the case of Epipremnum aureum, plants allowed to climb a pole or tree in good light and humidity will eventually develop Monstera-like perforations and splits in the leaves, though this often won't happen until a good amount of height has been attained first, and isn't easy to achieve indoors. Mature leaves can be as big as 30 inches (75 cm) across. Only adult plants flower, and not very often, though it can be done in cultivation.
Epipremnum aureum is available in at least a few different cultivars. Besides the species, which is variegated in yellow and white, there is 'Marble Queen,' which has finer variegation in a sort of cream-white color, and 'Neon,' which has solid yellow-green leaves with no variegation. There are, according to some references, also at least three (kinda-redundant) all-green versions,4 and at least one more yellow+white cultivar,5 though I think I've personally only ever seen four ('Marble Queen,' species itself, 'Neon,' all-green).
By far, my most serious problem with pothos has been a root disease called Pythium splendens, which causes infected stems to shrivel and go black from base to tip. This has happened not only to a number of plants from work, which is bad enough, but it happened to a plant at home that I was actually kind of attached to, a 'Neon' in a 4-inch pot that had been doing so well for me that I decided to up-pot it. Almost immediately after the up-potting, it started dying, which was very depressing. I took cuttings, and we'll see whether anything is salvageable. Pythium mostly attacks plants that are too wet (I told you overwatering was bad.), and spreads via splashes of water between plants, or by hands or tools that have just touched infected soil or plants. My reference book says it can be fought off with antifungals, but it rarely seems worth bothering to treat it, since anything I bought to get rid of the fungus would likely cost more than a new 4-inch plant would.
Or just propagating a new plant, which with pothos is incredibly easy. I personally favor water-rooting, because my success rate with water is very nearly 100%, and with soil, I only get about 60% success because Pythium, or something else, gets them before they establish roots. Water may not be the best thing for the plant once it's transplanted to soil, but they do at least all survive that way.
But that's about the extent of it. The vines, even when they're not climbing, can get pretty long: I've seen vines that were easily five feet long growing along the top of a cabinet in someone's office. For some people, this is the supposedly easy plant that they can't grow,6 which I think likely means that they try to overwater it. But otherwise . . .
Aha! I've come up with something new to say about Epipremnum aureum that I'm pretty sure nobody else has ever reported: it's an anagram for "a pure, premium menu."7 There. Not really relevant, or interesting, but by God it's new. So there you go.
Photo credits: plant in basket – anonymous Garden Webber.
foliage close-ups – me.
It's unclear whether the current correct botanical name is Epipremnum aureum or E. pinnatum, but I had to pick one, so I went with the one that was more familiar to me. I'm also more than a little puzzled about whether E. pinnatum and E. aureum are the same plant or not – some sites say yes, some sites say no, many sites only acknowledge one or the other and don't mention that there's even a question.
2 Super-duper plant reference book says that they're often spider-mite magnets, but I don't think I've ever seen this personally, and it's not something that comes up often at Garden Web either (it does once in a while, but if you wait long enough, anything will come up once in a while at GW. Remember that guy who had penguins on his Polyscias fruticosa?). No reason not to check a plant over carefully if you're going to buy, but I think Mr. Griffith exaggerates.
3 Now, technically Schefflera elegantissima, but Dizygotheca sounds so much better in my head that I hate to let go of it.
4 'Green Gold,' 'Jade,' and 'Tropic Green.' I do not know in what way these are different from one another. At least one of them is probably a version of 'Marble Queen' that went all-green from low light, which 'Marble Queen' in particular is prone to do. I think that a stem that's reverted to solid green stays that way, even if it subsequently gets good light again, though I'm not positive on that.
6 I am very nearly convinced that everybody has one "difficult" plant that they find really easy to grow, and one "easy" plant that they can't grow at all. My "easy" plant that I can't grow changes from month to month but often seems to be something in the Philodendron family.
7 Also "immune urea pumper," but I liked the other one better.