Pothos vs Philodendron: Key Differences and Similarities

By: Matt Slaymaker
July 3, 2024
Pothos vs. Philodendron Differences and Similarities
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Pothos and Philodendron plants are popular houseplants that many plant lovers find hard to distinguish. Their green, glossy, heart-shaped leaves have an unmatched beauty and look very similar. 

No wonder why so many people get these tropical plants confused because of their physical resemblance. Furthermore, they belong to the same family Araceae, but are Pothos and Philodendron the same genus? This guide will help you find out!

So, keep reading to learn more about their unique characteristics, growing requirements, and key differences and similarities.

What Is a Pothos? 

What Is Pothos

Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) is a vine from the South Pacific islands, thriving in Hardiness Zones 10-11. This tropical plant enjoys low to medium indirect sunlight, warm temperatures, humidity, and a drink every 1-2 weeks.

Pothos plants have gorgeous, heart-shaped, waxy leaves. Some Pothos varieties have green, yellow, and white variegation on the leaves. The most common variety is the much-loved Golden Pothos with its vining golden-green foliage. Other popular varieties include the variegated Pothos ‘Pearls and Jade’, and Marble Queen Pothos.

According to Feng Shui, Pothos is a lucky plant that brings wealth and fortune. It is also considered one of the best indoor plants because of its air-purifying qualities.

What Is a Philodendron?

What Is Philodendron

Philodendron (Philodendron spp.) is a versatile houseplant native to the tropical Americas, and thriving in Hardiness Zones 9-11. It prefers bright, indirect light, moderate humidity, and regular watering when the topsoil becomes dry. 

Philodendrons have large, glossy, heart-shaped leaves. There are different types of Philo plants featuring various shades and colors, from dark green to vibrant pink. The vining philodendrons, like Philodendron Lemon Lime or Philodendron Cordatum, can be more easily mistaken for pothos plants by novice indoor gardeners. On the other hand, self-heading varieties, such as the sought-after Philodendron Pink Princess and the rare and stunning Philodendron Prince of Orange, boast an upright growth habit, and their leaves differ slightly from those of an Epipremnum plant.

Philodendron plants are well-known for their air-purifying properties, making them ideal for indoor spaces. Feng Shui suggests that they promote health and prosperity.

What Is the Difference Between Pothos and Philodendron?

Differences Between Pothos and Philodendron
Source: My Plantin

There are many similarities between Pothos and Philodendron plants in terms of physical features and care needs. Hence, many wonder: ‘Is Pothos a Philodendron plant?’

Even though their vining varieties belong to the Araceae family and look very similar, they are only distant relatives. There is a slight difference between Philodendrons and Pothos, concerning their appearance and growth habits. Let’s explore both their similarities and contrasts.

Appearance and Size: Does Pothos Look Like Philodendron? 

Pothos and Philodendrons have many similarities, starting with their appearance. Both have heart-shaped leaves and aerial roots. Pothos plants, growing up to 20’-40’, are larger than Philodendrons that don’t grow beyond 20’. Their leaves are also larger than those of Philodendrons. 

Vining Philodendrons resemble Pothos more closely while self-heading Philodendrons, like the popular Philodendron Birkin, differ more with their larger, shiny leaves and upright growth pattern. Remember that there are many varieties of both Pothos and Philodendrons with varying appearances.

Foliage: Shape, Texture, Color, and Variegation of Leaves 

Though both Pothos and Philodendron plants have heart-shaped leaves, there are slight differences in size, color, texture, and patterns. 

  • Pothos: The leaves are larger and thicker, with a waxy surface. Varieties, like Marble Queen Pothos, have a prominent green, yellow, and white variegation. 
  • Philodendron: The leaves of vining Philodendrons are thinner and softer, and have a more pronounced heart shape. They're usually uniformly green, although there are some popular variegated varieties, too. 
  • Stems and Aerial Roots

    If you look closely, you'll notice that Pothos and Philodendrons have dissimilar aerial roots. Even their stems have some minute differences. 

  • Pothos: Their petioles curve slightly toward the stem to which they are connected. They have a singular aerial root growing from one node as a thick and slow-growing nub.     
  • Philodendron: Their petioles are thin and rounded. Their aerial roots are also thin, growing in groups of 4-6 from a single node.

  • Growth Habits and New Leaf Growth Pattern 

    Pothos plants match the growth habit of vining Philodendrons. However, they differ in the way new leaves appear.    

  • Pothos: Like any other plant, new leaves develop from the old growth and gradually unfurl. In addition, their new stems are bright green. They are vines with a trailing growth habit.
  • Philodendron: The new leaves emerge surrounded by a modified stem or sheath called a cataphyll. New stems are brownish or orangey. Some varieties are vining plants, while others, like Prince of Orange or Moonlight, are self-heading, i.e., they grow upright. 
  • Philodendron vs. Pothos: Similarities & Differences in Growing Requirements 

    Pothos vs Philodendron Growing Requirements

    Source: Reddit

    Pothos and Philodendron plants both have similar care needs and growing requirements. Both are beginner-friendly, low-maintenance plants.  

    Pothos and Philodendron: Care Level

    Both Pothos and Philodendrons do not require too much expertise and skills to grow them indoors or outdoors and make them happy. Even novice gardening enthusiasts can meet their needs once they learn how to care for them. These tropical beauties are not finicky or too demanding, as long as you provide them with the right growing environment and adjust your care routine according to seasonal changes.

    Pothos Plant vs. Philodendron: Growing Requirements

    Let’s compare the growing requirements of Pothos and Philodendron to understand the similarities and differences. 

  • Light: Both thrive in bright, indirect light and can be low-light tolerant. But Philodendrons are better suited to lower light conditions. Variegated Pothos and Philodendron varieties need more light to maintain their leaf color or pattern.
  • Water: Both need to be watered once every week or so. The best way to know if your Philodendron or Pothos needs water is by checking the soil. If the top 2”-3” are dry to the touch, give the plant a drink.
  • Humidity and temperature: Both types of plants grow well in moderately warm temperatures. They hate extreme cold (below 50°F) or too much heat (above 90°F). Pothos are more tolerant to heat, though. Both thrive in high humidity of 50% - 70%. You may need to mist their foliage occasionally or place them on a pebble tray.
  • Soil and Feeding: Light, well-draining soil is ideal for both Pothos and Philodendron.. Use a mix made of peat moss, vermicule, and perlite, or any potting mix for indoor plants. Pothos prefers a balanced fertilizer, and Philodendron likes more nitrogen during growing seasons. 
  • Propagation: Propagating both these plants is straightforward. Take a cutting and place it in water or soil to grow new plants from the existing ones. Dividing larger plants is also possible. You can easily expand your plant collection by propagating your Pothos or Philodendron, and share your new plants with friends.
  • Pruning: Pruning can help manage the size and shape of your Pothos or Philodendron plants. It also encourages new leaf growth. Always trim off damaged stems and discolored leaves to maintain your plants’ vibrancy and healthy look.   
  • Common Issues: Pests and infections can affect both plants. Root rot, or yellow and brown leaves can be a common issue in Philodendrons and Pothos plants alike. These occur, due to overwatering or underwatering, low humidity, temperature fluctuations, and incorrect light exposure.  
  • Pothos & Philodendron vs. Other Houseplants: FAQs

    Q: What is the difference between Pothos and Scindapsus?

    A: Visually, the Pothos and Scindapsus are pretty similar. Scindapsus leaves are glossier and present more prominent variegation patterns in the form of spots and splashes. The botanical structure of their flowers is different.  

    Q: Why is a Monstera not a Philodendron?

    A: Although Monstera Deliciosa is also known as a Split Leaf Philodendron, the plant belongs to a different genus and differs from true Philodendrons in its appearance. Self-heading Philodendrons and Monstera plants may boast large glossy leaves, but there’s a key difference between the two varieties’ foliage. Monstera plants have fenestrated leaves, showcasing deep clefts, like in Monstera Thai Constellation, or prominent holes like in the Swiss Cheese Plant, which are not present in Philodendrons’ leaves.  

    Q: Is Philodendron a Money Plant?

    A: No, Philodendron is not considered a money plant. It is often confused with Pothos (Epipremnum aureum), which is believed to bring wealth and success. Hence, Golden Pothos is a popular Money Plant, according to Feng Shui. Philodendrons are known to promote positive energy and serenity in the home.   

    Q: Is Devil's Ivy a Philodendron?

    A: No, Devil's Ivy is not a Philodendron. This is another name for the popular Golden Pothos plant. Pothos and Philodendron plants are distant relatives belonging to the Araceae family. But they are not the same plants. 

    Q: Is Scindapsus a Philodendron?

    A: No, Scindapsus is not a Philodendron. They belong to the same family and have similar physical attributes, except for some minute differences. However, botanically, they are two different plants.  

    Conclusion 

    Although Pothos and Philodendrons are very similar in their appearance and belong to the same family, they are different plants. They can complement each other beautifully as their growing requirements and care needs are very similar. Some plant enthusiasts even grow successfully their Philodendron and Pothos in the same pot or hanging basket.  

    Remember, however, that both Philodendron and Pothos are toxic to cats and dogs. So, if you're worried about the safety of your furry companions, consider growing pet-friendly plants, or ensure to keep your Pothos and Philodendrons out of reach from your pets.