Pothos vs. Philodendron: How To Quickly Spot the Differences

Both pothos and philodendron are trendy house plants due to their easy-growing natures and luscious green climbing vines.

These tropical plants enjoy the warm indoor temperatures of our homes as they mimic the humid conditions of their natural habitat.

While it can be tricky to determine the differences between these tropical beauties, each has distinct characteristics that will help you identify a pothos from a philodendron. 

What’s the difference between pothos and philodendron? Pothos have thick, waxy leaves with a petiole indented toward the main stem. The leaf nodes have a singular aerial root, and the plant remains compact compared to philodendron. Philodendron have thin, smooth, heart-shaped leaves with a rounded petiole. Each node develops several aerial roots.

Understanding the differences between pothos and philodendron plants can help you decide which plant is best suited to your home and budget.

Read on to find out how to spot the differences between these plants in a flash! 

Key Differences Between Pothos and Philodendron

While both pothos and philodendron look equally lovely trailing from an indoor hanging basket or planter, knowing the differences between them will help you provide the right level of care.

In addition, characteristics such as growing requirements may help you determine if your indoor conditions will benefit the plants or if they need some adjustment. 

Pothos vs. Philodendron: Scientific Classification

Pothos, or Epipremnum aureum, is also known as the money plant or devil’s ivy. It belongs to the arum family Araceae, and its natural habitat is Southeastern Asia.

It is often mistaken for a philodendron due to its similar appearance. 

The philodendron, another climbing plant, belongs to the Philodendron genus and also belongs to the family Araceae.

It makes its home in tropical America, where it starts as a vine and transforms into an epiphyte, living off other plants. 

Pothos vs. Philodendron: Leaf Shape & Texture

A healthy, freshly watered pothos plant placed outside on a deck.
Pothos
A Philodendron 'Brasil' on ladder trellis indoors.
Philodendron

Philodendron plants are known for their heart-shaped leaves; the base of the leaf is curved and resembles the top of the heart shape.

However, pothos leaves do not resemble a heart shape. Instead, the bottom of the leaf is straight rather than curved. Texture-wise, the leaves of pothos are thick and waxy, while philodendron leaves are thin and more delicate.  

Pothos vs. Philodendron: Petioles

Side-by-side comparison of pothos and philodendron petioles.

Each small stem that connects a leaf to the main stem of the plant is called a petiole. These differ when it comes to the pothos and philodendron.

Pothos petioles are indented towards the main stem, while philodendron petioles are rounded. In addition, the philodendrons petioles are thinner than those of the pothos plant.  

Pothos vs. Philodendron: New Leaf Growth

The development of cataphylls characterizes new leaf growth on the philodendron. These are smaller leaves that form a protective casing around the new leaf as it grows.

After the new leaf unfurls, the cataphyll remains on the plant until it dries and falls off. In contrast, fresh leaves developing on the pothos plants don’t develop within a cataphyll and simply grow from the previous leaf. 

Pothos vs. Philodendron: Aerial Roots

Both plants have arial roots that allow them to climb and vine on structures such as poles or walls.

However, the pothos plant displays one primary aerial root per node, while the philodendron can have several small roots per node. 

Pothos vs. Philodendron: Favored Growing Conditions

Often found growing beneath the leaf canopy of their natural habitat, both pothos and philodendron are tolerant of low-light conditions.

However, pothos prefer bright, indirect light and philodendrons bright to medium filtered light. Soil conditions for each plant are relatively the same, with each requiring well-draining soil.

A mixture of perlite, peat moss, and potting soil is excellent for both plants. In addition, the soil should be allowed to dry out between each watering session. 

The main difference between these plants when it comes to growing conditions is temperature.

Philodendrons prefer cozier temperatures than pothos and thrive in a temperature range between 65-80℉ (18-27℃). In contrast, the pothos does well in slightly cooler temperatures ranging from 50-75℉ (10-24℃). 

Popular Pothos Varieties

A Marble Queen Pothos in a white pot against a light-blue background.

Easily grown in hanging baskets and small indoor places, the pothos plant is the perfect indoor tropical beauty.

There are many varieties for plant parents to choose from when looking for a splash of tropical color. 

  • Marble Queen Pothos (Epipremnum aureum ‘Marble Queen’) – The leaf color is a soft moss-green, and its foliage and stems are highly variegated with streaks of white. (Pictured above)
  • Jessenia Pothos (Epipremnum aureum ‘Jessenia’) – The leaves are various shades of gold and green with dark green variegation. Like the Marble Queen, this pothos is slow growing.
  • Manjula Pothos (Epipremnum aureum ‘Manjula’) – The leaf shape is wide and round, much like Marble Queen pothos. The leaf coloring is varied and can be silver, yellow-green, cream, and light to white-green. 
  • Peals and Jade Pothos (Epipremnum aureum ‘Pearls and Jade’)This pothos has smaller leaves with white variegation around the leaf edges rather than across the whole leaf. 
  • Snow Queen Pothos (Epipremnum aureum ‘Snow Queen’)The leaves display a large amount of variegation quite similar to the Marble Queen; however, it is much more uniform. Due to the low levels of chlorophyll in the leaves, this pothos is slow growing. 
  • Cebu Blue Pothos (Epipremnum pinnatum ‘Cebu blue’) – The leaves are long and narrow and are a stunning silver-green color. This pothos has no variegation and is considered a faster-growing cultivar. 
  • Jade Pothos (Epipremnum aureum ‘Jade’) – This vining pothos has deep green leaves without variegation and can tolerate lower light levels compared to its variegated counterparts. 

Popular Philodendron Varieties

A young Burle Marx Philodendron in a shiny pot on a table with a gray wall in the background.

With its larger leaves and stunning foliage, the philodendron is excellent for slightly larger spaces and is easily grown in containers and planters.

No matter what your décor, this plant is sure to be a stunning focal point! 

  • Green Heartleaf Philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum) – The leaves are heart shaped and dark green in color. Its trailing stems can reach 3-6 meters, and it prefers shady, humid conditions. 
  • Philodendron Brasil (Philodendron hederaceum ‘Brasil’) – Also called the cream splash philodendron, its leaves are variegated with lime and lemon colors. The pink-colored stems contrast beautifully with its bright foliage.
  • Philodendron Micans (Philodendron scandens ‘Micans’) – This unusual plant displays leaves that seem to change color depending on the light. The leaves can reflect various colors, from bronze to light or dark green, while new leaves develop in purplish-pink hues.
  • Philodendron Xanadu (Philodendron bipinnatifidum) – This philodendron is non-vining, slow growing, and grows in clumps. Its large green leaves are split with deep lobes. It can grow to approximately 1 meter, but its size can be restricted by using a smaller container. 
  • Philodendron Pink Princess (Philodendron erubescens ‘Pink Princess’) – Its dark green and pink variegated leaves make this one of the most striking cultivars. It is characterized by its red stems and leaf undersides. It requires bright indirect light to keep its leaves full of vibrant color and is fast growing.  
  • Lacy Tree Philodendron (Philodendron selloum) – This upright philodendron has large, waxy leaves with deep lobes and shiny surfaces. It will require a lot of space if grown indoors as it can reach a height of 1 meter and a width of 2 meters.
  • Philodendron Prince of Orange (Philodendron ‘Prince of Orange’) – New leaves develop in bright coppery-orange hues that turn dark green as they mature. The combination of dark green and orange leaves makes this a unique cultivar to own! 

Related Questions:

Which Pothos Grows Fastest?

The variety and leaf variegation determine the growth rate of the pothos. If the leaves have a lot of variegation, there is less chlorophyll and, therefore, less food to utilize for growth.

However, Jade and Marble Queen pothos varieties are considered the fastest-growing cultivars. 

What’s the Difference Between Philodendron and Monstera?

In most cases, leaf shape and size are the primary differences between philodendron and monstera.

However, young plants can look so similar it can be tricky to tell them apart, which is when looking at their leaf movement and cataphylls becomes key. 

Unlike pothos, the leaves of the monstera have the unique ability to follow the sunlight. They can do this as they have a joint called a geniculum which allows this movement.

In addition, cataphylls dry and fall off the philodendron while on the monstera, they remain for the plant’s entire life. 

Which Is Better, Pothos or Philodendron?

Because of the many similarities between pothos and philodendron, choosing which one is better can be challenging.

The main difference between these plants is size. The pothos is more compact and is easily grown in small spaces. It’s the ideal choice for a hanging basket.

In comparison, the philodendron has larger foliage and requires a little more room in terms of containers or planters.

It’s a matter of choice as both plants are easy to care for and provide a lovely tropical feel to the home.