what is the difference between pothos and philodendron

What Is The Difference Between Pothos And Philodendron?

Despite their visual similarities, they belong to different genera and have distinct characteristics that set them apart. Understanding these differences can help gardeners and plant enthusiasts make informed decisions about care, propagation, and placement within their homes or gardens.

Origin and Classification

  • Pothos: Native to Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific islands, pothos is part of the Araceae family, specifically within the Epipremnum genus.
  • Philodendron: Originating from the tropical Americas, philodendrons also belong to the Araceae family but are classified under the Philodendron genus.

Leaf Shape and Texture

  • Pothos:
    • Leaves are typically heart-shaped or elongated with a waxy texture.
    • The foliage often has variegated patterns of yellow, white, or light green.
  • Philodendron:
    • Leaves can range from heart-shaped to deeply lobed or pinnate, depending on the species.
    • The texture is more varied, with some species having glossy leaves while others might be matte or velvety.

Growth Habit

  • Pothos:
    • Exhibits a trailing or cascading growth habit, making it ideal for hanging baskets or high shelves.
    • Tends to have a more robust and faster growth under optimal conditions.
  • Philodendron:
    • While some philodendrons are trailing or climbing, others are self-heading or bush-forming.
    • Growth habits can vary significantly between species, offering a wider range of landscaping uses.

Root System

  • Pothos:
    • Has thicker, more fibrous roots.
    • Aerial roots are sturdy and used to attach to surfaces or absorb moisture and nutrients.
  • Philodendron:
    • Root systems can vary, but many have thinner, more delicate aerial roots compared to pothos.
    • Aerial roots are primarily used for climbing and anchoring.

Care Requirements

  • Pothos:
    • Very tolerant of low light conditions, though variegation is more pronounced in brighter light.
    • Requires less frequent watering; soil can dry out partially between waterings.
  • Philodendron:
    • Prefers moderate to bright indirect light but can tolerate lower light levels than pothos.
    • Generally prefers more consistent moisture compared to pothos, with soil remaining slightly moist.


  • Pothos:
    • Easily propagated through stem cuttings in water or soil, thanks to the robust nature of its aerial roots.
  • Philodendron:
    • Can also be propagated through stem cuttings, though some species may root more readily in water before being transferred to soil.

In summary, while pothos and philodendron plants may look similar at first glance, they have distinct differences in terms of leaf shape and texture, growth habits, root systems, and care requirements. Recognizing these differences can help ensure that each plant thrives in its environment, providing beauty and greenery for years to come.

What Is The Difference Between Pothos And Philodendron?

💡 Did You Know?

Pothos (Epipremnum aureum):

  1. Versatile Varieties: Pothos come in various cultivars with different leaf colors and patterns, including the classic green, variegated, and even neon or marbled patterns. One well-known variety is the “Golden Pothos.”
  2. Air Purification: Pothos are known for their air-purifying qualities. They can help remove indoor air pollutants like formaldehyde, benzene, and xylene, making them a popular choice for improving indoor air quality.
  3. Low Maintenance: Pothos are incredibly low-maintenance plants and can thrive in a wide range of light conditions, from low to moderate light. They are also forgiving when it comes to watering, as they can tolerate occasional drought.
  4. Vining Growth: Pothos are known for their vining growth habit. They can be trained to grow along trellises or allowed to hang down from pots, creating an attractive cascading effect.
  5. Toxicity: While pothos are beautiful and easy to care for, they are toxic to pets and humans if ingested. Keep them out of reach of children and pets.


  1. Broad Variety: Philodendrons encompass a wide range of species and cultivars, each with unique leaf shapes, sizes, and colors. Some popular varieties include the heartleaf philodendron, the split-leaf philodendron (Monstera deliciosa), and the velvet-leaf philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum).
  2. Indoor and Outdoor Options: While many philodendrons are commonly grown as houseplants, some species can also thrive outdoors in tropical or subtropical climates.
  3. Tolerance to Low Light: Many philodendron varieties can tolerate low light conditions, making them suitable for areas with limited natural light. However, they may not grow as vigorously in low light as they would in brighter conditions.
  4. Hybridization: Plant enthusiasts have created numerous hybrid philodendron varieties, combining the best features of different species to create new and unique plants with attractive foliage.
  5. Aerial Roots: Philodendrons often produce aerial roots, which can be used for stability and to absorb moisture and nutrients from the air. In their natural habitat, these roots allow them to climb trees and other structures.
  6. Toxicity: Like pothos, philodendrons contain calcium oxalate crystals and are toxic if ingested. Keep them out of the reach of children and pets.

Taxonomy and Botanical Names

Taxonomy is the science of classifying living organisms into distinct categories based on their characteristics and relationships. When it comes to pothos and philodendrons, they share a common heritage as they both belong to the Araceae family, which is known for its diverse range of houseplants.

However, their botanical names reveal their individual identities within this plant family. Pothos, scientifically known as Epipremnum, showcases its unique traits and growth patterns. On the other hand, philodendron is referred to as Philodendron, highlighting its distinct characteristics and growth habits.

Epipremnum classification pertains to pothos plants, whereas Philodendron denotes the specific genus of philodendrons. Understanding their botanical names can unveil intriguing details about these beloved houseplants.

By delving into their taxonomy and botanical names, we gain a deeper appreciation for the diversity within the Araceae family and the unique attributes that set pothos and philodendrons apart.

Leaf Shape and Texture

When it comes to distinguishing between pothos and philodendrons, their leaves are a key factor. The shape and texture of the leaves can provide valuable clues. Let’s take a closer look at the differences:

  • Philodendron Leaves: Philodendrons have heart-shaped leaves that display an elegant curve at their base, resembling the top of a heart. These leaves are generally thin and have a softer texture.
  • Pothos Leaves: On the other hand, pothos leaves have a distinct leaf shape. They are thicker and often have a waxy feel. You may even notice a slight bumpy texture on the surface of the leaves. Unlike philodendrons, the base of a pothos leaf is relatively straight.

Visual Comparison

To better understand the differences, take a look at this image:

Leaf shape and texture

This image showcases the contrasting leaf shapes and textures of pothos and philodendron leaves. Notice how the philodendron leaves have a more symmetrical, heart-like shape, while the pothos leaves have a straighter base and a thicker, waxy texture. These variations in leaf characteristics make it easier to distinguish between these two popular houseplants.

Aerial Roots and Petioles

Both pothos and philodendrons have aerial roots that allow them to climb supports. Pothos plants usually have one large aerial root per node, while philodendrons can have several smaller aerial roots per node. These aerial roots are specialized structures that emerge from the stem or branches of climbing plants, helping them to anchor themselves and absorb moisture and nutrients from the air.

The petioles, which connect the leaves to the main stem, are also different between pothos and philodendrons. In pothos plants, the petioles visibly indent towards the stem they connect to, creating a distinctive shape. On the other hand, philodendron petioles are fully rounded and do not show this indentation. Additionally, philodendron petioles are generally thinner compared to those of pothos, adding to the overall visual differences between the two plant varieties.

Pothos and Philodendron Aerial Roots

Characteristic Pothos Philodendron
Aerial Roots One large aerial root per node Several smaller aerial roots per node
Petioles Indent towards the stem Fully rounded
Petiole Thickness Relatively thicker Relatively thinner

Growth Habits and New Leaves

When it comes to growth habits and the emergence of new leaves, pothos and philodendrons differ in their unique ways. Let’s explore how these plants develop and unfurl their foliage.

Growth Habits

Pothos plants have a trailing growth habit, where the vines drape gracefully and can be trained to climb supports. They exhibit vigorous growth, spreading out and filling up their surroundings with lush foliage. On the other hand, philodendrons have a more upright growth habit, with vines that tend to climb vertically, reaching for the light. Their growth is steady and determined, creating an elegant and structured appearance.

New Leaves

When it comes to the emergence of new leaves, pothos and philodendrons showcase distinct patterns. Pothos leaves grow and unfurl directly from the stem, without any protective sheaths. As the new leaves develop, they beautifully unfurl, revealing their mesmerizing variegation or rich green color.

Philodendrons, however, have a fascinating growth pattern. New leaves on a philodendron grow on a bit of vine enclosed in a structure called a cataphyll. Cataphylls are protective sheaths that shield the developing leaf as it gradually matures. Even after the new leaf has unfurled, the cataphylls may remain attached to the plant, adding an intriguing touch to its appearance.

“Pothos and philodendrons may have different growth habits and leaf development, but both showcase the wonders of nature as new leaves emerge.”

Now that we have explored the growth habits and new leaf emergence in pothos and philodendrons, let’s move on to understanding their specific care requirements and the conditions necessary for their thriving growth.

A Comparison of Growth Habits and Leaf Development in Pothos and Philodendrons

Pothos Philodendron
Growth Habit Trailing Upright
Leaf Emergence Directly from stem Grows on a vine within a cataphyll
Leaf Protection No protective sheaths Leaf emerges from a cataphyll

Growing Conditions and Care

When it comes to plant care, both pothos and philodendrons have similar requirements, but there are a few differences to keep in mind. Understanding these differences will help you provide the best care for your plants and ensure their healthy growth.

Light Requirements

Philodendrons can tolerate low light conditions better than pothos. They can thrive in bright, indirect light as well as moderate shade. On the other hand, pothos plants prefer bright, indirect light but can also tolerate lower light conditions. Placing them near a window or providing them with artificial light will keep them happy.

Temperature Requirements

When it comes to temperature, philodendrons prefer slightly higher temperatures compared to pothos plants. They thrive in temperatures ranging from 65°F to 85°F (18°C to 29°C) during the day and 60°F to 70°F (15°C to 21°C) at night. Pothos, on the other hand, can tolerate a wider range of temperatures and can thrive in temperatures as low as 55°F (13°C) and as high as 90°F (32°C).

Water Requirements

Both pothos and philodendrons prefer evenly moist soil. It’s important to water them when the top inch of soil feels dry. Avoid overwatering, as it can lead to root rot. Let the excess water drain out of the pot to prevent waterlogging. Checking the moisture level regularly and adjusting your watering schedule accordingly will help maintain the health of your plants.

Drought Tolerance

When it comes to drought tolerance, pothos plants have the upper hand. They can withstand short periods of dry soil and are more forgiving if you forget to water them occasionally. However, it’s still important to provide them with regular watering to ensure optimal growth.


Both pothos and philodendrons are easy to propagate through stem cuttings. Simply take a healthy stem cutting, remove the lower leaves, and place it in water or well-draining soil. In addition to stem cuttings, philodendrons can also produce offsets that can be divided from the mother plant. This method allows you to create new plants and expand your collection.

Plant Care Aspect Pothos Philodendron
Light Requirements Bright, indirect light Low light tolerant
Temperature Requirements 55°F to 90°F (13°C to 32°C) 65°F to 85°F (18°C to 29°C) during the day
60°F to 70°F (15°C to 21°C) at night
Water Requirements Evenly moist soil, water when top inch feels dry Evenly moist soil, water when top inch feels dry
Drought Tolerance Tolerates short periods of dry soil Less drought tolerant
Propagation Stem cuttings Stem cuttings and division of offsets

Propagation of Pothos and Philodendron

Conclusion: Understanding the Differences

After exploring the distinct characteristics of pothos and philodendron plants, it becomes clear that there are key differences between the two. By closely examining factors such as taxonomy, leaf shape and texture, aerial roots and petioles, growth habits, and care requirements, we can easily identify and differentiate between these vining houseplants.

Understanding the taxonomy of pothos and philodendrons is fundamental in distinguishing them. While they both belong to the Araceae family, pothos falls under the Epipremnum genus, while philodendron falls under the Philodendron genus.

Leaf shape and texture serve as additional identifying factors. Pothos leaves are thicker, waxy, and may have a slightly bumpy texture, whereas philodendron leaves are heart-shaped with a thinner and softer texture.

Furthermore, aerial roots and petioles differ between the two plants. Pothos typically has one large aerial root per node and petioles that indent towards the stem they connect to. In contrast, philodendrons can have multiple smaller aerial roots per node and fully rounded petioles that are thinner in comparison.

Lastly, considering the distinct growth habits and care requirements of pothos and philodendron is important for cultivation success. Pothos leaves grow and unfurl directly from the previous leaf without any sheaths, while philodendron leaves grow on a bit of vine in a protective sheath called a cataphyll. Additionally, philodendrons can tolerate low light conditions better than pothos, while pothos exhibits higher drought tolerance.

By recognizing these unique characteristics and understanding the specific needs of pothos and philodendron plants, you can confidently identify and care for these enchanting vining houseplants, bringing their beauty and benefits into your home or office.

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