Differences Between Pothos and Philodendrons

Philodendron Vs Pothos: The Difference Explained

In the world of gardening, it is not uncommon to have similar plants. Philodendron and pothos are some of these plants. Over the years, we have heard people make complaints about how they picked one for the other, especially beginner gardeners.

Yes, the plants are that similar. Some people assume they are the same plants, others admit there are differences, and however, they cannot identify the differences between them. We know how stressful it is not to pick one instead of the other, so we will be helping you with all you need to know to identify the differences between pothos and philodendron plants. 

Pothos and philodendron vining varieties are two popular houseplants, which have many things in common. One of which is their family, the two plants are from the same family of Araceae, they are both climbers, they look great on hanging baskets, they have glossy leaves, their leaves are heart-shaped and they have similar growth requirements and patterns.

With these similarities listed, it feels like there can be no other differences between pothos and philodendron, however, there are! You only need to look a little, beyond all you can see to identify these differences. Seeing how much this will mean to you, we have provided a list of important things to note to identify pothos and philodendron differences. 

Differences Between Pothos And Philodendrons

Regardless of the similarities that pothos and philodendron have, there are differences with which one can be known from the other. These differences are in their texture, leaf shape, growth habit, taxonomy, etc.  

1. Leaf Shape And Texture

philodendron plant
Image: Philodendron House Plant

Identifying their leaves shape is one of the most obvious and easy ways to tell the plants apart. The philodendron leaf forms a more defined heart shape, with a thin and soft texture. However, pothos has large thick leaves; It also has a waxy feel and has bumpy appearances on the leaves. You will also notice some differences where the petiole connects to the leaf base. While the base of the philodendron plant is curved inward, the pothos’ base is relatively straight.

2. Taxonomy And Location

Bushy Pothos plant
Image: Pothos Vines // Envato Elements

Before you get confused, taxonomy is a word that is used to describe the naming of plants by botanists. It is the classification of biological organisms into various genera and families. Considering pothos and philodendron, these two different plants belong to separate genera. While pothos belongs to the Epipremnum genus, philodendron belongs to the philodendron genus.

However, they both do exist under the same family- the Aroids family (Araceae). Apart from their names, these two plants do not originate from the same place. While pothos is known to have originated from Southeast Asia, the tropical jungles, the philodendron originates from South America, Central America, and the West Indies.

3. Aerial Roots And Petioles

philodendron grazielae plant
Image: Philodendron Grazielae Plant

The aerial roots and petioles are also parts of the plants where differences can be seen. Although both of them have aerial roots that are aggressive and allows for the plants to climb and also take up nutrients from the air, the pothos can be seen with only one big aerial root per node. While the philodendron has more than one (2-6) small aerial roots per node.

The aerial roots of the philodendron also tend to look rough and wild. Looking at the stem of both plants, we can identify that the stem of pothos is thicker than that of the philodendron; they are also not of the same shade. Philodendron’s stems are often greenish-brown in color. The petiole of the philodendron seems to be more rounded and also thinner than the pothos.

4. Growth Habit And New Foliage

Pothos (Devils ivy) plant care
Image: Envato Elements

The growth process of each leaf can also be pointed at as a difference between both plants. When a new leaf is growing on the philodendron, it usually comes from the cataphylls, the cataphylls are small leaves that appear around the new growth and protect it as it develops, the cataphylls stay around the leaf until the leaf is properly grown, and then the cataphyll dries and falls off.

The case is not the same for pothos as it doesn’t grow this way. The pothos new leaf grows and unfurls from a fallen leaf. Also, new leaves of the philodendron have a pink or brownish tint and later natures into their original color; however, pothos new leaves only are a lighter shade than the other leaves of the plant.  

4. Growing Differences

Differences Between Pothos and Philodendrons

Although both plants have similar growth requirements i.e. Light, water, soil. There are however slight changes in these requirements that not a lot of people are aware of. The first one to note is that although both can tolerate low light, pothos easily adapts to low light more than the philodendron. Philodendron can become leggy faster than the pothos when it doesn’t receive proper lighting.

It will also begin to grow small leaves than usual. Although pothos also gets leggy, it is not as quick as the philodendron. In propagation, pothos is an easy plan to propagate, compare to philodendron, pothos is also more drought-tolerant than philodendron.

Final Thoughts

It has almost become a common thing that these plants will be mixed up; there are also other plants that many people have thought resembles pothos and philodendron, especially from the aroid family, such as the scandipsus pictus.

You must be able to identify beyond the surface what each plant is. We hope that this article has been helpful and you can now tell the differences between pothos and philodendron.

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