Pothos vs Philodendron: A Gardeners Guide to Differentiating the Two

Overview of Pothos and Philodendron plants

In the vibrant and diverse world of houseplants, Pothos and Philodendron plants have gained popularity for their stunning foliage and easy-care nature. These two plant varieties often find a place in homes, offices, and even public spaces, adding a touch of greenery to any environment.

Pothos and Philodendron plants belong to the Araceae family, which is known for its large, showy leaves and ability to thrive in a range of conditions. While they share certain similarities, they also have distinctive characteristics that set them apart. Understanding these differences is essential for any gardener or plant enthusiast.

Pothos plants, also known by their scientific name Epipremnum aureum, are native to the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. They are renowned for their trailing vines, heart-shaped leaves, and their resilience in low light conditions. Pothos plants come in various cultivars, each displaying unique leaf patterns and colors, making them a popular choice for indoor gardens.

Philodendron plants, on the other hand, encompass a wide range of species, with the most common being the Philodendron hederaceum. These plants originate from the tropical regions of America and are recognized for their climbing or trailing growth habit. Philodendrons boast an array of leaf shapes, sizes, and colors, adding a touch of elegance to any space they inhabit.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the physical differences, care and maintenance requirements, popular varieties, as well as the similarities and misconceptions surrounding Pothos and Philodendron plants. By the end, you will have a deeper understanding of these captivating plants and be equipped with the knowledge to cultivate and care for them with confidence. So, let’s embark on this botanical journey and explore the enchanting world of Pothos and Philodendron plants together.

Physical Differences

When it comes to differentiating between Pothos and Philodendron plants, there are several physical characteristics to consider. These variations can help you identify and distinguish between the two species with ease.

Leaf Shape and Size

One of the primary differences between Pothos and Philodendron plants lies in the shape and size of their leaves. Pothos plants typically have heart-shaped leaves that are broader at the base and come to a point at the tip. On the other hand, Philodendron plants have leaves that are more elongated and have a narrow, lanceolate shape.

To put it simply, Pothos leaves resemble the shape of a heart, while Philodendron leaves are more elongated and lance-shaped. These distinct leaf shapes add to the overall allure and charm of these plants, making them a popular choice among gardeners and plant enthusiasts.

Leaf Color and Pattern

Another notable difference between Pothos and Philodendron plants is the color and pattern of their leaves. Pothos plants exhibit an array of vibrant colors, including shades of green, yellow, and white. Their leaves often display marbled or variegated patterns, creating a striking visual appeal. This diversity in leaf coloration makes Pothos plants an excellent choice for adding a pop of color to your indoor or outdoor space.

On the other hand, Philodendron plants typically have deep green leaves, which may appear glossy or velvety in texture. While they lack the variegated patterns of Pothos plants, their rich green color adds a touch of elegance and sophistication to any garden or interior.

Growth Habit

The growth habit of Pothos and Philodendron plants is another factor that sets them apart. Pothos plants are known for their trailing or climbing nature, making them ideal for hanging baskets or as trailing accents on shelves and furniture. They have long, vining stems that can reach impressive lengths if provided with adequate support. In contrast, Philodendron plants tend to have a more upright growth habit, with their stems growing vertically and leaves fanning out from the central stem.

Understanding the growth habit of these plants can help you determine the best way to display and care for them. Whether you choose to let your Pothos cascade gracefully from a hanging planter or showcase your Philodendron’s upright growth in a decorative pot, both options will undoubtedly add a touch of natural beauty to your surroundings.

Now that we have explored the physical differences between Pothos and Philodendron plants, let’s delve into their care and maintenance requirements to ensure your green companions thrive in their environment. But before we do that, let’s take a moment to appreciate the similarities and misconceptions surrounding these two plant varieties.

Care and Maintenance Differences

When it comes to caring for Pothos and Philodendron plants, there are some notable differences that gardeners should be aware of. Understanding these distinctions will ensure that you provide the best possible care for each plant, leading to healthy and thriving foliage in your garden or indoor space.

Light Requirements

Pothos and Philodendron have varying light requirements. While both plants can tolerate low-light conditions, Pothos is more adaptable and can thrive in areas with indirect or even artificial light. It is often the go-to choice for beginners or those with less access to natural sunlight. On the other hand, Philodendron plants prefer moderate to bright indirect light. They can handle some direct sunlight but may suffer from leaf burn if exposed to intense rays for extended periods.

Watering Needs

Watering is an essential aspect of plant care, and it’s important to understand the specific needs of Pothos and Philodendron in this regard. Pothos plants prefer to dry out slightly between waterings. Overwatering can lead to root rot, so it’s important to allow the top inch or so of the soil to dry before watering again. On the other hand, Philodendron plants prefer to be consistently moist but not waterlogged. It’s crucial to find the right balance and avoid both underwatering and overwatering to keep your Philodendron happy and healthy.

Soil Preferences

When it comes to soil preferences, Pothos and Philodendron have similar requirements. Both plants thrive in well-draining, nutrient-rich soil. A mix of potting soil, perlite, and peat moss is an excellent choice for providing the right balance of moisture retention and drainage. Additionally, adding organic matter, such as compost, can further enhance the soil’s fertility and structure, promoting optimal growth for both Pothos and Philodendron.

Propagation Methods

Propagation is an exciting aspect of plant care that allows you to expand your collection or share your plants with friends and family. Pothos and Philodendron can be propagated through similar methods, including stem cuttings and division. Stem cuttings involve taking a healthy stem with a few leaves and placing it in water or moist soil until it develops roots. Division, on the other hand, entails separating a mature plant into multiple sections, each with its own roots and stems. Both Pothos and Philodendron are relatively easy to propagate, making them popular choices among plant enthusiasts.

By understanding the differences in light requirements, watering needs, soil preferences, and propagation methods between Pothos and Philodendron, you can ensure that you provide the best possible care for each plant. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a beginner, these insights will help you create a thriving and visually stunning garden or indoor space.

Stay tuned for the next section, where we’ll explore the popular varieties of Pothos and Philodendron!

Popular Varieties

Pothos Varieties

Pothos plants are renowned for their wide variety of cultivars, each with its own unique characteristics and charm. Here are some of the most popular pothos varieties:

  1. Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum): This is perhaps the most well-known and widely cultivated variety of pothos. Its heart-shaped leaves have vibrant green coloration with splashes of golden-yellow, adding a touch of brightness to any space. Golden pothos is known for its air-purifying qualities, making it a popular choice for indoor environments.

  2. Marble Queen Pothos (Epipremnum aureum ‘Marble Queen’): As the name suggests, this variety features marbled leaves with a combination of green and creamy-white patterns. The contrasting colors create an elegant and eye-catching display. Marble Queen pothos is a versatile plant that can thrive in various light conditions, making it an excellent choice for both beginners and experienced gardeners.

  3. Neon Pothos (Epipremnum aureum ‘Neon’): If you’re looking to add a pop of vibrant color to your indoor space, Neon pothos is the perfect choice. Its leaves are a striking neon green, which intensifies under bright light. This variety is known for its trailing growth habit, making it ideal for hanging baskets or cascading down shelves.

  4. Jade Pothos (Epipremnum aureum ‘Jade’): With its deep green leaves and compact growth habit, Jade pothos is a popular choice for those seeking a more minimalist aesthetic. It thrives in low to medium light conditions, making it a great option for offices or rooms with limited natural light.

  5. Cebu Blue Pothos (Epipremnum pinnatum): This unique variety of pothos stands out with its elongated, lance-shaped leaves. The foliage has a beautiful blue-green color, reminiscent of tropical waters. Cebu Blue pothos is a great choice if you’re looking to add a touch of exotic flair to your indoor jungle.

Philodendron Varieties

Philodendrons are known for their lush and tropical foliage, and the wide array of philodendron varieties available only adds to their allure. Here are some popular philodendron varieties:

  1. Heartleaf Philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum): This classic philodendron variety is characterized by its heart-shaped, glossy leaves. It is an easy-to-care-for plant that can thrive in a variety of light conditions, making it a popular choice for beginners. Heartleaf philodendron is a fantastic trailing plant, perfect for hanging baskets or trailing down shelves.

  2. Xanadu Philodendron (Philodendron bipinnatifidum): The Xanadu philodendron boasts large, deeply lobed leaves with a unique shape. Its foliage has a vibrant green color, and the plant has a bushy growth habit, making it an excellent choice for adding a touch of tropical lushness to any space. Xanadu philodendron is relatively compact, making it suitable for smaller indoor areas.

  3. Hope Philodendron (Philodendron selloum): The Hope philodendron features large, deeply lobed leaves, giving it a distinct and dramatic appearance. Its foliage has a rich, dark green color, adding a touch of elegance to any room. This variety requires more space due to its size, making it an ideal choice for larger spaces or as a statement plant.

  4. Brazil Philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum ‘Brazil’): With its variegated leaves, the Brazil philodendron is a visually striking variety. The heart-shaped leaves have vibrant green coloration with bold yellow stripes running through them. This philodendron variety is an excellent choice if you’re looking to add a splash of color and visual interest to your indoor garden.

  5. Moonlight Philodendron (Philodendron ‘Moonlight’): As the name suggests, the Moonlight philodendron showcases leaves with a unique, moonlit glow. Its foliage starts off with a vibrant chartreuse color and matures to a deeper green as the plant grows. Moonlight philodendron is a fantastic choice for brightening up any space and works well in both hanging baskets and as a tabletop plant.

Whether you choose a pothos or a philodendron, each variety offers its own distinctive features and beauty. Explore the diverse world of these plants and find the perfect variety to suit your style and preferences.

To learn more about specific pothos or philodendron varieties, check out our articles on pothos varieties and philodendron varieties.

Similarities and Misconceptions

Similarities in Care

While Pothos and Philodendron plants may have distinct differences in their physical characteristics and growth habits, they share several similarities when it comes to care. These overlapping care requirements make them both popular choices for indoor gardening enthusiasts.

Light Requirements: Both Pothos and Philodendron plants thrive in moderate to bright indirect light conditions. They can tolerate lower light levels but may exhibit slower growth. It is important to avoid exposing them to direct sunlight, as this can scorch their leaves.

Watering Needs: Pothos and Philodendron plants have similar watering needs. They prefer to be kept evenly moist, but not overly saturated. It is essential to allow the top inch of the soil to dry out before watering again. Overwatering can lead to root rot, while underwatering can cause the leaves to wilt and lose their luster.

Soil Preferences: Both plants prefer well-draining soil that retains some moisture. A good potting mix for Pothos and Philodendron plants consists of a combination of peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite. This type of soil allows for proper drainage while retaining enough moisture for healthy root growth.

Temperature and Humidity: Pothos and Philodendron plants are adaptable when it comes to temperature and humidity. They can thrive in average room temperatures ranging from 65°F to 80°F (18°C to 27°C). They also tolerate average indoor humidity levels, but they do appreciate slightly higher humidity. Misting their leaves or placing them near a humidifier can help create a more favorable environment.

Fertilization: Both plants benefit from regular fertilization during the growing season. A balanced, water-soluble fertilizer diluted to half strength can be applied every two to four weeks. This provides them with the necessary nutrients for healthy foliage growth.

Common Misidentification

Due to their similar appearance and shared characteristics, Pothos and Philodendron plants are often misidentified or confused with one another. This misidentification can lead to incorrect care practices and potential frustration for plant owners.

The most common misidentification occurs when a Philodendron plant is mistaken for a Pothos plant. This confusion is understandable, as both plants belong to the same family, Araceae, and share similar vine-like growth habits. However, there are distinct differences between the two that can help in proper identification.

One key distinguishing feature is the shape of the leaves. Pothos plants have heart-shaped leaves with a pointed tip, while Philodendron plants have broader, more elongated leaves with a rounded tip. Additionally, the leaf patterns and colors may vary between species and cultivars, providing further clues for differentiation.

To avoid misidentification, it is important to familiarize oneself with the specific characteristics of each plant. By paying attention to leaf shape, size, color, and growth habit, gardeners can confidently identify whether they have a Pothos or a Philodendron plant in their care.

In conclusion, despite their physical similarities and potential misidentification, Pothos and Philodendron plants have distinct care requirements that set them apart. However, their shared characteristics in terms of light, water, soil, temperature, humidity, and fertilization needs make them both rewarding choices for indoor gardening. By understanding their similarities and differences, gardeners can ensure optimal care for these beautiful and versatile plants.

For more information on caring for Pothos plants, check out our detailed guide on how to care for pothos. If you’re interested in learning about different varieties of Pothos, be sure to visit our article on Pothos varieties.


In conclusion, understanding the differences between Pothos and Philodendron plants is essential for any avid gardener. While they may share some similarities, their distinct characteristics make them unique in their own right.

When it comes to physical differences, Pothos and Philodendron plants exhibit variations in leaf shape, size, color, and pattern. Pothos leaves are heart-shaped and can vary in size, while Philodendron leaves can be more elongated and come in various shapes such as lobed or pinnate. Additionally, Pothos leaves often showcase vibrant colors and striking patterns, while Philodendron leaves tend to be more solid in color.

Care and maintenance also differ between the two plants. Pothos generally thrives in low to bright indirect light, while Philodendron prefers medium to bright indirect light. Watering needs vary as well, with Pothos requiring slightly more frequent watering compared to Philodendron. In terms of soil preferences, Pothos is adaptable and can thrive in various well-draining soil mixtures, while Philodendron prefers a slightly acidic soil with good drainage.

When it comes to propagation, both Pothos and Philodendron plants can be propagated through cuttings. However, Pothos can also be propagated through water propagation, which involves placing the cuttings in water until roots develop. This method is especially popular among indoor gardeners.

Both Pothos and Philodendron have a wide range of popular varieties that offer unique characteristics and aesthetics. Pothos varieties such as the Golden Pothos and Marble Queen Pothos are well-known for their variegated leaves, while Philodendron varieties like the Heartleaf Philodendron and Xanadu Philodendron are prized for their lush foliage.

It is important to note that despite their differences, Pothos and Philodendron share some similarities in care. Both plants are relatively low-maintenance and can thrive in a variety of indoor environments. They are also known to be excellent air purifiers, making them a beneficial addition to any home or office space.

Lastly, it is common for these two plants to be misidentified due to their similar appearance. However, by closely examining leaf shape, size, and color, as well as considering the growth habit and care requirements, it becomes easier to differentiate between the two.

In conclusion, understanding the distinctions between Pothos and Philodendron plants empowers gardeners to make informed decisions when it comes to selecting and caring for these beautiful additions to their green spaces. Whether you’re captivated by the cascading vines of a Pothos or the bold foliage of a Philodendron, both plants offer unique beauty and the opportunity to nurture a thriving indoor garden. So go ahead, embrace the world of Pothos and Philodendron, and watch your green thumb flourish!