Pothos Vs Philodendron — Differences and Similarities

Last Updated on December 4, 2021 by Grow with Bovees

The common varieties of the Pothos and Philodendron are popular houseplants, often mistaken for one another because of their similar appearance. However, there are several differences between the two species.

It’s important to identify whether you have a Pothos or Philodendron as they need slightly different living conditions.

In this article, we discuss how to spot the difference. We also examine the care, propagation, varieties, and benefits of the Pothos and Philodendron. We’ll cover:

  • How to Spot the Difference: Pothos Vs. Philodendron
  • Porthos Vs. Philodendron Care
  • Propagation of Pothos Vs. Philodendron
  • Varieties of Pothos Vs. Philodendron
  • Benefits: Pothos Vs. Philodendron

How to Spot the Difference: Pothos Vs. Philodendron

Leaves

Both pothos and philodendrons have heart-shaped leaves. There are slight differences, but you may find it’s difficult to identify through shape alone.

Philodendron Leaf

A new Philodendron leaf has a pinky-brown tinge, and it gradually darkens, gaining its final color as it matures.

Where the Philodendron leaf meets the stem is often more rounded and it has a longer, pointier tip. They’re wider and have a more obvious heart shape.

The leaves of the Philodendron are smooth to touch and have a matte finish. They’re also much softer than pothos leaves.

Pothos Leaf

A new Pothos leaf will emerge a lighter shade of green compared to its mature counterparts. The new leaf quickly darkens and blends in to match with maturity.

Pothos leaves are thicker than the Philodendron, which gives them a sturdier feel. They’re shiny and appear to have a waxy coating, with a somewhat rough texture. They’re usually shorter and less pointed at the tip.

Stem

Philodendron stems are more slender than the stem of the Pothos plant. Pothos stems are very similar to the color of its foliage.

The Philodendron stem is usually a pinky-brown color, hence the pinky-brown tinge in the new leaves.

Aerial Roots

Roots usually grow below the ground, but you can find aerial roots above the surface. As Pothos and Philodendrons are climbing plants, they often have aerial roots that help anchor them to structures like trellises or trees.

The difference between them is that Pothos plants have limited aerial roots and develop only one root per node. Philodendrons grow clustered aerial roots on each node.

Petioles

Petioles are the small stem that connects the leaf to the main stem. The ridge through the center of the Pothos leaf is deep and well-defined because of the grooved petiole.

Philodendrons don’t have this ridge because the petiole is smooth and slender, so it doesn’t manipulate the shape of the leaf.

Cataphylls

A cataphyll is a small modified leaf that acts as a protective layer over a new leaf. It usually performs photosynthesis as its primary function, although some have other purposes.

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Pothos doesn’t have cataphylls, instead, a leaf will unfurl from the last pre-existing leaf on the vine.

The Philodendron produces cataphylls that protect new leaves on the vine. While the new leaf is developing, the cataphyll will continue to photosynthesize. This helps the new leaf thrive until it’s strong enough to flourish on its own. The cataphyll will gain a papery texture, become brown, and eventually drop off the vine.

Stipules

A stipule is a small leaf-like outgrowth typically found on both sides of the petiole.

Philodendron stipules are free while the stipules on the Pothos are fused to the petiole and stem. On a Pothos, stipules can be long and fully cover the petiole until the leaf expands.

Growth Rate

The Pothos has a fast growth rate overall, but different variations will grow differently. Some pothos plants can grow up to 12 inches per month in ideal conditions. They can reach 20 to 40 feet high and three to six feet wide as a mature plant.

In their native climate, they’re known for being disruptive and challenging to manage. People have nicknamed the Pothos devil’s ivy because of its destructive nature and rapid growth.

The Philodendron can grow up to 20 feet tall and six feet wide, depending on the variety. Philodendrons have a quick growth rate and can grow up to four inches per week in the right conditions.

Lifespan

Both Pothos and Philodendron can live up to ten years, generally, but this will depend on the variety of the plant.

Porthos Vs. Philodendron Care

You must know whether you own a Pothos or Philodendron because care requirements differ.

Light

All Philodendron species tolerate low light conditions. Although, they produce more leaves in a medium indirect light. Avoid putting your Philodendron in direct sunlight, as this can cause the leaves to burn or fade.

Pothos adapt well to medium and low light conditions. However, it prefers to sit in a bright indirect light setting out of direct sunlight. These plants can also accommodate fluorescent lighting, which makes them ideal for decorating desks in offices with small or no windows.

Water

Water can be retained for long periods by the Pothos due to their thick leaves. Pothos only need to be watered when the soil is dry if placed in a low light spot. In bright light spaces, it will want watering more often.

You may see dark spots on the foliage if your plant needs water or has been overwatered. It’s a good idea to check the soil if you notice a color change to decide whether your plant is thirsty. If you water when the soil is too moist, it may cause the plant to rot.

The Philodendron needs watering more often than the Pothos and requires a moderate amount of soil moisture. Once the top inch of soil has dried out, grab your water spray.

If you find the leaves are drooping, this could be down to over-watering or under-watering. Like with the Pothos, over-watering can cause root rot. Check soil dryness before offering water as leaves can be deceiving.

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The upright species of Philodendron are more drought tolerant than the vining variety and can go longer without water. Although the upright Philodendron prefers more evenly moist soil.

You will need to reduce watering for both Pothos and Philodendrons during the winter.

Soil

Philodendrons like loose, well-drained, peat-based soil, that’s rich in organic matter. They like the soil to be slightly acidic, with a pH between 5.0 and 6.0.

Pothos aren’t as fussy as philodendrons when it comes to soil type. However, peat-based mixes are always good for growth due to how nutrient-rich they are. The pothos plant prefers a little more acidity than the philodendron and flourishes in soil with a pH between 6.1 and 6.5.

Temperature and Humidity

The Pothos and Philodendron are both tropical plants that enjoy high humidity.

The Pothos can tolerate slightly warmer environments than the Philodendron. But, they’ll both grow well in temperatures ranging 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day.

They can both cope with slightly cooler conditions at night. However, anything below 55 degrees can stunt growth and cause leaves to darken.

Fertilizing

If you use good quality soil, there is no need to use fertilizer. However, most pothos and philodendron species enjoy being fed once a month with a balanced fertilizer through the spring and summer. These are their growing seasons, and the fertilizer will provide them with the nutrients to optimize growth and reach maturity quickly.

Repotting

There are two main reasons you may need to report your plant; growth or health issues.

Pothos and Philodendron are both fast growers, so it’s a good idea to repot them regularly until they reach full maturity. Repotting gives the roots more space to grow and, by adding more soil, it provides extra nutrients.

If you don’t repot your plant, it can become root-wrapped, and the soil will become compacted. This can prevent your plant from reaching the nutrients and water it needs, which can stunt growth.

The compacted soil may struggle to absorb and drain water, which may cause dryness or health issues such as root rot.

Propagation of Pothos Vs. Philodendron

The Pothos and Philodendron propagate similarly, and it’s also relatively easy to do. Take a cutting from the plant just below the node, place it in water, and wait for it to sprout roots. You can then plant the cutting in soil.

Check out this video below, which shows how to propagate a philodendron. Note that you can also follow these instructions for pothos.

Varieties of Pothos Vs. Philodendron

Pothos and Philodendron both belong to the same family (Araceae). The varieties that usually get confused with one another are the Golden Pothos and the Heart-Leaf Philodendron.

There are over 450 varieties of Philodendron native to South America and dozens of Pothos native to South-East Asia. The Pothos and Philodendron have variegated cultivars, although the Pothos has more variegation across the species.

Varieties of Pothos Plants

Golden Pothos: The Golden Pothos plant is a common trailing species also known as the taro vine and devil’s ivy. It has bright green leaves covered with decorative cream and yellow streaks.

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Marble Queen Pothos: Another popular vining variety that gets its name from its green and cream, marble-effect foliage. This plant grows at a slower rate than most pothos due to a lack of chlorophyll.

Neon Pothos: The neon pothos has distinct heart-shaped leaves that are bright green, hence the name.

Satin Pothos: The satin pothos has unique leaves. Each leaf is a greeny-blue color with silver flecks across them.

Jassenia Pothos: Like the marble queen variety, this plant grows at a slower rate because it contains insufficient chlorophyll. The foliage is also very similar to the marble queen, although slightly darker in hue.

Manjula Pothos: The leaves of the Manjula are heart-shaped and they curl up at the tip. The University of Florida owns a patent for the Manjula, meaning no one can reproduce it. It has very unusual leaves with blocks of solid green and streaks of cream, yellow, and silver.

Pearls and Jade Pothos: Another variety by the University of Florida. It has bluish-green leaves delicately patterned with shades of cream and silver. Unlike the erratic splashes of color on many variegated species, the pattern on this plant looks like it’s painted neatly.

Cebu Blue Pothos: The beautiful silvery blue color of the leaves give this trailing exotic specimen a spectacular look.

Varieties of Philodendron Plants

‘Brasil’ Philodendron: This is a popular vining houseplant variety. It has dark green foliage often variegated with patches of cream and a pale lime stripe through the center of each one.

Heart-Leaf Philodendron: A common vining houseplant that gets its name from its distinct dark green, heart-shaped leaves.

Hairy Philodendron: This variation has an irregular leaf shape, which is dark green. It’s famous for its hairy red stem.

Elephant ear philodendron: An upright variation with huge green leaves that look delicately crinkled, like elephants’ ears. Although this isn’t a vining plant, it’ll need support while it’s growing.

Fiddleleaf Philodendron: This variation gets its name from its unusually shaped dark green foliage. Each leaf can grow between 18 inches to three feet long.

Red-Leaf Philodendron: A stunning hybrid with leathery leaves that vary from green to shades of burgundy and purple.

Velvet-Leaf Philodendron: The philodendron micans is a trailing vine with heart-shaped leaves that are velvety to the touch. It can grow up to six feet in length.

Xanadu: This is a small, self-heading plant, which means it grows upright. The Xanadu Philodendron can grow up to three feet tall. It has fantastic-looking foliage, each leaf 15 to 20 lobes in split fashion.

Benefits: Pothos Vs. Philodendron

Pothos and Philodendrons are both known as air-purifying plants. Some varieties including the popular Heart-Leaf philodendron and Golden Pothos can remove the chemical formaldehyde from the air.

There’s also new research about a modified Pothos ivy being able to remove chloroform and benzene carcinogens from the indoor atmosphere.

Final Thoughts

The Pothos and Philodendron both make fantastic houseplants. They’re easy to care for and a beautiful addition to any indoor setting.

Although the common Golden Pothos and popular Heart-Leaf Philodendron share a similar appearance, there are many ways to tell them apart. There are also many other variations of both species which carry unique looks.

Resources;

https://patents.google.com/patent/USPP21217P2/en

https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.8b04811