Pothos vs. Philodendron: Key Differences

Welcome to my article on indoor plants! Today, I want to discuss two popular houseplants: pothos and philodendron. These plants may look similar at first glance, but there are some key differences that set them apart. If you’re new to the world of houseplants or simply curious about the different types of plants you can bring into your home, this article is for you!

So, what is the difference between pothos and philodendron? Let’s dive in and find out!

Pothos plants, scientifically known as Epipremnum aureum, and philodendrons, classified as part of the Philodendron genus, are both members of the Araceae family. They are beloved for their lush foliage and ability to thrive indoors.

In terms of appearance, pothos and philodendrons have distinct leaf shapes and textures. Philodendron leaves are heart-shaped and soft, while pothos leaves are thicker, waxy, and sometimes have a bumpy texture.

Another notable difference lies in their aerial roots and petioles. Pothos plants typically have one large aerial root per node, while philodendrons may have several smaller aerial roots. Additionally, pothos petioles curve inward towards the stem they connect to, while philodendron petioles are fully rounded.

As for growth habits, pothos leaves grow and unfurl from the previous leaf without any sheath. In contrast, philodendron leaves grow on a bit of vine enclosed in a cataphyll, which is a protective sheath. Cataphylls can remain on the plant, even after a new leaf has unfurled.

When it comes to care, both pothos and philodendrons are relatively low-maintenance. However, there are slight differences. Pothos can tolerate drought conditions better than philodendrons, while philodendrons can thrive in lower light conditions compared to pothos.

Now that you have a better understanding of the differences between pothos and philodendrons, you can confidently identify which plant you have or choose the one that suits your indoor gardening preferences.

Stay tuned for the rest of this article, where we will explore more about these fascinating houseplants, their unique characteristics, and how to care for them. Happy indoor gardening!

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

Aerial RootsOne large aerial root per nodeSeveral smaller aerial roots per node
PetiolesIndent towards the stemFully rounded
Petiole ThicknessRelatively thickerRelatively 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

Growth HabitTrailingUpright
Leaf EmergenceDirectly from stemGrows on a vine within a cataphyll
Leaf ProtectionNo protective sheathsLeaf 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 AspectPothosPhilodendron
Light RequirementsBright, indirect lightLow light tolerant
Temperature Requirements55°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 RequirementsEvenly moist soil, water when top inch feels dryEvenly moist soil, water when top inch feels dry
Drought ToleranceTolerates short periods of dry soilLess drought tolerant
PropagationStem cuttingsStem 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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