Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) and Philodendrons (Philodendron Selloum) are two trendy houseplants with comparable looks and similar growing requirements. So, it’s easy to understand why many people struggle to differentiate between these plants.
While they look alike, this doesn’t change the fact that they are different plants. Once you know the difference between them, it’s relatively easy to tell them apart.
After reading this, not only will you never mistake them for each other again, you’ll also know the variations of Pothos vs. Philodendron and how to take proper care of them.
Differences Between Pothos & Philodendrons
While they share many growing requirements, such as a warm growing environment, indirect sunlight, and minimal watering, they are different in other ways.
There are 7 key differences between the Devil’s Ivy (pothos) and Philodendron that set them apart. These contrasts are discussed below.
Taxonomy is a term used to describe how botanists name plants. There can be many common words for a plant, but there can only be one official botanical name. This becomes confusing when there are many common names for the same plant.
Taxonomy classifies groups of biological organisms, which is essentially botanical nomenclature – the scientific language of taxonomy.
A significant difference between the pothos and Philodendron plants is that they belong to different genera.
Pothos belong to the Epipremnum genus, while Philodendron belongs to a genus of the same name – Philodendron. However, these genera are vaguely related, as they belong to the ariod plant family, Araceae.
2. Leaf Shape and Texture
When you look at the plants together, the most apparent difference is the shape and texture of the leaves. Pothos leaves are:
- Thicker and have a waxy, slightly bumpy surface.
- Shaped like a spade and have indented midribs.
- Asymmetrical and larger than Philodendron leaves.
- Marked with white, yellow, or gold patterns.
On the other hand, Philodendron leaves are:
- Thinner and have a smooth feel, unlike Pothos.
- Heart-shaped and symmetrical.
- A plain green colour.
3. Growth Habits and New Leaves
The third differentiating factor is their growing habits. This involves looking for a cataphyll, which is a cylindrical, elongated sheath that surrounds and protects a young leaf as it grows. Once the leaf gets to a certain size and emerges, the cataphyll will dry up and eventually fall off.
A Philodendron grows new leaves this way, so if you’re ever in doubt, look for these sheaths. Pothos, in contrast, don’t grow new leaves with the help of cataphylls. Instead, the fresh leaves unfold from the previous leaf.
4. Stem Difference
The stems of Pothos are thicker and the same color as the leaves. Philodendron stems aren’t the same color as the leaves, but are green-brown when young and change to orange-brown as they age.
5. Air Roots
Both plants have aerial roots that allow them to climb surfaces and take in moisture and nutrients from the air.
Pothos roots are thick, with only one root growing from each node. In contrast, philodendron roots grow in clusters (2 to 6) and have a skinny structure.
The petiole is the small stem that connects the leaf to the vine. Both plants have petioles, but they differ in appearance and structure.
The Philodendron’s petiole is thinner, round and uniform. Another key difference is that its petioles are a different color (green-brown) to the leaves. Pothos petioles are indented towards the vine they’re joined to, are thicker than the Philodendron petioles, and are a similar color to its leaves.
7. Growing Differences
Generally, pothos and philodendrons are considered low-maintenance houseplants and thrive in similar growing environments, but they have some distinct growing characteristics, which are listed below.
- Can grow better than Philodendrons in low-light areas.
- Like higher humidity levels.
- Can grow up to 12 centimeters per week when in the correct environment.
- Can tolerate low light areas, but not as well as pothos.
- Thrive in warmer climates.
- Can grow up to 10 centimeters per week in their ideal environments.
The most significant growing difference is their light sensitivity. When grown in dim areas, philodendrons stretch and grow smaller leaves due to lack of light. Pothos don’t stretch as much in shaded areas and will grow leaves unaffected by the little light.
Due to this, pothos plants are simpler to grow because they are less sensitive to light. It’s also easier to take cuttings from a pothos plant due to its drought-resistant nature, whereas propagating philodendrons is harder.
Pothos come in various colors, so if you’re unsure where to start your plant search, look no further. Below you’ll find some fantastic variations that will make great additions to your home.
These plants are loved around the world for their lime-green leaves that are complemented by yellow variegation. Due to the coloring, they’re known to brighten any space they’re in.
The Golden Pothos has heart-shaped leaves and can grow vines longer than 10 meters in a suitable climate.
Marble Queen Pothos
Native to French Polynesia, these plants have a distinct coloring that sets them apart from other pothos varieties. The leaves have a white marbled pattern that dominates the lime-green base color.
Due to these eye-catching markings, the Marble Queen makes a beautiful hanging plant and likes lots of indirect sunlight.
Jessenia Pothos is the rarest type due to its intricate lemon-yellow variegation over the emerald, green base, giving each leaf a marbled effect.
They grow slower than other pothos and are hard to find at plant nurseries, but keep an eye out should you come across one.
Pothos Care Tips
Pothos are generally low-maintenance plants, but they still have specific growing requirements you should know about if you want them to flourish.
Photos Light Requirements
Pothos thrive when grown out of direct sunlight. If they receive too much light, you’ll notice brown burn marks on the edges of the leaves, so take this into account when selecting its growing area.
It also grows well in hanging pots or containers resting on shelves in high places.
You should check for insect infestations, as this plant is prone to pests like mealybugs and aphids.
Spraying the plant with an organic pesticide, like neem oil, will combat infestations. You can also spray the plant once a month, even if you don’t see any pests, to keep the plant healthy and protect it from future infestations.
After a while, you may notice that the roots of the plant are outgrowing its container. If this occurs, you’ll have to transplant it into a pot that is one size bigger than its current container.
You should also add new potting soil into the bigger pot to have access to more nutrients.
Temperature and Humidity
Pothos are tropical plants, so they love warm temperatures and higher humidity levels. For the best results, aim to grow this plant in a place where the temperatures range between 21ºC and 32ºC.
Its preferred humidity level ranges between 50% and 70%. An excellent investment for this plant is a portable humidifier, as this will ensure it grows at optimal humidity.
Pothos like soil that drains and dries before each watering. You need to ensure the first two centimeters of topsoil is dry before you water again. Wilting and browning leaves are signs of overwatering, which can result in root rot.
While beautiful, this plant is also toxic if ingested. It is rarely fatal, but common reactions include vomiting and irritation due to the calcium oxalates found in the plant.
You should consider this if you have young children or pets and try to keep them away from the plant if you’re already growing it at home.
There are over 400 varieties of Philodendrons, so to make this easier for you, only the most popular types are included in this list. If you want to to know about Philodendron varieties read here.
Known as the Heartleaf Philodendron, this variety is trendy due to its easy-growing nature.
Indigenous to the tropical Caribbean and South American environments makes it a very capable climber. So when growing this plant, you can expect it to climb all over its growing space.
Pink Princess Philodendron
If you’re looking for a flashier variety, then the Pink Princess is the plant for you. Its dark green leaves are contrasted by bright pink accents, making it unlike any other variety.
It’s important to know that its pink hues are due to a lack of chlorophyll, so grow this plant in an area of your house that only receives indirect sunlight.
Initially found in Ecuador, the Pigskin Philodendron variety gets its name from its thick, leathery leaves.
The shape of these leaves is akin to other types of Philodendrons, but their leaves will grow much larger. It also has bright green leaves that are so lively that it is often mistaken for a plastic plant.
Philodendron Care Tips
Like pothos plants, philodendrons are easy to care for, but you’ll have to take into account the following growing requirements if you want your plant to flourish.
Philodendron Light Requirements
These plants like lots of indirect sunlight, but you’ll notice many of the leaves turning yellow simultaneously if it’s getting too much light.
It can handle dimly lit areas but won’t reach its full potential, unlike pothos.
When it doesn’t get enough light, the leaves will be smaller, and its vines will become leggy, with significant gaps between nodes. If you notice this, move the plant to a brighter area and monitor the situation.
Like Pothos, keep a close eye on insects because Philodendrons are also prone to mealybug and aphids infestations.
Spraying the plant with organic neem oil will do the trick if you notice these insects. Even when there are no signs of infestations, using this treatment monthly will keep your plant healthy and insect-free.
Certain types of Philodendrons grow rapidly, so you may have to pinch off new growth points to control this. You will also need to repot every two years because they are known to outgrow their pots.
For the best results, grow this plant in an area that ranges between 18ºC and 25ºC, which means it grows better than pothos in slightly cooler climates.
Due to this, it can also handle lower humidity levels, but misting it once a week will promote new leaf growth and keep it happy.
Avoid overwatering this plant, as it can promote root rot if the soil remains soggy. Only water when the first few centimeters of topsoil are dry so that the roots don’t receive too much moisture.
Signs of overwatering include drooping and yellowing leaves that eventually fall off.
Using a plant fertilizer with high amounts of macronutrients will serve this plant well. Macronutrients are vital for new leaf growth and maintaining the plant’s vibrant green color.
Like pothos, these plants are also toxic if ingested by pets and people. It would be best if you kept it out of children’s reach and away from pets. Knowing this will minimize any nasty surprises, and you can still enjoy its vibrant colors in your home.
Can you Plant Pothos and Philodendron Together?
Yes, you can grow these plants together. Due to their similar growing requirements, growing them together will be no problem as long as you give them enough space.
The combination of these plants will liven up any indoor space, so if you’re thinking of growing pothos and philodendrons, go for it!
However, while they share similarities, you should choose a place in your home that’s suitable for both because, as you’ve read, they’re not the same plant and have slightly different growing requirements.
Summary of Pothos and Philodendron Differences
So, as you’ve probably noticed, these plants are very similar in some ways but quite different in others.
Both plants are straightforward to grow and will make exceptional additions to any home – given they are grown in the right conditions.
Regardless of which plant you think is best for you, after reading this, you’ll never have to worry about mistaking them for each other again, and you can now differentiate between varieties of each plant.
For the best of both worlds, why not grow both of these tropical beauties?
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