Philodendrons and pothos plants are two of the most popular houseplants. They’re ideal for novice green thumbs for good reason — they’re very hardy low-light plants that are easy to care for. Additionally, their beautiful green foliage looks great displayed in a variety of ways from classic pots to elegant trellises to trendy hanging baskets, there’s sure to be an option that fits your style  

However, since so many varieties of pothos and philodendrons look similar to one another, telling them apart can be difficult. We’ve created these general pothos vs philodendron guidelines to help you to identify the plants and choose the right plant for you. Plus, we’ve included some quick care tips to ensure your plant thrives in your home. 

Key Differences Between Pothos and Philodendron Plants

pothos vs philodendron chart

When trying to tell the difference between a pothos and philodendron plant, there are a few key differences to watch out for — it all comes down to their taxonomy, foliage shape, root and stem structure and growing habits. One thing they have in common is that both of these plants are toxic to animals and should be kept away from your furry friends. Here are a few key differences to look for:

Taxonomy

Taxonomy is a scientific term that helps classify and differentiate different groups of organisms. Plants are named and organized into genera and those genera are then grouped into families. Pothos and philodendrons are two distinct plant varieties that belong to separate genera. They do, however, belong to the same aroid plant family, also known as Araceae.

  • Philodendron: Philodendron belongs to the Philodendron genus.
  • Pothos: Pothos are classified as any plant in the Epipremnum genus.

Roots and Petioles 

Differences can also be noted between the aerial roots and petioles of philodendrons and the aerial roots and petioles of pothos. Petioles are the little stems that connect the bottom of the leaf to the beginning of the base stem that goes into the ground.  When it comes to the root system overall, they’re strong in both plants and are able to vine and climb surfaces.   

  • Philodendron roots and petioles are: 
    • Fully rounded and thinner than pothos petioles. 
    • The stems are also a different color than the leaves themselves (greenish-brown). 
    • They also have more aerial roots than pothos plants and are thin and spindly.  

 

  • Pothos roots and petioles are:
    • Indented towards the stem they’re connected to and are on the thicker side.
    • The stems are also closer in color to the leaves than on the philodendron plant.
    • The roots are thick nubs, with only one per node. 

Leaf Texture and Shape

Upon first glance, there are several characteristics of the leaf textures and shapes that make it easy to differentiate them. These leaf differences are especially noticeable in the area where the petiole connects to the base of the leaf. Here are the key variations between the two:

  • Philodendron leaves are:
    • Thin with a very smooth texture — you will not feel any bumps or raised surfaces here like you would with a pothos plant. 
    • Symmetrical and heart-shaped with a prominent pointed end. 
    • Plain green in color.
  • Pothos leaves are: 
    • Thicker and have a waxy, bumpy texture, as compared to the philodendron. 
    • Asymmetrical and can also be a lot larger than the philodendron plant. 
    • Marked with gold, white, or yellow markings on their leaves.

Sheath

In addition to leaf characteristics and differences in root structure, there are also different sheaths on each plant. A plant’s sheath is a cylindrical, elongated, structure that encloses younger parts of the shoot. These sheaths will eventually loosen and fall off as the leaf gets larger.

  • Philodendron: Philodendron plant sheaths are brown and papery as the plant grows.
  • Pothos: Pothos plants do not have sheaths at all.  

Environmental Needs

There are a few differences when it comes to environmental needs when it comes to pothos vs. philodendron plants. Here are the key factors you need to know: 

  • Philodendrons:
    •  Tolerates low light environments. 
    • Prefers warmer climate.
    • Grows up to 10 cm per week in their ideal environment.
  • Pothos
    • Can tolerate lower light than philodendrons 
    • Prefer higher humidity than philodendrons. 
    • Can grow up to 12 cm per week in their ideal environment.

Philodendron & Pothos Care Tips

Although philodendron and pothos have different characteristics that set them apart, they have very similar needs when it comes to soil, water needs, light requirements and temperature. However, there are still some slight differences. We’ve included both philodendron care and pothos care tips below to make growing your new houseplant a breeze.

Care Tips:

  • Soil: Make sure your soil is lightweight and allows for adequate water drainage for both. 
  • Water: Allow the top of your philodendron and pothos soil to dry out before watering again. Soil should stay moist, but not wet. 
  • Light: Both plant varieties thrive in indirect light to low light, but pothos can tolerate even lower lighting. 
  • Temperature: These plants thrive in temperatures ranging from 55 – 85℉. However, pothos plants prefer high humidity and warmer temperatures of up to 90℉. 

Pothos Varieties 

Pothos are great plants to incorporate into any living space. If you’re not sure where to start when choosing a pothos plant, here are some great pothos varieties to add to your collection.

Golden Pothos 

golden pothos

Having a reputation for being one of the easiest houseplants to care for, the Golden Pothos is known for its heart-shaped yellowish-green leaves. In the wild, the Golden Pothos is known to overgrow on tree trunks and forest floors due to its strong root system. In ideal growing conditions, you can expect this variety to grow up to 10 feet long. 

Marble Queen Pothos

marble queen pothos

Marble queen pothos are native to French Polynesia and feature a more unique coloring than other pothos plants. Their leaves are green but with creamy white “marbled” markings. Because of their striking markings, marble queen pothos make great hanging plants for your common areas. 

Jessenia Pothos 

jessenia pothos

Jessenia pothos sport leaves with greenish-yellow hues. With this variety, every leaf will turn out differently than the rest. The Jessenia pothos also tends to grow more slowly than other varieties, such as the golden pothos. Due to their popularity as houseplants, this variety is also the rarest to find in your local plant shops. 

Philodendron Varieties

Choosing the right philodendron can be tricky, especially since there are so many varieties (over 400 species!),  but we’ve highlighted our favorites below along with their key characteristics. 

Heartleaf Philodendron 

heartleaf philodendron

Also known as Philodendron Hederaceum, the Heartleaf is one of the most popular varieties of philodendron plants due to the fact that it’s incredibly easy to care for. Native to the Caribbean and South America, this variety can climb up to four feet and features glossy heart-shaped leaves. 

Pink Princess Philodendron 

pink princess philodendron

If you want a more flashy variety of philodendrons to add to your indoor space, choose the Pink Princess philodendron. Unlike other varieties of this plant, the Pink Princess boasts exotic dark green leaves with pink accents. It’s important to note that some areas of the leaves are pink because they’re lacking chlorophyll, so keep the Pink Princess in indirect sunlight only.

Pigskin Philodendron

pigskin philodendron 

Native to Ecuador, the Pigskin philodendron gets its name from its thick, leathery leaves. Although they have the classic heart-shaped appearance, the leaves are a lot larger compared to other types of philodendrons. Its bright green color sometimes gets this variety mistaken for a plastic plant! 

Pothos vs Philodendron: Which One Is Best for You?

photo of a plant hanging inside

Both of these plants are ideal for beginner green thumbs, however, if you’re not sure whether a pothos or philodendron is best for you, there are a few key factors to keep in mind when choosing one for your home: 

Philodendron

Pros

  • They can drape casually down from window sills and bookshelves. 
  • Ideal for those who want hanging baskets in their homes. 
  • They thrive in low-light so they’re also okay for places like offices that have fluorescent lighting. 

Cons:

  • They don’t do well in areas that are super sunny and have a cooler environment.
  • Not ideal for places like a sunny garden or that don’t reach warm temperatures. 
  • Philodendrons are also toxic to pets.

Pothos

Pros: 

  • Thrive on lower light than philodendrons do. 
  • Ideal for homes that receive less sunlight.  
  • Purify the air of formaldehyde, benzene and carbon monoxide while also helping eliminate odors. 

Cons: 

  • They prefer warmer and more humid temperatures
  • Not ideal for homes that are located in super dry climates.. 
  • Pothos plants are also toxic to pets. 

Common FAQs

girl watering plant

Although philodendron and pothos are simple houseplants to grow and maintain, you may still have some questions that come up before you purchase one or throughout the plant’s life cycle. Below are a few commonly asked questions when it comes to philodendrons and pothos plants. 

Can You Plant Pothos and Philodendron Together?

Pothos and philodendron plants make great companion houseplants since they’re both sturdy and share similar growth requirements. Plus the combination of the two plants creates a lovely statement to have as a focal point in your indoor space. 

Which Grows Faster, Pothos or Philodendron?

Both the philodendron and pothos are rapidly growing vine plants. During the growing season, philodendrons can grow up to 10 cm per week and pothos up to 12 cm per week. Overall, a pothos is slightly hardier and will grow faster than a philodendron. Be sure to follow the proper care to ensure they grow to their maximum potential.

Why Are My Pothos and Philodendron Turning Yellow?

If your pothos or philodendron is yellowing, it may be due to under or over-watering. If you also notice browning, overwatering is likely the cause. If your plant is underwatered, the leaves will be yellow with crispy, brown ends. Check in with the soil to determine if it matches your diagnosis.

How Do I Train My Pothos and Philodendron to Climb?

To get your pothos or philodendron to vine itself up a stake or trellis, follow these simple steps. First, gently weave and wrap the vine up your support system making sure to not wrap too tightly. For extra support, feel free to attach the leaves to the support with some string.

Care for your plant as usual. If you live in an area that’s less humid, spray the foliage with a light mist every once in a while to keep moist. Eventually, the plant will attach to the trellis or stake and grow upwards!  

What Do I Do if My Pothos or Philodendron Has Gotten Too Long?

There’s a chance that they both could get too long for your space since pothos and philodendrons are such rapid growers. Fortunately, these can be pruned back to your desired length — it doesn’t matter where and how you cut them. You can even take the cuttings after your prune and place in water to propagate. 

With these general guidelines, you’ll be able to distinguish between a pothos vs philodendron plants with ease.. Be sure to pair your plants with a floral bouquet to make your indoor space pop!