The Differences Between Pothos and Philodendron

The Differences Between Pothos and Philodendron

Pothos and philodendron are different varieties yet questionably among the most widespread indoor houseplants often thought to be the same. While they are similar in appearance and have many of the same growth needs and habits, both are houseplants with diverse characteristics and requirements. You can easily distinguish between both of them if you know certain features. Below are the key differences that help you distinguish between them.


Taxonomically both pothos and vining philodendron are two distinct and separate plants that are placed in different genera. Whereas pothos is a member of the Epipremnum genus, the philodendron relates to the philodendron genus. The similarity comes within their family as they both belong to the same Araceae family of aroid plants.

Leaf Shape and Texture

You can easily distinguish between pothos and philodendrons by checking their leaves. Philodendrons have thinner heart-shaped leaves with a soft texture. Conversely, pothos leaves are much bigger, denser, and waxier. You can see the leaf differences at the point where the petiole attaches to the leaf’s base. The base of pothos leaves is comparatively straight, but the base of philodendron leaves is curved inwards and looks like the top of a heart.

Growth Habit and New Leaves

Cataphylls is another distinguishable feature between pothos and philodendron. Cataphylls are the small leaves that enclose and shield the new leaves as they grow big. If it's a philodendron, the new leaves will emerge through cataphylls. Usually, they stay on the plant even after the new leaves have developed. Ultimately, they dry up and shred off from the plant. On the other hand, pothos grows new leaves differently. Instead of emerging new leaves from cataphylls, pothos plants thrive and unfurl new and fresh leaves from their previous leaf.

Aerial Roots and Petioles

You can notice a clear difference between pothos and philodendron based on their aerial roots and petioles. Like pothos, vining philodendron comes with aggressive aerial roots allowing both to climb and creep around surfaces. While the pothos appears to have only a single large aerial root attached to the node, the philodendron contains multiple smaller aerial roots, making it look more unruly and wild. Talking about the petioles as these are small stems connecting the plant's leaves to its main stem. Based on the differences in their growing habits, pothos carries petioles indenting towards the stem to which it is connected. However, a philodendron has petioles that are completely rounded. Another difference between both of them is that pothos has thicker petioles than the petioles of philodendrons.

Growth DifferencesΒ 

Both pothos and philodendrons can withstand low light, but pothos can tolerate low light to a greater extent. If philodendron doesn't get adequate sunlight, it will become leggy. In contrast, pothos will get leggy much slower and their leaf size will also remain comparatively unaffected if placed under low light. You can propagate pathos by cuttings much easier than philodendrons as it is more drought-tolerant. Other varieties of trailing philodendron and pothos also look the same at first, but you can easily distinguish between them with these guidelines.

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