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From Leaf Shape to Growing Roots: 5 Ways to Tell Pothos and Philodendron Apart

From Leaf Shape to Growing Roots: 5 Ways to Tell Pothos and Philodendron Apart

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Many homes are now adorned with luscious houseplants, and some of the most popular choices are Pothos and Philodendrons. However, people still mistake them for one or the other.

Although they do share some similarities, it doesn’t take long for anyone to differentiate Pothos from Philodendron plants.

Want to know more about what sets them apart? Read on to find out more about Pothos vs Philodendron!

Pothos vs Philodendron Overview

Pothos and Philodendron are tropical plants native to rainforests. They both have trailing abilities that make them attractive as houseplants.


Devil'S Ivy

Pothos plants also go by the name Devil’s Ivy. Sometimes, you’ll also hear others call them Golden Pothos or Devil’s vine.

This plant comes from the family Araceae. It’s a popular houseplant that trails sills and shelves.

A mature Pothos plant can grow from 20 to 40 feet with a width of 3 to 6 feet.

The first thing you’ll notice about this plant is its beautiful heart-shaped leaves.

What makes this plant unique is that most of its leaves have variegation. It typically comes as an irregular pattern of stripes, ranging from shades of white to pale green.

One thing to note about Pothos plants is that they’re toxic to pets and humans. So, this may not be the best plant to keep if you have furry friends at home.



Unlike Pothos, Philodendron doesn’t go by any other name. However, having philodendron plants is also all the rage for plant parents.

Philodendron plants also come from the same family as Pothos. Additionally, it’s from the genus Philodendreae.

Generally, this plant comes in two types: one that climbs and one that doesn’t.

A climbing or vining Philodendron needs rigid structural support to thrive. Without it, the plant may lose integrity and grow poorly.

On the other hand, Philodendron plants that don’t climb are perfect as potted plants. They won’t need additional support to grow upright.

This plant can be as short as one foot or grow as tall as 20 feet. Similarly, its width ranges from 1 to 6 feet.

Much like Pothos, Philodendron is also toxic to pets and people.

Are Pothos and Philodendron the Same?

Although they come from the same plant family, Pothos and Philodendron aren’t the same. The most apparent telltale differences between them are their leaves and sizes.

While Pothos typically have many different shades of green, Philodendron only has one. Of course, this depends on what type they are.

In many cases, you’ll find that Philodendron plants don’t grow as tall as Pothos plants. As a result, you can expect Pothos plants to be bigger and have thicker foliage.

What Makes Pothos and Philodendron Similar?

People often mistake Pothos and Philodendron plants for each other for a reason. Here are some common similarities between them.

1 – Growth

As popular houseplants, Pothos and Philodendrons are relatively easy to maintain. They’re one of the most beginner-friendly plants out there.

What’s more, these plants are similar in their growth patterns. That’s because they come from the same aroid family.

Some types of Pothos and Philodendrons also follow the same vining pattern as they mature. For example, Green Heart Philodendron and Golden Pothos trail from their pots.

2 – Soil Preference

Pothos and Philodendron plants benefit from having light and well-draining soil. That’s because too much moisture can lead to their leaves browning or root rots.

Additionally, since both are aroid plants, their roots need to breathe. Compact soils won’t allow enough space.

Both plants also like being in slightly acidic soil. You can plant them in soil mixes with a pH ranging from 6.1 to 6.5.

3 – Sun Tolerance

Pothos and Philodendron plants love indirect light. So, it’s common to see them in corners of homes where the sun doesn’t directly hit.

When Pothos and Philodendron plants get too much sun, they tend to wilt. Additionally, there won’t be new leaves forming.

What Makes Pothos and Philodendron Different?

It can be easy to spot the difference between Pothos and Philodendron plants, especially when you take a closer look.

1 – Leaves

Philodendrons Leaves Are More Heart Shaped Than Pothos Plants

Although Pothos and Philodendron plants have the same heart-shaped leaves, they’re more pronounced in Philodendron. Plus, they’re more pointed at the end.

The V-shape on top of their leaves is also different. Philodendron leaves have a subtle hint, whereas Pothos’ have them deeper.

If you look at these plants’ leaves side by side, you’ll also notice that Pothos leaves are wider than those from Philodendron. They also have a waxy texture, which repels the water.

Aside from that, most Pothos plants have irregular streaks of white and yellow in their leaves. In many cases, the leaves on this plant range from a medium shade of green to neon green.

Meanwhile, Philodendron plants have thin leaves that often manifest solid green leaves. Although, some of them have variegation, such as in Philodendron Brandtianum and Philodendron Birkin.

The smooth texture of the Philodendron leaves also doesn’t feel raised and bumpy as Pothos leaves.

2 – Cataphylls

One way to differentiate Philodendron from Pothos with one look is through cataphylls.

In Philodendron plants, you can see these sheaths as the brown and papery part hanging off the stems at their mature stage. They serve as protection and a part of the structural integrity of the plant.

When they’re young, cataphylls may look like a part of the stem.

As the Philodendron grows, its cataphylls will turn translucent as stems grow out of them. Eventually, it’ll fall off once the new stem reaches maturity.

On the other hand, Pothos plants don’t need these sheaths to grow new leaf blades.

3 – Petiole

When you break a leaf from a plant’s stem, you’ll be able to see its petiole. It’s the stalk that connects the leaf to the stem.

A Philodendron plant’s petiole is uniformly-shaped like a circle. It’s as if you cut the stem perfectly with a sharp knife.

What makes Pothos’ leaves different is the uneven and indented edge of the stem. Over time, this edge will turn brown and develop a papery texture because of exposure.

4 – New Leaf Growth

When new leaves grow on Pothos plants, they come from a current leaf. On the other hand, Philodendron have noticeable sheaths that promote new leaf growth.

You may notice that new Pothos leaves will have a lighter shade of green.

Meanwhile, young Philodendron leaves may look pinkish or brownish. As they mature, these leaves will darken.

5 – Aerial Roots

Looking closer at Pothos and Philodendron plants, you may notice some aerial roots. These roots act as anchors for these plants when they start to vine.

In Pothos, it only has one root per node. Additionally, its growing roots are also relatively thick and dark.

In some cases, roots from Pothos plants can stain nearby materials, such as clothes, walls, and light-colored furniture.

On the other hand, Philodendron’s aerial roots form a cluster of thin and spindly roots.

Can You Plant Pothos and Philodendron Together?

Since both plants have the same care requirements, you can plant Pothos and Philodendron together. Additionally, they come from the same aroid family, so they can complement each other.

One way to showcase each of these plants’ strengths is by choosing the suitable types to plant together.

If you already have a Pothos plant at home, consider adding Heartleaf Philodendron into the mix. This type of Philodendron can add more foliage by emphasizing the variegated pattern of the Photos plant.

Another plant that works well is the Philodendron Brasil. This type has medium-sized leaves with bright yellow streaks, which add character.

A fast grower under the Philodendron genus is the Philodendron Micans. This plant spreads up to 24 feet, wider than typical Philodendron plants.

While you can make countless combinations of Pothos and Philodendron plants, the general rule is to have both types with the same growth pattern.

For example, a fast-trailing Pothos plant should be with a fast-trailing Philodendron plant.

Additionally, you’ll want to consider their care requirements when growing in the same container.

1 – Water

Both Pothos and Philodendron plants can’t thrive in very moist soils. So, you’ll only want to water them when the top few inches of the soil feel dry.

You can check the moisture level of the soil by using the finger-dip method.

Simply plunge your index finger into the first few inches of the soil, about the height of the first knuckle. A clean finger means there’s not enough moisture in the soil.

Waiting for too long may leave the plants too dry to encourage new growth.

2 – Light

When combining Pothos and Philodendron in the same pot, you’ll want to place them in an area that receives bright yet indirect sunlight. Too much direct light can scorch their leaves, while shady areas will leave your plants pale.

The effect of light on the leaves is more noticeable when you combine variegated types from both plants. Their leaves may lose the variegation and turn solid green if they don’t receive enough light.

If there aren’t any areas with optimal lighting, you can turn to artificial lights, such as fluorescent bulbs or LED lights. These lights can produce red and blue rays that plants need to promote growth.

3 – Soil

One challenge you may face if you plant these plants together is the fertilizing schedule, especially during the winter.

You’ll need to fertilize Philodendrons every six to eight weeks, even during the winter months. However, Pothos plants don’t benefit much from it.

So, when fertilizing these plants, it’s important to keep in mind that Pothos may get overwhelmed by too much fertilizer. As a compromise, you may use a weaker fertilizer to satisfy both plants.

4 – Temperature

Since both plants don’t like staying in cold temperatures, you can keep them indoors with temperatures between 65 to 85 °F

One thing to keep in mind is that Pothos is less tolerant of colder temperatures that drop below 60 °F. However, Philodendron can survive in lower temperatures.

That said, you’ll want to put these plants at a temperature where they’re both comfortable. For example, you may place them near bright windows during colder months to help raise the temperature.

5 – Humidity

In terms of humidity, Pothos and Philodendrons prefer environments with high humidity. That’s because both plants are native to rainforests.

Fortunately, they have adapted to normal humidity levels inside homes. Typically, they thrive in surroundings with at least a 50% humidity level.

These plants have leaves and stems that need to breathe through their stomata. To let these cells open and produce lush foliage, they’ll need a humid environment.

In drier areas, you can increase humidity by using a humidifier. Alternatively, you can make your own humidifier by filling a tray with water, which will eventually evaporate in the air.

Final Thoughts

Pothos and Philodendron are heart-shaped plants that can add character to any home. A common misconception about these plants is that they’re the same.

Although their family is identical, they don’t fall under a similar taxonomic category. What sets them apart are their leaves, cataphylls, petioles, and aerial roots.

So, the debate on Pothos vs. Philodendron isn’t that difficult to resolve.

Despite this, you can still plant them together. The only thing you’ll need to do is maintain the proper care requirements both plants need.

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