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Vining philodendrons such as Heart Leaf philodendrons and pothos are plants that can be hard to distinguish between. Those who are starting with houseplants can get confused. Even retailers get confused and label the plant incorrectly! This article will discuss some common differences between philodendron and pothos to save you from all the confusion.
While a vining philodendron and a pothos can look quite similar, they have many differences that can help you distinguish between the two.
The primary difference between pothos and philodendron are their leaves. While pothos comes with thick and glossy leaves, a philodendron has a matte finish with elongated tips. Philodendrons have thin and clustered aerial roots; on the other hand, pothos has solitary aerial roots.
There are even more differences that we will get into in a while.
Vining philodendrons and pothos are both climbing species, so it is easy to get confused between both. Let’s find out the fundamental differences so that you can easily distinguish between a philodendron and a pothos.
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What is the difference between pothos and philodendrons?
Take a look at this chart to understand some common differences between a vining species of philodendron and pothos.
|Matte elongated leaves||Thick glossy leaves|
|Thin and clustered aerial roots||Solitary aerial roots|
|Smooth petioles||Grooved petioles|
|Requires less indirect light than pothos||Requires more indirect light than philodendrons|
|Less drought-tolerant than pothos||More drought-tolerant than philodendrons|
|More tolerant to cold weather||Cannot tolerate cold weather|
|Leaves are rounded and heart-shaped with long tips||Leaves have irregular shapes with shorter and pointier tips|
|Leaves are smooth||Leaves feel lightly waxed and have more texture|
Now we will discuss all the differences in detail.
Philodendron and pothos belong to the same plant family Araceae, and their leaves can seem quite the same. Still, if you take a closer look, they won’t seem so similar anymore.
The leaves of the philodendron are thinner than the leaves of the pothos and have a smooth texture. When you touch the philodendron leaves, you will be able to understand this.
The philodendron leaves are more heart-shaped and have a long extended tip. You will also notice that these leaves have significant space between the lobes where they meet the petioles.
On the other hand, the leaves of pothos are thicker than the philodendron leaves and have a waxy feel to them. If you touch the leaves, they won’t seem as smooth as the philodendron leaves but will have a slightly bumped texture.
The pothos leaves resemble gardening spades, and they don’t have an elongated tip like the philodendrons. These leaves might seem more uneven than philodendron leaves.
The similarity between the roots is that both philodendrons and pothos have aerial roots. Aerial roots grow above the soil and help the plants to absorb nutrients and moisture from the air.
These roots help vining plants like pothos and philodendrons to support themselves while climbing. These roots have aggressive growth.
Philodendrons have thin and clustered aerial roots that grow in groups. Pothos have thicker roots, and they grow only one root from a node.
Pothos have limited root growth, whereas philodendrons have more extensive roots.
The aerial roots can grow long and unruly, but you must not prune them during the growing season. You can cut these off when the plants are not growing much.
Philodendrons have fresh and greenish-brown stems. These stems extend near the bottom that has an orange-brown shade to them.
Pothos has thicker stems than philodendrons that have the same color as their leaves.
The philodendrons grow new leaves that are enclosed in cases called cataphylls. After these leaves mature, the cataphylls get dry and fall off.
A young philodendron leaf is found with a pink or yellow tint, and it gets greener with maturity.
When pothos grows new leaves, you will notice that they are tightly curled, and with maturity, these curls unfold. After the unfolding of the curls, you will notice light green leaves that turn darker with maturity.
If you don’t know what petioles are, these are small and thin stems that connect a leaf with the plant’s stem.
Philodendrons have rounded petioles with a smooth texture, whereas pothos has curved petioles that resemble the shape of celery stalks.
Let’s understand what taxonomy means before we distinguish the pothos and philodendron based on this.
Taxonomy is one branch of science that deals with classifying plants and organisms into families and genera.
Although philodendron and pothos belong to the same plant family, Araceae, their genera are different. Philodendron belongs to the Philodendron genus, and pothos falls under the Epipremnum genus.
Pothos are more tolerant to drought, and that makes it easier to propagate their cuttings. Philodendrons are not as drought-tolerant as pothos.
Philodendrons are more tolerant to cold weather than pothos. Pothos can get very stressed if exposed to cold temperatures. Philodendrons stop growing when exposed to the cold, and these are less prone to stress due to the cold.
Philodendrons and pothos are known to be low-light tolerant plants. However, a heartleaf philodendron can tolerate low light conditions better than pothos.
However, philodendrons can get leggy quickly if exposed to low light. Still, the pothos takes a longer time to get leggy under low light conditions.
Philodendrons tend to grow smaller leaves when they get leggy, but the size of the pothos leaves don’t usually get much affected due to low light.
Pothos and philodendrons are both popular houseplants. You can differentiate these plants by their common names also.
Pothos have different names such as Money Plant, Devil’s Ivy, Taro Vine, Silver Vine, etc.
Philodendrons have loads of varieties, but the one commonly confused with pothos is called heartleaf philodendron, also known as the sweetheart plant.
The varieties of philodendron and pothos
There are many varieties of philodendron and pothos. It can get a bit confusing due to that. But now let’s look at some different varieties of philodendron and pothos.
Varieties of philodendron
Philodendrons are found in large varieties but they don’t have much variegation among them. You already know about the heartleaf philodendron that is most commonly confused with a pothos.
There is an unusual variety of philodendrons called ace of spades. What makes it unique is its dark underside leaves. These plants have crisp borders and can maintain their color even in low light conditions better than pothos.
Varieties of pothos
Pothos has more variegated forms than philodendron. You can see variations like golden pothos that have golden hues on their leaves, jade pothos that has cream patches, etc.
Pothos require bright indirect light to maintain their variegation. If they are placed in a low-light area, the leaves will turn green.
Tips to take care of your philodendron plant
Let’s take an overview of taking care of your philodendron plant.
Light: Provide bright and indirect light to your philodendron. Some varieties can tolerate low light but never expose any philodendron to direct sunlight.
Water: Water your philodendron plants when the top inch of the soil feels dry. Avoid overwatering it as that can lead to root rot.
Fertilizer: Fertilize the philodendron with a balanced liquid fertilizer. Add fertilizer to the water and give it to your philodendron every month during spring and summer and every 6 to 8 weeks in fall and winter.
Soil: Use a peat-based soil mix that will retain the required moisture and drain out the excess water.
Temperature and humidity: Try to maintain temperatures between 65 and 78°F. The humidity range for the philodendron should fall between 60 to 70%. Low humidity can slow down the growth of your philodendron.
Tips for taking care of pothos
Pothos are extremely easy to grow plants. Let’s find out how you can take care of your pothos.
Light: Similar to philodendron, pothos require bright and indirect light. These plants can also do well in low light and artificial lights. Avoid exposing them to direct light as that can burn their leaves.
Water: Before you water your pothos, make sure that the top inch of the soil is dry. Always throw away the excess water from the cache tray to avoid root rot.
Fertilizer: Pothos do not need a lot of fertilizer and they are light feeders. You can fertilize with a well-balanced fertilizer every one to three months.
Soil: Pothos require a well-draining potting mix. You can add coco coir or perlite to make the soil well-draining so that the plant doesn’t sit in the water.
Temperature and humidity: Maintain temperatures between 70 and 90°F to keep your pothos happy. Pothos can survive low humidity but do well if you add a little moisture to the plant.
This article helps you distinguish between a pothos and a philodendron to choose one for your house. But if you already have one, you will now understand which plant it is in case you were confused.
If you take a proper look at the leaves, petioles, and roots of your plant, you will be able to tell whether it is a philodendron or pothos. Both these plants do well with little care, so whichever you have, you can get a beautiful plant out of it.
Ref: Evaluation of Different Species of Philodendron Under Indoor Conditions, University of Florida, University of Vermont, ScienceDirect, Academia, Wikipedia, Britannica, University of Florida Research, Effects of Different Pot Mixtures on Pothos, Pothos water need study.