Pothos and philodendron are both easy to take care of, thrive in almost any place, and have very few demands. They also look strikingly similar.
That can make it incredibly confusing for new plant parents to differentiate between the two species. However, there are differences, and this is how you can spot them.
What Makes It Difficult to Tell Them Apart?
A major reason it's so difficult to differentiate pothos from philodendrons is how similar they look.
Philodendrons and pothos are both parts of the same Aroid plant family. So, in one way, they are cousins.
Both of these plants prefer growing in indirect sunlight and nutrient-rich soil. They have a unique habit of developing like a vine, making them great for walls and hanging pots.
They grow green, glossy, and heart-shaped leaves of similar sizes.
Pothos vs. Philodendrons: How Are They Different?
Taxonomy refers to the scientific way botanists use to name plants.
Although both plants belong to the same Araceae or Aroid plant family, each fits a different genome.
Pothos is a part of the Epipremnum genus, while philodendrons come from the Philodendron genus.
The two plants also have very different botanical names. The more common heart-shaped philodendron is named philodendron hederaceum.
The leaves of both the plants look strikingly similar, especially from a distance. However, an experienced eye can pick up some key differences at the first look.
The first one is the notable difference in the shape of their leaves. Even though both have heart-shaped leaves, philodendrons have a more pronounced profile. It has a deeper V-stem and a longer leaf. In comparison, the leaves of pothos are much broader, irregular, and short.
Philodendrons have a much more glossy and smooth texture. Its leaves are thin with a velvety touch. The texture of pothos leaves is much waxier, with a defined mid-ridge.
In terms of color, pothos appears much brighter beside the dark green shade of a philodendron leaf. They're also much more varied and are extremely popular for that.
Spring gives you a chance to tell apart the two plants from their new growth. The new foliage of pothos grows with small leaves that develop from the old growth. The leaves are usually of a lighter shade and slowly unfurl themselves. It is not too different than other houseplants in this regard.
The new growth of philodendron is more fanciful. The foliage doesn't carry the color of the original plant. Instead, it appears in a shade of brown or pink. Depending on the variety, the new growth of some philodendrons can even be olive or orange colored.
Checking for the cataphyll, a natural sheath can help amateur gardeners easily discern the two plants.
You can find a sheath sheltering the new leaves growing from the stems of a philodendron plant. It's a modified leaf that only exists for a short time and falls off after the leaf unfurls.
Such structures don't appear in pothos plants.
Both of these plants grow like a vine. That's made possible by their aerial roots, enabling them to climb vertical structures. These roots don't grow under the soil. Instead, they stem out from leaf nodes and act like vining stems.
The aerial roots of pothos are easy to contain. They are usually limited in number and appear as thick nubs from each node.
On the other hand, philodendrons have a more extensive network of aerial roots. These thin and spindly roots appear in a bunch and can quickly become long and unsightly.
There are specific, discernible differences between the petiole of the two plants. In a philodendron, it's much rounder and smoother and runs along the length of the plant. The brown color of the petiole stands out and is easy to locate.
The petioles on pothos have a grooved shape. Unlike the thinner petioles on philodendrons, it also develops a green shade.
Pothos and philodendrons come from two different parts of the world. The former is native to the forest in the Eastern Hemisphere. In contrast, philodendrons are available extensively in the Western Hemisphere.
However, both prefer warm and humid weather regarding the climate. Nevertheless, there are slight differences in the requirements of the two.
Pothos can survive in dry air, although creating a humid environment for the plant can help it thrive. Pothos are tropical plants and need to be kept warm, preferably between 60℉-80℉.
Philodendrons favor much less humidity than pathos, typically around 70%. However, it needs a warmer environment for best growth, around 70℉-90℉.
Both plants are great for indoor settings because of their reputation for loving low light. In fact, they can survive under any lighting conditions. However, extreme low light will definitely hamper their growth.
Pothos can tolerate low lights better than philodendrons. The latter can get leggy and often grows smaller leaves under dim light. Pothos aren't as sensitive to lighting and remain healthy, even if there's a lack of substantial sunlight.
When watering these two plants, it's better not to have any specific schedule. Feel for the dryness of the soil by placing your fingers two inches beneath it. If it appears dry, that means your plants are thirsty.
Having said that, the watering needs of philodendrons are comparatively lower than pothos. It's optimal to water them every ten days. It reduces the chances of over-watering and making the roots of the plant rot.
Pothos requires a bit of frequent watering, preferably every five days. It helps keep your plant healthy and fresh for longer.
Pothos vs. Philodendrons: The Final Word
Despite appearing similar, there are several differences in the two plants' physical appearance and growing needs. Understanding them helps identify pothos from philodendrons and take better care of them.