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Philodendron Vs. Pothos

Philodendrons and Pothos are two of the most popular and widely cultivated houseplants. These plants belong to the Araceae family and share many similarities, including their vining growth habit, easy care requirements, and tolerance for low light conditions.

An Overview Of The Differences Between Philodendron And Pothos

At first glance, Philodendron and Pothos plants look quite similar with their green leaves and vining growth habit, so they are often confused.

However, there are several key differences between the two plants. For example, the Philodendron petioles have a more pronounced and papery texture than the smooth and grooved Pothos petioles.

Philodendrons are part of the plant family Araceae and the Philodendron genus, while the Pothos belongs to the Epipremnum genus, commonly known as Devil’s Ivy.

Some cultivars of the Pothos plant, such as the Scindapsus and various Pothos varieties, have different leaf shapes and colors, making them more diverse in appearance compared to the Philodendron.

Regarding new leaves, Philodendron plants often have thin, papery cataphylls covering the new growth, while Pothos may have a more muted or varied coloration on new leaves.

Pothos Vs Philodendron – A Quick Look

Plant Characteristics & CarePothosPhilodendron
Scientific ClassificationKingdom: Plantae Clade: Tracheophytes Clade: Angiosperms Clade: Monocots Order: Alismatales Family: Araceae Genus: Epipremnum Species: Epipremnum aureum (also known as Pothos or Devil’s Ivy)Kingdom: Plantae Clade: Tracheophytes Clade: Angiosperms Clade: Monocots Order: Alismatales Family: Araceae Genus: Philodendron
Plant TypeTropical flowering vining plantsTropical flowering vining plants
OriginSolomon IslandsCentral and South America
AppearanceWith heart-shaped leaves in various colors and patterns, Pothos is a tropical vining plant prized for its ease of care and air purifying qualitiesKnown for its large, glossy leaves of various shapes and sizes, Philodendrons are tropical vining plants that grow several feet long
SizePothos grow up to several feet long and trail down from hanging baskets or climb up a trellis or pole, but they can also be pruned to control their size and shapeDepending on the species, Philodendrons grow anywhere from a few inches tall to several feet long, with some species able to grow into small trees over time
WaterPothos prefer their soil to dry out slightly between waterings, and they tolerate occasional periods of droughtPhilodendrons prefer evenly moist soil, but they should be allowed to dry out slightly between waterings
SunPothos grow in various light conditions but thrive in bright, indirect lightPhilodendrons prefer bright, indirect light but tolerate lower light levels, while direct sunlight should be avoided

More Information About These Two Plants

Plant Type

Most Philodendrons are vining plants that grow several feet long, making them a great choice for hanging baskets or training up a trellis or pole. However, some species, like the tree Philodendron, are more upright and grow into small trees over time.

Pothos is also a tropical vining plant belonging to the Araceae family. This family includes other popular houseplants like Monstera and ZZ plants.


Philodendrons are native to the rainforests of Central and South America, including the Amazon. They are found in countries ranging from Mexico to Bolivia.

Pothos is native to the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific.


The Philodendron and Pothos are two types of popular houseplants with similar appearances.

Philodendrons typically have large, glossy, heart-shaped leaves that grow from a central stem. The leaves vary in size and color but are usually dark green or a mix of green and yellow. Some Philodendrons have a climbing habit and produce aerial roots that attach to surfaces.

Pothos have leaves similar in shape to Philodendrons but smaller and more pointed. Pothos leaves are also glossy but may have more variegation in color, ranging from solid green to variegated with white, yellow, silver, or light green. Pothos also has a trailing habit and are grown as a hanging plant or trained to climb on a support, like a moss pole.


The size of Philodendrons and Pothos plants depends on their growing conditions and the specific variety of the plant.


  • Many indoor Philodendron varieties grow to be 2 to 6 feet (60 to 180 cm) tall and 2 to 3 feet (60 to 90 cm) wide.

  • Some smaller varieties, such as the dwarf Philodendron (Philodendron scandens Micans), grow up to 12 inches (30 cm) tall. In contrast, other species, such as the tree Philodendron (Philodendron bipinnatifidum), grow up to 10 to 15 feet (3 to 4.5 meters) tall.

  • Some climbing Philodendrons grow much larger, reaching heights of up to 10 to 20 feet (3 to 6 meters) if given a support structure to climb on.


  • Pothos plants grow up to 6 to 10 feet (180 to 300 cm) long if allowed to trail or climb without pruning.

  • Pothos plants kept as houseplants and regularly pruned to maintain their shape will generally be smaller, with lengths of 2 to 4 feet (60 to 120 cm) common.

It’s worth noting that Philodendrons and Pothos are fast-growing plants, so they reach these sizes quickly if given the right growing conditions.

Philodendrons grow into larger plants, with some species growing into small trees, while Pothos are more easily controlled with pruning.


The watering requirements of Pothos and Philodendrons are quite similar, and they both prefer the same growing conditions. However, a few subtle differences in their watering needs should be observed:

  • Pothos plants tolerate slightly drier soil than Philodendrons. While both plants prefer evenly moist soil, Pothos plants are more forgiving if the soil dries out slightly between waterings.

  • Philodendrons prefer more humidity than Pothos plants. If the air in your home is very dry, you may need to mist your Philodendron’s leaves to prevent them from drying out. In contrast, Pothos plants are generally less sensitive to humidity and tolerate drier air.

  • Philodendrons are more sensitive to overwatering than Pothos plants. While both plants prefer evenly moist but not waterlogged soil, Philodendrons are more susceptible to root rot if they are overwatered. If you’re unsure when to water your Philodendron, wait until the soil has dried out slightly rather than risk overwatering it.


The sunlight requirements of Philodendrons and Pothos are again quite similar, but some differences between the two plants are worth noting:

  • Philodendrons tolerate slightly lower light levels than Pothos. While both plants prefer bright, indirect light, Philodendrons also grow in low to medium-light conditions, making them more versatile regarding where they are placed in your home. However, Philodendrons cultivated in low light may develop more slowly and produce smaller leaves than those with more light.

  • Pothos tolerate slightly brighter light than Philodendrons. However, direct sunlight scorches the leaves of Pothos plants, so it’s best to avoid placing them in south-facing windows or direct sunlight for extended periods.

  • While there are differences in the preferred light levels of Philodendrons and Pothos plants, both plants are adaptable and tolerate a range of light levels.

If you’re unsure about the light requirements of your plant, it’s usually best to start with bright, indirect light and adjust as needed based on how the plant responds.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I have a Philodendron or Pothos?

To determine whether you have a Philodendron or Pothos, check the plant’s shape and color of its leaves.

The heartleaf Philodendron, for example, has heart-shaped leaves with glossy green foliage and thin, papery cataphylls covering the new growth. In contrast, the golden Pothos has variegated green and yellow leaves and smooth, grooved Pothos petioles.

Why is Pothos called Devil’s Ivy?

Pothos is commonly called devil’s ivy because of its ability to grow quickly and easily in various conditions, often taking over areas where it is not wanted. However, the name may also refer to the plant’s toughness and resilience, as it is drought-tolerant and survives with little water or light.

Why is a Philodendron a good plant for a beginner?

Philodendron plants are a good choice for beginners because they are low-maintenance and thrive in various light and moisture conditions. The Philodendron genus includes many types of Philodendrons, all with unique characteristics and care tips. These include the heartleaf Philodendron, Philodendron hederaceum, and Philodendron brasil.

They have a well-developed root system, making them easy to propagate and grow new plants. In contrast, Pothos varieties, such as marble queen Pothos, neon Pothos, jade Pothos, satin Pothos, and more, are also relatively easy to care for and propagated by simply cutting off nubs of new Pothos leaf growth and placing them in water or soil.

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