Pothos and Philodendron plants are two of the most popular houseplant genera, but you may have noticed that, at first glance, they’re difficult to tell apart. In this article, we’re providing Pothos vs. Philodendron identification tips, including key differences and similarities, so you can expertly tell the two plant types apart.
While these popular houseplants have a similar appearance and share many of the same growth behaviors, they are different plants with unique features and specifications. They are easily distinguished from one another if you know what to look for.
By the time this article is done, you’ll be about to identify each of the tropical plants with relative ease!
Table of Contents
- 1 Origins of Pothos and Philodendron
- 2 Do All Philodendrons Look Like Pothos?
- 3 Pothos Vs. Philodendron
- 4 Common Types
- 5 Conclusion
Origins of Pothos and Philodendron
Before we dive into the differences, let’s start with definitions of each plant and essential information for each.
There are many Pothos cultivars, with one of the most common being the Golden Pothos. The scientific name for Pothos is Epipremnum aureum, and it’s commonly called Devil’s Ivy or the money plant.
It’s a common houseplant that’s incredibly easy to grow, and it does well with neglect – and can survive with sporadic waterings and bright indirect light. For these reasons, it’s a good option for offices and indoor gardens.
From the Araceae family, plants in the Pothos genus are native to China, Austrailia, New Guinea, Southeast Asia, and islands of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
This trailing vine has pointy, heart-shaped green leaves that are often variegated with white, yellow, or pale green striations (this is found in Golden Pothos and Marble Queen Pothos varieties).
Pothos grows and thrives indoors and grows quickly, with its vines reaching up. It may be planted all year indoors and will grow swiftly, frequently adding 12 to 18 inches of length in a month with proper care.
Because of the calcium oxalate and raphides in the Pothos genus, it is considered toxic to humans and pets.
Heartleaf neon philodendron vs neon pothos 🌱— MamaGreen 🌱 (@mamagreeen) October 27, 2019
I love looking at how completely different the leaves are. Even the way the plant vines a grows. ✨ pic.twitter.com/xk5su4k6dT
Philodendrons are another plant genus with approximately 450 species of species and cultivars. Also native to the Araceae family, these beauties have evolved to grow well in low-light conditions, such as an apartment or other living space. Like Pothos, Philodendrons are common houseplants that require very little maintenance.
The term Philodendron comes from the Greek words Philo (love) and dendron (tree). It’s known for having vines that climb tree trunks and other surfaces.
In its native habitat, it flowers at maturity, but this is an incredibly rare sight when grown indoors.
Philodendrons originated in the Caribbean, Venezuela, and Columbia – notably in humid, tropical climates. The varieties of plants in the Philodendron genus come in various sizes, shapes, and colors and have different species and cultivars.
Philodendrons thrive all year round and may clear the air by removing contaminants like formaldehyde.
Do All Philodendrons Look Like Pothos?
The short answer is, no, not all Philodendrons look similar to Pothos. It’s often just a few varieties, including Lemon Lime Philodendron, Philodendron cordatum heart leaf, heartleaf Philodendron, Micans Philodendron, and Philodendron Brazil that masquerade as Pothos plants.
Beyond that, Philodendron plants can get some pretty radical features that look – in no way – like the classic Epipremnum Aureum plants.
Pothos Vs. Philodendron
In terms of leaves, they have glossy green leaves in most cases (not including some of the variegated options) and even a similar-shaped leaf. Even the leaf size is about the same.
So at this point, you might be asking – wait, if they climb, have the same color and a similar leaf shape, how am I supposed to tell them apart?
The answer comes in slight differences in the leaves’ texture and shape. Philodendron and Pothos also produce new foliage in different ways, and their stems and roots have subtle differences. We’ll dive into these main differences below.
The general form and texture of the leaves are tell-tale differences between Pothos and philodendrons.
Both pothos and vining philodendrons have a similar overall shape – they look like hearts. That said, a Philodendron’s leaves are typically more asymmetrical and vary slightly, and Pothos plants have more symmetrical heart-shaped leaves.
A philodendron leaf will also have a more dramatic curve where it joins to the stem, called the petiole, similar to the apex of a heart.
Pothos also has thicker, waxier leaves than a heart leaf Philodendron. Philodendrons have a thinner leaf with a smoother texture.
Take your fingers and rub them across the leaf blade. If it’s a Pothos leaf, you should feel a bit of a bumpy texture that’s slightly raised. You should also notice a little more indented midrib (the leaf’s central vein).
On a Philodendron, the leaf should feel smooth to the touch.
Couple of my favorite lil vining guys satin pothos vs silver philodendron 🪴 pic.twitter.com/E4YilV4SJr— Mad Max (@maxipenalty) January 12, 2021
Pothos and Philodendron plants are both climbers of trees in their native habitat. They can grow as epiphytes, which means they grip and climb another plant – but they do not have a parasitic relationship with their host.
They climb through the use of aerial (air) roots that grip the sides of trees and other surfaces. These aerial roots serve two purposes. The first, as mentioned, is to anchor the plant to the surface, and the second is to absorb nutrients and water from the air.
There are some slight differences between the aerial roots of Pothos and Philodendrons.
Pothos aerial roots are typically thick, with just one nub per node, where the leaf and petiole join to the stem. On the other hand, Philodendron aerial roots are thinner, with groups of two to six at each node.
We should note here that both Philodendrons and Pothos varieties grow well indoors when given the option to climb. The most common way to do this is through a moss pole; it shares your plants a more natural environment and exposes their aerial roots.
Petioles are the little stems that link the plant’s leaves to the main stems. Pothos has recessed (curved inward) petioles that attach to the stem, but philodendrons have rounded petioles.
In terms of overall stem thickness, the Philodendron has slightly thicker stems, while the Pothos has comparatively thinner stems.
While it may seem exceptionally subtle, where the new leaves are produced can help you determine if the plant is a Pothos or Philodendron. The Pothos leaves extend from an existing leaf, and the Philodendron leaves appear on the vine in an almost opaque sheath called a cataphyll.
Here are our recommended grow lights for pothos and philodendron:
Pothos and Philodendron are both genus types, with many different cultivars. Here are some of the most common types.
Common Pothos Varieties
There are nearly 40 different Pothos varieties out there, and here are some of our favorites from the Epipremnum genus.
The Devil’s Ivy, Pothos, and Devil’s Vine are all common names for the Golden Pothos. It features heart-shaped, deep green leaves with yellow variegation.
Pothos plants are frequently and readily mistaken for their Heartleaf Philodendron relatives. While they both require similar care, pothos plants have more prominent, thicker leaves and are more likely to exhibit marbled hues than philodendrons.
This popular Pothos has light green leaves and creamy white variegation. It’s adaptable, forgiving, and simple to cultivate. They may flourish in almost any location in your home and don’t require frequent pruning or repotting to thrive. Marble queen pothos, in reality, like to be slightly rootbound and should only need to be repotted every couple of years.
Jessenia Pothos is well-known for its gorgeous marbled limey-green variegation pattern.
Jessenia Plant, Epipremnum Jessenia, and E. Aureum Jessenia are all names for this tropical plant.
According to the University of Florida, this plant, like her Njoy Pothos sibling, is a cultivar of the Marble Queen Pothos.
Because of its unique variegated leaves with light green edges and a dark green center, the Emerald Pothos is considered a rare variation of the NJoy Pothos. The fluidity of the patterns enhances the beauty of the plant.
To the untrained eye, Emerald Pothos plants might be confused with Global Green Pothos plants. The Emerald Pothos’ leaves are lighter green with darker green variegation dots in the middle. The variegation is also less prominent than in Global Green, with the colors frequently blending together rather than forming solid lines.
Because of its stunning variegation, Glacier Pothos is a well-known perennial nowadays.
It has heart-shaped leaves with olive green-gray foliage with sparkling white and silvery gray flecks. Its scientific name is Epipremnum Aureum Glacier, but it is also known as Old Man Njoy, Pothos Glacier, and E. Aureum Glacier. It sometimes gets mistaken for the NJoy Pothos.
This tropical plant was discovered in 2002 by Dr. Ashish Arvind Hansoti, the same person who found the Manjula Pothos. It is a cultivar of the Marble Queen Pothos. Although the two plants bear a passing similarity, the branch mutation occurs naturally.
This tropical plant is well-known for its glossy leaves that lack variegation.
Identifying this Pothos can be difficult, especially because several Pothos cultivars, such as Jade Pothos and Golden Pothos, seem pretty similar. However, there are color differences that make them clearly distinguishable.
The Jade Pothos is identical to the Golden Pothos except for the absence of variegation. The leaves are a pure green color with no golden flecks and resemble those of a low-light Pothos. The green tone is similar and deepens when the plant is exposed to better light.
Neon Pothos, sometimes known as lemon-lime philodendrons (incorrectly), is a one-of-a-kind plant! It is one of the most beautiful home plants due to its vibrant neon-green leaf, as the name implies.
The Neon Pothos is native to the South Pacific Solomon Islands. Pothos is sometimes mislabeled as a philodendron in plant stores, but the neon chartreuse leaves of this variety should clear up any doubt.
Like the Pothos genus, there are several varieties within the Philodendron genus, and they have a bit more variation than their Pothos cousins. While some Philodendrons have classic heart-shaped leaves, others have an incredibly unique shape and color. Here are some of our favorites.
Philodendron hederaceum, also known as Heartleaf philodendron, Sweetheart plant, and Philodendron micans, features heart-shaped dark green, light green, or bronze leaves, as well as heart-shaped emerald leaves. The hederaceum varieties are commonly confused with Pothos plants.
Heartleaf philodendron houseplants thrive near east and north-facing windows and may thrive in low-light conditions.
Hederaceum Philodendron Lemon, also known as Lemon Lime Philodendron, Sweetheart Vine, and Lemon Lime Heartleaf Philodendron, is a trailing perennial with vivid yellow to chartreuse leaves. This Araceae family tropical plant has heart-shaped, yellow-green leaves.
The Philodendron Dark Lord is also known as Dark Knight Philodendron and Dark Lord Philodendron. As the name suggests, it is a tropical plant known for its vast dark green leaves.
The Philodendron Xanadu is an Araceae family perennial. It is appreciated for its thick, clumping foliage and has dark green multi-lobed leaves.
Philodendron Xanadu, also known as Philodendron Winterbourn, Xanadu, and Xanadu Philodendron, thrives as a houseplant in an east or west-facing window.
This Philodendron is known for its bi-colored foliage and has dark green, lime green, and creamy yellow heart-shaped leaves.
This plant closely resembles and is frequently confused with Philodendron Mamei. However, these two are readily distinguished: Plowmanii does not have silver variegation, but Mamei does. Plowman’s petiole margins are likewise ruffled, but Mamei’s are rounder and smoother.
The main distinguishing feature of the Philodendron Pink Princess, also known as the Blushing Philodendron, is its bubblegum pink variegation. This perennial, which is frequently considered uncommon (and expensive), requires more light than other Philodendrons to maintain its variegation.
The Pink Princess is well-known for reverting and completely losing its pink variegation. This plant has a Chimeric variegation, which means that the variegation occurs spontaneously and can alter in kind and appearance – or even disappear entirely. In other words, young leaves may end up completely green, with no pink at all.
This plant is frequently misidentified as the Philodendron Florida Ghost. Philodendron Pedatum is a tall, sturdy climber with broad, lobed leaves and smooth green petioles. Young leaves are lighter in color than adult leaves, ranging from bright green to deep blue-green, and can take on different shapes according to age.
Philodendron Strawberry Shake is a hybrid plant, but its origins are unknown. It is said to be descended from Philodendron Erubescens and is endemic to Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America’s rainforests.
It has spade-shaped leaves that are variegated in dazzling white, cream, pink, and deep red. It is appreciated for its magnificent and one-of-a-kind colors.
Not A Pothos Or A Philodendron?
Did you know that the Scindapsus pictus, commonly called the Satin Pothos, Silver Pothos, and Silvery Anne, is not, in fact, a Pothos or a Philodendron? While considered cousins to both plant genera, the Scinadpsus pictus, which has green or silver-grey leaves, is truly a unique plant that gets labeled as a common one.
While there are many species of Pothos and Philodendron, these indoor plants still have very distinct differences. And the good news is that only a small portion of Philodendrons share even a passing resemblance to Pothos. My best advice is to lean into these much more exciting plant varieties in the Philodendron Genus. Check out our top Philodendron picks before you add more plants to your collection.
And if you need to identify a Philodendron vs. Pothos, start with their leaf growth differences, petioles, leaf shape, aerial roots, and texture. You can do it!