Philodendron vs Pothos: Differences of Two Amazing Houseplants

Philodendron vs Pothos: Differences of Two Amazing Houseplants 2

Two of my favorite plants: philodendron and pothos. But which is better for growing indoors?

These plants are often mistaken for each other due to their similar appearance but they have distinctive characteristics and care requirements.

Taxonomy and Leaf Shape & Texture

Pothos belongs to the Epipremnum genus, while philodendron belongs to the Philodendron genus. Both plants are part of the aroid plant family (Araceae). However, it’s the variations in leaf shape and texture that truly set them apart.

Pothos plants have thicker, waxy leaves, which contribute to their glossy appearance. These leaves are oval-shaped and can grow quite large, providing a lush and vibrant display. On the other hand, philodendron plants have heart-shaped leaves that are generally thinner and more delicate. The texture of philodendron leaves is smoother, giving them an elegant and refined look. These leaf distinctions allow for easy differentiation between the two plants.

Characteristic Pothos Philodendron
Leaf shape
Leaf texture
Thicker, waxy
Thinner, smoother

Growing tips for different leaf characteristics

  • Due to their thicker leaves, pothos plants are more tolerant of dry indoor environments and can handle lower humidity levels.
  • Philodendron plants, with their thinner leaves, thrive in more humid conditions and benefit from occasional misting or placement near a source of humidity.
  • When it comes to cleaning the leaves, use a soft cloth or sponge to gently wipe away any dust or grime. Avoid excessive rubbing, as it can damage the delicate leaves of philodendron plants.

Aerial Roots and Growth Habits

Aerial Roots and Growth Habits
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One of the similarities between philodendron and pothos plants is their ability to develop aerial roots. These roots serve an important purpose in both plants’ growth and survival. The aerial roots of both philodendrons and pothos allow them to climb and vine around surfaces, making them ideal for indoor trellises or hanging baskets.

There are some differences in the aerial root development between the two plants. Pothos typically have one large aerial root per node, which can extend and attach to nearby structures for support. Philodendrons often have several smaller aerial roots per node, spreading out in multiple directions.

Another contrast in growth habits can be observed in the emergence of new leaves. In pothos plants, new leaves grow from the previous leaf, producing a neat and sequential arrangement. Philodendrons have protected emerging leaves. The new leaves emerge from sheaths called cataphylls, which protect the developing leaves and contribute to their unique unfolding process.

Similarities Contrasts
Both philodendron and pothos plants develop aerial roots
Pothos typically have one large aerial root per node, while philodendrons have several smaller aerial roots per node
New leaves on both plants contribute to their growth and appearance
New leaves in pothos grow from the previous leaf, while philodendrons have protected emerging leaves that emerge from cataphylls

Light and Temperature Requirements

Both plants can tolerate low light conditions but philodendrons are generally more tolerant. This means that if you have an area in your home with limited natural light, a philodendron may be a better choice.

On the other hand, pothos plants prefer somewhat higher temperatures compared to philodendrons. They thrive in a temperature range between 65°F and 85°F (18°C to 29°C), while philodendrons can tolerate slightly lower temperatures. So, if you live in a cooler environment or don’t have consistent control over the indoor temperature, a philodendron may be a more suitable option.

Light and Temperature Requirements Comparison

Factor Philodendron Pothos
Light Tolerance
Tolerates low light conditions, but prefers brighter indirect light
Tolerates low light conditions
Temperature Preference
Tolerates slightly lower temperatures
Thrives in a temperature range between 65°F and 85°F (18°C to 29°C)

Differences in Watering and Drought Tolerance

When it comes to watering and drought tolerance, there are notable differences between philodendron and pothos plants. Pothos plants are known for their resilience and ability to handle longer periods without water, making them more drought-tolerant compared to philodendrons. However, both plants still require appropriate watering to maintain their health and vitality.

For pothos, it is important to allow the soil to dry out before watering again. Overwatering can lead to root rot and other issues, so it’s crucial to strike a balance and avoid keeping the soil constantly wet. Philodendrons prefer slightly more regular watering, with the soil being kept slightly moist but not overly saturated. The key is to allow the top inch of soil to dry out before watering again.

To ensure the proper watering of these plants, it’s helpful to observe their foliage and soil moisture levels. Pothos plants exhibit visible signs of needing water, such as drooping or wilting leaves. In contrast, philodendrons may show signs of underwatering through the yellowing or browning of their leaves. By paying attention to these indicators and adjusting your watering routine accordingly, you can provide the ideal conditions for both plants.


Propagation by cuttings is a straightforward process for both pothos and philodendrons. Simply locate a healthy stem with a few leaves and make a clean cut just below a node.

Nodes are the points along the stem where leaves emerge. Place the cutting in water, making sure to change the water regularly to prevent rot, and wait for roots to develop. Once the roots are well-established, the cutting can be transferred to a pot with soil. Alternatively, you can skip the water stage and place the cutting directly into moist soil. Keep the soil consistently damp until the roots establish themselves.

Table: Propagation Methods for Pothos and Philodendron

Propagation Method Pothos Philodendron
Propagation by Cuttings
Propagation by Offsets
  • Propagation by Cuttings: Both pothos and philodendrons can be propagated through stem cuttings placed in water or soil.
  • Propagation by Offsets: Philodendrons can produce offsets, allowing new plants to emerge from the base of the parent plant.


While both pothos and philodendrons are toxic to cats and dogs, there are differences in the level of toxicity. Pothos is considered to be mildly toxic, while philodendrons can be more toxic and may cause skin irritation or gastrointestinal distress if ingested by pets. Pet owners should be aware of these differences when choosing between the two plants and take necessary precautions to keep their furry friends safe.

Plant Leaf Shape & Texture Aerial Roots Toxicity
Heart-shaped, thin leaves
Several smaller aerial roots per node
More toxic
Thicker, waxy leaves
One large aerial root per node
Mildly toxic

Fertilizing and Propagation


When it comes to distinguishing between philodendron and pothos plants, visual identification can be an essential tool. Paying attention to key characteristics will help you accurately differentiate between these two popular houseplants.

Overall Suitability for Beginners

When it comes to choosing between philodendron and pothos plants for beginners, both options are excellent. However, there are a few factors to consider that may make one plant more suitable for your needs and level of experience.

Growing Ease: Pothos is known for its resilience and ability to thrive in various conditions, making it an excellent choice for beginners. It can tolerate low light and infrequent watering, making it more forgiving if you’re still developing your green thumb.

Care Requirements: While both philodendron and pothos have similar care needs, philodendrons typically require slightly more attention. They prefer higher humidity levels and slightly lower temperatures compared to pothos. If you’re willing to provide a bit more care, a philodendron may be a rewarding option.

Personal Preference: Ultimately, your choice between philodendron and pothos may come down to personal preference. Consider factors such as leaf shape, growth habits, and visual aesthetics. Some people are drawn to the heart-shaped leaves of philodendrons, while others prefer the cascading vines of pothos.

If you have a large Swiss cheese plant that has outgrown its current pot, you may need to repot it into a larger container. Follow the potting and repotting guidelines to ensure the plant has enough space for its roots to grow.

Factors Philodendron Pothos
Growing Ease
Requires slightly more attention
Thrives in various conditions
Care Requirements
Higher humidity and slightly lower temperatures
Tolerates low light and infrequent watering
Personal Preference
Heart-shaped leaves
Cascading vines

The Popularity of Pothos and Philodendron

The Popularity of Pothos and Philodendron

When it comes to indoor plants, two species have been stealing the spotlight: pothos and philodendron. These plants have become favorites among plant enthusiasts due to their stunning beauty, ease of care, and adaptability to various indoor environments. By understanding the differences between pothos and philodendron, we can further appreciate the unique characteristics that have contributed to their popularity.

Pothos plants, with their lush green leaves and vining growth habit, have become a staple in many homes and offices. They are known for their ability to thrive in low light conditions, making them versatile options for those with less sun exposure. Pothos are also relatively drought-tolerant, meaning they can withstand longer periods without water, making them a great choice for busy plant owners.

On the other hand, philodendrons have captured hearts with their heart-shaped leaves and graceful vines. While they also tolerate low light conditions, philodendrons may require slightly more water than pothos. They prefer higher humidity levels and slightly cooler temperatures, making them an excellent choice for those seeking a tropical vibe in their indoor spaces.

Pothos Philodendron
Tolerates low light
Tolerates low light
Requires slightly more water
Thrives in higher temperatures
Thrives in slightly cooler temperatures

Both pothos and philodendrons are excellent choices for beginners and experienced plant enthusiasts alike. Their low maintenance nature and adaptability to different conditions have made them beloved additions to any indoor plant collection. Whether you choose pothos or philodendron, you can be sure that their popularity is well-deserved.

So, whether you go with the vibrant and versatile pothos or the tropical beauty of philodendron, both plants are sure to add a touch of nature to your indoor spaces and bring joy to your gardening journey.

Keeping your Swiss cheese plant healthy and vibrant requires being aware of common pests and diseases that can affect it. Here are some of the most common issues to watch out for:


What is the difference between philodendron and pothos plants?

Philodendron and pothos plants belong to different genera and have distinct leaf characteristics and growth habits.

How can I visually identify a philodendron or pothos plant?

Look for differences in leaf shape, texture, petioles, aerial roots, and new growth patterns to identify the type of plant you have.

Do philodendron and pothos have the same care requirements?

While they share some care similarities, there are differences in their light, temperature, watering, and humidity preferences.

Can both philodendron and pothos be grown in low light conditions?

Yes, both plants can tolerate low light, but philodendrons are generally more adaptable to lower light conditions.

Are philodendron and pothos toxic to pets?

Yes, both plants are toxic to cats and dogs, but philodendrons can be more toxic and may cause skin irritation or gastrointestinal distress if ingested.

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