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Pothos vs Philodendron: What Is The Difference?

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    Pothos and philodendron are some of the most commonly preferred houseplants. Both pack advantages such as increasing our air quality, calming effects, trapping dust particles, creating wonderful aesthetics, and keeping us busy when caring for them as a hobby. 

    Both plants may seem to be entirely identical for the untrained eye, but they’re very different. They share similarities, such as their glossy green leaves and heart-shaped leaf edges. They also grow to the same height indoors.

    However, they differ significantly in their leaves, taxonomy, roots, requirements for growth, and how they grow and develop new leaves.

    Once we understand the distinct differences between Pothos Vs Philodendron, it becomes straightforward to distinguish both plants at first glance; but it requires a lot of practice.

    Pothos
    Philodendron

    Pothos

    Pothos is one of the easiest houseplants to grow, especially with the little attention and care they demand from their owners. They are the best plants recommended for beginner gardeners and busy hobbyists since they don’t require a lot and frequent watering. 

    The houseplant has beautiful green heart-shaped leaves that stick out of long vines. The leaves can be pale green or variegated with yellow and white patterns on some varieties.

    Pothos grows fast with a gradual increase of approximately 20 inches every month. It thrives in areas with bright indirect light but shows no issue with being planted in areas that do not receive sunlight.

    They also do not cling to supports on their own like the ivy plant, but they can be adapted onto supports to take the shape one desires.

    Common types of Pothos

    There are many species of pothos classified with mostly the leaf color.

    Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

    This is one of the original and traditional pothos variety. It has heart-shaped leaves with creamy gold splashes. The leaves could grow to 11 inches in width if given excellent care. 

    Marble queen pothos (Epipremnum aureum ‘Marble Queen’)

    The marble queen variety of pothos featured similar heart-shaped leaves with creamy white streaks. The green-white foliage is the same amount as in the golden pothos, but the marble queen may be less variegated. Variegation largely depends on the propagation process. 

    Less variegated plants produce less variegated varieties, and highly variegated plants produce heavily variegated plants when propagated.

    Jessenia pothos (Epipremnum ‘Jessenia’)

    The Jessenia pothos has a lime green variegation of its heart-shaped leaves. It exhibits leaf striations similar to the marble queen pothos. This variety also grows at a slower pace than the golden pothos.

    Manjula pothos (Epipremnum ‘Manjula’)

    The Manjula variety is a patented product of Florida University. The leaves have numerous variegated patterns with shades of silver, white, cream, and light green. Each leaf has its distinct variegation. The leaves have wavy edges and do not have a flat leaf plane like other varieties.

    Pearls and jade pothos (Epipremnum’ Pearls and Jade’)

    This variety has its leaves variegated with white and silverfish colors. The variegation occurs towards the edge of the leaf. They have smaller leaves.

    Cebu Blue Pothos (Epipremnum pinnatum ‘Cebu Blue’)

    The cebu blue has arrow-shaped leaves with no variegation. 

    Neon Pothos(Epipremnum ‘Neon’)

    It’s hard to confuse this variety compared to other Pothos varieties due to its distinct plain golden yellow leaf color. The Brightness of the leaves varies with age, with the older leaves having a darker chartreuse color. 

    Pothos Vs Philodendron

    Philodendron

    Philodendron is a houseplant loved for its superb aesthetic value and how it easily adapts to indoor conditions. Like pothos, it does not require much attention and would be an excellent option for beginner gardeners. 

    Common Types of philodendron

    There are many varieties of philodendron commonly differentiated by whether they are vining or non-climbing, variegated or not variegated.

    • Brasil philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum ‘Brasil’): This is a vining type with green leaves variegated with golden yellow.
    • Golden goddess philodendron: Has climbing stems with golden-yellow leaves. 
    • Green Congo philodendron: This philodendron variety is a large upright growing variety with shiny green leaves.
    • Prince of Orange philodendron: Has a shrubby appearance and copper-colored leaves
    • Birkin philodendron: The Birkin’s leaves are heavily streaked with crisp white on its dark green leaves. It does not climb. Care Guide
    • Brandi philodendron: This is a unique type featuring green leaves marbled in silver.
    • Pink princess philodendron Care Guide
    • Rojo Congo philodendron: This upright variety has green leaves which emerge purple-red when new. 
    • Flordia Ghost Philodendron Care Guide
    • Green heart leaf philodendron: This variety works best for hanging baskets with its vines and dark green heart-shaped leaves.
    • Micans philodendron: This philodendron variety packs satin-textured green leaves.
    • Moonlight philodendron: This variety emerges as bright chartreuse leaves before fading to a deep green. 
    • Super atom philodendron: This variety grows to 3 feet and has a compact and tight shape.
    • Philodendron selloum
    • Xanadu philodendron: The leaves of the Xanadu philodendron are ruffled at their edges and dark green.
    • Philodendron grazielae: This type has heart-shaped leaves on thick stems.

    Even with the species of philodendron plants differing, differentiating which plant belongs to the philodendron or pothos family might also prove difficult as some differences are not as noticeable.

    The Differences Between Pothos vs Philodendron

    The following are the key differences i use to identify the differences between Pothos and Philodendron:

    1. Taxonomy 

    One of the fundamental differences between Philodendron and Pothos is in their distinct names. Taxonomy is a term used by botanists and scientists to refer to naming, describing, and classifying organisms (both plants and animals).

    To differentiate both plants, it might be helpful to avoid using common references to the plants. For example, one may call a philodendron variety “the hanging houseplant” or the “basket plant.” Some common names for Pothos might be the Devil’s ivy or snake plant.

    The use of these street names may vary depending on location, which makes the terms very confusing. 

    The difference between both plants hangs in their genus. Philodendron distinctively belongs to the Epipremnum genus, while pothos belongs to the Philodendron genus. Both tropical plants are part of the araceae family.

    2. Leaf shapes and texture

    Another way to differentiate between the philodendron and pothos plants is using the shape that their foliage adapts. Philodendron plants acquire a distinct heart shape and a tailed apex.

    The sinus (space between the two rounded lobes where the petiole meets the leaf) is more pronounced in philodendron than in pothos.

    Philodendron leaves are more symmetrical compared to the asymmetric pothos leaves.

    I identify the texture by running my finger across the leaf blade. The pothos leaf has thicker waxy-like texture with a bumpy leaf blade. The philodendron has thinner leaves with a smooth texture. 

    3. Aerial roots

    Aerial roots are roots found above the ground and are used by most plants to capture moisture in the atmosphere and breathe. The philodendron features thinner aerial leaves, unlike the pothos, which have broader and stubbier aerial roots.

    4. Petiole

    The petiole is the leaf stalk that attaches the leaf to the stem of the plant. The pothos petiole has an indentation, is not uniform, and forms two brown edges.

    The philodendron petiole, however, has a round and uniform petiole with a regular shape. This is one of the very common ways to differentiate the two houseplants.

    5. Growth habit and development of new foliage

    The pothos plant unfurls and extends from a current leaf while a philodendron leaf extends on the vine. 

    6. Node sheath/ Cataphylls

    The node is the point at which the leaf and petiole meet the vine. The philodendron has sheaths at its nodes which turn papery and brown as it matures and falls off.

    This is a go-to feature as it’s only found in philodendron. Pothos, however, lacks this feature.

    7. Watering requirements

    Both plants require moist soil to thrive. However, when comparing some pothos varieties, such as the golden pothos vs philodendron, the golden pothos can retain more water due to its thick leaves and thus needs less water.

    Similarities Between Pothos vs Philodendron

    The similar traits of both plants make them harder to differentiate. The following are the shared traits between the Pothos and Philodendron 

    1. Both belong to the same family as both pothos and philodendron belong to the aroid plant family (Araceae).
    2. Some varieties of Pothos, such as Silver pothos or satin pothos, have heart-shaped foliage, making them look a lot like philodendron.
    3. Both have similar requirements of bright indirect light but can also grow in shaded areas.
    4. Both do not need a lot of fertilizer and can be fed once a year.
    5. Both perform similar functions of purifying the air we breathe at home.
    6. Both produce flowers that are almost as similar to the peace lily
    7. Both employ the use of aerial roots to climb and also absorb nutrients and moisture from the air.

    Knowing these differences and similarities will help us understand what we are purchasing the next time we walk into our favorite gardening shop or even differentiate between the plants we already have at home.

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