Philodendron vs Pothos: Indoor Plant Comparison

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Philodendrons and pothos are both popular houseplants that are known for their trailing vines and easy-to-care-for nature. While these plants share some similarities, there are several key differences between them. Philodendrons typically have larger, more heart-shaped leaves and tend to grow more upright, while pothos have smaller, more elongated leaves and tend to trail more. Philodendrons also tend to have thicker, sturdier stems, while pothos stems are more delicate and flexible. Additionally, philodendrons are generally considered to be more toxic to pets and children than pothos, so it’s important to keep this in mind when choosing a plant for your home. Understanding the differences between philodendron and pothos can help gardeners choose the right plant for their specific needs and preferences.

Philodendron Overview

Heart Leaf Philodendron

Philodendrons are a diverse genus of plants belonging to the family Araceae. With over 500 species, these popular houseplants boast a wide variety of foliage shapes, sizes, and colors. Known for their ability to thrive in low light conditions and with varying levels of humidity, philodendrons make an excellent choice for indoor gardening enthusiasts.

These plants are native to tropical regions, primarily in Central and South America. As a result, they have adapted to grow underneath the forest canopy, which explains their preference for bright, indirect light. Philodendron plants are also climbers, using their aerial roots to attach themselves to trees and other structures in their natural habitat.

There are two main types of philodendrons: vining and non-vining. Vining philodendrons, such as the heartleaf philodendron, are known for their sprawling growth, while non-vining philodendrons, like the selloum or Xanadu, have a more upright and bushy appearance. Most philodendrons are relatively easy to care for, with their primary needs being consistent moisture and well-draining soil.

Distinguishing features of philodendron leaves include their pronounced heart shape, with a deep V near the stem, and their slightly wild appearance when compared to pothos leaves. Each node on a philodendron, the point where the leaf stem meets the main vine, features multiple smaller aerial roots that aid in the plant’s climbing habit.

Pothos Overview

Pothos in a ceramic pot

Pothos plants, scientifically belonging to the Epipremnum genus, are popular houseplants known for their versatility and easy-care nature. These plants feature attractive, heart-shaped leaves and have a tendency to climb or trail, thanks to their aggressive aerial roots (The Spruce). Pothos plants thrive in a wide range of environments and can tolerate various lighting conditions. However, they prefer bright, indirect sunlight and regular watering to maintain their health and appearance (Gardening Chores).

While similar to philodendron plants in many aspects, pothos distinguish themselves with some key differences. For instance, pothos plants tend to tolerate a small amount of direct sunlight without experiencing leaf burn, unlike philodendron plants (Gardening Chores). Additionally, pothos are more drought-hardy than their philodendron counterparts, meaning they can go for longer periods without water when necessary (Houseplant Authority).

Another notable difference between pothos and philodendrons lies in their leaf structure. While both plants have heart-shaped leaves, pothos leaves tend to be wider and have a less pronounced heart shape compared to philodendrons (All About Gardening). Moreover, their leaves exhibit slightly different textures, further distinguishing the two plant varieties.

When it comes to aerial roots, pothos plants generally have one larger root per node, while philodendron plants can exhibit several smaller roots per node, making them appear wilder and more untamed (The Spruce). In conclusion, while pothos and philodendrons share many similarities, notable differences in their growth habits, leaf structure, and tolerance make them distinct plants suitable for a variety of indoor conditions.

Similarities and Differences


Both Pothos and Philodendron plants have heart-shaped leaves, but the leaves of Philodendron plants display a more pronounced shape and a deeper V at the stem(All About Gardening). Pothos leaves are typically wider, while Philodendron leaves have a glossy, smooth texture with thin leaves. In contrast, Pothos leaves are thicker and have a waxy texture(All About Gardening).

Growth Patterns

Although Pothos and Philodendron plants share some similarities in their growth habits, they do have distinct differences. Philodendron plants can tolerate low light conditions more readily than Pothos, and Pothos plants generally prefer slightly higher temperatures than Philodendrons(The Spruce).

Caring for the Plants

Both Pothos and Philodendron plants make popular houseplants due to their easy-to-grow nature, and they can be grown both indoors or outdoors in most regions of the United States(Brainy Gardener). However, they do have some differences in care requirements. Philodendron can better tolerate low light conditions, while Pothos prefer higher temperatures, as mentioned earlier(The Spruce). Additionally, both plants can be propagated by cuttings(The Spruce).


It is important to note that both Pothos and Philodendron plants contain calcium oxalate crystals, which can be toxic to pets and humans if ingested(Plantquility). Therefore, it is recommended to keep these plants out of reach of children and pets to ensure their safety.

Ideal Plant for Your Space

Indoor vs. Outdoor

When deciding between philodendrons and pothos for your space, consider where you plan to place the plant. Both plants are suitable for indoor use, but they have different humidity preferences. Philodendrons require at least 65% humidity, ideally upwards of 80%, while pothos prefers areas with at least 50% humidity (source). If you live in an area with a humid climate, a philodendron might thrive better outdoors. However, in general, both plants are commonly grown indoors.

Plant Size and Placement

Both philodendrons and pothos are climbing plants that can grow quite large if not pruned regularly. During the growing season, philodendrons can grow up to 10 cm per week, while pothos can grow up to 12 cm per week (source). When deciding on plant placement, take note of the available space and any nearby surfaces on which the plants can climb. Keep in mind that both plants have aerial roots, with philodendrons having several smaller roots per node compared to pothos’ single, larger aerial root (source).

Light and Water Requirements

Light and water requirements also differ between these two plants:

  • Philodendrons: Prefer bright, indirect light and need evenly moist soil. Be careful not to overwater, as this can lead to root rot.
  • Pothos: Can tolerate lower light conditions, but prefer bright, indirect light for optimal growth. Allow the soil to dry slightly between waterings.

Both plants are relatively low-maintenance, making them a suitable choice for those new to houseplants or anyone looking to add some greenery to their space without requiring too much care or attention.

Propagation Techniques

Propagation is an essential part of plant care and provides an opportunity for plant enthusiasts to grow new plants from existing ones. This section will discuss the propagation methods of both philodendrons and pothos plants.

Philodendron Propagation

Philodendrons can be easily propagated through cuttings and offsets. To propagate a philodendron using cuttings, follow these steps:

  1. Cut a 4-inch piece of the stem just below a leaf node, making sure there are at least one or two leaves on the cutting.
  2. Remove the lower leaves, leaving at least one leaf at the top.
  3. Place the cutting in water, with the node submerged but not the leaves.
  4. After a few weeks, you should see new roots forming. Once they have grown to an inch or two in length, you can transfer the cutting to a pot with soil.

When propagating philodendrons from offsets, you can carefully separate the new plant from the parent plant and repot it in a new container. Be sure that the new offset has a small root system before attempting to repot it.

Pothos Propagation

Pothos plants can also be propagated through cuttings. Though they are more drought-tolerant than philodendrons, the process is quite similar:

  1. Take a 4-inch cutting from the stem, just below a leaf node, ensuring there are at least one or two leaves on the cutting.
  2. Remove lower leaves, keeping at least one leaf at the top of the cutting.
  3. Submerge the node in water, but be sure not to submerge the leaves. Alternately, you can place the cutting in moist soil or sphagnum moss.
  4. After a few weeks, you should see new roots forming. Once they’ve reached an appropriate length, you can transfer the cutting to a pot with soil if you used the water propagation method.

Both philodendrons and pothos can be easily propagated, making them ideal candidates for expanding your plant collection or sharing with fellow plant enthusiasts.

Diseases and Pests

Both philodendron and pothos plants may experience issues with pests and diseases. Knowing their common issues, prevention methods, and treatment strategies can help maintain their health and appearance.

Common Issues

Philodendrons may suffer from various pest attacks, including aphids, mealybugs, scales, and spider mites. These pests can also be found on other houseplants. In addition to common pests, philodendrons are susceptible to diseases such as leaf spot, blight, and other diseases brought on by improper care conditions.

While information on pothos-specific diseases and pests is limited, it is important to monitor these plants for similar issues, such as the ones that affect philodendrons.


Preventing diseases and pests starts with proper plant care. Ensure both philodendrons and pothos have optimal growing conditions, including sufficient light, proper watering, and adequate humidity levels. Regularly inspect your plants for any signs of pests or diseases, and isolate affected plants immediately to prevent the spread of issues to other plants.


Treating pests on philodendrons and pothos can be done with several methods. For minor infestations, using a soft cloth or cotton swab dipped in a mixture of water and mild dish soap can be applied to the affected areas. Larger infestations may require chemical treatments like insecticidal soap or horticultural oil, following the manufacturer’s instructions for application.

For diseases affecting the plants, such as leaf spot or blight, it’s essential to first identify the specific issue. Once diagnosed, remove any infected foliage and apply an appropriate fungicide, following the label instructions. Be sure to also address any contributing factors to the disease, such as improper watering or humidity levels, to prevent recurrence.

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