Pothos vs Philodendron: Unveiling the Differences

Pothos and Philodendron are two popular houseplants that often confuse plant enthusiasts due to their similarities in appearance.

However, with a closer look, it becomes evident that these plants belong to different genera and possess distinct characteristics.

In this comprehensive guide, we will dive into the taxonomy, leaf shape, aerial roots, sheaths, and petioles of Pothos and Philodendron to help you easily differentiate between these two stunning plants.

Taxonomy: Understanding the Basics

Taxonomy, the science of naming and classifying organisms, provides us with a foundation to distinguish between Pothos and Philodendron.

While both are common names, Pothos belongs to the Epipremnum genus, and Philodendron belongs to the Philodendron genus.

Although they are related as members of the aroid plant family (Araceae), their genetic differences give rise to unique characteristics.

Shape of the Leaves: A Visual Clue

One of the easiest ways to differentiate between Pothos and Philodendron is by examining the shape of their leaves. Pothos leaves lack the pronounced curving and heart shape that are characteristic of Philodendron’s heart leaf.

By observing the widest part of the leaf, you can quickly determine whether you are dealing with a Pothos or a Philodendron.

Aerial Roots: Climbing Adaptations

Another distinguishing feature between Pothos and Philodendron is the appearance of their aerial roots. Aerial roots serve as climbers for these plants in their natural habitats.

Pothos exhibits wider and stubbier roots compared to the thinner aerial roots of Philodendron. As Pothos and Philodendron climb and mature, they develop larger foliage to support their growth.

Sheath: Philodendron’s Unique Trait

A notable characteristic of Philodendron is the presence of sheaths that emerge from the nodes where the leaf and petiole meet the vine.

These sheaths, also known as cataphylls, protect the plant as it grows and eventually turn brown and papery. In contrast, Pothos does not possess these sheaths.

By observing the presence or absence of sheaths, you can easily identify a Philodendron.

“The sheaths, or cataphylls, of Philodendron serve to protect the plant as it grows.” – Author

Petiole: A Tell-Tale Sign

The petiole, which joins the leaf to the vine, provides another clue to differentiate between Pothos and Philodendron.

The petiole of Philodendron is round and uniform, while Pothos exhibits an indentation and forms two brown, papery edges over time.

This distinction makes it effortless to identify whether you are dealing with a Pothos or a Philodendron.

“The round and uniform petiole of Philodendron distinguishes it from the indented petiole of Pothos.” – Author

Types of Pothos and Philodendron

Within each genus, Pothos and Philodendron, there is a wide variety of species and cultivars, each with its unique characteristics.

Let’s explore some of the popular varieties within these two genera:

Pothos Varieties

  • Golden Pothos: Epipremnum aureum, the most common Pothos variety with its variegated leaves.
  • N’Joy Pothos: A Pothos variety with beautiful variegation.
  • Marble Queen Pothos: A Pothos variety characterized by its marbled leaf pattern.
  • Pearls and Jade Pothos: This Pothos variety showcases pearl-like variegation on its leaves.
  • Jade Pothos: A Pothos variety with deep green, glossy leaves.
  • Cebu Blue Pothos: Epipremnum pinnatum ‘Cebu Blue,’ a unique Pothos variety with striking blue-green foliage.

Philodendron Varieties

  • Heart Leaf Philodendron: Philodendron scandens, recognizable by its heart-shaped leaves.
  • Philodendron ‘Brasil’: A variety with stunning leaf variegation.
  • Philodendron ‘Pink Princess’: This Philodendron variety features striking pink variegation on its leaves.
  • Philodendron ‘Moonlight’: A Philodendron cultivar with vibrant, yellow-green leaves.
  • Philodendron ‘Xanadu’: A compact Philodendron variety with deeply lobed leaves.


In conclusion, although Pothos and Philodendron may share some similarities, their taxonomy, leaf shape, aerial roots, sheaths, and petioles can help us easily differentiate between the two.

By understanding these key characteristics, you can confidently identify whether you have a Pothos or a Philodendron in your plant collection.

So, go ahead and enjoy the beauty of these remarkable houseplants, knowing that you can tell them apart with precision.

“Understanding the taxonomy and distinct characteristics of Pothos and Philodendron allows us to differentiate between these two fascinating plants.” – Author

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