How to tell the difference between pothos and philodendrons and care for them accordingly

RENO, Nevada (KOLO) — Pothos and philodendrons are easy choices for people looking to add greenery to their home. They don’t require a lot of light, water or attention. So if you want to be a lazy plant parent, these vines are for you. Plus, they’re spectacular and will let you know when they’re thirsty, limp and watery. But a quick pour and they’ll bounce right back.

Samantha Stremmel, owner of Sierra Water Gardens, stopped by Morning Break to share her expertise on these easy-care plants.

They belong to the same family of aroid plants, but they have different genera. The genus of Pothos is epipremnum and the genus of philodendron is philodendron. They look very similar, but they have a few key differences that make it easy to tell them apart.


  • Leaf shape:
    • Philodendrons have heart-shaped leaves that are thinner and softer.
    • Pothos are thicker and waxier.
  • Aerial roots and petioles:
    • Pothos have only one large aerial root per node.
    • Philodendrons have a lot of them.
  • Growth habits and new leaves:
    • The new leaves of pothos plants simply grow and unfurl from the previous leaf.
    • When new leaves grow on a trailing philodendron, they emerge from the cataphylls, which are essentially small leaves that wrap and protect the new leaf as it grows. They usually remain on the plant after the new leaf unfolds, eventually drying up and falling off.
  • Increasing differences:
    • Both plants have similar light, soil, water, and temperature needs; and both are considered low maintenance.
    • Philodendrons can tolerate low light a bit better than pothos, and they can also withstand cooler temperatures better.
    • Pothos are more drought tolerant than philodendrons.
    • Both can be propagated by cuttings.

There is another climbing plant that is often confused with pothos and philodendrons. Scindapsus pictus is another plant in the Araceae family that goes by the common name satin pothos, although it is not a pothos at all.

To choose the plant that’s right for you, follow Sierra Water Gardens on Facebook and Instagram.

Visit them at 2055 Dickerson Road in Reno.

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