Heart vs. Hero: Pothos Power or Philodendron Finesse? Choose Your Plant Persona (And How To Tell Them Apart)!

Houseplants have become a popular trend, bringing a touch of nature into our homes while offering numerous benefits, such as improving air quality and boosting our mood. Among the vast world of houseplants, two standout options are the Jade Pothos and Philodendron Cordatum.

These popular houseplants are often confused due to their similar appearance, but they each have unique characteristics that make them distinct. In this blog post, we will dive into the world of “pothos vs philodendron”, exploring their differences, care requirements, and how to choose the perfect plant for your space.

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Key Takeaways

  • Pothos and Philodendron share similar care needs and general appearance, but they can be distinguished by their leaf forms, the appearance of new leaves, the color of their foliage, and the characteristics of their stems.

  • Both require bright indirect light with higher humidity levels to thrive. Philodendron is more adaptable to low-light conditions.

  • Consider appearance and light preferences when deciding between Pothos or Philodendron, both are beautiful additions!

Comparing Philodendron Cordatum and Jade Pothos

At first glance, Jade Pothos and Philodendron Cordatum may seem quite similar, but there are key differences that can help you distinguish between the two plants. Both belong to different genera, with Pothos being part of the Epipremnum genus and Philodendron belonging to its namesake genus, Philodendron. Understanding their differences will help you to choose the one that suits your conditions the best.

Examining their overall appearance, leaf shape, new foliage, leaf color, and stem shape will guide you in making an informed decision.

Overall Appearance

A picture of a philodendron plant (left) next to a pothos plant (right)

The first noticeable difference between Pothos and Philodendron Cordatum is their overall appearance. Pothos plants, also known as Devil’s Ivy, display a brighter, more vibrant green color. This striking hue can infuse any space with liveliness, contributing to Pothos’ widespread appeal among houseplant enthusiasts.

On the other hand, Philodendron Cordatum, also known as the heart leaf philodendron, boasts a more muted, subdued green color. This softer tone gives the plant an air of elegance and sophistication, making it a noteworthy presence in any room with its philodendron leaves and unique philodendron petiole.

As an avid plant enthusiast, I find myself leaning towards the Philodendron Cordatum. Its elegant and delicate appearance, coupled with its heart-shaped leaves, just resonates with my personal taste and preference.

Presence Or Absence Of Cataphylls

Philodendron cataphyll compared to new foliage of pothos

Philodendron plants produce cataphylls, specialized leaves that protect new foliage as it develops. These cataphylls are typically a different (redd-ish) color from the rest of the plant, adding another layer of visual interest to the Philodendron. You can see the cataphyll in the photo above where I hold it against my pinkie. You can find them at the tip of the vine where the new leaf is forming and then along the vine where they start drying off.

On the other hand, Pothos does not produce cataphylls. Instead, new Pothos leaves emerge from older growth in a lighter shade of green, slowly darkening to match the color of mature pothos leaf.

Color Of New Leaves

Color of new leaves of philo and pothos

The color of new leaves in both Pothos and Philodendron plants also serves as a distinctive feature.

When it comes to Philodendron, the new leaves often emerge with a dark red or bronze hue that gradually transitions into green as the leaf matures and ages.

On the other hand, new leaves on Pothos plants tend to unfurl in a lighter green hue. As these leaves grow and mature, they too darken, eventually matching the rich, jade green of the older foliage.

Leaf Shape

Leave shape of philo versus pothos

Another distinguishing feature between Pothos and Philodendron Cordatum is the shape and texture of their leaves.

Pothos leaves are notably thicker, have a waxy texture, and their surface is not perfectly smooth and kinda of bumpy. This feature lends the plant a robust and hardy look, contributing to its popular nickname, Devil’s Ivy.

In contrast, Philodendron Cordatum features delicate, heart-shaped leaves. Their thin and graceful appearance gives the plant a more refined and elegant look, which is why some people, like me, might prefer Philodendron Cordatum over regular Jade Pothos.

The Underside of Mature Leaves

The other Leave shape of philo versus pothos

In Pothos, the underside of the leaf blade maintains the same thick and waxy texture as the top, with a noticeably paler shade of green. This is due to the presence of fewer chloroplasts, the cell structures responsible for photosynthesis, on the underside of leaves. The leaf veins are more prominent and visible on the underside of the leaves.

On the other hand, the underside of a mature Philodendron leaf is a bit more delicate and less glossy, reflecting the overall elegance of the plant. The color is generally almost the same shade of green green as the top surface with veins more noticeable compared to the top.

Stem Characteristics

Philodendron stem versus pothos stem

When it comes to differentiating between Pothos and Philodendron, an often underappreciated but significant feature is the characteristics of their stems.

Pothos plants usually have sturdier, thicker stems that are almost polyhedral (multi-faceted) in cross-section. They are also lighter in color compared to the philo stems.

Conversely, Philodendron stems are usually slenderer and more refined, mirroring the overall elegance and sophistication of the plant. They are round in cross-section and darker compared to the stems of pothos.

Care Requirements: Pothos vs Philodendron

Despite their differences, Pothos and Philodendron share similar care requirements, making them both low-maintenance and suitable for a wide range of environments. Here are their care requirements:

  • Both plants prefer bright, indirect light, but can also tolerate lower light levels.

  • When it comes to watering, wait until the top inch of soil is dry, and be careful not to overwater, as this can cause root rot.

  • Both plants prefer higher humidity, but can also thrive in average household conditions.

  • Temperature-wise, they can tolerate a range of temperatures, with warmer conditions being optimal.

One key difference in their care requirements is their tolerance to low-light conditions. Philodendron plants are more adaptable to dimmer light conditions compared to Pothos. This adaptability makes Philodendron a better choice for spaces with limited natural light.

If you want to know more about these fascinating plants and how to care for them, be sure to check out my care guides for Pothos and Philodendron.

Propagation Techniques

Both Pothos and Philodendron plants can be easily propagated. The most common method for propagating these plants is through stem cuttings.

While the propagation process can be slightly different for each plant, success rates are generally high for both Pothos and Philodendron cuttings.

You can read more about it in my posts about propagating pothos and propagating philo.

Growth Habits and Adaptability

Pothos and Philodendron plants have similar growth habits, both being climbers in their natural environment and able to be cultivated as trailing plants or climbers in the home. Keep in mind, when I refer to Philodendron here, I’m specifically discussing Philodendron Cordatum. The Philodendron group of plants does include varieties that are not trailing types.

As a pothos plant, philodendron plants belong to the same family, making them highly adaptable to various environments and able to tolerate low light and average household humidity, while preferring warmer temperatures.

Their adaptability renders them ideal for various indoor spaces, from well-lit, sunny rooms to corners with dim lighting.

Toxicity and Pet Safety

one of my cats sitting next to my pothos and philo

It’s vital to be aware of the toxicity levels of both Pothos and Philodendron plants, especially if you have pets or young children at home or if you have sensitive skin. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Despite its popularity as a houseplant, Pothos can be toxic if ingested, causing mild gastrointestinal discomfort in both pets and children.

  • Similarly, Philodendrons are also toxic. Their sap can cause skin irritation or gastrointestinal distress if ingested by animals or children.

To ensure the safety of your loved ones and pets, follow these guidelines:

  1. Keep these plants out of reach of your pets and children.

  2. Promptly clean up any fallen leaves or stems.

  3. If your child or pet ingests any part of the plant, seek medical attention immediately.

If you have pets that have a tendency to nibble on houseplants, it might be best to steer clear of having these particular plants at home.

I am lucky in this regard. My cats seem to only have an appetite for Cyperus papyrus, so I’ve managed to safely keep both Philodendron and Pothos in my home. In the picture above, you can see one of my two cats, Domino, next to my pothos and philo.

Choosing the Right Plant for Your Space

A picture of me holding a philodendron and pothos plant side by side

When deciding whether a Pothos or Philodendron is right for your space, remember that these plants are largely similar in their needs and characteristics. The real distinguishing factor comes down to aesthetics.

As mentioned earlier, I prefer Philodendron Cordatum (Green Heart Leaf) due to its elegant and delicate appearance, as well as its heart-shaped leaves.

Popular Varieties of Pothos and Philodendron

A picture of a variegated pothos plant: Marble Queen Pothos

Pothos and Philodendron plants offer a wide range of shapes, sizes, and colors, making them an ideal choice for any home or office. Some popular Pothos varieties include the vibrant Jade Pothos, the stunning Marble Queen Pothos, and the classic Golden Pothos.

my cat masya with peals and jade pothos

One of the latest additions to my plant collection is a Jade And Pearls Pothos plant. Apart from its variegation, I really like the curling texture of the leaves. In the photo above, you can see it with my cat Masya.

A picture of a variegated philodendron plant: Philodendron Brasil

In the Philodendron family, popular varieties include the striking Philodendron Brasil, with its lime green stripe down the center of its leaves, and the luxurious Philodendron Micans, known for its velvety leaves.

Philodendron Micans in a store

While I usually like variegated varieties better, Philodendron Micans won my heart with its sophisticated look.

Leaf of Philodendron Micans

Just look at this stunning leaf vein pattern!


Throughout this blog post, we have explored the world of Pothos and Philodendron plants, comparing their key differences, care requirements, and growth habits. Although they may appear similar at first glance, their unique characteristics make them distinct and suitable for different spaces and preferences.

Whether you choose the vibrant Pothos or the elegant Philodendron, both plants can bring life, beauty, and a touch of nature to your home or office. With their low-maintenance care requirements and adaptability, Pothos and Philodendron plants are perfect choices for both beginners and experienced plant enthusiasts alike.


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