Tropical Style

The Differences Between Golden Pothos & Heartleaf Philodendron

Leafy green houseplants may add a little bit of the outside for a indoor environment, a particularly welcome feature through the cool winter season. Heartleaf philodendron (Philodendron scandens) and golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum) are two options that share a few similarities, but also differ in a lot of ways. Both make fast-growing houseplants and can be grown outdoors year round in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 and 11.

Origin and Foliage

Golden pothos is indigenous to the Solomon Islands, where it grows wild as a climbing vine, covering tree trunks or tumbling along the ground. In its native habitat, it may attain a full span of around 40 feet. Heartleaf philodendron is also a tropical plant, but grows wild in Mexico, the West Indies and Brazil, in which the vines normally reach a whole length of 20 feet. Although both plants possess heart-shaped leaves, those on adult philodendron plants are approximately 12 inches long, while gold pothos leaves are larger, up to 30 inches in length.


As its name suggests, foliage on golden pothos has yellow accents, with many variations in the leaves on one plant. Some leaves may be greatly marbled in green and yellow, but some have just a few gold accents, and still others are almost fully yellow. In contrast, leaves heartleaf philodendron plants are uniformly dark green, with a distinct surface gloss. A few of its leaves may also develop a bronze tinge, particularly those that have recently emerged and remain youthful.


Both heartleaf philodendron and golden pothos belong to the Arum family and also have similar-shaped blossoms, known as spathes, which possess one, oval-shaped structure which stands upright as a backdrop to a yellow, tubular spike. But heartleaf philodendron includes greenish-colored, showy spathes that appear now and then on plants grown inside, while gold pothos seldom flowers inside. When grown outside, heartleaf philodendrum does occasionally blossom, but has pure white or yellowish white blooms.

Cultural Differences

Even though both gold pothos and heartleaf philodendron do well when grown inside in indirect lighting, pothos tolerates more sun than heartleaf philodendron. When grown in low lighting, pothos tends to lose its gold color, which grows best when the plant receives bright light or sun for a few hours every day. Golden pothos also has slightly thicker leaves than heartleaf philodendron and is somewhat more drought tolerant. When grown outside, it can even develop well in shallow, rocky soil that has inferior water-retaining properties.

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