Pothos vs Monstera – How to Tell the Difference


A monstera on the article Pothos vs Monstera - How to Tell the Difference

Both are houseplants that thrive in indoor conditions – lush with green foliage and arguably similar features.

So, how can you tell one from the other? Well, that’s the question that plagues people who come across a Pothos vs a Monstera plant.

It’s easy to mistake one for the other, and while this might not look like a big deal, it is. After all, how can you properly care for a plant if you cannot identify its needs?

What a Pothos needs is not what a Monstera will need. So, that’s why you need to understand what makes them similar and what differentiates them. Let’s get started on this fact-finding journey, shall we?

Pothos Vs Monstera – What are the Similarities?

Okay, let’s start with what confuses people when looking at these strikingly similar plants. But before we do, let’s break them apart just a little bit further.

The Pothos is also known as the Devil’s Ivy, money plant, silver vine, and taro vine. So, if you have come across these names, you should know that they all point to the same plant.

A golden pothos

And what’s so great about it? Well, it’s easy to grow. Even if you continuously kill your houseplants, killing this one will not be easy.

Then there is the Monstera, a plant native to the rainforests in Central America. Its evergreen nature is what any home needs for that striking natural effect.

With a moderate growth rate, controlling this plant should be easy. Did we mention that it has glossy leaves? That’s just part of the icing on the cake.

Now, what makes these plants remotely close?

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1) Pothos Vs Monstera – Taxonomy

The Pothos is a vine that belongs to the Araceae family. The Monstera, a climbing evergreen also known as the split-leaf philodendron, also belongs to the Araceae family.

So, for the most part, these plants are the same and require similar growing conditions.

2) Pothos Vs Monstera – Trailing Habits

Both the Monstera and the Pothos feature a climbing mechanism. That means that they trail trees for support in the quest for light. If you are interested we have articles on both how to train a monstera to climb and how to train a pothos to climb.

So, they are known to grow to heights of up to sixty feet (18 meters) in the wild! Of course, they will only grow to about 10 feet in the home. And you can always control their growth if you think they are getting out of hand.

You may also like: How to care for a monstera

3) Pothos Vs Monstera – Sunlight Needs

When growing any houseplant, you must consider if you can afford it the sunlight it needs. So, let’s start with the basics in growing the Pothos and the Monstera.

The Pothos is native to the South Pacific and does best in hardiness zones 10 to 12. The Monstera also does well in these zones. Thus, regardless of your choice, these plants will thrive if you reside in such regions.

But how much sunlight will prove to be sufficient for these plants? We can start with their natural growing habitats – forests.

In the wild, these plants must trail trees to reach the canopy. So, they thrive under filtered light (partial sunlight) for the most part.

That’s where they do best. Now, if you want to plant them at home, you must position them in a place where they can receive such light.

You want them to be near light but not directly; they could get damaged. In direct sunlight, Monstera plants will burn.

Instead, they prefer temperatures within the 65- and 75-degrees Fahrenheit range. Does that mean that they should never be in contact with direct light?

For the most part, yes. But if you want the plants to grow bushy, leave them in direct sunlight at least once a year.

Placing them near a south-facing window can work for the rest of the year. Or you can add sheers to the windows to shield the plants from unwanted light.

Please note that north-facing windows barely receive any sunlight. And while they don’t need direct light, they still need enough light to keep growing.

For example, variegated Pothos plants can lose their patterns and turn green if they don’t get enough sunlight.

If you cannot provide the plants with enough sunlight, invest in artificial lighting.

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4) Pothos Vs Monstera – Soil Needs

An interesting feature of the Monstera and Pothos plants is their aerial roots. These can reach into the barks of the trees in the wild and derive nutrition from the same.

How amazing is that? But of course, when you grow them indoors, you must provide them with the best potting soil you can find. So, let’s figure out what this looks like for each plant.

The Pothos does best in well-draining potting soil. That means you can pretty much use anything you find at your local nursery – but it should be for aroids to suit this plant.

If you’re in for some DIY, you can make your potting mix. Add one part peat, another potting soil, some perlite, and some compost, and you are good.

Ensure the pot is also well-draining to avoid drowning the plant’s roots. A small to moderate pot should be good enough given the plant’s small structure and vining habits. PS: The plant is very forgiving of differences in pH.

It can thrive in both neutral and acidic conditions. So, the plant should be fine as long as you amend the soil to fall between or in these ranges. To be sure, test the soil’s pH before planting to avoid creating unfavorable conditions.

The Monstera is quite like the Pothos but more specific with its soil needs. It requires a peat-based potting medium when grown indoors.

So, when getting some from the nursery, you must ensure that it has peat as the main component. But what of growing the plant outdoors?

In that case, you can grow the plant in almost anything from sandy soils down to heavy clay soils. You must be mindful of the pH range, though – like the Pothos, it does well in neutral to acidic conditions and everything in between.

Ensure the soil is well-draining, and you will be fine. When choosing a pot, get a well-draining one in a moderate to large size to account for the bushiness.

5) Pothos Vs Monstera – Watering Requirements

These plants pretty much require the same watering techniques. But let’s cover each individually to give you a feel of their needs.

The Pothos enjoys moist soil. However, you must allow the soil to dry completely before watering it again.

Otherwise, the roots will sit in water, encouraging root rot which will kill the plant. If the plant starts developing black spots or collapses, that’s a sign of overwatering.

And often, when the signs are evident, the damage is quite extensive and could kill the plant if not dealt with. So, rather than keep giving it water, just water it when the soil is dry.

Bad watering techniques can also cause brown stems on your pothos plants which we cover in an article here.

Also, watch out for any underwatering signs like drooping leaves, browning edges, and shriveling.

How about the Monstera? Like the Pothos, this plant does best when watered intermittently. You should water its soil every one or two weeks during the growing season and only when the soil has slightly dried out.

Moisten the soil to the point that water exits the pot through the drainage holes. Then leave it. During winter and fall, only water it occasionally. This plant also appreciates humidity, so misting its leaves is a great tip.

6) Pothos Vs Monstera – Humidity Needs

A green monstera

When growing any plant indoors, recreating its natural habitat is always a good move. So, how do the Pothos and Monstera varieties thrive in the wild?

Well, they exist among canopies where the humidity levels are high. Thus, they both do well in tropical conditions. How can you recreate this? One option is to install a humidifier in the home.

The other is to forgo this option and ensure that the plants are warm. Average temperatures of 65°F-85°F should be enough.

So, you are better poised to leave the plants in rooms with adequate heating. What happens when the temperatures fall below this range? If they get lower than 59°F, the plants go into hibernation. And if they fall lower than 50 °F, the plants could die.

Is it a good idea to leave the plants near a heater? No, while you may think this will warm them, it can also damage their leaves.

Any direct heat or sudden drafts endanger the plants. So, instead, find a nice spot with optimal temperatures, and the plants should be fine.

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7) Pothos Vs Monstera – Toxicity

Did you know that both the Pothos and the Monstera are toxic? They contain calcium oxalate, which is harmful to humans and pets (cats and dogs).

So, what happens when you eat these plant parts? You can suffer indigestion, vomiting, or worse. If you accidentally consume the parts, flush your stomach with water and seek medical advice.

The same goes for when your pets consume any of these plant parts. To avoid such occurrences, always wash your hands after handling these plants. Also, position them away from pets and children for extra measures.

If you are enjoying this article, check out our article on the golden pothos vs hawaiian pothos.

Pothos vs Monstera – What are the Differences?

Both these plants make for excellent houseplants. So, why would one choose either plant? It comes down to their fundamental differences, including:

1) Pothos Vs Monstera – Leaf Sizes

Are you having a hard time telling these plants apart? Then the leaves are what will help you out of this rut.

A monstera leaf in the wild grows up to 50 inches long and 30 inches wide. That’s quite big! We’re talking about four feet in length! But of course, the leaves will not be that big in indoor conditions.

They often average 20 inches in length and about 15 in width. That’s still quite considerable (almost two feet in length and one in width).

So, does the Pothos measure anything close to this? In the wild, the Pothos reaches about 40 inches in length and 18 inches in width.

That right there is relatively smaller than the Monstera. We’ve got a difference of about 10 inches in length and about 10 in width.

So, what happens when we consider indoor Pothos plants? The difference is still relatively significant. The average Pothos measures 10 inches in length and about 6 in width.

Can you see why telling them apart could be easy?

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2) Pothos Vs Monstera – Leaf Structures

Leaf sizes, while good measures, will not jump out at you. Unless you are willing to take a tape measure to the leaves and start measuring, it won’t work.

So, how about we go with something simpler? – the structures. A Pothos leaf is solid all through. Unless it’s infested or grows in the wild, there’s no reason its leaves should feature any holes. How about the Monstera?

Well, this one has holes and cuts throughout the leaf surface. Some varieties even have their leaves cut in half or have huge holes covering almost half the surface. Examples of varieties include the deliciosa and the adansonii.

So, if you want an easy way to distinguish the two plants, that’s one way to go! However, this method has a caveat – young plants don’t have holes. That means that this measure only works for mature plants.

3) Pothos Vs Monstera – Growing Habits

We mentioned that the Pothos and Monstera plants are both climbing plants. You might think that this could make identifying them quite an uphill task, but they differ.

The Monstera is bushier than the Pothos. As it grows, it develops young rosettes which attach to the tree. These rosettes create stems on which the leaves grow.

The same rosette gives rise to roots that grow from the tree towards the ground. Then the rosettes mature and produce shoots, leading to the rise of new rosettes.

And the cycle continues with more leaves growing from the rosettes and more roots forming on the plants. As a result, the plant grows bushy.

How is this different from how the Pothos grows? Well, this one takes on a vine-like growth habit. Rather than grow upward and downward, it only grows up.

Each time the shoots come out, they grow towards the sun, creating more internodes. Also, seeing as the leaves are much smaller than those of the Monstera, the plant does not take up much space.

That makes it ideal for anyone looking for a hanging plant or a vine. It takes on a grape-like aesthetic.

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4) Pothos Vs Monstera – Fertilization Needs

A pothosWe earlier mentioned that the Monstera has a much larger structure than the Pothos. Moreover, it has a faster growth rate and thus, requires more fertilizer than the Pothos.

Ideally, you should amend its soil every few weeks using a balanced 20-20-20 fertilizer. Dilute half a teaspoon of the fertilizer in a gallon of water.

Then, instead of watering the plant, use this solution on the soil until you see it coming out of the draining holes. Then dispose of the extra fertilizer and wait until the soil dries out slightly before watering the plant.

Please note that these plants often need repotting more often due to their large sizes. So, keep an eye out for any signs the plant could be rootbound.

Pothos, unlike the Monsteras, are not heavy feeders. But since most potting soils don’t have any nutrients, you should feed the plant every two months with any balanced fertilizer. After all, it still needs some TLC.

Both plants don’t need any inputs in late autumn or winter. They are dormant during these periods, and adding fertilizer could disrupt this state.

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Final Thoughts

As you can see, the Pothos and the Monstera are more similar than different. So, the ultimate choice comes down to what you are looking for in a houseplant.

Suppose you want a plant that gives your indoors a bushy allure.

In that case, the Monstera is an excellent choice – with its perforated leaves adorning your space and its leaves growing several inches long, you will have enough cover to beautify your space.

And if you want even more growth, you can take it to the outdoors and watch the magic take place. But if you’re looking for a vine-like plant, then the Pothos is a great choice.

It does not take up much space, is easy to control and care for, and with subtlety, trails your home for that natural vibe. Happy Gardening!

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