Have you ever thought about getting a Monstera or a Pothos, and wondered which of these two plants might better suit you? They are both popular, striking plants that will fill your home with beautiful foliage, but they are quite different.
The biggest differences between Monsteras and Pothos lie in the height that these plants can achieve and the look of their foliage. A Monstera can reach up to twenty meters tall (although houseplants do not reach this size), whereas a Pothos will usually only reach twelve meters. Monsteras have bright green leaves with fenestrations, whereas Pothos have solid leaves that are smooth all over.
How Do The Leaves Compare?
As mentioned, the leaves are probably the key factor in differentiating between these two plants. This is especially true in an indoor environment, where the height may not be such a clear indicator of which is which.
One of the first things that you might notice about a Monstera’s leaves is the fenestrations. This is the term for the large holes that often appear in the cheese plant’s leaves, and although these can vary between Monstera varieties, they are a clear distinguishing feature of the plant. They are thought to help lower leaves get sunlight.
A Pothos, by contrast, will not have fenestrations in its leaves; they are whole and smooth all over. This should make it easy to tell a Monstera and a Pothos apart because all but very young Monsteras should have the leaf fenestrations. Some may form as splits, rather than holes, but they will almost always be present.
There is also a stark difference between the two plants when it comes to leaf size. Monsteras have enormous leaves, and in the wild, these can reach up to fifty inches long and thirty inches across. In your home, it’s unlikely that they will grow to more than about fifteen inches wide and twenty inches long, but that’s still impressive.
A Monstera, therefore, has large foliage, whereas most household Pothos only grow leaves up to about five inches wide and ten inches long. It’s worth noting that some wild Pothos specimens have been found with much larger leaves, but this is not something that you would see in a Pothos grown indoors.
It’s unlikely that you would confuse a mature Pothos and a mature Monstera because the foliage looks so different when you put the two side by side. However, as young plants, before the Monstera develops its fenestrations and impressive size, the two may be easier to mix up.
Both plants have narrow, arrow-shaped leaves, and some varieties can look surprisingly similar. Given that they also have long, trailing stems, it’s no surprise that there is some confusion between them when they are small.
How Tall Do These Plants Get?
In the wild, a Monstera can reach heights of over 60 feet, and a Pothos can still reach an impressive 40 feet tall. Neither is likely to do this in a home environment, however. An indoor Pothos will probably only reach about ten feet, while the tallest Monstera is usually only around fifteen feet.
Again, in maturity, it should be easier to tell these two plants apart, although not all Monsteras will noticeably outgrow a Pothos. The height they reach will be very dependent on conditions, so it’s possible to have a taller Pothos in some situations, even though the Monstera should theoretically be taller.
How Do They Grow?
You are probably already aware that both of these plants are keen climbers, and will need something to climb up if they are to thrive. Unfortunately, this makes it harder to tell them apart, as they both produce long stems and tendrils that reach upward, and neither can support its own weight past a certain point.
However, you may be able to distinguish between them by looking at how dense their foliage is. The Monstera grows bushier, denser foliage, creating a wash of green, while the Pothos tends to be more of a scrambling vine. It is elegant, but thinner and less striking overall, even when it is a large specimen.
The Pothos is always looking for a way to grow upward, and it has a more vine-like appearance. It can be trained to grow around things and will keep winding and twisting, while the Monstera tends to have a central “point” and form a bushier aesthetic.
If you want to fill a corner with greenery, a Monstera is likely to be a better option, but if you want to train a plant up the walls, over doorways, or around windows, a Pothos is the right choice.
How Much Light Do They Need?
Sadly, if you were hoping for a plant to grow in a dark corner, neither the Pothos nor the Monstera will suffice. These plants have similar requirements when it comes to light, and they both prefer bright but indirect lighting.
Because these plants are native to rainforests with dense canopies above them, but also climb up and grow close to these canopies, they need plenty of light, with no direct sun. Their leaves are sensitive to burning and will not cope with being exposed to strong sunlight on a regular basis.
You may be able to find a position a few feet from a window where the direct sun doesn’t reach but there’s plenty of light, or you might wish to put up a shade that will protect the plant from the sun while still allowing it to photosynthesize.
Either way, both Pothos plants and Monsteras will require a decent amount of light, or a grow lamp if they are not getting enough.
What Kind Of Soil Do They Like?
Both of these plants will grow reasonably happily if they are placed in ordinary potting soil, but they will do better if they are grown in an aroid-friendly soil because this ensures that plenty of oxygen can reach their roots.
They prefer slightly acidic, but the Monstera will be fine with neutral soil (pH 7.0), whereas the Pothos is happier with acidic soil, generally between 6.0 and 6.5. You should not use an alkaline potting mix for either plant, but particularly for a Pothos, as it is likely to die if the conditions are above 7.
Monsteras and Pothos plants will be happiest if you mix some perlite into their containers to aid drainage. Both enjoy being damp but not wet, and will suffer if the container does not drain well.
You may wish to give a Monstera a larger pot since it will eventually be a larger plant, but in the early stages, this won’t be necessary. You can use identical equipment and potting medium for these two plants.
Do They Need Humidifying?
You’ll have to humidify both of these plants, and they enjoy a similar humidity range. Because the conditions in which they naturally grow are quite damp, air humidity of up to 75 percent (and preferably not less than 60 percent) is ideal for them.
This level of humidity will keep the leaves fresh and soft, and ensure that the aerial roots can soak up some moisture too. If you are using a moss pole, you can mist this to give your plant an extra drink.
If you are not able to humidify your plant, you shouldn’t need to be concerned, whether you are growing a Pothos or a Monstera. They will both cope with the humidity levels of the average home, although you may need to water them a little more frequently.
However, if you see the foliage starting to turn crispy or wilting, you should give them a quick spray with a plant mister once or twice a week to help them perk up.
How Should I Water One Of These Plants?
Given the other similarities between the preferences of these plants, you may not be surprised to learn that Monsteras and Pothos prefer to be damp most of the time, but not all of the time. They like their roots to dry out occasionally, rather than sitting constantly in water.
This is partly because they are vulnerable to root rot; if the soil in the container is always wet, the roots of these plants will quickly succumb to rot, and this will kill the plant fast. If you think you have overwatered either a Monstera or a Pothos, you need to dry it out promptly.
You can do this by increasing the air current in the room (but not directly on the plant, as neither of these plants will tolerate windy conditions). Try not to notably alter the temperature, but use airflow to help the water evaporate from the soil. Stop misting your plant for a while.
If you have seriously overwatered either of these plants and it is starting to look sick, repot it into a dry medium to reduce the risk of root rot. Remove any roots that have turned mushy before doing this.
You do not need to water either a Pothos or a Monstera much during the winter, as these plants tend to turn dormant, and don’t require much to drink at this time.
How Warm Do Monsteras And Pothos Plants Need To Be?
You are probably already aware that rainforests are generally warm, stable environments that rarely experience low temperatures – so this is the atmosphere that you need to mimic for your plant.
Both plants prefer to be kept in a temperature range between 65 and 85 degrees F. They will tolerate temperatures as low as 55 degrees F but tend to turn dormant at this point, and if temperatures drop further, they are likely to die.
They are sensitive to sudden changes, too. Because rainforests tend to be stable, Pothos plants and Monsteras are more likely to be shocked and damaged by an abrupt temperature fluctuation than a gradual increase or decrease.
If you have air conditioners or heaters in your home, position your plant a good distance (at least a couple of feet) from these, as it will not like the temperature variations that they cause. Both air conditions and heaters also tend to cause dry air, and for a humid-loving plant, this is not ideal.
Monsteras and Pothos will both experience visible foliage damage if they get too hot or cold. If this happens, move your plant to a more suitable environment, and remove any damaged foliage with sterile shears.
As you can see, there is a lot of overlap between the Monstera and the Pothos, and it’s not surprising that some people get the two plants confused. They need similar environments if they are to thrive, but Pothos plants are generally smaller than Monsteras and lack the classic leaf fenestrations.