Hawaiian Pothos vs. Golden Pothos: What’s The Difference?

If you are comparing the Hawaiian pothos vs. the golden pothos as a potential contender for your next indoor houseplant, you aren't alone! Both of these plants are quite popular with amateur and expert gardeners alike. In this article, gardening expert Madison Moulton compares both plants by examining their differences and similarities.

Hawaiian Pothos vs Golden Pothos

There are so many wonderful Pothos cultivars that it can be hard to keep up. From patches of stark white to flecks of gold, there is an option for every kind of houseplant lover. But when you start comparing the different types available to grow as your next houseplant, the choices can become a bit confusing!

The Golden Pothos, the most common of all the Pothos types, looks almost identical to another interesting cultivar – Hawaiian Pothos. There is little that sets these two apart, with only slight differences in appearance to allow you to identify which is which. 

In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about both plants. This way, you have a bit more background on each before you welcome one into your home. Or, you can do what I do most of the time, which is grow one of each, even in the same pot! Let’s jump in and take a deeper look at these two popular houseplants!

Hawaiian Pothos vs. Golden Pothos Comparison

Pothos Leaves With White Variegation and With Golden Variegation

Specification

Scientific Name

Mature Size

Native Region

Leaf Appearance

Leaf Color

Growth Difficulty

Soil Preference

Sun Exposure

Lighting Tolerance

Hawaiian Pothos

Epipremnum aureum ‘Hawaiian’’

4 feet Indoors

Central and South America

Heart-shaped

Green With Creamy Yellow Flecks

Beginner-friendly

Light, Well-draining

Bright, Indirect Light

Low-light Tolerant

Golden Pothos

Epipremnum aureum

10+ feet

Central and South America

Heart-shaped

Green With Yellow Flecks

Beginner-friendly

Light, Well-draining

Bright, Indirect Light

Low-light Tolerant

Plant Overview

Before we get into all the details and compare each plant’s physical characteristics, it’s important to understand a bit about their species, and how they come together. In this section, you’ll learn about their native areas, and which of the two is a bit more rare.

Taxonomy 

Walls of Green Leaves
These two plants look very similar because they are part of the same species.

All Pothos plants fall under the species Epipremnum aureum. Their main common name comes from the original genus they were placed in when they were first classified. 

But, they are also commonly called Devil’s Ivy due to their ability to spread and take over an area, as well as Money Plants, believed to bring luck and financial prosperity in some regions. 

Golden Pothos is the common name of the main species. It is named Golden Pothos after the specific epithet aureum which references the golden flecks in the leaves. Golden Pothos is common around the world, one of the most commonly recommended beginner-friendly houseplants. 

Hawaiian Pothos is a cultivar of this same species. That means these plants are both incredibly closely related, with only a few small characteristics setting them apart. 

Both plants fall under the Epipremnum genus along with other tropical plants like Epipremnum pinnatum. This genus is part of the arum family – Araceae – that includes the close lookalike, Philodendron. 

Philodendron hederaceum is often confused for Pothos plants due to the similar structure and looks. However, both plants have unique coloring that doesn’t appear in any Philodendron hederaceum cultivars, making them easy to tell apart. 

Native Area 

Large Trees With Devils Ivy Growing on Them
Pothos plants can grow to be very large, around 10 feet, when left in their natural tropical habitat.

All Pothos species are native to the islands of French Polynesia. They reside in tropical forests where the weather is warm and humidity is high. This explains their love of indoor conditions and tolerance of higher heat than some other houseplants. 

All Pothos cultivars are classified as invasive in some regions. Out of their habitats and released into new areas, the vines rapidly spread to suffocate native plants and take over entire regions. 

If you’re growing either of these plants, it’s vital to keep them contained in their pots and indoors to avoid the destruction of local habitats. 

When planted outdoors and in the right climates, you may not even recognize either plant. These plants grow far taller outdoors – well over 10 feet – and develop massive leaves with splits in the sides. 

The already large Hawaiian Pothos grows even bigger outdoors with leaves potentially larger than a foot in width alone. 

Rarity 

Common Houseplants Up Close
Both plants are fairly easy to find, depending on where you look.

Golden Pothos, the original Pothos, is not a rare plant. They are quite common and frequently purchased as perfect beginner plants for new indoor gardeners. 

You can find them at any local nursery or garden supply store. They are also available to purchase online, often in hanging pots but also frequently strung around moss poles. 

The Hawaiian Pothos may be slightly tougher to find but are not classified as incredibly rare. Where you may struggle is finding one that is correctly labeled. 

Both plants look incredibly similar in the early stages of growth. If the leaves are of a similar size, a Golden Pothos may be named a Hawaiian Pothos in nurseries and vice versa. 

It’s therefore important to buy from a reputable seller to be sure you’re getting the exact plant you’re looking for. 

Appearance

When comparing the appearances of both of these plants, usually color stands out first. But there’s also some subtle differences in their leaf shape. They also differ slightly in size, so let’s take a deeper look at all of these factors.

Leaf Shape 

Heart Shaped Plants
Both plants have leaves that are shaped like hearts but Golden Pothos leaves are slightly more pointed.

Most Pothos plants have leaves classified as a heart shape, with rounded bases and pointed tips. The foliage draws in slightly where the petiole meets the leaf, creating a gentle heart shape. This shape is more pronounced in some cultivars than in others. 

Both plants have very similar leaf shapes. The only distinguishing factor is that Hawaiian Pothos leaves are slightly more rounded at the tips than the Golden Pothos, but this can also differ from plant to plant. 

Ultimately, based on shape alone, it is difficult to tell these two plants apart. 

Leaf Color 

Plants With Flecks of Variegation
Both plants are quite similar in color to one another.

Golden Pothos has flecks of golden variegation that lend it its name. The pattern differs from leaf to leaf, with some featuring green patches and spots of gold, while others are almost glowing with the amount of yellow variegation. 

Hawaiian Pothos has a similar pattern and color. At first glance, they look like the same plant. However, taking a closer look, you may notice that the variegation of the Hawaiian Pothos is a light yellow, almost creamy color, and can even be white

With higher light levels, the Hawaiian Pothos can turn a darker, more golden yellow. But the variegation will generally remain lighter and less intense than that of the Golden Pothos. 

Plant Size 

Two similar plants
The Hawaiian Pothos is most often the bigger of the two.

Plant size is pretty much the only way to tell these two plants apart, and even that is not conclusive on every occasion. 

The main difference between these two Pothos plants is in leaf size. Golden Pothos remain relatively small indoors, while Hawaiian Pothos leaves grow much larger under the same conditions – usually bigger than the size of your hand if the lighting is right. 

Hawaiian Pothos plants are generally bigger overall and grow comparatively faster due to their size and larger leaves that take in more sunlight. But this growth difference is usually so small, that it’s almost negligible. 

Instead, focus on the leaf size of the mature plant and you should be able to tell the two plants apart.

Care 

Due to their similarities in growth habits and color, care for these plants is exactly the same. They are both beginner-friendly and low maintenance, making them ideal plants to tackle for first-time growers. 

Light 

Devils Ivy Plants Growing in Bright Indirect Light
To mimic the natural growing conditions, bright indirect light is best for all pothos plants.

Pothos plants can handle a wide range of lighting conditions with ease. They appear on many low-light tolerant houseplant lists and will not show signs of struggle in almost any corner of your home with at least one window. 

But, if you want them to grow to their full potential, bright indirect light is the goal. This closely replicates the dappled sunlight conditions they are accustomed to in their natural habitats, climbing up trees or along forest floors. 

Hawaiian Pothos in particular will benefit from bright indirect light to improve leaf growth. This cultivar is sought after for the stunning foliage, so giving it enough light to grow to its full potential is important. In lower lighting conditions, the leaves may not reach full size and can end up looking very similar to the Golden Pothos. 

Neither type can handle direct sunlight for long periods. Some direct gentle morning sun is usually fine and may actually spur growth in the right season. Any intense midday or afternoon sun will have the opposite effect, burning the leaves and impacting growth. 

Aim for a spot in front of an east-facing window or a south-facing window filtered by a sheer curtain to limit the direct sunlight contact. 

Water 

Common Plants With Moisture
It is best to let the top 1-2 inches of soil dry out before watering your pothos plants.

Neither Pothos is particularly thirsty. The top layer of soil should be left to dry out completely before watering again. It’s best to test the soil with your finger or a skewer before watering rather than watering on a schedule to prevent waterlogging and root rot. 

As Hawaiian Pothos is larger, it will require watering more often than the Golden Pothos. However, this difference is almost unnoticeable in most homes and shouldn’t greatly influence growth. External conditions like temperature and light levels have a far larger influence on when the plant needs water. 

When underwatered, the leaves will indicate they need a drink by wilting or curling inwards. Due to their thickness, it may take a while before they start to show signs of struggle. If you frequently water too late, invest in a moisture meter that will indicate the perfect time to water your plants without leaving them to dry out for too long. 

Soil 

Devils Ivy Cuttings Growing in Soil
Well-draining soil is very important to avoid root rot or other fungal diseases.

Plants grown in containers have a high risk of experiencing root rot. As they are in environments where water can sit around and stagnate, you need to ensure as much water as possible is drawn away from the soil while retaining enough to saturate the roots, preventing root rot and the ultimate demise of the plant. 

Both plants thrive in well-draining soil. The containers they are planted in also need to have enough drainage holes, or the consistency of the soil won’t have as much of an impact. 

Find a specialized houseplant potting soil at your local nursery or online. You can also make your own by mixing two parts potting soil with one part perlite and one part coconut coir. 

The perlite improves drainage by increasing the space between soil particles. The coconut coir improves moisture retention without oversaturating the roots. It can also be replaced with peat moss if you already have some around. 

Temperature and Humidity 

Pothos Plants Growing in Warm Humid Climates
Warm, humid climates that are similar to the tropical climate they are from are ideal fro growing pothos plants.

Coming from the same tropical jungle conditions, both plants require the same temperature and humidity conditions. 

Like most houseplants, Pothos require warm indoor temperatures between 65F and 85F to grow their best. They handle the heat better than other houseplants but do not tolerate any cold. Never let temperatures dip below 50F and keep the plants away from the windows in winter to prevent cell damage. 

When it comes to humidity, the higher the better. In tropical rainforests, humidity hovers around 70% in the dry season and up to 90% in the rainy season. It goes without saying then that these plants appreciate as much moisture in the air as they can get. 

Keep either plant in a room with humidity of at least 40% and above. The preferred number is 60% to find a happy medium between what we’re comfortable with indoors and what they prefer outdoors. 

Fertilizer 

Healthy Leaves of Pothos Plants Close up
Pothos plants appreciate a balanced fertilizer in the growing season.

Pothos are not heavy feeders but benefit from fertilizing in spring and summer when they stay in the same pot for a year or two without a soil top up. 

You can feed both cultivars with the same balanced liquid fertilizer once every 4-6 weeks during the active growing season, stopping in fall and winter. Slow-release fertilizers are also suitable for these plants, typically available in sticks that are buried in the soil to break down over time. 

Common Problems

Devils Ivy Leaf With Brown Spots and One Yellow Leaf
Brown sun spots and yellow leaves are two common problems pothos plants experience.

Considering their close relation in growth and care, it’s not surprising that these plants also encounter the same problems. Keep an eye out for these issues and adjust your care accordingly to rectify them: 

  • Yellow Leaves: Typically a sign of overwatering, present in the green parts of older leaves. Be careful not to confuse abnormal yellowing with normal variegation.
  • Wilting: Usually a sign of underwatering but can also be caused by overwatering. Assess the soil and change as needed.
  • Brown or Black Tips: Caused by either underwatering or low humidity. A combined humidity and temperature meter will help you better assess which is more likely.
  • Brown Patches: The result of direct sunlight exposure. Move the plants to an area with bright indirect light and prune away any heavily damaged leaves.
  • Spots: Pest damage can cause irregular yellow or brown spots on the leaves and stems. Apply neem oil to the affected areas to suffocate the existing pests and prevent any eggs from hatching.

Plant Uses 

Devils Ivy Plants Commonly Used as Ornamental Plants
Both plants are considered common houseplants.

Golden Pothos is the ultimate indoor plant in terms of interior design, fitting in shelves, on the corner of your desk, or on your windowsill with ease. Their golden flecks are the perfect complement to a sunny day and light up any room. 

Due to the larger size, Hawaiian Pothos need a bit more space. When trained around a moss pole in a large pot, they make great standing plants to fill corners. Their large leaves are wonderful air purifiers and add a tropical feel to all spaces. 

Final Thoughts 

You can’t go wrong with either a Golden Pothos or a Hawaiian Pothos. Both plants are pretty hardy, and can even stand up well to a little bit of neglect. This means that either variety can be a great plant for novice houseplant owners. Since they look so similar, bar a slight difference in leaf size, they are wonderful partners and great additions to any houseplant collection. 

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