Hawaiian Pothos vs Golden Pothos: A Plant Pro Explains The Differences

Dazzling varieties of Pothos or Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum aureum) are so popular with beginner and seasoned gardeners alike that they’ve found their way into almost every plant lover’s home. 

Hawaiian Pothos vs Golden Pothos: These are two beautiful varieties that have similar markings on their foliage, making them difficult to tell apart. People wonder if they’re the same plant, just with different names.

The answer is that they are probably separate varieties of Pothos. Golden Pothos is the main species of Epipremnum aureum, named for the golden flecks in its dark green leaves, and is easy to find wherever plants are sold.

Hawaiian Pothos may be a cultivar of Golden Pothos, called Epipremnum aureum ‘Hawaiian’. There is not enough information in the literature to be sure whether Hawaiian is an accepted cultivar or not, but it does have distinct characteristics from Golden, and it is somewhat harder to find in stores.

They are both beautiful, vining plants in the Arum family with variegated, heart-shaped leaves. The main differences lie in the color of the foliage, with some variances in the size and shape of the leaves and vine. Let’s take a look at the descriptions of each.

Differences in Appearance

 Hawaiian Pothos

climbing hawaiian pothos plant

Hawaiian Pothos has similarly shaped leaves as its Golden cousin, but they are slightly more rounded and the leaf tips are not as sharp. Some sources say that it has larger leaves than Golden Pothos, and that may be, but it’s not a significant difference.

When they are both grown indoors, their leaves remain in the immature stage of growth, at only 4” to 8” long.

The key difference is in the color of the leaves and the variegation. Hawaiian Pothos leaves have cream-colored to light yellow streaks that usually extend in bands from the midvein to the leaf’s edge, and the green in its leaves is lighter than Golden Pothos.

Strong, indirect light will encourage the green in both varieties to become darker. But even under these conditions, Hawaiian will be a lighter green than Golden, and it also has cylindrical green stems and petioles.   

Golden Pothos

golden pothos living wall with water on leaves

Golden Pothos has more elongated leaves and sharper tips than Hawaiian. Its variegation runs from yellow and white streaks to deep golden splashes over the leaves, contrasting with the darker green, and it has cylindrical light green to yellow vines and petioles.

Of course, every leaf of these varieties is going to have a different pattern of variegation. That’s what makes each Hawaiian and Golden Pothos plant so interesting and unique.

Differences in Growth Rate

Both Pothos varieties can be grown successfully cascading over the edge of a hanging pot or climbing up a moss pole in a planter. Hawaiian Pothos will grow more quickly than Golden Pothos, but indoors as houseplants, they will both grow to about 10’ long.

Plant Care Difference Between Golden and Hawaiian Pothos

The care for both of these Pothos varieties is almost the same, depending on the variegation of the leaves.

Light

pothos with light shining on a wood table.

Hawaiian and Golden Pothos are native to the tropical and subtropical forests of French Polynesia where they creep along the ground and climb up trees when they encounter them with their aerial roots.

They receive bright light filtered down through the trees and are hardly ever exposed to direct sunlight.

As houseplants, the equivalent of their native light conditions is bright indirect light. They do well in an east- or south-facing window, out of the direct rays of the sun which could burn their leaves.

Hawaiian Pothos plants, with their greater amount of variegation, will need stronger light in order to keep them from reverting to green and to bring out their best colors.

Golden Pothos plants normally have a smaller amount of variegation and more green in their foliage, so they can handle lower light.

Even though they can exist in low-light conditions, their variegation will diminish and they will become greener in order to maximize photosynthesis, the food and energy-making process of the plants.

Temperature

Both Hawaiian and Golden Pothos grow well at 65 to 75 degrees F, which are normal household temperatures. If you set your plants outside in the summer, they will tolerate up to 90 degrees in the bright shade but will wilt and die in any higher temperature.

At the other end of the thermometer, 50 degrees F is the lowest temperature Pothos will tolerate. Plan to bring your plants in to keep them safe when the temperatures begin to drop.

Humidity

pothos in bathroom

Because of their subtropical and tropical heritage, both Hawaiian and Golden Pothos prefer humidity levels in the 40 to 60 percent range. They can exist in average household humidity, which is about 30 to 40 percent, but they will grow better if you sit them on a pebble tray with water or invest in a humidifier to boost the humidity levels.

Misting them frequently is a good idea, too, especially in the winter when the heat is on and the humidity levels are at their lowest.

Soil

Little girl showing the best soil for pothos plants.

All types of Pothos plants need loose, well-draining potting soil. You can use a good, commercial potting medium amended with perlite, orchid bark, cocoa coir, or peat for added drainage and air circulation around the roots.

This is important because if the soil is too dense, it may not drain well and hold too much water, which can cause root rot and kill the plants.

Water

pothos plant with water and sunlight to help it grow faster.

It is time to water your Pothos when the soil is dry or almost completely dry. During the spring, summer, and early fall when the plants are actively growing, you will need to water them about once every 7 to 10 days.

But during the winter months when their growth slows down, they won’t require as much water – maybe once every 10 days to 2 weeks. The humidity will be lower in the house, though, when the heat is on, so you will have to monitor the soil to see when it’s time to water.

Dig your finger into the soil, and if it’s dry 1 to 2 inches down from the top and the pot feels light, it’s a good time to water. A moisture meter can help you make this determination, too.

Let the water run through the pot until the soil is thoroughly wet and it comes out of the drainage holes. Then make sure to empty any excess water from the dish or tray underneath the pot so that the roots don’t sit in water.

Variegated plants are especially sensitive to minerals and chemicals in tap water, such as chlorine and fluorine. Because of this, it’s best to use either distilled or rainwater.

Fertilizer

Pothos plants don’t need a lot of fertilizer as long as they are growing in good quality potting mix. If you want to boost their growth, you can fertilize them with a complete N-P-K fertilizer once a month during the growing season.

Pruning

showing pothos pruning with scissors

Since your Hawaiian or Golden Pothos are vines, they will grow to lengths that you may need to prune. Cut the stems in between the nodes to the desired length.

Propagation

propagated pothos plant

Propagating the stems that you prune is an excellent way to increase the number of Pothos plants in your home. “Chop and prop” is the term that indoor gardeners use.

Cut the stem to a length of 4 to 5 leaves, and put it in a clean jar with clean water. Remove the leaves below the water line and put the cutting in a warm, light place. Change the water every few days to prevent bacterial growth, and you should see roots begin to form from the nodes within two weeks.

After the roots are about 2 to 3 inches long, you can plant them in a well-draining potting mix and water them thoroughly.

Leaf cuttings of variegated plants usually produce all-green babies, so it’s better to use stem cuttings that will retain the beautiful Pothos variegation.

Pests

Pothos are not highly susceptible to pests, but they are sometimes attacked by aphids, spider mites, mealybugs, and scale. A good insecticidal soap or Neem oil will take care of the aphids, spider mites, and mealybugs.

Scale insects can be controlled by hosing the plant to knock off as many bugs as possible, and then wiping the plant down with rubbing alcohol.

Toxicity

All plants in the Arum family, including Hawaiian and Golden Pothos, are toxic to people and pets. Especially cats and dogs. Make the houseplant as inaccessible as possible to little hands and paws, such as in a hanging basket, to keep all members of your family safe.

Author & Editor | + posts

Nancy has been a plant person from an early age. That interest blossomed into a bachelor’s in biology from Elmira College and a master’s degree in horticulture and communications from the University of Kentucky. Nancy worked in plant taxonomy at the University of Florida and the L. H. Bailey Hortorium at Cornell University, and wrote and edited gardening books at Rodale Press in Emmaus, PA. Her interests are plant identification, gardening, hiking, and reading.