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How to Grow and Care for Philodendron Houseplants

Philodendrons are one of the easiest houseplants to care for, perfect for beginners because they need so little effort.

Philodendron is a member of the arum family and has been a popular plant for hundreds of years. They are one of the simplest plants there are to care for. With more than 200 species, philodendrons come in some pretty unusual forms. The common houseplant varieties are vine-types, while the less popular bush types can grow quite large, making it impossible for them to be house plants.

Most philodendrons are climbing plants. The name philodendron comes from the Greek term for ‘tree lover.” Philodendrons have decorative foliage and are easy to care for, therefore making them excellent houseplants. Their leaves vary considerably in shape and size from species to species. They may be heart, lance, or spatula-shaped. Some have smooth edges, and others are deeply indented. The leaves of some species may be up to 2-feet long.

Philodendron Care

Philodendrons are known for their vines that climb up trees in their native habitats. To grow them, you need indoor light, average room temperatures, or warmer temperatures. Philodendrons are an indoor type plant. They grow from 1 to 10 feet tall. The width of the plant is 1 to 6 feet wide. They are good vertical growing plants; they can fill up a lot of space in your garden. The soil should dry at the surface between waterings.

One of the things that make philodendrons so easy to care for is their flexibility with light. They do just as well in low as they do in moderate light. They need to avoid direct sunlight; otherwise, anything goes.

With origins in American rainforests, philodendrons prefer high humidity but thrive in the typical home’s indoor atmosphere. A spritz from a spray bottle and enough water to keep the roots moist but not drenched is sufficient.

Philodendron-verrucosum
Philodendron Verrucosum – Photo by Severin

Light

Grow philodendrons in bright but filtered light ( direct sunlight, softened by a net curtain or thin blind, or by a leafy tree outside the window). They will not survive for long in temperatures below 13C (55F), but average room temperatures are acceptable.

Philodendron plants don’t require a whole lot of light. Because of this, they make lovely office plants. It is good to give them a little light, though. The natural light from the window is sufficient. If there isn’t natural light coming in, you can put it under a lamp.

Soil and Fertilizer

Philodendrons are not particular about their soil requirements. For the best results, a general-purpose potting soil that runs to the slightly more alkaline side of the pH scale is preferred. A little general purpose liquid fertilizer or plant food every few weeks should keep them thriving.

Watering and Feeding

Feeding a philodendron is easy. In a few simple steps, you can feed your philodendron plant so it can keep growing and spreading its leaves. Philodendrons are common household plants that are good starter plants for beginners.

Water so that the potting mixture is moistened throughout but stops when drops start to appear in the hole in the pot’s bottom. Let the top 13mm (1/2inch) of potting mixture dry between waterings. Philodendrons stop growing briefly in winter. During this period, water the plant just enough to control the potting mix from drying out completely.

Related: Best Moisture Meter For Plants

Philodendron-birkin
Philodendron Birkin – Photo by Candrian

There are five basic steps in feeding your plant. You need the right food, clear the plants’ top area, dig a hole, mix the food, and distribute it amongst the roots.

  • Buy Acidic Plant Food: You have to get yourself some philodendron food which is generally acidic. Any organic or chemical acidic fertilizer will do.
  • Clear the Plant’s Area: Clean away leaves or debris, so you have easy access to the roots.
  • Dig a Hole: Dig about 2 inches into the plant or near the closest roots.
  • Mix the Food: Mix the plant food with water and follow the instructions -on the fertilizer- to the letter. You can use a 30-10-10 blend; be sure to dilute one tablespoon in one gallon of water, then apply to your plant.
  • Feed Your Plant: Place the food into the plant near the closest roots -away from the trunk- and be sure to re-apply according to your plant’s feeding schedule. If the plant is potted, feed the plant following the outer circle of the pot. Food will increase growth and eliminate signs of plant mineral deficiency, which usually manifests in yellowing leaves.

Propagation

How to propagate philodendron? Take tip cuttings in late spring or early summer. The cuttings should be 75-100mm (3-4 inches) long, ending just below a node. Remove the lower leaves and put three or four cuttings in a 75mm (3inch) pot in half and half mixture of moistened peat and perlite or coarse sand.

Enclose the pot in a plastic bag – kept away from the plants by small stakes – and stand it in bright filtered light indoors. After three or four weeks, new growth should start to appear. Take the bag off and water the cuttings lightly. Feed them once a month. After about three months, pot individually and treat as mature plants.

philodendron-propagation
Photo by Severin

Potting and Repotting Philodendrons

Re-pot only when the current pot becomes very tight. When it’s leaves, the plant-like it is cramped fast together, so repotting too soon is not beneficial. Repot only in the late winter or spring when the roots are compacted into a tight ball. Put the plant into a new pot 2 to 3 times bigger than the old one. Make sure to use a pot with drainage soils or drill your own in the bottom. Use commercial potting soil.

Staking

As they grow, tie climbing philodendrons loosely to a stake inserted into the potting mixture. Use garden twine, raffia, or wire and paper twists.

To encourage the plant to cling to the stake with its aerial roots ( so that you will only have to tie it in at the beginning), tie a 50-75mm (2-3 inch) layer of sphagnum moss to the stake or nail some cork bark to it. Spray the moss or bark with water once a day. Make sure the stake is tall enough to support the plant when fully grown.

Indoors or Outdoors

Not everyone can grow the philodendron in their outdoor space-it is a sub-tropical plant, but it is possible to keep the plant indoors when necessary and give it a taste of the garden in the warmest time of the year.

Only gardeners in USDA zones 9 through 11 can grow philodendron outdoors. Plant in moist, well-drained soil and a dappled or partial shade under a tree with a loose, not dense, crown that lets in just a bit of shade.

When growing indoors, you can give the philodendron the same kind of light it would get outside by placing it in a window with a light curtain. It is easy to see if the plant is getting the right amount of light. If the leaves are too small, the plant is not getting enough. Never put it in direct sun. This will result in leaf burn.

philodendron-squamiferum
Philodendron Squamiferum – Photo by Candrian

Problems

Lack of water or too much water is about the only problems facing philodendrons. The occasional insect problem such as aphids, spider mites, scales, or mealybugs can be treated with a spray of insecticidal soap.

About the Vines

Philodendrons grow unique roots on their vines that allow them to grasp trees and other supports in the wild. These should not be removed from the vines as they can damage the plant. Drape the rooting segment over the pot’s soil, and it will take root there, sending out more vines. If the pant becomes too overgrown, you can trim away some of the vines. These can be rooted in new pots if you like, and soon new philodendron plants will be cascading over the edges of the new pots.

Monstera vs Philodendron

Members of the Aroid family have over 100 unique species in the group, with new varieties still being discovered in remote jungles even today.

One unique feature of many of this group of aroids is that philodendron and monstera, similar related species, can be propagated with cuttings that reestablish their root systems.

Philodendron and monstera are often identified incorrectly, being mistaken for the other even on professional well knew floral retail websites, publications, etc. A suitable identification and reference website can be found at www.aroid.org.

philodendron-monstera
Monstera – Photo by Chris

Is the Philodendron Toxic?

Yes, philodendron toxic to cats and dogs. Philodendron is toxic when the leaves are ingested or touched, causing painful burning of the lips, mouth, tongue and throat or dermatitis.

Like most poisonous houseplants, philodendron is chosen as a houseplant because of its beauty. However, because this lovely house decoration contains calcium oxalates, it is as toxic as it is lovely. Consuming this plant can result in one or more of the following symptoms: difficulty swallowing, vomiting, and painful internal burning or itching.

philodendron-poisonous-to-cats
Photo by Jose Hernandez

Clean the Air

Philodendron houseplants are often used decoratively to bring a little bit of nature’s beauty indoors. But these green accents do much more than sitting pretty; philodendrons are natural air filters that can significantly improve interior air quality, particularly during the months of inclement weather when houses are shut uptight.

Philodendrons remove the harmful chemicals by absorbing them through tiny pores in their leaves. The roots of the plants and bacteria living in the soil are also involved in removing the toxins. Plants also increase oxygen levels and even act as a humidifier.

For the plants to effectively clean the air, you should have one plant for every 90-150 square feet of space in your home.

Decorate Your Home with Philodendrons

There are numerous ways to decorate your home with philodendrons. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Hang philodendrons from your ceiling. Philodendrons serve as great hanging plants because of their vine-like qualities. They will grow out and down around the hanging basket in a stunning fashion. Pretty soon, you won’t even be able to see the hanging basket (unless you trim the plant, but generally, you want the plant to hang long down over the basket), so there is no need to purchase an expensive pot in which to hang your philodendron. A simple plastic hanging basket will work fine. Hanging philodendrons also works well in rooms that don’t have much space and serves as an easy way to conserve space and decorate your room.

Tips

  • Trim your philodendrons if you wish to shape them. If you do trim them, cut them at an angle to prevent damaging the plant.
  • Purchase a leaf shine spray to mist the leaves of your philodendrons to give their leaves a glossy shine. Only spray a little bit, though, because if you overdo it, your plant might look fake.
  • Purchase a package of plant spikes and stick them in your plants to make them grow faster. Plant spikes filter plant food to your plant slowly over a while to provide it with the nutrients it needs to grow and develop faster.
  • Decorate your philodendrons for special occasions and events, such as Christmas or Halloween, by purchasing a package of plant lights and stringing them over your philodendrons for a festive touch.

Place philodendrons on shelves, furniture, and tables. You can place philodendrons virtually anywhere in your home, especially if you have a lot of furniture. For instance, if you have an entertainment center, you can place a philodendron on the top of each side and allow the philodendron to grow down around the furniture. Place a philodendron on an end table with a lamp connected to it and allow the philodendron to grow down around the table. This is an excellent idea because if your philodendron needs additional light, you can turn on the lamp connected to the table and directly above the plant to provide it with artificial light.

Philodendron-hanging-decors
Photo by Severin

Philodendron Species and Types

Some of the most common species and types of philodendrons:

  • Split leaf philodendron
  • Philodendron birkin
  • Philodendron micans
  • Philodendron xanadu
  • Philodendron squamiferum
  • Philodendron selloum
  • Heart leaf philodendron

Heart-Leafed: Our Favorite Philodendron

Family: Araceae
Species: Scandens (cordatum)
Common Names: Heart Leaf Philodendron, Cordatum Ivy

Philodendron scandens is one of the most favorite houseplants. Its name implies a philodendron with heart-shaped leaves that are usually green or sometimes variegated. Unlike many philodendrons vines only in their juvenile stage, Philodendron scandens are a vine its entire life. Heart-leaf philodendron trails out of pots or can be trained up supports. Propagation is quickly done by simple layering or cuttings, being sure to take some of the aerial roots that occur at each node.

Philodendron scandens prefers to stay out of the direct sun. It will tolerate full shade but does best in bright, indirect light.

Philodendron-Scandens
Photo by Sarah Bronske

Hear-leaf Philodendron should be allowed to dry out slightly between waterings. It is best to allow the plant to dry out entirely for periods is acceptable. Wilting is usually a sure sign water is needed.

Since Philodendron scandens is a tropical plant, it has no dormancy period and should never be exposed to freezing temperatures. There may, however, be a slowing of growth in the winter, as days are shorter. During this time, be especially careful not to overwater your plant. Repotting is only required once every few years, once the plants are established.

Theresa Lien
A professional writer who has specialized in houseplants and indoor gardening. She's had experience with outdoor landscaping too, having written about plants that grow well on balconies and patios as one of her previous articles for Wohomen.

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