How to Grow and Care for Philodendron Houseplants


Updated: 19 Sep, 2023

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The Philodendron genus encompasses a diverse array of stunning foliage plants, boasting leaves that are characteristically large, vibrant green, and luxuriantly glossy. These botanical marvels effortlessly infuse a touch of their native tropical splendor into any household. Renowned for their undemanding nature, philodendrons offer two distinct categories: vining and non-climbing.

Vining varieties extend gracefully, often necessitating sturdy supports like trellises or hanging baskets. On the other hand, non-climbing counterparts grow upright, making them splendid container plants with their captivating foliage. In terms of growth, philodendrons are notably swift in their development.

Beyond their aesthetic appeal, these plants serve as exceptional air purifiers, enhancing the quality of your indoor environment. While spring is the optimal season for planting, houseplant enthusiasts can embark on this journey with success at virtually any time of the year. It’s important to note, however, that philodendrons are potentially harmful if ingested by pets or humans, owing to their toxic properties.

What Is a Philodendron?

Within the Araceae family, philodendrons stand as one of the most extensive genera. Their physical attributes exhibit a wide spectrum of variations from one species to another, encompassing distinctions in leaf morphology, size, mature dimensions, growth pattern, and foliage hue.

Shared characteristics often include impressive, frequently lobed leaves, lengthy aerial roots, parallel leaf veins, and a consistent progression of leaf transformations throughout their growth stages.

As seedlings emerge, their leaves typically adopt a heart-shaped configuration. With maturation, these leaves transition into an array of shapes, ranging from expansive hearts, resembling lily pads, to pointed arrowheads, and even intricately lobed structures or leaves adorned with perforations and slits.

The etymology of the term “philodendron” traces back to Greek origins: “philo” denoting love and affection, and “dendron” signifying tree. This nomenclature fittingly encapsulates the nature of the majority of species within the genus, as they exhibit a penchant for climbing or trailing, displaying a fondness for growing on or ascending trees.

Common NamePhilodendron
Botanical NamePhilodendron spp.
FamilyAraceae
Plant TypePerennial
Mature Size1–20 ft. tall, 1–6 ft. wide
Sun ExposurePartial
Soil TypeLoamy, well-drained
Soil pHAcidic
Hardiness Zones9–11 (USA)
Native AreaCentral America, South America
ToxicityToxic to pets, toxic to people

How to Grow Philodendron From Seed

Here are the steps to grow philodendron from seeds:

Materials Needed:

  • Philodendron seeds
  • Seedling trays or small pots
  • Seed-starting mix
  • Clear plastic dome or plastic wrap
  • Water spray bottle
  • Grow lights or a bright, indirect light source
  • Warm, humid environment

Steps:

Seed Selection:
Choose fresh, viable philodendron seeds. Keep in mind that philodendron seeds are not as common as other propagation methods like cuttings or division.

Prepare Seed Trays or Pots:
Fill seedling trays or small pots with a well-draining seed-starting mix. Moisten the mix evenly before planting.

Planting the Seeds:
Sow the philodendron seeds on the surface of the soil. Do not bury them; they require light to germinate.

Covering and Creating Humidity:
Place a clear plastic dome or cover the trays with plastic wrap to create a humid environment. This helps retain moisture and simulate tropical conditions.

Maintain Warmth:
Keep the seed trays in a warm location, ideally around 70-75°F (21-24°C). Use a heat mat if necessary to maintain consistent warmth.

Provide Indirect Light:
Place the trays in an area with bright, indirect light. Avoid direct sunlight, as it can be too intense for germinating seeds.

Misting and Watering:
Mist the soil regularly to keep it consistently moist but not waterlogged. Use a water spray bottle to avoid disturbing the seeds.

Germination Period:
Germination may take several weeks, and it can be variable depending on the specific philodendron species.

Transplanting Seedlings:
Once the seedlings have developed a few sets of true leaves and are large enough to handle, carefully transplant them into individual pots with well-draining potting mix.

Provide Proper Lighting:
After transplanting, ensure the seedlings receive bright, indirect light. You can use grow lights if natural light is insufficient.

Monitor Growth:
Watch for signs of pests or diseases and address them promptly. Continue to provide a warm, humid environment for optimal growth.

Philodendron Care

Philodendrons are excellent choices for indoor greenery due to their overall easy-care disposition. Nevertheless, it remains crucial to establish and uphold optimal growing conditions for the well-being of your plant. To ensure the health of your philodendron, strive to replicate its native tropical habitat. This entails offering an abundance of warmth and moisture, ideally positioning it in proximity to a sunlit window. However, exercise caution with direct sunlight, as it has the potential to scorch the plant’s delicate leaves.

1. Choosing the Right Location

Selecting an appropriate location is fundamental to the well-being of your philodendron. Opt for a spot that mimics its native tropical environment.

2. Providing Adequate Warmth

Maintain a warm environment for your philodendron. Ensure the temperature remains within its preferred range to promote healthy growth.

3. Regulating Moisture Levels

Philodendrons thrive in a humid environment. Implement strategies to maintain optimal moisture levels, preventing the plant from drying out.

4. Sunlight and Indirect Light

While philodendrons require sunlight, direct exposure can be detrimental. Find the right balance between sunlight and indirect light to avoid leaf damage.

5. Watering Guidelines

Establish a consistent watering routine, ensuring the soil remains evenly moist. Be cautious of overwatering, which can lead to root rot.

6. Fertilizing Routine

Provide essential nutrients through regular fertilization. Select a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer and follow recommended application guidelines.

7. Pruning and Maintenance

Regularly inspect your philodendron for any signs of damaged or diseased leaves. Prune as needed to encourage healthy growth and maintain an aesthetically pleasing appearance.

8. Trellising for Vining Varieties

If you have a vining philodendron, consider providing a trellis or support structure to encourage upward growth. This will help maintain its desired shape.

9. Repotting When Necessary

Monitor the plant’s growth and consider repotting when it outgrows its current container. Ensure the new pot provides ample space for the roots to expand.

10. Watch for Pests and Diseases

Keep a vigilant eye for any signs of pests or diseases. Early detection allows for prompt treatment, preserving the health of your philodendron.

Common Problems With Philodendron

Philodendrons are remarkably adaptable to indoor environments and are known for their ease of propagation. However, they can experience some health issues if their water, sunlight, and soil requirements are not met. Here are indicators to watch for and steps to address them:

Yellowing Leaves: Yellowing leaves can result from factors like using excessively cold water, insufficient sunlight, or excessive exposure to bright light. Older leaves may yellow due to under-watering, while younger bottom leaves may signal overwatering. Adjust these factors to revive your plant.

When fertilizing your philodendron, take care to water the soil first, apply a diluted fertilizer solution, and then water again. This precaution prevents potential root damage from fertilizer chemicals, which can lead to yellowing.

Yellowing with a Rotting Odor: Sudden yellowing of leaves may indicate root rot. Swift action may save the plant. Check the soil for a foul odor and inspect the roots. Trim away black, decaying sections, and replant healthy portions in fresh soil.

Browning Leaves: Edges browning on the leaves may be a result of using overly cold water. If leaves turn brown and mushy, it’s likely due to overwatering. Curled, brown edges signal the need for more water and less sunlight. Adjust watering and lighting accordingly.

Brown tips with yellow halos suggest a need for higher humidity. Mist the leaves or place the plant container on a tray of water-filled pebbles to elevate humidity. Avoid submerging the base; keep it above the waterline.

Types of Philodendron

Philodendrons encompass a diverse range of species and cultivars, each with its own unique characteristics and appearance. Here are some notable types of philodendrons:

1. Heartleaf Philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum)

  • Description: Recognizable by its heart-shaped, glossy leaves, this popular vining variety is known for its trailing growth habit.
  • Features: Adaptable and easy to care for, it’s an excellent choice for hanging baskets or as a climbing plant.

2. Split-Leaf Philodendron (Philodendron bipinnatifidum)

  • Description: Also known as the Swiss cheese plant, it showcases large, deeply lobed leaves resembling Swiss cheese slices.
  • Features: This striking plant makes a bold statement as a focal point in any indoor space. It requires ample space due to its substantial size.

3. Selloum Philodendron (Philodendron bipinnatifidum ‘Selloum’)

  • Description: Recognizable by its deeply lobed, ruffled leaves, this variety forms an impressive, bushy structure.
  • Features: It’s well-suited for larger spaces and is often used as a dramatic ornamental plant in interiorscapes.

4. Elephant Ear Philodendron (Philodendron domesticum)

  • Description: Named for its enormous, elephant ear-shaped leaves, this variety creates a tropical ambiance in any setting.
  • Features: It’s an attention-grabbing choice, ideal for spaces with high ceilings and a desire for a dramatic foliage display.

5. Xanadu Philodendron (Philodendron ‘Xanadu’)

  • Description: This compact, clumping philodendron boasts deeply lobed, glossy leaves that give it a distinctive appearance.
  • Features: It’s well-suited for smaller spaces, making it an excellent choice for indoor decorative arrangements.

6. Brazil Philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum ‘Brasil’)

  • Description: Characterized by its variegated, heart-shaped leaves with vibrant green and yellow patterns.
  • Features: This variety adds a splash of color and interest to any space, making it a popular choice for hanging baskets.

7. Imperial Red Philodendron (Philodendron erubescens ‘Imperial Red’)

  • Description: This cultivar is known for its striking dark red stems and glossy, heart-shaped leaves.
  • Features: It’s a visually striking choice, adding a touch of sophistication and color contrast to indoor spaces.

Best Uses

Philodendrons are versatile and beautiful plants that find a variety of uses in both indoor and outdoor settings. Here are some of the best uses for philodendrons:

1. Indoor Decor:

  • Philodendrons are popular houseplants due to their attractive foliage. They add a touch of natural beauty and elegance to any interior space.

2. Air Purification:

  • They are excellent air purifiers, helping to remove toxins and improve indoor air quality. This makes them beneficial additions to homes and offices.

3. Hanging Baskets:

  • Vining varieties, like the Heartleaf Philodendron, thrive in hanging baskets, cascading gracefully and adding a lovely vertical element to the décor.

4. Climbing Plants:

  • With proper support, vining philodendrons can climb along walls, trellises, or other structures, creating a stunning natural display.

5. Ornamental Focal Points:

  • Larger varieties, such as the Split-Leaf Philodendron, make excellent focal points in gardens or landscaped areas, adding a tropical and dramatic touch.

6. Office Spaces:

  • Philodendrons are well-suited for office environments where they can enhance aesthetics while contributing to a healthier atmosphere.

7. Interior Landscaping:

  • In larger commercial spaces, like malls or atriums, philodendrons can be used in interior landscaping to create greenery and a calming environment.

8. Green Walls and Vertical Gardens:

  • Vining philodendrons are often used in green wall installations or vertical gardens, providing a lush, living backdrop to urban environments.

9. Outdoor Container Gardening (in warm climates):

  • In regions with mild climates, philodendrons can be used in outdoor container gardens, adding lushness and vibrancy to patios and balconies.

10. Educational Settings:

  • Philodendrons can be used in educational settings to teach about plants, their growth habits, and the importance of greenery in the environment.

11. Botanical Gardens and Conservatories:

  • Philodendrons are popular features in botanical gardens and conservatories, showcasing their diversity and adaptability in controlled environments.

12. Green Screen or Privacy Barrier:

  • When properly supported, vining philodendrons can serve as a green screen or privacy barrier, providing a natural alternative to fencing.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Spider Mites (Tetranychus urticae):

  • Identification: Tiny, reddish-brown pests that create fine webbing on leaves.
  • Damage: They suck sap from leaves, causing stippling, yellowing, and eventually leaf drop.
  • Control: Use insecticidal soap or neem oil. Increase humidity and keep foliage clean.

Aphids (Aphidoidea):

  • Identification: Small, soft-bodied insects that come in various colors (green, black, brown).
  • Damage: They feed on sap, causing distorted growth, yellowing, and a sticky residue (honeydew) on leaves.
  • Control: Blast with water, use insecticidal soap, introduce natural predators like ladybugs.

Mealybugs (Pseudococcidae):

  • Identification: Soft, cotton-like clusters on stems and leaves.
  • Damage: They sap nutrients, causing stunted growth, yellowing, and wilting.
  • Control: Remove manually, wipe with alcohol-soaked cotton swab, use insecticidal soap.

Scale Insects (Coccoidea):

  • Identification: Tiny, oval-shaped pests that attach themselves to stems and leaves.
  • Damage: They feed on plant sap, causing yellowing, wilting, and eventually death of affected areas.
  • Control: Remove manually or with a soft brush, apply insecticidal soap or neem oil.
  •  

Common Diseases:

Root Rot (Various pathogens, including Phytophthora and Pythium):

  • Symptoms: Wilting, yellowing, and eventual collapse of the plant due to waterlogged soil.
  • Prevention and Control: Ensure well-draining soil, avoid overwatering, and consider using a fungicide.

Powdery Mildew (Various fungi, including Erysiphe spp.):

  • Symptoms: White, powdery spots on leaves, which can spread and cause leaf distortion.
  • Prevention and Control: Provide good air circulation, avoid overhead watering, use fungicidal sprays.

Bacterial Leaf Spot (Various bacteria, including Xanthomonas spp.):

  • Symptoms: Dark, water-soaked spots on leaves, which may spread and cause leaf yellowing or drop.
  • Prevention and Control: Avoid overhead watering, remove infected leaves, apply copper-based fungicides.

Fungal Leaf Spot (Various fungi, including Alternaria and Cercospora spp.):

  • Symptoms: Circular, dark spots with a yellow halo on leaves.
  • Prevention and Control: Keep foliage dry, remove infected leaves, use fungicidal sprays.

Viral Diseases (Various viruses, including Tobacco Mosaic Virus):

  • Symptoms: Mottled, distorted leaves, stunted growth, and overall weakened appearance.
  • Prevention and Control: Practice good hygiene (clean tools, quarantine new plants), control vectors like aphids.
  •  

Potting and Repotting Philodendrons

To transplant a philodendron, opt for a container slightly larger than its root ball, ensuring it has sufficient drainage holes. Once roots begin protruding from the soil and drainage holes, it’s time for repotting, ideally in late spring or early summer. Choose a pot one size larger. Carefully extract the plant from its current pot, nestling it into the new one with fresh soil at the base and around the edges. Finally, thoroughly water the plant.

Propagating Philodendrons

Propagating philodendrons is an exciting way to expand your plant collection. There are several methods to do so, and here are three common ones:

1. Stem Cuttings:

  • Step 1: Select a healthy parent plant with strong stems and vibrant leaves.

  • Step 2: Using a clean, sharp knife or scissors, take a cutting that is around 4-6 inches in length. Ensure it has at least one or two nodes (small bumps where leaves and roots grow from) on it.

  • Step 3: Remove the leaves from the lower portion of the cutting, leaving only a few at the top.

  • Step 4: Allow the cutting to callus over for a few hours. This helps prevent rotting when it’s placed in soil or water.

  • Step 5: Plant the cutting in a well-draining potting mix or place it in water. If using soil, water lightly.

  • Step 6: Keep the cutting in a warm, indirect light location. If in water, change the water every few days to prevent stagnation.

  • Step 7: Roots should develop within a few weeks. Once they’re well established, transplant the cutting into a larger container or the desired planting location.

2. Air Layering:

  • Step 1: Identify a healthy, mature stem on the parent plant.

  • Step 2: About 12-18 inches from the tip of the stem, make a diagonal cut through the bark, about one-third of the way around the stem.

  • Step 3: Apply a rooting hormone to the cut area (optional, but it can encourage faster root development).

  • Step 4: Wrap the cut section with moist sphagnum moss or a similar rooting medium, and cover it with plastic wrap. Secure the ends to create an airtight seal.

  • Step 5: Wait for roots to form inside the moss, which can take several weeks to a few months.

  • Step 6: Once roots are well established, carefully cut the stem just below the rooted area and plant it in its own pot.

3. Division:

  • Step 1: Choose a mature philodendron with multiple stems or growth points.

  • Step 2: Gently remove the plant from its pot, being careful not to damage the roots.

  • Step 3: Inspect the roots and identify natural separation points or gently pull apart sections.

  • Step 4: Plant each divided section into its own pot with fresh soil.

  • Step 5: Water thoroughly and care for each new plant as usual.

How much light does a Philodendron need?

Philodendrons thrive in bright, indirect light. They can tolerate lower light conditions, but this may slow their growth.

What is the best watering routine for a Philodendron?

Allow the top inch of soil to dry out before watering. Ensure proper drainage to prevent waterlogged roots, which can lead to root rot.

What type of soil is best for Philodendrons?

Well-draining potting mix with a good balance of organic matter is ideal. A mix of peat moss, perlite, and orchid bark works well.

Should I fertilize my Philodendron, and how often?

Yes, regular feeding during the growing season (spring and summer) with a balanced liquid fertilizer can promote healthy growth. Reduce feeding in the winter months.

How often should I repot my Philodendron?

Younger plants may need repotting every 1-2 years, while older, established plants can be repotted every 3-4 years or when they outgrow their containers.

Can I propagate my Philodendron? If so, how?

Yes, philodendrons are easy to propagate. You can do so through stem cuttings in water or soil, or by air layering.

Are there any common pests or diseases that affect Philodendrons?

Aphids, spider mites, and mealybugs can occasionally infest philodendrons. Overwatering can lead to fungal issues. Regularly inspecting your plants can help catch and address these problems early.

Is my Philodendron toxic to pets?

Yes, philodendrons are toxic to pets and humans if ingested. It’s essential to keep them out of reach of pets and children.

Conclusion

Cultivating and caring for Philodendron houseplants can be a gratifying and fulfilling endeavor. With their stunning foliage and adaptable nature, these plants effortlessly bring a touch of tropical elegance into any indoor space. By providing them with the right balance of light, water, and nutrients, you can encourage robust growth and vibrant foliage.

Regular monitoring for pests and diseases is crucial to maintaining their health, and prompt action can prevent any potential issues from escalating. Additionally, it’s imperative to be mindful of their toxicity to pets and humans, ensuring they are kept in a safe and secure location.


Mary Lloyster

Mary Lloyster

Mary, the ultimate oracle of indoor gardening! With years of experience and a flourishing indoor expo, Mary has become our go-to expert for all things related to house plants and indoor gardening. Despite her background in Political Science, Mary has discovered a delightful way to blend her full-time job with a touch of relaxation through indoor gardening. Now, she eagerly shares her wisdom and experiences with our readers on a daily basis. If you have any inquiries about house plants, indoor gardening techniques, or caring tips, don't hesitate to leave a comment for Mary in the designated section below!

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