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Growing and Caring for a Philodendron – An Essential Guide

a philodendron in a geometric patterned pot

Philodendrons are popular houseplants known for their heart-shaped green leaves and vining growth habit. They are easy to grow, tolerant of neglect, and add a tropical feel to any indoor space.

With hundreds of varieties to choose from—including vines, shrubs, and small trees—there is a plant for nearly any gardener. This guide covers everything you need to know about selecting, growing, and maintaining healthy philodendrons.

a trailing philodendron in a garden

An Introduction to Philodendron

Philodendrons are native to the rainforests of South America, and can bring a touch of the exotic into your home with the right care and conditions.

Before diving into care instructions, it’s important to understand the family. There are over 450 different types of philodendrons, ranging from climbing vines to large-leafed shrubs.

The most common philodendron varieties include the Heartleaf (Philodendron hederaceum), the split-leaf (Philodendron bipinnatifidum), and the fiddle-leaf (Philodendron panduriforme).

These plants can be broadly categorized into two types: climbing (vining) and non-climbing (upright). Climbing philodendrons are great for hanging baskets or as trailing plants on shelves, while non-climbing varieties are more suited to standing pots and can grow quite large, making a bold statement in any room.

Choosing a Philodendron Variety

When deciding which type to grow, consider the size of plant you want, the amount of space you have, and the growing conditions in your home.

Small bushy types like Philodendron ’Xanadu’ are ideal for tables and shelves. Larger upright plants include the popular Bipinnatifidum with its dramatic, tree-like appearance.

Vining varieties such as Hederaceum, Brasil, and Micans make excellent hanging plants and can be trained up supports. Compact trailing kinds are perfect for hanging baskets.

Most philodendrons thrive in bright, indirect light and average room temperatures between 65-80°F. Tropical varieties like ‘Prince of Orange’ prefer slightly warmer, more humid environments. Know your growing space and choose accordingly for best results.

the leaves of a philodendron

Philodendron Benefits

They are known to be effective at improving indoor air quality. They can absorb pollutants such as formaldehyde, benzene, and trichloroethylene from the air, making your home or office environment healthier.

One of the most appealing aspects is their low maintenance requirements. They can thrive in a range of lighting conditions, from low light to bright, indirect light, and they don’t require frequent watering, making them ideal for those who may not have a lot of time for plant care.

Philodendrons come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, which can enhance the appeal of any interior space. Their lush, vibrant foliage can add a touch of the tropics to your home or office, complementing many decor styles.

Choosing a Plant

Before choosing a plant, make sure you know where they are going as this can influence which one you go for. Climbing varieties are suitable for smaller spaces or can be used as hanging plants, while larger, self-supporting types need more room to grow.

You will need to inspect the plant health;

  • Leaves: Look for plants with vibrant, green leaves. Yellowing or brown leaves can indicate poor health, pests, or disease. Also, check for any unnatural spots or holes that could suggest pest infestations.
  • Stems and Roots: Healthy plants should have sturdy stems. If the plant is in a pot, gently check if the roots are peeking out of the drainage holes, which might indicate it’s time for a larger pot.
  • Pests: Look closely at the undersides of leaves and where the leaves meet the stem for signs of pests like spider mites, mealybugs, or aphids.

How to Grow a Philodendron

a philodendron plant in a grey pot

One of the appeals of philodendrons is that they adapt well to the low light and dry air of indoor environments. They actually thrive on some neglect compared to other finicky tropicals! But they do benefit from a few simple care measures:

Light

Most plants grow best in bright, indirect sunlight from an east or west-facing window. However, direct southern exposure may scorch the leaves. It is best to place them near a window where the light is filtered through curtains or blinds.

If you’re growing in a dimly lit room, consider a grow light to supplement their light needs.

Watering

One of the key aspects of philodendron care is getting the watering right. These plants like their soil to be consistently moist but not waterlogged. Overwatering can lead to root rot, a common issue with philodendrons.

Allow the top inch of soil to dry out before watering again. This might mean watering once a week, but this can vary depending on the temperature and humidity of your home.

Humidity

Philodendrons thrive in humid environments, mimicking their native tropical rainforest habitat. If your home is particularly dry, especially during winter months, consider using a humidifier or placing a water tray near your plant to increase humidity levels.

Temperature

Ideal range is 65-80°F. Plants can tolerate short periods outside this.

Best Soil for Philodendron

A well-draining, nutrient-rich potting mix is ideal. You can use a general houseplant mix or create your own by blending peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite. This ensures adequate drainage and prevents water from pooling at the bottom of the pot, which can cause root rot.

Fertilizer

Fertilize during the growing season (spring and summer) with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer once a month. Reduce feeding in the fall and winter when plant growth naturally slows.

Caring for a Philodendron Plant

a philodendron plant trailing in a bathroom

Pruning

Pruning is an important part of care, especially for climbing varieties that can become leggy over time. Regular pruning encourages bushier growth and keeps your plant looking full and healthy.

Repotting

Philodendrons are relatively slow growers, but they will eventually outgrow their pots. When roots start to circle the bottom of the pot or poke out of drainage holes, it’s time to repot.

Choose a pot that is one size larger than the current one to give your plant room to grow. Repotting is also an excellent opportunity to refresh the soil and remove any dead or rotting roots.

For vines, provide a moss-covered trellis, pole, or bark slab for aerial roots to cling to. Bushy varieties may require stakes for support as they grow. Repot them every 2-3 years in early spring, moving them to a container just one size larger.

Propagation

philodendron plant

An advantage of philodendrons is how simple they are to propagate. Just snip off a stem that includes several leaf nodes and place into a jar of water until roots develop and then plant in soil. Vining varieties are extremely easy to propagate this way!

You can also root stem cuttings directly into potting mix. Established plants develop offshoots called pups at the base over time which can be removed and repotted. They will usually root within a few weeks

Troubleshooting Common Problems

While quite robust houseplants, philodendrons can develop a few cultural issues. Here are some common problems and solutions:

  • Brown leaf tips – Usually caused by uneven, inadequate, or improper watering
  • Yellowing leaves – Indicate overwatering
  • Leaf drop – Can result from over watering, low humidity, or cooler temps
  • Small new leaves – Often a sign plant needs repotting into larger container
  • Few blooms – Happens if plant doesn’t get bright enough light indoors
  • Pests – Mealybugs and aphids can be a problem but are easily controlled

Decorating with Philodendrons

a healthy philodendron in a bathroom

With their lush foliage and versatile growth habits, they offer numerous possibilities for enhancing interior spaces. Their ability to adapt to various light conditions and their dramatic leaves can complement any decor style, from minimalist to bohemian.

Here are some creative ways to decorate:

Create a Living Wall

Climbing varieties of philodendrons, such as the Heartleaf, are perfect for creating a green, living wall. Use trellises, wall mounts, or shelves to guide their growth and create a natural tapestry that brings life to bare walls.

Accentuate Corners

Large, self-standing plants like the Philodendron selloum or Xanadu can turn an empty corner into a vibrant, lush nook. These larger varieties make a bold statement and can soften the hard angles of a room, adding a touch of nature’s asymmetry and beauty.

Tabletop Displays

Smaller or young plants can serve as stunning tabletop or desk accents. A single philodendron in a decorative pot can elevate your workspace, coffee table, or bookshelf, adding a pop of green and improving your focus and creativity.

Hanging Baskets

Utilize vertical space by hanging them from the ceiling, especially in areas where floor space is limited. Hanging baskets with trailing philodendrons like the ‘Brasil’ variety can add depth and dimension to a room, drawing the eye upward and making the space feel larger.

Bathroom Greenery

Philodendrons thrive in humid environments, making them perfect for brightening up a bathroom. Placed on a windowsill or shelf, they can turn your bathroom into a spa-like retreat, contributing to a relaxing ambiance.

a philodendron in a grey pot

Philodendron Safety

It’s important to note that philodendrons are toxic to pets and humans if ingested, due to the presence of calcium oxalate crystals. Keep them out of reach of curious pets and children to avoid any accidents.

Philodendrons are fast growing, easy care plants that adapt readily to interior spaces. They come in a wide array of leaf shapes, sizes, and colors to mix and match.

With the right variety, proper growing conditions, and adequate care, anyone can achieve success with these tropical beauties. They make an exceptional houseplant to bring nature inside.

How do I know if my philodendron needs repotting?

Signs that your philodendron may need repotting include roots growing out of the drainage holes, water draining too quickly through the pot (indicating the plant is root-bound), or slowed growth despite proper care. It’s generally a good idea to check your philodendron for repotting needs every 1-2 years.

What kind of fertilizer should I use for my philodendron?

Use a balanced, water-soluble houseplant fertilizer diluted to half the recommended strength. Fertilize your philodendron every 4-6 weeks during the growing season (spring and summer) and reduce or stop fertilizing in the fall and winter when growth naturally slows.

Can I grow a philodendron outdoors?

Philodendrons can be grown outdoors in warm, frost-free climates. They do best in partial shade to avoid direct sunlight. In cooler climates, they can be placed outside during the summer months but should be brought indoors before temperatures drop in the fall.

the essential guide to philodendrons pinterest pin

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