How to Care For This Iconic Houseplant

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Some plants are coveted simply because they are instantly recognizable. Philodendrons are one of those houseplants. They emerged in the 60s and 70s and have recently made a comeback, probably because they are so easy to grow. Philodendron houseplants are perfect for growing beginners!

In addition, they come in a huge variety. There are climbing types and upright types in a huge range of leaf patterns, colors, shapes and sizes.

If you want to try an iconic houseplant that’s hard to kill, you can’t go wrong with Philodendron.

Get to know the Philodendron

Philodendrons, otherwise known as sweetheart plants and heart-leafs, grow naturally in tropical rainforest environments in Central and South America. They adapt to most home environments and grow well with little attention. In USDA Growing Zones 9-11, you can also grow them outside.

There are about 489 varieties, and two growth habits: climbing/vine or upright. They may have one of three growth patterns:

  • epiphytic, which grow on other plants
  • cosmicthose that grow in soil
  • hemipiphytic, which grow on other plants and from the soil

They are easy to propagate and require little maintenance.

Philodendron varieties

Remember, there are a huge number of species, varieties and hybrids of philodendrons, so I will show some that are common, look great and vary in size and shape.

Brazil

Philodendron Hederacium ‘Brasil’ is a hybrid that looks more like a pit with more rounded leaves than heart-shaped.

spade leaf

Philodendron Domesticum The leaves are huge, which has earned it the nickname of elephant’s ear. Each leaf is up to two feet long and is spade-shaped.

Imperial Red

As the name suggests Philodendron erubescens ‘Imperial Red’ is deep red in color and the leaves are red when young. As the leaves mature, they turn a dark, shiny green. This is a very attractive variety that attracts a lot of attention.

fiddle leaf

Philodendron bipenifolium It is known as the fiddle leaf or horse head philodendron because of its large, unusually shaped leaves. Each leaf is about 10 inches long. Give it a stake or pole to climb on and the fiddle leaf will climb up to seven feet.

black Gold

Philodendron Melanochrysum Is a real stand out. It is a climbing variety with dark, almost black leaves with yellow veins.

splitleaf

While this plant used to be classified as part of the Philodendron genus, it is actually a close relative, classified as monstera deliciosa. It is a large plant that grows up to eight feet tall. The leaves are like lobes emerging from a central stem. This plant can be grown similar to Philodendron.

How to Grow Philodendron

The best temperatures for growing philodendrons are above 55ºF. Anything below that and the plant will suffer.

Use good quality potting soil that retains moisture while shedding excess water. The pot should have good drainage.

You should keep watering the soil until it runs out of the bottom of the container. Once the flow has stopped, remove any standing water from the container sitting in the pot.

Allow the top inch to dry to the touch before watering again.

Feed your philodendron with a balanced liquid fertilizer specifically for houseplants. In spring and summer when sunlight is brighter, feed once a month.

Feed once every two months in the fall. Stay in winter.

If the new ones are yellow, the philodendron may lack calcium or magnesium. Adjust your liquid fertilizer if necessary.

If your plant is smaller than it should be and growth is slow, it needs additional feeding.

Place your philodendron in a well-lit place, but out of direct sunlight. It loves heat and moisture so is good near a window. If you can measure the humidity, above 60 percent is good. Don’t worry if it drops a little.

If your colorful philodendrons are in too much shade the leaves will become dull. On the other hand, when green leaves turn yellow, they may be getting too much light. Legumes may not be getting enough sunlight.

growing in water

Like pothos, you can grow philodendrons in a vase or container filled with water.

Cut a six-inch piece of vine from a healthy plant. Make sure there are at least three nodes.

Put it in a glass of water with the rim supporting the plant. You don’t want the whole thing to fall overboard.

Change the water every week and wait for roots to form. Soon, new leaves will form.

If you think the plant is lacking in something you can drop the liquid fertilizer into the water. A few drops will be enough to start. Monitor the plant and add more if necessary. Eventually, you will want to move the plant into the soil as water can only support a fairly small plant.

Growing Philodendron Outside

In Zones 9 to 11, you can plant your philodendron outside. In colder regions, you can keep them in pots during the warm season and bring them indoors during the colder months.

A partially shaded area is essential, especially in the heat of the afternoon with shade. They do well against a wall where heat can radiate, but the reflected light is very strong.

The pH of the soil should be between 5.0 and 6.0. Make sure it is well drained and has plenty of fertilizer or organic matter.

Feed a nitrogen-rich fertilizer once a month. If the growth is too high you can cut. Stop feeding in winter to give the plant a break.

Outdoor humidity of 60 to 70 percent is best. Although you don’t want the temperature to drop below 55ºF, the odd drop is fine as long as it doesn’t drop below 36ºF.

Pruning and Repotting Philodendrons

You can prune your philodendron anytime. Whether your plant is in a hanging basket, on a table, or behind a bookshelf, a quick pruning is good for it.

In a pot, push the larger leaves back to expose the smaller new ones at the bottom. Pinch off those little ones, making sure the pinch is clean.

For trailing variants, cut off any excessively long stems above the node.

Basic pruning keeps philodendrons lush.

Repot your philodendron every two years or so if it outgrows the pot early.

propagation of philodendron

This is a very simple plant to propagate. You can grow the roots in a pot with a seed-growing mix or in water.

Cut a six-inch vine just above where a leaf joins. Remove all leaves except the top two.

Lower the cut end of the stem into a glass jar of water. Do not let the leaves drown. If they are, put a stone or similar in the water to keep the stem slightly elevated.

In a couple of weeks, you will see roots developing. At this stage, you can transplant the stem into a pot with good quality potting soil.

When you propagate, take multiple cuttings to maximize your success. If they all develop roots, that’s a bonus.

Common Problems and Solutions for Growing Philodendrons

Philodendrons are seriously easy to grow, but that doesn’t mean they’re completely pest and disease free. Sometimes you may face one of these problems:

Spider mites

Spider mites feed on plant sap and soft tissues and indoor plants are no different. They love dusty leaves and will attack a plant suffering from insufficient watering.

With spider mites, your philodendron may turn yellow, or you may see very fine webs on the foliage.

Wipe the leaves with a damp cloth to keep them free of dust and make sure you water thoroughly.

If infestation has become established, use an insecticide spray made for indoor plants. Insecticides containing pyrethrum or neem oil work well.

mealybugs

Do You Have Tiny Cotton Balls on Your Philodendron? It’s probably mealybugs. You might be surprised because they can appear overnight.

Mealybugs are sapsuckers that cause yellowing, leaf drop and stunted growth.

If you only have mealybugs on one plant, you should quarantine it.

If you don’t have a lot of bugs on the philodendron, dip a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and touch it to each bug. It is very satisfying.

Another option is insecticidal soap. Being inside, I go for an organic version. Follow the instructions closely.

scale

No matter how diligent you are, some will end up with a philosophical scale – intruders sucking more juice.

They look like a little lump on the plant, but they are actually a pest that has secured your plant and is happily eating it.

Use the cotton swab method above as soon as you see the first scale insect. Follow up with insecticide sprays to deal with small larvae.

Use insecticide at night or when there is no sunlight on the leaves.

bacterial leaf spot

If your plant has this disease, you will see red to brown spots with a yellow halo on the foliage. If the spots enlarge, they become dark brown and irregularly shaped. Remove any infected leaves and water the soil, not the foliage.

bacterial leaf blight

If you see very dark, green spots on the leaves of the plant, you may have leaf blight. The spots may spread where the leaf and stem meet. Eventually, the leaves decompose into a foul-smelling wet blob.

Avoid this by watering at soil level, not overhead. Remove any leaves that you think may be infected. If you over-watered and the potting soil isn’t draining properly, repot it. Use dry, fresh potting soil and a new container.

cold sore

When dark brown spots appear between the leaf veins, your philodendron may have been exposed to persistent temperatures below 50ºF.

Keep your room temperature above 55ºF and don’t try to grow your philodendron right next to the AC register.

tip curl

Tip curl is usually caused by over-fertilization of a philodendron. The leaf tip turns downward and the outer side of the leaf turns brown.

Reduce the amount of feeding and if you used a slow-release fertilizer, repot the plant with fresh potting soil.

Use caution around pets

Like many indoor plants, philodendron can be toxic to animals. Make sure your trailing plants aren’t hanging where a playful animal thinks it’s a toy to be played with.

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