Known for their thick stems and vibrant foliage, the Philodendron genus houses over 450 species. Traditionally, these plants hail from the tropical regions of the Americas but are also highly popular houseplants! Their broad leaves make them eye-catching in any home, and all members of the genus are also great for purifying the air.
What are Philodendrons?
Philodendrons come in two types: climbers and non-climbers. Since these plants typically come from rainforests, they’re found most commonly on or around rainforest trees. Climbing Philodendrons are found trailing along tree trunks and require support to grow and spread properly. Non-climbers, on the other hand, sit on the forest floor as ground cover. In the home, non-climbers look great as a table setting, on a bookshelf, or on the ground in their own pot. Climbers, however, look best when they’re allowed to trail, whether it’s upwards with trellis support or hanging from a basket.
Our Philodendron collection consists of two non-climbing Philodendrons: the Red Congo and the Birkin, and one climber: the Philodendron cordatum. The Red Congo sports deep green, oblong leaves with brilliant, blood-red stems. The Birkin’s leaves are rounder and feature emerald leaves with light green veins. As a trailing plant, the Philodendron Cordatum has slightly smaller, rounder leaves that hang from long vines.
Before purchasing a Philodendron, it’s important to note that this plant is toxic to both animals and people, as it contains the compound calcium oxalate. When ingested, people and pets may experience Philodendron Poisoning; its most common symptoms include burning sensations and blistering inside the mouth and throat, diarrhea, drooling, nausea, vomiting, pain while swallowing, and swelling around the mouth, throat, and eyes. Severe cases of Philodendron Poisoning may result in loss of motor control and corneal damage.
The best thing you can do to avoid potential harm is to keep your houseplants away from curious pets and children– it may save their life!
Philodendrons are pretty low-maintenance, as long as you replicate their natural tropical environment as closely as possible. Overall, there are several things you can do to help keep your Philodendron happy, regardless of its species:
Since they mainly grow on forest floors or under trees, Philodendrons need partial sun. If you’re growing these plants indoors, bright, indirect sunlight from a south or east-facing window works best, but they’re also tolerant of medium light levels too. It’s generally best to avoid placing your Philodendron somewhere it’ll get direct sunlight, as direct sun can burn their leaves.
Loose, nutrient-rich soil is a Philodendron’s best friend, and good drainage is a must. We recommend using a nutrient-rich, loamy potting mix or making your own soil with peat, perlite, and compost. One thing to keep in mind with Philodendrons is that they are sensitive to salt. You may have to fully replace your soil once or twice a year to mitigate salt buildup from hard water.
Philodendrons like to sit in semi-moist soil and should be watered regularly to help keep their roots nice and cozy. Whenever the top inch of soil is dry, it’s time to water your Philodendron. Try to water your Philodendrons deeply (until water seeps from the drainage holes) to flush out any salt or mineral residue from previous waterings. After watering, always wait for any excess water in your pot to drain completely before putting your Philodendron away.
Temperature and Humidity
As rainforest plants, Philodendrons need warm temperatures and high humidity. Outdoors, Philodendrons do best in USDA agricultural zones 9-11. Like just about every plant that does well in those areas, Philodendrons are not frost tolerant and will wither in temperatures under 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Ideally, keep them toasty and away from drafts indoors, where temperatures usually range from 65-85 degrees. Humidity-wise, you’ll want to go with a moist 50-60% humidity around these plants. To help regulate moisture around your Philodendron, you can use a small humidifier or mist your plants frequently with a spray bottle.
For fertilizer, we recommend using a balanced liquid houseplant fertilizer once a month during the plant’s growing season. Most Philodendrons have their growing seasons in the spring, but to ensure you’re fertilizing, pruning, and repotting at the right time, check your species’ specific growing season.
When you fertilize during the off-season, do so every six to eight months– this will ensure your Philodendron is getting plenty of nutrients year-round.
Potting and Repotting
As always, avoid repotting your Philodendron until its growing season. However, if you just received a bare-root plant or your Philodendron is struggling with root rot or pests, you may have to repot it sooner. When choosing a pot for your Philodendron, always go for one with drainage holes since you’ll need to flush out salt residue every time you water. To further improve drainage, consider using a pot made from porous materials like concrete, terracotta, or unglazed ceramic.
Philodendrons do bloom, but it takes a very long time for flowers to appear since the plants must reach full maturity before they’re ever able to produce flowers. Although Philodendrons grow fast, they take a while to mature, and it may be a decade or so before you start to see flowers. Philodendron blooms are typically white and shaped a lot like lilies. Their stamens, however, are much thicker and more oblong than a lily’s.
Since Philodendrons cannot self-propagate through flowers, the best way to propagate them is through stem cuttings during the growing season. To propagate your Philodendron, take a stem cutting just below the leaf node. When you make your cut, use a clean, sharp pair of scissors. Then, let your cutting callous over for a day or so. Once your cutting has calloused, dip your stem cutting in some rooting hormone and plant it in a moist potting mix. Mist your soil regularly to ensure the cutting has plenty of moisture to grow!
Common Pests and Complications
Philodendrons are prone to common houseplant pests like aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, and scale. To avoid infestation, make sure your Philodendron is planted in well-draining soil and isn’t sitting in soggy dirt. Other complications that may arise from poor drainage include root rot and fungal infections.