This post shares all about how to care for Philodendron. There are a ton of different varieties, and Philodendron plants are some of the easiest houseplants to take care of!
Let’s talk about Philodendrons today! If you have houseplants, you probably have a Philodendron hanging out somewhere. If you don’t have houseplants, Philodendrons are a great gateway plant. That’s because they are durable, patient, and tolerant of your plant misgivings.
How to Care for Philodendron
Philodendron is actually name of a large genus of plants in the Araceae family. In fact, it’s the second-largest genus in the family. The most common houseplant Philodendron variety is probably the heart-leaf Philodendron, or Philodendron hederaceum. This plant is often confused with the pothos plant, which itself has many varieties. (Learn how how to care for pothos plants and how to propagate pothos plants from cuttings.)
They share a similar leaf shape; however, they are totally different plants. Pothos plants typically have very shiny and waxy-looking leaves, while the heart-leaf Philodendron leaves have a more matte finish. Here is a picture showing a comparison.
One cool thing about Philodendrons is that they have juvenile leaves and adult leaves. That is, all of the leaves aren’t the same, even on one plant. The plant gradually morphs from juvenile to adult leaves over its life, so it isn’t something you’ll probably notice. However, it’s a trait that has made differentiating between different species difficult.
In addition to being a wildly popular houseplant, Philodendrons can be grown outdoors in the shade, typically preferring moist soils. They are found all around the world.
Want more plant care content? Check out my posts on how to care for snake plants, how to care for prickly pear cactus, how to take care of succulents indoors, how to care for string of pearls, and how to care for rubber plants!
Philodendron Types and Varieties
There are two main types of Philodendron plants: climbing/vining/trailing plants and non-climbing plants that grow up and out. Heart-leaf Philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum) is an example of a type that will vine or trail and looks likely in a hanging basket.
The Fiddle-Leaf Philodendron (which is NOT a fiddle-leaf fig) and Xanadu Philodendron (aka Winterbourn) is an example of a plant that grows up and out—in fact, it can grow two times as wide as it does tall. These plants can actually get quite large, too. Here’s a huge Xanadu Philodendron at my local nursery. If I had 80 bucks to blow and the space…this sucker would so be mine.
Philodendrons have different kinds of roots—aerial and subterranean. Aerial roots grow from the plant’s nodes and help the plant attach itself to things and collect nutrients. Subterranean roots are what you typically think of when you think of plant roots.
Aerial roots help the climbing varieties climb. Don’t cut them off! You can attach the roots to something like a pole or twine on a wall to help the plant climb. Likewise, you can put the stem and aerial root back into the pot and cover with a bit of soil. This will re-root and begin to grow, giving the plant a fuller appearance. I do this with some of my pothos plants, especially if they are getting leggy (stems with sparse leaves).
Philodendron Light Requirements
Philodendrons generally prefer medium light and thrive in bright indirect sunlight. They are well-known for their ability to tolerate low light, but they won’t thrive. As with pothos plants, leaves might develop smaller, and the stems might become more leggy and sparse. Too much direct sunlight with burn the leaves, which is no good. Find yourself a sunny window and you’ll be good to go.
Roots, Soil, and Water
When talking about how to care for Philodendron, water is a critical topic to cover. Watering Philodendrons thankfully isn’t rocket science. You can—and should—let Philodendrons dry out between watering. Don’t over-water and avoid soggy soil—one tell-tale sign of over-watering in a Philodendron is the leaves turning yellow and drooping. Under-watering? Leaves browning, crinkling, and falling off.
You can give your Philodendrons a bit of fertilizer while it’s actively during during the spring, summer, and wall. Let it chill during the winter with no fertilizer and less water. The less a plant is actively growing, the less water it needs. All Philodendrons like well-draining soil.
Philodendron friends like to be snug in their pots, much like snake plants. (Learn more about how to care for snake plants and how to propagate snake plants.) Don’t plant them in pots that are too big. When their roots become really compact, re-home them into something a few inches bigger. See the round up of my indoor planter DIY’s to help you decorate with houseplants.
Like many other houseplants, good drainage is critical to Philodendron health. Use a well-draining high-quality potting soil. If your pot doesn’t have a drainage hole, learn about how to plant in pots without holes to prevent root rot.
Temperature and Humidity for Philodendrons
Speaking of winter, Philodendrons do well in a variety of normal household humidity levels. Misting your little lovelies with a water bottle will promote growth by adding a bit of humidity, though.
Philodendrons also do well in normal household temperature settings. They won’t do well the colder it gets and will die in freezing temps, so if you have them outside in a shady spot for the summer, bring them in during the winter for hibernation.
Philodendron propagation is pretty easy but can differ depending on the plant type. Methods include rooting stem cuttings, air layering, and removing babies from a parent plant. To propagate by cuttings, cut a stem with a few nodes on it and stick it down in to a small pot with sandy soil. You can also remove babies (offsets) from their mother plants to create new plants. Wait until the baby has its own sufficient root system, though.
If you’re propagating a trailing variety, you can grow roots by putting the cutting in a jar of water/ They can successfully root at a node that comes into contact with soil. Take a stem from an existing plant—don’t cut it off—and lay it over another pot with soil in it. Gently bury the node areas and water. After 1–2 months, it should root. You can then cut the stem to separate the two plants.
According to the Internet, Philodendron toxicity risk in children is low, and fatal poisoning is extremely rare. One study of 127 children found only one child showed mild side effects. Opinions about toxicity in cats are also mixed. As with most plants, it’s probably best to keep them away from your kitties and little kids that aren’t old enough to understand you shouldn’t eat them. Thankfully many Philodendrons look beautiful hanging out of reach. 🙂
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