The fabulous Philodendron is having a moment right now, and for good reason. They’re easy to care for with medium light requirements, and lush, air purifying foliage that can turn your living space into a tropical paradise in no time.
You can hardly flip through instagram without seeing a stunning split leaf philodendron brightening up someone’s home with its tropical vibes. Heart Leaf philodendron are actually the most common house plant in america with it’s long trailing vines gracing book shelves and window sills throughout the country. Swiss Cheese philodendrons lacey leaves make them seem almost dainty, and pink princess philodendrons bring a bright pop of color into the plant party. They’re great air cleaners, and best of all, fairly easy to care for.
Philodendron’s name, translated from Greek, mean’s “love tree”, fitting for these classic beauties which have been popular features of interior design since the days of Queen Victoria. Native to the Tropical Americas, there are hundreds of species of philodendron, and the species includes both vine-ing varieties and non-trailing, or self heading varieties. They may not look related, but the large Lacey Tree Philodendron and the Heart Leaf philodendron are family. And while the Heart Leaf Philodendron looks a lot like a pothos, the two are completely different species (the pothos usually has white or yellow variegation on the leaves and is a much smaller plant)
Light: Philodendrons grow high in the canopies in their native rain forests, which means they need medium to bright indirect light. It is common for older leaves to turn yellow and die, but if you notice a couple of leaves turning yellow, this can be an indication that your plant is getting too much light and need to be moved further from the window, or perhaps to a different location.
Philodendrons can tolerate low light, but if the plant starts looking leggy with lots of distance in between leaves, it is an indication that it’s not getting enough light. The best location for your philodendron is near a bright window in a location that the sun’s rays will never actually directly touch the leaves.
Water: Philodendrons are from a humid environment, and so if your home tends towards the dry side your philodendrons will benefit from regular misting during the growing season, but don’t over do it as philodendrons can rot if they are kept too wet. Water when the top inch of soil is dry (you can check by sticking your finger in to the top knuckle, if the soil is dry to the touch it’s time to water) Leaves can droop it the plant is over or underwatered but will perk up when you’ve found the right watering balance.
Temperature: Philodendron plants require a warm environment, ideally between 65-78 ° F during the day and down to 60° F at night.
Fertilizing: Feed your philodendron houseplants monthly during the growing season with an organic liquid fertilizer with macronutrients, cutting back to every six to eight weeks in the fall and winter. If your plant seems to being growing slowly, or you’ve noticed smaller leaves, it is an indication that your plant isn’t receiving the nutrients that it needs. If your plant’s new leaves are pale, that is an indication that it isn’t getting enough calcium or magnesium, which are macronutrients for philodendrons.
Avoid harsh chemical fertilizers which will strip the soil of it’s eco system, forcing your plant to depend on continued chemical fertilization. Instead, look for fertilizers that will build up the quality of the soil.
Re-potting: Climbing philodendrons in particular can be incredibly fast growers. If you don’t want to constantly repot your plant, it’s ok to pinch off new growth to keep it’s size manageable, then repot annually as it outgrows it’s pot. Self-heading philodendron can sometimes grow very large, so as you repot them make sure you’re giving them plenty of room to grow. In between re-potting remember to occasionally aerate your soil by poking a chopstick around the roots of the plant to keep the soil from compacting.
Toxicity: Philodendrons are toxic to humans and animals and should be kept out of reach of children and pets. Lacy Tree philodendrons in particular are toxic to cats and dogs
Diagnosing common issues and how to treat:
While philodendrons aren’t known for being pest prone, you might come across aphids or mealybugs. Remove the mealybugs with a cotton ball dipped in rubbing alcohol. Dusting your leaves with a soft rag sprayed with a little bit of neem oil will keep the pores of the leaves from getting clogged but will also help keep pests at bay.
There are a few bacterial infections that affect philodendrons that appear as spotting or lesions on the leaves or stem. The best way to avoid them is to avoid stressing out the plant. Common stressors include over or under watering, drastic temperature changes, under or over fertilizing, and poor draining soil, or inadequate light. If you suspect your philodendron is sick isolate it immediately. Remove the effected leaves, sterilizing your pruning tool in-between cuttings, and keep the plant in a dry, cool conditions with proper light.
Philodendrons are a beautiful edition to any home. With the right warmth, light, and moisture they’ll stay vibrant and lush for years to come, making them a must have for any aspiring urban oasis.