How to Grow and Care for Philodendrons
The Philodendron genus contains hundreds of species of beautiful foliage plants. Their leaves are typically large, green, and glossy, adding a bit of their native tropical flair to your home. There are two types of philodendrons: vining and non-climbing plants. The vining variety grows several feet, usually requiring some support structure to climb on, such as a trellis or around a basket. Non-climbing types have an upright growth habit and are excellent foliage plants for containers. In general, philodendrons have a fast growth rate. They’re best planted in the spring, but houseplants typically can be started with success at any time of year. They are toxic to pets and humans if ingested.
When caring for an indoor philodendron plant, aim to mimic its natural tropical environment. Provide plenty of warmth and moisture near a sunny window. During warm weather, put philodendron houseplants outside in a shady spot to get some fresh air and natural light on occasion. Beware of direct sunlight; it can burn their delicate leaves.
Keep your plant’s leaves looking and functioning their best by regularly wiping them off with a damp cloth.
These plants don’t have any serious issues with pests or diseases. But they can be susceptible to common houseplant pests, including aphids, mealybugs, scale, thrips, and spider mites.
Treat pests with a natural insecticidal soap or horticultural oil.
Philodendrons typically grow best in partial sunlight. They naturally would get dappled light under a tropical canopy, not direct sun. Indoors, set them up by a window that gets bright, indirect light. Too little light can result in leggy growth with lots of space in between the leaves. But too much light can cause many of the leaves to turn yellow at the same time. (Only a few leaves yellowing is typically just normal aging).
Philodendrons like loose potting soil that’s rich in organic matter. The soil must have good drainage. For container plants, it’s recommended to replace your philodendron’s soil every couple of years or so. These plants are sensitive to salts that accumulate in the soil via watering, which can cause leaf browning and yellowing. You can periodically flush out some of the salts by watering your container thoroughly until water comes out of its drainage holes. But eventually, the soil will need refreshing.
These plants generally like a moderate amount of soil moisture. Water whenever the top inch of soil has dried out. Both overwatering and underwatering can cause the leaves to droop, so gauge when it’s time to water by the soil dryness and not necessarily the leaves. Philodendrons don’t do well sitting in soggy soil, as this can lead to root rot. The non-climbing varieties tend to have a little more drought tolerance than the vining species. Reduce your water for indoor plants and during the winter.
Temperature and Humidity
The temperature tolerance of philodendrons varies based on the species. In general, they should not be exposed to temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Indoors protect them from cool drafts, such as those from an air-conditioning vent. These plants like humidity, so you might have to boost humidity around your philodendron if you live in a dry climate. To do so, you can mist the plant every few days with water from a spray bottle. You can also place the container on a tray of pebbles filled with water, ensuring that the bottom of the container isn't touching the water, leading to root rot.
Use a balanced liquid fertilizer monthly on your plant in the spring and summer. Then, reduce feeding to every six to eight weeks in the fall and winter. If your plant isn’t getting enough food, its growth will be slower than normal, and its leaves might appear smaller than usual.
If your philodendron vines get too long or leggy, cut them back using sterilized pruning shears or scissors. The best time to do this is in the spring or summer. You can safely give your philodendron a light trim any time of year to remove yellowing leaves and trim spindly growth. It's best to cut just above a leaf node. Take your stem cuttings and use them for propagation.
Philodendrons are easy to propagate from stem cuttings and division. The best time to propagate is in the early spring as the days grow longer. Here's how to propagate philodendrons from these methods:
How to propagate from stem cuttings:
- You will need sterilized pruning shears or heavy-duty scissors, potting mix, a pot, and, optionally, rooting hormone.
- Cut roughly a 6-inch portion of the stem, and place it in a water container to develop roots. You can introduce a rooting hormone (per the package instructions) to increase your chance of success with rooting, but it's usually not necessary.
- Add more water as it evaporates. If sitting longer than two or three weeks in the same water, completely change the water to prevent algae or bacterial growth.
- Once several roots have developed (usually within two weeks), pot the cutting in moist soil.
How to divide your philodendron:
- Philodendrons often develop plantlets that can be removed from the main plant with their roots intact and transplanted once they grow several inches long.
- The day before you plan to divide your plant, water the plant well. Dividing is traumatic for the plant, so you want your plant at its best.
- You'll need a sharp knife, potting mix, and a new pot.
- Remove the plant from its current container, place it on a flat, steady surface, use your fingers to loosen the root ball, and pull off the plantlet with its roots. Use a knife to help you cut through dense roots if necessary.
- Replant the plantlet immediately in a fresh, moist potting mix.