This Guide to Philodendron Care Covers Both Vining and Upright Varieties

Enjoy the lush, leafy foliage of philodendron with this guide that details optimal philodendron care.

philodendron care

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Philodendrons are among the most popular choices for houseplants due to their attractive foliage and easy care. The plants come in more than 100 varieties that vary in size, color, and growth habit. The vining variety makes excellent indoor hanging plants, while upright philodendrons are well suited for tabletop or floor decor.

Even newbie houseplant growers can cultivate a leafy backdrop with these low-light houseplants. Ahead, find out everything you need to know about philodendron care, and discover how simple it is to grow this lush, tropical plant.

Related: 10 Low-Light Houseplants You Can Grow Practically Anywhere

Philodendron Care at a Glance

Common name: Philodendron
Scientific name: Philodendron
Soil: Light, loamy, well draining
Light: Medium to bright, indirect
Water: Moderate, avoid overwatering and under watering
Food: 3-2-1 houseplant foliage fertilizer
Temperature and humidity: Medium-high humidity, temps above 55 degrees Fahrenheit
Propagation: Easily propagated by cuttings in water
Safety: Toxic if consumed

Philodendron Characteristics

Native to tropical regions of the Americas, philodendron (Philodendron) boasts glossy foliage that’s usually green but might feature other colors, including purples and coppery hues. Most varieties of philodendron flower, but this plant species might not produce flowers until it’s a few years old.

Vining philodendron is classified as a “hemiepiphyte,” a climber that does not grow toward the sun as most vines do, but instead, grows toward a support, such as a nearby tree or trellis. The climbing variety of this plant (Philodendron hederaceum var. oxycardium) will twist its way around stakes and poles to create vertical appeal.

Philodendrons that feature an upright growth habit (Philodendron bipinnatifidum) come in various sizes with different leaf configurations, including solid leaves and split leaves. These non-climbing varieties can be small or large, depending on the type, ranging in mature height from about 1 foot up to 6 feet, and they grow well as container plants.

philodendron care

Photo: istockphoto.com

Types of Philodendron

Of the many types of philodendron that grow naturally in tropical regions, only a few types are widely propagated for houseplant use. These types thrive in most indoor growing conditions. The best philodendron plant care for one type will generally apply to all types in this species.

  • Philodendron brandi: Very easy to grow; this philodendron is a vining climber that features olive green leaves with light gray color variations. Its unique color makes it a focal point in any room.
  • Philodendron brasil: A common vining type, this philodendron features greenish-yellow, heart-shaped leaves, and it’s one of the more popular types for hanging baskets. Getting Philodendron brasil care right is simple—just keep in mind the plant does best in low or moderate indirect lighting situations.
  • Philodendron hederaceum: The most common type available, hederaceum is an upright philodendron. It features large, heart-shaped split leaves that create a stunning visual impact.
  • Philodendron erubescens: With its small, compact growth habit, this type best fits small pots kept on desks or tables. Its attractive green leaves contrast with vivid red stems.
  • Philodendron micans: Chosen for its vining habit and heart-shaped leaves that start out red but then mature to deep green, micans is a charming philodendron that grows easily in hanging baskets or pots where it can drape over the sides. Optimal Philodendron micans care requires allowing the top of the soil to dry out before watering.
  • Philodendron xanadu: An upright variety, Philodendron xanadu features glossy, split leaves that can reach up to 18 inches across at maturity. The leaves are bright green with light red stems. The best Philodendron xanadu care includes the same minimal attention paid to other types, but this variety is more tolerant of lower humidity levels.
  • Philodendron lemon lime: True to its name, this type features eye-catching yellow-green leaves. Lemon lime philodendron care requires little more than regular watering and locating the plant in indirect light.
  • Philodendron birkin: A popular new hybrid, this upright type is compact and features deep green, round leaves with pointed tips and contrasting white stripes.

Related: The Most Expensive Houseplants People Actually Buy

Selecting Soil for Philodendron

These lush houseplants prefer slightly acidic soil (5.0 to 6.0 on the pH scale), similar to that found in their native tropical environment. Select a lightweight indoor houseplant potting soil that contains organic matter, perhaps a blend with sphagnum peat moss or coconut coir, such as Miracle-Gro Indoor Mix (available on Amazon). The grow mix should drain well to keep philodendron roots from sitting in soggy soil, which can lead to root rot and fungus problems.

Over time, salts can build up in potting soil due to watering and can cause philodendron leaves to turn yellow or wilt. To prevent this from occurring, consider repotting with new soil every 2 to 3 years.

The Right Light

In its natural habitat, philodendron grows under a jungle canopy that provides medium-to-bright filtered light but no direct light. Position this plant in a north-facing window or in a room where it will receive indirect light. Philodendrons will grow in deep shade, but they grow more slowly. Avoid south-facing windows if the plant would be in the path of bright sunrays during even a small amount of time during the day.

During warm summer months, philodendrons can be taken outside and placed on a covered patio or under a tree. They will benefit from ample air circulation, but don’t put them where they will receive direct sunrays.

philodendron care

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Watering Philodendron

Philodendrons need regular watering—about once per week—but they don’t like overwatering. The top inch of soil in the pot should be allowed to dry out before the next watering. The size of the plant and the size of the pot both play a role in how often it will need watering. The roots of a large plant in a relatively small pot will absorb water from the soil more quickly than a small plant in a larger pot.

To determine an optimal watering schedule, water the philodendron thoroughly (setting it in a sink where water can drain out works well) and then check the soil for moisture content every couple of days by poking a finger in the top of the soil. When the top inch of soil is dry but the soil beneath is still slightly damp, it’s time to rewater.

Fertilizing Philodendron

Like most houseplants, philodendron needs fertilizer in order to develop lush, rich foliage color and to bloom. Consider applying a balanced fertilizer for the best results, such as plant-specific Philodendron Fertilizer 3-1-2 (available on Amazon).

Fertilize monthly during the plant’s active-growing season (spring and summer), and increase the time between feedings to once every 6 weeks during fall and winter. Follow the product’s usage instructions; in most cases the fertilizing liquid should be diluted in water before pouring over the soil. Larger plants will require more fertilizer than smaller plants.

philodendron care

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Setting the Temperature and Humidity

Tropical plants like warm, humid growing conditions, and philodendron are no different in that regard. It will, however, tolerate occasional temperatures in the mid-to-upper 60s. However, if the temp drops below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, the cool air could damage the plant and stunt its growth. Average indoor home temperatures suit healthy growth of this indoor plant.

Philodendron enjoys growing in humid conditions as well, but most plant owners don’t want high humidity levels in their homes. If the air is very dry, which tends to happen most during winter months when using a furnace dries out the air, consider putting a humidifier in the room or misting the plant with water once a week.

Propagating Philodendron

For those who want additional philodendron plants without spending more money, propagating new plants that will be identical to the existing ones is a snap. Philodendron grows easily from stem cuttings placed in water. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Select a 4- to 6-inch section at the tip of a stem and use sharp scissors or pruning shears to make a diagonal cut at a 45-degree angle.
  2. Remove all but one or two leaves at the tip of the stem.
  3. Put the stem in a glass of water about 1 inch deep.
  4. Optional: Add a pinch of rooting growth hormone to the water.
  5. Place the glass of water in bright but indirect light.
  6. Drain and refill the water every few days.

New roots should appear in a week or two, and when they’re 3 inches long, transplant the cutting into a new pot.

Related: 8 Plants You Can Grow Without Soil

philodendron care

Photo: istockphoto.com

Safety Considerations

Philodendron plants contain calcium oxalate, a known toxin, so take care to keep the plants out of the reach of pets and small children. According to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, it’s rare for children to be poisoned from eating the leaves because the oxalate causes intense mouth pain on contact. When the substance comes into contact with the skin on other body parts, it causes redness, burning, and swelling. If you suspect a child has eaten a philodendron leaf, call Poison Control Centers at 800-222-1222.

Pets can also develop symptoms from chewing or swallowing the leaves, including a red and swollen mouth and tongue, pawing at the mouth, and drooling. Contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your pet ingested philodendron.

Potential Pests and Diseases

Fortunately, philodendron is an easy keeper and not susceptible to developing many diseases. However, if the plant is neglected or unhealthy, it’s more likely to fall prey to a fungal or insect infestation—common pests, such as spider mites or aphids, might take up residence on the leaves. Overwatering philodendron can lead to soggy soil, which also increases the risk of fungus gnat infestations.

Most pest infestations are easily treated by spraying the plant with an insecticidal soap, or treating it with horticultural oil designed for use on houseplants, such as neem oil (available on Amazon).

FAQs About Philodendron Care

Having beautiful philodendrons doesn’t require a lot of care—these lush houseplants are easy keepers. They’re available in either vining or upright growth habits, and they thrive without much attention. However, those who are new to this diverse species of tropical plant will likely have some questions.

Q. Do philodendrons need direct sunlight?

No. Direct sunlight can damage the plant. Instead, locate a philodendron where it receives medium-to-bright indirect light, such as in a north-facing window.

Q. Is philodendron a good indoor plant?

It’s one of the most popular houseplants because it comes in many types and requires very little attention.

Q. Are philodendrons indoor or outdoor plants?

In USDA Zones 11a and 11b, some types of philodendron can be grown outdoors. In regions farther north, however, it’s considered an indoor houseplant.

Q. How long can philodendron plants live?

A healthy philodendron can survive for 20 years or more as a houseplant. In their natural tropical habitat, some have lived upward of 100 years.

Q. Do I need to water my philodendrons every day?

No. Water only when the top inch of soil in the pot becomes dry, approximately once a week.