When we talk about philodendrons as houseplants, we are actually talking about hundreds of species of plants within a single genus native to the tropics of Central and South America. While these species are all distinct from each other, they share many similarities and for the most part, require similar care. Here in Virginia, philodendrons perform best inside with average room temperatures, generally requiring low maintenance care. Most philodendrons can be divided into categories by the two major growth habits: vining or upright. Vining philodendrons, with their trailing tendrils of foliage, look great billowing over hanging baskets or climbing up trellises. Upright philodendrons on the other hand, add a tropical flair to any room in the home, whether they fit on a tabletop or take up a corner of the floor..
Whether you have purchased a vining or self-heading philodendron, the basics of watering, fertilizing, light preferences and placement for your plants remain very similar. To help you as you grow your plant, we’ve created a guide to provide all of the basics your philodendron need to survive.
Your philodendron will perform best if you allow the top inch of the soil to dry out completely before watering again. When the leaves start to wilt, your plant needs water right away. It should perk back up provided you do not leave it in a wilted state for a long time.. Philodendrons often only need a drink every week to two weeks. If you are not sure whether you need to water your plant, stick your finger into the soil, and if it feels damp, wait a couple more days to water. If the soil is dry to the touch, it’s time to water it again.
When it is time to water your philodendron, water your plant slowly with room temperature water until water is draining from the bottom of the pot. Drain the excess water that gathers in the saucer so that your plant does not sit in water. Philodendrons do not like to be waterlogged and will develop root rot if left to sit for too long in saturated soil. If your plant is small, it may be easier to carry your plant to the kitchen and water it in the sink. Much like people hate cold showers, these plants do not like cold water, so it will be best to allow water to come to room temperature before pouring it into your plant’s pot.
Philodendrons thrive best with at least 5 hours of bright, indirect sunlight, but will tolerate lower light conditions. Consider placing your philodendron in a location that is either a few feet away from a sunny window, in a sunny window covered by a sheer curtain, or in an eastern or northern facing window. The direct afternoon sunlight of a southern or western facing window might burn the leaves, however, early morning sun should be fine. When philodendrons receive less than five hours of indirect sunlight per day, the plant’s growth will slow down and the foliage will be smaller. If you begin to see yellowing leaves while you plant is in a dark corner, that may mean that your plant is receiving too little light.
Soil & Fertilizing
Philodendrons prefer loose, nutrient-rich potting mix. When planting your philodendron, any all purpose potting mixes that retain moisture and are well-draining will help keep your plant healthy. There should be organic matter in the soil such as peat moss or shredded leaves to improve both aeration and supply nutrients to the plant. If you see that the new growth is paler than the older leaves, it might be an indication that the plant needs to be fed with more calcium or magnesium, found in fertilizers like Schultz All Purpose Fertilizer.
Philodendrons love being regularly fed with a liquid fertilizer, such as Schultz All Purpose Fertilizer, every two weeks throughout the spring into summer. During the winter months, you can refrain from fertilizing because your plants will become dormant and their growth slows down. During this time they require less energy to survive as well as less water and food.
Philodendrons like to be snug in their containers, and you will find they perform very well when their container is only slightly larger than their root ball. When you see the plant’s roots emerging from the top of the soil, it is time to repot the plant to a container of the next size up. It may take several years for this to occur. You can repot the plant during the late spring or early summer, carefully removing it from its old pot and placing it in a new one with fresh soil. After transporting it, it is best to water the plant thoroughly.
Both vining and upright philodendron are easy and fun to propagate if you want to share with friends! When your plant needs a trim, use a clean, sharp pair of clippers to cut off three to six inches of the stem with four to six leaves attached. Clip your stem at a 45 degree angle a bit below a leaf node. You can then either place the cutting in a jar of water or place it straight into a potting mix. If you place the cutting in water, it is best to change the water every few days to keep the water fresh and your cutting healthy. A few weeks later, you will begin to see roots growing, at which point you can transplant the rooted cutting into soil and place the baby plant in a spot with indirect sunlight. If you choose to plant your cutting directly in soil, it will also root after a few weeks, though you will not be able to see the roots growing.
Philodendrons do not typically have issues with pests, but aphids, mealybugs, thrips and spider mites are common houseplant pests you may encounter. If any of these appear on your plant, you can treat them with a mixture of dish soap and water, or with horticulture oil or insecticidal soap depending on the type of problem. If you are not sure what issue is impacting your plant, we recommend bringing a small sample in a plastic bag to the plant clinic at our store for identification. You can also bring us a clear photo of the plant, showing the issue in detail, though we may not always be able to identify the problem from a photo alone.
Troubleshooting Foliage Issues
Your plant’s leaves may turn yellow for a variety of reasons, indicating a number of different issues. Philodendron foliage will turn yellow if there is too little or too much sunlight, if the plant has been watered with cold water, or if it has received too much or too little water. All of this being said, there are some indicators that will suggest which issue your plant is experiencing. When the younger sets of leaves are the ones turning yellow, this is generally a sign of overwatering. If the older leaves are turning yellow, this is generally a sign of underwatering. For sun related issues, if your plant is in a dark corner, you can probably assume that it is receiving too little light. If it is in a bright window and receiving direct sun, you can probably assume it’s receiving too much.
If your philodendron’s leaves start to curl, this is a more clear cut sign that your plant is not receiving enough water. If you come across this issue, try adapting your watering schedule to be sure that you are watering when the top inch or two of potting mix are dry. Letting the plant dry out completely may result in the leaves curling and browning. Sometimes, you can fix this by deeply watering your plant and letting it drain out by placing it in a sink or a tub so that it drains out completely.
Philodendrons are overall adaptable and low maintenance plants that make wonderful additions to the homes of gardeners with all experience levels. If you find you need additional help caring for your philodendron, we encourage you to contact our plant clinic or visit us in store. We are happy to help!