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.
|Botanical Name||Philodendron spp.|
|Mature Size||1–20 ft. tall, 1–6 ft. wide (varies by species)|
|Soil Type||Loamy, well-drained|
|Hardiness Zones||9–11 (USA)|
|Native Area||Central America, South America|
|Toxicity||Toxic to pets, toxic to people|
Watch Now: How to Grow and Care for a Philodendron Plant
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.
Types of Philodendron
The most common species of philodendron include:
- Philodendron scandens: This plant is a very popular climber. It has heart-shaped leaves that are sometimes multicolored.
- Philodendron erubescens: This is a vigorous climber with reddish stems and leaves.
- Philodendron melanochrysum: This plant is a stunning climber with dark, velvety leaves powdered in bronze.
- Philodendron rojo: This is a hybrid that stays small and manageable but retains its vigor.
- Philodendron bipinnatifidum: This is a large plant with deeply lobed leaves and is sometimes called lacy tree philodendron.
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.
Growing Philodendron From Seed
Growing philodendrons from seed is a slow process; stem cuttings are much faster. But, if you insist: In a 6-inch pot, you can plant several seeds. Plant one seed every 2-inches about 1/3 of an inch deep in rich soil. Cover the plant with plastic. Remove the plastic occasionally to allow air in. Spray the soil regularly to keep it moist. Philodendron seeds do not need to be soaked before planting. The seeds will take about two to eight weeks to germinate at a soil temperature between 68 and 73 degrees Fahrenheit. When the seedlings sprout and become sturdy enough to handle, move each one to a small pot of its own to foster strong root development.
Potting and Repotting Philodendrons
Plant a philodendron in a slightly larger container than its root ball with ample drainage holes. When the roots start poking up from the soil and out of the pot's drainage holes, it’s time to repot the philodendron. The ideal time to repot is in the late spring or early summer. Select one pot size up. Gently remove your plant from its old pot, and place it in the new one with fresh soil at the bottom and around its sides. Then, water the plant thoroughly.
Tropicals need to be overwintered in the house if you do not live in a tropical zone. Many tropicals and common houseplants do well through the winter indoors. They adapt quickly to indoor conditions. As the days shorten and the temperatures cool, philodendrons need a little less water than during the warmer growing season. Also, only water when the top of the soil starts to become dry to the touch when indoors. Also, before you bring the plants, use pruners to cut off the yellowing leaves or long leggy stems. Check for mold, signs of decay, and insects before bringing it inside.
Common Problems With Philodendron
Philodendrons are an easy-going plant that acclimates well to indoor living and can also propagate easily. It is prone to some wellness issues when water, sun, and soil conditions are not being met. Here are some signs to look for and how to handle them.
Several issues can cause yellowing leaves, such as giving it water that's too cold, not offering enough sunlight, or exposing the plant to too much bright light. If the older leaves are yellowing, then you may be under-watering the plant. If the younger bottom sets of leaves turn yellow, you may be overwatering the plant. In most cases, adjust these factors to see your plant rebound.
If you give plant food to your philodendron, be careful to water the soil first, add a water-diluted fertilizer solution, and then water the plant again. These extra steps ensure the roots do not get burned by the chemicals in the fertilizer, which can cause yellowing.
Yellowing and Rotting Smell
If your plant's leaves turn yellow very quickly, it can be a sign of root rot. If you catch it quickly, you might be able to save the plant. Smell the soil for a rotting odor or dig up the root to inspect its health. In most cases, cut away the black, mushy pieces of rotting root and replant the white or yellow portions of roots in a clean container with fresh soil.
Yellow Splotches or Patterning on Leaves
If you notice small yellow lesions or patterns on your plant's leaves, it can be a sign of the mosaic virus. You may be able to get rid of the virus by helping the plant defend itself: If the temperature is still warm, bring the plant outside for some indirect, natural light. Keep the infected plant at least 2-feet away from other plants. Remove the badly affected leaves. Hose down the rest of the leaves, removing any dust on the surface of the leaves. Apply a diluted nitrogen-rich fertilizer to the soil, to help the plant grow back stronger.
If your plant develops browning leaf edges, you may be shocking your plants with cold water that's too cold. Also, if your plant's leaves start to get brown and mushy, you are likely overwatering. Brown leaf edges that start to curl indicate the water needs more water and less sun. Make adjustments accordingly.
Browning leaf tips with yellow halos can indicate your plant needs more humidity. You can mist the plant's leaves or place the plant container atop a tray of peddles with water to raise the humidity. Don't submerge the plant base; keep it right above the waterline.
Are philodendrons easy to care for?
They are especially easy to grow and care for, which makes them perfect plants for beginners.
How fast does philodendron grow?
Philodendron plants are very quick-growing plants; they can grow up to 4 inches a week during the spring and summer.
How long can philodendron live?
If given the right conditions, this plant can live for decades.