The Philodendron genus contains hundreds of species of beautiful foliage plants. And many are commonly grown as houseplants. In fact, they’re often touted for their air-cleaning abilities indoors. Their leaves are typically large, green, and glossy, adding a touch of their native tropical jungles to your home.
There are two basic types of philodendrons: the vining plants and the non-climbing plants. The vining plants grow vines of several feet and need some sort of support structure to climb on, such as a trellis or around a basket. The non-climbing types have an upright growth habit and make for excellent foliage plants in containers. In general, philodendrons have a fast growth rate. They’re best planted in the spring, but houseplants typically can be started at any time of year with success.
|Mature Size||1–20 ft. tall, 1–6 ft. wide (varies by species)|
|Soil Type||Loamy, well-drained|
|Hardiness Zones||9–11 (USDA)|
|Native Area||Central America, South America|
|Toxicity||Toxic to pets and 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. Philodendron houseplants also tend to appreciate some time outside during warm weather to get some fresh air and natural light. But be sure to place them in a somewhat shady spot, as direct sunlight can burn them.
Moreover, to keep your plant’s leaves looking and functioning their best, regularly dust them off with a damp cloth. If your philodendron vines get too long for your taste, you can cut them back. The best time to do this is in the spring or summer.
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 a 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.
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 do like humidity, so if you live in a dry climate you might have to boost humidity around your philodendron. To do so, you can mist the plant every few days with water from a spray bottle. You also can place the container on a tray of pebbles filled with water, ensuring that the bottom of the container isn't touching the water, which can lead 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.
Is the Philodendron Toxic?
Philodendron leaves and stems are high in calcium oxalate. This can be toxic to both people and animals when eaten.
Symptoms of Poisoning
For both people and animals, symptoms of toxicity can include drooling, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and a lack of appetite. There also can be swelling, pain, and blistering of the mouth and down the throat. Seek immediate medical help if you suspect poisoning.
Potting and Repotting Philodendrons
Initially, a philodendron should be planted in a container that is slightly larger than its root ball and has ample drainage holes. When the roots start poking up from the soil and out of the drainage holes of the pot, it’s time to repot the philodendron. The ideal time to do this 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. Then, water the plant.
The vining philodendrons are easy to propagate from cuttings. Simply cut roughly a 6-inch portion of the stem, and place it in a container of water to develop roots. Using a rooting hormone will increase the chances of success, but it's usually not necessary. Once several roots have developed, pot the cutting in moist soil. Furthermore, the non-climbing philodendrons sometimes send up plantlets that can be carefully removed from the main plant with their roots intact once they gain some size. Plant them directly in their own pots with moist soil.
Some of 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.