One of the easiest houseplants to grow, philodendrons are fairly large indoor plants with stunning foliage and unique shapes. Happy in indirect light, they make excellent houseplants for even the beginner plant parent. Learn how to plant, grow, and care for philodendrons.
Philodendrons are a genus of tropical and subtropical plants in the family Araceae, which includes other popular houseplants like Monsteras and Anthuriums. Their generic name is also often used as the common name, for example, heartleaf philodendron. With over 450 species and growth habits from terrestrial to vining and climbing, you may find you can never have enough of these beautiful plants.
Most philodendrons have large, glossy leaves that can be oval, spear, or heart-shaped. Some are covered in a velvety coat of fine hairs.
In their natural habitat of Central and South America, most philodendrons are tree canopy species growing in humid, tropical forests. They enjoy the dappled light, high humidity, and warm temperatures found in and under the tops of the trees.
While some are epiphytic, others are hemiepiphytic. If you want some bedtime reading, check out this paper on the history and use of the terms epiphytic and hemiepiphytic published by Oxford University Press. Epiphytic philodendrons germinate in the tree canopy and eventually grow roots toward the soil. Hemiepiphytic philodendrons germinate near or on the forest floor and look for a tree to climb.
Philodendrons that follow this pattern will grow along the ground toward areas of darkness (heavy shade under trees). This trait is called skototropism. Once they find a tree trunk or plant to climb, they revert to phototropism, growing toward the light.
Philodendrons planted as houseplants can be potted up at any time of the year. Generally, they will do the best when repotted in spring or summer, during the peak growing season.
How to Plant Philodendrons
Philodendrons may be purchased as young plants or as cuttings. Young plants can be potted up, similar to other houseplants. Cuttings should be rooted first, commonly in water although rooting in soil can also work.
Make sure the pot and soil have good drainage. Although they are tropical plants, wet, soggy soil can still lead to root rot.
Wet the soil in the existing pot and let it soak in for a few minutes to make removing the plant easier.
You may also need to loosen the sides of the root mass from the original container with a wooden spoon.
Take care to replant your philodendron at the same height, with respect to the soil, as it was before.
Don’t bury the crown or have it perched too high.
Tamp the fresh soil around the plant firmly (but not hard) to minimize air pockets.
Philodendrons are one of the easiest houseplants to grow. Follow these care tips for the best results.
Bright but indirect light is what these plants like. Near a sunny window, but not in direct sunlight, is a good spot. Direct sunlight can burn the leaves.
Mimic their natural environment. Philodendrons like humidity and warmth. Mist your plant several times a week to keep it happy. If your air is dry, place the pot in a pebble tray, and keep water in the tray. The philodendron’s pot should be on top of the pebbles, not resting in the water. As the water evaporates, it will provide a little boost of localized humidity.
Wipe off the leaves with a soft, damp cloth periodically. They are large and can gather dust, which looks unsightly and can block some light, slowing photosynthesis.
Fertilize once in spring and again in summer with a diluted liquid fertilizer. Too much can cause the plant to show brown leaf margins or drop leaves.
Philodendrons are straightforward to propagate. If you want more philodendrons or want to make a copy of your plant for a friend, try your hand and follow these steps.
Select a piece of stem with at least one node and leaf. A node commonly has a brown aerial root growing.
Cut one inch below the node with clean, sharp shears. Make the cut where the stem is brown, not in green new growth.
Wipe off any milky sap and place the new cutting in a clear-walled container filled with clean water. Make sure the node is submerged.
Use bottled water if your tap water is heavily treated.
Place the jar in a brightly lit and warm spot out of direct sunlight.
Change the water weekly to keep it fresh. In 2 to 4 weeks, your cuttings should start to root. Transplant to moist potting mix once the baby roots are about an inch long.
Climbing and vining philodendrons can be pruned to keep their size manageable, and the cuttings make excellent propagations.
The common name split-leaf philodendron usually refers to a plant that is not a Philodendron at all, Monstera deliciosa. However, it can also be Thaumatophyllum bipinnatifidum, the plant formerly classified as Philodendron bipinnatifidum or P. selloanum. It’s good gossip for your next garden club party.
Philodendrons grown as houseplants don’t have many issues but can be bothered by common houseplant pests.