Philodendron is a genus known for its spectacular leaves, with its glossy foliage giving your home a touch of the jungles around South America. These plants love tropical regions, and there are plenty of varieties suiting both indoor and outdoor growing conditions, making them a great choice for gardeners.
For indoor gardens, climbing and self-heading varieties of the philodendron are the best choices. Climbing varieties are an excellent choice for hanging flower baskets, or for training along an indoor trellis in the kitchen. Non-climbing philodendron is the better option for pot plants on the table or floor.
Philodendron is one of the plants in the category known as “air scrubbers.” As these plants metabolize their food, they breathe in toxins from the air, filtering it from the indoor environment. In areas of South America where the philodendron grows in the wild, they can reach astounding size.
Some images online show them swallowing entire trees. However, grown indoors or in pots outside, the plants don’t have the same vigor. Today, there are breeding programs that blend the hanging and self-heading varieties to create hybrids that exhibit the characteristics of both types.
Philodendron – The Natural Air Scrubber
Let’s start this guide to growing and caring for your philodendron by looking at the plant’s most exciting features – it’s air-scrubbing capability.
The philodendron belongs to a group of plants, such as snake plants and aloe vera, that correct the air in your home. The plants remove hazardous particles from the air, such as formaldehyde, acting as a bio-filter for remediating the localized environment in the room.
The thick and fleshy leaves and aerial roots of the plants gather the toxins out of the air. As the plant’s leaves absorb moisture, then purify the toxins, releasing pure oxygen into the air in the room.
It’s essential to keep in mind that the philodendron originates from tropical regions, like most other indoor plants. Therefore, the plant will reach its full potential if you simulate its natural environment as much as possible.
That’s not to say you need to turn your home into a jungle, but you can do a lot to inspire optimal growth by providing the plant with plenty of bright indirect sunlight, warmth, and moisture.
Fortunately, the philodendron is not prone to attack by pests or diseases, and it does well throughout the year, provided the gardener meets the necessary care requirements for the plant. Gardeners can feed their philodendrons throughout the growing season to enhance the growth of the plant.
The climbing variety of philodendron also does very well as trailing and hanging plants in baskets or along a trellis. Gardeners can support climbing philodendron using a moss stick or similar structure.
Scandens, or the sweetheart plant, is one of the sturdiest houseplants available, and of all the philodendron varieties, it’s the best choice for indoor gardens.
Those philodendron varieties that feature velvety leaves are far less tolerant of direct sunlight and require higher levels of humidity than other varieties. Leave these types of philodendron on a windowsill in the bathroom. The steam from a shower will give the foliage the moisture they need to thrive.
If you want to avoid climbing plants, then make sure you opt for the hybrid self-heading variety.
The Philodendron grows well in a lightweight, nutritious, and airy soil mix. Philodendron doesn’t do well in clay-type soils or in substrates that don’t hold any moisture. Typical garden soil is not the best choice for planting your philodendron, as it doesn’t retain moisture well.
Gardeners require a higher-quality soil when planting their philodendron. You’ll need to make various amendments to your soil to make it more accommodative to your philodendron. Add a few handfuls of enriched compost and perlite to the garden soil, and mix well before planting.
When choosing the ideal location in the garden to grow your philodendron, it’s important to remember that the philodendron can reach heights of up to 9-feet if they experience optimal growing conditions.
Therefore, gardeners need to plan for the growth of the plant and ensure it has enough space not to feel cramped. Install trellis or supports while the plant is still young, as trying to fit them around the plant, later on, will be challenging.
Philodendron prefers a spot in the garden that receives afternoon sun but has plenty of shade during the peak hours of the day. In the rainforest where philodendron occurs naturally, only slight fractions of light manage to penetrate the tree canopies, so ensure you never leave them to grow in the full sun.
However, make sure your philodendron does get some bright indirect sunlight, especially in the afternoon. If the plant doesn’t get enough light, it might start to turn leggy.
Gardeners need to ensure that they keep the soil around the base of the philodendron moist at all times. Letting the roots dry out too far results in the plant dying back. If the plant stays dry for too long, you might struggle to try to revive it to its former glory.
Avoid the practice of overwatering. If the roots of the philodendron remain wet for too long, then it will cause the onset of root rot in the plant. Root rot causes yellowing and browning of the tips of the leaves, and they will start to wilt.
Humidity and Temperature
Philodendron prefers a tropical climate where the temperatures don’t dip below 55F. These plants thrive in humid environments where the fleshy leaves can absorb moisture from the air. Leave a tray on the bottom of the pot, and fill it with water to simulate the humidity effect of a tropical location.
You’ll need to mist your philodendron, especially if you live in an arid region of the United States, such as Nevada or Arizona. Mist the plants once every two days in the summer, and once every three days during the wintertime.
Your philodendron produces bigger leaves and stays healthier if you take the time to feed the plant regularly. To feed your plant, add some slow-release granular fertilizer to the soil at the start of the growing season.
Alternatively, you can use an all-purpose fertilizer, diluted to half-strength, and feed the plant once a week during the growing season, and once a month during the wintertime.
You’ll need to repot your philodendron when the roots start to get too big for the pot. These plants can grow vigorously in optimal growing conditions, splitting their growing container. The prevent the roots ruining your pots, make sure you repot before the plant bursts through the sides of the pot.
Choose a slightly bigger pot than the previous container, and prepare it with the necessary soil mix of garden soil, compost, and perlite. Remove the plant from the old pot, and plant it in the new one. Make sure you compact the earth lightly around the plant to ensure you remove all the air pockets in the soil.
After repotting the plat, make sure you water well, and that the soil drains well. Fertilize the plants after 2-weeks when the root system settles.
Breeding and Seeding
Some gardeners might be lucky enough to collect some seeds from the philodendron during the flowering season. However, you’ll need to be precise because the seeds are tiny. It’s for this reason that most gardeners prefer to plant juvenile plants they buy from the garden center or nursery.
However, if you do collect the seeds, they are relatively easy to germinate and grow, even for a novice gardener. Place the seeds in the flower bed at a depth of ½-inch, and cover them lightly with soil mix.
You’ll need to germinate in a warm location, with bright, indirect sunlight. Your philodendron seeds should germinate within 6-weeks, and you’ll need to keep misting the soil throughout the germination process to keep it moist.
Drying the soil out results in the death of the seedling or a reversion back to the dormancy state.
Varieties of Philodendron
Some of the more popular types of philodendron include the following.
- Scandens – A favorite variety, and a climber, also known as the “sweetheart plant.” A very popular climber, it is sometimes called the sweetheart plant. It has heart-shaped leaves that are sometimes variegated.
- Erubescens – A climbing variety with reddish leaves and stems.
- Melanochrysum – A climbing variety with dark, velvety leaves.
- Rojo – A Self-heading hybrid variety that stays mall.
- Bipinnatifidum – Self-heading variety with lobed leaves and otherwise known as the “Lacy Tree.”
Pests and Diseases Affecting Philodendron
Philodendron is mostly disease and pest free. However, they can develop problems if the gardener does not attend to the plant. Neglected plants may start to show signs of the following issues.
Pests Affecting Philodendron
- Spider Mites
Diseases Affecting Philodendron
- There are no known diseases
The stems and leaves of the philodendron contain high concentrations of calcium oxalate, which has a toxic effect on people and pets when taken internally. The juices of the plant may also cause mild skin irritation in some people.