By Matt Gibson
Philodendrons are a great house plant to grow even if you don’t know much about gardening and haven’t had much success growing things in the past. Philodendrons are often recommended to beginning gardeners or kid gardeners, as they are nearly impossible to kill off.
They are available in trailing/climbing types, meaning that if you provide a trellis or railway, that they will wrap around it for support. There are also stand alone, vertical philodendron species. In the outdoors, they are easy to care for because they basically tell their caretakers what they need in order to do well. If grown indoors, they adapt easily to any environment that you can throw at them.
Native to Central and South America, the philodendron was naturalized and brought to Europe and the US. Philodendron is a happy camper indoors all year round, but it is one of the few houseplants that also truly enjoy a little time in the shade outdoors when the weather permits. Unlike most houseplants, philodendron doesn’t experience too much shock when it is brought outdoors for small period of time. This brief vacation also gives you a chance to water the plant and clean the leaves without making a mess inside.
The name philodendron comes from the Greek words for love and tree, and though it is much smaller than the typical tree, it does improve the mood and provide feelings of warmth and joy to those around it. Philodendron is often found in offices and waiting rooms due to its easy maintenance requirements and its ability to clean and purify the air in the area that it inhabits. If you are looking for a decorative plant for your indoor space, chances are, one of the 500 plus varieties of philodendron will be perfectly suited for the occasion.
Varieties of Philodendron
Among the 500 plus varieties of philodendron that are available, there are two different types: climbing and upright. The climbing varieties are the most common. They have dark-green, heart-shaped leaves, and can be urged to grow along windows, up poles or a trellis support, down a container or shelf, or along just about anything you can think of. The upright varieties usually have larger leaves and a more compact, slow-growing style, though they can become quite large if they are not trimmed and kept from reaching out too far.
A comprehensive list of philodendron varieties would be far too much information to compile or to sift through when looking for the right choice for your indoor decor. So, we narrowed it down to a list of some of the more popular choices, some of our favorite varieties, and a handful of rare standouts that deserve a spot on the list. One of the following selections is sure to be the perfect fit for your indoor plant collection:
Elephant Ear Philodendron – The massive two foot long leaves of the elephant ear variety are glossy green and spade-shaped. It is also known as spade leaf philodendron. Learn more.
Heartleaf Philodendron – Heart-shaped leaves sprout from slender stems on this sturdy climber. Place it on top of a bookshelf to the far right or left and admire the way it slowly falls and cascades down the side as it grows. The heartleaf variety is also well-suited to hanging baskets.
Velvet-leaf Philodendron – The velvet-leaf philodendron looks just like the heartleaf variety from a distance. Upon closer examination, you will see that the foliage is covered in tiny hairs, giving the leaves a soft, velvety appearance and texture.
Brasil Philodendron – This popular hybrid is a cross between pothos and heart-leaf. Its leaves have two distinctly different shades of green and a broad central line of chartreuse.
Splitleaf Philodendron – Also called lacy tree philodendron, this large, bushy plant has massive deeply-lobed leaves that emerge from a central stem. It can grow up to eight feet tall and six feet wide.
Red-leaf Philodendron – This variety is rather small but one of the prettiest philodendrons that you will ever come across. Its deep reddish purple stems support coppery red leaves that attract the eye even when placed next to brightly-colored flowering plants.
Fiddle-leaf philodendron – If given a trellis or other support item, the fiddle-leaf philodendron will quickly climb and wrap itself around the item securely. Also known as panda plant, this variety gets its other name from its violin-shaped leaves.
Tree Philodendron – Also known as the split-leaf philodendron, the philodendron tree is simply massive. Reaching ten feet high and wide, the tree variety has glossy leaves and can be grown both indoors and outdoors with ease.
Growing Conditions for Philodendron
Philodendron is a tropical plant, so replicating the environment of its native regions is ideal. However, this is one of the most resilient plants that you can grow, and it can adapt to just about any environment it is given. Considering that it is mainly grown indoors, replicating its preferred environment is not too tall of a task. Just provide bright light, plenty of warmth, and a bit of moisture.
How to Plant Philodendron
If growing philodendron from seed, plant them into the soil no more than half an inch deep, making sure that they are lightly and loosely covered. Choose a warm and bright location and allow two to six weeks to germinate. Mist the soil regularly to keep it moist but not soaked. Once the seedlings are two to three inches, move them to a small pot with nutritious, well-draining soil.
If you purchase your philodendron at a store, it will surely come with its own pot, however, you will want to provide your philodendron with a larger container as soon as you get it home, giving it plenty of room to expand.
Philodendron leaves have a high content of calcium oxalate, which, if consumed, can be toxic to pets and humans. The crystals that form on the foliage of the plant are irritating to the gastrointestinal tract and the mouth. Seek immediate medical or veterinary help if eaten.
Care of Philodendron
Philodendron has three basic needs: sunlight, water and fertilizer. Place your plant in a location with bright but indirect sunlight. Allow the top inch of soil to dry out in between waterings. If the leaves begin to droop, that is a sign that you are providing the plant with too much water.
Feed your philodendron plants with a balanced liquid foliage houseplant fertilizer that provides macro-nutrients. Water the plant with the fertilizer monthly in spring and summer as well as every six to eight weeks in autumn and winter. Slow growth and small leaves is a sign that it isn’t getting enough nutrients. Pale new leaves show that the plant isn’t getting enough calcium and magnesium, which are essential for philodendrons.
Pests and Diseases of Philodendron
Philodendron is not prone to pest attacks, and, as long as they are not overwatered, or surrounded by infested plants, you will probably not run into any pest issues. However, keep an eye out for spider mites thrips, mealybugs, and scale insects, as philodendron is not immune to pest attacks. There are no known disease issues involving philodendron.
Videos About Philodendron
Check out this in-depth tutorial about growing and caring for philodendron plants from an expert gardener with a large collection of philodendron plants. YouTube user Harli G also passes along all the tips and tricks that she has gathered during her many years of gardening:
This is a helpful video to view when you are about to pot philodendron, as the potting instructions are very detailed and useful. YouTube user Tropical Plant Party also shows you how to separate philodendron plants from the roots in order to propagate:
In just over three minutes, YouTuber Plant Anna Plant shows you how to propagate philodendron plants:
Here’s another short film from YouTube user Harli G, an expert gardener who is full of helpful information and experience. This video is a tutorial that walks you through her indoor plant cleaning routine, focusing on keeping her houseplants healthy and free of disease and pests:
Want to Learn More About Philodendron?
Better Homes & Gardens covers Philodendron
Gardening Know How covers Philodendron Houseplants
Gardenista covers Gardening 101: Philodendron
Plantopedia covers Philodendron Houseplant