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Can any of us really resist a trailing plant?
If you’re looking for something to add an extra dimension to your indoor plant collection, a philodendron is a great place to start. Depending on the variety, it trails, climbs, or grows into a compact bush. They’re versatile enough to fill the gaps in your display or stand alone as statement plants.
The best part is, this plant is a great choice for beginners and experienced indoor gardeners. Its needs are simple and it’s a good communicator. If you do make a mistake, it’ll let you know what the problem is, pick itself up again, and recover.
What more could you ask for?
|Similar to||Monstera, pothos plant|
|Native to||Central and South American Rainforests|
|Shape||Vine or ‘self-heading’ bush|
|Maximum size||Vines up to 4’, leaves up to 4’’ long|
|Light requirements||Low – moderate indirect light|
|Preferred humidity||Moderate – high|
|Preferred temperature||60 – 75 (15.5 – 24C)|
|Soil||Equal parts potting soil, sand, and peat|
|Fertilizer||NPK balanced all-purpose fertilizer|
|Propagation method||Stem and leaf cuttings or division|
|Toxicity||Toxic to humans and pets|
|Vulnerable to||Aphids, spider mites, mealybugs, scales|
To keep this plant happy, you need to protect it from direct sun, and water, feed and repot it regularly. If you can give it everything in moderation, it’ll reward you with lots of lush green leaves. It even grows in the winter months when many other house plants are dormant.
Best Philodendron House Plant Care To Stay Lush
You can expect to water this plant about once a week. You might have to give it a drink more regularly in the summer but, as it hates sunlight, it won’t be drying out quickly and can tolerate a short drought.
It’s best to let the top inch or two of soil dry out before you soak the plant. If you only give it a dribble of water every few days, the moisture will never reach the deep taproots and the plant’s growth will suffer.
You’ll know if you have a watering problem if your plant starts to droop. Both over and underwatering can cause the leaves to go limp but, if you check the soil and the bottom of your pot, you should be able to figure out which one is the problem.
Philodendron is a rainforest plant that grows in the leaf litter and climbs up trees. This should tell you everything you need to know about its light requirements. It’s programmed to thrive in dappled shade and doesn’t mind a dark corner.
The only thing that will damage it is direct sun. The leaves of your plant will start to crisp and drop if the sun touches them for even a few hours a day. On the other hand, if it’s too dark, you’ll end up with long gaps between the leaves.
This plant is adaptable and will survive without extra humidity, even in winter when the air in our homes is drier.
Still, if you want to keep your plant as happy as possible, you should mist it every 2 – 3 days in the summer and about once a week in winter. It’s best to mist first thing in the morning so that the water can evaporate around the plant during the day.
Plant Food and Soil
Although this plant is very easy to care for, it is hungry. It needs food all year round. Find a balanced liquid fertilizer for leafy green plants and apply it every 2 – 4 weeks in summer and every 8 weeks in winter.
Remember that this plant will let you know what it needs. If the leaves start to blanch, it’s telling you that it’s time for a feed.
It’s best not to use an off-the-shelf potting soil for this plant. It prefers things to be well-draining and acidic. Ideally, blend together equal parts potting soil, peat, and sand to get the perfect mix.
Additional Care Tips
The instructions above are a great place to start when you’re learning to care for your plant. But this is a plant with massive growth potential and, as it gets bigger, there’s more you need to know so you can keep it looking as healthy as possible.
What’s more, the time will come when you have to do something to keep it under control. Read on for our extra philodendron care tips.
This plant grows so fast that you’ll need to repot it every year. If you have a trailing variety, you might find it easier to do this after it’s been pruned. Thankfully, it’s best to do both of these jobs in the spring, and the plant is robust enough to recover even if you combine them.
You should always choose a pot with plenty of drainage holes so that the roots don’t sit in water. If you have a climbing philodendron, you can also add a moss pole or a trellis for it to grow up. You should make sure that the support is still firmly in place when you repot.
If you have a trailing philodendron, you’re going to have to get used to pruning. In the right conditions, it’ll hit the floor and start climbing the walls within the year. What’s more, the aerial roots on the vines can damage your plaster and paint.
Although this plant is very resilient, you should still use clean, sharp shears to trim it. This way, you reduce the chance of introducing a bacterial or fungal infection.
This plant is resistant to pests. It also likes high humidity, which discourages many of the insects that live on indoor plants. This is good news because getting rid of them is always harder on such a leafy plant.
Like many rainforest plants, this one has shiny leaves. This means that it needs to be dusted regularly so that it can efficiently photosynthesize.
When you dust, look for signs of warped, discolored or damaged leaves. This may tell you about a pest problem before you see the insects themselves.
Technically, philodendron is an umbrella term for a very large family of leafy rainforest plants. There are over 400 varieties in the wild, so you have plenty of choices.
The heart-leafed philodendron, also known as p. scadens, is the most popular. It’s a vigorous climber that can sometimes have variegated leaves. Although that splash of color is common on a pothos plant, it’s much rarer in a philodendron.
P. erubescens is a rarer variety from Costa Rica. It’s another climber, but this one has red-tinged leaves and stems. It needs a little more moisture than other varieties but, if you’re looking for some color, this might be the one for you
P. Rojo (or the Congo Rojo) is one of the self-heading, standard varieties. As the name suggests, the stems and the new growth are red. As it’s a bush, the leaves get much bigger they do on other varieties.
Finally, there’s the lacy tree philodendron. This bushy plant is just as easy to care for as its cousins, but its leaves look completely different. They have so many splits that they’re sometimes confused with young monstera. This plant can grow very large so it does need some pruning to keep it under control.
Like many tropical plants, philodendron is toxic to both humans and animals. Unfortunately, there’s something about their trailing branches which is especially tempting to pets. This is one of the house plants that poison control deals with most frequently.
Keep your plant out of reach if you can. It will grow well even if you place it on a high shelf and keep the vines quite short.
If it is eaten, the leaves irritate the mouth, throat, and intestines causing burning, blisters and a very upset stomach. See a doctor or a vet straight away if you notice any of these symptoms.
Where can I buy one?
Philodendron is a staple house plant and has been for several years. This means that it’s easy to find and cheap to buy. All good house plant retailers should be able to help you, especially if you’re after a heart-leafed or lacy variety.
Be aware that it’s much easier for retailers to display and transport climbing or standard plants than trailing ones. If you want a trailing plant, you’ll probably come home with either a large vine trained to a moss pole or a trailing variety with the vines cut short. Thankfully, it’ll quickly grow into the shape you want.
Why is my plant turning yellow?
Philodendron leaves only turn yellow for 2 reasons. Either it’s getting too much light or the leaves are old. This is a shade loving plant and the leaves can become discolored if the sun touches them for even a few hours each day.
If the light is the problem, moving your plant will prevent any more yellow leaves. If the yellow leaves are near the base, the chances are that they’re just getting old and need to be removed. This is a normal stage of the lifecycle of the plant.
How can I make my plant look fuller?
Although too much sun is bad for your plant, if it’s not getting enough light, it can become ‘leggy’. The vines will be long but there will be gaps of several inches between the leaves.
If you want a fuller plant, the first thing to do is to make sure that it’s getting moderate, indirect sunlight. This way, it gets the energy it needs to produce leaves that are closer together.
You can also encourage the plant to fill out by pruning it. If you trim the growth that’s too large or too long, new shoots will sprout from the base.
Can I grow philodendron from cuttings?
This is a very easy plant to grow from cuttings, even for beginners. All you have to do is snip a piece which includes 2 – 3 leaves and some aerial roots. The aerial roots are there to anchor the plant as it climbs, but regular roots will also grow from the same nodes.
This plant is so keen to establish itself that you don’t need to use a rooting hormone. Just place the cutting into a vase of water or directly into the soil and the roots will start to grow within 2 weeks.
What should I do if my pet eats it?
If your pet eats this plant, treat it as an emergency. Eating the plant is dangerous for humans, but they can complain about the blistered mouth, the swelling and the stomach upset more easily than animals.
If your cat or dog eats the plant, they will seem lethargic and they may vomit. The symptom to watch out for is pawing at the mouth, which indicates that the sap of the plant has irritated their mouth and throat. If you notice any of these symptoms, take them straight to the vet.
Can I take my plant outside?
This plant is so adaptable that it doesn’t mind moving between inside and outside. If you have an outdoor space where it can be in the shade, many growers find that a few weeks in the fresh air encourages their plant to grow.
A chance to drink some rainwater also helps the plant. It washes the soil and removes the salts that can build up from fertilizer or tap water.
If you choose to give your plant a holiday in the sun, make sure you check it thoroughly for mites, flies and other pests before you bring it back inside.
There’s really no reason not to add a philodendron to your indoor garden. With so many different varieties, you could add several. It would even be possible to build an apartment jungle without leaving the philodendron family.
We always say that you should listen to your plants instead of following these tips to the letter, and few plants make that as easy as this one. If you can give it some attention, it’ll let you know what it needs to grow strong enough to take over a whole room of your house.