Updated: Dec 3, 2020
Hey plant friends! I have an interesting little tidbit for you today. Philodendron is a Greek word that means “Tree Love.” Why, you ask? Philodendron refers to a group of plants that, in the Northern Hemisphere, are mostly houseplants. But in their native habitat, many varieties of philodendrons love to climb up trees! If you search a bit, there are many lovely photos of these plants wrapped all around the trunks of trees. Now that I’ve blown your mind with that, let’s chat about how to care for these creatures in a houseplant setting, shall we?
Types of Philodendron
First, let’s look at the types of philodendron. There are two main types, climbing and non-climbing. The climbing ones grow like a vine, and like to have a pole or trellis to grow up. These include Philodendron Micans and Philodendron Brasil. The non-climbing types are more upright and bushy. They can get quite large, so make sure they have enough room! These include Philodendron Hope and Philodendron Tetrasperma Ginny. These can be staked to a pole as well for stability, but it isn’t necessary for their growth.
How to Care for a Philodendron
Philodendrons, like all plants, have three basic needs. Those are sunlight, water and fertilizer. For sunlight, they love to have bright indirect or filtered light, like they would get if they were growing under a tree. If your plant is getting a lot of yellow leaves, it’s probably getting too much sun. If it’s stretching toward light or has longer gaps between leaves, it needs more sun.
Philodendrons like to get watered regularly, with a dry out period between. If the top inch or so of soil is dry to the touch (yeah, poke your finger into the soil) then it’s time to water. Your philo will droop if it’s getting too much or not enough water. If it droops, try changing how often you water by a day, and see if it helps. Luckily, this plant recovers quickly when the watering is adjusted and fixed.
Fertilizer is the food that plants need to grow, along with the food they produce from the sun. Generally, a balanced houseplant fertilizer is good for them, or I personally like to use a slow-release fertilizer that sits in the soil and releases some each time you water. If your plant is growing more slowly, or getting smaller leaves, this is an indicator that it is needing some food. During the fall and winter the plant will need food less often than in the spring and summer months.
A fun thing about philodendrons is that they enjoy small vacations outside! You can put them outside in a shady spot, as long as the weather isn’t crazy. They enjoy the fresh air, and don’t experience as much stress at the change as most other houseplants. The water needs will be more than when they are indoors, so make sure to monitor the water level in the soil when they’re outside. It’s likely it will want water every day, but listen to your plant to make sure!
Is My Plant a Pothos or a Philodendron?
Philodendron houseplants (the climbing ones) are often confused with pothos plants. The leaves are often similar shapes, they both grow in viney habits. It’s an understandable mistake, but luckily not a fatal one. Both plants have mostly similar care. But there are differences. Here’s how you can tell which you have. The stem of a pothos has a groove along its length, while a philodendron stem has no groove. New philodendron leaves grow with a protective sheath around them, which dries and falls off, and pothos don’t have those. Pothos will want their living conditions to be brighter and warmer than philodendrons. They are a hanging plant, while philodendrons will want to climb.
Philodendrons make good houseplants because, overall, they adapt well to some variation in their conditions. Once you get to know your plant a bit, you’ll also be able to see when they need things. At Garden Gateway, we’ve been having fun collecting a variety of philodendrons, including Sangri-La, Birkin, Brasil, Imperial Red, Rojo Congo, Cordata, Hope, Split-Leaf, Tetrasperma Ginny, Pertussum, and Swiss Cheese, and more! Come on in and see what lovelies you can find! Good luck with your philodendron, and thanks for gardening with the Gardening Moose!