Heartleaf philodendron. Photo by: Cheng Wei / Shutterstock

If you love indoor plants, chances are you’ve grown at least one philodendron. These easy-to-grow houseplants can also be grown outdoors in some tropical climates. They’ve long been the go-to starter plant for new plant parents because they adapt well to indoor environments.

Many experienced indoor gardeners find them irresistible as well because they offer a variety of sizes and growth habits including vines and tall, treelike shrubs. The smooth, glossy leaves also vary widely in color and form‐from small and heart-shaped to large and lavish.

On this page: Basics | Growing Tips | Care | Philodendron Pictures | Display Ideas

BASICS

Origin:

Native to tropical regions of Central and South America.

Care level:

Easy.

Light requirements:

Philodendron plants grow best in medium to bright natural or fluorescent light, but will also tolerate low light. Avoid exposing to direct sunlight, which can burn the foliage.

Growth rate:

Moderate to fast.

Foliage:

Although heart-shaped leaves are the norm, you’ll also find varieties with spade-shaped, deeply cut, and spear-shaped leaves, some growing to more than 2 feet long. Some of the newer hybrids (such as ‘Pink Princess’ and ‘Prince of Orange’) sport foliage in vibrant shades of burgundy, pink, orange, and yellow. There are also cultivars with variegated foliage.

Size:

Non-climbing types: 6 to 8 feet. Vining varieties: 10 feet or more when supported.

Toxicity:

Leaves can be toxic to both people and pets when ingested. Some people can also have a mild allergic reaction if their skin comes in contact with the sap. When repotting or pruning plants, wear gloves as a precaution. See more Common Poisonous Plants for Dogs and Cats.

Do they flower?:

They may produce spade-shaped flowers when grown outdoors in a tropical climate, but it’s extremely rare for indoor philodendrons to bloom.

Philodendron lookalikes:

Two plants often mistaken for philodendrons are pothos (Epipremnum aureum) and Swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa), which is sometimes erroneously called “split-leaf philodendron”. Like philodendrons, these plants are members of Araceae, the arum family, and share many common characteristics; however, there are distinct differences that make each plant unique.

GROWING PHILODENDRONS

Where to grow:

The best spot is near a window where the sunlight does not directly hit the foliage. Avoid placing your plants near cold drafts or heating and air-conditioning vents. You can also treat them to a summer vacation outdoors as long as you keep them in a spot shaded from direct sunlight.

Temperature and humidity:

The ideal temperature is between 65° and 85° F during the day and around 60° F at night. If you grow your plants outdoors during the summer, bring them inside before the temperatures drop below 50° F. These tropical plants prefer a humid environment, but will tolerate average home humidity levels.

Soil type:

Use any good-quality potting mix that drains well. Adding some perlite to the soil can help improve drainage.

Watering:

Grows best in evenly moist soil, but not soggy. A good rule of thumb is to water when the top inch of the soil is dry to the touch. Never let the soil go bone dry. Overly wet soil can cause root rot.

Fertilizing:

From spring through fall, feed monthly with a water-soluble houseplant fertilizer, following the dosage recommendations on the package.

Propagation:

Because of their aerial roots, climbing varieties are very easy to propagate. Simply take a stem cutting with several leaves attached, and stick it in a glass of water or moist potting soil. You can even grow cuttings permanently in water if you feed them frequently with liquid plant food. For non-vining types, divide every 3 to 5 years by cutting through the roots with a serrated knife.

PHILODENDRON CARE

Philodendrons will often tell you when they are unhappy if you learn to recognize the warning signals.

  • Yellowing of the leaves is often a sign of overwatering, an undersized pot, or exposure to drafts or cold temperatures.
  • If the leaf tips turn brown and curl, you may be giving your plants too much sunlight or too much water. It can also be a sign of not enough water or fertilizing when dry. Always fertilize by watering the plants first.
  • Slow growth and stems that are long and leggy may indicate insufficient light or the need for fertilization.
  • Don’t worry about the dropping of older leaves. It is natural for the climbing types to shed their lower leaves as they grow.

TYPES OF PHILODENDRONS

Swipe to view slides

Photo by: Cheng Wei / Shutterstock

Heartleaf philodendron
P. hederaceum

Also called sweetheart plant because of the perfectly heart-shaped leaves. One of most popular houseplants around because it tolerates and adapts to a wide range of growing conditions.

Height/length: Climbs or trails to 10 feet or more with support

Photo by: SEE D JAN / Shutterstock

Velvet Leaf philodendron
P. micans

The heart-shaped foliage on this unusual cultivar is velvety to the touch. The leaves also display color variations, starting out bronze-toned with pink and purple highlights and maturing to deep green.

Height/length: Up to 6 feet

Photo by: SEE D JAN / Shutterstock

'Pink Princess' philodendron
P. erubescens ‘Pink Princess’

The foliage of this variety is a combination of deep burgundy set off by bright pink and white accents. The color variations are even more intense when you grow it in bright light.

Height/length: 2 to 4 feet

Photo by: sunthorn punaprung / Shutterstock.com

Tree philodendron
P. bipinnatifidum, formerly P. selloum

One of the most spectacular houseplants for foliage. At full maturity, leaves can be 3 feet long and 2 feet wide. This nonclimbing species of philodendron produces dangling, ropelike roots that help to anchor it as it grows. Can also be grown outside in tropical climates.

Height: Up to 10 feet tall

Spread: 5 feet or more

Photo by: KUMRUEN JITTIMA / Shutterstock

Xanadu philodendron
Philodendron ‘Xanadu’

A dwarf, slower-growing hybrid of P. bipinnatifidum that fits well in smaller spaces. An upright, bushy plant with lobed green leaves over a foot long. Does best when grown in a high-humidity environment and bright indirect light.

Height/spread: 2 to 4 feet tall and wide

Photo by: Firn / Alamy Stock Photo

Brasil philodendron
P. hederaceum ‘Brasil’

A variegated form of heartleaf. Easy to grow and vigorous. Vivid bands of chartreuse yellow run down the center of the leaves and the stems flaunt a pinkish-orange hue. For the best color, grow in bright or medium light.

Height/spread: Climbs or trails to 10 feet or more

Photo courtesy Hirt’s Gardens

Red Congo philodendron
Philodendron 'Congo Rojo'

Another shrub-like variety that makes a magnificent floor plant or a stunning table centerpiece before it reaches full size. In summer, plant outdoors in large containers to add tropical flair to a porch or patio.

Height/spread: 2 to 3 feet tall and wide

Photo by: Sonia Prenneis / Shutterstock

Prince of Orange philodendron
Philodendron ‘Prince of Orange’

Another non-vining variety. Leaves emerge a bright coppery orange color before fading to green. It maintains its vibrant orange color even at low light levels. Unlike many others, the leaves grow from the center, giving the plant a vase shape.

Height/spread: 2 to 3 feet tall and wide

DISPLAY IDEAS

  • Allow vines to cascade from a hanging basket or drape from a shelf above a doorway to create a tropical, jungle-like atmosphere.
  • Use variegated varieties as colorful spillers planted in combination with taller houseplants.
  • Train vining philodendrons to climb up a column or wrap around a window frame. Attach the stems to your supporting structure with florist tape until they shape themselves around it.
  • Help climbing philodendrons go vertical by sticking a sturdy trellis or pole into the pot for them to grab onto. A rough surface, such as a sphagnum or rope-covered plant pole, will give them something to cling to. You can even create a philodendron topiary by training it around a cone-shaped support.
  • In mild climates, consider growing philodendrons outdoors in a shady area as a fast-growing groundcover; or allow them to vine around a tree trunk, trellis, or other vertical support.

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