The Best Philodendrons to Grow IndoorsAn introduction to some of our favorites to bring a touch of the tropics indoors
Heartleaf philodendron. Photo by: Cheng Wei / Shutterstock
If you love houseplants, chances are you’ve grown at least one philodendron—or perhaps a whole roomful! These easy-care, leafy tropicals can also be grown as perennials in some climates. They’ve long been the go-to starter plant for beginners because they are very forgiving and adapt readily to indoor environments. Many experienced indoor gardeners find philodendrons 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.
There are over 200 species of philodendron, but in general, climbing varieties are more commonly grown in the home because they can tolerate lower light levels and take up less space. Non-climbers usually have large leaves, so they need lots of elbow room.
Native to tropical regions of Central and South America.
Will tolerate low light, but grows faster and better in medium to bright natural light or under fluorescent lighting. Avoid exposing to direct sunlight, which can burn the foliage.
Moderate to fast.
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.
Non-climbing types: 6 to 8 feet. Vining varieties: 10 feet or more when supported.
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?:
Philodendrons may produce spade-shaped flowers when grown outdoors in a tropical climate, but it’s extremely rare for housebound plants to bloom.
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. Even though they are close relatives, there are some distinct differences in appearance and growth habit that make each plant type unique.
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. While they're usually grown as houseplants, philodendrons can be grown outdoors as tropical perennials in warmer climates (Zone 10 and above), depending on the species. You can also treat your indoor plants to a summer vacation outdoors as long as you keep them in a spot shaded from direct sunlight, such as a covered patio or screened-in porch.
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.
Use any good-quality potting mix that drains well. Adding some perlite to the soil can help improve drainage.
Grows best in soil that is evenly moist, 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.
From spring through fall, feed monthly with a water-soluble houseplant fertilizer, following the dosage recommendations on the package.
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.
CARE AND MAINTENANCE
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.
This classic species, also called sweetheart plant because of the perfectly heart-shaped leaves, is one of most popular houseplants around because it tolerates and adapts to a wide range of growing conditions. A talented athlete, it can be trained to climb up, down, or sideways, growing to impressive lengths of 10 feet or more when given the right support. Also try P. hederaceum 'Lemon Lime', a cultivar with bright chartreuse foliage.
Height/length: Climbs or trails to 10 feet or more
Velvet Leaf philodendron
Instead of leaves that are smooth and glossy, the heart-shaped foliage on this unusual cultivar is velvety to the touch because of soft “hairs” growing on the surface. The leaves also display lovely color variations, starting out bronze-toned with pink and purple highlights and maturing to deep green.
Height/length: Up to 6 feet
Pink Princess philodendron
P. erubescens ‘Pink Princess’
Plants with leaves so dark they are nearly black are a rarity in the houseplant world, that’s why 'Pink Princess' has so much wow-factor. The foliage of this vining plant is an eye-popping 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
P. bipinnatifidum, formerly P. selloum
One of the most spectacular houseplants for foliage, this Brazilian shrub features enormous deeply lobed leaves with cuts that deepen as the leaves mature, causing the foliage to ruffle. At full maturity, the leaves can be as large as 3 feet long and 2 feet wide. This nonclimbing species is also called anchor philodendron because it produces dangling, ropelike roots near the base that help to anchor the plant as it grows. Lacy tree is ideal for use as a large floor plant, provided you give it ample space to showcase the dramatic foliage. In tropical climates (Zones 9 to 11), you can also grow it outdoors as a showy landscape shrub.
Height: Up to 10 feet
Spread: 5 feet or more
Xanadu is a dwarf, slower-growing hybrid of P. bipinnatifidum that fits well in smaller spaces. It is an upright, bushy plant with dramatic lobed leaves over a foot long that become even more deeply divided as they mature. Although Xanadu adapts well to most indoor conditions, the foliage will be more lush when you grow it in a high-humidity environment and bright indirect light.
Height/spread: 2 to 4 feet
P. hederaceum ‘Brasil’
This variegated form of the classic heartleaf philodendron is named for its green and yellow foliage, which is similar in coloration to the Brazilian flag. It’s as easy to grow as heartleaf philodendron and just as vigorous, producing cascading vines that can easily grow to 10 feet or more. The vivid bands of chartreuse yellow run right down the center of the deep-green leaves, often broadening as they reach the tips. Even the plant’s stems are colorful, flaunting a pinkish orange hue. For the best color variegation, grow in bright or medium light.
Height/spread: Climbs or trails to 10 feet or more
Red Congo philodendron
Philodendron 'Congo Rojo'
Red Congo is another shrub-like philodendron that makes a magnificent floor plant or a stunning table centerpiece before it reaches full size. The name is inspired by the large tropical-looking foliage, which looks as if it has been finished with red lacquer, eventually deepening to a burgundy-green color as the leaves mature. The glossy foliage is set off by the plant’s thick stems and leaf petioles, which are also a striking reddish-purple. In summer, plant Red Congo outdoors in large containers to add tropical flair to a porch or patio.
Height/spread: 2 to 3 feet
Prince of Orange philodendron
Philodendron ‘Prince of Orange’
This non-vining variety is similar to Red Congo, except the new leaves emerge a bright coppery orange color before fading to green as they mature. It maintains its vibrant orange color even when grown at low light levels. Unlike many philodendron varieties, the leaves grow from the center and are spaced closely together, giving the plant a lovely vase shape. Also try ‘Autumn’, another colorful hybrid with copper-red leaves that mature to a dark olive green.
Height/spread: 2 to 3 feet
- Allow the vines of heartleaf philodendron to cascade elegantly from a hanging planter. You can also drape the vines 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.
- Make vining philodendrons part of your interior architecture by training them 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 your 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.
- If you live in a mild climate, consider growing heartleaf philodendrons outdoors in a shady area as a fast-growing leafy groundcover. Or allow them to vine around a tree trunk, trellis or other vertical support.