Most iconic indoor plants - like Monsteras, Devil’s Ivy, and Philodendrons - fall under the family “Araceae”. All of these plants have similar care, but if you’ve recently purchased a Philodendron (or Thaumatophyllum) and you’re not sure where to start, read on!
As varied as the genus “Philodendron” is, they can generally be comfortable in medium to well-lit spaces indoors. If you have a green Philodendron congo, a cordatum (hederaceum), or a T. bipinnatifidum/selloum*, they will be very happy in those well-lit spaces. Philodendron cordatum (also called hederaceum or heart-leaf philodendron) can go in darker spots, much like a Devil’s Ivy.
Red philodendrons, such as P. Rojo congo, need a brighter spot. The red colouring means they are reflecting some red light (in addition to green.) Naturally they would be living in a more exposed area and are adapted to cope with higher light levels that would normally be too much for the greener philodendrons.
*Later on in the article we will discuss the very popular Philodendron bipinnatifidum/selloum, and 'Hope' cultivar in more detail, including its recent name change!
Philodendrons like dry soil, so the most common issue plant-owners will face is over-watering. Philodendrons will wilt if they get too dry, which is a good indicator that they are very ready for water. This wilting will not cause damage if it’s only for a few days, so don’t stress. Use the wilting as a guide to figure out the pattern of watering, but it's best not to do this every time as the plant is still experiencing some stress.
Generally the soil will dry out fully after two weeks in the hot months and 4 weeks in cooler months, depending on how much light your plant receives and the size of the pot. Once it's dry you can water!
A great option for watering your philodendrons is to put it in the shower and spray it down for a minute or two. This means the leaves are free of dust which maximizes the light they receive. The soil gets watered and all the excess water drains away easily. Once the soil is dry in a few weeks repeat the process.
In winter I will drastically reduce the quantity of water to keep the soil dryer but still allowing the plant to rehydrate. If the soil becomes hydrophobic try leaving the plant to soak for a few hours to hydrate the soil.
For further information, check out our Watering 101 Article!
Philodendrons are very happy in a small pot. In the wild, these plants will be found growing on/around larger trees, and so will have limited soil space. To help climb and find resources, Philodendron roots will often spill over the pot, as well as aerial roots that occur higher up the plant, searching for stability. This is all normal and does not mean you need to re-pot.
If you’d like to re-pot, the best time to do so is in Spring and Summer, and only into a pot that is a few centimetres bigger once the plant is well and truly pot bound. Well draining soil is advised such as a premium potting mix.
The pot should have good drainage such as a terracotta pot, or a plastic nursery pots hidden inside a nice ceramic pot. You can plant directly into a regular decorative pot (it must have a drainage hole) but make sure the soil is well draining. Using soils such as a cactus mix, or by adding orchid bark/perlite can be a better option to help keep the soil dryer.
Philodendron Growth Habits
Philodendrons are, for the most part, vining plants. Some will want to climb, hang, or grow over the top of the soil. For this reason they can often benefit from a stake or a totem to help guide and encourage growth.
Many indoor plants will send out aerial roots to help anchor themselves. They are encouraged by and can sense humidity, which helps them find moist trees and soil. Keeping a potential totem moist will help the roots to attach. Once attached the plant can activate different genes that will greatly increase the leaf size. For example, the devil's ivy leaf can grow to almost one metre in length once on a totem.
The common Philodendron 'Hope', or P. goeldii are a self-heading variety! This means they grow from a trunk, and the nodes (where leaves grow from) are closely spaced together with no visible stem when young. These varieties have recently been reclassified as Thaumatophyllum due to this variation in growth habit from the more vining Philodendrons. The care is still the same, and it will be a few decades until name update is fully adopted.
The indoor temperatures in Melbourne are just fine for Philodendrons. Most of the common varieties are fine in a balcony/courtyard setting as long as they have some shelter from super harsh weather.
For Philodendrons, you can use a liquid fertiliser in Spring, Summer and the warmer parts of early Autumn. You don’t need to fertilise over Winter unless your plants are still rapidly growing.
We don’t generally recommend using slow-release fertiliser pellets on indoor plants, as excess salts can build up in the soil and the release is not actually controlled. Liquid fertiliser is much more direct and accessible to the plant.
Propagation and increasing vines
Philodendron cuttings can be made along the main growing stem, and should include at least one growth node but two to three is best. You can then pop those in water or moist sphagnum moss until they grow roots. The original plant will continue to grow from where you took the cutting as well!
You can try things like Keiki Cloning Paste on the growth nodes of your Philodendron to encourage branching, or you can pinch off the growing tip to encourage branching further down the stem.
Check out our range of Philodendrons here!
Greener House Nursery is an Indoor Plant Nursery located at 95 Sydney Road, Brunswick, in Melbourne, Australia. We have the specialised knowledge to make sure you get the right house plants, pots, and accessories for your home. Weather you're looking for low-light, low-maintenance, pet friendly, hanging, or air purifying plants, we've got you covered.