In this article, we will discuss how to grow the very popular houseplant philodendrons. You will discover how to grow them in terms of conditions they prefer to grow in, varieties to grow and the potential pitfalls.
WHAT ARE PHILODENDRONS?
Philodendrons are handsome, elegant foliage plants that come in a variety of forms. They are hundreds of species of philodendron (489 species at the last count), where in cool climates they are often grown as a houseplant. Naturally, in its growing habit in Central and South America, they can be grown outdoors.
They belong to the large Araceae family, where it is the second most prevalent member of that family. The family, on the whole, is still poorly understood as many species in the family have not been classified. The name comes from the Greek words ‘Philo’ meaning love and ‘dendron’ meaning tree. Basically meaning a tree lover.
On interesting aspects of philodendrons is the number of ways the plant grows, It can be epiphytic, hemiepiphytic or much less common terrestrial or a combination of all these growing habits. They are fascinating plants to have in your home
Philodendrons as said earlier is a large family of plant that produce decorative, elegant green, glossy leaves. One advantage that places them as a good houseplant is their ability to tolerate extremely shady conditions.
Philodendron houseplants tend to be divided into two groups; the climbing vine types and the non-climbing types. The climbing types will grow more than 4m, whilst the non-climbers tend to grow only up to 60cm.
The climbers will need to be supported especially with a moss stick that will blend in and combine with the plant well.
The non-climbing types tend to have an upright growing habit and therefore more suitable for those who want a more manageable container specimen in the home. These are known as shrubby philodendrons.
GROWING CONDITIONS FOR PHILODENDRONS
For philodendrons to do well you must replicate as much as possible their natural growing habitat.
The plant has a preference for bright indirect light to shade, depending on what variety is grown. Direct sunlight must be avoided at all cost. They do appreciate a time outside in summer to give it some ventilation and natural light. If you do this place it in a spot that gets a lot of shade and no sunshine, as this can damage the leaves.
When growing indoors, too much shade can result in lanky plants, whilst too much sunlight can result in the leaves losing colour and getting burnt.
To improve photosynthesis, it is advised that the leaves are dusted regularly and looking their best by the use of leaf shine.
Philodendrons like their houseplant compost to be as loose as possible. It is advised to mix a good quality houseplant compost with horticultural grit or perlite. A 50% to 50% mix is recommended as this will encourage good drainage. Ideally, plants should be potted on every year to help it achieve maximum growth. This will also deal with salts build-up that can accumulate by watering with a soluble liquid fertiliser, It is still a good idea to periodically wash your compost to flush out any salt residue. If not this could lead to fertiliser burn of yellowing and leaves turning brown.
These plants do not like very warm temperature bur their tolerance is dependent on the species grown, Temperature above 13 degree Celsius is the absolute minimum, ideal a temperature range of 13 to 22 degree Celsius is ideal. They need to be kept away from draughts coming from open doors and windows, as this can cause the plant to lose leaves.
The plants do like a moist atmosphere, so in a dry, centrally heated homes you may need to increase the humidity. This can be achieved by misting the plants every few days it even better is to place the pot on a tray full of moist expanded clay balls. The roots of the plant must not be immersed in water, which could lead to root rot.
These plants like to be watered well in summer, less so in winter. It is best to water when 5cm below the top of the surface of the compost feel; dry when you stick your finger in. Do not overwater as this can cause yellowing of the leaves and for the leaves to droop. The same result of the leaves drooping will be caused if the plant is under-watered. It is best to check the compost before actually watering.
Overwatering leads to root rot, so it is important to gauge how damp he compost is. It is best to water with soft, tepid water and so it is advised to collect rainwater and use that. Hard water can lead to the leaves being burnt. In soft water areas, the tap water can be used to water the plants provided you have left it to warm up to room temperature.
You can use a balance, liquid houseplant fertiliser every month during the growing season. Do not feed in autumn or winter. If the plant is not getting the right amount of fertilizer the growth will be slower and the leaves smaller.
PESTS AND DISEASES
Philodendrons tend to be pest free but they can suffer from aphids, mealybugs, scale, thrips and spider mites. The main fungal disease is root rot, but it can be avoided if the plant is not overwatered. Any pests found can be dealt with swiftly by using a suitable systemic insecticide.
The plants can get very tall and lanky and it is best to prune back in winter. Any scraggily stems should also be cut back at this time.
VARIETIES TO GROW
PHILODENDRON BIPENNIFOLIUM (Fiddle Leaf)
This is a climbing philodendron that has more ivy-like, lobed, green leaves than fiddle-shape. The leaves have four upper lobes and one long central one. It grows up to 90cm in height.
P. BIPINNATIFIDUM (Tree Philodendron)
This has an erect almost palm-like habit with very long lobed leaves, where it can grow up to 1.2m tall. The leaves are also deeply lobed and have a wavy margin. The handsome leaves spread outwards so need to be placed in a spot where they have plenty of space and will not be regularly brushed by people passing by.
P. DOMESTICUM (Elephant Ears)
This is a great 1.8m climber with shiny, spear-shaped leaves borne on long stalks but it does not look like elephant’s ears. Best trained on a moss stick, where it should be secured by wires. The moss stick must be kept moist by spraying regularly with water, where a foliage feed can be used at the same time.
P. ERUBESCENS (Arrowhead or Blushing Philodendron)
This is another 1.8m vigorous climber with arrow-shaped leaves that are often pinkish whilst young, maturing to bronze-green leaves. ‘Burgundy’ has copper-red leaves whilst ‘Imperial Red’ has colourful, bright red leaves, A plant that will need extra humidity.
P. MELANOCHRYSUM (Velour Philodendron)
This is another vigorous climber that has spear-shaped, velvety leaves that are pinkish below, dark green almost black with golden iridescence above. The leaves of this species naturally droop. So do not mistake this for wilting and overwater to compensate.
P. SCANDENS (Heartleaf Philodendron)
This is a popular species of philodendron that grows up to 1.5 in height with its dark green, pointed, spear-shaped leaves. Another species that likes to grow on moss sticks. A variegated form exists that is less easy to grow, where the leaves sometimes become naturally distorted.
P. SELLOUM (Lace Tree Philodendron)
This is similar to P. bipinnalifidum in its young state but look different as it matures. In its mature form, it has thicker stems and wavy undulating leaf edges, where it grows up to 1.2m in height.
In this article, we have discussed how to get the best growing conditions for your philodendrons in how to care for them, varieties to grow, and pitfalls to avoid.
They tend to be an easy plant to look after, not suffering from pests as much as other houseplants. You often have such a large variety to choose from so if you do not like one you can choose another
A plant whose beauty is to be admired in your home.
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