Create a jungle vibe in your home with a selection of lush philodendrons. Choose from plants that trail and climb, or make a dramatic statement with a large, handsome specimen sporting huge leaves on upright stems.
If you want a trailing type, check out the plain green, heart-leaf philodendron (Philodendron scandens), which will also scramble up a mossy pole if you prefer, or opt for a colorful, zesty lime-green variety, such as ‘Lime’ or ‘Malay Gold’ with its paddle-shaped leaves.
You may also find the larger-leaved philodendrons listed under their new name Thaumatophyllum, although many suppliers have chosen to stick to the old one to avoid confusion.
Just remember that philodendrons are toxic to humans, and to cats and dogs, so if you have a baby or pet that likes to nibble leaves, make sure you can safely display your philodendron out of reach, or check out our other suggestions for the best indoor plants instead.
3 essential philodendron care tips
Emily Lawlor, owner of Happy Houseplants, sells a wide range of philodendrons and loves their versatility: 'Very easy to care for, these low maintenance indoor plants originating from the rainforest, are happy in bright light or shade and there are so many gorgeous varieties to choose from.'
Her favorites include the tree or horsehead philodendron (P. bipinnatifidum), which produces large emerald-green, wavy-edged leaves; the yellow and green pinstriped P. ‘Birkin’, a compact variety ideal for a coffee table or as an office plant, and P. scandens ‘Brazil’, whose leaves look like they’ve been splashed with yellow paint.
1. Allow your philodendron to get plenty of light
Whichever type you buy, your philodendron will thrive in bright filtered light, away from direct sun, which may scorch the leaves. They also tolerate some shade – the heart-leaf is a good low light indoor plant for deep shade – but if your plant starts stretching towards the window, move it a little closer to the light and turn the pot regularly to encourage a more balanced shape.
You may find that the colorful varieties are better in brighter conditions than those with large, dark green leaves. Emily Lawlor adds: 'Philodendrons are tropical plants, so they also need warmth and humidity – making them one of the best plants for bathrooms as well as a great choice if you're searching for kitchen plants.'
2. Keep it fairly dry
Philodendrons like dryish soil, so an indoor plant mistake would be to overwater them. Avoid this by potting them up in a container with drainage holes in the base, and, as with succulents, ensuring that the compost never becomes soggy or waterlogged.
Emily advises: 'Water only when the top two inches (5cm) of compost feels dry – stick your finger in to check.' Reduce watering even further in winter.
3. Feed and mist your philodendron regularly
As with other tropical houseplants such as orchids and calathea, philodendron plants also prefer humid conditions, so either mist the foliage every few days, or set large plants on a tray filled with pebbles and water, to maintain a moist atmosphere around them.
'Feed your plant once a month in spring and summer, with liquid plant food such as our organic plant food,' adds Emily. Plants do not require feeding in winter when they are dormant or growing very little.
Common problems with philodendron
These drought-tolerant plants will rebound with no ill-effects if left unwatered for a week or two. But too much moisture, and wet compost, as with kentia palms, can quickly result in root rot, which may kill the plants.
Overwatering and under-watering can both result in wilting and yellowing leaves, so check the compost if your plant is suffering from these symptoms. If too wet, check that the plant pot has drainage holes in the base and repot if not, then leave your philodendron to dry out for a couple of weeks until it revives.
Pests to look out for
While philodendrons are generally pest-free, they may occasionally suffer an attack by mealybugs, which is also a common ailment of the fiddle-leaf fig. Also look for scale insects and spider mites.
Mealybugs are sap-sucking beetle-like creatures that hide beneath a fluffy white coating; scales look like little hard bumps on the stems; and spider mites cause white mottled patches on the foliage.
Check leaves regularly for signs of pest damage such as distorted leaves and cut out affected parts, taking care not to defoliate the entire plant, or try wiping off the insects if possible.
You can also try carefully dabbing persistent mealybugs and scale insects with a cotton bud soaked in a little methylated spirit. Treating spider mite with insecticidal soap may work too. Check your maidenhair fern and gardenia plants at the same time and treat in the same way.
What makes philodendron good indoor plants?
Harriet Thompson of Harriet’s Plants says that philodendrons are generally very forgiving, bouncing back if neglected for a while, and their beautiful foliage makes them ideal for including in any indoor plant ideas for both beginners and expert plant parents who want to create a tropical look.
She says: 'This group of plants is incredibly varied in form and plant type, so it’s great to get a few that look totally different but have similar care requirements.'
What is a philodendron plant good for?
You can train a philodendron with climbing stems up a mossy pole, or along horizontal wires fixed to a wall to create a curtain of heart- or paddle-shaped leaves.
Large-leaved plants are great for a pot on the floor as a bedroom plant. In fact they suit any room of the house, if you have space for them. Although you will need to mist the leaves regularly where humidity levels are low.
Harriet adds: ‘Both the trailers and upright plants can grow quite large after a few years, so repot them to keep them healthy. Plant them up in free-draining compost when they are in active growth from mid-spring to late summer in a container one size larger than the original one.' She also advises gentle pruning during this period to help to restrict their size in smaller rooms.
Do philodendrons flower?
Harriet confirms that philodendrons do flower but you will have to be patient to see one blooming in your indoor garden.
'They don’t usually flower until the plant is mature, which can take several years if you bought a young one,' she says. 'Temperature and humidity are also key to encouraging your philodendron to bloom. Emulate their native tropical environment, with warm temperatures of 72–86°F (22–30°C) and high humidity levels.'
The large-leaved species produce flowers with a white or green sheath, known as a ‘spathe’, around a white finger-like ’spadix’. Philodendron scandens is less likely to flower, but makes up for it with its elegant foliage.
Where to buy philodendron
Shop philodendron plants in the US:
- Shop philodendron plants at Amazon
- Shop philodendron plants at Lowes
- Shop philodendron plants at Walmart
Shop philodendron plants in the UK:
Zia Allaway is a garden book author, editor, and journalist, and writes for a range of gardening and women’s magazines, including Easy Gardens, Homes & Gardens and Livingetc, as well as The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph newspapers. She has also written books for the Royal Horticultural Society and Dorling Kindersley publishers, including Eco-Gardening, Compost, Low Maintenance, Practical House Plant Book, Practical Cactus & Succulent Book, Indoor Edible Garden, What Plant Where, and the Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers.
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