Plant Spotlight: Philodendrons

With the phenomenal explosion of indoor gardening happening over the past couple of years some favourites have emerged. Fiddle Leaf Ficus, Ficus Audrey, Snake Plants, Monstera deliciosa and Philodrendrons of all varieties. Philodendrons are a large genus of plants in the Araceae family which they share with Monstera - but they are not the same genus despite name cross-overs. In this blog post we are going to highlight the most popular Philodendrons on the market today and several which I suspect will be next years new "It' plant.

To understand Philodendrons a little better, we have to get a basic grasp on their growth habits and how that impacts how we care for them as houseplants. Philodendrons can grow in three ways: epiphytic, hemiepiphytic and terrestrial. Epiphyts grow on other plants such as trees which obtaining their nutrients from the sun, air, water and from debris from around the partner plant. This is different than a parasitic plant which derives its nutrients from the host plant it grows on. A hemiepiphytic plant spend part of its life as an epiphyte before becoming partially terrestrial. Terrestrial plants are how we traditionally understand plants growing in soil deriving their nutrients from the soil, sun and water. These growing habits should inform you about how to care for your Philodendron: bright but diffuse light (just like under the canopy of the rainforest), humid conditions but drier nutrient deficient soils with good drainage and plenty of space.

Philodendrons can grown in all three of these categories depending on the variety, so it is important to understand this when taking your new philodendron home. All varieties of Philodendron produce what are called aerial roots. These roots grow above the soil off the stems of the plant and are meant to help stabilize the plant as it grows up trees or along the forest floor. They also provide additional nutrients to the plant like its subterranean roots. On climbing varieties they can be quite small and delicate while the non-climbing varieties may produce large thick aerial roots.

The soil medium is important for Philodendrons, especially the non-climbing varieties. Your soil medium should allow plenty of drainage. When I repot my larger Philodendrons I will use ProMix Cactus & Succulent Soil and General Orchid mix in a 4:1 ratio to provide plenty of drainage and aeration. As a result, I typically move them from their spot in the house to my bathtub when I water them because a tray won't contain all of the outflow. The good thing is that these plants do not like to be soggy, so during growing season I water every 7-10 days.

Aerial roots on 'Brasil'

Climbing Philodendrons

Some of the most common types of Philodendrons we sell are the climbing varieties. Often sold in hanging baskets, their long vines are similar to the growth of Pothos (and are often confused for one another). You may choose to leave your Philodendron to continue to hang or trail, or you may choose to train it to climb up a lattice, moss pole or even rig a system to allow it to climb up walls in your home.

As a rule of thumb, the climbing varieties prefer moist, but not soggy soils so watering every 5-7 days during the growing season should be expected. During the off season, restrict water to avoid root rot while the plant is not growing. Bright but diffuse light is best as their leaves can become burnt with direct sunlight.

Heartleaf Philodrendron - Philodendron hederaceum

These stunning climbing plants are gorgeous with their signature heart shaped leaves in dark green in a somewhat matte sheen. Leaves are about 3-5" in size and are produced along vines. They are prolific during the growing season, and you may need to trim it back if it becomes ungainly. It may be left to hang or could be trained up a trellis.

Philodendron 'Brasil' - Philodendron hederaceum

This variety of the Heartleaf Philodendron has striking leaves which are larger than its cousin the green heartleaf and have a distinct lime green and yellow variegation. Due to the variegation, typically plants of this variety need more sunlight to perform enough photosynthesis for growth. This is because the variegated areas of the leaves have less chlorophyll. Nonetheless, these are also extremely fast growing. On a personal note, I have to trim mine 2-3 times during the growing season to keep it from getting longer than 5 feet (the height of the shelf its on) and it was only 12" long when I first purchased it 2 years ago.

Philodendron 'Brasil' variegation, 'Brasil' prolific growth, 'Brasil' aerial roots.

Philodendron 'Micans' - Philodendron hederaceum micans

Like its hederaceum cousins, the 'Micans' is a climbing heartleafed variety. However, what set this stellar variety apart from its cousins are its purple tinged leaves. I suspect this variety is going to be a must have next year.

Upright Philodendrons

Upright growing Philodendrons come in a wide array of leave shapes from multi-lobed to knife shaped. They are typically wider growers, with somewhat sprawling natures which should be taken into account when considering where to place it in your home. Eventually they are going to all need some space.

Philodendron 'Moonlight'

'Moonlight' is a hybrid variety of Philodendron from the 'heartleaf' varieties mentioned above with striking lime/chartreuse coloured wide spade shaped leaves. Immature leaves are the brightest and most neon and then as they mature they become a deeper green. These beauties are what I like to call 'runners' meaning they sprawl out from their centre of growth staying slightly more squat and are not climbers. Pair this plant with plants who share a liking for similar light and water conditions like Dracaena 'Lime Light' and 'Janet Craig', and Monstera delisiosa for a striking display.

Philodendron 'Xanadu' - Philodendron bipinnatifidum Hybrid

This unique looking plant commands attention with its slightly lobed leaves and upright growth pattern. Lobed leaves sit atop long sturdy stems. Do not place your 'Xanadu' in direct sunlight as this will cause the leaves to fade from their rich green colour. Available sometimes in 6" and 8" sized pots, you are more likely to find 'Xanadu' for sale at Amsterdam in larger sizes (1 gal and up) which show off their growth pattern. Commonly you can find 'Xanadu' 3ft or more in diameter. Like most Philodendrons these plants do not like to be over watered, so let your plant dry out slightly between waterings. On a side note, I have experienced and heard from other 'Xanadu' owners that their root balls emit a very distinct smell when being repotted. Not unpleasant, just herbaceous and earthy.

Philodendron bipinnatifidum - Philodendron Selloum, Philodendron Hope, Tree Philodendron.

This plant with a variety of names is the quintessential exotic tropical houseplant. These Philodendrons have unique leaves like the 'Xanadu' but with much more exaggerated lobes. These leaves grow beyond 12-14" and the plant its self isn't shy about taking up space with long sprawling stems with aerial roots searching for ground. As their unique leaves age, the lobes become much more pronounced.

Philodendron 'Super Atom'

This hybrid of the 'Selloum' and is a dwarf variety of Philodendron which will max out around 11"-12". Their unique "ruffled" leaves are a glossy mid-green colour and the plant itself stays quite compact. Bright but diffused light is best, as burning can occur on their delicate leaves. I suspect that 'Super Atom' the variety will become another must-have plant for 2021 due to their petite size.

There you have it! An extremely short look at the wide world of Philodendrons! With dozens of varieties and hybrids available on the market it is difficult to share ever variety. Keep your eyes peeled for new varieties showing up in store this year.

Cheers - Heather Youl

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