By Evin Morrison, Extension Master Gardener
Photos © Evin Morrison
Philodendrons make great houseplants, which is why you’ll find so many different varieties in the houseplant section of your favorite garden center. They can live quite happily in our indoor spaces and even put on some impressive growth while still being one of the easiest plants to care for in our homes.
Trailing philodendrons are a home decor favorite because they add such a wow factor to your space. Since they trail and hang and don’t grow upright, they are the perfect option for a top shelf or sitting on top of a bookcase. The plant will waterfall and spill down towards the floor rather than growing up and crowding the ceiling. While it can be fun to collect as many houseplants as you can find, it’s also important to make sure that you have somewhere to place the ones you bring home. Before running to the store, take a survey of your space: pick a bright room, and look up to see where one of these great houseplants could potentially be at home.
For most philodendrons, bright indirect light is sufficient for growth. In the wild, philodendrons usually grow under the canopy of trees and receive filtered light. In fact, too much direct light can lead to burnt leaves, so save the brightest, south-facing windows for your more light-loving plants. Indoors, philodendrons do well in rooms with north and east facing windows. In rooms with more sun they will be quite happy on the opposite side of the room from the window.
Luckily there’s no special watering technique for these plants. As with all plants, there is a risk of being overwatered or underwatered, but because these plants are tough, they can bounce back from a few watering mishaps. A thorough watering once a week is a good place to start, but with any houseplant it’s important to check the soil before watering more. If the soil still feels moist an inch down from the surface, wait a few days and check again. When the soil gets too dry, philodendrons are responsive and will start to look wilted, so it’s a great visual indicator that it’s time to give it a drink. If they stay dried out for an extended amount of time or continually dry out in between waterings, leaves will begin to dry up and drop. If the stem of the plant is still green and feels firm, then the plant will continue to grow once the watering practices are more consistent. If the plant becomes leggy after dropping leaves, philodendrons are very easy to propagate in water. Once roots form, you can plant the pieces back into the pot to help fill in spaces in the plant.
While all these varieties will gladly trail from a planter or spill over a hanging basket, in the wild they are much more likely to attach themselves to trees and climb. So, if you want to experiment a little, give these plants a moss pole or a cedar board to climb and watch them grow upwards.
So, which one will you choose?
The basic philodendron
For years pothos were the go-to for easy trailing plants, but if you want to find an option that is a little deeper green and has heart-shaped leaves, look no further than Philodendron hederaceum. This plant is very common and grows quickly in the best conditions and still thrives in less-than-ideal spaces.
The neon philodendron:
Philodendron hederaceum ‘Lemon Lime’ is a very similar plant but boasts bright almost yellow leaves. It’s very common for each of the leaves on this plant to be a bit different, so you get a beautiful palette of greens rather than just one solid color. It’s important to note that for many plants, lighter leaves mean less chlorophyll in them to produce food for the plant. All this means for the plant owner is that a Lemon Lime will be happier in a brighter location, as the additional sunlight will allow it to photosynthesize more efficiently.
The velvet leaf philodendron:
Philodendron micans boasts a beautiful dark leaf with a velvety texture. Micans can be a little harder to find on the houseplant market, but because they are easy to propagate, even if you get a little one, you can take cuttings and create a bigger plant all on your own. Like most plants with a velvety texture, Micans will benefit from higher humidity than the standard heartleaf varieties. A great place for these plants is in a bathroom with a bright window. The steam from a shower will do wonders for increasing the humidity. Additionally, those soft touch leaves will collect and show dust more, so make sure to give these plants a good rinse every once in a while. Clean leaves lead to healthy plants!
The striped philodendron:
Philodendron hederaceum ‘Brasil’ is a beautiful option if you’re looking for a plant with interesting leaves. Each one emerges with a unique pattern. Some have a lime green stripe down the middle, while others have a much more segmented lime green splotch. It’s as if the standard Hederaceum and the Lemon Lime varieties got swirled together.
The genus of philodendrons is vast and so many of them are available to houseplant collectors. From the standard varieties to the weird and wonderful, you can end up down a rabbit hole looking at all the growth patterns, leaf colors and shapes. There’s a version that will fit any space or color palette that you might want to add a new plant to.
Want to learn more?
- Philodendrons. 2014. Gardening Solutions: University of Florida.
- Steil, Aaron. What are popular types of philodendron? Horticulture and Home Pest News: Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.