Another prime candidate in the contest for easier houseplant is the philodendron.
They can also grow pretty much anywhere as long as their needs are met. They’re beautiful and you can train the climbing varieties to grow up a wall or trellis, let the non-climbing types hang or expand over a shelf, and you can always prune them if they get too big.
The also look stunning with other houseplants such as pothos.
Choosing a philodendron
These plants are often confused with pothos and may even be mislabelled in nurseries, so make sure to inspect the plant closely so you know what you’re getting.
In general, Pothos leaves are usually splotched with yellow or white while philodendron leaves are often solid green. Pothos is also a much smaller plant and is often sold in hanging baskets.
You might think a philodendron is a philodendron, but there are over 489 different species!
Before you get overwhelmed though, the only thing you really need to know is whether you want a climbing or a non-climbing variety. Once you’ve figured that out, just pick one that looks nice to you.
A potent purifier with a cautionary nature
Philodendrons act as a natural air filter by sequestering pollutants like formaldehyde and other nasty stuff in the air. Keep one in your office or bedroom to clean the air where you spend a lot of time!
However, Philodendron leaves and stems can be toxic to both humans and pets when eaten. If you have little ones or furry friends, keep your philodendron well out of reach or consider a different non-toxic houseplant.
How to care for your philodendron
The philodendron is native to the tropical rainforests of South America, so the key here is mimicking a tropical environment.
Luckily, this isn’t difficult!
Light: Philodendrons like spotty, light shade (which mimics growing under a rainforest canopy) but have been known to acclimate to full sunlight. So basically, place near a bright window but not necessarily in direct sunlight. An east-facing window is perfect!
These plants are also fantastic at telling you what they need, so keep an eye on it. If the leaves turn yellow, it’s getting too much light. If it’s getting long and leggy with lots of space between leaves, it needs more light. Simple!
Water: To emulate light, tropical rain, just wet the top 1-2 inches of soil and allow it to dry out between waterings.
If the leaves start to droop, the plant is getting either too much or not enough water, so adjust your watering schedule accordingly.
Fertilizer: Liquid fertilizer is best. I like to use Indoor Plant Food for all of my houseplants (except succulents). It’s gentle enough to use each week, so I don’t have to remember a fertilizing schedule! You may also want to give it just a little more during the growing season and less in the winter.
Temperature: The philodendron’s favorite growing temperature is between 75 and 85 degrees fahrenheit during the day and in the 60’s at night.
This means you may need to adjust the temperature of your home, though the temperature near a warm window might be higher and just right for your plant. Keep an eye on your plant and if it continues to look healthy, it’s probably happy!
Repotting: Although philodendrons like a fairly compact root structure, they still need to be repotted if the root ball gets too squished.
After a watering day in early spring, prune your philodendron and repot in a container 3-4” larger and give it another good watering. That will set you up for a healthy growth year!
Bonus tip: Make sure to dust your philodendron regularly! Dust can clog pores on the leaves (kind of like pores on your skin) and cause coloration issues, so keep them nice and clean.
A failure-free plant
Ultimately, philodendrons are hardy and easy to grow, so don’t be intimidated.
Even if you make a mistake, it’s okay! These plants will tell you exactly what they need and recover quickly if something gets off. Philodendrons are perfect for practicing your plant parenting skills before moving onto fussier indoor plants.