A Beginner's Guide to Caring for Thriving Philodendrons Indoors

A Beginner's Guide to Caring for Thriving Philodendrons Indoors


Philodendrons are low maintenance houseplants that are quite resilient and can tolerate inconsistent watering and low light conditions. This makes them great starter plants for beginner indoor gardeners. Some key benefits of philodendrons as houseplants:

  • Low maintenance - Don't require frequent watering or pruning
  • Tolerant of low light - Can survive in corners far from windows
  • Resilient - Bounce back from under and overwatering
  • Pet-friendly - Non-toxic to cats and dogs
  • Trailing or climbing growth - Can be grown in hanging baskets or staked up
  • Air purifying - Help remove indoor pollutants
  • Variety - Many leaf shapes, sizes and colors

With proper care, philodendrons can grow into beautiful statement plants in any indoor space. Their vining varieties offer a tropical, jungle look while upright varieties make for striking floor plants.


Light is critical for indoor philodendrons to develop healthy leaves and vigorous growth. Philodendrons can survive in low light conditions but will thrive when given bright, indirect light for over 5 hours per day.

Ideal Light Conditions

  • Bright, indirect light - Light that is bright but filtered, with distinct shadows. Direct hot sun will scorch leaves.
  • 5+ hours per day - The more bright light the better for growth.
  • South or West facing windows - Best exposure for bright, indirect light.

Philodendrons grown in low light will have:

  • Smaller, sparser leaves
  • Leggy, uneven growth
  • Paler coloration
  • Slower growth rate

Light Needs by Variety

Different philodendron varieties have slightly different light requirements:

  • Variegated varieties - Need more light to maintain their striped or speckled foliage. Insufficient light causes fading of variegation. Examples:

    • Philodendron White Wizard
    • Philodendron Pink Princess
    • Philodendron Birkin
  • Vining varieties - Grow quicker in bright light. Examples:

    • Philodendron Brasil
    • Heartleaf Philodendron
    • Philodendron Micans
  • Upright varieties - Do well in moderate light. Examples:

    • Philodendron Congo
    • Philodendron Imperial Red

Using Artificial Light

Artificial grow lights can supplement natural light for philodendrons. Key tips:

  • Use broad spectrum LED grow lights.
  • Position 12-18 inches above the plant.
  • Provide at least 10-12 hours of light per day.
  • Rotate plants occasionally for even coverage.

With the right balance of natural and supplemental lighting, philodendrons will reward you with vibrant evergreen leaves and strong growth. Monitor your plants and adjust lighting as needed.


Proper watering technique and schedule is key to keeping philodendrons healthy. Allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings. Underwatering is preferable to overwatering, which can lead to root rot.

Watering Guidelines

  • Allow soil to completely dry out before watering again. Test with finger.
  • Philodendrons can tolerate some drought. Underwatering is better than overwatering.
  • Water thoroughly until it drains from the bottom. Do not let sit in water.
  • Use room temperature water.
  • No set watering schedule - water based on soil dryness.
  • Overwatering leads to root rot - allow to dry out to revive.

Adjusting Watering Frequency

How often to water depends on several factors:

  • Season - Water more frequently in hot summer months. Reduce watering in winter.
  • Light exposure - Plants in brighter light need more frequent watering.
  • Size of plant - Younger, smaller plants need less water.
  • Soil type - Well draining soil requires less frequent watering.
  • Humidity - Drier air requires more frequent watering.

Signs of Underwatering

  • Leaves are droopy, curled, or yellowing
  • Leaves feel light and brittle
  • Soil pulls away from edges of pot
  • Slow growth

Signs of Overwatering

  • Leaves are yellow, droopy, or mushy
  • Mold or rotting stems
  • Roots are brown or mushy
  • Foul odor from soil

The best way to determine watering needs is to feel the soil and lift the plant. Get to know your plant's watering preferences and you will be rewarded with a happy, thriving philodendron.


Choosing the right soil is key to healthy philodendron growth. Philodendrons need a very well-draining and aerated potting mix.

Soil Recommendations

  • Potting mix designed for indoor plants, not garden soil
  • Lightweight, porous material that drains readily
  • Organic matter like peat moss or coconut coir
  • Can amend with perlite, orchid bark to improve drainage

Avoid soil that is:

  • Too dense or heavy
  • Moisture-retaining - no water absorbing gels
  • Stays wet for a long time

Repotting Tips

  • Repot in spring every 2-3 years in fresh soil.
  • Gently loosen root ball but minimize root damage.
  • Pot in a container 1-2 inches larger in diameter.
  • Ensure proper drainage holes at bottom of pot.

Refreshing Soil

To refresh potting mix without repotting:

  • Remove top 1-2 inches of old soil.
  • Replace with fresh, well-draining potting mix.
  • Or top-dress annually with worm castings or compost.

Checking Drainage

To test drainage:

  • Water the plant thoroughly and wait 15 minutes.
  • Remove the plant and check if excess water pooled in the saucer.
  • If so, the soil likely does not drain fast enough.

Fixing Poor Drainage

If the soil drains poorly:

  • Repot in a container with drainage holes using a better potting mix.
  • Mix in sand, perlite or small pebbles to improve drainage.
  • Leach salt buildup by heavily watering until it drains freely.

Good soil drainage is crucial to prevent root rot and overwatering issues. Assess your philodendron's soil needs and adjust accordingly for optimal growth and health.


While philodendrons tolerate average indoor humidity levels, providing higher humidity encourages larger, lusher growth.

Ideal Humidity Level

  • Philodendrons thrive in 40-60% humidity or higher.
  • Average indoor humidity is 30-50% depending on climate.
  • Higher humidity reduces stress and boosts growth.

Effects of Low Humidity

If humidity is too low, philodendrons may:

  • Develop brown, crispy leaf edges.
  • Experience slowed growth.
  • Have smaller leaves.

Effects of High Humidity

Higher humidity provides benefits:

  • Larger, vibrant leaves.
  • Healthy new leaf growth.
  • Robust vine development.
  • Reduced stress.

Increasing Humidity

Some ways to increase humidity for philodendrons:

  • Use a humidifier near plants.
  • Place pots on a wet pebble humidity tray.
  • Mist leaves periodically with a spray bottle.
  • Grow many plants together to elevate local humidity.

Humidifier Tips

When using a humidifier:

  • Run humidifier several hours per day near plants.
  • Refill water tank regularly.
  • Clean unit to prevent mold growth.
  • Adjust output to maintain 40-60% humidity.

Monitor your philodendron and if leaves are small or dry, take steps to increase humidity levels. Proper humidity encourages vigorous, healthy growth.


Fertilizing philodendrons regularly is important to support healthy growth. When growing in pots indoors, philodendrons have limited access to nutrients and depend on fertilizer.

Why Fertilize

Fertilizing provides nutrients needed for:

  • Lush, vibrant foliage
  • Faster growth rate
  • Bigger leaves and fuller plants
  • Preventing a leggy, sparse appearance

Without fertilizer plants may:

  • Have smaller leaves
  • Grow leggy and uneven
  • Develop yellow leaves
  • Have slowed growth

When to Fertilize

  • During the active growing season from spring to summer
  • When new leaves are actively forming
  • Every 2-4 weeks during peak growing periods
  • Reduce feeding in winter or during dormancy

Fertilizer Options

  • Balanced liquid fertilizers - Easy to apply diluted
  • Slow release granular - Mix into soil, provide nutrients over time
  • Organic choices - Compost, worm castings, fish emulsion

How to Fertilize

  • Always dilute liquid fertilizers to 1/4 or 1/2 strength.
  • Alternate between fertilizing and plain watering.
  • Flush soil monthly to prevent salt buildup.
  • Spread granules evenly on soil surface.

Proper fertilization is key to maintaining philodendrons at their healthiest! Monitor new growth and adjust feeding as needed according to variety and season.


Propagating philodendrons is an easy and rewarding way to create new plants. There are a few key differences in propagating vining varieties versus self-heading types.

Propagating Vining Varieties

Most vining philodendrons like heartleaf, brasil and micans are easy to propagate in water:

  • Take a stem cutting below a leaf node.
  • Remove lower leaves and place cutting in water.
  • Change water weekly to prevent rotting.
  • Roots will emerge from the node in a few weeks.

Once rooted in water, pot cuttings into soil. New plants will quickly establish and start growing.

Benefits of propagating in water:

  • Fast root development
  • Minimal effort - just change water weekly
  • Fun to watch roots form and grow

Propagating Upright Varieties

Self-heading philodendrons like Imperial Red or Congo are more challenging:

  • Need a stem cutting with an aerial root or node.
  • Higher chance of failure - cuttings may not root well.
  • Can take 2-3 months for new growth.

Use a rooting hormone on cuttings to improve success rates. Propagate in perlite/peat instead of water for better drainage.

Caring for New Plants

For new propagations:

  • Pot in loose, well-draining soil.
  • Keep warm and humid to establish.
  • Gradually expose to more light.
  • Keep moist but not soaked.

Propagating allows you to expand your plant collection! Take lots of cuttings to gift or trade with fellow plant lovers.

Staking and Cleaning

A couple simple care tips for philodendrons are staking for support and periodically cleaning leaves.

Staking Benefits

Staking a philodendron provides:

  • Vertical support for upward growth
  • Prevents sprawling or trailing plants
  • Encourages larger, showier leaves
  • Can showcase variegated foliage

Staking Tips

  • Use bamboo stakes, trellises, or moss poles
  • Gently tie main stems to support with soft ties
  • As stems grow, continue securing to support
  • Keep ties loose to avoid constriction

Using Plant Clips

  • Alternative to ties are adjustable clips
  • Clips attach directly to stakes
  • Allow stems to be positioned as desired
  • Useful for training more rigid self-heading varieties

When to Stake

  • Stake vining philodendrons when they reach desired length
  • Stake upright philodendrons when mature to prevent toppling
  • Add supports early before stems become long and unwieldy

Cleaning Leaves

Regular cleaning provides benefits:

  • Removes dust to allow light penetration
  • Prevents pest infestations
  • Improves photosynthesis
  • Makes leaf patterns and colors pop

How to Clean

  • Wipe leaves with damp cloth periodically
  • Spray with neem oil solution
  • Shower or rinse occasionally
  • Wipe with cotton ball dipped in milk

With simple staking and cleaning, philodendrons will thrive and look their best!

Growth Rate

The growth rate and speed of maturation can vary quite a bit among philodendron varieties. Factors like varietal traits and care impact growth rate.

Faster Growing Varieties

Some philodendrons grow quickly and vine readily:

  • Heartleaf philodendron - The classic vining type with dark green heart-shaped leaves. Grows rapidly and extensively.

  • Brasil philodendron - Vining variety with bright yellow and green variegated leaves. Matures quickly.

  • Micans philodendron - Velvetty, heart-shaped leaves on trailing stems. Fast climber.

  • Neon philodendron - Vibrant lime green heart-shaped leaves. High energy variety.

Slower Growing Varieties

Others have a more restrained, upright growth:

  • Congo philodendron - Large bright green leaves. Grows slowly into a bushy floor plant.

  • Imperial red philodendron - Regal dark leaves with red stems. Compact growth habit.

  • Prince of orange philodendron - Colorful new growth but slower maturing.

  • Pink princess philodendron - Pink leaves fade to green as plant ages. Gradual grower.

Optimizing Growth Rate

To encourage faster growth:

  • Provide warm temperatures and ample humidity.
  • Fertilize regularly during growing season.
  • Keep in bright, indirect light.
  • Water thoroughly when top few inches of soil are dry.
  • Repot annually in fresh, nutrient rich soil.

Growth rate can also indicate when a plant needs repotting or fertilizer. A slowdown in new growth is a sign a philodendron's needs are not being met.

Toxicity to Pets

An important consideration with philodendrons is that they are toxic to pets. Keep philodendrons out of reach from curious cats and dogs.

Toxicity to Pets

All philodendron varieties contain insoluble calcium oxalates in their tissue. When chewed or ingested, these needle-shaped crystals can cause:

  • Pain, swelling, and irritation in the mouth and throat
  • Excessive drooling and vomiting
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Loss of appetite

Toxicity Symptoms

Possible symptoms if a philodendron is eaten:

  • Numb, tingling mouth
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rash or skin irritation
  • Upset stomach, diarrhea
  • Depression, lethargy

Danger to Pets

The level of toxicity depends on the amount ingested, but philodendrons can be very dangerous to cats and dogs. Other pets like rabbits or birds are also at risk.

Preventing Exposure

To keep philodendrons away from pets:

  • Place out of reach on high shelves or hang in baskets
  • Use pet barriers to block access
  • Keep pets out of room when unattended
  • Remove chewed leaves immediately

If Ingested

If you suspect a pet ate a philodendron, contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Poison Control Center immediately. Treatment may include:

  • Inducing vomiting
  • Medication to control gastrointestinal symptoms
  • IV fluids and electrolytes
  • Antihistamines for allergic reaction

With a few precautions, you can safely keep philodendrons in a pet-friendly home. Their tropical look enhances any space, bringing beauty without endangering your furry friends.


With the right care, philodendrons are easy-going houseplants that add a bold, tropical feel to indoor spaces. They come in vining, heart-leaf varieties perfect for hanging baskets as well as upright types like the Congo that make striking floor plants.

Philodendrons are resilient to inconsistent watering and low light. But they will thrive when given bright indirect light and a consistent watering routine. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings and use a well-draining potting mix. Fertilize regularly to encourage fast, healthy growth. Propagating philodendron cuttings is also very rewarding!

Remember that all philodendrons are toxic if ingested by pets. With proper care, these low maintenance plants can provide enjoyment for many years.


Back to blog