The philodendron genus contains some of the most beautiful foliage plants in the plant kingdom. Native to the tropical Americas, there are several hundred species of philodendrons, with more being added all the time. Indoors, there are two basic types of philodendrons: the climbing varieties and the self-heading, or non-climbing, types. In the wild, some of these plants can grow into massive, tree-swallowing specimens, but indoors they aren't nearly so vigorous. Newer hybrids have mixed the vigor and ease of the hanging varieties with the convenience of the self-heading varieties.
Light: Dappled, bright light, as in a tropical canopy. They can be acclimated to nearly direct sunlight in the right conditions, but they thrive in light shade.
Water: Keep compost moist at all times and mist frequently during the growing season. Push aerial roots into the soil on climbing varieties.
Temperature: Variable, but no philodendron likes going below about 55ºF for long.
Soil: Rich, loose potting media. Use a moss stick or other support for the climbing types.
Fertilizer: Slow-release pellets in the beginning of the growing season or weekly liquid fertilizer.
Climbing philodendron are easy to propagate from stem cuttings in a simple glass of water. Rooting hormone will increase the chances of success. Self-heading philodendron sometimes send out plantlets that can be potted up once they are larger. Philodendron rarely flower indoors.
Some of the philodendron varieties are extremely fast-growers, especially the climbers. Pinch off the new growth to keep the plant manageable and repot annually as needed. Repot larger self-heading varieties as needed. These kinds (esp. P. selloum and P. bipinnatifidum) can sometimes grow into very large (8 feet tall, with 2-3 foot leaves) specimens, so be aware you'll need room.
- P. scandens. A very popular climber, sometimes called the sweetheart plant. It has heart-shaped leaves that are sometimes variegated.
- P. erubescens. A vigorous climber with reddish stems and leaves.
- P. melanochrysum. A stunning climber with dark, velvety leaves powdered in bronze.
- P. Rojo. A self-heading hybrid that stays small and manageable but retains its vigor.
- P. selloum. Large, self-heading plant with deeply lobed leaves. Sometimes called Lacy Tree Philodendron
- P. bipinnatifidum. Large, self-heading plant with half-lobed leaves. Sometimes called Tree Philodendron.
The key with philodendrons is to provide plenty of warmth, bright light and moisture. These plants are not prone to insects, and are generally vigorous growers. Feed generously during the growing season. The climbing varieties also make excellent hanging or trailing plants, and the P. scandens, or sweetheart plant, is one of the most dependable and toughest of all houseplants. Of all the philodendrons, it will survive best indoors. The varieties with velvety leaves are less tolerant of bright light and need higher humidity and warmth. Use the newer self-heading hybrids if you want to avoid climbing plants.