Philodendron – Philodendron (P. Red Emerald), Heartleaf Philodendron (P. scandens)

Since Victorian times, Philodendrons (tree lovers) have been used as house plants, and their popularity has increased in recent years.  Philodendrons and the closely related Monsteras live in tropical rainforests where they grow 60 feet (18 m) or more.  Indoors they will grow 6 -15 feet (1.8 – 4.5 m) tall if their aerial roots are not removed.  The aerial roots have an important part to play in the wild by attaching the roots to the surface of the bark and climbing up the tree and branches.  In the indoor garden setting, they can be trained to attach themselves to moss-covered poles or stakes.

Philodendrons belong to a large genus of mostly climbing plants prized for their striking, leathery leaves.  The leaves of different philodendron vary considerably and include arrow-, heart-, lance-, or spatula-shaped.  The leaves may be slightly indented, smooth-edged, or so deeply lobed that they appear to be divided into leaflets.  The stems need to be supported and some varieties can have leafstalks that exceed 2 feet (0.6 m) in length.  The colour of the leaves can be from pale green to rich red and glossy to velvety in texture. 

   P. Red Emerald has arrow-shaped leaves with deep red underside veins, a glossy surface, and leaf sizes are 6 – 15 inches (15 – 38 cm).  P. scandens, commonly known as the Sweetheart or heartleaf philodendron, has green, heart-shaped leaves with a glossy surface, and measuring  4 inches (10 cm) long and 3 inches (7 cm) wide, with 2 – 3 inch (5 – 7 cm) long leafstalks.  P. scandens is called the money plant in Feng Shui due to its heart-leaf shape.

Proper Care

Light  Philodendrons grow best in bright filtered light, but out of direct sunlight.  Deep shade will cause the stems to elongate unnaturally and the plants will lack their characteristic close growth and striking leaf colour.

Temperature  Normal room temperatures are suitable for philodendrons.  They cannot tolerate cold.

Watering  Water thoroughly during the active growth period.  Soil should be moistened throughout the mixture, allowing the top ½ inch (1.27 cm) of soil to dry-out between waterings.  In winter, water only enough to keep the soil from drying out completely.

Propagation  Propagate philodendrons by tip cuttings.  Cut the stem cuttings just below a node, remove the lower three to four leaves and plant in equal-parts moistened peat moss and coarse sand or perlite.  Plant 3 or 4 small-leaved cuttings into a 5 inch (12.7 cm) pot, larger-leaved cuttings in a 4 – 6 inch (10 – 15 cm) pot.  Enclose in a plastic bag and place the pot in bright filtered light in a warm room.  Rooting should occur in 4 to 6 weeks.

Potting/re-potting.  Re-pot philodendron only when their roots have completely filled the pot.  Use a potting soil mixed with half soil-based potting mixture and half peat moss.  Move into a pot one size larger at any time of the year except during the short rest period in the winter months.  The best type of pots for the larger sized philodendrons are clay or tubs to ensure the plants don’t become dangerously top-heavy and fall over.

Feeding  Feed regularly with standard liquid fertiliser, except in the fall and winter, when plants are not actively growing. 

Special Problems

Leaves weeping at edges.  Soil mixture is too wet.  Allow plant to dry our and increase time between waterings.

Leggy growth, small pale leaves.  Too little light is the first thing to look for.  Philodendron will not thrive in deep shade.

   Philodendron plants tend to become dusty overtime.  Spray leaves with water or wash leaves gently with a damp cloth.  When sponging off leaves of  P. Red Emerald, use one hand to support each leaf so as not to put too much strain on the stalk.