Philodendrons are Fantastic Indoor Garden Plants

philWhen the snow is falling outside, I love to spend quiet meditative time indoors admiring my interior garden.  One of the houseplants that I adore is the philodendron. It can look beautiful in your home or at your office all year round. Timeless and classic, the deep green native tropical philodendrons have been soothing our souls for generations.  This plant is easy to care for and can live for years and years.

Philodendrons are not flashy.  They do not bloom.  Instead, they are vines that climb.  Their common name translates into “tree lover”.   They are tried and true with the ability to survive neglect and adverse conditions.  Even the most inexperienced gardener can have success growing a philodendron as a houseplant.

The most common type of philodendron is the “Heartleaf philodendron”, which has slender stems and heat-shaped leaves.  These grow well in hanging baskets or draping over the edge of a shelf.  They are hearty (pun intended) and make great gifts.

In the tropical jungles, philodendrons grow on the forest floor and happily climb up the trees.  They prefer medium light intensity just like they would find in their native habitat.  They will tolerate low light, but with too little light the new leaves develop farther apart and the stems get long and leggy.  For the best results, position your plant near a window where the sun’s rays never touch the foliage.  If you put your philodendron in direct sunlight, the foliage will burn and stunt the growth of the plant.

Your philodendron will be happiest if you keep the soil evenly moist, but allow it to dry to the touch between waterings.  In the winter months, when the plant’s growth slows, your philodendron will prefer the soil to be slightly drier.  If you see yellowing leaves on your plant, you are probably giving it too much water.  Not enough water will cause your philodendron’s leaves to turn brown and fall off.  The good news is that philodendrons recover quickly if you correct their watering schedule.

Philodendrons will thrive year-round indoors.   The ideal growing temperature is 75 to 85 degrees during the day and in the 60’s at night.  You can take your houseplant outside in the warmer months as long as it is grown away from direct sunlight.   Unlike most houseplants, philodendrons don’t experience much stress when moving from indoors to outside.

If you notice small leaf size and slow growth, the plant may be trying to tell you that it needs a bit of fertilizer.  My philodendrons do best when I feed them with a balanced liquid foliage houseplant fertilizer.  I do this monthly when I water them in the spring and summer.  In the fall and winter, I feed my plants every few months.

As you think about houseplants to add to your own indoor contemplative garden in 2016, give growing a philodendron a try.  You will be glad that you did.  Happy gardening!

©Rita Perea, International Contemplative Garden Association, 2016

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