Variety is the Spice of Life

 Growing Philodendrons

By Neil Moran

There are two types of philodendrons, the climbers and nonclimbers. The climbers need strong support as they grow upward, like a trellis, or a moss-covered stake in a flower pot. The sweetheart plant, aka, heart-leaf philodendron, is one such climber and can survive a little neglect from the well-meaning homeowner. The first botanists, noting its climbing, tree-like nature, named it after the Greek philos, meaning “loving,” and dendron, meaning “tree.”

Nonclimbers can get quite massive and believe it or not aren’t as suitable to the home as the climbers. Tree philodendron, for example becomes unsightly and unwieldy if not kept in a small pot to curtail its growth. 

There are some beautiful plants to choose from including blushing philodendron, elephant’s ear philodendron, black gold philodendron and fiddleleaf philodendron.         

If you’re looking for variety, check out the different types of philodendrons in your local supermarket, floral shop and other outlets. Although they are generally grown indoors, they can be placed outdoors around your Bay home if kept out of direct sunlight, that is, after the temperatures rise above 50 degrees. They also thrive in humid greenhouses and arboretums where the day temps are around 70 degrees and nighttime temps 10 degrees lower.

Plant your philodendron in a six-to-eight-inch pot with a quality potting soil. Spread the roots around the interior of the pot, then fill the pot with potting soil, firming it with your hand over and around the roots. Leave about an inch of space at the top of the pot for watering. Provide an initial fertilizer, such as a slow-release plant food like Osmocote and or a light feeding with an all-purpose fertilizer. Don’t worry if the roots are somewhat crowded, philodendrons don’t mind.

If planting directly in the ground outside, either permanently or for the summer months, plant in a soil rich in organic matter, i.e., compost, and/or sphagnum peat moss. Remember, these plants need a partial shade environment and something to climb to thrive outdoors.

Light: As mentioned above, they need to be kept out of direct sunlight either indoors or out. A few feet from a spacious window out of the direct rays of the sun is ideal.

Temperature: Like most houseplants, philodendrons don’t like conditions very dry or real hot so keep away from heat sources from furnaces, air ducts, etc. It is better to have conditions that are cool and moist as opposed to very warm.

Water: Newly planted philodendrons need a generous watering. Thoroughly soak the soil then let it dry out before watering again. After the plant is established, keep the soil evenly moist.

Feeding: After an initial feeding, provide a light feeding of a soluble fertilizer such as Miracle Grow each time you water for best overall health. This means applying at less than half the recommended rate. 

Additional care: Keep an eye out for insects, including aphids and spider mites. Spider mites are usually a problem in hot, dry environments. Clean the leaves occasionally with a mild mixture of soap and water.

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