No other group of houseplants is as popular as the philodendron, and there are good reasons for that. Philodendrons offer many different sizes and growth habits; they have interestingly shaped, glossy leaves; and they are among the least picky houseplants when it comes to growing conditions. Originally from South American tropical forests, philodendrons are strong, tolerant plants that don’t need a lot of sunlight.
Climbers and nonclimbers
Philodendrons are basically classified as either climbers or nonclimbers. The climbing species are the ones most commonly grown in the home, although they must be tied to supports as they grow. The heart-leaf philodendron (Philodendron scandens) is perhaps the most popular and recognizable species. The heart-shaped leaves are glossy and deep green, and it is a vigorous climber.
Nonclimbing philodendrons can become large plants 6 to 8 feet tall, with self-supporting trunks and large leaves. Large nonclimbers are ideal for big, high-ceilinged rooms and are often seen in offices and lobbies.
A major reason for philodendrons’ popularity is their relatively low need for maintenance. Just follow these guidelines for success:
- Place the plant in moderate to bright light, but not direct sunlight.
- Feed lightly with a balanced houseplant food each time you water (more heavily in summer); water regularly to keep the soil evenly moist.
- Wash the leaves about once a month.
- Expect some dropping of lower leaves on climbing types, but excess leaf drop may signal poor drainage, too-low temperatures, or the need to re-pot into a larger container.
The 200 different species of philodendrons offer a selection to fit almost any houseplant growing situation, and your garden center or florist will be glad to help you pick one that’s right for you. Especially if you don’t have a particularly green thumb, a philodendron is a great choice for a handsome houseplant that’s easy to live with.