Can Philodendron Grow in Water? [Everything You Need to Know]

Philodendrons are hardy plants that have become a favorite among house plant enthusiasts. They make great beginner plants and tend to thrive anywhere they take root. But would they be able to grow just as well in water?

Most species of philodendron can grow in water. However, some perform better than others. Out of all the different varieties, Heart Leaf Philodendron and Velvet Leaf Vine species perform the best when grown in water.

In the rest of this article, I will go into detail on why philodendrons can grow in water if they can grow in water permanently, whether or not they can grow underwater, reasons why they might be dying in water, and if you should propagate philodendrons in water or soil.

Why Philodendrons Can Grow in Water

Philodendrons are similar to marginal plants. These are plants whose roots are submerged underwater while their leaves are above and exposed to oxygen. You can find these plants on ponds and lakes’ outer edges or margins.

Let’s examine precisely how philodendrons can survive and thrive in water alone.

How Soil Delivers Nutrients to Plants

To understand how plant growth is possible only using water, you need to know how those plants usually get their nutrients from the soil.

Soil isn’t strictly necessary for plant growth. According to North Carolina State University, dirt is a nutrient delivery system to reach the plant’s roots—vital nutrients transfer into passing water, which the plant’s delicate root hairs can absorb.

Philodendrons have invasive roots, a root system that relentlessly spreads in search of water and nutrients. These roots can smother other plants, so placing any philodendron species away from neighboring flora or isolated in water is ideal.

How Philodendrons Survive in Water

Now that you know how soil plays a part in delivering nutrients to a plant, let’s talk about how philodendrons can survive in water without it.

According to Upstart University, plants only need 16 nutrients to grow – regardless of whether the soil is present. Here’s a table identifying each nutrient and the categories in which they fall:

Primary MacronutrientsSecondary MacronutrientsMicronutrients

All of the above nutrients can be directly supplemented into a water source through dry or liquid fertilizer, allowing a plant to exist purely off the water and sunlight. This is a method of growing plants known as Hydroponics (though, in this case, it’s happening on a much smaller scale).

Through hydroponic growing, a philodendron plant can grow with little issue.

Planting your plant in water instead of soil makes the outside temperature no problem. So whether you’re in sunny Los Angeles, California, or snowy Sutton in Vermont, your philodendron will thrive with proper care.

Can You Grow Philodendrons in Water Permanently?

Many people start their young philodendrons off in the water and transplant them to the soil after they begin to root. The question is, can these plants be kept in the water permanently instead?

Many species of philodendron can grow and stay in water permanently. However, the water must have the necessary macro and micronutrients to sustain the plant properly. You can supplement these minerals with dry or liquid plant fertilizer.

Let’s delve into which species of philodendron grow well in water.

Philodendrons That Grow Well in Water

The following species perform well in a water environment:

  • Philodendron Atom
  • Philodendron Birkin
  • Philodendron Brasil
  • Philodendron Selloum
  • Split Leaf Philodendron
  • Philodendron gloriosum
  • Heart Leaf Philodendron
  • Philodendron Burle Marx
  • Philodendron Hederaceum Micans

Can Philodendron Grow Underwater?

Philodendrons growing marginally in water is one thing, but can the plant survive while wholly submerged underwater?

Philodendrons cannot grow or survive entirely underwater. The leaves of a philodendron need exposure to oxygen to photosynthesize properly. Without oxygen, the plant leaves and stem will eventually rot and die.

Many plants use a process called aerobic respiration to produce energy out of oxygen. If you submerge a philodendron in water, it won’t correctly supply the needed oxygen for the task.

Philodendrons need open air and sunlight to photosynthesize – this is the primary way this plant makes energy.

According to the Annals of Botany, plants need leaves accustomed to proper gas exchange while submerged to perform underwater photosynthesis. Philodendrons don’t have this type of leaf.

Despite its tolerance to low-oxygen environments, the philodendron may survive short-term underwater. Still, it will soon die if it is not taken out.

Why Is My Philodendron Dying in Water?

So, you’ve begun growing your philodendron in water, but for some reason, it’s not doing well in the new environment. What exactly causes this species to die while in the water?

Harsh chemicals, heavy metals, disease, and lack of nutrients are all reasons a philodendron can die while growing in water. Like soil, water can become saturated with pollutants that make it difficult for plants to survive. Using distilled water reduces the risk of your plants dying.

Let’s dive into each hazard below.

Harmful Chemicals in Tap Water

Most tap water contains many hazardous chemicals harmful to plants. There are too many to list, but let’s look at the most common ones.


The chemical chlorine is found in almost all tap water. According to the University of Maryland, excess chlorine can damage the leaves of plants, causing them to have a scorched appearance.

Chlorine can also damage your philodendron’s roots, severely lowering the chances of survival.

If you suspect the tap water has too much chlorine, allow it to sit in an open container for at least 24 hours. Most of the chemicals will evaporate during that time.


Fluoride is added to some city water supplies to help the overall oral health of the population. However, it is harmful to plants in excess. The chemical prevents photosynthesis and can cause necrosis and spread throughout the plant.

You can purchase testing kits to check how much fluoride is in your tap water. Some great solutions include distilled water or buying a filter that removes fluoride.

If you’re looking for a good water filter, I recommend the Waterdrop 200-Gallon Water Filter from It reduces fluoride and chlorine, making it a perfect reservoir for your house plants.

Heavy Metals

Most heavy metals that make it into tap water are toxic to plants. Adverse effects can include:

  • Inability to photosynthesize
  • Stunted growth
  • Weakened ability to absorb nutrients
  • Plant death

Heavy metals are more common in households with old water pipes. If the pipes in your home are relatively old, you should consider testing your water supply.

Not Enough Nutrients in the Water

Even if you use filtered or distilled water to grow your philodendron in, the plant might not get the nutrients it needs to survive.

Filters not only strip away harmful chemicals and sediments but also many of the minerals essential to plant health.

To fix this issue, you’ll need to remineralize the water.

A great way to accomplish this is to use liquid nutrients. I recommend this AeroGarden Liquid Nutrients bottle from if you require some. It’s got all the minerals needed for healthy plant growth and only needs to be applied once every two weeks.

Miracle-Gro AeroGarden Liquid Plant Fertilizer for Use in AeroGarden Hydroponic Indoor Garden, 3 fl. oz.

The Plant Has Soil Roots

If you’re attempting to transplant a philodendron that grew in soil, your plant has what are called soil roots. These roots are thicker and better at finding water as they spread throughout the ground.

Taking your philodendron and submerging its soil roots in water can cause it to go into shock, which is sometimes fatal. The leaves can become frail, stems will darken, and your plant may have trouble budding.

The best way to avoid shocking your philodendron is to propagate a piece of it in the water instead. Your plant will acclimate to the water and grow roots suitable for its new aquatic environment.

Common Philodendron Diseases

Although philodendrons are hardy plants, they’re not immune to disease. You can identify if your plant has contracted any diseases by checking for the following signs.

Root Rot

A fungal issue usually causes root rot. Telltale signs typically include the following:

  • Yellow & brown leaves
  • General decline without reason
  • Stunted growth
  • “Cankers” or dead areas

Your philodendron is more susceptible to root rot after transplanting from soil to water.

Bacterial Leaf Spot

As the name suggests, this disease is bacterial. It mainly affects the leaves of a plant.

Signs of bacterial leaf spots include:

  • Brown or dark water-soaked leaf spots
  • Spotted leaves that are collapsing
  • Only mature leaves are affected
  • Fishy odor
  • Surrounding plants show similar signs

You can help manage the disease by removing affected leaves early and isolating the infected plants. Since the bacteria quickly spreads through water, be mindful of splashing.

Unfortunately, heavily infected plants typically don’t recover. Your best bet is to remove the plant and try again.

Heart Leaf Philodendron - Easiest House Plant to Grow - 4" Pot - Live Plant

Final Thoughts

Philodendrons are one of the few plants that can survive in both soil and water. For the plant to thrive in water, the essential factors are as follows:

  • Choose a suitable species.
  • Allow leaf exposure to oxygen and sunlight.
  • Use distilled or filtered water supplemented with nutrients.
  • Start by propagating in water.
  • Treat and eliminate any diseases.

If you keep all of the above points in mind, you’ll have a strong and healthy philodendron that’ll last for years.

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