Philodendrons are every plant parent’s dream: easy to care for, evergreen, and aesthetically pleasing. The Philodendron genus consists of nearly 500 species, most of which stand out for their large and glossy leaves.
Philodendrons grow remarkably fast. Under optimal conditions, philodendrons grow at a rate of 4-6 inches or 10-15 centimeters a week during their active growing season, i.e., spring and summer.
Philodendrons originated in the vast and luscious rainforests of South and Central America. Like many other tropical plants, they are extremely resistant, easy to propagate, and have thick dark green leaves with pointy tips.
In this article, I will tell you more about philodendrons, focusing especially on how they grow.
Interestingly, many species of philodendron remain undescribed to this day. The name philodendron is made up of two Greek words meaning “love” and “tree” – a clear reference to the vining varieties of the plant, whose fascinating characteristics we will explore in further depth in the rest of this article.
To understand why philodendrons look and behave the way they do, we should first look at their native habitat. Rainforests are tremendously rich and diverse ecosystems, characterized by relatively warm temperatures, high humidity levels (at least 75% all year round), and a fair amount of sunlight that hits each “layer” of vegetation in a very specific way.
While tropical rainforests get twelve hours of direct sunlight every day, 98% of that light is absorbed by their tallest plants.
Every tropical rainforest has a “ground layer” (more commonly known as “forest floor”) consisting of smaller plants that have adapted to survive and even thrive in relatively dark environments.
So, what kind of plants can we expect to find in such dark, warm, damp habitats? More often than not, we will find plants with adventitious roots and large leaves. Their roots grow in the ground and are structured in such a way as to maximize their resilience to stress conditions (such as frequent, heavy rainfall).
Their leaves feature drip tips which allow them to get rid of any excess water quickly and efficiently, thus keeping fungi and bacteria at bay.
Due to the unique features of their native habitat, philodendrons are very likely to thrive in humid states like Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi. They will, however, survive almost anywhere, being very resistant and adaptable.
Philodendrons come in a wide range of varieties, all equally fascinating. To fully appreciate just how wide the philodendron genus is, consider that philodendrons are capable of growing leaves of various sizes and colors, such as light green, dark green, red, orange, yellow, and even pink.
Philodendrons can be split into two broad categories:
- Vining/climbing Philodendrons
- Non-climbing Philodendrons
Vining philodendrons are hemiepiphyte; this means that, unlike most vining plants, they grow toward their nearest support rather than the sun. When a vining philodendron finds a tree, a pole, a stick, or any other support, it will grow upright, twisting its way around it.
Most vining philodendrons can be expected to reach up to 5 or 6 feet (152 or 182 cm) in height, which is quite impressive. As the name suggests, non-climbing philodendrons can support themselves and have roots that grow both below and above the soil.
The roots that grow above the soil are commonly referred to as “aerial roots,” and their purpose is to provide further stability to the plant.
Non-climbing philodendrons are interesting plants in that they can grow both on the ground and on trees. Like vining philodendrons, non-climbing philodendrons can also get quite tall. The Selloum variety, for instance, can easily reach 5 feet (152 cm).
Philodendrons stand out for their very large leaves, which is one of the reasons why so many people choose them to fill empty corners in their homes.
When we think of non-climbing philodendrons, our minds automatically go to wide, dark green, heart-shaped leaves. These leaves belong to a particular variety called Gloriosum, which happens to be the most popular kind of philodendron.
Congo is a lesser-known variety with wide, oval-shaped leaves; it is really a shame that this variety is not more popular, as its foliage comes in a variety of colors ranging from light green to burgundy.
The Lacy Tree is probably one of the most peculiar varieties of philodendron – most plant novices have never heard of it before. As the name suggests, the Lacy Tree is a tree-like plant with a very robust stem. When kept indoors, this plant can grow as tall as 4 feet (1.2 meters), which makes it ideal for larger rooms.
In its natural environment, the Lacy Tree can easily reach 15 feet (4.5 meters), and its leaves can get as long as 5 feet (1.5 meters). Under optimal conditions (i.e., high humidity level, exposure to indirect sunlight, and warm temperatures), this plant tends to grow very fast.
Like any other plant, philodendrons grow at different rates in different environments. In their natural habitats, both climbing and non-climbing philodendrons grow rather fast and reach considerable heights.
In domestic environments, however, most philodendrons stop growing once they reach a certain height. Most non-climbing philodendrons, for example, do not usually exceed 3.2 feet (1 meter) in height and width when kept indoors. The way in which a philodendron grows and the rate at which it grows depends significantly on its location within the house.
As very resistant plants, philodendrons can easily survive in darker corners, but their growth would be slower and their leaves smaller. The ideal place to keep a philodendron is near a window, where it can enjoy plenty of bright, indirect sunlight. If you keep a philodendron in the sun, your plant will most certainly suffer as the excessive heat will damage its leaves.
Second of all, only water it when the upper half of its soil is completely dry (that is, if you are growing your philodendron in soil). If you choose to grow your philodendron in water, you will have to keep it in a clean vase and change the water every three days. You will want to avoid tap water which often contains harmful chemicals.
One thing to keep in consideration is that as philodendrons grow and mature, they undergo a considerable transformation: and I am not just talking about size.
For instance, you may come across a baby philodendron whose leaves are a certain shape, color, and texture; as that philodendron becomes an adult, its leaves may take on a different shape, color, and texture, ending up looking completely different. Fascinating, right?
Because baby philodendrons differ greatly from adult ones, it has taken taxonomists a long, long time to recognize these differences and classify each variety. Still today, many varieties remain unclassified.
So, when exactly can you expect your philodendron’s leaves to start transforming? While experts are still working to identify the factors that trigger such transformation, we do know that height plays a role.
When a philodendron reaches a certain height, it automatically enters into adulthood, switching from juvenile to adult leaves. Expect this process to be very quick and dramatic rather than slow and unnoticeable. If your philodendron is growing, rest assured that you will be able to see it.
If you follow the few tips listed above, your philodendron will most certainly thrive no matter where you are. When you get a new plant, it is always a good idea to learn as much as possible about its origins so that you can do your best to recreate the conditions of its natural habitat.
As previously mentioned, philodendrons are fast growers. During their active growing season, philodendrons can easily grow at a rate of 4-6 inches (10-15 centimeters) a week, provided that their environment is conducive to their optimal growth.
Under adequate conditions, a young philodendron is perfectly capable of transitioning into adulthood in just one season – in which case you will probably have the pleasure of watching its foliage transform. So, how can you best support your philodendron’s growth? First of all, ensure that your plant gets enough water and plenty of indirect, medium light.
To support your plant’s growth, you can put a bit of liquid fertilizer directly into the water once a month. Whether you choose to grow your philodendron in water or soil, keep in mind that once your plant adapts to a certain medium, you should avoid transferring it to another medium.
If you choose to plant your philodendron in soil, keep it in the same vase until it is clearly root-bound. Also, make sure to use a vase made from breathable material (ceramic is perfect) with drainage holes.
Philodendrons are tropical plants, meaning that they love humid, warm climates. Your philodendron will not give you any problems as long as you place it in a bright corner of your house but keep it away from direct sunlight.
When deciding whether to grow your philodendron in soil or water, you may want to look into the particular characteristics of the variety you are dealing with—some philodendron varieties love water more than others.
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Hi! I’m Sophia, and I love plants – especially an expert in growing house plants. I stay in Chicago, United States of America, and through my blog and social media platforms, provide tips and tricks on how to grow healthy, vibrant plants indoors. Check out more here.