Why Are My Philodendron Leaves Turning Black? [Why & What to Do]

The Philodendron is a plant species commonly maintained as a houseplant. One of the greatest benefits of growing this type of plant is that it isn’t prone to many diseases. However, just like every other variety, the Philodendron needs specific care in order to stay healthy, which is why, lately, you might have noticed that your plant is turning black.

Your Philodendron leaves are probably turning black because of an infection called “leaf spot”, which can quickly kill the plant.  Black leaves usually signify health-related problems, while brown, yellow, and white leaves point to an issue in the philodendron’s environment.

In other words, if your philodendron’s leaves are blackening, death is most likely occurring within the root system. If they’re lightning, the phenomenon is most likely related to soil or watering issues.

The remainder of this article will examine philodendron ailments to color, and what you can do to help your philodendron thrive.

Philodendron Genus

Native to Central America, Philodendrons can grow in warm, shady environments and can be found as close to North America as the Florida coast. Therefore, this plant grows best in an environment with shaded, indirect sunlight and moist soil.

The philodendron genus contains hundreds of different species, all incredibly unique. Some philodendrons are known for their bright green leaves, while others boast splashes of pink, red, and white. The actual leaves also vary in size and shape. Some are very wide; others are narrow and long.

Leaf Discoloration in Philodendron Leaves and What to Do About It

Despite the variety of colors on any philodendron plant, certain shades indicate illness.

Black Philodendron Leaves

For example, black leaves on a philodendron point to a bacterial infection in the plant’s root system called “leaf spot”. It presents as polka-dot type marks on the leaf that starts off brown. Gradually, the brown spots blacken, spread across the leaf’s surface, and kill the leaf before moving on to the next.

How to treat: since this infection can spread quickly, the best way to treat the plant is by removing the infected leaf. Use a clean, sharp pair of scissors to prune it at the base, ensuring that the plant isn’t close to others to avoid contagion.

Yellow to Brown Philodendron Leaves

Suppose your Philodendron transforms from yellow to brown or develops brown, wilted spots. In that case, you are likely overwatering it (or not watering it enough). Philodendrons are a tropical species growing in humid climates such as those of Hawaii, where moist (but not oversaturated) soil is expected; if the plant is overwatered, the roots will get soggy and turn brown, eventually rotting the whole leaf. This is called root rot.

How to treat: Similar to leaf spots, it’s essential to prune the plant of affected leaves. Another additional step is removing the plant and looking at the roots. Root rot will make the root ball a brown, mushy mess instead of its usual white system – prune away the infected roots before repotting the plant in fresh soil and adjust your watering schedule accordingly.

White Philodendron Leaves

If you notice your philodendron leaves turning white, there are a few possible causes. The plant could be missing essential nutrients that are found in healthy soil. Alternatively, overexposure to sunlight could give your Philodendron the plant equivalent of a sunburn.

Since these plants thrive in dappled sunlight, shaded along forest floors and tree trunks, too much sunlight can damage the leaf and turn it white, sometimes transparent. The white leaf will eventually dry up and turn brown if not removed to an area with indirect sunlight.

How to treat: If you catch sun damage early enough, moving your plant to a different location that receives light indirectly can help it regain its color. Ideally, you should relocate the plant as soon as you notice the philodendrons’ color fading.

However, there isn’t always treatment for a sunburnt leaf – if it can’t spring back, the plant will focus its energy on creating new growth.

Philodendron Growing Tips

While there are over four hundred philodendron species, there are a few general growing tips to help maintain your plant’s healthy look.

Providing Indirect Sunlight

This genus, as previously mentioned, grows best in tropical heat and is often shaded by bigger plants; this type of lighting is called indirect lighting. Therefore, be sure to place your plant in an area of your home that gets brightly lit during the day, but does not directly expose the plant to the sun’s rays, where it could burn.

Choosing the Right Soil

As with most other house plants, philodendrons cannot tolerate too wet or dry soil. Choose a pot with accessible drainage (like one with a drainage hole and a tray) to make sure the roots don’t rot in excess water.

You’ll also want to ensure not to water your Philodendron more than once a week while letting the soil dry up between waterings.

A good rule of thumb is to stick your finger one knuckle deep into the soil – if it comes out dry, the soil needs some hydration.

Another simple solution is to use a moisture meter. The meter is placed into the soil and will indicate the soil’s condition: either dry, moist, or wet. This tool comes in handy when first determining an appropriate plant watering schedule.

Philodendron soil should also be loose and nutrient-rich. Nitrogen and phosphorus are essential nutrients for this plant to grow large, healthy leaves.

Determining Whether Your Philodendron Is a Vine or Not

Another simple but helpful growing tip is to determine whether your Philodendron is a vine or not. Many species in this genus are, meaning they do best when they have something to climb on.

Before I started buying Feitore Stackable Plant Trellis (available on Amazon), my philodendron vines were reaching up towards my window’s curtain rod, hoping to curl around it. The stackable feature gives the vines lots of space to climb while keeping the plant away from the furniture.

If you don’t have a trellis, don’t sweat it. Some vines need to climb, otherwise, they’ll die. Philodendron vines, however, don’t need to climb, even though they’ll want to.

If they have nothing to climb on, these vines will simply grow down the sides of their container, which makes for great plants to hang from the ceiling. Hanging baskets or macrame hangers are perfect for a philodendron vine!

I especially like macrame hangers because they can accommodate many different sizes of pots or baskets, and are chic and modern alternatives to plastic baskets. If they’re durable enough, macrame hangers can even hold a pot with a drainage tray, which is excellent to prevent root rot.

Some other hanging options include hooks for the wall or ones that attach to the rim of your basket.

Pruning Your Philodendron

Pruning your plant isn’t only something to do when parts of it are diseased. Regularly pruning your philodendron will help stimulate leaf production and give the plant a bushier look.

When pruning, always make sure to use clean, sharp scissors; it’s good practice to disinfect your shears after each use. This is important because dull, dirty shears can damage the plant and encourage insect infestation.

Moreover, dirty shears carry bacteria that can potentially make your plants sick. If one of your plants is sick and its disease gets transferred to another plant through unclean tools, you may end up needing to play doctor for each one!

To summarize, the discoloration of your philodendron plant signifies a serious problem. The first step in treating it is assessing the sick plant and identifying what it needs. You can do this by remembering what ailment each color points to.

  • Black: Black leaves usually suffer from a bacterial infection called leaf spot, which will eventually kill the plant if left untreated.
  • Yellow or Brown: Yellow or brown leaves indicate a poor watering schedule. You may be watering your philodendron either too often or not enough.
  • White: White leaves signify excess sunlight and are the plant’s equivalent to sunburn!

After you’ve evaluated your plant, assess its environment and watering schedule. Make adjustments as necessary. Philodendrons like bright, indirect sunlight, nutrient-rich soil, weekly waterings, pot drainage, and occasional pruning!

It’s essential to research any plant you bring home to make sure you’re helping it grow in the right environment. Philodendrons are easy to care for but will still die if neglected.

Owning the proper tools will help make caring for your plant easier. Some useful tools include climbers for philodendron vines, hanging baskets, and moisture meters to check the moisture level of your plant’s soil.

You may also want to invest in a good pair of gardening or pruning shears; remember, just as surgeons use sterilized tools, it’s best to prune your philodendron with sharp, clean shears.

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Gaining experience with a new type of plant is both exciting and a little intimidating! With these tips in mind, caring for your philodendron – even when it’s sick – should help to ease your plant-growing journey, making it remarkably more fulfilling and smooth-running.

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