The Philodendron genus is one of my favorites in the species, simply due to the wide variety of strange-looking leaves. From long, skinny, triangle-shaped leaves to ones the size of my face, it’s no wonder Philodendrons are such a popular species– so if you’ve noticed your plant’s leaves are whitening, it may be a cause for concern.
Your Philodendron’s leaves are likely turning white because your soil lacks the nutrients necessary for healthy growth and pigmentation. They could also be whitening as a result of improper lighting, cool temperatures, or fungal infections.
Diagnosing a plant’s condition can be challenging since there are often many potential causes of them. In this article, I’ll explain the various possible reasons for white Philodendron leaves and how to help your plant regain its unique colors.
So you’ve noticed your Philodendron leaves are starting to turn white. The first thing to look at when diagnosing the problem is the plant’s environment– specifically, its soil, lighting, watering, and temperature.
A nutrient deficiency is the number one cause of white leaves on a Philodendron plant. Plants get their nutrients from soil rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. In fact, these elements contribute to the plant’s chlorophyll, so discoloration is a surefire sign that the soil is lacking.
Nitrogen, for example, helps the plant grow vibrant, full foliage, while phosphorus aids the development of the plant’s root system. Potassium, on the other hand, allows the plant to produce fruits and flowers. So, a nutrient deficiency can cause many unwanted problems to your Philodendron, including white leaves.
If your plant is a few years old, it’s natural for the soil to have dried out over time. After all, it can only contain so many nutrients. Before you repot your Philodendron, though, consider the other potential symptoms of nutrient-deficient soil:
- Compact soil that can keep the shape of its container if you remove it
- Stunted growth, less flowering
- Slow leaf unfurling
- Yellow, discolored leaves
- White leaves that are papery and soft to touch
If your Philodendron has more than two symptoms (but most importantly, the compacted soil), it may need to be repotted in fresh, nutrient-rich soil.
When purchasing a potting mix for your Philodendron, keep your eyes peeled for a few key ingredients: all of the nutrients I named above and soil with an acidity level between 6 and 7. They also grow well in organic matter like peat moss.
Fertilizer contains many much-needed nutrients that plants benefit from, so adding fertilizer to new soil will do wonders for your Philodendron.
Philodendrons like shaded, indirect sunlight. Without it, they will wilt, lose color over time, and eventually die. White leaves can result from a Philodendron not getting the light it needs, even filtered.
I remember when I first began my journey as a Philodendron owner. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how to determine whether my plant was getting enough light, direct or indirect. It wasn’t until a friend and landscaper told me to remember the cardinal directions to make this determination.
East, West, and South-facing windows will provide the most sunlight throughout the duration of the day. Since the sun rises in the east, east-facing plants will receive a good amount of soft morning sunlight. On the other hand, west-facing plants will soak up the afternoon light and its last rays before sun-down.
South-facing plants will get a ton of light all day long, so they should thrive in the constant sun. In contrast, north-facing plants should be highly shade-tolerant, as they likely won’t get much sun at all from sun-up to sun-down.
With all of that being said, Philodendrons do best in East or West-facing windows, away from the direct, intense rays of the sun. If your plant is in a South or North-facing window, consider moving the plant to a different location in the house.
Additionally, your Philodendron shouldn’t be exposed to direct sunlight in east or west-facing windows, as this can burn the leaves.
Naturally, too little water will cause discoloration of your Philodendron leaves. Overwatering also causes discoloration, but you’ll notice the stem and leaves turning black instead of white, so examine your watering schedule to see where it needs adjusting.
Philodendron plants thrive off of one thorough soak a week, with the soil drying out almost entirely before its next watering. If you’re soaking your plant less than once a week (once every week and a half, once every two weeks), you may not be giving it enough water to develop strong roots.
Other symptoms of your Philodendron needing more water include:
- Hard, crinkly leaves
- Dehydrated soil
- Stunted growth
An excellent way to check whether your plant requires water is by sticking your index finger at least one inch (two knuckles deep) into the soil. If that one inch is dry, the plant needs a drink.
You can also use the XLux Soil Moisture Sensor Meter (available on Amazon.com) to check the moisture levels of your soil. (I got one for Christmas last year and use it constantly!)
Over time, the soil will get drier and drier between waterings as the plant absorbs its moisture and nutrients. Again, compacted soil is a sign of dry soil that may need to be replaced.
Philodendrons grow best in relatively warm climates, so if the weather is getting cold outside or you like to keep your air conditioner on blast, you’ll need to find a way to warm up your plant to prevent further whitening of the leaves.
Don’t worry– you have a few options. First, consider moving your Philodendron indoors if it’s currently growing outdoors. To do this, you’ll have to find a suitably sized container, dig up the plant’s root ball, and repot it in fresh soil. The colder your plant gets, the more likely it is that the leaves will whiten and die.
Second, consider heat and grow lamps to give your Philodendron the extra light and warmth it may need to thrive. I often recommend the Bifrost LED Grow Light for Indoor Plants (available on Amazon.com) because it has adjustable arms and a long shelf life, suitable for any size plant.
They’re an excellent solution for basement apartments and north-facing homes, where dark lighting conditions are dominant.
Third, figure out the hardiness zone of the area you live in. Philodendrons grow best in zones nine to ten; these zones have temperatures between 20 and 40 °F (-6 to 4 °C). Many of the warmer states in America are excellent locations for natural Philodendron. This plant species is commonly found in states like New Mexico, Hawaii, and Texas.
Another common reason for your Philodendron’s leaves turning white is a fungal infection– more specifically, powdery mildew.
Powdery mildew is a fungus that forms on a wide variety of plant surfaces. You’ll first notice it as what might resemble white polka dots that grow in size and eventually consume the leaf’s entire surface.
The polka dots will be fuzzy and won’t have defined borders. Carried on the wind, powdery mildew will significantly stunt your Philodendron’s growth if left untreated.
To treat powdery mildew, treat the entire plant with a fungicide. Numerous brands are available at most local nurseries or garden stores. When dealing with any infestation or plant infection, following a couple of steps is essential during treatment.
- Isolate your Philodendron. Powdery mildew can travel from one plant to another on the wind, so isolating your Philodendron is crucial to protect your other plant babies.
- Prune the diseased leaves. While more important for root disease, pruning the infected leaves on your Philodendron is another important step to preventing contamination or persistent infection. Use sterilized scissors that get wiped between each use.
- Treat your plant with a fungicide. Just like there are insecticides for insect infestations, you can purchase a general fungicide spray at any local gardening store. You should thoroughly spray your Philodendron with fungicide and wipe it down as well. Treatment usually lasts one to two weeks.
- Examine your other plants. If you notice powdery mildew on any of your other plants, you can isolate them with your Philodendron. Many people opt to keep isolated plants in one location, like the bathtub or on a closed-in porch.
- Repot the Philodendron in fresh soil. Powdery mildew can also grow on your plant’s soil, so repotting it with fresh soil is the most efficient way to rid your Philodendron of this fungal infection.
To summarize, white Philodendron leaves can happen because of infections or inadequate environmental conditions. Fungal infections like powdery mildew can turn your entire plant white if you don’t treat it; nutrient, water, and sun deficiencies are other common culprits to leaf discoloration.
In particular, Philodendrons thrive off of different nutrients found in soil, so repotting it in new soil will provide the plant with the food it needs. These tips should ensure you and your Philodendron are back on track and thriving.
You may also like:
- Why Are My Philodendron Leaves Turning Black?
- Why Are My Philodendron Leaves Drooping?
- Propagating Philodendron in Water
- Philodendron Leaves Turning Yellow
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.