The Q&A Archives: help with philodendron

Question: I have a philodendron. How often is it supposed to be watered and how much sunlight is it supposed to get? What temperature should it be kept at to ensure good health and remain hardy and shiney? Liz McGee

Answer: Philodendrons are among the most common and easy-to-grow houseplants. Many tolerate low light and neglect. If well treated, they will be beautiful and dependable for many years.

Most philodendrons prefer indirect or curtain-filtered sunlight but will tolerate low light. The common heartleaf philodendron (Philodendron scandens) will tolerate very low light. Night temperatures of 65 to 70 ?F and day temperatures of 75 to 85 ?F are ideal.

Water frequently enough to keep the soil evenly moist, but not soggy. Never let the plants stand in water. High humidity is ideal for best growth, but philodendrons tolerate the low level of humidity in most homes.

Fertilize philodendrons regularly with a dilute water-soluble houseplant fertilizer, or use a time-release fertilizer.

In the home, plant diseases are very rarely a problem. Too much or too little water plus insects and mites are the main problems. Root rot usually results from a soil mix that does not drain quickly or overly frequent watering.

Yellowing of lower leaves and the death of the growing tips can be caused by too little light or overwatering. Too much fertilizer can cause tips of leaves to curl and brown. The long leaf stalks of self-heading types are brittle. Locate these plants out of traffic paths to avoid damage.

While philodendrons are generally pest-free, aphids, mealybugs, scales and spider mites can infest them.

Some philodendrons contain a chemical that causes a burning sensation and can be toxic if the foliage is eaten. Keep philodendrons away from any pets or young children that may eat plants.

To keep the leaves shiny, wipe them off periodically with a soft cloth moistened in plain water (don't use the leaf shine products in the store or oil from kitchen - both can clog the holes in the leaves and they'll suffocate and die early instead of remaining on the plant for a long time).

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