- Philodendrons can be either vining, meaning they trail, or self-heading, meaning they grow upright.
- Allow philodendron soil to dry out between waterings and keep them in bright indirect sunlight.
- All philodendrons are toxic to pets and should be kept out of their reach.
- Visit Insider’s Home & Kitchen Reference library for more stories.
Plant lovers, from the most experienced plant collectors to self-proclaimed black thumbs, often choose philodendrons for their easy-to-care-for nature and lush foliage. While there are nearly 500 species of philodendrons, which are part of the Araceae family, there are 10 popular types that make for perfect indoor ornamental houseplants.
Annette Gutierrez, co-owner of the Los Angeles-based plant shop Potted, shares her best care tips on the most popular philodendrons.
Vining vs. self-heading
Philodendrons are categorized as either vining (also called climbing) or self-heading (also called upright). Vining philodendrons are classified as hemiepiphyte, which trail or vine growing towards a support like a tree or a branch. Self-heading philodendrons have an upright growth habit that naturally grow on the forest ground towards the sun.
“Self-heading varieties have a short space between nodes, and therefore thicker trunks to grow more compacted,” says Gutierrez. “Vining varieties have long spaces between nodes, making them easier to propagate.”
Understanding if a philodendron is vining or self-heading is important in choosing how to display it, according to Gutierrez.
“Self-heading varieties can get quite big and make beautiful specimen plants on a table or even on the floor,” says Gutierrez.”Vining varieties look beautiful in hanging baskets spilling down from the top of a bookshelf or similar locations.”
Gutierrez also notes self-heading philodendrons can be staked to grow up, with their vines sprawling across walls to frame a window or room.
1. Velvet leaf philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum var. hederaceum)
Also known as philodendron micans, this heart-shaped vining philodendron is soft to the touch and is usually a rare find for its beauty, popularity, and low-maintenance nature. This stunning houseplant is native to the tropical regions of eastern Mexico and the Caribbean.
When the leaves first unfurl, they start out with a bronze hue, later fading into an iridescent, deep jade green, rust, and even purple depending on the amount of light it receives.
2. Variegated heart leaf philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum ‘Brasil’)
This beloved plant, also known as philodendron Brasil, is well known for its heart-shaped leaves and lemon-lime split colors. This species is native to the tropical rainforests of South America, so it prefers slightly higher humidity and a light weekly misting. As with most variegated or speckled plants, adequate light is needed to keep the colors and patterns of their leaves vibrant.
3. Ecuador philodendron (P. verrucosum)
Ecuador philodendron is a showstopping climbing plant named after its place of origin in the Ecuadorian jungles. Its velvety leaves can grow several inches wide and are easily recognized by their striking colors and lined patterns. This unique philodendron can more frequently be purchased online as opposed to a local nursery.
“This is a rare and stunning variety,” says Gutierrez. “The leaves have an unusual reddish color under the leaves, and neon green veins.”
4. Oak leaf philodendron (Philodendron pedatum [Laciniatum])
This philodendron native to Venezuela and Brazil is easily identified by its name with uniquely oak-shaped glossy leaves slightly resembling a hemp plant. While the oak leaf philodendron will cascade from a hanging basket, it prefers to climb a moss or coco coir pole for maximum support.
5. Philodendron patriciae (Philodendron patriciae Croat)
As one of the newest plants of the philodendron genus, philodendron patriciae can grow up to an impressive 30 feet long. Its narrow, pod-shaped leaves are rippled with a dark juniper color. American botanist Dr. Thomas Croat discovered this plant in the early 1980s and named it after his wife Patricia.
“This philodendron is just crazy with long dimpled leaves that can grow to be gigantic — although probably not in a small indoor space,” says Gutierrez.
1. Winterbourn (Thaumatophyllum Xanadu)
Winterbourn, or philodendron Xanadu, has a tropical appearance, slightly resembling a mix between a palm and monstera. Its large, shiny leaves make the ultimate statement indoors and can grow in clumps several feet wide when grown outdoors.
“This one does great outside and is loved by landscape designers as an interesting addition to add shade to any garden,” says Gutierrez.
2. Rojo Congo (Philodendron tatei)
The rojo Congo, or red Congo, philodendron is striking in its appearance, identified by its full, dark forest green leaves and garnet-colored stems. Newly furled leaves also have a reddish tint that fades to green with maturity.
Lightly misting and wiping leaves weekly is recommended to keep this plant looking beautiful and to allow its leaves to cleanly absorb light and moisture from the air.
3. White wave (Philodendron Birkin)
The philodendron white wave, also known as Birkin, is beloved for its attractive leaves etched in white stripes. This plant will do best in a bright, humid bathroom, but like most philodendrons can tolerate low light conditions.
“No leaf ever looks the same so it’s a real showy beauty with white stripes veining its glossy leaves,” says Gutierrez. “It’s an easy and extremely interesting houseplant.”
4. Prince of orange (Philodendron sp.)
If there is one philodendron to represent its tropical place of origin, it’s the prince of orange. This vivid houseplant has lime green, sunburst yellow, and creamsicle orange leaves reminiscent of a South American sunset. Prince of orange, which Gutierrez calls “gorgeous,” is a hybrid that can grow up to two feet tall and will change in color from shades of orange to shades of green as it matures.
5. Pink princess (Philodendron erubescens)
Another dazzling hybrid, the philodendron pink princess is equal parts beautiful, rare, and expensive. Its multicolored leaves are splashed with lavish pastel pink, emerald green, and spots of white. Propagating this philodendron is best left to professionals since its pink hues are not always guaranteed through at-home propagation.
“This plant is not only extremely expensive since its pink tone is very hard to achieve and can often revert back to green, but also very difficult to propagate,” says Gutierrez. “It’s a gamble but could be worth it if you can find one at a decent price.”
Philodendron care basics
Since philodendrons have a general care routine, it’s best to treat a plant under these instructions, slightly adjusting for watering, humidity, and light depending on the growth and health of the plant.
Potting and fertilizer: Well-draining soil containing peat moss is best for philodendrons. As for fertilizer, a well-balanced and water soluble fertilizer with an NPK ratio of 20-20-20 is recommended monthly during the spring and summer growing seasons.
Light exposure: “Philodendrons love bright, indirect light when indoors,” says Gutierrez. “Outside they prefer to be in the shade, but outdoor shade is not equivalent to low light indoors.” Since there is more of a risk of direct sun rays outdoors, philodendrons prefer the protected and controlled brightness level of the indoors.
Watering frequency and humidity: Philodendrons enjoy watering every seven to ten days, allowing the soil to dry out between waterings. Gutierrez cautions against over and underwatering, which can cause leaf stress. “Yellow leaves usually means overwatering and brown leaves usually means underwatering,” says Gutierrez. “Brown leaf tips means it might be good to get a humidifier.”
Temperature: “In sunny zones like Los Angeles, most philodendrons do just fine outside, preferring temperatures in the 70s and 80s,” says Gutierrez. “But they definitely need to be protected from cold and brought inside if you live in an area that goes below 35 to 40 degrees [Fahrenheit].” Indoor temperatures for philodendrons should be kept at around 65 to 70 degrees [Fahrenheit].
Common problems: While pests and diseases are uncommon with philodendrons, bacterial blight, mites, mealybugs, and root rot are the most common issues a philodendron might face. To treat pests and diseases, remove the infected plant from other plants and use an insecticidal soap.
Propagation: While propagating self-heading philodendrons is best left to professional growers, vining philodendrons are easy to propagate. First, Gutierrez instructs to cut a vine with at least four or five leaves on it just above a node.
Place the cutting into a vase or test tube filled with water, which work best for philodendron propagation as the tubes have narrow tops and keep the plant from falling out too easily. Next, place the cutting on a north or east facing window to avoid direct sun rays, allowing it to grow roots about two to three inches long in the next month or two. Transfer the new philodendron to a fresh pot of soil containing peat moss and water it weekly.
Philodendrons are beloved for their unique shape and vibrant appearance. And, with the right care routine, their bold yet forgiving nature can reward any plant owner with years of growth and prosperity.