One of the most common houseplants in America and one of the most abused is the Philodendron. Found in households and office buildings around the world, the most common variety is often seen as a straggly 10 foot long sparse vine with a few heart shaped leaves scattered along its length. Philodendrons originate in the tropics and are part of the Aroid family (Araceae). Philodendrons plants come in many shapes and sizes, from small trailing vines to giant trees. There are many different species of Philodendrons, each possessing its own characteristics as to leaf size, shape or coloring.
Most Philodendrons are at home in the jungles of tropical America and are suited for medium filtered-light intensity similar to a dense jungle floor. Because of this adaption, they are prime candidates for surviving in the low to medium light of many homes and offices. While most philodendrons will do well in low-light situations, the more colorful varieties require brighter locations.
Philodendrons grow best in a somewhat tightly fitting pot and will form a nice intertwined ball of roots, so you can plant them in a pot which may almost seem too small. Pot your philodendron in the late winter or in the spring. Fill the bottom of the pot one quarter full with broken crocks for easy drainage, which should then be covered with a moss, turf or coarse leaves to prevent the drainage from becoming clogged. Feed your philodendron in the spring and again in midsummer with a liquid house plant fertilizer. You can propagate your own philodendrons by taking a cutting with at least 2 joints on it and planting it.
The plant will tolerate low light conditions, but too little light will cause the plant to be sparse, with new leaves growing in smaller and farther apart on the stem. All philodendrons should be checked regularly and kept evenly moist. Over watering may lead to yellow leaves and under watering will cause the leaves to turn brown and fall off. Never let the soil get so dry that the leaves start to wilt, this may mean that the small, fine root hairs that absorb moisture and nutrients are in trouble. Clean the leaves with soapy water or an insecticide regularly to prevent the pores from becoming clogged up with dust and to control insects.
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