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Philodendrons enhance the indoor landscape

The philodendron plant adapts to a number of indoor situations.
The philodendron plant adapts to a number of indoor situations. Centre Daily Times, file

I believe that the indoor landscape in a home is as important as the outdoor landscape. There are many plants that can be use to enhance the indoor landscape, including popular philodendron, which you can enjoy for years to come.

The philodendron is a very reliable foliage plant that adapts to a number of indoor situations. There are several types available, which can satisfy just about any indoor landscape need.

The plants do well as long as they are kept warm, 65 degrees, moderately moist and out of direct sunlight. They are native to the West Indies and the tropical jungles of Central and South America. Most species are vines and the leaves vary from 3 inches to 3 feet in length. Some species are self-heading and require no support.

Philodendrons can be grown in 100 percent peat moss. The soil-less mixtures of peat and vermiculite or peat and perlite also work well for the plants. Garden soil can also be used to add weight to the growing medium, if you desire. A ratio of equal parts soil, peat moss and perlite or vermiculite can be used. Make certain, however, that your growing medium drains well and doesn’t hold too much water. Having a saucer under your pot to collect excess water is important and lets you know that you have watered correctly.

Just about any of the commercially available fertilizers will work on philodendron, as long as the manufacturer’s recommendations are followed. Liquid and soluble materials can be used at watering time. The slow-release fertilizers can also be incorporated into the growing medium when the plants are re-potted. You might even use fertilizer stakes, which are solid sticks of fertilizer that are pushed into the soil around the roots. All these materials will supply nutrients to the root system.

Plants growing in low light conditions require less fertilizer than actively growing plants with more light. If you have prepared a growing medium with some soil, it is possible that your plant will survive for a long period without supplemental fertilizer.

A regular feeding program with a higher nitrogen analysis fertilizer will increase the leaf size and make the plants larger. Philodendrons can be considered heavy feeders.

It is important to keep the growing medium uniformly moist as all times. Never allow the growing medium to dry out. This could cause serious root injury the same as a saturated medium around the roots. Yellowing leaves, which eventually fall off, is a sign of of over-watering and root injury.

An occasional spraying or misting of the foliage is beneficial, especially if the plants are growing in areas of low humidity. Remember that the plant’s home is a jungle setting with ample moisture in both the soil and the air around the foliage.

To prevent injury to the leaves, the plants have to be grown in indirect sunlight. There are types of philodendron that maintain themselves very well in low light intensity. If you are not able to supply natural light, artificial light from a mixture of fluorescent and incandescent gives the best results. A daily illumination of 16 hours is enough to keep many philodendrons maintained for at least 12 months receiving as little as 25- to 50-foot candles. Several 100-foot candles are needed to read a paper so this plant will survive in a dull setting very well.

Full sunlight causes a yellowish color in the leaves or an irregular sunburn spotting. Some other problems are small leaves, which indicate the plant is under-fertilized, too dry or too wet, growing in a soil mixture that is too hard or receiving insufficient light. Leaves turning brown could indicate soluble salts in the growing medium. Leach the salts out by slowing running water through the medium. Also drafts, poor drainage, over-watering and under-watering or lack of fertilizer will brown the leaves.

Bill Lamont is a professor and extension vegetable specialist in the department of plant science at Penn State and can be reached by email at wlamont@psu.edu.

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