How to care for a philodendron – and keep this popular indoor plant healthy

Philodendron are masters at bouncing back after periods of neglect

Close-up on trailing vine of satin pothos (scindapsus pictus) houseplant in a decorative white pot on a dark tray
(Image credit: Maritxu22 / Alamy Stock Photo)

Philodendrons are archetypal indoor plants. Their huge lush-green leaves will trail or climb, creating a jungle atmosphere wherever they're placed. Some varieties even have speckled shades of white, pink or zesty yellow running through their leaves.

Before you get carried away however, it's important to note that Philodendrons are toxic to humans, and to cats and dogs, so if you have a baby or pet that likes to nibble leaves, make sure you can safely display your philodendron out of reach, or check out our other suggestions for the best indoor plants instead. 

'Philodendrons are considered great indoor plants due to their ability to adapt to low light conditions and their resilience to neglect. They are also known for their attractive foliage, which adds beautiful greenery to indoor spaces,' says Autumn Hillard Knapp, houseplant expert.

Philodendron, heart-shaped green leaves

The flexible stems of the heart-leaf philodendron will trail down from a pot set on high shelf or climb up a mossy pole

(Image credit: nakorn tannonngiw / Getty images)

5 essential philodendron care tips

If you want a trailing type, check out the plain green, heart-leaf philodendron (Philodendron scandens), which will also scramble up a mossy pole if you prefer, or opt for a colorful, zesty lime-green variety, such as ‘Lime’ or ‘Malay Gold’ with its paddle-shaped leaves.

You may also find the larger-leaved philodendrons listed under their new name Thaumatophyllum, although many suppliers have chosen to stick to the old one to avoid confusion. 

Philodendron ‘Birkin’

Philodendron ‘Birkin’ is a compact variety with elegant pinstriped leaves

(Image credit: Nora Carol Photography / Getty Images)

1. Allow your philodendron to get plenty of light

'A philodendron thrives when placed in a location with bright, indirect light. It is best to avoid placing it in direct sunlight because this could lead to leaf burn,' says Autumn.

They also tolerate some shade – the heart-leaf is a good low light indoor plant for deep shade – but if your plant starts stretching towards the window, move it a little closer to the light and turn the pot regularly to encourage a more balanced shape. 

You may find that the colorful varieties are better in brighter conditions than those with large, dark green leaves. 

Autumn Hilliard-Knapp
Autumn Hilliard-Knapp

Autumn is a horticulture specialist and marketing professional at Perfect Plants Nursery. With four years of experience in the horticulture industry, she has developed a passion for helping people create beautiful indoor and outdoor spaces to enjoy. Her expertise in horticulture encompasses a broad range of activities, including plant care and selection, landscape design, and maintenance.

Clean Philodendron leaf with tissue paper

Cleaning the foliage of your houseplants with plain water and a soft cloth will help to keep them healthy and looking their best

(Image credit: Wachiwit / Getty Images)

2. Keep it fairly dry

Philodendrons like dryish soil, so a classic indoor plant mistake would be to overwater them. Avoid this by potting them up in a container with drainage holes in the base, and, as with succulents, ensuring that the compost never becomes soggy or waterlogged. 

'It is recommended to water philodendrons about once a week, although the frequency can vary based on factors such as temperature, humidity levels, and the size of the plant,' says Autumn.

They are tropical plants, so they are partial to warm, humid conditions – making them one of the best bathroom plants as well as a great choice if you're searching for kitchen plants.

Green Philodendron Splendid leaf nature texture

Yellowing leaves can be a sign of under- or overwatering so check the compost and take action promptly to revive your plant

(Image credit: Nuttapong Wongcheronkit / Alamy Stock Photo)

3. Feed and mist your philodendron regularly

As with other tropical houseplants such as orchids and the peacock plant, philodendron plants also prefer humid conditions, so either mist the foliage every few days, or set large plants on a tray filled with pebbles and water, to maintain a moist atmosphere around them. 

Plants do not require feeding in winter when they are dormant or growing very little. But in spring and summer you can feed monthly with organic plant food like this liquid fertilizer for indoor plants at Perfect Plants.

Wet philodendron selloum leaf with sprayed water

Mist your humidity-loving philodendron every few days

(Image credit: KIHWAN KIM / Getty Images)

4. Look out for root rot

These drought-tolerant plants will rebound with no ill-effects if left without being watered for a week or two. But too much moisture, and wet compost, can quickly result in root rot, which may kill the plants. 

Overwatering and under-watering can both result in wilting and yellowing leaves, so check the compost if your plant is suffering from these symptoms. If too wet, check that the plant pot has drainage holes in the base and repot if not, then leave your philodendron to dry out for a couple of weeks until it revives. 

Beautiful bright pink and black leaf of Philodendron Pink Princess

Philodendron Erubescens 'Pink Princess' can be placed in bright filtered light, away from direct sun, or a little shade

(Image credit: Anastasiia Shandra / Alamy Stock Photo)

5. Treat pest infestations quickly

While philodendrons are generally pest-free, they may occasionally suffer an attack by mealybugs, which is also a common ailment of the fiddle-leaf fig. Also look for scale insects and spider mites. 

Mealybugs are sap-sucking beetle-like creatures that hide beneath a fluffy white coating; scales look like little hard bumps on the stems; and spider mites cause white mottled patches on the foliage. 

Check leaves regularly for signs of pest damage such as distorted leaves. To get rid of mealybugs cut out affected parts, taking care not to defoliate the entire plant, or try wiping off the insects if possible. 

You can also try carefully dabbing persistent mealybugs and scale insects with a Q tip soaked in a little methylated spirit. Treating spider mite with insecticidal soap may work too. 


What is a philodendron plant good for?

You can train a philodendron with climbing stems up a mossy pole, or along horizontal wires fixed to a wall to create a curtain of heart- or paddle-shaped leaves. 

Large-leaved plants are great for a pot on the floor as a bedroom plant. In fact they suit any room of the house, if you have space for them. Although you will need to mist the leaves regularly where humidity levels are low. 

If the low-maintenance nature and trailing habit of the philodendron appeals to you, you may also like the pothos plant, which is often mistaken for philodendron.

Zia Allaway
Freelance writer

Zia Allaway is a garden book author, editor, and journalist, and writes for a range of gardening and women’s magazines, including Easy Gardens, Homes & Gardens and Livingetc, as well as The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph newspapers. She has also written books for the Royal Horticultural Society and Dorling Kindersley publishers, including Eco-Gardening, Compost, Low Maintenance, Practical House Plant Book, Practical Cactus & Succulent Book, Indoor Edible Garden, What Plant Where, and the Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers.