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Publication #ENH893

Cultural Guidelines for Commercial Production of Interiorscape Philodendron1

Dennis B. McConnell, Jianjun Chen, Richard J. Henny, and Kelly C. Everitt2

The name Philodendron is known to almost everyone familiar with interior plants, but only knowledgeable nursery growers and interiorscapers know the diversity within the 250 or so species that comprise the genus. Although the genus name means "tree lover" in Latin and many Philodendron species are herbaceous tree climbing vines, the genus also includes woody-stemmed plants that may reach 15 feet in height. Native to tropical regions of North, South, and Central America, Philodendron plants have been used in interiorscapes since the 1880s. The genus can be divided into three groups: vining, self-heading, and erect or tree-like. Leaves of the three groups exhibit great variability. Some species have small, heart-shaped leaves while others have large lobed leaves that may exceed 4 feet in length. In addition to great differences in leaf size, leaves of recently developed cultivars vary in color from dark red-black to light orange. The diversity in leaf shape, size, color, and growth habit makes Philodendron cultivars suitable for use as desk plants, hanging baskets, totems, or floor plants. This article describes common Philodendron species and cultivars in the foliage plant industry (See Table 1), provides guidelines on their culture and interior use, and lists physiological problems encountered in both production and in the interiorscape (See Table 3).

Figure 1. 

Commercial production of Philodendron ‘Xanadu’ in a shaded greenhouse.


Credit:

Jianjun Chen, UF/IFAS


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Cultural Guidelines

Propagation

Commercially, most named self-heading Philodendron plants are propagated via tissue culture. Philodendron scandens oxycardium is normally propagated using 1–1½ inch stem cuttings with a node and an attached leaf. Buds break in 3–5 weeks and rooting occurs in 4–6 weeks. If larger leafed cuttings are desired for totems, stock plants are grown on a pole or similar support and tip cuttings are used. The tree philodendrons, P. bipinnatifidum and P. selloum, and some of the self-heading philodendrons may be propagated using commercially packaged seed. Viability is very limited unless the seed is properly processed and vacuum-packed. Successful seed germination and early seedling growth require specially equipped facilities, and most plant finishers buy seedlings from propagation specialists.

Production

Sphagnum peat, pine bark, vermiculite, or perlite can be volumetrically combined to formulate media for most container sizes. Three-foot and taller totems should have 10–20% coarse sand to keep plants from wind tipping. Media should have good moisture holding capacity and aeration, soluble salts of 1–2 dS/m, and a pH of 6.0 to 6.5.

Philodendron plants should be grown in a shadehouse with temperatures between 70 and 90°F and a relative humidity of 60 to 100%. Plant quality and growth rates begin to decline when day temperatures routinely exceed 95°F or night temperatures drop below 65°F. Controlled-release or water-soluble fertilizers or a combination of both can be used for Philodendron production. Use a fertilizer with an N:P:K ratio of 3:1:2 or 3:1:3. The suggested application rate is 3 lb N per 1,000 sq. ft per month. Table 2 provides a guide for determining if philodendrons are appropriately fertilized based on leaf analysis.

The plants listed in Table 1, excluding P. selloum, should be grown with shade levels of 80–88% (1500–2500 fc) to produce the best plants for interiorscapes. Philodendron selloum should be grown under 40–76% shade (3000–5000 fc).

Shipping and Interior Care

Philodendrons should be shipped at a temperature of 55–65°F. Once plants are placed indoors, it is advisable not to re-pot or fertilize for about four weeks because plants do not need additional stresses. Plants should not be fertilized if soluble salts are 2.0 dS/m or more. If soluble salt levels are higher than 3.0 dS/m, percolation of media with water may help reduce potential leaf necrosis or damage to the root system. For best growth indoors, media should be kept moist. Most philodendrons will tolerate light levels as low as 75 fc but light levels of 150 fc or more will maintain color and leaf size. Temperatures of 70 to 80°F are recommended.

Tables

Table 1. 

A listing of Philodendron species and cultivars available in Florida as of 2003.

Species

Cultivar or Common Name

Characteristics

P. bipennifolium

(P. panduriforme)

Fiddle-Leaf Philodendron

A thick-stemmed, vining Philodendron with olive green, fiddle-shaped leaves up to 1 foot long. Often grown as a totem.

P. bipinnatifidum selloum

Lacy-Tree Philodendron; 'Hope'

A cold-resistant, woody-stemmed Philodendron that attains heights of 15 feet. Leaves may be up to 4 feet long, waxy green, and bi-pinnately compound. Mature specimens will tolerate temperatures slightly below freezing for brief periods. Use in high light interiorscape locations. The cultivar 'Hope' reportedly withstands shipping stress better than the species.

P. pinnatifidum

Pinnatifidum

This self-heading Philodendron has metallic green lobed leaves with red spotted petioles. Usually used as a low floor plant in heights of 1-3 feet.

P. scandens micans

'Micans'

The heart-shaped leaves of this thin-stemmed vine are velvety green on the upper leaf surface and a dark copper color on the lower leaf surface. This color pattern has made 'Micans' a popular choice where a small leafed, distinctive plant is needed. Botanically classified as the juvenile form of P. scandens oxycardium, it tolerates less environmental stress than the adult form.

P. scandens oxycardium

Cordatum; Heart-leaf Philodendron

The most commonly encountered vining Philodendron. Cordatum leaves are an appealing olive-green and perfectly heart-shaped. Its tolerance to a wide range of interior conditions has made this plant a perennial foliage favorite for over 60 years.

P. squamiferum

Red Bristle Philodendron

A self-heading Philodendron with long, red bristled petioles and medium green, deeply lobed, 18-inch-long leaf blades.

P. 'Autumn'

'Autumn'

A hybrid, self-heading Philodendron very similar to 'Prince of Orange'. The elliptical leaves are an attractive reddish orange when immature and turn olive green as they age. Requires high interior light levels to maintain color and continued growth.

P. 'Black Cardinal'

'Black Cardinal'

A patented, self-heading Philodendron hybrid with dark reddish black elliptical leaves.

P. 'Emerald Duke'

'Emerald Duke'

A patented, self-heading Philodendron hybrid with bright green elliptical leaves.

P. 'Green Emerald'

'Green Emerald'

A hybrid, self-heading Philodendron with deep green elliptical leaves.

P. 'Imperial Green'

'Imperial Green'

A patented, self-heading Philodendron hybrid with bright green petioles, broadly ovate leaves and green leaf blades.

P. 'Imperial Red'

'Imperial Red'

A patented, self-heading, hybrid Philodendron with deep red leaves.

P. 'Moonlight'

'Moonlight'

A hybrid, self-heading Philodendron with light almost neon green, elliptical leaves.

P. 'Prince of Orange'

'Prince of Orange'

A patented, self-heading Philodendron hybrid with elliptical leaves. Immature leaves are orange. Requires high interior light levels to maintain color and continued growth.

P. 'Red Emerald'

'Red Emerald'

A hybrid, self-heading Philodendron with deep red immature elliptical leaves. With age, the leaves become a dark green. Requires high interior light levels for best color development.

P. 'Red Empress'

'Red Empress'

The only patented, self-heading Philodendron hybrid with colored lobed leaves. The leaves are dark red when immature and age to a dark reddish green. Requires high interior light levels for best color development.

P. 'Wind-Imbe'

'Wind-Imbe'

The large, heart-shaped leaves of this self-heading Philodendron are waxy green with petioles marked with red and reddish veins on the lower leaf surface.

P. 'Xanadu'

Pertusum Philodendron; 'Xanadu'

A patented hybrid developed in Australia. The leaves are lobed, medium green and look like smaller versions of Lacy Tree Philodendron. Maximum height is about 3 feet, making 'Xanadu' an ideal selection for many locations.

Table 2. 

Nutrient concentrations in Philodendron leaves.

Nutrient

Low

Medium

High

Nitrogen (%)

<2.5

2.6–4.5

>4.5

Phosphorus (%)

<0.2

0.2–0.5

>0.5

Potassium (%)

<2.0

2.0–3.5

>3.5

Calcium (%)

<1.0

1.0–2.5

>2.5

Magnesium (%)

<0.25

0.25–0.50

>0.5

Sulfur (%)

<0.2

0.2–0.5

>0.5

Iron (ppm)

<60

60–200

>200

Manganese (ppm)

<40

40–200

>200

Zinc (ppm)

<25

25–100

>100

Copper (ppm)

<10

10–100

>100

Boron (ppm)

<20

20–50

>50

Table 3. 

Causes and effects of various physiological problems.

Symptoms

Cause

Treatment

Chlorosis of lower leaves.

Exposure to 33–40°F for several hours.

Avoid low temperatures.

During production phase, petioles become excessively long and plant has an open appearance.

Light levels are too low.

Grow plants under higher light levels.

Leaf color fades or looks bleached out.

Production light levels may be too high, or fertilizer rates are too low.

Check production light levels and fertilizer rates. Adjust as necessary.

Older leaves have V-shaped chlorosis which spreads from the petiole attachment to the leaf margins. Midrib remains green.

Magnesium deficiency.

Apply magnesium sulfate (MgSO4) at a rate of 3–5 lbs/100 gallons water.

Leaves have a wrinkled line dotted with chlorotic or necrotic spots in the basal portion of the leaf lobe.

Pesticide phytotoxicity or burn from drying liquid fertilizer in the leaf roll.

Apply liquid fertilizer at rates of 2 lb 20-20-20/100 gallons of water or less. Use labeled pesticide at suggested rates.

New leaves of hybrid philodendrons are slightly twisted or distorted.

Calcium deficiency.

Increase calcium levels in liquid fertilizer or apply chelated calcium.

New leaves are purplish and twisted, and may appear torn or have purplish spots.

Manganese toxicity.

Increase soil pH to 6.5. Avoid spraying fungicides containing manganese. Top dress with dolomite.

Margins of older leaves turn brownish, and discoloration spreads toward the midrib.

Potassium deficiency.

Increase potassium levels in liquid feed or in media.

Irregular patches of leaf margins become necrotic.

Water stress combined with high light.

Maintain soil moisture levels and reduce light levels.

Chlorosis and reduced leaf size.

Nitrogen deficiency.

Apply granular, high-nitrogen fertilizer.

Leaf scorch on tips of older foliage.

Sodium toxicity.

Apply extra potassium, top dress with gypsum, and switch to a less saline water source.

Burned patches in the centers and tips of foliage.

Sunburn.

Increase irrigation frequency and move to a lower light area.

Bronzed edges.

Light levels or temperatures are too high.

Move plant to an area that provides a better cultural environment.

Footnotes

1.

This document is ENH893, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date April 2003. Reviewed November 2015. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Dennis B. McConnell, professor, Environmental Horticultural Department; Jianjun Chen, professor, Mid-Florida Research and Education Center and Environmental Horticultural Department; Richard J. Henny, professor, Mid-Florida Research and Education Center and Environmental Horticultural Department; and Kelly C. Everitt, research assistant, Mid-Florida Research and Education Center; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.