Most Philodendrons don’t need a whole lot of encouragement to grow, often putting out several inches of growth during a season. However, in some cases, you may notice that your plant’s output seems to have slowed, or the plant is starting to look leggy and scraggly. What can you do to fix this so that your Philodendron’s growth is healthy and attractive?
Philodendrons will put out strong, healthy grow, with larger leaves and a bushier appearance when all of their basic plant care needs are met. Proper watering, adequate exposure to light, and access to nutrients will go a long way in producing strong foliage. Regular pruning and good structural support can also result in larger leaves and a bushier habit.
The good news with Philodendrons is that, except in cases of abject neglect, these plants do a pretty good job putting out new growth, regardless of their environment. However, with just a few tweaks and by making sure you are caring for your plant properly, you can easily end up with a big, full Philodendron that is truly breathtaking. Let’s find out how!
Are Philodendrons Fast Growing?
Philodendrons are generally considered to be pretty fast growers. During the growing season, and depending on the variety you have, you should expect several inches of new growth to occur. In some cases, under really good conditions, a Philodendron can put out up to four inches of growth in a week!
That, of course, is assuming ideal conditions. Although we try to find the perfect spots for all our houseplants, inevitably, we run out of room or just don’t have the exact conditions in our home necessary to maximize growth. Plants are adaptable, though, so even if the light is a little low or you haven’t mastered the art of plant care quite yet, your Philodendron will still put on new growth, albeit at a slower rate.
Also, remember that, like many other houseplants, Philodendrons have a growing season. Most varieties are actively producing new growth from early spring into fall. During the winter months, the plants tend to go dormant or slow down significantly as the days turn shorter. Rather than focusing on stem and leaf growth, your plant is working to shore up its root system ahead of the next growing season.
Knowing what your plant needs to truly flourish in your home takes a little bit of research and perhaps some trial and error, but by putting in the work, you’re sure to end up with plants that have a cascade of big, healthy leaves.
How to Encourage Your Philodendron to Grow Bigger
Philodendrons seem like they are always primed and ready to put out a bunch of new growth. The trick is to make sure they have everything they need to handle a growth spurt and that any one resource doesn’t become the limiting factor that holds your plants back. Let’s go through a list of things you can watch to ensure your Philodendron has everything it needs to reach its full potential.
Let There Be (Bright, Indirect) Light!
It is probably not all that surprising that one of the best things you can do for your Philodendron is to make sure it is supplied with lots of indirect sunlight. These guys can handle and actually prefer, several hours of ambient light throughout the day. Philodendrons are often marketed as “low-light plants”. All this really means is that they are able to tolerate less light without dying. In actuality, if you really want to see your vining plant take off, you will need to place it in a sunnier spot.
How much light is necessary? Philodendrons will take as many hours of medium to bright, indirect light as you can give them. This means that you want to find them a spot that is full of ambient light all day long. We find that placement near east or south-facing windows, out of the path of any direct sunlight, is perfect for most Philodendrons. This will make sure that sunlight is never a limiting factor in growth, and as a bonus, will ensure any variegation or colors stay well-defined and vibrant.
Direct sunlight is often too hot and harsh, so when looking for a spot to place your plant, be sure that it stays out of direct sun rays and the heat associated with them to avoid burning the leaves of your Philodendron.
Go Easy on the Water
Another care factor that can either make or break your Philodendron’s growth rate is watering. Proper watering is a major component of the plant’s overall health, which is essential to foster new growth. An unhealthy plant must delegate crucial resources to regulate or fix a problem, so new growth is put on the back burner while the issue is being addressed.
Overwatering ends up stunting your Philodendron; if it becomes a chronic problem, it will affect the root system and nutrient uptake, turning the leaves yellow and further slowing down the plant’s ability to initiate new leaf production.
Underwatering disrupts the plant in different ways, and issues with nutrient transport and respiration become limiting factors for the plant. Any new growth that manages to emerge tends to be weak or scraggly, with smaller leaves.
Avoid this whole mess by learning what your Philodendron needs in terms of a watering regimen. These plants are tropical and used to heavy rains, but they like to have their soil dry out in between each deluge.
Wait until the top two inches of topsoil have dried out in the pot before watering your Philodendron. This will ensure that the lower soil still has moisture but isn’t too wet. Water your plant deeply, allowing excess liquid to drain from the bottom of the pot.
Make sure your pot has a drainage hole! This is the easiest way to make sure you don’t overwater and is literally a lifesaver!
By properly watering your Philodendron, it will always have moisture available for uptake to aid in nutrient absorption, transport, respiration, and new tissue growth, which are all essential to produce longer vining stems and larger leaves.
Fertilize Your Plant…but Not Too Much!
If you think about it, when Philodendrons are adding one to several inches of growth in as many weeks, that’s a lot of new tissue to produce, which takes up a lot of resources. In addition, one Philodendron pot often has multiple plants potted together to create a bushier specimen.
All of that equates to quite a draw on the soil’s nutrient supply. Even though Philodendrons aren’t considered to be heavy feeders, the ability to put out that much new growth does require the use of the nutrients available to the plant, and over time, depleted soil can become a limiting factor in your plant’s growth rate.
This is where fertilizer comes in. Occasional supplemental feedings will ensure that the soil your Philodendron is planted in stays rich and fertile, with everything the plant needs ready for absorption by the root system.
However, you can easily have too much of a good thing! It is possible to overfertilize your Philodendron. Because they aren’t heavy feeders, if you build the soil up with too much supplemental feed, you run the risk of actually lowering the plant’s ability to absorb nutrients, damage to the root system, or even burning the leaves of the plant, all of which will stop new growth in its tracks.
So, moderation is key. Find a well-balanced liquid fertilizer, or even one with a slightly higher proportion of nitrogen, to promote leaf growth. We always dilute the feed to half the recommended strength to avoid any burn issues. Apply the feed once every six to eight weeks to start and monitor your plant for signs of distress.
If the plant is larger and more mature, you may find you can fertilize about once a month. If you see any issues (stunted growth, burned or discolored leaves), dilute your feed to a quarter strength or stretch applications to every ten weeks.
The goal with supplemental feed is to make sure your plant is never limited by its available resources but that there isn’t a buildup of excess fertilizer in the soil that can disrupt the plant’s essential functions.
Keep Your Plant Warm
Like many indoor houseplants, Philodendrons are tropical species that are used to growing in warm climates. While they have a decent temperature range that they tolerate, if you really want to see a lot of new growth, keeping things on the warmer side can do wonders. Try to keep your Philodendron in an environment that stays between 65° and 85° F. This seems to be the range where many varieties can really ramp up their growth rate.
If your plant is exposed to temperatures below this range, systems start to slow down, and growth stalls. You also run the risk of shocking your plant with the cold, which not only will stunt growth but opens your plant up to a slew of health issues. Extreme heat dries out the plant and soil quickly, so your Philodendron is forced to take measures to preserve moisture. This is not a good state for your plant to be in very long, and new growth will not occur when it is in survival mode.
Repot Your Rootbound Philodendron
If you’ve owned your Philodendron for a few years and you’ve noticed its growth slowing, you may want to check the root ball in the pot. Over time, as plants grow, their root systems get bigger, too, and eventually outgrow the pot they are planted in. As a Philodendron’s roots continue to grow in a pot, there is less room for everything, and the roots bind around one another. This can interrupt water and nutrient absorption and make it hard for the soil to retain any moisture for the plant to utilize. This has a detrimental effect on the plant’s growth rate.
The fix is simple…repot your plant into a larger container. By giving the root system a little extra room to spread out, you are making sure that essential functions can continue uninterrupted, and the influx of rich, new soil will make sure there is a steady supply of nutrients for the plant.
Philodendrons will tolerate being a bit rootbound, but you should expect to check the root ball about once a year to determine if your plant needs more space. When it’s time to repot, pick a container that is just big enough to allow one to two inches of space between the root ball and all sides of the pot; this is crucial because you want to avoid over-potting. This is when you put your plant into a container that is too large.
Usually, you have to fill the pot with extra soil to compensate, and when you water, it retains too much moisture, creating an overwatered environment that stunts your plant’s growth. By keeping your Philodendron in an appropriately sized container, you can be sure the roots have plenty of room to spread out and function correctly, allowing your plant to flourish.
How to Encourage Bigger Leaves on Your Philodendron
Aside from long vines and high growth rates, many people wonder if it’s possible to get their Philodendrons to produce cascades of big, beautiful leaves like the plants we always see on our favorite Instagram accounts. A lot of a plant’s leaf size comes down to the type of Philodendron it is (self-heading vs. climbing) and the specific variety, but in most cases, there are a few tips and tricks you can utilize to get your Philodendron to put out bigger leaves.
Phenomenal Plant Care
It’s already been mentioned in this article, but so much of what a plant produces comes from the inputs it receives. In the specific case of larger leaf sizes, a supremely healthy plant with access to proper watering, adequate light, and other environmental factors is set up to produce the biggest leaves possible.
Make sure your plant care is on point. Overwatering stunts growth, but dry conditions can disrupt how leaves grow, causing them to fill in unevenly or have trouble unfurling correctly. Low light will limit photosynthesis, resulting in fewer resources for tissue growth. Temperature and humidity play important roles in several plant functions that can go haywire when the plant is exposed to extremes.
Know what your plant needs and be consistent. You will be rewarded with stronger stems, bigger leaves, and fuller plants.
Trellising Can Do Wonders
Like many other Aroids, Philodendrons are epiphytes, meaning they grow up other plants and trees in their natural habitat. While they often do just fine spilling over the sides of a pot or as hanging baskets in our homes, a funny thing happens when you offer them a structure to climb. Their leaves tend to get bigger!
By staking or trellising your Philodendron, you are mimicking their natural environment’s growth conditions. These plants produce aerial roots that, when they have something to grab onto, steady and secure the plant so that it can support more weight and grow larger. As the plant grows skyward, often towards a source of sunlight, the leaves begin to grow larger and more mature.
Moss poles work wonders for this because they give the plant something to really attach its roots to while also retaining moisture and micronutrients that the plant can utilize. However, your support doesn’t have to be a moss pole. Any sturdy poles, stakes, or a trellis can give your plant the support it needs to thrive.
How to Make Your Philodendron Bushier
Another common question regarding Philodendron growth is about how to make a plant appear bushy and full. Often, Philodendrons will look great when we first take them home from the plant shop, but over time, they look stringier and scragglier as the plant grows. This isn’t uncommon. The good news is that it’s typically an easy fix!
Are you regularly pruning your Philodendrons? Well, you should be.
Established vines will continue to grow as long as you let them, but the longer they get, the longer their internodes (the space between the leaves) tend to get, too. This is why your older Philodendron starts looking thin and leggy.
One of the very best things you can do to keep your plant looking full and healthy is to occasionally prune back some of the longer vines on the plant. This is because when you prune back a stem, it activates several plant nodes above the cut to start producing new growth. This encourages branching and the production of more leaf structures, leaving you with a bushy plant with a fuller crown.
You don’t have to cut everything back every time you prune. If you want your plant to cascade from a high shelf or hanging pot, just pick a few of the longer stems to trim back each time you prune. This will retain some of the length of the plant while still encouraging new, healthy growth.
Don’t forget that you can propagate any of the cuttings you prune off the plant. Philodendron cuttings are super easy to root out in water, so just throw them in a glass and set them on a bright window sill for a few weeks. Once you see new roots have grown about three inches long, transplant into a small pot with fresh soil.
Check the Crown
People have occasional complaints about Philodendrons that, as they grow older, their crowns tend to thin out, leaving a bald patch of soil where all the vines grow from. Although regular pruning will help prevent this from happening, a bald crown can make your plant look unhealthy and worn.
One way to avoid, or at least prolong this, is to check how many cuttings were planted together when you first buy a Philodendron. Often, a plant will be comprised of several rooted cuttings potted together. The more there are, the fuller the crown will be. If you find a plant that only has two or three, consider scouring the plant shop for one with more cuttings.
If your plant at home is comprised of only a few vines, you can replant any rooted cuttings you propagate from a pruning session back into the crown to help bolster it. Just be mindful to never force a cutting into the soil or damage existing roots, as this could be counterproductive to the plant’s growth.
Overall, regular pruning of vining Philodendrons will keep the nodes near the crown actively pushing new growth, keeping it full of healthy leaves.
Philodendrons don’t generally have any issues about pushing new growth and vining out into beautiful, cascading houseplants. However, if you really want your plant to be a showstopper, complete with well-stacked growth, large leaves, long vines, and an overall bushy appearance, it’s all about plant care!
Make sure your Philodendron is in a warm spot with lots of bright, indirect light. Dial in your watering habits so the plant is evenly moist, and eliminate any limiting factors by occasionally fertilizing your growing plant. And, don’t forget to prune!!
With the right approach to plant care and a few of these tricks up your sleeve, your Philodendrons will be the envy of the neighborhood! Happy growing!