Caring for Philodendron Applanatum – The Complete Guide

The Philodendron Applanatum is a rare epiphytic climber that is native to South America.

It is best known for its unique tri-lobed foliage that will grow to good size.

The plant is uncommon and hard to find. But with some persistence, you’ll be rewarded once you do because it is perfect for any collector or anyone who appreciates exotic and unique looking houseplants.

How do you care for the Philodendron Applanatum? It needs good lighting that’s filtered or indirect. But avoid intense or strong direct sunlight which can scorch its leaves.

It thrives in warm environments and high humidity. Avoid cold weather as it is not frost hardy. Also, never overwater it as it is prone to root rot.

Philodendron Applanatum Plant Care

Light Requirements

The Philodendron Applanatum will grow at its best when placed in a well-lit spot indoors. It thrives in medium to bright indirect or filtered light.

Good lighting is very important if you want the plant to develop its uniquely shapes leaves. Adequate light if necessary to support the growth (size) of its leaves as well as maintain their color.

However, be careful with excess light.

Too much light, most commonly in the form of very strong or direct sunlight can scorch its leaves.

This can cause black or brown burn marks on its foliage which are permanent.

Similarly, even if the leaves don’t get to the point of getting burned, they can turn yellow and droop due to the excess light exposure.

Note that droopy or yellow leaves can be caused by a number of reasons including overwatering. So, excess light is just a possibility but may not always be the root cause.

In any case, this is why it is important to avoid the very intense rays of the sun. This usually comes from the south facing window during the middle of the day.

Of course, it can also be caused by leaving the plant outdoors under full sun.

And if you use artificial lighting like LED grow lights, make sure to keep the plant at least 8-12 inches away from the bulbs.

These bulbs emit heat which can also burn the leaves.

Instead, if you keep the Philodendron Applanatum indoors, an east or west facing window is ideal where it gets bright indirect light.

Outdoors, partial shade is the best way to let the plant grow optimally.

 

Temperature

The Philodendron Applanatum prefers warm weather between 60 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. This is its sweet spot and where it will stay healthy and grow fastest.

The reason is the plant is native to the tropical forests of South America.

As such, it is accustomed to moderate to very hot temperatures which is what you generally get in the tropics depending on the time of year.

But because it is not a huge plant, it lives under the shade of the humungous trees in the forest whose branches and leaves provide shade.

This is why despite the hot overall climate, the Philodendron Applanatum is used to moderate to warm conditions.

Its temperature preference makes it ideal for indoor growing since the most homes will maintain similar conditions.

As such, you can bring it home and keep it in your living room or any other room with not special modifications or adjustments to the temperature.

But the outdoors is different.

That’s because the Philodendron Applanatum is not used to the cold. In fact, it has difficulty once the temperature drops under 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

As such, it is not well-suited for cold weather areas including those with winters.

Instead, it prefers the outdoors in USDA Hardiness Zones 10 and 11 because the general climate stays sunny and warm all year. There is no winter, snow or frost in these regions.

So, you can keep the plant outdoors all year long if you wish or even plant it in the ground in your backyard.

However, if you live anywhere colder, the Philodendron Applanatum is better off as a houseplant. Indoors, you can control the environment and keep it warm.

Of course, you can still take it outside during the warmer months.

Once the warm weather comes in during the middle of spring all the way until the climate starts getting cooler in the middle of autumn.

Just make sure to bring it indoors once the temperature gets close to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

Humidity

The Philodendron Applanatum enjoys humidity between 60% and 80%. This is where it will grow its fastest and produce larger leaves. You’ll also notice its leaves become more vibrant.

That said, the plant can also tolerate lower humidity.

In most cases, it won’t have issues with average room humidity.

But try to keep humidity at 40% and higher.

From experience, you’ll start seeing it struggle in terms of air moisture if humidity consistently stays in the high 20s or low 30s.

The air gets a bit too dry at these points for the plant.

This means that you do need to monitor it a bit if you live in the desert or somewhere similar. Winter is another time that’s likewise well-known for dry air. So, check how low humidity gets where you live.

Finally, keep the plant away from air conditioners and heaters which dry up the air considerable when they are running and for a time after you turn them off.

The main sign to look for is when the leaf tips turn brown and crispy. They will get dry and brittle as well when there isn’t enough humidity.

As long as the leaves look good and the plant is growing, it means that it is adjusting well to the environment.

 

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How Often to Water Philodendron Applanatum

The Philodendron Applanatum has average watering needs. As such, it enjoys moist soil and does like regular watering.

However, it can tolerate some dryness and won’t bother much unless the soil goes completely dry. This is something the plant dislikes especially if let this happen regularly or leave it dry for extended periods of time.

But the most dangerous thing about watering the Philodendron Applanatum is giving it to much moisture.

Many beginner gardeners make this mistake thinking that the plant will grow better with most water. But in reality, being too generous with water can kill the plant.

Why?

Overwatering can cause root rot.

Therefore, always wait until the top 2 inches of soil have completely dried out between waterings.

If prefer to wait until the top half of the soil has dried before adding more water.

Adding water when the soil is still moist or wet will sooner or later leave the roots with excess moisture. This will cause them to suffocate as water will push out all the air preventing them from getting sufficient oxygen.

As a result, the roots eventually die from suffocation. Then they rot.

So, it is always a good idea to check the soil before you add any water. If you’re not sure, don’t water yet.

Keep in mind that the plant will tolerate some dryness without consequences.

Thus, it is always better to err on the side of caution.

The other thing is to keep an eye out on the leaves. These will give you warning signs.

In most cases, yellow, soft leaves mean overwatering. Brown leaves men underwatering. However, brown and yellow leaves can likewise mean overwatering.

But in this case, it is a bad sign since the browning is likely happening since the plant is not getting enough water since some roots have already rotted.

 

Philodendron Applanatum Potting Soil

The Philodendron Applanatum thrives in loose, well-draining soil that’s rich in organic matter. Keep the soil pH between 5.1 to 6.0 for best results.

Proper soil pH will allow the plant to efficiently absorb the nutrients in the soil, be it from the compost, worm castings or the fertilizer you apply.

It is very important to choose the right soil for the plant because it is the layer which provides 2 things.

  • Moisture retention or drainage
  • Nutrient absorption

In addition to watering properly, the right or wrong soil will affect your plant’s health.

That’s because heavy soils will hold too much water.

In the case of the Philodendron Applanatum, this is a bad thing that can kill the plant via overwatering, waterlogging and later root rot.

On the other hand, using very fast draining soils will cause too much water to drain too quickly. As a result, the roots end up underwatered.

In both cases, the Philodendron Applanatum will not be happy with you.

So, well-draining soil is ideal for this plant.

Note that different plants will have different needs.

For example, water loving plants will prefer heavier, more water-retentive soils. On the other hand, cacti and succulents will do best is faster draining soil.

Therefore, it is important to match the right soil with the plant you have.

In the case of the Philodendron Applanatum, an aroid mix is the best soil you can use. You can get one online or in some nurseries.

Similarly, you can make your own Aroid mix at home. Just combine:

  • 30% potting soil
  • 40% bark
  • 20% peat
  • 10% perlite

Then add some handfuls of charcoal.

 

Fertilizer

The Philodendron Applanatum is a light feeder. But it does need fertilizer to grow faster and produce larger foliage.

Use a good quality balanced liquid fertilizer.

Avoid the cheap, low quality ones even if they look like they’ll save you money. That’s because these low quality plant food will leave lots of salt residue which will later cause fertilizer burn.

This will end up damaging the plant’s roots and leaves in the long term.

Higher quality products leave much less salts.

Also, make sure that the fertilizer you use not only has NPK but also contains micronutrients.

Philodendron plants need these minerals including calcium and magnesium. And deficiencies can cause pale colored leaves and other side effects.

Apply the fertilizer once every 2 weeks during the plant’s growing season (spring and summer). And dilute the dose by 50% each time.

Stop feeding by early or mid-fall. Then only restart in the spring again.

 

Pruning

The Philodendron Applanatum is a slow grower. But it can reach 10 to 12 feet high and 12 to 15 feet wide in its natural habitat.

In a pot indoors, the plant’s will be considerably smaller. Nevertheless, it will still get to become a medium sized plant with large leaves with proper care.

Outdoors, in your garden, it may not reach its full potential unless you live somewhere with a similar climate and environment to its natural habitat.

But the plant will always be much bigger outdoors that indoors.

Therefore, if you plant it in the ground, make sure that you leave 18 to 24 inches of space between plants.

However, because its stems and leaves make up majority of the plant’s size above the soil, there’s little to no pruning needed.

That’s because you want the leaves to get big. They are the most attractive parts of the plant. So, pruning them unless you want to control the size or shape the plant does not make sense.

As such, the most common reason to prune is to remove any old, dead, discolored or damaged foliage.

 

How to Propagate Philodendron Applanatum

Philodendron Applanatum propagation is often done via stem cuttings, air layering or division.

These methods all work very well. But they work differently.

Stem cuttings are the easiest to do. And you can grow multiple new plants at the same time. This makes it the most popular method.

Air layering requires more work since you grow one plant at a time. And you need to constantly keep the wrapped moss moist.

Division will split the mother plant into 2 or more smaller new plant. Thus, it is ideal if you already have a large Philodendron Applanatum and want to reduce its size.

Below I’ll go through the steps in propagating the Philodendron Applanatum via stem cuttings since this is what most home gardeners will be doing.

 

Propagating Philodendron Applanatum from Stem Cuttings

The most important part of stem propagation is to choose healthy stems with at least 1-2 nodes. The cuttings will not propagate successfully without at least one node.

It is also a good idea to have at least one leaf with the cutting.

Once you’ve chosen suitable stems for propagation, it is time to get to work.

  1. Sterilize your scissors or pruning shears. Then cut the stem about a quarter to half inch under a node.
  2. Let the cutting sit for a few hours to let the wound dry and callous.
  3. While waiting, prepare a pot and fill it with well-draining soil.
  4. Then apply rooting hormone on the cut end of the stem and plant it into the soil. Take out any leaves that end up in the soil.
  5. Water the soil and keep it moist. Also, place the pot in bright indirect sunlight.

It takes about 4-6 weeks for the cutting to root.

From there, you can take care of it like you would the mother plant. And come time that it has outgrown the container, you can repot it.

 

How to Repot or Transplant Philodendron Applanatum

The Philodendron Applanatum is not a fast growing plant. So, you don’t need to hurry when repotting in. In fact, it is not a good idea to regularly repot it.

Don’t do so every year.

Instead, it takes 2 or 3 years before the plant needs repotting. And only do so when the plant is root bound.

However, over time it will keep getting bigger.

Thus, in a few years, you’ll be moving up pot sizes and using larger ones.

Again, don’t be in a hurry to move up pot sizes either. Instead, go up one pot size (about 2-3 inches wider) each time. This will be enough to allow the plant to keep growing.

While it does take more work to repot since you’ll be going up in size gradually, doing this keeps the plant healthy.

Why?

Jumping pot sizes to save on how many times you need to repot in the future means you leave a relatively smaller root system in a larger pot with lots more soil.

This increases the risk of overwatering when you add moisture.

The reason is that there will be lots more water compared to the root system’s size. This leaves the roots swimming in liquid longer.

The other reason why it is not a good idea to jump pot sizes is that the extra room will encourage the roots to grow.

While this sounds good in concept, in reality, it makes the plant redirect its resources to developing the roots instead of the leaves.

Would you rather have a Philodendron Applanatum that has big roots or big leaves?

I think everyone will opt for the latter.

 

Is It Toxic/Poisonous to Humans, Cats & Dogs

Every part of the Philodendron Applanatum is toxic when ingested. And this is true for both humans, cats and dogs.

Therefore, it is a good idea to keep it away from kids and pets to avoid any accidental consumption.

 

Philodendron Applanatum Problems & Troubleshooting

Pests

The Philodendron Applanatum is generally resistant to pests. But it can still get attacks especially when it is not in good shape.

A healthy plant whose leaves are cleaned regularly will have its natural defenses up to prevent pests.

Similarly, you can apply neem oil or insecticidal soap once a month to further reduce the risk of houseplant pests from coming.

The most common pests to look out for this plant include aphids, mealybugs, spider mites and thrips.

These are tiny and few in the beginning. But they grow quickly in number which can use significant damage.

 

Diseases

Root rot from overwatering is the number one thing you want to watch out for.

However, overwatering can cause other problems like bacterial and fungal infections as well. Similarly, wetting the leaves too much without allowing them to dry exposes them to leaf spot, blight and other issues.

Therefore, overwatering is the one thing you never want to do to the plant, be it on the soil or the leaves.

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