Philodendron Atabapoense is a rare aroid. It is a climbing philodendron semi-epiphyte that is commonly compared to or confused with the Philodendron Billietiae because the look almost alike.
However, the biggest differences between the Philodendron Atabapoense and Philodendron Billietiae are their leaves. The Philodendron Atabapoense has burgundy colored undersides and their leaves point in all directions.
On the other hand, the Philodendron Billietiae has rose colored undersides which are something green as well. Its leaves all pretty much point downwards.
That said, this philodendron plant is native to South America, particularly in the southern part of Venezuela and the Amazonian regions of Brazil.
How do you care for the Philodendron Atabapoense? Keep the plant in bright, indirect light indoors and partial shade outdoors. Avoid direct sunlight. It enjoys warm, humid conditions.
Don’t overwater it or allow the soil to dry. Use well-draining soil and fertilize during spring and summer with a balanced houseplant fertilizer.
Philodendron Atabapoense Plant Care
The Philodendron Atabapoense will grow optimally in bright, indirect light. But it will do very well in medium light and low light as well.
This makes it easy to grow indoors in homes and offices as it gives you different locations where you can put the plant.
Note that while the plant will do okay in low light, it won’t grow as fast compared to well-lit locations. This may or may not be something you want.
I know some growers prefer placing their bigger philodendron plants in low light so they don’t grow as big indoors. Thus, instead of reaching 8 to 10 feet, the plant ends up at 4 to 6 feet which makes it better suited for their home.
As such, where you put it is really up to you.
This also means that you can place the plant near an east facing window if you want it to grow the fastest and produce the most leaves.
A northern exposure has a bit less light. But it works just as well.
If you want to keep the plant facing west or south, make sure to filter the light or distance the plant from the window. That’s because these two directions get sunshine from around noon until mid-afternoon when the sun is the most intense.
You want to keep the plant away from the sun’s intense rays during this time as direct sunlight can scorch its leaves. At the very least, long exposure can turn they yellow or cause them to bleach.
Outdoors, partial shade is ideal. Avoid full sun as it will cause leaf discoloration.
In case, your home does not get a lot of natural light, don’t worry.
You can use artificial lights. The Philodendron Atabapoense responds well to grow lights and fluorescent lighting. So, you can use these to supplement the natural light.
Or you can use them artificial lights on their own.
The Philodendron Atabapoense is a tropical plant. And it prefers warm environments, ideally with consistent temperatures. It will grow best between 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Also, the plant does not have any issue with hot conditions. But the hotter it gets, the faster the soil will dry due to evaporation. Therefore, make sure to keep the plant well-hydrated in hot climates to avoid stressing it.
That said, it does will not complain if kept in temperatures of 95 degrees.
But the same is not true for cold environments.
This is because there are no winters in the tropics. Therefore, the plant is not used to seeing frost or freezing conditions.
In fact, it has problems once temperature drops under 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
So, avoid leaving it in the cold.
Doing so, especially in colder conditions or for extended periods of time not only can damage the plant but may even kill it.
This means you want to avoid air conditioning, cold drafts and areas where the temperature can suddenly drop at night.
It is also the reason why you should never leave the plant outside during winter. It will not survive through spring.
Instead, take it indoors (if you bring the plant outside during summer) and keep it in a warm, cozy spot in your home through the winter.
Note that the plant prefers USDA Hardiness Zones 9 to 11 because the sun is up and the weather stays warm all year in these parts. So, you can keep your Philodendron Atabapoense outdoors even in December through March.
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Humidity is an important aspect of Philodendron Atabapoense plant care. It enjoys high humidity, ideally between 60% and 75%. In this sweet spot, the plant will grow at its best.
But it can also tolerate lower humidity down to 40% and a little below that.
However, you do want to watch out for dry air.
If your home consistently has humidity in the low 30s or 20s, you’ll likely need to give the plant a hand by increasing humidity.
The telltale sign is when it develops brown tips and edges.
When this happens, it means that the air is too dry for the Philodendron Atabapoense.
You can increase humidity around the plant by getting a humidifier. But if you prefer something that’s free, you can mist it as well.
I prefer using a humidity tray or pebble tray since these are more hands-off compared to misting which is very temporary (so you have to keep repeating every few days).
You can make your own humidity tray or pebble tray as they are simple to build. And the only maintenance here is to add water when the tray almost runs out.
How Often to Water Philodendron Atabapoense
Watering is where many growers trip up. That’s because it can get tricky if you try to please the plant.
The issue is that the plant likes moist soil.
Therefore, if you try to please the plant, you can end up adding water too often leaving the soil wet or soggy, which the plant does not like.
Thus, balance is very important here.
Instead, the best way to water the Philodendron Atabapoense is to wait until the top 2 inches of soil has dried before adding more water. This prevents overwatering or watering too frequently.
Similarly, how you water is also important.
This will allow the roots to get moist soil while getting their fill of water. But at the same time, you can avoid overwatering.
To do so, water the plant thoroughly.
This means adding water directly to the soil (not over the leaves). Then let the water keep running until the entire root ball is drenched.
Once the water starts dripping from the bottom holes of the pot, stop the hose or pouring the watering can.
Then allow the soil to completely drain any excess liquid.
This 2-step watering method ensures that:
- The roots get the drink they want (as you saturated the entire root ball with water)
- But the soil is not overwatered or waterlogged (because you immediately let the soil drain completely).
This is why the last step is very important.
While it does take anywhere from 12 to 30 minutes for the soil to drain completely, it ensures the roots are left with moist soil with not waterlogging or overwatering.
I like to leave the pot on a tray or stand that will let it drip into the sink or bathtub (depending on the size of the pot).
This way you just leave it there for 20 to 30 minutes and come to check every now and then.
Philodendron Atabapoense Potting Soil
The best soil for the Philodendron Atabapoense is light, well-draining soil that’s rich in organic matter. This will help the plant grow faster. And it ensures that excess water can quickly drain out.
Because the plant is susceptible to overwatering (which can lead to root rot), good drainage is essential.
And you can use this potting mix recipe to ensure that the soil does not get waterlogged.
- 1 part potting mix
- 1 part perlite
- 1 part orchid bark
- ½ part horticultural charcoal
If you prefer to just pick up a bag of soil instead from your favorite online shop or nursery, look for an aroid mix.
I’ve found that this kind of soil works really well for philodendrons. It is designed especially for plants that belong to the Araceae family.
Therefore, you can use it for philodendrons, monsteras, anthuriums, alocasias, pothos and a few others.
In addition to using the right kind of soil, don’t forget to select a pot with drainage holes.
This will allow the water that drains from the soil to drip out of the pot.
Does the Philodendron Atabapoense Climb?
The Philodendron Atabapoense is a climbing philodendron. This is how it grows in the forest, climbing and clinging onto the tree trunks and other large plants.
Therefore, the plant will appreciate it if you give it some kind of support to go up on.
You can use a moss pole or a cedar stake. A trellis will also work.
By allowing it to climb, it will grow faster and bigger. You’ll also notice that the plant will develop larger leaves as well.
For optimal growth, the Philodendron Atabapoense will need fertilizer.
Note that you don’t need to feed the plant fertilizer if you don’t want to. But it won’t grow as quickly or produce as many leaves.
Also, without plant food, you will want to watch out for any nutrient deficiencies which can develop after a few years.
With fertilizer, you do have many options on what you want to use.
The most common that most growers go with is synthetic fertilizer.
Here, you can go with a balanced, liquid formulation. A 20-20-20 N-P-K blend works really well. You can also use a 15-15-15 if you already have that at home.
The thing with fertilizer is that you only want to apply it when the plant is actively growing. This is around spring and summer.
Don’t feed the plant in fall or winter as its growth significantly slows down once the cold weather arrives.
The most important thing to remember with fertilizer is not to overfertilize the plant.
Just follow the instructions in the label of the product.
Also never feed the plant when the soil is wet as this will increase the risk of fertilizer burn. Make sure the soil is moist. If it is dry water the soil first before you apply plant food.
Besides, synthetic fertilizer, you can use slow-release fertilizer which also works very well.
If you want an affordable, organic option, go with fish fertilizer or fish emulsion. I will warn you about the smell though.
The good news is that the smell goes away after the fish emulsion dries. So, it is only temporary.
However, don’t apply the fish fertilizer in a closed room of that room will smell fishy for a while. Instead, apply in an open area with good ventilation.
The Philodendron Atabapoense can grow to about 8 feet tall. Although its height can vary from as small as 4 feet. Plus, you can prune it to keep it size or shape to what you want.
The leaves are narrow and long. These can grow to 2.5 feet in length or a little more.
And with proper care, your plant can easily have anywhere from 8 to 14 leaves of different sizes which makes it stunning to look at.
You do need to prune the plant in some cases as the leaves and stems tend to grow outwards in various directions. So, at times, it can look messy.
You can prune one or two that look like they’re out of line.
Pruning also helps encourage the plant grow even bushier.
How to Propagate Philodendron Atabapoense
If you have a Philodendron Atabapoense, make sure to propagate it at some point.
That’s because this is a rare and expensive plant.
In fact, if you want, you can sell stem cuttings online and people will bid for it.
The important thing is to make sure that you have a backup plant or keep one extra in case something happens to one of them. That way, you’ll always have a Philodendron Atabapoense on hand since it is difficult (and expensive) to get another one.
Here’s how to propagate the Philodendron Atabapoense from stem cuttings.
- The first step to propagating the Philodendron Atabapoense is to make sure it is healthy. Then, look for healthy stems that you can take cuttings from.
- When choosing stems, make sure the cuttings you’ll get has at least one node and 2 or 3 leaves to it. Try to get a cutting that’s 4 to 6 inches long as well.
- Cut the stem just under the node. You want to include at least one node per cutting.
- Next, prepare a pot and fill it with well-draining potting mix.
- Plant the cutting in the soil. Bury the node under the soil but remove any leaves that end up in the soil. Keep the top leaves intact.
- Water the soil and keep it moist.
- Place the new plant in bright, indirect light with good humidity.
In about 4 to 6 weeks, the roots will take hold of the soil.
About a month or two later, you should start seeing shoots grow. Leaves will follow in the coming months.
You can also propagate the stem cuttings in water if you wish.
The steps are the same as above. But this time, you will let the cuttings root in water. This will allow you to see the roots as they grow.
Once the roots reach 2 or more inches in length, you can transfer the cuttings into potting soil.
How to Repot or Transplant Philodendron Atabapoense
Repotting is a low maintenance task for the Philodendron Atabapoense. It only needs to be repot every 2 or 3 years once the plant has matured.
When younger, it will need more regular repotting as the plant will grow faster in size.
The important thing is not to just repot the plant unless needed.
In most cases, this comes down to two scenarios.
One is when the plant has become root bound. This is the normal process. And you want to give it more space to grow.
The second is emergency situations.
Hopefully, you won’t every need to encounter these. But in case there is an overwatering problem, root rot, uncontrollable pest infestation or disease, then repotting is the best way to save the plant.
When the plant is root bound, the best time to repot is during spring to early summer.
Move it to a pot that is once size larger. Also, change the soil so the plant gets fresh, well-draining potting mix.
Is It Toxic/Poisonous to Humans, Cats & Dogs
Keep the Philodendron Atabapoense away from the reach of young children, dogs and cats. It is toxic and you don’t want them to accidentally ingest or consumer parts of the plant.
This not only causes pain, swelling and irritation, it requires immediate attention from the pediatrician or veterinarian depending on whether a child or pet ingested the plant.
Problems & Troubleshooting
Pests are not a big problem for the Philodendron Atabapoense. It is generally pest resistant.
However, this is only true when the plant is healthy.
If it is weak, sick or stressed, the pests will take the opportunity to pounce on it as its natural defenses are down.
The most common pest problems for the plant are spider mites, mealybugs and aphids. All of which are sap sucking insects which become very dangerous as they grow in number.
The problem is, they reproduce very rapidly.
So, diagnosing the pest issue early is essential.
You can use neem oil or insecticidal soap to get rid of these pests. I also like to start with just spraying them off with a hose or showerhead.
I’ve found this is the simplest way to get rid of many bugs quickly.
Root rot is the main thing to watch out for since the Philodendron Atabapoense is susceptible to overwatering.
Additionally, root rot happens under the soil. So, you don’t notice it unless you regularly feel the soil.
Besides that, you’ll only see the symptoms when the leaves start turning yellow. By then, root rot has already started to occur.
If your plant does experience root rot, stop watering and unpot the plant.
Prune the rotted roots and repot the plant in fresh, dry, well-draining soil. Don’t water it for a while and allow the plant to recover first.
To prevent root rot, avoid overwatering. Also, use well-draining soil.