The Philodendron Elegans is a rare aroid. It is also known as the Skeleton key Philodendron because of the shape of its leaves.
Its looks also groups it among the Finger Leaf Philodendrons which have thin, narrow lobes on their leaves. Others that belong to this group include the Philodendron Radiatum and the Philodendron Tortum.
The Philodendron Elegans’ looks also has it sometimes confused with other philodendrons including the Philodendron Mayoi.
That said, this philodendron plant is native to Brazil and Colombia.
How to do care for the Philodendron Elegans? Keep the plant in a well-lit location with no direct sunlight. It enjoys warm, humid weather and regular watering during the spring and summer.
However, avoid overwatering the plant as it is susceptible to root rot. Give the plant a balanced fertilizer during its growing season to achieve optimal growth.
Philodendron Elegans Plant Care
The Philodendron Elegans enjoys medium to bright indirect light. You can grow it indoors or outdoors provided that it stays in a well-lit location.
Outdoors, place it somewhere with partial shade.
Try to avoid strong, intense, direct sunlight as the plant’s leaves cannot tolerate too much exposure. If you keep it there for more than 2 or 3 hours a day, the leaves will eventually get scorched.
And you’ll be left with brown markings and ugly burnt leaves.
As such, this also means that full sun outdoors is not a good idea.
If you keep the plant indoors, an east facing window that gets a lot of morning sun is ideal. You want to watch out for direct sunlight from the west and south windows because they receive the hotter noon and afternoon rays.
As such, keep the plant away from the sun’s rays in both these directions. You can also block out some of the sun by using curtains and blinds.
On the other hand, if your home does not have a lot of windows or the windows don’t get a lot of light, you can supplement the natural light or use artificial lights on their own to keep the plant happy.
You can use grow lights or fluorescent lights.
Both will work well. but because they don’t contain the full color spectrum of the sun, you’ll need at least 12 hours of exposure from artificial lights on their own on a daily basis to keep the plant healthy.
The Philodendron Elegans prefers moderate to warm temperatures between 60 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. It is a tropical plant.
This means that it enjoys warm weather all year round. Also, it is accustomed to fairly consistent conditions and does not like sudden fluctuations.
Finally, since there are no winters in the tropics, the plant has poor tolerance to the cold.
In fact, avoid temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit as much as possible.
The plant has a hard time when it gets colder than this level. And you’ll see its growth slow down. After a while, you’ll see its growth completely stop.
If the temperature persists, yellow leaves will develop and will later drop. After a while the plant could die after deteriorating as well.
This is why it is not a good idea to leave the plant outdoors once the cold months arrive. Move the plant indoors as the climate begins to drop near 50 degrees Fahrenheit as it will not survive the winter outdoors.
Instead, keep it in a warm, cozy area indoors.
The Philodendron Elegans enjoys humidity between 60% and 80%. This is because of its native habitat which are the tropical rainforests of South America.
There is a lot of moisture in the air there due to the regular rains.
Additionally, good air circulation is very important to the plant. This helps its leaves quickly dry from the rains as well as helps deliver oxygen to its roots.
It is likewise worth noting that the plant can tolerate humidity down to around 40%. But be careful about keeping in somewhere with humidity that is consistently in the low 30s or high 20s.
The lack of moisture in the air can make its leaves turn brown, dry and crispy.
If your home lacks the humidity required by the plant, you can get a humidifier to increase humidity around it. This will help keep it happy and healthy.
Alternatively, you can mist the plant or place it on a pebble tray.
How Often to Water Philodendron Elegans
The Philodendron Elegans needs regular watering through the warmer months. But it is prone to overwatering so you want to make sure the soil does not end up soggy or very wet.
Standing water is never a good thing for this plant.
Thus, you don’t want to water too frequently.
If you do, the roots will end up drowning in excess moisture. This will prevent them from being able to receive oxygen.
And after a while, they will suffocate and die. This is when root rot occurs.
If too many of the plant’s roots rot, the Philodendron Elegans will eventually die because it cannot sustain itself since the roots have stopped functioning. Therefore, they are not able to absorb enough water or nutrients to keep the plant healthy or alive.
This is why overwatering is the number one cause of houseplant death.
And it is something you want to avoid with your Philodendron Elegans.
To prevent this from happening, always check the soil before you add water. Ideally, wait until the soil has dried about halfway down before watering.
You can use a wooden stick or chopstick to test this. Just insert the wooden stick into the soil until it hits the bottom of the pot. Then take the stick out.
You’ll see the wet area of the wood which indicates until where the soil is still moist.
If the soil is about 50% dry, you can add water. But avoid watering before then.
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Philodendron Elegans Potting Soil
The Philodendron Elegans needs well-draining soil that can retain some moisture. This ensures that the roots get enough moisture. But at the same time, at the same time, the excess water is quickly drained out to prevent overwatering.
This also allows the roots to get the air they need to stay healthy.
A simple way to achieve this potting mix is to combine the following ingredients:
- 1 part sphagnum moss
- 1 part perlite
- 3 parts orchid bark
- 1 part horticultural charcoal
The moss will help with water retention just enough so that the roots stay hydrated. Meanwhile, the perlite, charcoal and bark increase drainage to ensure that excess moisture drains quickly.
This prevents overwatering and waterlogging.
Additionally, the charcoal and bark are chunky which allow more air to reach the roots.
In addition to good soil drainage, make sure the pot you use has drainage holes at the bottom as well. You can also use terracotta or clay pots which are porous. This will allow some water to seep out of the pot to reduce the risk of overwatering as well.
I’ve written an article about why terracotta pots turn white here. You can check it out so you know what is happening in case this happens to your pots.
Finally, it is likewise a good idea to give the Philodendron Elegans a support to climb on. You can use a moss pole or cedar stake. The plant is a climber and will appreciate a vertical support.
That’s because this is how it grows in the wild going up and clinging onto larger plants.
The Philodendron Elegans needs fertilizer if you want it to grow optimally. Be careful not to over fertilize the plant because it does not need extra.
The important thing is to feed the plant. As long as it gets the nutrients it will be happy.
Avoid giving it more than what the product label states. And avoid feeding it more times than required. Too much plant food will eventually cause fertilizer burn which will damage your Philodendron Elegans’ roots.
Instead, apply a balanced, liquid fertilizer once a month during the spring and summer. This is the plant’s growing season. And it will do most of its growing during this time.
It won’t need fertilizer in fall and winter as the cold weather will cause the plant’s growth to slow significantly.
If you feed it then, most of the nutrients and minerals will end up alongside the salts. This will result is a faster build up of excesses that will be toxic to the roots eventually.
Alternatively, you can also use a slow-release fertilizer instead. This will reduce the frequency you have to apply to about 1 or 2 times per growing season.
The Philodendron Elegans will grow to between 8 to 16 feet tall over time. Its leaves can reach nearly 2 feet long over time and about a foot wide.
Of course, its leaves are split so they won’t look at large as they actually are. Nevertheless, its foliage becomes very impressive when you allow it to grow.
That said It takes a while for the plant to mature so it will stay a bit small for some time.
But with patience, you’ll see its vines keep growing.
Giving it a support to climb on will help it grow faster as well.
As far as pruning goes, the plant does not need a lot of pruning. But you will need to do some maintenance trimming every few months or so.
For the most part, this will be to limit the size and length of the plant. The leaves don’t get overcrowded nor do they overlap much. So, the plant does not get messy.
However, you can also prune to encourage more leaves to grow.
Always remember, immediately prune any diseased leaves as keeping them on the plant will allow the pathogens to spread. Also, remove yellow, brown, damaged or old leaves as well.
How to Propagate Philodendron Elegans
There are a few ways you can propagate the Philodendron Elegans.
The most effective ways are via stem cuttings and division.
Most people go with stem cuttings. Here, you can choose between soil propagation or water propagation. Although, water propagation is far more popular because it allows you to see the roots through a glass container while they develop.
If your Philodendron Elegans has grown quite big and you want to reduce its size, division is a good option as well. This takes a bit more work during propagation.
But when you’re done, you’ll have 2 or more plants that are already semi-grown. So, no rooting needed unlike stem cuttings.
Here’s how to do each method.
How to Propagate Philodendron Elegans from Stem Cuttings
- To propagate the Philodendron Elegans from stem cuttings begin by choosing a healthy stem.
- When deciding on which stems to use, choose a stem with at least one node and 2-3 leaves on it. It should be healthy as well.
- Cut the stem just below the node. Use a sterile pair of pruning shears or scissors.
- Next, decide if you want to propagate the stem cuttings in soil or in water.
- To propagate the stem cutting sin water, place the cuttings in a glass container filled with water. Submerge the node underwater. Remove leaves that end up in the water but leave those above the liquid.
- Change the water every 1-2 weeks so it does not get murky.
- Keep the cutting in bright, indirect light preferably in a warm, humid spot.
- In about 3-4 weeks the cutting should have a few roots. Now, wait until the roots are at least 2 inches or longer.
- You can then move the cuttings to soil.
- To propagate the stem cuttings in soil, prepare a pot and fill it with well-draining soil. Then plant the cuttings in the soil so that the nodes are buried under.
- Water the soil until moist. Avoid wet, soggy soil.
- Keep the cutting in bright, indirect light in a warm, humid location.
- In about 4 or so weeks, the roots will begin establishing themselves in the soil.
- You don’t have to transfer the cuttings from soil until the new plant gets root bound.
How to Propagate Philodendron Elegans by Division
- To propagate the Philodendron Elegans by division, you’ll need to unpot the plant. As such, the best time to do this is when you’re repotting.
- This way, you do both the task while only unpotting the plant once.
- Carefully take the plant out of the container.
- Check the roots. Remove the excess soil and separate any tangled roots.
- Decide how many divisions you want to make and where you want to divide the root ball. The only requirement is that each division has to have roots, stems and leaves.
- Use a sterile knife to cut the root ball based on the divisions you want to make. You can likewise just use your hands to divide the root ball.
- Plant each division into their own pots with fresh, well-draining potting mix.
- Water each of the pots.
How to Repot or Transplant Philodendron Elegans
The Philodendron Elegans will need repotting as it gets bigger. But don’t repot it every 6 months or annually. It usually takes at least 2 years or more before it needs to be repot.
The best way to tell is when the plant gets root bound.
You’ll know by checking the bottom of the pot to see if there are many roots coming out from the drainage holes. If there are, it is time to repot.
To do so:
- Water the plant about 24 hours before you plan on repotting. This helps take the plant out of the pot. It also reduces the stress of the plant when you repot.
- On the day of repotting, carefully slide out the root ball from the pot. You can tilt the pot to make it easier to take the plant out.
- Check the roots. If there is root rot, pests or disease, treat that issue first. Repotting it with these issue allow the problems to follow the plant to its new container.
- Remove excess soil and separate the roots if they are tangled.
- Prepare a new pot that is one size larger than the current one. This will be 2 inches bigger than the existing pot the plant is in.
- Fill the now pot with some soil up to about a third or so of the way.
- Then place the plant in the new pot and fill the remaining space in the pot with soil to keep the plant steady. Don’t overpack the soil in the pot.
- Water the soil after you’ve repotted.
Is It Toxic/Poisonous to Humans, Cats & Dogs
Yes. Sadly the Philodendron Elegans is toxic to humans and animals. But the toxins are only released upon ingestion. So, the plant is safe to touch and move otherwise.
That said, keep it away from young children, dogs and cats as they might chew or consume some of the leaves.
If this happens, immediately contact your pediatrician or veterinarian and tell them what has happened.
Philodendron Elegans Problems & Troubleshooting
The Philodendron Elegans is not prone to pests. But it is not immune either.
Therefore, it may experience some bugs during its lifetime. This is especially true if it isn’t getting the care and requirements it needs. Similarly, a weak, sick or stressed plant becomes more susceptible.
So, try to keep the plant as healthy as possible.
The most common pest problems for the are spider mites, aphids and mealybugs.
If you see any of these, quickly treat them and prevent them from becoming an infestation. They are much more difficult to treat when there are a lot of them.
They also do more damage to your plant that way.
You can use neem oil or insecticidal soap to get rid of these pests.
Root rot is the most serious problem your plant will face. Therefore, prevention is the best thing you can do so you never have to deal with it.
Avoid overwatering, use well-draining soil and a pot with holes.
Also be wary of wet leaves as it can cause leaf infections. Powdery mildew and sooty mold can also occur to the leaves.
Therefore, make sure the plant gets enough light and good air circulation to avoid these issues.