How to Care for Philodendron Polypodioides Houseplant

The Philodendron Polypodioides is a very unique looking plant with long, very thin leaves. In a way they look like fish bones.

While it won’t grow overly tall like other philodendron varieties, it is a fast growing species that will spread out in a wide manner. Therefore, you do need space around it.

One thing I’ve noticed is that many people will confuse the plant with the Philodendron Tortum. That’s because the two plants look very much alike.

However, if you look closely, you’ll notice that the Philodendron Tortum is much smaller in size. The shape and the slightly curve in the Tortum’s leaves are also different.

The plant is natives to tropical South America particularly Brazil and Bolivia.

How do you care for the Philodendron Polypodioides? Keep the plant in a well lit location ideally near a window. But make sure it is getting indirect or filtered light.

It enjoys high humidity and warm temperature. It also thrives in moist soil. But never overwater it. Instead, allow the soil to partially dry between waterings.

Philodendron Polypodioides Plant Care

Light Requirements

The Philodendron Polypodioides grows best in medium to bright, indirect sunlight. The plant prefers natural light. But it will do just as well with grow lights as long as t gets sufficient illumination.

What does this mean?

It means that if your home have good access to light via the east, west or south facing window. Then all of these are great spots to put the plant as long as you position it properly.

But if you live in an apartment or somewhere with fewer windows, then don’t worry.

You can use LED grow lights and the plant can thrive as well.

The grow lights can be used to supplement the natural sunlight coming into your home. Or it can be used on its own.

Note that the Philodendron Polypodioides thrives 6 or more hours a day of natural light. And it will need closer to 10 or more hours of artificial lighting.

That’s because grow lights don’t offer the full color spectrum that the sun does.

Therefore, you compensate for that with longer duration.

However, beware of direct sunlight.

The plant will do well in gentle morning sun and late afternoon sun. These come from the east and west, respectively.

From the south, you need to protect the plant a bit more since the brunt of the sun’s intensity happens during mid-day. And this is what comes in through a southern window.

So, it is best to keep the plant at least 3 feet from the window and away from the sun’s direct rays. Or use sheer blinds to filter the light.

Similarly, it is important to consider the seasons.

Summertime sun is very harsh and intense. So, avoid the direct rays. Meanwhile, winter has little sunshine or overcast skies. So, you may need to move the plant to the brightest corner.

 

Temperature

The Philodendron Polypodioides thrives in temperatures between 68 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

This is where it fees most comfortable. And it will grow at it best.

Note that the plant can also tolerate higher and low temperatures outside of this range without any problems.

Since it is a tropical plant, it does better in the warmer temperatures.

This is also why it is easy to care for the plant indoors at least when it comes to temperature. You don’t have to do anything special.

However, it is very important to be aware of the plant’s poor tolerance to the cold.

It has trouble with temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Again, this has to do with its tropical nature. In the tropical forests of South America where the plant is from, there are no cold months.

In fact, there is no snow, frost or even freezing temperature.

So, try to keep the plant somewhere warmer than 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Indoors, the threats can be air conditioners and cold drafts coming in from open window or doors. Similarly, any cold spots where the nighttime temperature can suddenly drop significantly should be avoided.

Outdoors, weather is the biggest issue.

This is true if you live somewhere with four seasons.

In contrast, the Philodendron Polypodioides enjoys warm locations like USDA Hardiness Zones 9 to 11. That’s because it can live outside all year long since the weather says sunny and warm throughout.

But in areas with winter, make sure to bring in the plant by mid-fall or so when the temperature drops near 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

It won’t survive the winter outside.

Keep it indoors in a warm spot. If your home gets cold during this time, you can use a heating mat or pad under the pot to keep the soil temperature warmer.

 

Humidity

The Philodendron Polypodioides prefers humidity of 50% to 70%.

Once again, it is the plants native habitat that makes it used to this kind of environment. In addition to being warm all year, the tropics are very humid as well.

On average, humidity runs between 60% to 75% on a daily basis.

It will go up to 85% to over 90% on rainy days. And can drop to about 48% to 55% during the driest summer days.

But you won’t see it go much lower than that.

In contrast, the farther off from the equator you get, the less humid the conditions become. This is why many homes average between 20% and 50% humidity.

The lower end of that range usually occurs if you live in the desert or desert-like conditions. It can also happen during winter which is notorious for drying up the air.

Very hot, dry summers will also bring down humidity.

So, these are things to watch out for.

Don’t forget about certain appliances as well. Heaters and air conditioners will bring down humidity quite a bit as well.

Therefore, keep the plant away from these devices.

The good news is that while the Philodendron Polypodioides likes high humidity, it can tolerate humidity of around 35% to 50%.

But the lower you get on that range, the more you want to monitor the plant at least initially.

As long as the leaves look good and healthy, it means the plant is adjusting well to the air moisture.

But if its leaves turn brown at the tips or even on its edges, it means you need to push up humidity. In this case, you can mist the plant a few times a week or move it to the bathroom.

Other options are the use a humidifier or place it on a pebble tray.

 

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How Often to Water Philodendron Polypodioides

The Philodendron Polypodioides needs regular watering especially during the summer.

In general, it enjoys moist soil. But never let the soil stay soggy or mucky.

On the other hand, avoid letting the entire root ball go dry as well.

The plant likes to stay somewhere in between too much and too little water. And this is what makes taking care of it tricky.

Additionally, the weather changes throughout the year makes this even more difficult.

During the summer when the weather is hot, the soil will dry up fairly quickly. So, you’ll need to water more regularly.

On the other hand, soil will stay wet longer during the cold winters where there is little sunshine. Therefore, it is important to scale back to avoid overwatering.

So how do you know when to water the plant?

Since overwatering is more dangerous because it can lead to root rot, it is always a good idea to err on the drier side.

As long as you don’t let the soil go bone dry, the plant will be happy.

This is why the best way to water is to allow the top few inches of soil dry between waterings. You can use your finger to check.

Just insert your finger into the surface of the soil down to the second knuckle.

Then feel whether the soil is moist or dry. Never water when the soil is wet or moist. Instead, only add water if the soil at that depth feels completely dry.

A better, safer method is to wait until the top 25% to 50% of the soil is dry before you water.

Here, the roots still stay in moist soil. And you further reduce the risk of overwatering.

 

Philodendron Polypodioides Potting Soil

The Philodendron Polypodioides needs well-draining soil that has good aeration. It will also grow best in rich organic soil with pH between 6.5 and 7.5.

Good drainage is very important because of the plant’s susceptibility to overwatering.

Therefore, you don’t want to use heavy or dense soils which tend to retain water.

The problem with these kinds of soil is that the way they hold water is that even when the top soil or the surface feels dry, the bottom stays wet.

So, you’ll end up watering believing that the soil is drying up as well down below. But in fact, there’s still quite a bit of water there.

And when you add more moisture, the roots eventually drown and suffocate.

If the water does not recede or drain soon enough, the roots will eventually die of suffocation. And then they rot.

Therefore, always make sure that the soil you use had sufficient drainage.

One way to make sure of this is to use an Aroid Mix. You can get a bag from your local nursery or an online plant shop.

Note that that all stores carry it since they need to make it themselves. So, it may require some searching around.

But once you get it, you can just use it out of the bag.

Of course, you can also make your own Aroid mix at home. Here’s a recipe that works very well.

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

Also add a few handfuls of charcoal.

Finally, it is also worth noting that the plant is a climber.

While it is not necessary, you can give it a support like a moss pole to keep it upright. This also reminds it of its natural habitat which will allow the plant to grow faster and bigger.

 

Fertilizer

For best growth, the Philodendron Polypodioides will appreciate fertilizer as well.

Here, be careful with giving it too much. Like water, excess fertilizer does more harm than good.

Similarly, don’t use the low quality, cheap fertilizers either. These tend to be heavy on the salts which increase the risk of chemical burns.

Instead, use high quality products.

For feeding, a balance fertilizer works very well. This gives the plant all the nutrients it needs. Make sure to check that that product you get has micronutrients as well.

Apply once a month during spring and summer which is the plant’s growing season.

Dilute each dose by 50% if you’re growing the plant in a pot. If it is planted in the ground in the garden, use the full strength as recommended by the product’s instructions.

 

Pruning

The Philodendron Polypodioides will grow into a medium sized plant indoors. This comes out to a few feet high.

And while its long leaves will spread outwards, you’ll be able to keep it on a short tabletop for the most part.

I do know some growers who keep it in a pot on the floor though.

The plant is a fast grower. And it will do most of its growing during the warmer months. Therefore, it is important to make sure it gets enough light, water and fertilizer during this time.

With all 3, avoid overdoing any of them as you’ll only end up damaging the plant.

The good news is that the Philodendron Polypodioides is easy to care for and requires very little maintenance.

You may want or need to trim it as its leaves extend outwards and take up more space. But this all depends on how much room you have for it to grow indoors.

 

How to Propagate Philodendron Polypodioides

Philodendron Polypodioides propagation is easy. And you can grow more plants from stem cuttings.

You can also grow several at the same time if you wish using this method.

The best time to propagate is during early spring. This way, the new plant will have an entire growing season to develop quickly before the cold weather arrives.

The most important part of stem propagation is to choose the right cuttings.

Make sure that you select stems with at least 1-2 nodes and a few leaves on it. Once, you’ve done this, here’s how to propagate the Philodendron Polypodioides from stem cuttings.

  1. Sterilize a pair or pruning shears or a knife. Then cut the stem between nodes. This ensures that each stem cutting has at least one node.
  2. Let the cuttings callous. This usually takes a few hours. All you want is the cut end to close and stop oozing. This will prevent too much water absorption when you root it.
  3. While waiting, prepare a pot that’s just big enough for the cutting. Fill it with well-draining potting mix.
  4. Plant the cutting into the soil by making a divot with your fingers in the center of the soil. Make sure the cutting is steady and won’t tip over. But don’t over compact the soil.
  5. Water the soil until moist. Then place the pot in a well-lit area with no direct sunlight.

In about 4 or so weeks, the enough roots will develop and they will start grabbing hold of the soil.

Alternatively, you can propagate in water as well.

Water propagation requires an additional step. Here, place the cutting into a jar filled with water. Then put the jar in bright, indirect sunlight.

You’ll need to change the water every 2 weeks to keep it from getting murky.

In about 3-4 weeks, new roots will develop from the cutting in water.

You can then move the cutting from water to soil once they roots reach 1-2 inches or longer.

 

How to Repot or Transplant Philodendron Polypodioides

The Philodendron Polypodioides will need repotting every now and then, but not often.

It does need repotting more regularly when young.

However, as it matures, you’ll usually only need to repot it once every 2 to 3 years.

Note that how fast it grows will depend on the care it gets and its living conditions. Therefore, don’t compare how fast or slow your plant grows with those of other gardeners.

Instead, just make sure the plant is healthy and happy.

The only time it needs repotting is when it outgrows its container. This is when it becomes root bound.

And you can check by looking at the bottom of the pot.

If you see roots poking out from the drainage holes or popping out from the surface of the soil, then it means they want more room to grow.

This gives you the signal that it is time to find a slightly larger container.

The best time to repot is during spring to early summer.

Make sure the pot you select has drainage holes at the bottom. And have enough fresh, well-draining potting mix to replace the spent one.

 

Is It Toxic/Poisonous to Humans, Cats & Dogs

The Philodendron Polypodioides is toxic when ingested. It contains calcium oxalate crystals which are poisonous to humans and animals.

Therefore, it is a good idea to keep the plant away from young children, cats and dogs to avoid possible accidental consumption.

In case this happens, immediately call your pediatrician or veterinarian, whichever the case may be.

 

Philodendron Polypodioides Problems & Troubleshooting

Pests

The Philodendron Polypodioides is fairly resistant to pests. However, you still need to keep an eye out for these bugs since they can happen.

Often, pests come with a new plant you bring home from the store.

Or they will hitch a ride with the plant when you bring it indoors from the yard or garden.

Therefore, it is very important to always debug your plants before bringing them inside the house. This will prevent your other houseplants from getting infected.

With the Philodendron Polypodioides, the most common pests that come around include aphids, mealybugs, spider mites and thrips.

If you see any, no matter how few, immediately isolate the plant and begin treatment.

 

Diseases

Overwatering is one of the biggest problems you want to avoid. That’s because it is the main cause of root rot to which the Philodendron Polypodioides is prone to getting.

Sadly, overwatering is almost always man-made.

It happens due to watering too often, using heavy soils or mixes that retain too much moisture or a pot with insufficient drainage.

So, make sure to check each of these factors to avoid the problem altogether.

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