If you have a new philodendron plant, you might be wondering how often to water it. The answer to this question is influenced by several things, but don’t worry! It’s easy when you understand the effects of each factor.
How often you need to water your philodendron depends on several factors such as the season, the temperature and humidity levels in your home, and your plant’s pot. Once you understand these, you’ll know exactly when to water your philodendron plant!
In this article, I’m going to take you through each factor to help you understand how often to water your philodendron plant.
How Do You Know If Your Philodendron Needs Watering?
Your plant will let you know if it is desperate for some water – it will start to look very sad indeed! Many people use the physical appearance of their plant to decide when to water, as philodendrons are very quick to wilt when dehydrated.
When the cells in your plant’s leaves don’t receive enough water, they begin to collapse, causing the leaves to curl and the whole plant to wilt. Eventually, the leaves will die and fall off the plant. Symptoms of dehydration to look out for in philodendron plants include:
- Drooping leaves.
- Wrinkled leaves.
- Leaf tips turning brown.
- Leaves turning yellow then brown.
- Leaves becoming dry.
It’s best not to allow your plant to get so thirsty that it shows any of those symptoms. The stress caused by repeatedly drying out so much could leave your plant vulnerable to pests and diseases, as well as causing problems with the potting mix (many types of potting mix are hard to re-wet once they’ve dried out completely).
There are several ways to check whether your philodendron plant needs watering, without risking harm to your plant! Try these simple techniques:
- Use your finger or a wooden stick to check the top inch or two of potting mix. If they’re dry, water!
- Tap the pot – if it sounds hollow, water! If it sounds dull, no water is needed.
- Pick up the pot. If it feels light – water!
- Keep an eye on the color of the potting mix – it often gets lighter as it dries.
- Keep track of the moisture level in your plant’s potting mix using a moisture meter.
Factors That Impact Watering Philodendron Frequency
Beginner gardeners are often tempted to make watering schedules for their plants so that they don’t forget to water them.
While this might sound like a good idea, there are so many variables involved with your plant’s water needs that sticking to a regimented watering schedule is likely to lead to problems – usually overwatering leading to root rot.
Instead of a schedule, understand how each of the following factors affects your plant and its water requirements:
During winter, your philodendron needs very little water. The plant won’t grow much or at all during this time and as the temperature is cooler, water won’t evaporate from the pot as quickly as in warmer weather.
Check your philodendron at least once a week and water if necessary. Depending on its size and location it will need watering once every couple of weeks to every couple of months.
Because of central heating in our homes, humidity levels in winter tend to be lower than in summer. Although your philodendron needs less water in winter, it still needs a humidity level of at least 40% to stop it from drying out.
In spring, your philodendron plant wakes up and begins to put out new growth. This is triggered by rises in temperature as well as increased light levels, and it means that your plant needs more water.
Check your plant every day using the techniques given above, and be prepared to increase watering to once a week or so, depending on the size of your plant and its location.
Summer is the time when your philodendron needs the most water. The plant is actively growing and the hot weather means that water will evaporate quickly from the plant’s pot.
Make sure to check your plant daily and give it water as often as necessary. A deep drink once or twice a week should be enough to keep your plant happy.
Most types of philodendrons are unlikely to flower when kept as houseplants unless kept in very warm climates. Many types, such as the Split-Leaf Philodendron can take up to 15 years to flower. So if your philodendron is in flower, congratulations!
You’ll want to give it a deep drink once or twice a week, more if needed. Check your plant every day
When the temperature is high, your philodendron plant needs a lot more water than when the temperature is lower. Your plant uses the water to maintain healthy cell function and produces new growth quickly in warm temperatures. All those cells need a lot of water!
Additionally, your philodendron plant loses water from its large leaves, and the warmer it is, the more water is lost this way. Water also evaporates from the pot, especially those made from clay.
Because they are native to tropical areas, it is important to keep your philodendron plant at a consistently warm temperature. There are many varieties of philodendron, some more hardy than others, but all appreciate a temperature of no lower than 65 – 70°F (18 – 21°C) during the night and 75 – 85°F (24 – 30°C) during the day.
A humidity level of at least 40%, preferably 50-60%, is vital for philodendron plants to thrive. They are native to jungle areas with high humidity, and low humidity levels will cause your plant to dry out.
The lower the humidity, the faster water evaporates from your plant’s leaves – sucked out into the dry air. Dehydration from low humidity can happen very quickly and could kill your plant if not dealt with immediately.
In their natural environment, philodendron plants live below the rainforest canopy and receive lots of bright, dappled light. The sun’s beams rarely touch them directly, and so as houseplants they are not well suited to locations with too much direct light.
A situation with plenty of bright, indirect light, such as near a window but not in direct reach of the sun’s rays, is ideal for most types of philodendron.
Variegated varieties will appreciate more light to keep their colors vibrant, and a few varieties are happiest in low-light environments.
If you place Philodendron in warmer, brighter locations will need more water than those in darker, cooler environments. With increased temperatures and light comes more growth and evaporation – and the need for more water!
Size of The Plant
If you have a small to medium-sized philodendron in a six-inch pot or smaller, and you keep it in a well-draining potting medium within the recommended temperature range, you’re probably going to need to water your plant once or twice a week during the summer and once a month or so in the winter.
If you have a large plant in a large pot, kept in similar conditions, you should water it slightly less often, around once a week in summer down to every couple of months in winter.
Remember, this is just a guide and you should get to know your plant!
Larger pots hold water for longer than smaller pots so even though a large plant needs more water than a small plant, you do not necessarily need to water a large plant more often A lot of the time you’ll need to water less often! Always check your plant first.
Plastic pots retain water much more than terracotta or other clay pots. Water can only escape through the drainage holes at the bottom, or through the surface of the potting medium.
If you use a plastic pot to house your philodendron plant, make sure that it has plenty of drainage holes in the bottom, big enough for water to escape easily.
If you use a terracotta or clay pot, remember that water will evaporate through the sides of the pot, as well as through the potting mix surface. The pot still needs to have adequate drainage holes at the bottom!
Because philodendrons are native to tropical rainforests, they like a rich potting medium that is kept moist and well-draining, never wet. The most common types of philodendron kept as houseplants are vining types, such as the Heartleaf Philodendron.
These plants naturally grow on trees and so like a slightly different type of potting mix than most other houseplants. A mixture of 30% general purpose compost, 20% peat, 40% orchid bark with charcoal, and 10% perlite with a thin layer of sphagnum moss should keep your plant happy.
Self-Heading, or ‘Tree’ type philodendrons will also appreciate this mixture, but may also be happy in a rich general purpose compost, mixed with 10-20% perlite to help aeration and drainage.
Whatever type of potting mix you use for your philodendron, the most important thing is that it is well-draining. If the potting mix retains too much water, this can lead to serious problems with your plant, such as root rot.
These problems are much easier to avoid than to treat, so make sure your philodendron’s pot can drain!
Never place stones or shards of pottery in the bottom of your pots, as is sometimes advised to increase drainage. This usually has the opposite effect and can lead to water collecting in the bottom of the pot, increasing the risk of root rot.
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How to Water Philodendron?
Should I Water from Above or Below?
Most of the time houseplants, including philodendrons, should be watered from the base of the pot if possible so that they develop a strong root system. Watering regularly from above can cause several undesirable effects such as:
- Water not reaching the deep roots of the plant.
- Fungal growth on the surface of potting mix.
- Compacted potting mix.
- Stem rot from constant contact with water.
There are some occasions when watering from above is preferable, such as just after repotting. In this case, the water moving down through the potting mix helps the roots to settle and gives them quick access to a drink after the stress of repotting.
If for some reason you have to regularly water your philodendron plant from above, avoid getting water on the plant’s leaves or stem.
Use plenty of water – enough that it flows out of the bottom of the pot. Make sure the water can escape so that the pot is not left sitting in water!
Allowing water to ‘flush’ through the pot ensures that water reaches your plant’s deepest roots, and helps to remove mineral build-up in the potting mix.
Ideally, you should water your philodendron plant from below. When your plant needs watering, set the pot in a container of water for half an hour to an hour, then remove it, making sure excess water can drain out of your plant’s pot.
If you keep your plant on a tray or saucer, use that for the water. Make sure you’re giving your plant a good, deep drink – you may need to fill a saucer a couple of times. After an hour or so, remove any leftover water.
Whether you water your philodendron from above or below, the main things to remember are:
- Check your plant before watering.
- Water your plant deeply.
- Allow excess water to drain from the pot.
A great option for all kinds of plants, inside and out, is self-watering pots. These pots have a special reservoir at the bottom which collects water, gradually allowing it into the potting mix as your plant needs it. This means you don’t need to water your plant so often.
The design of self-watering pots also helps to reduce the risk of root rot as water drains into the reservoir at the bottom of the pot, rather than remaining in the potting mix.
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How to Water Propagated Philodendrons?
Philodendrons are much faster to propagate by cuttings than seed, but if you are growing philodendrons from seed the main thing is to keep the seeds warm (the potting mix should be 68 – 73 °F (20 – 23°C ) and consistently moist.
Covering your seed tray with a plastic bag or using a special seed propagator will help keep the moisture in and the humidity level high.
Philodendron plants are easy to propagate from cuttings, in either potting mix or water. Cuttings need lots of moisture and a humid environment as they don’t yet have roots to absorb water.
If your philodendron cuttings are in the water, you just need to keep the water topped up (change it every few days to avoid bacterial and fungal growth) and ensure that the humidity level is at least 50%.
If you pot them on into a potting mix, make sure to water your new plants from below so that their roots become stronger.
If you’re propagating your philodendron cuttings using potting mix, pay special attention to the moisture level of the mixture. It needs to be consistently moist for the tiny roots of your new plants to be able to develop properly. The humidity level also needs to be at least 50% for them to thrive.
Watering Philodendrons After Repotting
After repotting your philodendron plant, you need to give it enough water to help it get established in its new home. Re-pot using moist (not so wet that it becomes mud!) potting mix, and water the plant deeply at the base of the stem to help the roots settle in the soil.
Be careful to avoid getting water on your plant’s stem or leaves, as this can encourage fungal disease. Make sure the water can drain freely so that your plant doesn’t end up sitting in water.
Water your philodendron from below after the first watering to ensure that the roots grow down into the pot and develop properly.
Eight Golden Rules
Philodendron plants are beautiful, rewarding, and easy to grow. Once you get to know your philodendron’s water preferences, you’ll find it easy to know when to water it. Until then, follow these foolproof rules:
- Use a well-draining potting mix.
- Keep the potting mix moist, not wet.
- Check your plant every day.
- Allow the surface of potting mix to dry out between waterings.
- Water plants early in the morning or late in the evening.
- Water from below to encourage healthy root development.
- Never wet the leaves of your plant.
- Don’t let your plant sit in water.
Do you have anything to say about watering philodendrons? Let us know in the comments!
(Source: University of Florida)