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Why Are My Philodendron Leaves Small? (Here’s What to Do)

A Philodendron that isn’t living up to its potential and has weak and small leaves is a real bummer.

These show-stopping plants need the proper care for their big, varied leaves to look their best.

However, you can do a few things to help your Philodendron get back on its feet if it is only making small, distorted leaves.

Philodendron leaves that are small and delicate are typically the result of low light levels and poor soil fertility. To encourage the development of large leaves, consistently apply fertilizer during the growing season, and provide the plant with 6–8 hours of light per day that is bright but indirect. 

What Causes Small Philodendron Leaves?

Lack of Nutrients

It takes a lot of nutrients for large, glossy leaves to form, and a Philodendron that isn’t fertilized correctly will struggle to thrive.

The whole philodendron family are heavy feeders and need to be fertilized often.

Without good nutrition, the Philodendron’s leaves will be small and pale, with thin tissue that is easy to damage.

Additionally, the Philodendron will grow more slowly, producing wretched leaves at significantly fewer intervals.

Lack of Light

Leaf production also relies heavily on the availability of sunlight. The plant lacks the energy to produce robust leaves without it.

A Philodendron can’t thrive in complete darkness, much less produce large and healthy leaves.

Small Container Size

Philodendrons require a consistent and reliable supply of nutrients, which an overly small container cannot provide.

This is especially true for root-bound Philodendron; while small amounts of soil contain few minerals needed for growth, a pot with no soil is worse.

Pest Infestation

There is a good chance insect pests are feasting on your Philodendron if it’s well fed, well-lit, and in an adequate pot.

In addition, the sap and tissue of young leaves, particularly delectable, are often ransacked to the point of failure, resulting in a lack of proper development.

Leaf Spot Diseases

Philodendrons often show signs of disease by developing abnormally small leaves that are also visibly deformed.

This can indicate that you have an infection caused by bacteria or yeast when the stems and veins are twisted and bulging or twisting.

Additionally, the disease can cause large leaves to wither, develop spots, or become discolored.

Improper Watering

Regardless of how much or how little water the Philodendron receives, it can suffer root damage and become less effective.

Stunted growth and small leaves result from the Philodendron’s inability to absorb nutrients and water from the growing medium due to damaged roots.

Overwatering depletes the soil of essential minerals needed to support plant growth. These minerals are dissolved when the pot is overfilled with water.

That nutrition is lost when it is drained, leaving the soils essentially sterile.

Temperature Fluctuation

Their growth rate slows to a halt if their growing environment becomes too cold. If they can grow new leaves at all, they won’t be able to do so in a healthy manner.

Heat stress affects the Philodendron when the temperature is too high. Its primary concern is merely surviving, not growing.

Here I discuss Philodendron temperature tolerance in detail.

Low Humidity 

One of the most dangerous conditions for Philodendrons is a dry, cold environment.

There must be a lot of moisture in the air around Philodendrons to support healthy leaves’ growth and keep the ones they already have from drying out.

If the leaves are small and the edges are dry and crisp, you need to raise the humidity.

Unfortunately, low humidity can also cause unfurling leaves on large leaf varieties to become “stuck” in a curled-up position, eventually causing them to wither and die.

Water Quality

One of the most insidious problems an indoor gardener can face is local water safe for people but harmful to plants.

The majority of municipal water supplies contain additives that benefit human health.

While this is good for us, it can make tap water difficult for plants to manage.

Both chlorine and fluoride are harmful to delicate roots and frequently accumulate in the soil over time.

Furthermore, tap water is frequently ‘hard,’ containing naturally occurring mineral salts harmful to potted plants.

These salts, like chlorine, harm roots and often kill houseplants.

How Do I Get My Philodendron To Grow Bigger Leaves

Fertilize Regularly

I can’t say enough that Philodendrons are heavy feeders and need constant, gentle support to grow big, glossy leaves.

This is especially true during the warm months of spring and summer when the Philodendron grows the most.

Adding a dose of liquid fertilizer to your watering regimen is best to ensure your Philodendron receives just the right amount of fertilizer.

I like to use a half-strength dilution of general-purpose fertilizer with each watering throughout the growing season.

This provides consistent assistance without overburdening the roots. (Check out the prices on Amazon here)

Ensure Bright Indirect Sunlight

All philodendrons prefer bright, indirect light, and the more, the merrier. Give them 6-8 hours of sunshine per day for optimal growth.

Smaller climbing Philodendrons in baskets are ideal for hanging in south-facing windows, adding a splash of color while basking in the sun.

Water Properly

Like many rainforest plants, the Philodendron thrives on deep and decadent soakings followed by a period of drying out.

This provides them with the water they require while protecting their root systems from fungal infections and rot.

Water your Philodendron only when the top two or three inches of soil have dried out. I talk more about how to water Philodendrons here.

Clean Dust from The Leaves

Large leafed Philodendrons attract more dust than most and, if left untended, can clog pores and reduce the amount of light that reaches the leaf itself.

To keep leaves dust-free, regularly wipe them down with a soft, damp cloth.

In the warmer months, Philodendrons enjoy a cool shower, which improves the humidity around their leaves while also keeping them clean.

But, of course, you can also leave them outside on a rainy day.

Ensure Optimum Temperature and Humidity

Philodendrons are a type of tropical plant. To thrive, they require consistent warmth and humidity.

Most varieties of Philodendron prefer temperatures between 75-85°F (24-29°C) for optimal growth.

Philodendrons as a group also prefer high humidity. Aim for an atmospheric humidity of about 65 percent to encourage large, lush leaves.

This helps to maintain the moisture levels in the leaf, preventing tissue dehydration.

Of course, increasing atmospheric humidity is difficult, especially if the growing environment is climate controlled.

If you’ve noticed signs of dryness in your indoor plants, it’s often worth adding a pebble tray or humidifier.

Repot Philodendron when Root-Bound

Every two to three years is an excellent time to move a Philodendron to a new pot.

They don’t like to have their roots crowded together, and they will do better overall if they get some new soil every so often.

When repotting a plant, using a suitable growing medium is essential.

Philodendrons need a medium that is easy to work with and has a lot of texture and space for air pockets.

I like to mix two parts of potting soil, one part perlite and one part coco coir or moss, to make my soil for self-heading or “tree” type Philodendrons.

This gives the plant the proper nutrients and drainage to grow big leaves.

On the other hand, Climbing Philodendrons are like a mixture of more significant pieces.

By adding one part orchid mix, the trailing vines get a little more texture to help them hold on.

It also makes it easier for climbing plants to get more oxygen at their roots, which they like.

Make sure your pot has good drainage no matter what plants you have. There’s not much point in using soil that drains quickly if the water stays in the pot when it gets to the bottom.

Grow Big Leaf Philodendron Varieties

Growing a wide leafed variety is the simplest way to grow big Philodendron leaves! When you can rely on the plant’s genetics, it eliminates a lot of work.

One of my favorites is Philodendron bipinnatifidum ‘Xanadu,’ a hardy compact Philodendron that grows upright without any extra support and tops out at a delightful three feet.

They produce large, dramatically lobed leaves that add a tropical flair to any home or office despite their small stature.

A Red-leaf Philodendron is another larger-leafed Philodendron to consider (Philodendron erubescens).

They have over-foot-long leaves that can range from bright orange to almost black and are available in various cultivars.

They’re more challenging to grow, but the fanciful, colorful leaves are well worth it.

The climber Velour Philodendron (Philodendron melanochrysum) has large velvety soft leaves so richly colored that they often appear black for a more elegant appearance.

How Do I Make My Philodendron Fuller?

Giving your Philodendron what it needs to grow is the key to making it fuller.

The plant wants to grow those beautiful, exciting leaves, so all you have to do is give it a place to grow.

If you take good care of your Philodendron, it will gladly do the hard work of making lots of those beautiful leaves.

To support your Philodendron:

  • Give the plant 6 to 8 hours a day of bright, indirect light.
  • When the top two inches of the soil are dry, water the plant.
  • Provide good drainage.
  • Feed the soil often.
  • Consider large-leaf Philodendrons.