Philodendron leaves turning yellow

Brown Philodendron Leaves: Why Are My Philodendron Leaves Turning Brown

Philodendrons are very popular indoor plants with large, attractive, deeply segmented leaves. They are especially prized for their ability to thrive in low, artificial light. Sometimes, however, their leaves can turn yellow or brown and unhealthy looking. Keep reading for causes for philodendron leaves turning yellow and brown, and what you can do to about it.

Why are My Philodendron Leaves Turning Brown?

There are a few possible causes for brown philodendron leaves. Philodendrons have specific water and light requirements, and if the plant looks sickly, there’s a good chance it’s because one of these requirements isn’t being met.

Water

Philodendrons require a steady supply of water to remain healthy. The soil should always be a little bit moist. If you’re spacing your waterings out too much, or watering too lightly, this could be the cause. When you water, water thoroughly, not stopping until water flows out of the drainage holes.

Conversely, too much water can cause brown philodendron leaves as well. Philodendrons like water, but they don’t like to sit in it. Make sure your pot has plenty of drainage, and that water flows freely out of the drainage holes when you water.

Light

If it’s not water making your philodendron leaves brown, it might be light. Philodendrons thrive in indirect light and are often perfectly happy with only artificial light. If you’ve put your philodendron in a window or outdoors where it receives direct sunlight, its leaves might turn yellow and even suffer from sunburn.

Philodendrons can suffer from too little light, however. Particularly in winter or in a darker room, they may start to yellow and could benefit from being placed nearer a window.

Diseases

Philodendron leaves turning yellow and brown could also be caused by certain bacterial diseases. Leaf spots, leaf blights, and tip burns can all mean leaves turning brown on philodendrons. If your plant is infected, isolate it from your other plants and remove the offending leaves with a pair of scissors that you disinfect between each cut.

If more than a third of the leaves are affected, remove them in stages so as not to kill the plant. Protect your uninfected plants by giving them plenty of air circulation. When you water them, avoid wetting the leaves – bacteria need moisture to grow and spread.

The name philodendron is derived from the Greek words philo (love) and dendron (tree). This classic plant is among the most popular houseplants, and considered one of the easiest to grow. Lacy tree philodendrons, also commonly known as lacy leaf philodendron, are a large upright vine native to the rainforests of Brazil. It requires space to grow them indoors, since they tend to spread wide. They grow to a height of approximately three feet, but its width can be nearly twice its height.

In addition to being easy to care for, the philodendron plant can help purify the air.

Philodendron Plant Overview

There are about 400 species of philodendron, a member of the family araceae. Philodendrons fall into two basic categories: vining and non-trailing (also called self-heading). Vines are a perfect choice for a hanging basket or climbing a trellis, while upright types such as lacy tree philodendrons can make a dramatic statement in any space. They are beautiful and exotic plants, and can reach astounding heights in their native environments.

As a tropical plant, philodendron is particularly effective at helping the clean the air we breathe. To take advantage of its air purification qualities for a healthier home environment, place philodendron plants in every 100 square feet of living space and let it do what it does naturally.

Philodendron are sometimes confused with pothos plants, but you can tell the difference by the leaves. They are similar in shape, but pothos leaves usually are variegated with yellow or white splotches.

Types of Philodendron

The philodendron family is a big one, including many species and cultivars in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Here are a few of the most popular:

Lacy Tree Philodendron

P. bipinnatifidum is also known as split leaf philodendron. It is actually an upright vine, but with a four inch diameter trunk and long, rope-like roots, you can see where it gets its name. The enormous half-lobed leaves are its main attraction. They blossom in their natural habitat, but this rarely occurs indoors.

Heartleaf Philodendron

P. scandens is a popular climber with dark green, heart-shaped leaves that are typically two to four inches long. Its long stems can grow to four feet. It is also known as the sweetheart plant. It can tolerate very low light, and is known as one of the most dependable and toughest of all houseplants. It will thrive for years with little care.

Red-Leaf Philodendron

P. erubescens is a sturdy climber that grows vigorously, up to 20 feet. It has 10 to 16 inch dark green arrow-shaped leaves that are red to copper on the underside. The stems are reddish-purple while young. Red-leaf philodendron likes medium light and several cultivars are selected for their color.

Philodendron Plant Care Tips

Philodendron care is simple, as the plant can readily adapt to any indoor environment. It can thrive indoors year round, and grows well in a west or southeast window.

Light: Philodendrons grow best in medium light and bright indirect sunlight. Older leaves turn yellow naturally. However, if you notice several yellow leaves at once, it could be an indicator that the plant is getting too much sun. They will tolerate low light, but if the stems become leggy with several inches between the leaves, you may need to move the plant to a brighter location.

Water: Water when the top inch of soil dries out. Take care not to overwater, since philodendron will rot if kept soggy. If the leaves are brown and falling off, the plant is likely not getting enough water. Droopy leaves can mean the plant is getting either too much or not enough water, but they should revive once you correct the issue.

Temperatures: The ideal temperature for a philodendron is between 65 – 78°F during the day, and around 60°F at night.

Toxicity: Philodendron should not be consumed by animals or humans. Lacy tree philodendrons are toxic to cats and dogs. Being educated on poisonous plants can help you avoid any accidents all the while enjoying your greenery.

Pests and Problems: Philodendron are not prone to insects, but you may encounter aphids and mealybugs. You can wipe off mealybugs with cotton balls dipped in rubbing alcohol. Periodically showering the plant with water and applying insecticidal soap will help keep pests at bay.

Other tips: Philodendron are tropical plants, so higher humidity will promote lush growth and shiny foliage. It will tolerate lower humidity levels, but misting the plant regularly will help it thrive. Brown leaf tips usually indicate that the humidity level is too low.

You’ll also want to keep dust off the leaves by washing them regularly with a soft, damp cloth. Otherwise, the pores will become clogged.

Rotate your lacy tree philodendron regularly to maintain an even shape, and consider carefully repotting your plant every few years to prevent it from bursting a pot that is too small.

If you aren’t sure you have a green thumb or if you know you have a brown one, the readily adaptable philodendron might be right up your alley. Warmth, light, and moisture are the keys to success with philodendron. In return for their care, they will help improve your indoor air quality and grace your home or office with a jungle-like beauty.

Why is my philodendron getting these brown dry parts on its leaves?

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Plant Health April 2019

2019 Update: Bacterial Leaf Spots and Blight
By A.R. Chase

Figure 1. Pseudomonas leaf spot on mandevilla showing marginal necrosis.

The last time I reviewed bacterial disease control on ornamentals for GPN was in 2012, and a lot has happened in the ensuing years. There are new methods for identification, new diseases and several new effective bactericides, both conventional and biological in nature. This review will focus on foliar diseases that are caused by Acidovorax, Pseudomonas and Xanthomonas. Acidovorax species were primarily named Pseudomonas in the past and accounted for some of those that were classified as non-fluorescent Pseudomonads.

SYMPTOMS AND HOST RANGE

Leaf spots and foliar blights are the most common symptoms of diseases caused by Acidovorax, Pseudomonas and Xanthomonas. Small, water-soaked areas form initially on leaf edges, at stomates and at wounds occasionally. On some crops these spots are scattered all across the leaf, while on others they can be confined to leaf margins (Figure 1) or between leaf veins (Figure 2). If you find angular spots that form between leaf veins the chances that they are caused by bacteria are high.

Figure 2. Xanthomonas leaf spot on strelitzia showing intervienal striping.

Bacterial diseases are common in propagation of unrooted cuttings due to the addition of mist to facilitate rooting. Plants that grow better under dry conditions are especially stressed in propagation and become routinely infected with bacteria. Many similar symptoms can be caused by Pseudomonas and Xanthomonas on plants during propagation (Figure 3). Some propagators use Remay cloth to maintain high humidity with minimal water on the leaves.

Figure 3. Xanthomonas on lavender cuttings.

Acidovorax and Pseudomonas are found in cool to hot climates depending on the exact species. When I worked in Florida, I saw three different bacteria causing leaf spots on hibiscus. Pseudomonas syringae occurred in the winter, Pseudomonas cichorii in the spring and fall and Xanthomonas was prevalent in the summer. The spots were very similar looking, but the bacteria causing them changed with the season. Since returning to the West Coast, I have only seen the Pseudomonas syringae in hibiscus from the West Coast hibiscus.

Generally speaking, Xanthomonas diseases are more often found in warm to hot climates. Xanthomonas diseases are often confined to a single genus or plant family. Xanthomonas on geranium is relatively specific to geranium while the Xanthomonas on dieffenbachia can attack anthurium, philodendron and really most members of the Aroid family. The Xanthomonas from zinnia is known to attack zinnia only. They used to be called pathogens of X. campestris but with the renaming frenzy, keeping up with what they are called now is challenging.

Pseudomonas diseases can be caused by a broad-host range species like P. cichorii, which attacks many tropicals, vegetables and other ornamentals. In the case of P. syringae pathovars, they can be broad-spectrum or narrow. Acidovorax species are somewhat specific on ornamentals often causing disease on a single genus.

DIAGNOSIS

Bacterial diseases remain the hardest to identify since fungi can be recognized by spores and selective media and viruses can be identified through antibody and related methods. Different labs utilize different methods to identify bacterial pathogens. Some use symptoms and research reports and other use bacterial steaming under a microscope and growth on bacterial media. Still others have access to sophisticated genetic fingerprinting technology. The most important thing to know is whether a foliar symptom is caused by bacterial pathogens or fungal pathogen or both. Table 1 shows the most common characteristics for phytotoxicity or fungal spots compared to those caused by bacteria.

The only reason you would want to know which bacterium is involved is to make sure it is the cause of the symptom and then to consider all possible hosts in a spray program. Otherwise control strategies will be nearly identical for one bacterial disease or another.

One last point on bacterial diagnosis: just because you get a lab report that says a specific bacterium is the cause of your problem, it does not prove it is the cause. If it is a common disease then you are set. However, if it is new, ask for feedback from an expert from the university Extension service whenever possible.

CULTURAL CONTROLS

Generally, using cultural controls is not as effective for bacterial leaf spot diseases as for some other diseases like Botrytis blight and downy mildew. This is mainly due to the fact that the most important cultural control for foliar bacterial diseases is elimination of overhead watering and exposure to rainfall. Eliminating water on leaves will completely stop foliar bacteria from infecting. Since exposure to winter, spring or summer rainfall (depending on where you are in the U.S.) and use of overhead irrigation is so common in many operations this cultural control is rarely practical.

If you are producing crops from seed, you need to know that pathogenic bacteria like Xanthomonas (and also fungi like Alternaria) can be present in very, very low numbers. Zinnia is the best example of this and treating the seed with bleach has been very effective for over 30 years. The same is true for Xanthomonas diseases on stock (Matthiola), cabbage and other crucifers. Vegetable seeds like tomato and pepper also share at least one species of Xanthomonas and their seed is often pre-treated/cleaned to remove the pathogen from the outside of the seed. This type of treatment has not been routinely done for ornamental disease more or less due to the high value of the seed and the very small size of our industry.

RECENT DISEASE OUTBREAKS

Figure 4. Acidovorax leaf stripe on canna.

In 2017, an outbreak of bacterial leaf stripe on canna was found in several nurseries in Florida (canna ‘Cannova Rose’ and ‘Cannova Bronze Scarlet’) and Texas (mixed colors of Cannova). Symptoms included dark-brown or black spots with a yellow halo that coalesced into necrotic stripes along leaf veins, especially on immature leaves (Figure 4). Acidovorax avenae subsp. avenae was identified as the cause of this new disease. Oregon State University reported the same pathogen on canna ‘South Pacific Scarlet’ from Washington State (2014). Leaf stripe was also recently reported causing leaf stripe on Strelitzia nicolai in Florida.

Begonias were first reported infected with Xanthomonas axonopodis pv. begonia (current name) in 1928 in Denmark. By 1938 it was well established in Europe and in 1939 the disease was reported in the United States. Since that time, Xanthomonas leaf spot and blight on begonias has been reported from nearly every region with occasional outbreaks. Despite some local folklore, all begonias (including Rex) are susceptible to this disease (Figure 5).

Figure 5. Xanthomonas on Rex begonia.

In late 2017 and early 2018, an outbreak of Xanthomonas blight on begonia occurred. Since little work (if any) has been reported on this disease since the late 1980s, we started trials comparing bactericides for safety and efficacy on begonias infected with Xanthomonas. The crops we used were: Begonia boliviensis ‘Bonfire Orange’, Begonia semperflorens-cultorum ‘Prelude Scarlet’, and Begonia tuber-hybrida ‘Nonstop Red’. Treatments were applied three times on a weekly interval and plants were inoculated after the first treatment. The treatments included:

Although the begonia species responded somewhat differently to the bactericides, it was clear that none of the products were 100 percent safe. The most sensitive species appeared to be the wax begonia but differences between the species were not significant. Overall, the 6-ounce rate of KleenGrow was somewhat safer than the three coppers but really none were safe enough for these begonia species to recommend their use. Disease severity was greatest on the ‘Bonfire Orange’ and least on the ‘Prelude Scarlet’. The best control across all begonia species in this trial was seen with the Phyton 27 and Camelot O.

BACTERICIDE TRIALS

Over 20 trials (mainly from Florida, California and Arizona) have been reported since 2012 on a variety of ornamentals for control of Pseudomonas or Xanthomonas (Table 2).

The copper products (FRAC M01) were overall effective for both Pseudomonas and Xanthomonas with a range of none to excellent control depending on plant and exact product used. Of this group, Camelot O and Kalmor are OMRI listed.

The plant extracts EcoSwing and Regalia are also OMRI listed and although tested in fewer trials during the 2012-2018 period, their results were significant in about 50 percent of the trials.

Bacillus-based products are classified as FRAC 44 and include Cease, Stargus and Triathlon BA. These products are not identical, as they have unique strains and showed a range from some to good control.

ZeroTol is not classified by FRAC and showed none to very good results in the six trials I located. Similarly, KleenGrow is not classified and in this case has shown none to excellent control in seven trials.

A bactericide rotation should be based on seven to 14-day intervals depending on growth rate of the crop and disease pressure. Bacterial leaf spots are very fast to develop due in part to the very short life cycle results in a population explosion in a few days. If you are growing an organic crop, you can use most of the products listed above.

CONCLUSIONS

Follow these steps to minimize losses from bacterial leaf spot diseases on ornamentals.

• Use only healthy cuttings, seedlings or liners.

• Do not overhead irrigate highly susceptible crops if possible, or irrigate when leaves will dry rapidly.

• Space plants to improve air circulation/drying time as well as bactericide coverage.

• Discard badly infected plants.

Get a lab diagnosis for diseases you do not easily recognize. Confusion between fungal and bacterial leaf spots is very easy and common. So are mixed infections with both types of pathogens. Rotate bactericides between different FRAC groups to limit possibility of resistance. Bacteria multiply very rapidly and are very prone to developing resistance to many products including copper and streptomycin sulfate.

Spray no more often than once a week. Spraying twice a week will be counter-productive and spraying more = MORE disease.

Follow product labels! The label is still the law.

A.R. Chase is plant pathologist at Chase Agricultural Consulting LLC and can be reached at

A.R. Chase

A.R. Chase is plant pathologist at Chase Agricultural Consulting LLC and can be reached at

Leaf Spot on Philodendron

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Philodendrons have long been considered one of the easiest to grow – hardest to kill houseplants. But even these robust beauties can suffer from too much love and attention.

Don’t be embarrassed if you’ve killed this supposedly indestructible plant – many gardeners have. The most common complaints are yellow leaves with brown spots.

Leaf spot diseases are usually the culprit and improper watering the cause.

Take a close look at the container and your watering regimen. Make sure the pot has holes in the bottom for drainage. No matter how good a gardener, it is impossible to provide exactly the right amount of moisture every time you water.

Move your plant to a container with drainage holes if needed. For best results water this and most houseplants thoroughly whenever the top couple inches of soil feels like a damp sponge. Pour off any excess water that collects in the saucer. Plants sitting in water are more subject to root rot and leaf spot diseases.

A bit more information: Reduce your work load and improve your plants’ growing environment by placing stones or marbles in the saucer. The excess water can collect in the saucer while the marbles elevate the pot and plant roots above the water. As the water evaporates it increases the humidity around the plant where it is needed.

Philodendron

Philodendrons are among the most common and easy-to-grow houseplants. Many tolerate low light and neglect. If well treated, they will be beautiful and dependable for many years.

The cut-leaf philodendron (Philodendron bipinnatifidum) has deep cut leaves with no holes.
Barbara H. Smith, HGIC, Clemson Extension

Height/Spread

The vining types can be limited in height by the height of their support and by training and pruning. The self-heading types eventually can become very large and should be given ample space.

Ornamental Features

This diverse group of plants ranges from vines with 3-inch heart shaped green leaves to vines with leaves 3 feet long. Some types have glossy solid green leaves, others have velvet textured patterned leaves, while some have deep red leaves and stems.

While the most common types of philodendrons are vining, some are self-heading. Self headers send out leaves from a heavy clump of growth at their base. These often have dramatically large leaves in a variety of shapes.

Culture

Most philodendrons prefer indirect or curtain-filtered sunlight but will tolerate low light. The common heartleaf philodendron (Philodendron scandens) will tolerate very low light. Night temperatures of 65 to 70 °F and day temperatures of 75 to 85 °F are ideal.

Water frequently enough to keep the soil evenly moist, but not soggy. Never let the plants stand in water. High humidity is ideal for best growth, but philodendrons tolerate the low level of humidity in most homes. For more information, please see HGIC 1459, Indoor Plants – Watering.

Fertilize philodendrons regularly with a dilute water-soluble houseplant fertilizer, or use a time-release fertilizer.

You can repot overcrowded plants at any season, using a general-purpose potting soil. Plants may be propagated at any season from stem cuttings, or by air layering. Some philodendrons will produce offsets. For more information, please see HGIC 1450, Indoor Plants – Cleaning, Fertilizing, Containers & Light Requirements.

Problems

In the home, plant diseases are very rarely a problem. Too much or too little water plus insects and mites are the main problems. Root rot usually results from a soil mix that does not drain quickly or overly frequent watering.

Yellowing of lower leaves and the death of the growing tips can be caused by too little light or overwatering. Too much fertilizer can cause tips of leaves to curl and brown. The long leaf stalks of self-heading types are brittle. Locate these plants out of traffic paths to avoid damage.

While philodendrons are generally pest-free, aphids, mealybugs, scales and spider mites can infest them. For more information, please see HGIC 2252, Common Houseplant Insects & Related Pests.

All parts of philodendrons are toxic if eaten. They contain calcium oxalate crystals that will cause burning and irritation of the mouth, lips and tongue, along with excessive drooling, vomiting and difficulty swallowing. Keep philodendrons away from any pets or young children that may eat plants.

Species & Cultivars

The ‘Xanadu’ philodendron (Philodendron bipinnatifidum ‘Xanadu’) is a low grower that matures at a height of three feet.
Barbara H. Smith, HGIC, Clemson Extension

The ‘Dwarf Selloum’ philodendron (Philodendron bipinnatifidum ‘Dwarf Selloum’) is more compact, but can still get six feet tall and wide.
Barbara H. Smith, HGIC, Clemson Extension

The common heartleaf philodendron (Philodendron scandens f. oxycadrium) grows well in low light conditions.
Barbara H. Smith, HGIC, Clemson Extension

The ‘Burgundy’ red-leaf philodendron (Philodendron erubescens) has beautiful new reddish leaves.
Barbara H. Smith, HGIC, Clemson Extension

Fiddle Leaf Philodendron (Philodendron panduriforme): This philodendron is a climber with 12- to 18-inch, fiddle-shaped, leathery leaves that are olive green. It is slow growing and durable.

  • Blue Fiddleleaf is a variety with small waxy blue gray leaves that are closely spaced.
  • ‘Splash Gordon’ has leaves variegated with splashes of cream.

Tree Philodendron (Philodendron bipinnatifidum): Tree philodendrons have a self-heading growth habit. The large, dark green leaves have deep irregular slits and can grow up to 3 feet long on a robust, erect stem. This can grow to be a very large plant and will be too large for most homes. Tree philodendrons grow best with medium to bright light near an east, west or south window.

  • ‘Dwarf Selloum’ has glossy green and deeply lobed leaves. It can get six feet tall and six feet wide.
  • ‘Xanadu’ is a dense low growing variety that has deeply dissected lobes. It is low growing with a height of three feet tall and five feet wide.

Heartleaf Philodendron (Philodendron scandens): This well-known philodendron has 2- to 4-inch dark green, heart-shaped leaves. Heartleaf philodendron is commonly grown in hanging baskets, dish gardens and as groundcover in larger planters. It may also be trained upwards on bark-or moss-covered boards or totem poles.

This plant is quite tolerant of low light conditions. It will grow well under artificial or existing room light, or near a north, east or west window. Heartleaf philodendrons grow well in warm temperatures of 70 to 85 °F during the day and 65 to 75 °F at night. These are very easy and adaptable plants.

There are two common variants (botanically called forms) of heartleaf philodendron. They may occasionally be listed as separate species.

Common Heartleaf Philodendron or Parlor Ivy (Philodendron scandens f. oxycardium): This form has glossy, green leaves that are bronzed when young.

  • ‘Aureum’ has very showy chartreuse leaves on a sturdy plant.
  • ‘Variegatum’ has gray, green and cream streaked leaves. It shows more variegation in a cool, shaded environment.

Velvet Philodendron (Philodendron scandens f. micans): This philodendron has velvet-textured heart-shaped leaves that are usually bronze with reddish brown undersides.

  • ‘Miduhoi’ is sometimes known as “Jumbo Velvet Hearts”. It is larger than the species with broad coppery leaves.
  • ‘Silver Sheen’ has silvery green leaves.

Elephant’s Ear Philodendron (Philodendron domesticum): The narrow, arrow-shaped leaves of this climber are 18 to 24 inches long with wavy margins.

  • ‘Calkin’s Gold’ is a large-growing hybrid with golden-toned foliage striped green.

Birdsnest Philodendron (Philodendron imbe): This climber, with long, aerial roots and red stems, has 14 inch arrow-shaped leaves that are red on the underside.

Red-leaf Philodendron (Philodendron erubescens): This sturdy climber has 10- to 16-inch, dark green leaves that are red to copper on the underside. The stems are reddish-purple while young. There are several cultivars selected for their color.

  • ‘Black Cardinal’ is a self-heading philodendron, with large, 8- to 10-inch long leaves. New foliage emerges bright burgundy-red and ages to nearly black.
  • ‘Burgundy’ has reddish leaves, burgundy veins and red stems. The 8- to 12-inch leaves glisten as though polished.
  • ‘Red Empress’ is the only philodendron available that has a colored and lobed leaf. The deeply lobed leaves on this self-heading cultivar are reddish.
  • ‘Prince of Orange’ has bright orange new leaves and is a compact grower. It needs high light to maintain the color and growth.

The ‘Prince of Orange’ philodendron has bright orange new leaves and is a good choice for a compact growing plant.
Barbara H. Smith, HGIC, Clemson Extension

Velour Philodendron (Philodendron melanochrysum): Striking heart-shaped, velvety leaves grow up to 3 feet long. They are blackish green with pale green veins. This is a climbing philodendron. As with most philodendrons, its leaves will not reach full size unless the plant is trained vertically for several years. Several hybrids with other species have produced very decorative leaf patterns.

Related Plants: Pothos & Monsteras

There are several closely related plants that are often confused with philodendrons, mainly pothos and monsteras. These and the philodendrons are all in the arum plant family (Araceae).

All parts of monsteras and pothos also contain calcium oxalate crystals, and are toxic to pets and children.

Pothos (Epipremnum aureum): One of the most common differences between common heartleaf philodendrons and pothos is that the petioles (leaf stems) of pothos are grooved and those of philodendrons are not. Also, when new foliage emerges, each leaf of a philodendron will have a leaf sheath that protects the new leaf. Eventually, this sheath will dry up and fall off. New foliage of pothos will not develop a leaf sheath.

Pothos have glossy leaves that are folded along the midrib. They are also marked with fine dots or streaks of gold, white or yellow variegations. They need brighter light and warmer temperatures than philodendrons.

Pothos are commonly grown as hanging baskets, container plants, and also trained to grow upright on totems.

Split Leaf Philodendron (Monstera deliciosa): Monsteras are often called split leaf philodendrons, but they are not true philodendrons, though closely related. The leaves are small and round when they first emerge, but develop holes and deep cuts in the leaves, whereas philodendrons will have deeply cut leaves with no holes.

They are also known as Swiss cheese plants. Monsteras can be grown like a tree philodendron. They will not develop the interesting perforations in their leaves if the light level is too low.

Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) are commonly grown up totem posts, which gives the plant’s aerial roots a place to attach and for support.
Photo by Barbara H. Smith, HGIC, Clemson Extension

Swiss cheese plant (Monstera species) will develop interesting holes and deep cuts in the leaves when grown in proper light conditions.
Photo by Barbara H. Smith, HGIC, Clemson Extension

Garden Q&A: Split leaf philodendrons don’t need much care

Can you tell me how to take care of a split leaf philodendron?

The split leaf philodendron (Monstera deliciosa) is known for its tropical oversize leaves with what appears to be cuts within them. It is also known as the Swiss cheese plant.

I have found the split leaf philodendron to be a low- maintenance houseplant. The one thing to watch with this house plant is that, due to its oversize foliage and the ability to grow in large proportions, you may need to stake the stems.

The split leaf philodendron prefers medium lighting, so it is best to keep this plant located within 5 to 8 feet of a window. However, be careful when choosing the location, because once you have placed it somewhere, it does not like to be moved. It has an attitude of its own, because if you then move it to another location it may drop its leaves in revolt to your moving it. Also, if the light level is too low, the leaves will not develop their unique perforations.

It requires moderate watering. Water once every seven to 10 days. Most do not seem to mind being dry once in a while either. Water thoroughly, keeping the soil evenly moist.

If the lower leaves begin yellowing, you may not be giving the plant enough light or you’re over watering it. While the split leafed philodendron is generally pest-free, aphids, mealy bugs, scales and spider mites can infest it. If this occurs, simply spray the plant with an insecticidal soap solution.

On a special note, this houseplant is one of the many poisonous houseplants found in people’s homes. Please be extra careful so that your pets or children do not eat the plant.

The split leaf is sometimes planted outside in this area, but suffers cold damage in freezes.

What can you tell me about a new gardening technique called “side planting”?

Normally when people use a coco liner basket, they place some potting mix in the liner, put plants in the liner and then fill the liner with more potting mix.

With side planting, the coco liner has several holes cut in the side of the liner around the circumference. The liner is then filled with potting soil up to the bottom of the holes. Plants are then placed in the holes, with the roots on the inside and the flowers and/or leaves on the outside. More soil is placed in the container and plants placed in the top of the liner.

With this technique, the arrangement is more appealing to the eye because the liner is almost completely hidden with a variety of plants.

You can purchase coco liners with the holes already in them, or simply buy a liner and put the holes in yourself. The coco liners are available as hanging baskets, half-round baskets for placing on a wall, windowsill containers and patio stands.

I did a search on the Internet and discovered that Pamela Crawford has done a lot of work on this subject. She has written several books dealing with container gardening for Florida, including side planting.

There is some excellent information at www.sideplanting.com. At that site there are several short videos on side planting techniques, along with a host of information on the subject including planting, fertilizing, trimming, container care and watering techniques.

Side planting is a new and interesting alternative to normal hanging baskets that we are used to seeing.

Tom Bruton is a master gardener with the Duval County Extension Service and the University of Florida/IFAS.

Monstera deliciosa

  • Attributes: Genus: Monstera Species: deliciosa Family: Araceae Life Cycle: Woody Recommended Propagation Strategy: Layering Stem Cutting Country Or Region Of Origin: Mexico to Panama Edibility: Only ripe fruits are edible and are used to flavor drinks and ice cream or are eaten fresh. Some people are allergic
  • Whole Plant Traits: Plant Type: Edible Houseplant Poisonous Leaf Characteristics: Broadleaf Evergreen Habit/Form: Climbing Growth Rate: Rapid Maintenance: Medium Texture: Coarse
  • Cultural Conditions: Light: Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours) Soil Texture: High Organic Matter Soil Drainage: Good Drainage Usda Plant Hardiness Zone: 10a, 10b, 11a, 11b, 12a, 12b
  • Fruit: Fruit Color: Cream/Tan White Fruit Value To Gardener: Edible Fruit Type: Aggregate Berry Fruit Description: This plant produces an aggregate of creamy-white berries. These berries are edible and taste like a mixture of banana and pineapple. Rarely produces fruit as a houseplant.
  • Flowers: Flower Color: Green White Flower Inflorescence: Spike Flower Value To Gardener: Long-lasting Flower Description: The inflorescence is a spadix and spathe. Spathes are large, creamy-white, and up to 1′ in size. The spadix is shorter than the spathe at 10″ long and an inch thick. Rarely flowers as a house plant.
  • Leaves: Leaf Characteristics: Broadleaf Evergreen Leaf Color: Green Leaf Feel: Glossy Leaf Value To Gardener: Showy Leaf Type: Simple Leaf Arrangement: Alternate Leaf Shape: Ovate Pinnatifid Leaf Margin: Lobed Hairs Present: No Leaf Length: > 6 inches Leaf Width: > 6 inches Leaf Description: Leaves are gigantic, up to 1 foot or more, dark green, glossy, long petiolate, coriaceous, perforated with several holes throughout the blade, some extending to margin and splitting margin to appear deeply lobed to pinnatifid.
  • Stem: Stem Color: Green Stem Is Aromatic: No Stem Description: Stems are thick, long, and leafy.
  • Landscape: Landscape Location: Houseplants Design Feature: Specimen Problems: Contact Dermatitis Poisonous to Humans
  • Poisonous to Humans: Poison Severity: Low Poison Symptoms: Intense burning of mouth, tongue, and throat; nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea may also occur; contact with cell sap may cause skin irritation. Only if eaten in large quantities. Poison Toxic Principle: Needle-like calcium oxalate crystals; possibly other unidentified toxins Causes Contact Dermatitis: Yes Poison Part: Bark Flowers Fruits Leaves Roots Seeds Stems

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