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The Philodendrons genus is part of the aroid (Araceae) family. It is native to tropical forests’ low-light, high-humid understory, primarily in Central and South America.
Philodendrons prefer to stay evenly moist but not wet, so they need well-draining soil to retain some moisture. Sand drains but dries too quickly, and clay soils don’t drain. The solution lies somewhere in the middle, balancing organic and inert material.
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General Philodendron Care
Philodendrons should only be watered when the top of the soil is dry. Avoid letting plants sit in moist soil or water trays.
When plants are actively growing in the spring and summer, feed them sparingly (once or twice a month) using a balanced all-purpose fertilizer.
Although they thrive in high humidity, philodendrons may withstand low indoor humidity, significantly in the winter when humidity dips.
Grow in containers big enough to create some ballast, heavy enough and sufficiently broad not to topple as the plant grows.
A good soil mix is essential in managing soil humidity and aeration, as are open drainage holes.
Philodendrons thrive in slightly pot-bound conditions since the soil dries out between waterings more quickly.
Repot the plants if roots start growing out of the draining holes – a clear sign that they are severely root-bound.
The common weak spot for all aroids is their aversion to wet feet. Overwatering kills more houseplants than any other cause.
Philodendron Watering 101 – Start with the Soil
Healthy soil offers a favorable environment for the growth of plant roots. An excellent growing environment includes access to nutrients, air, moisture, and symbiotic connections with microbes.
Effective soil depends on a balance between moisture and air availability. Other aspects of soil health include:
- Nutrient management – an ability to store and release essential plant nutrients
- The most undervalued attribute – a hospitable environment for soil microorganisms
- Plant requirements for acidic or alkaline soil (pH requirements)
- Plant anchorage – ensuring the media isn’t so light that the plant cannot remain reasonably erect as it grows.
Provided water should move through the soil quickly and flow to the bottom of the pot, where it builds up somewhat before draining via the drainage holes.
The amount of water retained in the soil is the weight difference between the added and drained amounts.
Aroids like Philodendrons need soil that offers good drainage and supports the soil’s plant feeding function.
Proper drainage prevents root rotting as well as other bacterial and fungal problems. Root-bound plants will become stunted or develop chlorosis, but repotting refreshes nutrient availability.
How to Prevent Overwatering Philodendron
Healthy soils can trap air even when flooded, which is called saturation porosity. It’s like taking a breath before diving into a pool. If that diver isn’t allowed to surface to take a fresh breath, he’ll panic.
Regardless of your soil’s saturation porosity, if water is added before the soil has had a chance to dry, that porosity is lost. Thorough watering of DRY SOIL followed by draining is required for saturation porosity.
When soil is flooded and drained, the ground should remain wet – how wet the soil remains is knowns as the soil’s field capacity.
The balance between saturation porosity and field capacity ensures happy plants.
The soil’s ability to store air (take a breath) is compromised if we don’t allow it to dry between the saturation stages.
That’s what overwatering does, but allowing the soil to dry before the subsequent flooding prevents it.
One can use the following methods to choose when to water:
- Touch the soil: The most accurate test for soil moisture is to feel how dry the potting soil feels. If the mixture is dry at your fingertip after inserting your finger up to the second digit, it needs water. Check at least to a depth of a third of the pot.
- Tap the pot: When potting mix in a clay pot starts to dry up, it shrinks away from the pot’s sides. Use a stick or your knuckles to tap the pot’s side. Water is required if the sound is hollow; if the sound is dull, the soil is moist.
- Estimate weight: It’s easy to see a weight reduction as potting mixtures dry up.
Water deeply when the soil is dry. Fill the pot, ensuring the entire contents are saturated before draining it completely.
This process ensures that the roots in the bottom two-thirds of the pot receive enough water and removes accumulated salts.
Don’t let the pot sit in the accumulated water; empty the tray after a couple of minutes (not hours).
Generally, a composition of 50 percent inert aggregate and 50 percent organic material is a good starting point for Philodendron potting soils. Healthy soil and avoiding overwatering your Philodendron are keys to a healthy plant.
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