How Often and How Much to Water Philodendrons

How to water philodendrons

Two of my first houseplants were philodendrons; one was a heart leaf variety, and the other was a split leaf variety.

I was recommended them by a houseplant guru because of their ease of care. Being my first houseplants, I did my research and took extra diligent care of them to ensure they survived!

Along the way, I gained a lot of first-hand experience with watering and learned how factors such as type of pot, time of year, and even type of philodendron affected how much and how often they needed to be watered.

In this article, I’ll share with you all my tips and secrets for watering philodendrons so you can avoid root rot from overwatering and stunted growth from underwatering with a clear, step-by-step guide so that you’ll know exactly what to do!

To sum it all up, I would say…

Water philodendrons with a generous soak once weekly during active Spring and Summer growth. Mist the philodendrons leaves with water 2 times per week as philodendrons prefer higher humidity. Water philodendrons once every 10 days or so in Winter.

Keep reading to learn how to tell if your philodendron is underwatered or overwatered and for all the best watering practices (and why you should avoid using moisture meters)…

My Guide for How Often to Water Philodendron Plants

To understand how we should water philodendrons, we need to appreciate how they grow in the wild, so we can replicate their preferred conditions in our homes…

Philodendrons are native to tropical climates, where they grow in forests with well-draining, porous yet moist soils with relatively high humidity and frequent rainfall.

As our philodendrons are so well adapted to relatively high humidity and frequent rainfall, they require the soil to be evenly moist and can suffer if the soil dries out. The first signs of stress that you’ll see are drooping leaves that then turn brown at the margins.

However, they can also suffer from problems associated with over watering if the soil is boggy rather then moist and does not drain effectively. (I’ve had this problem!)

To grow philodendrons successfully in our homes, we need to emulate the conditions of their native habitat by watering often.

I water my philodendron with a generous soak so that water trickles from the drainage holes in the base, then allow the top inch to dry out slightly before watering again. I also mist the leaves with water 1 or 2 times per week to create a humid microclimate that mimics their native habitat.

Typically, I find the top inch of my potting soil dries out every 7 days or so, which is nice and easy for me to remember. But I must caution that exactly how often you should water philodendron can depend on your climate and the growing conditions in your home. It is for this reason I don’t take the 7 day watering schedule for granted. Factors such as:

  • The humidity and temperature of your particular climate
  • This size of the philodendron pot (smaller pots can dry much quicker than larger pots)
  • Whether the philodendron is subject to fluctuating temperatures from air conditioning or sources of heat.
  • The capacity of the soil to retain moisture.
  • The type of pot your philodendron is in.

Fortunatley, I have developed a method of watering my philodendrons that works regardless of the conditions…

Pro tip: To establish how often to water your philodendron in your climate, I would feel the top inch of the soil with your finger to detect the level of soil moisture. If the soil is still moist then I delay watering. When the top inch of the soil feels slightly dry, this is the perfect time to water your philodendron with a good soak.

This method has served me well with both my philodendrons.

Interestingly, the split leaf pholdenondron’s soil dries out quickly. I consulted with an expert, and they said this is common due to the split leaf’s faster growth rate than the heart leaf philodendrons. Therefore, I usually water my split leaf philodendron every 6 days and my heart leaf philodendron every 7-8 days. I, of course, found this out from feeling the soil.

Once you know how long it takes for the top inch of the philodendron’s potting soil to feel slightly dry, you can establish a watering schedule to suit the philodendrons’ watering requirements in your home.

How I Discovered Potting Material Affects Watering

So, I have several split-leaf philodendrons (because I propagate them all the time!), and I had so many that I had to use different pots.

I had 2 in plastic pots, one in a clay pot, and one in a terracotta pot. I naively watered all the plants at the same time, assuming that they would all need the same water as each philodendron was at a similar level of maturity. However I discovered my philodendrons in my clay and terracotta pots drooping unexpectedly.

Of course, from first hand experience, I now know that clay and terracotta are porous, so the potting soil drie out quickly!

Fortunately, philodendrons cope much better with soil that is slightly too dry rather than too damp. All I had to do was feel the soil and adjust my watering, and my philodendrons perked up.

From this inadvertent experiment, I concluded that if you have problems with overwatering your houseplants, then using clay or terracotta pots as their breathable structure is a great way to mitigate root rot!

How Often to Mist Your Philodendrons…

Okay, so we know how often to water our philodendrons, but what about the humidity? After all they grow in the tropics!

I used to live in Southern California where the air is quite dry, and I needed to use air conditioning in the Summer which dried out the air even more!

I found misting the philodendron twice a week kept my plants perky. But in the dry Summer, they needed something more, and I found 3 methods that worked:

  1. Misting the leaves more often.
  2. Use a humidifier.
  3. Place your philodendron in your bathroom (for the natural humidity).

I experimented with all three methods, and I found they all worked well at counteracting the dry air in my house. However, I found misting more often inconvenient, and my bathroom was already full of plants!

I actually use a humidifier now myself, but usually only when I need to use the air con or indoor heating. This works best as I can just leave it to create a humid micro climate around my plants and get on with my day!

I tested another method that I have seen online, which is to place your plant pot on a tray of water, keeping the pot above the waterline by propping it on pebbles that are in the tray. The constant evaporation is acts as a source of humidity.

This method did not work as well, in my opinion, and my philodendron started to droop a bit. My other philodendrons that were near the humidifier were looking good.

How to Tell If You’re Not Watering Philodendron Often Enough

As our houseplant philodendrons are actually tropical plants that live in evenly moist soil, they are more susceptible to the effects of underwatering than overwatering. (although they can still suffer overwatering).

If you are not watering philodendrons often enough, the leaves can turn brown and droop downwards. Low humidity causes the leaf margins to turn brown which I’ve found can extend to the entire leaf if it is in a draughty area or the current of air conditioning.

If this happens to your philodendron is crying out to you to increase how often you water the plant and to mist it more regularly.

From experience, my philodendrons often recover from a bout of underwatering very well as long as you give the soil a good soak and ensure it stays evenly moist for the next few days.

After 2 or 3 cycles of watering, my philodendrons always show good signs of recovery.

How to Tell if You Are Watering Philodendrons Too Often

If your philodendron leaves are turning yellow and drooping, this is because there is too much water around the root ball, which can be caused by:

  • Overwatering.
  • Slow-draining soils.
  • Pots or containers without drainage holes in their base.
  • Because of the use of saucers, trays, and decorative outer pots.

More often, the problem is not necessarily just overwatering but because of water pooling around the roots because it cannot escape out the bottom of the pot.

Too much water excludes oxygen from the soil which prevents root respiration and interferes with the root’s ability to function, so that it cannot uptake water and nutrients properly which is why the philodendron leaves turn yellow and droop.

(For more on how to revive your philodendron, read my article Why is my philodendron dying?)

How Often to Water Philodendron in Winter

I observed with my first houseplant philodendrons that the rate at which the plant grows in Winter can slow significantly due to fewer hours of light and lower light intensity.

This decreases the philodendron’s demand for moisture, so we need to water our plants less often in Winter. However, the soil should not dry out completely.

Exactly how often you water philodendrons in winter can depend on the climate, as some climates require sources of heat such as forced air and radiators, which can dry out the soil quickly.

I have lived in hot climates and cold climates and to be honest I’ve found that I typically find that watering once every 10 days is optimal as it meets the watering requirements of the philodendron without risking root rot.

We must keep in mind the advice I gave earlier, which is as long as the top two inches of the soil feel slightly dry, then give the soil a good soak, and the philodendron should thrive.

You may also have to mist your philodendron (or use a humidifier) slightly more often in Winter, as the air in our homes can be very dry in the colder months.

How Much to Water Philodendrons?

While the frequency of watering your philodendron can vary according to various factors, the amount of water you should use remains the same.

Always water philodendrons with a good soak so that excess water trickles from the base of the pot.

This ensures that the water has infiltrated the soil properly so that it is evenly moist and the roots can uptake the water that the philodendron requires.

I say this so that you avoid the common mistake of watering too lightly.

Pro tip: A good soak every time you water also encourages good root development

If you water the philodendron’s potting soil too lightly, then only the top inch or so becomes moist, and the water does not reach the roots further in the soil, which causes the leaves to droop and turn brown as a sign of drought stress.

Well Draining Soil is Crucial When Watering Philodendrons

I learned early on that watering philodendrons properly should be done in conjunction with growing the plants in the right potting mix to avoid root rot.

Philodendrons grow in moist yet porous and well-draining soil in their native environment, and they do not tolerate compacted soil or soil without an aerated structure, as this prevents the roots from functioning properly.

I once made the mistake of compacting the soil around my philodendron roots too firmly. This pushed the air out of the soil, and it stayed damp for so long it actually developed root rot.

I experimented with several different types of potting medium and found that around 3 parts of ordinary potting soil to 1 part perlite worked very well. The perlite increases the soil drainage and increases the pore size of the soil so that it remains porous and aerated so that the roots can function properly.

The perlite promotes drainage so that the soil is moist around the root ball rather than boggy to prevent problems associated with over-watering.

This soil structure effectively emulates the soil profile of the philodendron’s native environment.

With the right potting mix, I found it much easier to maintain the perfect moisture balance for philodendrons and prevent any effects of overwatering to keep your plant healthy.

Water Philodendrons in Pots With Good Drainage

As we discussed earlier, whilst philodendrons require evenly moist soil, they do not tolerate their roots being in saturated soil, so we need to plant our philodendrons in pots or containers with drainage holes in the base to allow excess water to escape.

We need to water with a generous soak so that water visibly trickles from the base of your pot. It is also the best way to ensure that your philodendron is sufficiently watering and that the soil is evenly moist.

If your philodendron is planted in pots without drainage holes, water pools around the root ball and the plant leaves turn yellow and the plant eventually dies back due to root rot.

Water can still pool around the roots of your potted philodendron if:

  • The drainage holes become blocked with roots or compacted soil. If you notice that the soil is draining slowly, then it is worth checking to see whether you should clear the hole in the base to allow water to escape properly.
  • Saucers and trays underneath the pot. Saucers and trays underneath your pot can prevent water from spilling in your home, but you should empty the saucer or tray regularly to prevent water from collecting and keep the soil too damp for your philodendron.
  • Decorative outer pots. Philodendrons are often sold in a plastic pot but presented in a decorative outer pot that is without drainage holes in the bottom. The outer pot causes water to pool around the root ball, so always empty the outer pot regularly after watering, or plant your philodendron in a pot with drainage holes in the base.

Avoid this Mistake!

I used a water meter to monitor the soil moisture of one of my philodendrons, but I do not recommend it! This is because I found it was not precise enough. Sometimes, I would use the water meter, and it would say my soil was damp when it was clearly drying out, which resulted in drooping leaves.

Therefore, through this trial and error, I would always advise that you use your finger to detect moisture in the top inch of the soil’s moisture, as it is far more precise!

If you have any more questions, please leave a comment below! I love to hear from you!

Key Takeaways:

  • Water philodendrons are used once a week during active growth in the spring and summer. Mist the philodendron leaves twice weekly to increase humidity. Water philodendrons once every 10 days during the Winter months.
  • Always water philodendrons generously so that excess water trickles from the base of the pot, ensuring that the soil is evenly moist.
  • Plant philodendrons in 3 parts potting soil to 1 part perlite to improve drainage and soil structure. This helps to emulate the soil conditions in the philodendron plant’s native habitat.
  • Underwatered philodendron leaves droop and turn brown as a sign of stress. Too much moisture around the rootball causes the leaves to turn yellow and droop. Ensure the potting soil is evenly moist for the philodendron to stay healthy.

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