How to Grow, Plant, and Care For Philodendron Brandtianum
Thinking of adding a philodendron brandtianum to your houseplant collection but want to know what to expect before you do? These unique philodendrons are also known as the silver leaf philodendron, and have become quite popular as houseplants. In this article, gardening expert Madison Moulton walks through how to plant, grow, and care for Philodendron Brandtianum.
Philodendron brandtianum, the Silver Leaf Philodendron, is a pretty plant that is also very easy to grow with the correct care guide. This versatile plant is a climber with support and a cascading plant without, making it a useful contributor to any interior design.
The leaf colors, a combination of silver and green in a mottled pattern, make it different from the usual green Philodendron varieties and one which is always admired as a standout. Because of its easy care and maintenance needs, this plant has become quite popular over the last several years.
If you live in a warm area or can replicate a warm humid environment indoors, this plant is ideal and will make a welcome addition to any houseplant collection. Let’s take a deeper look at how to plant, grow, and care for Philodendron Brandtianum!
Plant Type Houseplant
Species Philodendron brandtianum
Native Area Colombia, Brazil and Bolivia
Exposure Bright indirect light
Height 4-5 feet
Pests & Diseases Mealybug, Spider Mites, Leaf Spot
Soil Type Well-draining, fertile
What Is It?
There is a famous saying that in warm climates, Philodendrons are the easiest plants to grow and the hardest to kill. This makes them sought-after plants for any household. Some of the more popular varieties include the Philodendron Pink Princess, The Philodendron Birkin, and the Philodendron Rio.
There are over 400 species to choose from in a variety of shapes, colors, forms and sizes – a plant for every corner of the room. What makes Philodendron brandtianum special is its silver and green foliage, hence the common name Silver Leaf Philodendron. It is also known as Brandi Philodendron.
Philodendrons are the second largest genus under the family Araceae. Many of these are houseplants. The name Philodendron comes from the Greek philo for love or affection and dendron for tree.
Philodendrons were collected in the wild from as early as 1644 by German naturist and astronomer Georg Marcgrave. More significant was the contribution to the collection of the species by French botanist Charles Plumier. His name may be familiar, as the Frangipani genus Plumeria is named after him.
Appointed as the royal botanist to King Louis XIV of France in 1693, he became one of the most important botanists of the time. His explorations from 1689 to 1704 gave us plants like Fuchsias and he collected a few Philodendron species from the islands of Martinique, Hispaniola, and St. Thomas in the West Indies.
More species were collected by Dutch botanist Nikolaus Joseph von Jacquin between 1755 and 1759 in the West Indies and Central America. These species were first added to the genus Arum and only later in 1829 were they classified as Philodendrons.
When it comes specifically to Philodendron brandtianum credit goes to Kurt Krause (1883 – 1963), a German botanist who named the plant in 1913. His claim to fame was writing five books on the flora of Turkey, but he still had time to find many other plants from around the world.
Philodendrons are found in the tropical Americas and the West Indies and come from a variety of habitats.
Philodendron brandtianum comes from the northern regions of South America – Southern Colombia, Northern Brazil, and Bolivia. They are found in tropical forests where they climb and make their home under the canopy of trees.
Before we get into how to care for this popular houseplant, let’s take a look at the botanical characteristics. It’s important to understand this plant’s native environment, as it will typically perform the best when that habitat is mirrored to the best of your ability.
The Philodendron brandtianum can grow in multiple forms including as an epiphyte, a hemiepiphyte, or terrestrial plant.
In their natural environment, some Philodendrons choose to grow as epiphytes to make use of the light, misty areas of the upper story of the rainforest.
On the ground, the competition for nutrients, water, and air is tough, but higher up there are pockets of nutrients to be found in the branches of trees that climbing plants like Philodendron brandtianum can take advantage of, as well as the extra light and moisture.
Grown as an epiphyte, Philodendron brandtianum needs some sort of support like a tree or trellis to grow up, and clean air and water around it to gather nutrients.
Epiphytic Philodendrons sow their seed in the upper story of the forest. These little seedlings grow as epiphytes and then once they reach a certain size, they send aerial roots downwards that eventually touch the ground where they can then take up nutrients, air and water from the forest floor. These are the hemiepiphyte Philodendrons.
Terrestrial philodendrons grown in soil are the most common ones we use as houseplants. It is easier to get nutrients and water to a plants’ cells by adding these to the soil.
Each of these ways to grow the plants will have an effect on growth. Some will cause the plant to grow slower and can even produce different markings on the leaves. Sunlight, temperature, and soil type also have an effect on the final color and form of the plant.
As they grow, Philodendrons develop patterns at a cellular level that allow the leaves to change their appearance. This ability can change the leaves of Philodendron brandtianum from shades of orange to the blends of olive green and silver.
The leaves are also different sizes depending on environmental and growing conditions. The average leaf is 4-7 inches and when mature, the plants can grow up to 12 inches long.
This plant grows to around 4-5 feet indoors. Outdoors and in ideal conditions, they can get much bigger.
Philodendron brandtianum is a plant with multiple uses in a design. Plant in a hanging basket or a pot to tumble over the sides, or train it up a support like a moss pole. It can also be added to a terrarium for a contrasting color with other green-leaved plants.
These plants can also be grown outdoors under trees in dappled shade. They do well in USDA Zones 9-11 outdoors. Outside these zones, it’s best to grow indoors where heat and humidity can be controlled.
How to Grow
When it comes to growing Philodendron brandtianum, there are many different factors to consider. This plant needs the proper amount of light, water, fertilizer, and the right soil for it to reach its maximum growth potential. Let’s look at each of these important factors in greater detail.
As with most houseplants, Philodendron brandtianum needs bright indirect sunlight. It will grow in lower lighting conditions, but won’t perform as well. Intense direct sunlight will burn and damage the leaves, inviting bacteria and pests to attack.
If the leaves start to yellow, it may be a sign that the plant needs more light. Try a south or west-facing window with filtered sunlight.
To grow outdoors, the plants must be sheltered from direct sunlight for most of the day. Dappled shade under trees is ideal.
In its natural environment, Philodendron brandtianum receives a well-balanced supply of moisture. A constant steady water supply is essential for these plants to thrive. However, it’s vital to wait for the top 2-3 inches of soil to dry out before watering again to prevent waterlogging.
In the heat of summer, the plants need watering about 2-3 times a week. In winter, however, watering can be reduced to about once a week on average. Keep an eye on what works best in your own indoor environment and adjust as necessary.
Water deeply and make sure the water fully drains out the bottom of the container before placing in its normal spot. As with all epiphytes, it’s sensitive to overwatering and needs excellent drainage.
Contrary to its wish for lots of water, this plant can handle a missed watering quite well due to its tough nature. However, if your plant has drooping leaves or the leaves start curling inwards, it’s a sure sign that it needs more water.
As the leaves are sensitive, avoid getting them wet while watering. This can encourage the proliferation of pests and diseases.
To improve drainage in your potting soil, add materials like perlite to potting soil. This not only improves the drainage but increases the airflow in the soil, delivering oxygen to the roots. Also, make sure your chosen container has drainage holes in the bottom so water can drain freely.
Amend two parts potting soil with one part perlite and one part coconut coir to increase moisture retention. Alternatively, look for a specialized houseplant soil mix at your local nursery or online.
Temperature and Humidity
Lovers of heat, these tropical plants prefer temperatures of between 65 and 90F. Philodendron brandtianum is frost sensitive and will not cope well with frosty conditions. When growing outdoors in containers, make sure you bring it indoors before the temperature drops below 60F to avoid damage.
Indoors, keep the plants away from radiators, air conditioners, and open doors to avoid drafts. All these will dry out the plants and restrict their growth.
Humidity levels of 60% or higher are ideal, but anything above 50% is suitable.
To improve humidity for these plants, many try misting it occasionally. However, due to the leaf sensitivity, this can invite pests and fungi to breed.
Instead, place pots on trays of pebbles filled with water to improve humidity around the plant, or invest in a humidifier.
While not heavy feeders, you can fertilize once a month with liquid plant food in the growing season of spring and summer. Reduce fertilization in fall and winter.
Avoid overfeeding by reading the instructions on the packaging and applying fertilizer at half strength.
There are several factors of plant maintenance to be well versed in, especially when it comes to more rare versions of houseplants. Providing proper maintenance and care will extend the lifespan of this popular houseplant. Let’s take a look at everything you need to know when it comes to pruning, and plant support for this philodendron.
This plant doesn’t require pruning often, but it’s important to remove any dead or dying leaves and stems often. It can also be kept neat and compact through annual pruning.
Don’t remove too much of the plant at one time to prevent shock.
As a climber, this plant can be trained up a support for quicker growth. For Philodendron brandtianum, the best thing to use is moss poles rather than a trellis or metal framework. You can buy these poles at a garden center, or make one yourself.
A moss pole mimics the plant’s natural climbing environment through the porous surface that is easy for a plant’s roots to grab onto. The medium also contains micronutrients that improve overall growth.
When propagating this plant, you have several options. You can propagate from cuttings, or you can perform air-layering. Once your plant starts to grow, you’ll want to consider repotting into a larger pot so it has enough room to expand. Let’s take a deeper look.
Propagating From Cuttings
The easiest way to propagate Philodendron brandtianum is in water. In fact, the plants can grow in water permanently with some additional fertilizer.
Start by taking stem cuttings of the plant in spring or summer. Using a sharp pair of clean sterilized scissors or secateurs, cut a 6-inch-long piece of stem from a healthy plant.
Cut off the lower leaves, leaving 2-3 leaves at the top of the cutting. Fill a glass or bottle with filtered water, leaving an inch of space at the top.
Cover the top with plastic wrap. Make a hole in the plastic and pop in the cutting, keeping any leaves out of the water. You can add as many cuttings as needed to the glass to grow at the same time. Replace the water every week or so and leave it in a bright warm spot.
In about three weeks, the cuttings will start to form roots. Once the roots are an inch or two long, remove from the water and plant in a container to continue growing.
Although more technical, you can also try air-layering to propagate these plants. In this method, the stem is wrapped in a growing medium to encourage root growth before being removed from the plant. This increases your chances of success and limits stress for the plant.
On a stem, make a vertical cut about an inch below a node. Use a small handful of damp coconut coir and wrap it around the cut part of the stem. Keep it in place by wrapping it up tightly with plastic wrap and securing with tape or an elastic band.
Keep an eye on the cuttings and add more water if the soil dries out. In 3-4 weeks, the roots will be strong enough to cut off the section of stem and plant in a new pot.
Philodendron brandtianum generally requires repotting every 2-3 years into fresh soil with replenished nutrients. You may need to repot sooner if you notice roots growing from the drainage holes or if growth becomes stunted.
Make sure your pot is clean before you start. The new container should have enough drainage holes to prevent root rot after repotting.
Fill the container halfway with soil. Then, remove the plant from its old pot and gently tease out the roots at the bottom. Place in the new pot and fill in with the soil mix. Press down firmly and water thoroughly.
As with all houseplants, you’ll encounter a few common problems. The typical offenders are easy to avoid, and that includes underwatering, overwatering, and light levels. There are also a few basic diseases including leaf spot, and pests like mealybugs. Let’s take a deeper look at the problems you may encounter.
As mentioned, Philodendron brandtianum likes a lot of water. Keep the soil a little damp rather than too dry.
If the leaves start browning, it’s a sign that the plant is not getting enough water. Change your watering routine to resolve the problem.
If your leaves have brown tips, the humidity may be too low. Check using a humidity meter and adjust until it is above 50% around the plant.
Yellow leaves typically indicate a problem with overwatering. This can be caused by several issues:
- Watering too soon when the soil has not dried out enough.
- Lack of drainage in the soil, or compacted soil.
- Lack of drainage holes in the pot.
- Leaving the pot sitting in water in a pot cover or tray.
Identify the most likely issue and resolve the problem. In cases of root rot, trim the affected roots and repot into fresh soil.
Incorrect Light Levels
Too much direct sun will burn the leaves of your Philodendron brandtianum and can turn them yellow or brown. On the other hand, too little light will compromise growth, also potentially turning the leaves yellow.
Move the plant to a spot with bright indirect light and it should slowly return to normal.
If the leaves curl on the ends before turning brown, your plant could be suffering from overfertilization. The extra fertilizer needs to be leached out before the plant recovers.
Run water through the soil several times to remove the excess fertilizer. If too much slow-release fertilizer was used, you will need to repot the plant into fresh soil, removing as much of the soil from the roots before repotting to resolve the problem.
Brown, yellow, or black spots on the leaves are a sign of leaf spot. It is usually caused by too much water on the leaves or crowding with a lack of air circulation.
When water is left on the leaves, bacterial or fungal growth is possible, leaving spots on the leaves. To prevent this problem, don’t water the leaves of the plant and focus on the soil.
Irregular watering could also cause a problem. Make sure the pots are properly drained and that the bottom of the pot does not sit in water.
Cut off all the damaged leaves and stems to encourage new and healthy growth. If the plant is dense, cut back some of the growth to improve airflow between the leaves.
These little pests will eat into leaf cells, especially on new leaf growth and the plant will eventually die. Have a look at the underside of leaves for the tell-tale signs of spider mite infestation: webs.
You can use an insecticidal soap or neem oil to control them after giving the plant a good wash with a spray of water to get rid of most of the debris.
For larger infestations, move the plants outdoors and treat with a commercial insecticide.
Mealybugs can be identified by the fuzzy white powder they carry around while sucking the life out of a plant. They can also cause the plant to wilt and the leaves to yellow. They thrive in warm areas, so look out for them in summer.
Like spider mites, they can be controlled with neem oil or insecticidal soap. You can also use rubbing alcohol to spot treat any visible bugs that may hatch after that. Keep an eye on the plant until it is bug-free.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Philodendron brandtianum toxic?
These plants contain a compound called calcium oxalate. The crystals can cause numbing and sores in the mouth when ingested and are the most common cause of kidney stones in humans. There is a large amount in this plant, so it’s necessary to keep away from children and pets.
Does Philodendron brandtianum grow quickly?
Philodendron brandtianum is generally a fast grower. However, there are factors that will slow down its growth, such as insufficient fertilizer or water. Follow the care tips to keep yours luscious and fast-growing.
Why do Philodendron leaves turn brown?
There are many reasons for brown leaves in these plants, but the most common is underwatering and lack of humidity.
Is Philodendron brandtianum rare?
In the past, this plant was rare and sought-after, difficult to find. However, its popularity has made it more readily available. You can now find it at many nurseries and online.
Philodendron brandtianum is the ideal houseplant. It isn’t terribly fussy, makes wonderful and versatile décor, and the combination of the olive green and silver markings on the leaves are stunning indoors and out. If you are looking for something bright to pair it with, try adding it on a shelf next to a Philodendron Brasil. With so many benefits, it’s well worth investing in this plant.