How to Plant, Grow and Care For Philodendron Gigas
If you've decided that a philodendron gigas is the next houseplant on your list, you've come to the right place! This lesser known philodendron is seeing an increase in popularity due to it's beautiful foliage, and ease of care. In this article, gardening expert and houseplant enthusiast Madison Moulton looks at all aspects of the philodendron gigas, including maintenance and care.
Once you’ve grown one type of Philodendron, it’s almost impossible not to want more. They are incredibly easy to grow, great for beginners, and display wonderful variety in shape, size and color between the species. Once you’ve added all the common philodendron species to your collection, you can start looking for rarer types to fill your home. One of these to search for is Philodendron Gigas.
This species was recently discovered and became an instant hit in the houseplant community. It displays deep green velvet-like leaves on thick vines that grow to impressive heights, even when planted indoors.
If you want to find out more about this fascinating plant or how you can take care of one you’ve recently purchased, you’re in the right place. Ready to learn more? Let’s dig in!
Philodendron Gigas Plant Overview
Plant Type Houseplant
Species Philodendron gigas
Native Area Tropical forests
Exposure Bright indirect light
Height 65+ feet, ceiling height indoors
Watering Requirements Moderate
Pests & Diseases Scale, spider mites, mealybug
Soil Type Airy and well-draining
Hardiness Zone USDA 9b to 12
About The Philodendron Gigas
Philodendron Gigas is a sought-after Philodendron variety gaining major popularity in the houseplant world. It’s famed among collectors for its rarity, only discovered a mere 25 years ago in the forests of Panama. Luckily, thanks to high demand, it is being grown and propagated far more, making it more accessible and affordable – although still difficult to find.
There are many reasons people are love this type of philodendron. For starters, the leaves are large and stunning. They emerge a coppery green, slowly developing a deeper green shade as the leaves mature. This variety also has a velvety texture that makes the foliage look like a soft, almost-black fabric.
They aren’t only impressive in looks, but also in size. These climbers are one of the largest of the Philodendron genus, reaching well over 50 feet in length in their native habitats.
The leaves are also massive in their native habitats, growing to as long as four feet in the right conditions. They can also produce flowers like other members of the Araceae family, although you are unlikely to see these pop up when growing indoors.
Although their rarity may suggest this plant is tricky to manage, it’s actually just as easy to grow as any other member of the Philodendron genus. They are not high maintenance, grow quickly, and can even reach the height of your ceiling within a few years with the right support and care.
If you want your plant to grow to its full potential, it’s best to grow outdoors. Giving it the space to climb up a nearby tree in the right conditions will see the leaves reach impressive heights and lengths, becoming an eye-catching garden feature.
Unfortunately, as tropical plants that can’t handle cold weather, there are only a few places where this plant can grow outdoors. They should survive in any USDA Zones from 9 and above, as long as their other conditions like high humidity and sunlight protection are met. If you live outside those zones, you’ll have to stick to growing as a houseplant.
Unless you’ve gathered cuttings from a friend, your Philodendron Gigas will likely come happy in a pot with the right soil mix and a touch of fertilizer. You won’t need to do any planting or repotting unless you want to change the container to a more decorative one.
If that is the case, it’s best to wait a couple of weeks for the plant to acclimatize to its new conditions before you remove it from its pot. Houseplants don’t appreciate sudden changes and need time to adjust to prevent stress. If you replant as soon as you bring it home, you’re only making that stress worse and ultimately extending the recovery time.
After a few weeks, as long as there is no wilting or yellowing in your plant, you can move it to a new container. Make sure you match the soil mix closely and avoid disturbing the roots where possible to limit chances of transplant shock. Follow the instructions below to provide the ideal soil mix and conditions after planting.
How to Grow
Philodendron Gigas is just as easy to care for as other Philodendron species. They are not at all fussy or difficult to care for, making them great for beginners. However, if you want them to grow to their full potential with massive velvet leaves, the right conditions are essential.
Sunlight is one of the most important components of houseplant growth. Without it, photosynthesis cannot occur, preventing growth and leading to the ultimate demise of your plant. But the presence of sunlight is not the only thing that matters – the amount of it counts too.
The best way to maximize growth and keep the plant happy is by replicating the light they receive in their native habitats. In the tropical forests of Panama, they grow under trees, receiving plenty of dappled shade by climbing trees to grow above the forest floor below.
When growing indoors, the closest we can get to their natural light level is bright indirect light. This is found close to bright windows – like east, south or west facing windows – but out of the path of the direct sun. Because they are able to adapt to different lighting conditions, they can also handle lower light quite well.
The ideal window is east facing as the plant will be protected from direct sun for most of the day. You can also filter brighter light with a shear curtain to provide the best conditions for growth. Avoid any direct sunlight to protect the sensitive leaves or excessively low light if you want strong growth.
What happens when light levels are too low?
While they can adapt to lower light levels, it’s not recommended to leave them in low light for long periods. This will lead to a lack of new growth, small and diminished growth and stretching between the leaves that lessens the overall appeal of the plant.
Evaporation is also much slower in low-light areas, increasing your chances of waterlogging in the soil. This leads to root rot, wilting and discoloration in the leaves. Root rot is difficult to fix once it sets in, so its better to move the plant to a brighter area and increase drainage.
What happens when light levels are too high?
Excess sunlight can also be damaging to your plants, and potentially more so than low light levels. The deep green leaves are not used to high light levels and can quickly burn if exposed for even a few hours.
Burnt leaves will develop brown and crispy patches that won’t return to normal if conditions improve. These spots will appear on the sides of the plant closest to the light source. The edges may also begin to curl slightly to conserve moisture and the whole plant may wilt due to lack of moisture if the levels aren’t changed.
As long as you have enough drainage in the pot and soil, watering is something you will not often have to worry about. These plants are not difficult to keep happy, as long as you follow a few guidelines.
You should aim to water as soon as the top inch or two of soil dries out, depending on the size of the plant. The larger the plant and pot, the longer you can wait before watering again.
To make sure you water at the right time, it’s best to test the soil with your finger every couple of days. This ensures you can water right when the plant needs it. When watering on a set schedule, you may miss changes in environmental conditions that impact the levels of moisture in the soil, leading to overwatering and underwatering.
As these plants are not fussy, a missed watering or slight overwatering once or twice won’t do much damage. They have the ability to recover quickly without long-term impacts. However, prolonged overwatering or underwatering will result in many issues, including:
- Yellowing leaves
- Brown leaf edges
- Root rot
In cases of underwatering, moistening the soil should help the plant return to normal. If the soil has become excessively dry and compacted, water from the bottom until it is completely saturated. When your plant has been overwatered, leaving the soil to dry out before watering again may help. If not, immediate repotting and pruning is on the cards.
As a climbing aroid, soil is a very important component of plant health. These plants love the moisture of their rainforest environments but also need plenty of oxygen around their roots. Well-draining and light soil that holds onto just enough moisture to keep the leaves satisfied.
Depending on the age of your plant and where you purchased it from, the existing soil should be enough to keep your Philodendron going for quite a while. But when it comes time to repot, choosing the right soil mix will be key to continued growth.
These needs cannot be met by any old potting soil or garden soil. Gigas requires a specialized soil mix preferably designed for aroids but at the very least, designed for houseplants. These mixes do retain moisture but are also light enough to drain sufficiently, allowing oxygen to flow.
Aroid potting mixes are available to purchase online or at your local nursery. If you can’t find any in your area, find a houseplant potting mix containing perlite and bark for added drainage.
To go the extra mile, you can also make your own soil mix. Start with high-quality potting soil and add a few handfuls of perlite, coconut coir or peat moss, and orchid bark. Test the drainage levels of the mixture before you pot up to make sure excess water drains freely but doesn’t dry out too quickly.
Philodendrons come from tropical regions of the world and need temperature and humidity that closely matches their native conditions. That means warmth is key, keeping indoor temperatures around 75F year-round.
Never let the temperatures around the plant drop below 60F for long periods. Cold weather leads to stunted growth that may have a long-term affect if not resolved. Temperatures of 50F and below may cause instant damage so never leave the plant in front of an open window or outdoors in winter in any USDA Zones below 9.
Excessive heat can also have a negative impact, but not as much as the cold. If the temperatures rise well above 90F, make sure to keep the plant well-watered and move it to a cooler area for a while if it starts to wilt.
Humidity is also one of the key factors in keeping the leaves of this plant looking lush. In their native habitats, Philodendrons receive around 75% humidity year-round, increasing to over 90% during the rainy season. While your humidity doesn’t need to be that high to keep these plants happy, the air can’t be too dry inside your home either.
Aim for between 50% and 60% humidity throughout the year. If your humidity is far below that goal, you’ll need to consider raising it using these tricks:
- Choosing the right room. Place the plant in a high-humidity room like a bathroom, as long as the other environmental conditions still match up.
- Using a pebble tray. Place the plant on a tray filled with pebbles and water, keeping the water line below the pot. Avoid this method if your air is extremely dry as it only makes a slight improvement.
- Buying a humidifier. This is the most reliable way to improve humidity, but can be a costly investment.
Philodendron Gigas is classified a quick grower, especially when placed in the right environmental conditions. To fuel this expansive growth, they absorb plenty of nutrients during the growing season, quickly depleting the available supply in the containers they came in.
Regular fertilizing replaces these lost nutrients that the plant won’t be able to find anywhere else, maintaining strong growth and delivering the largest leaves and longest vines possible. Without it, growth will slow and the plant will ultimately stop growing.
Fertilize regularly during the growing season. A balanced houseplant fertilizer containing secondary and micronutrients too will provide the perfect all-around care. You can also choose a fertilizer slightly higher in nitrogen to boost strong leaf and stem growth.
Overfertilizing is a real risk, leading to discoloration and wilting that the plant can take a while to recover from. Start off with a low-concentration fertilizer and apply according to the instructions on the packaging. If you do accidentally use too much, flush the soil with filtered water to get rid of the excess salts and avoid fertilizing again for several months.
This houseplant can grow quite tall and may require some kind of support for the vines. Whether you use a trellis, a nearby structure in your home, or even better – a moss pole – you’ll notice the plant grows much quicker and much happier with something to climb.
As the leaves are large and glossy, they tend to attract dust when placed inside your home. Dust on leaves limits the absorption of sunlight, slowing photosynthesis, and also doesn’t look very appealing.
Grab a damp cloth and wipe down the leaves every couple of months. Not only will they look better, but they’ll also grow better too.
If you want to control growth or prevent leggy growth, pruning may also be on the cards. While not a requirement, effective pruning can make the plant more manageable, allowing you to provide the perfect care.
Pruning can also be important for health in cases of pests and diseases, or simply damaged leaves that are drawing energy away from the essential functions in the plant.
Other than that, there is very little maintenance required for these carefree plants.
Adding to their long list of benefits, this plant is also very easy to propagate. Stem cuttings root quickly in water to produce more thick vines that rapidly grow into full, mature plants. To propagate from stem cuttings, follow these easy steps:
- Clean your shears or a sharp knife before you start.
- This prevents the spread of harmful bacteria and disease.
- Identify a section of stem with healthy growth and at least two leaves.
- You can propagate a cutting with one leaf.
- It will root much better with at least two.
- Remove the cutting just below the set of leaves.
- Make sure you don’t damage the node.
- Root the cutting in a glass of shallow filtered water.
- Choose a narrow glass that allows the large leaves to hang out the sides.
- If any leaves hang in the water, they will begin to rot.
- Wait until root growth is visible and an inch or two long.
- Transplant the cutting into a pot filled with aroid mix.
In the right conditions, these large plants expand rapidly, requiring repotting quite often. For young plants, you’ll likely need to repot annually or potentially sooner depending on the size of the current pot. Older and more established plants can last slightly longer.
Look out for signs your plant is struggling for space to determine when to repot. You may notice a lack of new growth, roots growing through the drainage holes, and sudden wilting without changing your existing care routine.
To repot, start by choosing a pot around two sizes up. This will provide enough space for the plant to expand, but not so much that the surrounding soil remains empty and retains too much moisture. The size of the pot should also provide balance to the plant for growth and aesthetics. If your plant is large and the pot much smaller, choose a heavier material like ceramic to stop the pot from falling over.
Remove the plant from its current pot by squeezing the sides or running a knife around the edge. Tease the roots gently to allow them to expand outwards into the new soil. Fill the container with the right potting mix and replant until the soil line matches where it was previously.
Water well after repotting and move the plant back to its original spot to limit transplant shock.
As they are so easy to care for, few encounter problems when growing these plants. However, if you do run into some trouble, look out for these issues to rectify as soon as possible:
New leaves that are slightly yellow or orange are completely normal and will turn green over time. Sudden yellowing is usually a sign of overwatering, caused by a lack of drainage or watering too soon.
Potentially caused by underwatering or lack of humidity. Brown patches close to a light source indicate the plant is receiving too much direct sunlight.
Spots on Leaves
Philodendron Gigas is susceptible to a few common indoor pests like spider mites, mealybug and scale. When irregular spots appear, check the leaves for signs of pests and remove as soon as possible to prevent any further damage.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Philodendron Gigas rare?
Only recently discovered in 1997, Philodendron Gigas is quite rare when compared to other members of the genus. Thanks to its popularity, it is becoming far more widespread, but it is still classified a rare species that may be difficult to find in your local nursery. Contact specialized growers in your area or look online for sales from reputable growers.
How fast does they grow?
Philodendron Gigas is considered a quick grower, especially when placed in the right conditions. Within a few years, it can even reach the height of your ceiling with the right support.
What is the difference between Philodendron Gigas And Melanochrysum?
Although these plants are quite similar, there are some small differences that allow you to tell them apart. Leaf shape is one, with Melanochrysum having more heart-shaped leaves compared to the ovals of Gigas. Melanochrysum also has more orange in the leaves when compared to Gigas which lean toward lighter green in the early stages of growth.
Are they low-maintenance?
Like other members of the Philodendron genus, this plant is very easy to care for and gives owners little trouble, despite their rarity.
Now that you know how to take care of your Philodendron Gigas, all there is left to do it enjoy watching it grow. These plants are quite popular, so finding one shouldn’t be difficult. They are available from online retailers and you can often find them at local houseplant stores that specialize in tropical plants.