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Philodendrons that won't grow

Gardening Reference » Gardening in 2004
by Ronni on May 15, 2004 02:16 PM
As mentioned in a previous topic, I have two philodendrons that just will not grow. They seem healthy, but I don't honestly think they've grown at all in 4 years!

I inherited them, they were in tiny little pots and rootbound. I repotted them, and have been taking care of them since then, but no growth. They each had two or three trailing vine thingies, about a foot long, which haven't gotten any longer. Some of the leaves have dropped off, so now I have vines that have leaves around its base near the soil, and more leaves close to its end, and nothing in between!

And there's been a little growth, I guess, around the soil, a couple new shoots. But the plants are just sparse looking. The didn't look very full when I repotted them, but there were roots growing out of the holes in the bottom of the pot. Since they've been repotted in bigger pots, they look even MORE sparse.

A friend has a huge philodendron and she gave me a bunch of cuttings. I put them in water to root, and once they did, I planted several in one pot to make a new plant, and planted the rest in the couple of pots of my existing plants, to fill them out some. That was about three weeks ago. The cuttings haven't died, but it doesn't look like they've grown any either.

What am I doing wrong?


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by Chrissy on May 15, 2004 02:57 PM
Some cuttings take longer too root than others. Just depends on the plant & the conditions it is growing under. I have had lots of success with rooting hormone powders & gels, you might want to try that on your cuttings. I have a couple of things I have been trying to root for 2 months or more...I was about to give up when I noticed new growth & roots on one of them just the other day. As far as the philos not seeming to grow, a master gardener once told me they resent being repotted & that I might actually kill mine if I were to try & repot it. I did manage to repot mine without any problems, but I guess some of them just hate it.

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by Will Creed on May 15, 2004 07:49 PM
Philodendrons are much less hearty than Pothos, which have a very similar look and growth habit. Philos with very thin, wiry stems are particularly fragile, slow growing, and difficult to root. The best Philos have thick stems because they have grown in very bright indirect light.

Sparse Philos get that way because they don't get enough light to fluorish, because they are improperly watered, or because they are overpotted - or all three. Having a few roots wandering out of the drainage holes does not mean the plant is potbound. I suspect that the repotting has aggravated the problem. Increased light is probably what it needed and perhaps drier soil.
by Ronni on May 16, 2004 03:07 PM
Oh dear! I think I'm confusing pothos with philos!

Will, when I was given these plants, the lady referred to them as philodendrons and I've never thought to question her. But when you made the comparison between pothos and philos, a light went on! I looked at the tag on a houseplant I puchased a couple weeks ago, and it says it's philodendron. It looks similar to the plants I was given, but its stems are much thinner, similar leaf shape but darker.

In doing a little research, I'm beginning to believe the plants I'm having trouble with are pothos, which I understand are members of the philodendron family. They look somewhat like philos, but their leaves are lighter in color, with considerably thicker stems.

As to them being potbound, when the lady lifted them out of the decorative ceramic pot they were in, the roots were growing out of all three drainage holes of the little plastic pots, curling around the bottom, and snaking up the sides. I cut the plastic container away carefully and it seemed like there was NO soil left around those roots, they were so crammed together. seems I have pothos rather than philos. Given that, does your advice remain the same?


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by Will Creed on May 17, 2004 01:04 AM
Hi Ronnie,

Pothos and Philodendron are very commonly confused. Both are members of the Aroid family and their requirements are pretty much the same. Pothos are a bit hardier and grow larger and faster than Philos.

Pothos thrive when potbound, so I am still concerned that the repotting may be contributing to the problem. Did you loosen the roots before you moved it into the new pot? Did you use a pot that was only one inch larger? Did you use a peat-based soilless potting mix? If you answered "no" to any of these questions, then the repotting is at least part of the problem.

It is a bit unusual for vines to have leaves close to the pot, then have none in the middle section, and then more leaves at the ends. A photo would help me here. But if that is the case, I suggest that you cut off the vines at the beginning of the bare sections. New growth will then emerge just below where you make the cut.
by Ronni on May 17, 2004 01:40 PM

Thanks SO much for the additional info. To answer your questions:

Yes, I did loosen the roots. No, I did not use a pot that was only an inch larger, I used a much bigger pot. In my ignorance, I thought that given how badly the roots were crammed into that little plastic pot, they'd need lots of room to expand, PLUS additional room to grow more. So I chose a pot considerably larger than the original. Peat based, soilless potting mix? Will, I don't even know what that IS! I used Miracle Gro potting mix, purchased from Home Depot by the bag.

So, obviously what I did (or didn't do) has contributed to the problem. The question now becomes what do I DO about that? Should I repot, keeping to the guidelines you've covered? Or just leave it alone?

Also, you said: "It is a bit unusual for vines to have leaves close to the pot, then have none in the middle section, and then more leaves at the ends. A photo would help me here. But if that is the case, I suggest that you cut off the vines at the beginning of the bare sections. New growth will then emerge just below where you make the cut."

I'm sorry I can't supply a photo. The plant certainly looks weird with its couple of trailing vines displaying leaves at the top and bottom, but bare in the middle! I'll cut off the vines the way you suggested. Can I take those end pieces and put them in water and will they root? I'd guess I'd have to trim them somewhat, there'll be about 6 inches of bare vine before the sparse display of leaves at its end.

Thanks again Will.


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by Will Creed on May 18, 2004 04:05 AM
Hi Ronnie,

If you used a much larger pot, then you definitely should downsize to the smallest pot that the original rootball can fit into. Don't worry about cramping the roots. Do worry about adding too much soil and keeping the roots moist for too long.

I am not familiar with the Miracle-Gro soil (no HD near me). If you can find Pro-Mix I can recommend that.

Yes, the cuttings can be rooted in water.
by Ronni on May 18, 2004 01:21 PM
Will, thank you so much for sticking with this topic to answer all my questions.

I'll repot this coming weekend, and hope that over time those philos will start growing and become fuller.

I DO know they are a very forgiving plant. In the 4 years that I've had them, they've on occasion suffered neglect and rough treatment, yet they've maintained. (Like the time one of my cats repeatedly knocked the dang plant off the chest I'd temporarily moved it to, thinking that more light might make it grow!) Given the kind of TLC they SHOULD be getting, hopefully they'll thrive.


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