How to Propagate Philodendron | 3 Easy Methods

Philodendrons are tropical herbaceous plant species that grow quickly and vigorously, up to 10 cm per week! These prolific growers will easily take over any part of the house, so using their stems for the propagation of new plants is a great way to tame this wild species.

Philodendron species are some of the easiest houseplants to grow and propagate. But when you are ready to start turning those long trailing stems into new plants, there are a few tricks that I found to help you successfully root your new plants. 

The following guide gives you everything you need to know about propagating philodendrons including the different methods used, equipment needed, and solutions to problems that could arise. 

Methods of Propagating Philodendron

There are several different methods of philodendron propagation, all of which need a healthy, non-diseased mother plant to start propagation. 

Never use a stressed or infected plant for propagation because the issues will just transfer to the new cuttings. 

Methods of Propagating Philodendron Species

1. Propagating a Stem Cutting in Water

Propagating a philodendron stem cutting in water has the highest rate of successful root growth and can be done without any additional rooting supplements. 

All you need to do is cut stems that are trailing from the mother plant and then place them in a fresh glass of water until they begin growing small fibrous roots, usually within 1 to 2 weeks. Always keep enough water in the container to cover the roots.

Check out steps 2 and 3 in my How to Propagate section below for details of where you should cut the stem to ensure successful rooting of the cutting. 

2. Propagating a Stem Cutting in Soil

Propagating a philodendron stem cutting in soil has high success rates, especially when used with a rooting hormone. 

After cutting a small stem section from a mother plant, dip the end in a specially-made rooting hormone gel available at your local grow store. 

3. Dividing Individual Slips

Many tropical species like philodendrons have slips, or performed roots, at the nodes that allow for easy propagation. They are most often located along aerial roots that run along the surface of the soil. 

Carefully remove these small sections from the mother plant and place them in water, ensuring both the slip and node are below the water’s surface. 

4. Propagating by Leaf

While possible, split stem and leaf propagation of philodendron species tend to end in root rot and are not worth the effort involved. 

How to Propagate Philodendrons – Step by Step

My preferred method of philodendron propagation is using the stem cutting in water method. This is where the cuttings that I’ve taken from a mother plant are allowed to root in water before planting them into their own container of soil. 

This method is ideal because it is quick, easy, and highly successful. According to a study published in the International Society for Horticultural Science, hydroponically propagated philodendron cuttings grow and root significantly faster than those using soil propagation methods. 

Using the stem cutting in water method also does the least amount of harm to the mother plant and is safe enough to be performed anytime your philodendrons are getting unruly, which is quite often. 

Equipment Required

  • Sharp, sanitized scissors or knife
  • Container for cuttings
  • Water
  • Gloves
  • Long sleeve shirt 

1. Check Your Plant’s Health

If the philodendron that you want to use as the mother plant is not healthy, then acts of propagation might stress it too much, potentially leading it on a track toward a weakened immune system or plant death. That is why it is important to check the plant’s health before starting your propagation project. 

  • A healthy philodendron will be vibrant in color, with unwilted leaves. 
  • When touched, a healthy leaf should spring back into place. 
  • If the leaves are wilted, browning or there are signs of pests or disease, then you should rectify those problems before attempting any method of propagation. 

2. Locating A Stem Node

Cuttings with at least 2 nodes, an undamaged stem, and several leaves remaining will produce more roots in a shorter time than leafless cuttings with only one node. 

Nodes on a philodendron plant will be found just below the base of each leaf. Take cuttings that are around 6 inches long with 3 or more nodes for the best chance of successful rooting. 

3. Taking the Cutting

Sanitizing your equipment is the number one way to prevent bacterial and fungal infections from occurring in the mother plant and new cuttings. Simply use 70%+ isopropyl alcohol to sanitize the blades before making any cuts. 

Using your clean cutting tools, carefully take your cuttings from the mother plant by making a cut ½ to 1 inch below the third or fourth node of a healthy stem. 

Never take more than 1/3 of the mother plant’s stems at one time to ensure that the plant doesn’t become overstressed, possibly leading to infections and infestations. 

I recommend wearing gloves and long sleeves when working with philodendron species since they release a sap that can cause severe skin irritation and inflammation. 

4. Prepare the Cutting for Rooting

After removing the stem from the mother plant, you should also remove a few of the bottom leaves. Not too many, only the few that would otherwise be sitting directly in water. 

Any other leaves left on the plant will aid in root growth by performing photosynthesis. 

Rooting hormones are unnecessary when using the stem in the water propagation method. 

5. Waiting for Roots to Appear

Move your propagated cutting to a bright location with plenty of indirect sunlight and away from draughts Tiny new roots will begin to appear from the nodes of the cuttings within 1 week after initiating propagation.

6. Planting Your Cutting

Once the roots on your philodendron plant have reached at least 3 – 4 inches in length, then it is ready to be transplanted into its new container. 

This should take around 2 to 3 weeks, although, philodendron species can remain healthy and suspended in water for much longer, especially when fed a liquid nitrogen fertilizer. 

A few days before transplanting, you should prepare your cutting’s new home by adding a loamy soil mix to a container, making sure to leave room for the new plant to gently slip in. Carefully water the soil without compacting the soil and allow it to acclimate to room temperature. 

Adding a mycorrhizal inoculant to the soil and plant roots during transplantation is very helpful in maintaining the strength of the plant during its crucial transition period. 

Using mycorrhizal inoculants can set the plant up for increased nutrient availability throughout its life in that container and lowers its reliance on outside fertilization. 

Best Time for Propagating

The best time to propagate philodendron species is in the spring when they have come out of dormancy and have started to utilize energy for growth and development. 

Trying to transplant or heavily prune in the cooler months when their growth has significantly slowed or often even stopped is not recommended and can cause unnecessary stress. 

Philodendron Care After Propagation

Proper maintenance after propagation is vital in the rooting process of the cutting. If the growing conditions are not ideal, the new plant won’t focus its energy on growing new roots. If problems persist, then it can lead to stem rot and plant death. 

Light Requirements

Philodendrons are understory species and need to be placed in bright locations with lots of indirect sunlight. Direct sunlight will burn its leaves and low light areas will make philodendrons stretch unhealthy. 

Once the new philodendron plant has established its root system, it can be moved to a new location that has less ideal light conditions. But note that if light conditions become too low, they will begin to stretch. 

Watering

Changing the water every 3 to 4 days is important in maintaining an oxygen-rich environment that is especially desirable during the first stages of root production. Changing the water often increases oxygen and nutrient availability, while decreasing the chance for bacterial growth. 

When planted in a container of soil, philodendrons need to be watered every time the soil feels dry. That could happen every 3 days or once a week depending on the season, temperature, humidity, and size of the plant, so the plant needs to be checked often.

When grown in containers of water, adult philodendron plants need to have their water changed at least every 2 weeks. 

Wilting and yellowing leaves are a sign of under and over-watering, so check on the soil of your philodendrons if you see these changes. 

Temperature & Humidity

Philodendrons are tropical species, so the ideal temperature range for a philodendron is 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, and 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the night. 

A severe drop in temperature can shock your philodendron, causing leaf chlorosis and possible plant death. 

The ideal humidity range for a philodendron species is 60 to 70 percent, but they can survive humidity as low as 40% during the winter season without adverse effects. 

Soil Type

Philodendrons prefer soil that is well-draining but will still retain moisture for an extended period, like a rich sandy loam.

The soil pH that most philodendron species prefer is between 6 and 6.5, which is in the slightly acidic range.  

A great soil mixture for philodendrons can easily be made by mixing the following ingredients:

  • 1 part peat moss
  • 1 part coco coir or orchid bark
  • 1 part organic potting mixture
  • ¼ part perlite

Fertilizing

Your young cutting won’t need fertilization until it either moves into its new container or has remained in its container of water for over a month. 

Once the philodendron has established a solid root system with over 2 inches of root length, then you should start fertilizing it every month during the growing season.

Use a liquid fertilizer with an N-P-K rating of 20-20-20. This mixture rating ensures that a balanced amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium minerals are released to the plants, safeguarding them from potential fertilizer burns. 

During their dormant months in the winter, philodendrons will only need to be fertilized once or twice, and you will need to begin fertilizing monthly again as soon as you start to see new growth in the spring. 

I like to add a teaspoon of water from a freshwater fish tank to the gallon of water that I use for watering. This gives me an all-natural fertilizer with plenty of nitrates that can be used to cut down on the amount of store-bought liquid fertilizers I buy. 

Problems After Propagation

Most of the time, philodendrons propagate and transplant without issue, but occasionally, problems do arise. The following explains what to know about these issues and how to fix them. 

Pests and Disease

Aphids and spider mites are the most common pests that infect houseplants like philodendrons, and they are especially prevalent after transplanting or propagation. If you notice small yellow dots on the leaves, then your plants could be infected. If nothing is done, the plant will succumb to the pest invasion. 

Powdery mildew is a common fungal problem in older plants that can be easily transferred to new cuttings. It will slowly spread and stunt the philodendron’s growth.  

An all-natural essential oil spray containing neem, lemongrass, and lavender can be used to prevent and treat aphids, spider mites, and fungal infections like powdery mildew. 

Leggy Growth and Pruning

Leggy growth is common among trailing philodendron species. Most often caused by lack of sunlight, this issue can lead to plant death if not rectified. 

As the plant stretches and searches for light, it eventually disconnects itself from its root system. If this happens, make a fresh cut below a node, and place it into a jar of water for propagation.

I suggest pruning these trailing stems to encourage the philodendron to grow bushier and fuller in shape. If leggy growth becomes too frequent, relocate the philodendron to an area with more indirect sunlight and support it with a moss pole.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Citations

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Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.