The Araceae family is full of wonderful plants, many of which are still being discovered.
For example, Philodendron billietiae (fil-oh-DEN-dron bee-lee-e-tee-ye), is a perennial native of Brazil, French Guiana, and Guiana that wasn’t discovered until 1981.
It took 2 years for this plant to be brought to a botanical garden, where they were able to get it to bloom.
By 1995, enough plants had been cultivated for the Billie (or Philidor), as it’s affectionately known, to be introduced to the home market finally.
Philodendron Billietiae Care
Size And Growth
Philidor doesn’t grow very large in captivity, as is the norm with philodendrons.
When grown as a houseplant, it will usually top out at 3’ feet long and around 8” inches wide.
It’s a fast grower that requires a moss pole or similar support to keep it from toppling over.
Its foliage is an arrow to heart-shaped and quite elongated, reaching 3’ feet long on its own when in nature.
They have a glossy medium green appearance with wavy edges contrasted with yellow-orange petioles.
Flowering And Fragrance
Philodendrons are notoriously fussy when it comes to blooming domestically, with the event being rare outdoors and almost unheard-of indoors.
However, if you never see this plant bloom, you’re not missing much.
The simple green to white inflorescence is so unimpressive that many growers cut them off as soon as they’re spotted.
Light And Temperature
Bright, indirect light is the name of the game for all philodendrons.
These plants grow in dense rainforests, quickly scorching leaves when exposed to excess direct sunlight.
Dappled sunlight is one good option: growing it near a bright window or in front of one that has a sheer curtain.
You can even place it in a spot with direct morning light and afternoon shade, as long as it gets 6 to 8 hours of bright sunshine per day.
Avoid too much shade, as it can make the plant leggy and darken the leaves.
Billies grow well under artificial lamps, so long as you follow a few simple rules:
- First, make sure there’s a minimum distance between the plant and lamps of at least several inches to help prevent heat damage.
- Second, you’ll need to rotate the plant occasionally to ensure it gets even lighting.
- Finally, be sure to turn the light off at night, as plants like to sleep too.
While Philidor can handle normal household humidity levels of 40% to 60% percent, it prefers a higher range of 60% to 80% percent.
You can augment the humidity levels using a pebble tray or humidifier.
Just be sure the humidifier isn’t pointed at the plant.
As the leaves of your Billie are glossy and not velvety or hairy, it’s safe to mist the plant, although this is a highly inefficient method of adding humidity.
While it’s possible to grow this plant outdoors in USDA hardiness zones 9 to 11, this isn’t a common practice.
Indoors, the plant prefers a daytime temperature range of 65° to 80° degrees Fahrenheit and a lower nighttime range of 55° to 65° degrees Fahrenheit.
Avoid drafts and make sure the temperature never drops below 55° degrees Fahrenheit, as this can cause permanent damage to your plant.
Watering And Feeding
One of the worst possible things you can do to your Billie is watering it on a schedule.
Instead, use the soak-and-dry method to determine when and how much water to give (yes, this also works on outdoor plants).
Follow these tips:
- Stick your finger into the soil to act as a moisture gauge.
- When the soil feels dry about 2” inches down (essentially your second knuckle), it’s time to water.
- Add water in a slow, steady stream, working your way around the plant and being careful not to get the foliage wet.
- Stop watering when you see water beginning to seep from the drainage holes.
- Outside, the signal to stop is when the ground can no longer absorb the water as quickly as you’re pouring it.
As is the norm with epiphytic plants, your Philidor isn’t a heavy feeder.
Some growers prefer to use a slow-release fertilizer once in early spring and early summer.
However, slow-release formulas have one major disadvantage: they release each nutrient at different rates, meaning your plant may get more nitrogen one month and potassium in another.
Be sure to time any slow-release or granular fertilizers to add them right before you water to minimize the risk of chemical burns.
A 3-1-2 NPK ratio works well, as nitrogen (N) is needed for healthy foliage, while phosphorus (P) is needed mostly for blooming.
When using a liquid houseplant fertilizer, do these steps:
- Apply every 4 to 6 weeks, timing it to happen between waterings (since these fertilizers are already diluted in water).
- You may also wish to add a teaspoon of Epsom salts every other month to keep the magnesium levels up.
- Remember to cut back on both fertilizer and water during the fall and winter months so your Philidor can get a much-needed rest.
Soil And Transplanting
Rainforest plants are used to high humidity and organically rich soil.
You can use garden soil amended with perlite and organic compost or purchase a potting mix, as long as the soil is well-draining.
A popular soilless mix for philodendrons also works for billies and consists of:
- 6 parts coconut coir
- 3 parts orchid bark
- 3 parts perlite
- 2 parts activated charcoal
- 2 parts pumice
- 2 parts worm castings
A soil pH of around 6.5 works well for this plant and a large percentage of other houseplants.
Unless you’re growing Philidor outside, you’ll need to repot every 2 to 3 years.
If the plant signs of becoming rootbound (or might be in the next year), graduate to slightly bigger container size.
You will also want to replace your potting medium.
However, billies benefit from having a little bit of the old soil left on their roots, which can help reduce the effects of transplant shock.
Grooming And Maintenance
Very little maintenance is required for this plant.
Prune your Billie when it’s becoming leggy or has damaged or diseased leaves.
Try to avoid pruning more than 25% percent to minimize the risk of the plant getting ill.
How to Propagate Billie Philodendron?
As with most philodendrons, seed propagation is difficult because of how rarely these plants bloom in captivity.
However, air layering and stem clippings are good alternatives with a high success rate.
Philodendron Pests Or Diseases
This plant is highly cold intolerant and can be damaged if the temperature drops below 55° degrees Fahrenheit.
Like other philodendrons, Billie is generally resistant to pests and disease but may become home to aphids and mealybugs if nearby plants are already infested.
Meanwhile, the most common disease risks are the following:
- root rot
- fungal infections
However, V-shaped yellowing at the leaf tips could signify magnesium deficiency (also known as chlorosis), which may become necrotic if left untreated.
A little bit of Epsom salts added into the fertilizer will usually solve the problem.
Philodendrons contain high levels of calcium oxalate crystals, and Billie is no exception.
These crystals can be safely consumed in small amounts by humans (in fact, they’re present in broccoli and many other healthy greens), but the levels in a philodendron can make children sick.
In extreme cases, indigestible crystals can also cause kidney stones.
The crystals can make them quite sick for dogs and often prove fatal for cats.
Uses Of Philodendron Billietiae
Billies are lovely climbers best known for the large foliage and contrasting petioles.
They make great displays when climbing up a bookcase (provided you use a trellis or support pole for them to latch onto) or in a corner.
While they don’t thrive as much in hanging baskets as most philodendrons, this is still another excellent display option.
Finally, all philodendrons are considered clean air plants, absorbing toxins from the air.