Sometimes a fluke of nature results in something truly amazing.
Such was the case with the Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ (fil-oh-DEN-dron ROH-jo KON-go), a popular cultivar first created in 1996.
One leaf on the plant spontaneously mutated to show unique variegation.
The leaf was clipped and propagated successfully, resulting in a surprisingly stable variegated sport named Philodendron ‘Birkin’.
Such tales within the Araceae family occur more often due to how popular aroid plants are, but it’s still a relatively rare occurrence to get a stable one.
The perennial ‘Birkin’ has quickly grown in popularity since its introduction, and it’s sometimes referred to by the nickname “white wave.”
Philodendron ‘Birkin’ Care
Size And Growth
‘Birkin’ isn’t the largest type of philodendron by any means, but its moderate growth rate and bushier form make up for this fact.
When properly supported, they will usually achieve a maximum height of around 19″ to 32″ inches.
Their not climbers and the support is mainly needed to help prevent them from tilting under their weight.
The main draw of this plant is its variegated, evergreen foliage, which places bright yellow to creamy white pinstripes on a dark green background.
The leaf shapes are oval to heart-shaped with a gentle point and may develop yellow margins.
Young leaves lack this variegation and are a lighter shade of green, adding additional layers of contrast.
On rare occasions, leaves may even develop in red or cream tones.
Add to that thick lime-green stems, and it’s easy to see why ‘Birkin’ is so well-loved.
Flowering And Fragrance
As with most philodendrons, ‘Birkin’ won’t bloom indoors outside of very rare instances.
Light And Temperature
Your Philodendron ‘Birkin’ has the same tolerance to partial shade as its kin, but you may wish to stick to the brighter side of things.
Avoiding direct sunlight, stick your ‘Birkin’ near a sunny window, preferably with indirect, dappled, or diffused light exposure for 6 to 10 hours per day.
Grow lamps are an excellent artificial alternative, although a combination of fluorescent and incandescent lighting will work to a lesser degree.
Note that darker conditions will cause the variegations to fade.
As with most philodendrons, ‘Birkin’ prefers a moderately high humidity of around 60% percent but can handle most humidity conditions.
If you’re growing it in a particularly arid room, try providing your ‘Birkin’ with a pebble tray or small personal humidifier.
Just be sure to keep the humidifier or other potential draft sources facing away from the plant, as it doesn’t like sudden temperature changes.
Speaking of temperature, your ‘Birkin’ has the same temperature range as most philodendrons—ideally between 60° and 75° degrees Fahrenheit.
Anything over 85° degrees Fahrenheit or below 50° degrees Fahrenheit can stunt your plant’s growth and possibly even damage or kill it.
Plants, like people, need some variation between night and say for both light and temperature, so a good rule of thumb is to make the room 5° to 10° degrees Fahrenheit cooler at night than during the day.
It’s rare to see most philodendrons growing outside in the US, although plant owners often bring them outdoors during the summer months.
Likely, you won’t be able to grow the plant in the ground without a cold frame or some other form of winter protection, but philodendrons are best known as houseplants anyway.
Watering And Feeding
Like most philodendrons like humidity, ‘Birkin’ truly prefers the sauna to a bath.
In other words, it has a little more sensitivity to wet soil than its kin.
That’s not to say you should let the soil dry out completely.
Instead, use the soak-and-dry method to help ensure your ‘Birkin’ gets just the right amount.
Simply place your finger in the soil to check how dry it is.
Philodendrons generally need watering when the soil is dry 1” inch down, but ‘Birkin’ will likely prefer 1 ½” to 2” inches.
If the plant shows signs of dehydration when watering at 2” inches, try doing so at 1 ½” inches.
Also, keep in mind that around 98% percent of the water plants consume goes to transpiration (similar to sweating), so the more humid the room, the less water the plant will need.
During the growing season, philodendrons generally benefit from a bit of fertilizer.
Use a balanced liquid houseplant fertilizer (organic, when possible) once per month, but be sure to cut back in fall and winter – even though the plant is evergreen, it still has a rest period.
If desired, you can provide some coffee grounds (be sure to include an organic component such as shredding the coffee filter) or other nitrogen boosts at the beginning of spring to help encourage new growth.
Soil And Transplanting
Although good drainage is a must, most standard potting mixes will work well for your ‘Birkin.’
Philodendrons like an acidic to neutral pH, and this cultivar will be happiest around 6.5 to 6.7.
To improve drainage, you may wish to amend the soil with an aggregate such as perlite or coarse sand.
Likewise, organic matter such as coconut coir or sphagnum moss can help feed the plant while maintaining longer pH levels.
You can also use a soilless mix of sphagnum moss and perlite, peat moss and vermiculite, or use straight sphagnum moss.
As with other philodendrons, ‘Birkin’ will need to be repotted every 2 to 3 years, preferably in the spring.
Graduate one container size larger if you see roots poking out of the pot’s drainage holes.
Even if not rootbound, this is an excellent time to replace the potting medium with fresh material, as the old mix will be mostly drained of nutrients and likely has a buildup of salts and other toxins.
Grooming And Maintenance
You can prune damaged or diseased leaves in the fall or spring.
Not only will this help encourage new growth, but it will also ensure the plant keeps a nice bushy shape.
Just make sure not to get too enthusiastic, as it can take time for ‘Birkin’ to grow replacement leaves.
You will also want to wipe the leaves down weekly, using Dawn dish soap and water or a neem leaf shine.
Avoid using commercial products, as these often contain chemicals that ‘Birkin’ can be sensitive to.
How To Propagate ‘Birkin’?
Unlike many other popular philodendron cultivars, this plant isn’t patented, but propagation is still a little tricky.
Because the plant results from spontaneous chimeric mutation, they are most commonly produced via tissue culture.
It’s a highly stable plant, but due to how new it is, there’s a chance that propagating from seed or even cuttings can result in the new plants reverting to ‘Rojo Congo.’
You could also end up with a totally unexpected sport, which may be either fun or frustrating, depending on your goals in propagating the plant.
White Wave Pests Or Diseases
As with most philodendrons, ‘Birkin’ is resistant to variations in humidity.
As a result, it’s not prone to pests or disease, although the usual suspects can still take up residence.
- Spider mites
Meanwhile, root rot is the biggest disease risk.
High humidity or the presence of honeydew can attract fungal infections, such as:
- Sooty mold
- Powdery mildew
All philodendron plants contain calcium oxalate crystals, which are toxic to pets (and not that great for humans, either).
Be sure to keep your ‘Birkin’ plant away from tiny, curious hands and paws, so nobody gets sick.
Uses of Philodendron ‘Birkin’
This plant can be a real showstopper, thanks to its variegation.
While it looks great in a hanging basket or on a bookshelf or table, you’ll need to give it a little support, so it doesn’t begin leaning to one side.
As long as it gets enough light, ‘Birkin’ is an excellent choice for the kitchen or bathroom.
It even has the philodendron asset of being a clean air plant, adding function to form.