Philodendrons belong to a rather large genus and are among the most popular aroids.
Excluding countless cultivars, there are over 480 accepted species (the exact number varies slightly between reputable sources) of philodendron.
One of the unique things about the genus is that it contains trailing plants, epiphytes (plants that climb trees), and hemiepiphytes (trailing plants that also climb trees).
Knowing how to care for your plant can get pretty confusing with all of the different Philodendron species types and cultivars out there.
Watering is one of the most important aspects of plant care, and giving too much or too little water can have serious consequences.
Here’s what you need to know to keep your philodendrons perfectly watered.
How Often And How Much To Water Philodendrons?
Depending on your philodendron, it will need to be watered when the soil is dry, somewhere between 1″ and 2″ inches down.
Thankfully, you can still give your plant the right amount of water using the proper technique, even if you don’t know the species or cultivar you own.
Why Improper Watering Is Bad?
One of the big mistakes people make when caring for plants is to wait for a plant’s leaves to turn.
By this point, the plant is usually severely stressed, and those brown or yellow philodendron leaves are often unsalvageable.
Even worse, there are a lot of not-so-obvious consequences to poor watering habits.
Underwatered plants lack enough water to transpire properly.
Transpiration is a similar process in plants to sweating, and the main function is to increase humidity levels around a plant.
More than 97% percent of the water a plant absorbs is used for transpiration, and interrupting this process can lead to many other problems, such as trouble photosynthesizing.
Another consequence of underwatering that’s often overlooked is the risk of chemical burns.
Damp or wet soil will dissolve and distribute fertilizer evenly throughout the soil, but a dose of fertilizer will pool where it’s poured into dry soil.
The concentrated fertilizer can damage any roots near the application point, which will harm the plant’s overall health.
Finally, the leaves on an underwatered plant will become thinner and more brittle, increasing the risk of sunburn and damage from weather or temperature.
Overwatering would have even worse consequences if these issues weren’t bad enough.
The most obvious risk is root rot, which can kill a plant if not treated quickly.
The bloated leaves will attract piercing insects who feed on plant sap and lead to fungal growth in the soil or infections.
Also, it risks edema, a nasty disease where a plant’s leaves become so bloated that they form blisters.
The blisters eventually burst, leading to necrosis around the blister area.
Obviously, both sides of the coin are terrible, but it’s a common saying that it’s better to under water than over water due to the more severe consequences of the latter.
The Trick Is To Avoid Calendars
Now that we’ve had a peek at the consequences of improper watering, let’s address one of its most common causes: the calendar method.
Chances are, you were taught this method from a young age, and many plant care sites sadly still recommend this dangerous method.
The simple truth is that plants don’t drink specific amounts on a schedule any more than you do.
Heat, humidity, sunlight intensity, and many other factors will affect how fast a plant’s soil dries out or how much that plant transpires.
By pouring X amount of water every Y number of days, you’re not accounting for all of the variables determining when a plant gets thirsty and how thirsty it might be.
So if you’re using the calendar method, do yourself (and your plant) a huge favor and throw away the calendar and measuring cup.
Benefits Of The Soak-And-Dry Method
Just like the Freemasons are the most commonly known not-so-secret society, the soak-and-dry method is the not-so-secret secret to perfect watering.
This method uses simple signs to tell you when to water a plant and when to stop watering.
Because you’re letting the SOIL tell you these signals, the technique is a snap to master and already accounts for all variables mentioned above.
The method works on both indoor and outdoor plants, so no more trying to guess when and how much rain you’ll have in a set period!
Testing The Soil With The Finger Trick
The soak and dry method doesn’t require any fancy tools, so you can simply use your finger to check moisture levels.
It’s approximately 1” inch from the tip of the index finger to the first knuckle on an average-sized adult human hand.
If you have small hands or your child wants to help water, just put a ruler beside the index finger and make a mental note of where each inch is.
Note: Different Plants Have Different Depths
Philodendrons can differ significantly in their needs from one plant to another.
Knowing your specific plant or cultivar can help you identify the exact depth you need to check.
The good news is that there is a broad range of 1″ to 2″ inches for the root level on most philodendrons.
While it’s best to identify your plant’s specific depth, the soak and dry method is safe enough that you can generally water within that range and still provide adequate water for your plant.
Stick your finger straight down in the soil.
If it feels dry down to 1″ to 2″ inches, it’s time to water, but it’s not time yet if the soil’s still damp.
There’s a little leeway, so if you feel dampness at the tip of your finger, you can go ahead and water, especially if you’re checking at the lower depth of a range.
If you can’t immediately tell the soil’s damp, you can look at your finger when you draw it out.
Moist soil will be darker and stick to your finger, while dry soil will be lighter and somewhat dusty.
Using The Soak-And-Dry Method
Here are the following tips to remember:
- Grab your container of room temperature water (you can use a small watering can or cup, but you’ll need to be a little more careful pouring with the latter.
- Gently tip the container, so you’re pouring only a small amount.
- If the soil immediately soaks up the water, you’ve got a good pour rate going.
- Work your way around the plant slowly, making sure to water evenly and not get the leaves wet.
- You’ll know to stop when the soil can no longer absorb water as fast as you’re pouring (a sign it’s saturated).
Thanks to the drainage holes, indoor or container plants also have a second sign.
You know the soil is completely saturated if you see moisture beginning to seep out, and it’s time to stop watering.