14 julio, 2024

Philodendron: characteristics, habitat, properties, examples, cultivation

Philodendron It is a genus of terrestrial climbing or shrubby herbaceous plants, belonging to the Araceae family. Known as vine, monkey banana, philodendron, philodendron, güembé, huambé, snake plant, tripeperro or tapir claw, they are native species of the American tropics.

Philodendrons are characterized by their aerial roots that favor their climbing habits and the large bright green lanceolate or lobed leaves. The flowers, which only develop in natural environments, are grouped in a cylindrical inflorescence covered by a white, yellow or red spathe, the fruit is a fleshy berry.

They are tropical species widely used as ornamental plants, due to their easy adaptation to partial shade or environments with artificial light. They multiply easily through terminal cuttings, require a fertile substrate with constant humidity, and also contribute attractive foliage to interior decoration.

In the Amazon basin, some wild species are in danger of extinction, due to the rapid destruction of tropical humid forests. On the other hand, most species of Philodendron they contain calcium oxalate crystals, which is why all parts of the plant are considered toxic.


General characteristics


The gender Philodendron It is made up of a group of epiphytic, hemiepiphytic, climbing, creeping or terrestrial plants. In general, they present a great morphological diversity and are characterized by being small shrubs or vines that climb over large trees thanks to their aerial roots.


Its adventitious roots that grow from the nodes of the creeping stems are particular. There are short and numerous anchoring roots that allow anchoring on the host plant, and feeding roots that penetrate the ground in search of water and nutrients.


The shape and size of its leaves is variable, they are usually lanceolate, lobed, oval or pinnate, with a smooth, leathery and shiny texture. Its color varies in different shades of green, red or purple, some are shaded between white and yellow. They can measure up to 100 cm long by 50 cm wide.

They emerge alternately at the base of the stem and are arranged at the end of a long green or reddish semicircular or flattened petiole. When they sprout they are covered by a modified or cataphyllous leaf, which protects them until the petiole is fully developed.


The tiny flowers are grouped in a fleshy spike-shaped spadix or inflorescence of yellowish-white color. This spadix is ​​covered by a white, yellow or red spathe. In its natural environment, flowering occurs during spring or summer.


The fruit is a fleshy berry that develops and matures only in natural environments or under greenhouse conditions. In some areas, the fruits are eaten as fresh fruit due to their pleasant flavor and aroma similar to pineapple or pineapple.


– Kingdom: Plantae

– Division: Magnoliophyta

– Class: Liliopsida

-Order: Alismatales

– Family: Araceae

– Subfamily: Aroideae

– Tribe: Philodendreae

– Gender: Philodendron Schott 1832.


Philodendron: the name of the genus derives from the Greek terms «φιλος» and «δενδρο», which mean «friend» and «tree». What translates as the «tree-friendly plant», alluding to its epiphytic condition that grows anchored on trees.


calostigma Schott in Schott & Endl. (1832).

meconostigma Schott in H.W. Schott & S.L. Endlicher (1832).

Sphincterostigma Schott in H.W. Schott & S.L. Endlicher (1832).

aroma Raf. (1837).

Thelipodus Raf. (1837).

Thaumatophyllum Schott (1859).

elopium Schott (1865).

baursea (Rchb.) Hoffmanns. former Kuntze (1903).

Habitat and distribution

Its natural habitat is located under tropical conditions in understory and very humid lowland forests. However, they are common in swampy areas, springs, river banks, roadsides or paths, humid forests and rocky areas.

The gender Philodendron It has more than 120 native species of tropical America, although they are cultivated as ornamental plants anywhere in the world. They grow wild from Central America to South America, including Costa Rica, Panama, Martinique, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Paraguay.


Philodendrons are very popular ornamental plants due to their striking foliage, ease of cultivation, and rapid growth. However, most of the commercial species contain calcium oxalate crystals, the ingestion of which is toxic to people and animals.

The stems and leaves, even the roots of the philodendrons exude a milky liquid that at the slightest contact with the skin can cause dermatitis. Likewise, its ingestion causes irritation of the oral mucosa and digestive disorders. In domestic animals, such as cats or dogs, it can cause pain, spasms and convulsions.

However, in some regions, certain species are used under supervision for their medicinal properties. This is the case of the philodendron known as «cipó-imbé» (Philodendron bipinnatifidum), the extract of its leaves and roots is used for the traditional treatment of ulcers and rheumatic pains.

Examples of species

Philodendron appendiculatum

Perennial shrub with large oval-triangular petiolate leaves and prominent adventitious roots that favor its support. It is a natural hemiepiphytic species of shaded areas in the tropical forests of southeastern Brazil, in the states of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

Philodendron bipinnatifidum

Epiphytic or terrestrial plant of low height, large leaves and lobed shape, 70 cm long by 50 cm wide. Commonly known as güembé, it is a non-creeping perennial shrub native to Brazil.

Philodendron cannifolium

It is a slow-growing epiphytic plant, compact, low in height, with rosette growth and thickened stems. The leaves are leathery, thin and lanceolate, of a bright green color. Native to the Guyana region in South America.

Philodendron erubescens

Climbing growth plant, characterized by its cordate leaves that are reddish in color when young and dark green when adults. It grows at the level of the tropical understory, climbing over the trees through its long and robust cord roots. In native to the tropical forests of Colombia.

Philodendron hastatum

Known as «spearhead philodendron» it is a climbing species whose stems have numerous adventitious roots and are protected by stipules. The large, lance-shaped leaves are silvery-green in color with a pointed apex and an arrow-shaped base.

Philodendron lacerum

It is considered an epiphytic or hemiepiphytic plant that grows on large trees, vigorous and with semi-glossy green or gray-green multilobed leaves. It is a very common species in the jungles of Jamaica, Cuba and Hispaniola, including Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Philodendron scandens

Known as «climbing philodendron» it is a herbaceous plant used as an ornamental due to its heart-shaped, shiny-green leaves or variegated with green and yellow. Its creeping stems have numerous adventitious roots that are anchored to the stakes and it is characterized by its rapid growth.

Philodendron tweedianum

Shrubby perennial species with a climbing, creeping or hemiepiphytic habit, large leaves with entire edges and a glaucous-green color. Its natural habitat is located in wetlands, jungles or humid forests in South America, specifically in Brazil, Bolivia, Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina.

Philodendron wendlandii

It is an epiphyte that develops in the form of a rosette, it has simple, lanceolate leaves that can be up to 35 cm long. It is located in regions with a very humid climate on the Caribbean slope, especially in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama, at elevations of 0-700 masl.

Philodendron xanadu

Perennial shrub of moderate growth, compact, rounded and spreading. Its segmented, slightly pendulous, oval, lobed leaves develop from long stalks. It is native to Brazil and Paraguay.


The species of the genus Philodendron they are propagated commercially by apical cuttings from the stem in early summer. Each cutting must contain at least three nodes, some leaves and numerous cord roots of at least 12-15 cm in length.

The cut is done with a well-sharpened and disinfected tool, removing the lower leaves and cutting under a leaf node. It is advisable to cover the cut with some type of phytohormone to favor its rooting.

Sowing is done directly in the final pots using a substrate based on black earth, coarse sand and vegetable compost. The pots are placed in a greenhouse with a nebulization system and a constant temperature of 25 ºC. Under these conditions, rooting begins after 30-45 days.


– Philodendrons develop under tropical climate conditions. They require temperatures above 10ºC to survive in any outdoor environment.

– They naturally develop at the understory level, so they require good lighting during the day, but not direct sunlight. They develop effectively in semi-shade or indoor environments with artificial light.

– Cultivated in pots requires a fertile substrate composed of black earth, sand and organic matter obtained from composted vegetable waste.

– The application of irrigation depends on the climatic conditions and the texture of the soil. During spring and summer it can be watered every 3-4 days, increasing its frequency during autumn and winter.

– It is recommended to apply sprays on the leaves to maintain constant environmental humidity.

– Maintenance pruning is recommended to regulate the growth of climbing species.

– Applications of mineral fertilizers are recommended during the spring and summer, every 15-20 days together with the application of irrigation. In the fall you can make an amendment of organic fertilizer trying to remove the soil around the plant.

– Philodendrons are rustic species that resist the attack of pests and diseases, however, when the relative humidity is very low, they usually suffer attacks from mites or red spider mites.


Crisci, JV, & Gancedo, OA (1971). Systematics and ethnobotany of the guembé. (Philodendron bipinnatifidum) An important South American aracea. Magazine of the Museum of La Plata, 11(65), 285-302.
Philodendron cultivation (2020) Infoagro Systems, SL Recovered at: infoagro.com
Filodendro (2018) Elicriso: Magazine on the Environment and Nature. Recovered in: elicriso.it
Granda, IA (1998). The gender Philodendron SCHOTT (Araceae) in Cuba. Feddes Repertorium, 109(1-2), 33-39.
Philodendron. (2020). Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Recovered in: es.wikipedia.org
Philodendron (2020) Catalog of Life: 2020. Recovered at: catalogueoflife.org
Sánchez, M. (2018) Philodendron. Gardening On….

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