Philodendron Lifespan: How Long Do Philodendrons Live?
Thinking of adding a new philodendron to your houseplant collection, but want to know how long they live before you do? In this article, gardening expert and houseplant enthusiast Madison Moulton walks through the typicaly philodendron lifespan, and how you can extend the life of your new philodendron houseplant.
Philodendrons are incredibly well-known and beloved in the houseplant community. Considering the obsession with large and interesting foliage plants over the last few years, it’s easy to see how they have been catapulted to the top of people’s minds.
If you’ve got your hands on one of these houseplant favorites, you may be wondering how long you’ll have it. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t as easy as a predefined date or time, allowing you to prepare for its demise.
But that does also mean there is good news. There are many ways to extend the lifespan of your Philodendron to help them live as long as possible. In this article, we’ll discuss how long you can expect your Philodendron to live on average. Plus, we give you some tricks to cheat the system and make them live a little bit longer. Let’s jump in!
The Short Answer
The short answer is that it’s not uncommon for a healthy philodendron to live over 20 years. Certain varieties haven’t been around that long, so we know less about their lifespan. But as a species, if properly cared for, many of these popular houseplants will live long, and happy lives.
Philodendron is not one plant, but the name of an entire genus of nearly 500 different species. As part of the Araceae family, they are related to other common houseplants like the Peace Lily. In fact, Philodendron is one of the largest genera in this family, second only to the genus Anthurium.
The name Philodendron originates from the Greek ‘philo’, meaning love or affection, and ‘dendron’, meaning tree, combined to describe these plants as tree lovers. That’s because many of them originate from tropical forests where they climb up and along trees for more light.
This climbing habit gives most species the classification of epiphyte or hemiepipmyte. Philodendrons grow on the surfaces of trees or other objects, using them for support while drawing moisture and nutrients from the air and the pockets within the trees.
Most species are native to the Americas and the West Indies. But today, they grow all around the world, indoors and out. They are accustomed to warm, tropical climates with high humidity, making them ideal for growing indoors.
Although Philodendrons are often planted outdoors in shade gardens, they are typically grown as houseplants in most parts of the world. They are incredibly low maintenance and have gorgeous large leaves that make a statement no matter where they are placed.
Many types of Philodendron have become incredibly popular indoor plants, not only for their interesting leaves, but also for their ease of care. Look out for these popular species to try growing in your indoor garden:
- Philodendron hederaceum: One of the most widely grown houseplants around the world, appreciated for its long cascading vines. Also known as the Heartleaf Philodendron, this plant is ideal for beginners and almost impossible to kill.
- Philodendron erubescens: This less common species has recently exploded in popularity thanks to the colorful cultivar ‘Pink Princess’. It has large leaves with stunning pink variegation in a spotted pattern.
- Philodendron brandtianum: Also known as the Silver Leaf Philodendron, this species has large heart-shaped leaves with glossy silver variegation that help them stand out from the crowd.
- Philodendron mamei: Another silvery favorite, this species has lighter green leaves and silver patches with stripes that radiate out from the center.
- Philodendron gloriosum: An eye-catching variety with incredibly large velvety green leaves. Their popularity has made them quite rare and difficult to come across in regular garden centers.
Philodendron Lifespan: The Long Answer
Most houseplant owners report growing their Philodendrons for around 5 years before they begin to die back or slow growth. But this average is not built into the plants or any particular species. Rather, it is the result of the plant’s care and conditions.
Philodendrons don’t have a short and easily defined lifespan. Some have been known to grow for 20 years as houseplants, others up to 40. In their native habitats, species can easily live past 100 years if not more. What determines their lifespan is not a set amount of time, but whether they have the right care and environmental conditions to continue growing.
As Philodendrons are quite tolerant of a range of conditions, many species can live for several years in sub-optimal areas or with suboptimal care. The Heartleaf Philodendron is one example of this, handling missed waterings, low light and lack of nutrients without showing too many signs of struggle.
But some are fussier than others. The variegated plants in particular, such as the Philodendron Birkin, need the right light, temperatures and humidity to look their best, quickly dying if they do not get the correct care.
Ultimately, if you match the conditions and care you give your Philodendron to their native habitats, they can live well beyond 5 years. They may even potentially outlive you. However, if you give them the bare minimum, they will last a couple of years before their lifespan ends.
Extending Their Lifespan
As care plays a large role in the lifespan of a Philodendron, the easiest way to make your plant live longer is to give them exactly what they need at the right time. Follow these essential tips to keep your plants healthy and alive for years to come.
Understand Your Species
Not all Philodendrons are made equal. While their care requirements are very similar, as is the case with most tropical houseplants, there may be slight differences between the species in care and needs that can make or break growth.
Rather than treating your plant as you would any other Philodendron, do some research to understand the needs of that specific plant. For example, Heartleaf Philodendrons are extremely tolerant of neglect and can handle moderate to low light quite well. The Pink Princess needs a full day of bright indirect light due to its variegated leaves.
Choosing the right species for your space can also help you extend their lifespan. If you don’t have an area with bright enough light, it’s best to avoid variegated cultivars. Similarly, if you have a busy schedule and often forget to water, you’ll want to look for more tolerant types that won’t wilt and die with a single missed watering.
Watering is one of the main causes of a Philodendron’s demise. Although they are a more tolerant genus than some other houseplants, they can still face long-term problems when over or underwatered.
Underwatering is quite common in Philodendrons due to their beginner-friendly label. As they don’t show many signs of stress until the soil is completely dried out, many forget to check the soil often, leading them to underwater week after week.
Watering deeply should bring the plant back to life, but this consistent stress and inconsistency in watering will shorten the lifespan of the plant over time. It will not grow as well and may even lose leaves in the process. Check the soil frequently and water when the top few inches have completely dried out to prevent this stress.
Overwatering is even more common and unfortunately, even more deadly. Keeping the soil consistently moist or overly saturated causes severe problems with the roots. Not only will they lack oxygen due to the excess moisture in the soil, but the roots will start to turn mushy and rot, unable to absorb any more water or nutrients from the soil.
Once root rot sets in, it is incredibly difficult to fix. Unless you repot and trim the roots back to the healthy growth straight away, your plant will likely face an early death.
Avoid overwatering by waiting for the top layer of soil to dry out, providing adequate drainage, and giving your plant enough bright sunlight and warmth across the seasons.
Keep Them Out of The Cold
Native to warm, tropical environments, Philodendrons are not suited to cold temperatures. In their native habitats, temperatures rarely drop below 60F. That means these plants shouldn’t grow in temperatures below 60F. They will begin to face serious damage in temperatures below 50F.
To extend the lifespan of your Philodendron, keep them in the warmest room in your home and maintain temperatures above 60F for the entire year. In winter, keep them away from windows where cold can build up and harm the part of the plant facing the window.
This extends to cold drafts from air conditioners or open windows too. The cold in the air, plus the constant fluctuations in temperatures, cause severe stress. Sensitive Philodendrons may even respond to these conditions by dropping their leaves or wilting, difficult to recover and return to their previous growth.
Don’t Forget To Repot
Different Philodendron species all have different growth rates. These growth rates are also affected by their care and conditions. But, no matter how quickly they grow, all Philodendrons will need to be repotted at some point.
Most will require repotting every 2-3 years when they outgrow the space in their existing container. Slower growing types may last slightly longer, but still need repotting to refresh the disintegrated soil. Soil quality degrades over time, unable to hold onto water and nutrients. If kept in the same pot, even with the best care, your Philodendron will likely die.
When repotting, don’t choose a pot that’s too large and use a well-draining soil mix. Matching the new soil mix to the existing mix’s texture will do the best job of limiting shock, ultimately extending the lifespan of your Philodendron.
Feed As Needed
Fertilizing is one maintenance task many new plant owners forget about. But if you want to keep your plant healthy and alive for many years, fertilizing is essential.
Plants use up the nutrients in their existing soil quite quickly. The rate will depend on how much they are growing. Once those nutrients are used up, you will notice stunted growth and other signs of nutrient deficiency in your plant. If the problem is not resolved, growth will stop completely and the plant will ultimately die.
Check the requirements of your species to know when and how to fertilize. This prevents any potential overfertilizing, which can be just as or even more damaging than underfertilizing.
Most houseplant collectors will pick up at least one Philodendron in their lifetime. Many of the more popular cultivars are becoming more difficult to find. The most common plants are still plentiful in most garden centers. Although these plants are known to live for a couple of years before they begin to die back, the correct care and environmental conditions can extend their lifespans far beyond this short period.