Few houseplants are as coveted as the mighty Philodendron gigas. This gigantic Philodendron is the envy of many a collector, and for a good reason.
A mature specimen is absolutely gorgeous and can add a real tropical vibe to your home. If you’ve managed to get your hands on one, the good news is that it’s not too difficult to keep it happy. In this guide, our experts reveal their top tips.
What Is Philodendron Gigas?
Philodendron gigas is a tropical houseplant belonging to the Araceae family, grown for its large, velvety leaves. It is a relatively recently discovered aroid, first described by botanists in 1997. Endemic to the Canal Area of Panama, this plant is very rare both in the wild and in the houseplant trade.
Since its debut on the market, Philodendron gigas has had houseplant lovers in awe due to its gorgeous foliage. Its leaves are a rich, dark shade of green, with a soft, velvety texture and bright green veins. Unfurling leaves have an olive or copper color, then gradually take on a darker hue until they can look almost black. As the plant matures, the leaves will significantly grow in size, taking on an elongated, almost heart-like shape.
Like all aroid plants, Philodendron gigas will produce an inflorescence that consists of a spadix and a dark red spathe that’s almost 3 inches (7.5 cm) in length. However, the plant will rarely flower indoors, and you may need to wait many years before you see your Philodendron gigas bloom.
– How Big Does Philodendron Gigas Grow?
The clue is in the name: Philodendron gigas can grow to a height of up to 65 feet (20 meters) and can develop leaves as long as 4 feet (1.2 meters). When cultivated as an indoor houseplant, it can easily climb to the height of the ceiling and produce long, trailing vines. Philodendron gigas plants are sold as young specimens, with small leaves and short stems. But if you give them a moss pole to climb on, the leaves will switch from juvenile to their mature shape and reach more than 1 foot (30 cm) in size.
– Is Philodendron Gigas Toxic?
The leaves and stem of the Philodendron gigas contain calcium oxalate crystals. This substance is toxic to humans and animals and can cause skin irritations, nausea, vomiting, mouth and throat rashes, and difficulty breathing. Always keep it out of reach of pets and kids.
Philodendron Gigas Care Guide
– Light Requirements
Philodendron gigas grows best in bright indirect light. Its velvety leaves are very sensitive to direct sun exposure and can develop scorch marks. On the other hand, too little light will result in leggy stem growth and new leaves that get smaller and smaller. This plant can tolerate medium light, but if you want it to grow its large, iconic leaves, bright filtered light or bright indirect light is best.
We recommend keeping your Philodendron gigas in a room with eastern or western exposure. If you have a room that’s facing south, make sure to keep your plant at least three feet from the window so that it’s sheltered from the intense sun.
– Temperature Requirements
The ideal temperature range for growing Philodendron gigas indoors is between 65 and 80 F (18 to 27 C). This plant is not frost-hardy and can suffer permanent damage if exposed to temperatures below 50 F (10 C). Anything above 86 F (30 C) will be too hot for your philodendron, and you will notice that its growth becomes stunted.
You can grow Philodendron gigas in your garden in USDA zones 9b to 12. Keep in mind that the plant does not tolerate cold. If you live in an area where it gets too cold during the night, our recommendation is to keep your philodendron in a pot and bring it indoors as soon as nighttime temperatures drop below 55 F (13 C).
Avoid exposing your Philodendron gigas to any sudden changes in temperatures and hot or cold drafts. The plant should never sit next to a radiator, an air conditioning unit, or even a window or door that’s drafty — especially in winter.
– Water Requirements
Water your Philodendron gigas when the top inch of the soil feels dry to the touch. The easiest way to test this is using your finger, but for a more accurate reading, you can also rely on a soil moisture meter. Philodendron plants love moisture, but they are also sensitive to root rot, which is caused by the soil being constantly wet. Allow the substrate to dry out a bit in between waterings, then give the plant a good soak.
Throughout spring and summer, when the plant is actively growing, you will usually need to water your Philodendron gigas once a week. If your home is very dry, check the soil once every 4 to 5 days and water as needed. In winter, you can reduce your watering schedule to once every 7 to 10 days.
– Humidity Requirements
When growing Philodendron gigas indoors, we recommend aiming for a humidity level of at least 50 percent. This will promote healthy leaf growth, as well as prevent the tips of the leaves from turning brown and crispy. As a rule of thumb, young plants will need more humidity than mature specimens.
If your Philodendron gigas is small, with only a few leaves, try to boost the humidity to around 70 or 80 percent. After a year or so, especially if the plant is climbing on a moss pole, it will become more tolerant of the dry air in your home.
To meet the humidity requirements for your Philodendron gigas, try placing it on top of a pebble tray. Investing in a humidifier is always a good choice or, if you’re an avid houseplant collector, try grouping your plants to create a humid microclimate.
Take extra care when misting your Philodendron gigas. The velvety texture of the leaves can trap moisture, and without good air circulation, the leaves can develop fungal or bacterial spots.
– Soil Requirements
Plant your Philodendron gigas in a soil mix that is loose, aerated, nutrient-rich, and very well-draining. Ideally, the soil should retain some moisture in between waterings but should never be waterlogged. If the substrate is constantly wet, this will result in root rot, which can be fatal for this plant.
The easiest soil mix you can make for your Philodendron gigas is combining equal parts universal potting soil, perlite, and orchid bark. Or, if you want to step up your planting game, here’s a great soil mix you can try:
- one part peat moss
- one part coco coir
- one part perlite or pumice
- one part orchid bark
- a handful of vermiculite
- a handful of horticultural charcoal
– Fertilizer Requirements
We recommend giving your Philodendron gigas a monthly fertilizer application throughout spring and summer. You can use a balanced, liquid fertilizer with an N-P-K nutrient ratio of 20-20-20. Dilute the fertilizer to half the strength recommended on the label, and apply it on soil that’s already a bit moist to the touch. Avoid using fertilizer on completely dry soils, as this can burn the roots.
The fertilizer requirements for your Philodendron gigas will change depending on the season and where your plant is kept. As a rule of thumb, the more light a plant receives, the more it will grow and the more fertilizers it will need. If your philodendron is growing in lower light conditions, you can reduce the fertilizer applications to once every six weeks. The plant won’t need any additional feeding in winter when the shorter days cause it to enter a brief period of dormancy.
– Pruning and Maintenance
Philodendron gigas is a vigorous climber and you will need to prune it regularly to keep it contained. Once a year, preferably in spring, we recommend trimming the top of the plant and use the cutting for propagation. Remember to always sterilize your tools before pruning, and never cut more than one-third of the plant.
Don’t worry if you see one or two bottom leaves turn yellow. This is part of the plant’s growing process, and as your Philodendron gigas matures, it will ‘decommission’ some of the old leaves to fuel new growth. You can either trim them or leave them on the plant until they completely dry out and then just pluck them with your fingers.
The velvety texture of the Philodendron gigas leaves can trap dust particles, which can, over time, clog the plant’s stomata and prevent photosynthesis. Once a week, give the foliage a gentle wipe with a damp cloth to keep it clean and healthy. While you do that, take a moment to check the top and underside of the leaf for any sign of pests.
– Repotting Philodendron Gigas
The Philodendron gigas growth rate is fast, and the plant can easily double in size within a year. However, it only needs repotting once every 2 to 3 years, when the roots start coming out of the pot’s drainage hole.
The best time for repotting Philodendron gigas is in spring or early summer. This will allow the plant to use the rest of the growing season to become established in its new container and put out new leaves. To repot your philodendron, simply take it out of the old pot, remove some of the soil to untangle the roots, then repot it in a container that’s one size larger. Avoid using pots that are too big, as they keep the soil wet for longer, which can cause root problems later on.
Philodendron Gigas Propagation Guide
Philodendron gigas can be propagated using stem cuttings or through air layering. We recommend propagating it in spring or summer when the plant is actively growing. To prevent stressing the plant, wait until it has at least three fully developed leaves before taking any cuttings.
Here are our step-by-step guides on how to propagate Philodendron gigas.
– Philodendron Gigas Stem Cutting Propagation
- Use a sharp, sterilized blade, and cut the stem between two growth nodes.
- Trim any excess stem on your cutting until you’re left with a half-inch section below the node.
- You can propagate your philodendron from a cutting with just one leaf, although cuttings with two or more leaves will root faster.
- Philodendron stem cuttings root best in either water or sphagnum moss. They will develop roots readily, so there’s no need to use rooting hormones.
- For water propagation, simply place the cutting in a glass jar. Make sure that the growth node is covered in water, but not the leaf. Cover the jar with a transparent plastic sheet to help boost humidity, and keep it in a room with bright indirect light. Change the water once every 5 to 7 days.
- If you want to propagate your Philodendron gigas in moss, fill a small container with sphagnum moss, place the cutting inside, and pack the moss around the growth node. Water well, and check the moss regularly to prevent it from drying out.
- The cuttings should start growing roots after about two weeks. Wait until they are at least 2 inches (5 cm) long, then you can plant them in the well-draining soil mix we discussed above.
– Philodendron Gigas Air Layering Propagation
Air layering propagation relies on stimulating your Philodendron gigas to grow out its aerial roots into the soil. It’s similar to using stem cuttings, but the main difference is the fact that the stem is kept attached to the main plant until it has developed a root system.
Air layering propagation is surprisingly easy. Find a growth node on the stem, and pack some damp sphagnum moss around it. Use some plastic wrap to keep the moss in place, and leave a gap at the top and bottom of the wrap. This will allow you to water the moss and will also provide air circulation.
Keep the moss moist, and after 6 to 8 weeks, you will see roots start to come out through the bottom of the wrap. You can then remove the moss, cut the stem below the roots, and plant it in a well-draining substrate.
Common Pests and Problems
Here are the most common problems you’ll come across when growing Philodendron gigas indoors.
– Yellowing Leaves
Yellow leaves on your Philodendron gigas typically indicate that the plant is overwatered. Always allow the soil to dry to a depth of an inch between waterings, and use a very well-draining potting mix for this plant.
– Soft, Brown Leaves
If the leaves on your Philodendron gigas are turning soft and brown, there’s a very high chance that the plant has root rot. This is usually caused by a mixture of overwatering and poorly draining soil.
Take the plant out of the pot and inspect the roots. Use a sterilized blade to trim the ones that are soft and black, and get rid of as much of the old, damp soil as you can. Then, repot the plant in a well-draining soil mix and water it carefully for the next two or three weeks.
– Small, Yellow Leaf Spots
It’s normal for your Philodendron gigas to have a few small, yellow spots on the leaves. These spots are common for many philodendron species, and they are specialized nectar-secreting glands called extrafloral nectaries.
However, if the leaf is covered in yellow spots, this could be a sign of either pest damage or rust fungus. To treat rust fungus, spray the leaves with a copper fungicide, according to the specifications on the label. For pests, we recommend a solution of water and isopropyl alcohol to get rid of spider mites and mealybugs or an insecticidal soap solution for thrips.
Velvet-leaf philodendrons are a great way to brighten up your home with a mix of classy looks and exotic rainforest vibes. Also, they’re not as difficult to grow as you may think.
Let’s recap what you need to know about growing the magnificent Philodendron gigas.
- Philodendron gigas is a rare houseplant grown for its large, dark green, velvety leaves.
- It is a vigorous grower and can double in size in a single year.
- To stay healthy and thrive indoors, this plant needs bright indirect light, high humidity, regular watering, and very well-draining soil.
- Give your Philodendron gigas a moss pole to climb on, and the leaves will grow in size, reaching more than a foot in length.
- This plant is easy to propagate through stem cuttings or using air layering.
- Philodendron gigas leaves and stems contain toxic calcium oxalate crystals, so keep the plant away from pets and kids.
Now all you need to do is find a Philodendron gigas to call your own, so happy hunting!