Philodendron xanadu forms a beautiful mound of deeply lobed, dark green leaves.
Philodendron xanadu forms a beautiful mound of deeply lobed, dark green leaves. iStock

Top choice to bring outside in for some green decor

Indoor plants look great, and they help to make us happier and healthier. But sometimes, they can be a bit temperamental, and so I'm always looking out for interesting plants that aren't going to be too needy when I bring them inside.

Philodendrons, which I have up until recently dismissed as being a bit too boring, are fast becoming one of my absolute favourites. We've been using philodendrons, especially P. selloum and P. xanadu, for years in landscapes because they are so hardy, easy to grow, and adaptable. So I guess it's not really surprising that these, and many other species, are really proving themselves as indoor plants.

There are nearly 500 species of philodendron, and there is huge variation in leaf shape and colour, as well as the way that they grow, so there's plenty of experimenting to be done. Leaves can be quite small or huge, green or coloured, plain or patterned. Some varieties grow as climbers, and some have a more upright habit.

Philodendrons are native to the forests of South and Central America. All start their lives on the forest floor, so they are used to growing in low-light situations. And this, along with their generally easy-to-get-along-with nature, is what makes them so valuable as an indoor plant.

I've used P. xanadu in many situations outside, where I have found it will grow in any position ranging from full sun to full shade. As an indoor plant, it forms a beautiful mound of deeply lobed, dark green leaves.

Congo is another non-climbing variety, with large dark green leaves shaped like a super-sized arrow head. Rojo Congo has leaves of similar size and shape but the new leaves are deep red, and the older foliage retains some deep burgundy tones. Black Cardinal is even darker, with the mature leaves almost black. Prince of Orange has bright orange new leaves.

Then there are the climbers. The heartleaf philodendron will climb up a pole, or, with no pole available, will trail beautifully from the pot on its slender stems.

Philodendrons grow best in a moderately well-lit position, although they will tolerate low light quite well, at least for a while. They don't like to get too wet, so it's best to let the top of the mix dry out between waterings. They are rarely bothered by pests and diseases, unless you over-water and they start to rot. Those lovely large leaves may need a wipe or a rinse off every now and then to remove the dust. But these really are among the toughest of all the plants to grow indoors. The only problem is trying to decide which one to start with.

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