How to Grow and Care for Philodendron elegans (Finger-leaf Philodendron) Indoors


Philodendron elegans, Finger-leaf Philodendron

Photo Credt: Bella Spina

Botanical name: Philodendron elegans
Family: Araceae
Common name: Finger-leaf Philodendron, Skeleton Key Philodendron

Description

Philodendron elegans also called Finger-leaf Philodendron or Skeleton Key Philodendron is a sought-after plant on account of its size and highly divided stately leaves.

The leaves come in various shades of green and have a glossy sheen. They are highly divided which gives them the appearance of a palm's frond.

Finger-leaf Philodendron has a creeping and a climbing growth habit. It requires to be given a moss pole or a trellis to give it support to grow upright.

Philodendron elegans is considered a rare, low-maintenance Philodendron and is usually mistaken for with P. radiatum, P. mayoi, P. lancerum or P. tortum due to the pinnate foliage.

Size

Skeleton Key Philodendron can grow to about 33 ft in its native habitat but indoors it grows to about 6-8 ft. The leaves can grow to 1.8 ft long by 1 ft wide.

Origin

Philodendron elegans is native to the tropical forests of Brazil and Colombia where it grows as a hemiepihyte; it grows both epiphytically and terrestrially.

Philodendron elegans, Finger-leaf Philodendron

Photo Credit: Susanties Garden

Philodendron elegans Care Indoors

Philodendron elegans (Finger-leaf Philodendron) thrives in medium to bright indirect light, warm and humid conditions, and moderately moist, well-drained soils that are rich in organic matter coupled with regular feeding during the growing season.

Finger-leaf Philodendron requires regular pruning to keep the plant neat, encourage a bushy growth and rejuvenate growth. Repotting of the young plant is needed when it becomes pot-bound while the large plants require annual replenishment of the soil. Keep reading for more on these conditions and how to best to provide them.

Light Requirements

Philodendron elegans grows best in medium to bright indirect light away from direct sunlight. It can also grow under a grow light where natural light is inadequate.

Do not expose Finger-leaf Philodendron to direct sunlight to avoid scorching the leaves. Ensure that it receives adequate light as insufficient light will result in leggy growth and small-sized pale leaves.

For uniform growth, turn the pot regularly to ensure that the plant receives light on all sides.

How to Water Philodendron elegans

Water Philodendron elegans liberally during the growing season while allowing the top 2-3 in. of soil to dry out between waterings.

Reduce the amount and frequency of watering during the cold season as growth is minimal at this time. Use water that is at room temperature to avoid shocking this tropical plant.

To avoid soggy soil, ensure that the pot has a drainage hole. Soggy soil can lead to root-rot disease and eventual loss of the plant.


Temperature

Philodendron elegans thrives in average warmth within the range of 15-280C. Temperatures outside this range may harm the plant.

Keep Finger-leaf Philodendron away from cold and hot drafts to prevent extreme temperatures.

Very high temperatures may cause yellowing and leaf drop while too low temperatures can result in reduced growth or even death of the plant.

Humidity

Philodendron elegans requires a humid environment inorder to thrive. Low humidity for prolonged periods can result in curled leaves and brown leaf tips and edges.

To raise humidity, set the pot on a wet pebble tray. Check out these techniques on how to raise humidity for houseplants.

Regularly clean the leaves by damp-wiping with a soft cloth to get rid of dust and to discourage pest infestation.

Fertilizer (Feeding)

Feed Philodendron elegans every 3-4 weeks during the growing season with a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer.

Do not feed during the cold season as growth is minimal at this time. Feeding at this time can cause fertilizer burn and eventual death of the plant.

Repotting

Repot Philodendron elegans at the beginning of the growing season when the plant becomes root-bound. Use a pot that is 2 sizes larger and loose, free-draining soil that is rich in organic matter.

Ensure that the pot has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy as it can lead to root-rot and eventual death of the plant.

Replenish the top 2-3 in. of soil of large plants at the beginning of the growing season or as necessary. Take care not to injure the roots to avoid fungal infestations.

The large Finger-leaf Philodendron can also be divided at repotting to propagate new plants if you need to increase your collection or share with friends and family.

Pruning

Pruning Philodendron elegans involves removal of yellow and dead leaves to maintain the plant neat and tidy.

Cut back the stems of a straggly plant to the soil level at the beginning of the growing season to rejuvenate growth.

Propagation

Philodendron elegans (Finger-leaf Philodendron) propagation can be done during the growing season from stem cuttings or by plant divison. The stem cuttings can be rooted in soil or in water.

How to propagate Philodendron elegans from stem cuttings in soil

Take a stem cutting of about 4-5 in. long from a healthy Philodendron elegans by cutting the stem below a leaf node. Strip off the lower leaves.

Insert the cutting in moist, well-drained soil while ensuring at least on leaf node is below the soil.

Place the set up in a warm, well-lit place and maintain the soil moist until new growth has emerged.

Allow the new Finger-leaf Philodendron to be well established before transplanting after which you can begin routine care.

How to propagate Philodendron elegans from stem cuttings in water

Take a stem cutting of about 4-5 in. long from a healthy Philodendron elegans by cutting the stem below a leaf node. Strip off the lower leaves.

Place the cutting in a jar of clean water while ensuring at least on leaf node is below the water surface.

Place the set up in a well-lit place and change the water every 5-7 days until roots have developed.

Transfer the new plants into individula pots in moist, free-draining soil when the roots are about 4 in. long.

Maintain the soil moist until new growth has emerged on the cuttings.

Allow the new Finger-leaf Philodendron to be well established before transfering the pots to their permanent position after which you can begin routine.

How to propagate Philodendron elegans by plant division

Water the Philodendron elegans thoroughly at least 1 day before to make it easier to divide and also hasten establishment. A well hydrated plant suffers less shock and takes a shorter time to take root.

Carefully divide a large Philodendron elegans into sections while ensuring each section has enough roots.

Pot these sections into individual pots in moist, loose, free-draining soil.

Place the set up in a warm, brightly-lit place and maintain the soil moist until the new Finger-leaf Philodendron is well established after which you can begin routine care.

Philodendron elegans, Finger-leaf Philodendron

Photo Credit: Susanties Garden

Philodendron elegans Problems Indoors

Philodendron elegans (Finger-leaf Philodendron) problems indoors include yellow leaves, drooping leaves, brown leaf tips and edges, rotting, pests and diseases among others. Continue reading for more on these problems and how to fix them.

Yellow leaves

If many leaves are affected and there are signs of wilting and rotting, overwatering is the cause of yellow leaves in Philodendron elegans.

Take care not to overwater. Water the Finger-leaf Philodendron liberally during the growing season while allowing the top 2-3 in. of soil to dry out between waterings.

Reduce the amount and frequency of watering during the cold season to maintain the soil barely moist.

To avoid soggy soil, ensure that the pot has a drainage hole and that the soil is free-draining (drains easily).

If there is no wilting and rotting, underfeeding is the cause of yellow leaves in Philodendron elegans.

Feed the Skeleton Key Philodendron every 3-4 weeks during the growing season with a balanced water-soluble fertilizer but do not feed during the cold season to avoid fertilizer burn.

If only lower leaves are affected and have dark spots and new leaves are dark and small, then underwatering is the cause of yellow leaves.

To fix the problem, water the Finger-leaf Philodendron liberally during the growing season while allowing the top 2-3 in. of soil to dry out between waterings.

Reduce watering during the cold season but never allow the soil to dry out completely.

If leaves are pale colored and have straw-colored patches the cause of yellow leaves is exposure to direct sunlight.

Protect or keep the Finger-leaf Philodendron away from direct sunlight as it cannot tolerate direct sunlight.

Drooping leaves

Drooping leaves in Philodendron elegans are due to three possible reasons. One possible cause of drooping leaves is incorrect watering; either underwatering or overwatering.

Check the condition of the soil by inserting 2-3 in. of your forefinger in the soil and feel the soil between your fingers.

If the soil feels dry, water the plant immediately and it should recover. If the soil feels wet, withhold watering until the top 2-3 in. of soil feel dry.

To prevent this problem in the future, water the Finger-leaf Philodendron liberally during the growing season while allowing the top 2-3 in. of soil to dry out between waterings.

Reduce watering during the cold season but never allow the soil to dry out completely. Also, ensure that the pot has a drainage hole and that the soil is well-drained.

The second possible cause of drooping leaves in Philodendron elegans is too high temperatures due to hot drafts.

Skeleton Key Philodendron grows best in average warmth within the range of 15-280C. Protect it from hot draughts like hot air vents, heat source and others.

The third possible cause of drooping leaves in Philodendron elegans is pests infestations. Weak plants are susceptible to various pests as listed below.

These sap sucking pests will cause the leaves to loose their stiffness and begin to droop. Regularly inspect the plant for any infestation and treat it appropriately.

Leggy growth and small pale leaves

Too little light is the cause of leggy growth and small pale leaves as Philodendron elegans will not thrive in shade.

Move the Philodendron elegans to a more brighter spot where it will receive medium to bright indirect light or instal a grow light where natural light is inadequate.

Brown leaf tips and edges

There are two possible causes of brown leaf tips and edges in Philodendron elegans. One possible cause of brown leaf tips and edges is dry air (low air humidity).

To fix this problem, set the pot on a wet pebble tray or use a cool mist humidifier to raise humidity for the Finger-leaf Philodendron.

The second possible cause of brown leaf tips and edges in Philodendron elegans is that the plant is pot-bound.

Repot the Philodendron elegans into a pot 2 sizes larger. Ensure the pot has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy as it can lead to root-rot disease and eventual death of the plant. Read on how to treat root-rot in houseplants.

Diseases

Philodendron elegans is also prone to Powdery Mildew and Leaf Spot Disease which are promoted by overwet conditions coupled with poor air circulation.

Isolate the affected plant to prevent spread to the rest of the houseplants and spray it with a fungicidal solution. Ensure to cover the entire plant; the leaves and the stems.

To prevent future infestation, avoid wetting the foliage and water from the bottom instead. Also ensure that there is good air circulation for the plant.

Pests

The common pests in Philodendron elegans are Spider Mites, Aphids, Scales and Mealybugs. Isolate the affected plant to prevent spread to other houseplants and treat it with Neem oil or Insecticidal soap.

Is Philodendron elegans toxic?

Philodendron elegans like other Philodendrons is toxic to both humans and pets as indicated by National Capital Poison Center. The plants contain Calcium oxalate crystals.

If ingested, it can cause burning and swelling in the mouth and throat, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pains. Therefore, keep your Philodendron elegans away from the reach of children and pets.

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