Caring for Your Philodendron Xanadu: 9 Tips for a Healthy Plant

Written by Sofia Fantauzzo
Published: October 22, 2023
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Philodendrons come in many different varieties, though most have the same general requirements to remain healthy. Philodendron Xanadu (Thaumatophyllum xanadu ‘Winterbourn) is a shrubby plant that grows as tall as it does wide, about 3 feet. Tropical plants can give their keepers a lot of grief, especially when grown outside of tropical areas. Here are the nine best tips to make caring for your philodendron xanadu one of the easiest parts of your week!

This philodendron is native to Brazilian rainforests and is a low-maintenance, popular houseplant.

©FeelPic/ via Getty Images

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1. Find the Right Light

Because a plant feeds itself primarily through light exposure, gardeners must make sure their plants receive just the right amount of light. Low light levels aren’t a death sentence, but giving your philodendron xanadu access to the amount of light it needs will help guarantee large, broad leaves and plenty of growth.

Philodendrons are somewhat low-growing tropical plants that are mostly adapted to growing under the canopy of larger plants. This means their optimal amount of light is mostly indirect. Direct light exposure can cause burns to the leaves, which look like bleach spots and will not heal.

Bright, indirect light, or even medium light is the best to achieve a good growth rate and sizable leaves. This type of light is typically achieved through an east-facing window. If you don’t have east-facing windows at home, dappled light (also known as medium light) can work too. This type of light is usually diffused through a sheer curtain. West-facing windows can achieve this type of light.

If you don’t have any good natural lighting at home, you can use plant grow lights. There are many types available on the market with a wide range in price, but the most important thing to note when purchasing a plant light is that it gives off full-spectrum light.

2. Proper Soil is Key

Choosing the right soil is another important component of plant-growing. Soil might all seem the same on the surface, but when you really dig in, you’ll find plenty of nuances.

The right soil for philodendron xanadu is a well-draining yet rich mix, similar to the soil in their native region of Brazil. A mix of sand, loam, and clay in equal parts is perfect. Theoretically, you can also just pot this up in peat moss and call it a day. Another option is to simply amend a tropical soil mix with additional perlite and coco coir or peat moss for drainage. Be sure you’re using pots with drainage holes at the bottom, or if you’re planting outdoors, amend any soil that is slow to drain. Wet roots are the downfall of most plants.

The pH of the soil plays a role in nutrient absorption, so aim for a pH between 5.6 and 7.5. Fortunately, the soil components, like peat moss, acidify the soil. You can use pH test strips to determine if the soil is in the correct range.

3. Water Effectively

Watering too often is one of the easiest ways to kill a plant. However, with proper light and good soil (and drainage) watering can be a less-daunting task.

First, it’s important to know that under watering is better than overwatering. The consequences of letting your plant go a few days too long without water are less severe than watering too frequently. A good rule of thumb when caring for your philodendron xanadu is to water when the soil is at least halfway dry from the top of the pot. Even letting it dry out 75% of the way through the pot is fine. However, try not to let it dry out completely.

You can test the soil moisture using a long wooden skewer or stake. Insert it into the soil about halfway down the pot. Allow it to sit for a few minutes before removing. Upon removal, you’ll know it’s time to water if there isn’t soil clinging to the stick. If there is wet soil on the stick, you can likely wait a few days to water. Alternatively, you can use a moisture meter, though these aren’t always the most accurate. Depending on the conditions, you might go two or three weeks without needing to water.

Typically, indoor plants won’t need as much water in the winter season since they’re not growing as much and aren’t getting the same amount of light (unless you’re using a grow light).

Watering correctly is important in establishing a robust root system, which leads to healthy growth and an overall more vigorous plant. Water your plant evenly over the top of the soil. Avoid watering overhead and soaking the leaves. This can possibly spread diseases and leaves the soil less saturated. When watering, provide enough liquid so that excess water runs freely out of the drainage holes. Watering like this ensures the whole root system is getting hydrated.

4. Prune as Needed

Taking a pair of shears to your plant might seem counterintuitive if you want growth. While this particular plant is a fast grower regardless of pruning, cutting out some old or dead leaves can leave it looking better and give it a better chance of staying pest and disease-free.

When pruning, always use sterile and sharp tools. First, start with pruning out yellow, damaged, or diseased leaves. Then, you can trim extra growth to thin out dense parts. This improves air flow, which can leave your plant less susceptible to fungal growth and pests. Aim to clean your shears or scissors between each cut, especially if you’re removing diseased leaves. You can use rubbing alcohol on paper towels to disinfect. Dispose of all cut tissue away from your plant.

5. Repot Regularly

Repotting your philodendron xanadu can happen once every year or every other year, depending on how quickly your plant grows. When you repot your plant, be sure you’re choosing a pot only one to two sizes larger to accommodate the growing root system. Gently remove the plant from the pot and tease apart the roots. This eliminates any old or bound-up soil. Cut damaged or diseased roots away using sharp, sterile tools. A healthy root is firm and light in color, while unhealthy or dead ones are soft, dark in color, and in the case of rotted roots, smelly!

Once you have the roots trimmed, you can repot in your new pot with fresh soil. Water your plant well after repotting to help it adjust. Sometimes, especially in mature plants, they can look a little droopy after repotting. This is normal, as the repotting process can be a shock to your plant. Give it a week or so to perk up, and make sure you’ve not altered conditions such as location, temperature, and light.

6. Humidity Aids in Healthy Growth

One of the best ways to care for your philodendron xanadu is by giving it ample humidity. Average household humidity of 40-50% won’t kill your plant, but it definitely won’t thrive. The more humidity you provide this plant, the more vigorous it will grow. Humid conditions can also promote a shinier, more lustrous appearance.

Aim for 60% or more humidity. This can be achieved most easily with a humidifier. The amount of humidity is consistent and controlled. If you don’t have a humidifier or don’t wish to invest in one, misting a few times a day can help, especially if you spot new growth. Be sure there is still sufficient airflow between the leaves. This is where pruning dense areas comes in handy.

7. Use Fertilizer Appropriately

In terms of fertilizer, too much of a good thing can most definitely be a bad thing. Fertilize sparingly. These plants are not heavy feeders, so it’s crucial to use a diluted amount of balanced NPK liquid fertilizer once monthly during the growing season if you choose to fertilize at all. A balanced NPK fertilizer has the same amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, respectively. You can use half the recommended amount mixed into the water used on your plant. During the fall and winter months, fertilizing is unnecessary.

It might be tempting to increase the amount of fertilizer or to fertilize more frequently. Excessive fertilizer use can lead to a build-up of salts in the roots. This hinders a plant’s ability to absorb water, and results in crisping or dying leaf edges or yellowing leaves.

8. Maintain the Right Temperature

The ideal temperature for a philodendron xanadu is between 60°F and 80°F. Too much heat can cause your plant to lose water too fast. This slows down all the cellular processes taking place, which ultimately leads to a weaker plant that might look a bit pathetic. Too cold, and you risk freezing, which can kill your plant. Room temperature is best. If you have this plant outdoors, be sure you live in an area that doesn’t experience harsh winters. If the summers are very hot, be sure you’re planting in an area that has access to afternoon shade.

Temperature affects plants, as do drafts. For an indoor plant, be sure you’re keeping it in a relatively climate-controlled setting. Avoid setting it in front of windows or doors that are opened frequently. Definitely do not place it in front of vents for air conditioning or heat. These strong blasts of hot or cold air can stress your plant. Also, it can dry it out, which means it won’t grow healthy, hydrated leaves.

9. Wipe it Down

Last but not least, show your philodendron xanadu how much you care by occasionally wiping off its beautiful broad leaves. This removes dust, which can improve rates of photosynthesis. It also generally improves its overall appearance. By regularly cleaning the leaves you’re also more likely to notice a potential pest issue.

To clean the leaves, all you need is a soft, damp cloth. Gently wipe the leaves (tops and undersides) and clean the cloth as needed so you’re not spreading dust and dirt. There is no need to add oil to make the leaves shine.

Final Thoughts

Whether you have an unfortunate black thumb or you’re a seasoned house-plant parent, these tips can help you grow healthy plants. In fact, they are applicable to many different types of tropical plants and will help them reach their full potential. The best way to approach caring for your philodendron xanadu is by mimicking their natural conditions. After reading these tips, you will be much more prepared to appropriately care for your philodendron xanadu, and other philodendron varieties too!

The photo featured at the top of this post is © pornpawit/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Sofia is a lover of all things nature, and has completed a B.S. in Botany at the University of Florida (Go Gators!). Professionally, interests include everything plant and animal related, with a penchant for writing and bringing science topics to a wider audience. On the off-occasion she is not writing or playing with her cats or crested gecko, she can be found outside pointing out native and invasive plants while playing Pokemon Go.

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