Philodendron species are common houseplants but few are as stunning as Philodendron micans, also known as the velvet leaf philodendron for its lightly textured leaves and rich purple-bronze undertones.
Whether you’re new to houseplants or already a collector, the velvet leaf philodendron makes a great addition to your indoor garden. While easy to care for, there are a few things you should know to keep your velvet leaf philodendron in tip-top form. Here are the tips and tricks to keep in mind.
An Overview of Philodendron Micans
Philodendrons are native to tropical areas of South and Central America. There are many, many varieties of philodendron—more than 400 altogether! This is thanks in part to its popularity as a houseplant, which has led breeders to develop additional varieties, but you’ll find a wide range of philodendron species in their native habitat as well.
The velvet leaf philodendron, like its relatives, is a climber or sprawler depending on its environment. It’s what is known as a hemiepiphyte.
True epiphytes, like air plants, are those that rely on other plants (usually trees) for support. Unlike parasitic plants, however, they don’t steal nutrients.
All they need is a boost toward the light. Hemiepiphytes maintain a root connection to the ground for all or part of their life cycle, though they don’t rely on that connection for all their nutrients.
The key characteristic of the velvet leaf philodendron is, as the name implies, the soft velvety texture of its leaves. In shape, it’s quite similar to a heartleaf philodendron, with pointed, teardrop-like leaves set along a sprawling stem.
The color sets it apart from other philodendron varieties, however: the leaves are rich green on top with undersides shading from red to purple to bronze.
While the plants do sometimes produce flowers and seeds in the wild, it is exceedingly rare for philodendrons grown as houseplants to bloom. Most are propagated from cuttings, which root very readily in water or soil.
Overview of Philodendron Micans Requirements
Velvet leaf philodendrons are relatively easy to care for, but they do have their preferences and it’s best to meet those needs in order for your plant to thrive.
As hemiepiphytes, they prefer soil with plenty of organic material, but take care not to overwater, as this type of soil can get soggy and cause root rot.
Velvet leaf philodendrons require bright but indirect light, though they will tolerate light shade if otherwise well cared for.
Pruning can help maintain their size and prevent legginess, and with the occasional fertilizer treatment and repotting when appropriate, they’ll remain a beautiful part of your collection for many years.
Velvet leaf philodendrons require bright but indirect light. Direct sunlight will cause the leaves to curl and die back, so if your windows get full sunlight, place it beside the window instead of in front of it.
While velvet leaf philodendron does tolerate shade, it will grow very slowly and may begin to look “leggy.” This occurs when the plant puts its energy into growing longer stems instead of leaves as it searches out new light sources.
The effect can make the plant look rather sickly, so if you notice your philodendron is looking leggy, trim it back and provide a bit more light. It will start to generate new, bushier leaves and stems in no time.
Consistency is key with philodendron varieties. They don’t like to sit in water, but they do not appreciate drying out completely, either.
In the winter, when the plants are not in their growing phase, you can let them get a bit dryer, but avoid letting the pot dry out completely, as it can be very hard to re-saturate.
Plant Soil Requirements
As hemiepiphytes, philodendron micans are not terribly picky about their soil. Just about any soil designed for houseplants will do so long as it drains well.
They are relatively light feeders and do not require rich soil. They are also tolerant of a wide range of pH, though they prefer soil that’s acidic to neutral (5.6-7.5) rather than alkaline.
Location and Temperature Needs
While velvet leaf philodendrons are hardy in USDA zones 10 and 11, they can also be grown as outdoor annuals elsewhere in the US, and as houseplants practically anywhere.
In cooler temperatures, they are likely to grow very slowly or remain dormant, so if your plant is sluggish about putting out leaves and stems, check for drafts or move it away from air-conditioning vents.
Plant Feeding/Fertilizing Requirements
Occasional feeding is all that’s necessary for velvet leaf philodendron. Use a water-soluble fertilizer or dilute compost tea to provide an extra boost every second or third watering.
If you prefer to use a granulated “top dressing” fertilizer, sprinkle a small amount (check manufacturer’s instructions for specifics) on top of the soil no more than twice throughout the growing season—once in late spring as the plant starts growing again after dormancy, and once in high summer for an added boost. Water well after using these granulated-type fertilizers.
Do not add any fertilizers in the winter months; the plant isn’t using the added nutrients and this can cause them to build up excessively.
Like most philodendron varieties, velvet leafs aren’t terribly fussy about their environments. They don’t appreciate excessive cold or very low humidity, but that can generally be mitigated by keeping them out of drafts and using a mister occasionally if you live somewhere arid.
Typically, they like the same household conditions we do, so if you’re happy, they’re happy!
There are two special considerations to keep in mind, however. The first is that philodendrons like to climb or sprawl, so be sure to give them somewhere to go.
They’re also toxic to people and pets alike, so when you’re planning where you want to situate your plant (and its future sprawling vines), make sure you choose a location that’s out of reach for kids and unwary critters.
Additional Tips For Success with Philodendron Micans
Opt for a potting soil with a high level of organic material like coconut coir or peat moss. This mimics the surface of a tree, which is where you’d find this plant in the wild.
The type of pot you use will help dictate how often your plant should be watered. Unglazed terra cotta tends to dry out more quickly, so if you’re apt to forget to water regularly, you may want to opt for a glazed ceramic or plastic pot.
Just make sure it has drainage holes, as philodendron micans are prone to root rot if their soil stays too soggy. A layer of large pebbles or gravel at the bottom of the pot can help prevent the drainage holes from being clogged with soil.
For planters with a detached saucer, use small lifts—again, pebbles, gravel, or even decorative glass stones work well for this—to keep the base of the planter out of any water that collects.
This tray actually serves a dual purpose: not only does it keep the planter from getting soggy, but as the collected water evaporates, in raises the humidity around the philodendron’s leaves and stems, which encourages healthy growth.
Philodendron varieties, including velvet leafs, have a tendency to sprawl every which way, so to keep them tidy and healthy, a bit of light pruning every now and again is in order.
Trim the stems just beyond a leaf node to encourage the stem to branch and form a bushier, denser plant. Save the scraps from pruning to propagate new plants, or dispose of them carefully—all parts of the plant are toxic.
This is a great plant for even beginners to propagate, and best of all, no special equipment or materials are required.
To start a new velvet leaf philodendron from a cutting, trim a length of stem that includes a healthy leaf node. Leftovers from pruning are perfect for this. At the base of the leaf, you should see tiny bumps on the stem. This is where new roots will emerge.
You can start your cutting directly in soil, but it’s more fun to pop the cutting into a glass of water and watch the roots begin to develop.
Make sure to top up the water so the new roots stay submerged, but keep the leaves clear of water to prevent disease from setting in.
Once the roots are clearly developed and growing strong, plant your new velvet leaf philodendron in soil and watch it grow!
It’s time to repot your velvet leaf philodendron when you start to see roots around the edges of the pot or at the drainage holes.
Prepare a new pot that’s only a couple inches or so larger than the existing one. Too much extra space, and your philodendron is apt to get soggy when watered.
Remove the root-bound philodendron gently from its existing pot, and lightly rake at the sides and bottom of the root ball to encourage new growth before placing it in its new home and firmly packing soil around it. Water well, and place in bright, indirect light.
Velvet leaf philodendron micans are susceptible to a number of the usual houseplant ailments, including mealybugs, spider mites, and root rot.
Mealybugs are tiny, white, fluffy-looking insects that cluster on the undersides of leaves and stems. They feed on the moisture and nutrients in the plant’s leaves and multiply very quickly. They also produce a waxy coating meant to protect them from heat and rain, but it has the added effect of repelling some water-based insecticide treatments.
Untreated plants can die from a serious infestation, so as soon as you notice mealybugs, it’s time to take action.
Isolate the infested plant immediately, and disinfect the area where it was with rubbing alcohol to prevent mealybugs from spreading to your other plants.
Cut away badly damaged leaves and stems, and spray the entire plant with neem oil (diluted per the manufacturer’s instructions) or insecticidal soap.
Both of these can penetrate the mealybugs’ waxy layer. Repeat treatments until the mealybugs are gone—expect it to take several treatments, as these little critters like to hide.
Another common houseplant pest, spider mites are so tiny they can drift through screened windows and doors and easily hitch a ride on new plants, tools, or soil.
This makes them tricky to see on your plants themselves, especially given the texture of velvet-leaf philodendrons. Watch for “stippling” on the leaves—erratic patches of tiny brown spots that appear and worsen over time. Another giveaway for spider mites are the fine webs they spin between leaves and stems.
These aren’t shapely creations like spider webs, but wisps of hard-to-see webbing typically found at the tips of branches or at leaf nodes.
Treat spider mites by isolating the infested plant, removing badly damaged leaves and stems, and spraying with miticide.
There are several excellent organic options, including neem oil and pyrethrum based products that are very effective.
Make sure to continue treating your plant until you’ve completely beaten the infestation. Moving forward, try using a humidifier near your houseplants. Spider mites prefer dry conditions, and the extra humidity might deter further infestations.
This is a tricky problem to treat, so your best bet is to avoid it entirely. Don’t plant your velvet leaf Philodendron Mican in too large a pot, or one without proper drainage holes, and avoid over watering to prevent root rot from taking hold.
If your plant does end up sitting in too much water for too long, the roots can die back, providing the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and fungi.
The symptoms of root rot are yellowing and wilting leaves, especially near the base of the plant. To treat it, remove the plant from the pot and wash the roots clean of soil.
Dispose of any infected soil, and use a bleach solution to clean the pot. This will remove any lingering bacteria and fungi.
Cut away any roots that are blackened or squishy to the touch, then repot your philodendron, making sure to allow adequate drainage.
Water enough to saturate the soil, but let it drain thoroughly, and avoid fertilizers. To make sure the reduced root system can adequately support the plant, now is an excellent time to give it a thorough pruning.
The good thing about philodendron micans is that due to their nature as hemiepiphytes, they aren’t completely dependent on their base root system.
If your plant appears badly affected by root rot at the base, but the vines are still thriving, simply cut away the base of the plant and re-root sections of the vines in a new pot with better drainage.
Make sure each cutting includes only a few leaves, or the new roots won’t be able to support them all.
All parts of velvet-leaf philodendrons contain considerable amounts of calcium oxalate.
While this compound isn’t highly toxic, it is an irritant to the mouth and throat and can cause kidney damage in sufficient quantities.
Make sure to keep all philodendron varieties, including velvet leafs, out of reach of children and pets.
Still have questions? Chances are, someone else did, too! Here are some of the more frequently asked questions regarding velvet leaf philodendrons.
Can velvet leaf philodendron micans tolerate full sun?
While they like bright, indirect light, full sun will burn philodendron leaves. In fact, the rich, reddish coloring of velvet leaf philodendrons make them far more tolerant of too little light than too much.
Just keep in mind that too much shade will slow down the plant’s growth considerably. It will cause it to produce fewer leaves and longer stems.
Why won’t my philodendron climb?
Velvet leaf philodendrons, like most philodendron micans, aren’t twining or climbing in the same way as peas or morning glory plants. Rather than using coiled tendrils to grab onto a structure and keep climbing, they anchor themselves with roots and grow upward from there.
That means that your philodendron won’t really climb along a trellis by itself, but will thrive quite happily once you arrange it there.
Why are my philodendron’s leaves falling off?
There are a number of reasons for this issue. One is overwatering causing root rot. If you notice leaves yellowing and falling off toward the base of the plant, root rot is the likely culprit.
Another possibility is leaf burn. If your plant is exposed to too much sunlight, it will try to protect itself by dropping leaves to decrease its surface area. The loss of an occasional leaf is nothing to be concerned about, however, as long as your plant is otherwise healthy and vigorous. It’s just replacing the old with the new!
Why are my philodendron’s leaves brown?
This depends on what you mean by “brown.” Velvet leaf philodendron micans are known for their unusual coloring, which can range from red to purple to, yes, brown. However, if that browning is new, or patchy, or is accompanied by crispness, you’ve got a problem.
Likely, your plant has been exposed to too much sun, or the humidity is very low. Move it to bright but indirect light and try using a mister to increase humidity. Also inspect your plant carefully for insects, as the damage they cause can leave brown patches.
Do I need to provide extra humidity for my velvet leaf philodendron?
While it’s not strictly necessary, your plant might appreciate it, especially if you live in a dry climate. Velvet leaf philodendrons grown in higher humidity tend to have bigger, denser leaves than those in drier environments.