Some plant families are small but you couldn’t say this about Philodendrons
With just under 500 species, it’s a big family and contains members with a diverse range of growth habits.
Some ‘Philos’ start life high in the trees where they are epiphytic, sourcing their nutrients from the host tree. Others start this way but extend roots down the tree trunk, eventually sinking their roots into the earth. The third type start life by germinating seeds in the ground then heading off in search of a tree to climb. Once established up the tree, they disconnect with the ground and become dependant on the tree for their existence.
Some species are self-heading (non-climbing) and are useful in the landscape.
Philodendrons love trees, hence the name Philo (love of) and Dendron (tree).
You will see Philodendrons with all shapes of leaves, from simple arrow shape to lobed and deeply cut. Juvenile leaves differ from adult leaves on the same plant as it ages. The glossy and wildly shaped leaves make Philodendrons desirable as houseplants along with the fact that they are hardy individuals.
Some Philodendrons have ‘nectaries’. These produce nectar and serve to attract ants, which in turn protect the plant from pests. Your very own symbiotic relationship in the house! Interesting but not very desirable, so you may have to move them outside or clean up the mess regularly.
The sexual reproduction of the family is both complex and fascinating, worthy of a session in Wikipedia! Like many plant genera, individual Philo plants have both male and female parts to the flower but these are not synchronised thereby avoiding self-pollination. Pollen is produced by the male part and distributed by beetles. These male beetles are attracted to the flower by two processes of the plant- the production of pheromones or sex attractants designed to mimic receptive females and the amazing ability of the spathe to increase in temperature by up to 20 degrees above the surrounding air temperature. Imagine a flower at 45 degrees C!
Not going to make too fine a point here but there is love in the air, a warm cosy den, food and partners for an all-night session. And then there is tomorrow nights feast!
I think we should move on…
Philodendrons make great indoor plants because they are tough. Keep the soil moist not dry and find a brightly lit position for best results. ‘Rojo Congo’ is an attractive self-heading Philodendron with new red leathery leaves. Fantastic!