Tropical philodendrons are a popular plant choice for their beautiful leaves and gorgeous coloring. But the philodendron Mexicanum is a standout in this beloved group of houseplants. Easy to grow and propagate, this exotic climber rewards owners with a stunning leaf transformation from light, glossy green to a leathery, dark green with purple undersides.
- Scientific name and common names: philodendron Mexicanum, Mexican philodendron
- Origin: tropical rainforest of Chiapas, Mexico
- Indoor or Outdoor plant: indoors or outdoors in USDA zones 9-11
- Height and Structure: upright stems with leaves up to 2 feet in length, may climb vertically
- Temperature: 55-85 F
- Flower Color: true flowers are too small to be seen, but visible inflorescence is white with a ruby red center
The best time to plant a philodendron Mexicanum is just before or at the start of the growing season. Young plants should be placed into a new pot or home at the end of winter or early springtime while the plant is coming out of its dormancy. Planting during the spring or even summer can encourage the plant to grow quickly.
As the Mexican philodendron is an epiphyte, it thrives living under the canopy of larger trees in the dappled shade. The bright yet indirect light this home provides encourages the tropical plant to climb up vertical surfaces in search of more sunlight. While this climbing vine attaches to taller plants, it does not mind sharing space with other flora but should not be crowded. Indoor plants will fill in and climb when given room.
As a plant that naturally grows under a canopy of trees, the philodendron Mexicanum needs a lot of bright but indirect light. In fact, climbing plants like this exotic beauty will reach toward a light source with growing vines but will be burned when exposed to direct sunlight.
Bright light in a home will ensure healthy plant growth as well as strong vining abilities while direct sunlight will result in burned leaves or stagnant growth of this otherwise robust tropical plant. Too little light can cause the leaves to yellow, indicating stress, or even develop smaller than expected when not enough bright light is provided.
A spot near a sunny window is a perfect location for this tropical plant as long as the plant does not spend time in direct sunlight.
One of the most important caretaking aspects of the philodendron Mexicanum relates to soil moisture. While this tropical plant needs high humidity, soil that drains well is crucial for it to thrive. Plant the philodendron in well-draining soil that is loose to allow for water drainage. Adding in perlite or peat moss can aid in creating the perfect soil home for this tropical plant as well as checking to make sure the soil is neutral or slightly acidic to replicate the philodendron Mexicanum’s native home. .
When the philodendron Mexicanum is happy, expect an enthusiastic grower. During the spring and summer, this tropical plant will stretch and grow at a fast rate, reaching its vines around support poles and upwards and outwards towards its light source. Leaves will unfurl from their youthful lighter green color as they lengthen up to 2 feet in length and transition to a deeper green with the noteworthy burgundy or purple-hued undersides.
As the leaves develop, their unique tri-lobed nature reveals itself, marking the maturity of the leaves in grand fashion. Within about 2 years, expect the philodendron Mexicanum to grow up to 6.5 and 7 feet in height if given a sturdy support pole to climb.
A climber, the indoor Mexicanum needs to be staked for it to have support for its vining trails. With a moss-covered stake a few feet tall, this houseplant will thrive and grow upwards encircling its stake, but it can be trained to grow in a bushier fashion if desired by lowering the trailing vines consistently to create a fuller plant. Outdoors, this plant will connect onto nearby trees or taller plants. If that is not desired, an outdoor stake or vertical surface should be provided nearby.
As a tropical plant, consistent watering is crucial for the philodendron Mexicanum, but its ability to drain the water away from the soil is just as important. During the growing seasons, this plant requires moist soil that is not overly wet. It should be watered a few times a week but only when the soil is dry to the touch an inch down.
Overwatering will be obvious with this tropical plant as its leaves will be yellow while brown leaves indicate underwatering. During the dormant fall and winter months, water less as the plant will not need it for growth. The best rule of thumb for this picky plant is to check for soil dampness before every time it is to be watered, as overwatering is the biggest challenge with keeping this tropical plant content.
Like many tropical plants, the philodendron Mexicanum does not need a lot of fertilization, but regular doses will encourage large leaf growth. During the growing season, small liquid fertilizer applications can be provided monthly with a foliage plant fertilizer or even a general plant type. Over-fertilizing should be avoided as it may burn the plant’s roots and inhibit rather than encourage healthy growth.
Indoor houseplant homes will need to be evaluated for their humidity levels for the best outcome of the philodendron Mexicanum. These finicky tropicals need between 20-40% humidity during the day and between 80 and 100% overnight due to being an epiphyte that lives under the canopy of trees. In a home, this high level of humidity can be a challenge to maintain, but three methods can be used to combine for a happily humid environment for this exotic plant:
- pebble trays filled with water can be placed under the pot if checked regularly
- humidifiers can be used to add constant, consistent moisture to the air
- misting of the plant by hand can be done regularly
This climbing plant does not need regular pruning or trimming other than the removal of yellowed or browned leaves. Pruning may be desired if a specific shape of the vertical growth is desired with the removal of sprouting trails that don’t conform to the wanted shape. An evergreen plant, this tropical plant’s leaves don’t fall off seasonally so there is no regular need for a dormant season prune or trim.
When in a spot with plenty of indirect light and enough humidity without being overwatered, the philodendron Mexicanum will grow from a baby plant to a full-grown specimen in a couple of years. As its rapid growth potential is only realized in ideal conditions, repotting this plant in its first few years of life may not be necessary unless its size overwhelms the pot.
As a climber, a sturdy pot like terracotta or other heavily constructed pot should be used in addition to a substantial stake that is planted deeply into the pot for stability. When repotting is indicated, the plant can be easily repotted into a larger container during the beginning of the growing season in early spring.
Like all philodendrons, this variety can easily be propagated to produce multiple healthy baby plants from a mature mother plant. While seeds can be used to regrow a philodendron Mexicanum, doing so can take months to grow enough from the incubation stage, and plants grown by this method are often finicky with water and light needs. Instead, the best options are to propagate with cuttings.
- Dirt Propagation Remove a stem below a nodule from a healthy, full-grown plant. Dip the ends into rooting hormone solution and place into prepared soil, providing light and water similar to the mother plant.
- Air Layering Propagation Locate a nodule from a healthy, full-grown plant and wrap it and the surrounding area with dampened moss and clear cling film after cutting a hole carefully in the nodule. Keep the area damp and watch for roots to begin to develop in the cut area. Remove the baby plant above the roots and transplant it to prepared soil once the roots have grown a few inches in length.
This tropical beauty has few pesky invaders, but the common ones that could find their way to the Mexican philodendron are aphids, mealybugs, scales, shore flies, and thrips.
When the plant is allowed to sit in wet soil, fungus gnats can become a problem for this plant that dislikes overly wet soil. If any of the pests are seen on the plant, then a few applications of insecticidal soap or Neem oil should remove the pests and discourage new infestations.
In order to discourage a pest infestation, plants can be washed down with water once a week to dislodge any pests that are attempting to make the tropical plant’s leaves their home. However, root rot is a common problem with this exotic plant since sitting in wet soil is highly detrimental to its health.
Evidence of root rot can be slowed growth or yellowed leaves, so regular assessment of the container’s soil is recommended to avoid a fatal case.
With over 500 varieties of philodendrons, this family of tropical plants comes in a huge range of plant types, sizes and colors. One of the most popular philodendrons is the hederaceum with its light green, heart-shaped leaves. Another highly sought-after variety is the Moonlight hybrid, beloved for its ease of growing, petite size, and showy leaves. The Pink Princess (erubscens) is loved for its pink and black markings, but this variety is especially picky with light needs and will not show its rosy hue if it receives too much or too little indirect light.
Other tropicals work best nearby the philodendron like the plants in the monsteras family and the pothos plants.
Yes. When cut, the plant’s excretions can cause skin irritations or nausea if ingested.
Yes, the plant’s toxic chemicals are released when a pet chews or bites on the stems. Pets exposed to this may show signs of vomiting or distress.