A popular beginner-friendly houseplant is the Philodendron Birkin. It has attractive green-and-cream striped leaves that have a slighty brittle, waxy texture.
While it is a low-maintenance plant, it is slow growing even under optimal conditions. When mature, it reaches a maximum height of 3 feet (91cm), making it perfect for small spaces.
To grow well, the Philodendron Birkin needs:
- Plenty of indirect light, at least 8 hours per day.
- A well-draining, slightly acidic potting mix. We like adding bark to lighten commercial potting soils, which alone are typically too dense.
- Deep watering when the top 2 inches (5cm) of soil is dry.
- Mild, stable temperatures between 60-85°F (15-30°C).
Luckily, the Birkin withstands a bit of neglect, so don’t worry if you don’t get the conditions exactly right. They are pretty forgiving! 🙂
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Where does the Philodendon Birkin come from?
The Philodendron Birkin hails from the Philodendron genus, which consists of nearly 500 species. The Birkin came into existence as a spontaneous mutation of the Philodendron Rojo Congo, another upright-growing Philodendron.
Is the Philodendron Birkin expensive?
Not anymore! Tissue culture is now commonly used for mass production, making it very economical to buy your own Philodendron Birkin. A review of 7 popular distributors came to an average price of US$28.35 for a starter pot.
You can buy a Philo Birkin from Costa Farms here. Prior to the rise of tissue culture, the Philodendron Birkin could cost 2-4 times what it does today.
Caring for your Philodendron Birkin
In our experience, the Philodendron Birkin thrives when it gets 8-12 hours of medium to bright indirect sunlight. Direct sunlight isn’t necessary for this plant. More than 2-3 hours of direct light can in fact scorch its leaves, leaving it with brown sunscorch marks.
If you’re planning on decorating a windowsill with this attractive plant, choose an East or West-facing window. Ours is sitting pretty in an East-facing windowsill. 🙂
Importantly, rotate your plant every week for even growth. Its thick green stems tend to lean heavily towards the light!
One thing to be wary of is insufficient light. Under low-light conditions, leaves start turning a darker color, and their variegation will become duller. They may even lose their variegation altogether!!!
This is a natural response to low light levels, as your plant compensates by maximizing the amount of chlorophyll (which have green pigments) to manufacture food.
The solution? Invest in a grow light if your home doesn’t get sufficient natural light, especially in the winter.
The Philodendron Birkin is generally a thirsty plant that benefits from frequent watering. However, always use your finger to check the top 2 inches (5cm) of soil to see if it needs watering.
- If the soil sticks to your finger, or if the soil still feels slightly moist, the Birkin is still hydrated. Hold off watering and check back again in a few days.
- If your finger comes back clean and the soil feels dry to the touch, its safe to water. You can use room-temperature tap water for watering.
Tropical plants like the Birkin need an environment that mimics the high humidity of a rainforest. Plants thrive when their growing conditions closely resemble that of their natural habitat. 🙂
Aim for >60% humidity for the Philodendron Birkin. Check out our guide on how to increase humidity levels here.
The Philodendron Birkin comes from very warm temperatures, so it doesn’t do very well when exposed to the cold. It usually thrives in temperatures in the range of 60-85°F (15-30°C).
Make sure that you keep it away from open, drafty windows or doors that let cold air in.
Soil or Growing Medium
This popular houseplant needs a specific kind of soil to grow well. It prefers a nutrient-rich soil, but one that is well-draining and allows for plenty of airflow to the roots. We find typical commercial mixes too heavy and dense for a happy Birkin.
A high-quality potting mix provides nutrients for your Birkin, while perlite and bark allows excess water to drain, reducing the risk of root rot. Peat makes the soil’s pH slightly acidic, which increases the availability of nutrients for your Birkin.
Fertilizing helps your Philodendron Birkin manufacture lush leaves. In particular, added nitrogen levels encourage healthy foliage growth. 🙂 But since this plant grows quite slowly, it won’t need to be fertilized as frequently as many others.
Choose a gentle (urea-free) liquid fertilizer and apply at half-strength every month in the spring and summer. Mix in the fertilizer when you are watering the plant so it is extra-dilute, protecting sensitive roots from root burn.
Hold off fertilizing in fall and winter, when your plant isn’t growing as much – it doesn’t need it!
You’ll typically first notice your plant is rootbound when roots start to peek out of the bottom of the container. You may even notice your plant’s watering frequency increasing significantly as the plant has outgrown its pot.
Choose a pot that’s 2 inches (5cm) bigger than the original so that your Philodendron Birkin has space to grow, but the container isn’t too big for it either. When you choose a pot that’s too big for a plant, you run the risk of overwatering them. This is because there is too much unused soil in the pot which retains excess water.
Make sure to repot in the spring or summer months, so that it can recover under optimal growing conditions. The warmth and sunlight helps it bounce back quickly!
(Need more info? Check out our step-by-step repotting guide here.)
Like many from the Araceae family, the Philodendron Birkin is toxic when ingested by pets and humans. This is due to the presence of calcium oxalate in its leaves, which can cause skin burns and localized skin irritation, as well as nausea and vomiting when stems, roots or leaves are ingested.
Propagation through stem cuttings
You can easily multiply the Philodendron Birkin plants in your house by propagating the plant when it grows mature enough. Let’s discuss this process step-by-step.
- Cut off a 5-inch (13cm) part of the stem that has at least one node, and ideally, that has some aerial roots. Nodes are the thickened, knobby part of the stem.
- Remove any leaves from the bottom half of the stem cutting.
- Place the stem cutting in a clean jar filled with water.
- Place the container in a warm spot that has lots of indirect light. If you have a humidifier, prop it up next to the container and set at 80%.
- Replace the water every other day.
- Once you see some roots growing, you can repot the Birkin in a separate pot with your regular soil mix and continue your regular Philodendron Birkin care routine.
When taking a cutting for propagation, make sure to take a healthy stem with at least one node. Nodes contain genetic material necessary to grow new plants – so you can’t do without one!
Wiping down the leaves
Sunlight is essential for photosynthesis to produce food. However, the Philodendron Birkin’s waxy and thick leaves tend to accumulate dust over time… more so than many other plants with thinner and more flimsy leaves!
When the leaves are covered in dust, less light penetrates their surface, reducing the amount of food your plant can manufacture.
Every week or so, wipe your plant’s leaves with a damp cloth to get rid of the dust. Then, wipe dry so that leaves are not covered in a thin film of water.
Are you running into some problems with your Philodendron Birkin? This section might help you out.
Why Is My Philodendron Birkin Yellow Or Brown?
If your plant is turning yellow or brown, there may be several reasons behind this change.
If the leaves are brown and has crispy edges, underwatering may be the culprit. Monitor the soil’s moisture level to confirm.
Brown leaves can also occur when the plant is too cold or isn’t receiving enough humidity. This situation typically occurs in the winters when the indoors aren’t humid enough without the help of a humidifier.
If you see that your Philodendron Birkin has yellow or brown leaves along with a mushy or droopy stem, there’s a chance that you might be overwatering it. Over time, waterlogged roots cause airflow to cut off, and over time roots decay and die away. Make sure you are only watering only when the topsoil is dry!
(Check out our step-by-step guide on saving an overwatered plant.)
Why Are The Leaves Curling?
Underwatering is a common cause of curling leaves. Curled leaves are a natural response to water-stressed plants. Rolled leaves have less exposed surface area, and, according to research published by the University of Chicago, reduces the amount of water that is lost to transpiration by 7-13%.
Cold and dry air (<60% humidity) can also cause the leaves to curl.
Why Are The Leaves Falling Off my Birkin?
Older leaves naturally fall off to make way for new growth. However, if you see newer leaves drying up and falling, this could mean that the temperature is too cold, or your plant is exposed to a draught.
Is your plant near a drafty door or window? Relocate it to a warmer spot protected from temperature fluctuations and draughts.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I get more variegation on my Philodendron Birkin?
You’ll see more cream variegation on your plant if you expose it to at least 8 hours of indirect sunlight every day. Use a grow light if your home doesn’t get much natural light.
What should I do if my Philodendron Birkin is reverting?
If your Birkin starts growing new green-only leaves, then it may be losing its variegation. Snip off the offending non-variegated leaves such that only the striped leaves remain. Ensure your plant has at least 8 hours of indirect light to encourage variegation.
Are Philodendron Birkins rare?
They are much less rare than before. Thanks to tissue culture, Philodendron Birkins are readily available on Etsy and Amazon.
Rare Philodendrons include the Spiritus Sancti (found in nature only in the Brazilian state of Espirito Santo) and the Philodendron Gloriosum (red-line endangered species).
How big will a Philodendron Birkin get?
The Birkin is typically a slow-growing plant, and the maximum height it can reach is around 3 feet (91cm). Since it grows slowly, it will achieve this maximum height in its first few years of life.
However, the rate of growth also depends on its care conditions and the size of the pot. Typically, lower light levels are the main culprit for sluggish growth.
Do Philodendron Birkins bloom?
Philodendron Birkins don’t bloom.
Is it a good idea to use LECA for a Philodendron Birkin?
LECA (lightweight expanded clay aggregate) is an excellent substitute for soil or potting mix when growing a Philodendron Birkin. The clay balls hold water until the plant needs it without drowning the roots in water. People who struggle with overwatering or underwatering their plants or have busy schedules can use LECA to grow their Birkin. (You can read more about the Pros and Cons of LECA here.)
Do Philodendron Birkins have vines?
Unlike other philodendrons, Philodendron Birkins do not have vines and are not hanging plants. They grow upright. 🙂 If you prefer an easy-going vining plant, try the Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma, or Pothos.
Other Philodendrons we love
- Philodendron Goeldii – a tropical species with finger-like leaves that come together in a “halo”.
- Philodendron Florida Ghost – a compact, cream & green Philo with lobed leaves!
- Philodendron Verrucosum – a stunning, heart-shaped Philodendron with red undersides.
- Philodendron Atabapoense – a heavily-foliaged Philo with long, sword-shaped leaves.
Deborah is a plant enthusiast and founder of Gardening Collective.