In the world of velvet-leafed Philodendrons, Philodendron Gigas is a bit of a trope known for being one of the rarest species amongst the group. Luckily they are not the most difficult to take care of. 🙂
Here’s a summary of how to take care of this giant-leafed houseplant:
- Very well-draining soil is vital for your Philodendron Gigas, which is prone to becoming overwatered. Use perlite, orchid bark, vermiculite, and charcoal to “lighten” heavy potting soils.
- Bright indirect light of moderate-intensity is best for your plant when kept indoors; it also prefers warm temperatures and high humidity.
- Use a moss pole to support healthy growth, and wipe down leaves occasionally to remove dust particles.
- Some air circulation is healthy for this plant.
- Overwatering is the most common issue, so water only when the topsoil is dry. Your plant may be susceptible to aphids and fungi growth. Use neem oil or a fungicide to eradicate these problems.
Let’s dive into the details!
What is the Philodendron Gigas?
The Philodendron Gigas is a rare plant with beautiful large velutinous (velvety) leaves. Prominent light yellow-green midribs run vertically down its dark green “drop leaf” foliage. Its similarly colored veins become more defined as the plant matures.
True to its name (Gigas means Giant in Greek!), this Aroid can grow huge leaf blades spanning up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) in the wild! These narrowly oval-shaped leaves can still reach about 1 foot (30cm) long when kept indoors.
Endemic to Panama, the Philodendron Gigas is a hemiepiphyte, meaning that it can climb up on top of other trees and plants but can also send roots down to the ground. This species is known to scale significant heights using its aerial roots.
Caring for your Philodendron Gigas
Your Philodendron Gigas does best in ample amounts (at least 6 hours a day) of moderately bright but indirect light. Its foliage is sensitive to harsh direct light, so keep it away from the direct afternoon sun. This is when the sun is at its hottest.
Keeping your Philodendron Gigas in East or West-facing windowsills is your best bet. Placed directly in South-facing windows are a little too intense, so make sure you move the plant around 3 feet (90cm) away from the windowsill to reduce the light intensity. This is because the sun follows a slight Southern East-to-West arc, so South windows get the most sunlight of all window orientations.
Here are our watering tips for your Philodendron Gigas:
- Regularly check your plant’s soil moisture level with your finger.
- You will know it’s time to water your plant if the top 2 inches of soil feels dry to the touch.
- In this case, water your plant deeply, letting excess water escape from the drainage hole. Then, wait until the topsoil feels dry before watering again.
- It’s essential to check the moisture level every few days to know when your plant needs a drink.
- On average, you should expect to water your plant around once a week at the height of its growing season (spring and summer), and for this to roughly half in frequency, winter comes around. Of course, this is just a rule of thumb: exact conditions depend on many things, including the climate where you live, so it’s best to always check the soil moisture with your finger before deciding to water or not.
- The usual caution about not leaving water stagnant in your plant’s pot applies to the beautiful Philodendron Gigas. This may quickly lead to root rot.
- Don’t mist your Philodendron Gigas. Its large leaves may hold this water for extended periods, which encourages bacteria and fungi to breed.
Humidity and Air Circulation
70-80% humidity is ideal for best growth, but your plant can tolerate anything above 50%. As with most tropical plants, the higher the humidity, the better!
Given that average room humidity levels hover around 30%, you may need to give your room humidity a boost. An option is to group plants together and use a pebble tray to increase evaporation around the plant.
However, the most convenient (and practical) option is to invest in a humidifier. We like this particular humidifier – effective and allows you to set the exact %humidity you want.
Whatever you do, avoid misting your Philodendron Gigas as its large leaves can cause water to pool and encourage bacteria growth. Instead, use a standing fan to encourage air circulation, and also discourages bacteria/fungi growth.
Ideally, keep your Philodendron Gigas indoors between 65 – 80 degrees F (18 – 27 degrees C).
Dips below 50 degrees F (10 degrees C) is asking for trouble, as your plant is not cold-hardy. For this reason, it’s essential to keep your plant indoors so it can enjoy warm and stable temperatures.
Growth and Flowering
As we mentioned, Gigas means Giant in Greek. And no wonder! In nature, the Philodendron Gigas can grow up to 65 feet (20 meters) and develop leaves that span up to 4 feet (1.2 meters) in length. Even when kept indoors, the plant’s leaves can grow up to 1 foot (30cm) long and reach heights of around 8-10 feet (2.4 – 2.7 meters).
They are also a very rapid grower, known for doubling in size in a year. Being such a large and rapidly growing plant, it’s crucial to provide your vining plant with a moss pole to grow tall. Using moss poles actually promotes healthy growth.
In terms of flowering, the Philodendron Gigas flowers very rarely when kept indoors. However, in nature, they are capable of producing up to 7 inflorescences per axil. As with all Aroids, the inflorescence consists of a boat-like spathe (in the case of the Gigas this is white or pink) and a central spike that is called a spadix (dark red).
Technically, the flowers of this Philodendron are not the inflorescence itself; the spathe is a modified leaf or bract and acts like a “flower holder.” The actual flowers are tiny and grow along the spadix itself; they do not look like traditional flowers.
Soil or Growing Medium
Like many hemi-epiphytes, it’s crucial for the Philodendron Gigas to be potted in a very well-draining and loose soil mix. After all, your plant has aerial roots that love maximum breathability, so they do not do well in dense soils that become waterlogged and lack airflow. At the same time, it still needs to be a potting mix that can retain some water for nourishment.
To maintain this balance, we’ve found that potting in this mix below is perfect. Though there are quite a few components, it’s a mix that has yielded the best results in our experience:
- 1 part indoor potting soil
- 1 part orchid bark or coconut coir
- 1 part perlite
- 1 part vermiculite
- 1 part horticultural charcoal
Alternatively, if you’re open to a semi-hydroponics solution, LECA is a great option for velvet-leaf Philodendrons. You can find out more about the pros and cons of LECA here to see if it’s a good fit for you!
Given its large and beautiful foliage, your Philodendron Gigas can benefit from a nutritional boost that specifically encourages foliage growth. We like Miracle-Gro’s foliage pro fertilizer; the NPK ratio of 3:1:2 is excellent for large-leafed plants as the high nitrogen content supports foliage growth.
Dilute to half strength and use once a month during the growing season, the spring and summer months. Add the liquid fertilizer after you water your plant so that you avoid burning the roots of your plant. Hold off fertilizing in autumn and winter.
Despite your plant growing rapidly, it only needs repotting once every 2-3 years.
- You can tell that it’s time to repot when you see roots peeking out of the pot’s drainage hole.
- Repot in early spring or summer, giving your plant to establish in its container during the growing season.
- When repotting, try to be as gentle as you can, using your fingers to work through any compacted soil while laying your plant on its side. Philodendron Gigas roots can be sensitive. Avoid yanking at the main stem to pull the plant out; this will only damage your plant and cause more stress!
- After repotting, hold off fertilizing your plant for a month. When repotting, your plant goes through transplant shock, so fertilizing during this time adds stress to your plant’s sensitive roots.
- Always use a pot that is only 2 inches larger than the original. This prevents overwatering (too much unused soil holding on to moisture), but is big enough to give your plant extra room to grow.
Unfortunately, your plant is toxic when ingested by humans and animals. This is no thanks to the presence of calcium oxalate crystals in your Philodendron Gigas’ stems and leaves, which causes skin irritation and burning, as well as nausea and vomiting when ingested in large amounts.
This rapidly-growing plant can do with some regular pruning to maintain its shape and support healthy growth.
- Use sterilized garden shears (dip shears in 70% isopropyl solution), and cut just above the node at a downward sloping angle. This allows any water to run off the wound site, discouraging infection.
- Trim off any dead or damaged leaves and flowers.
- Given this is a rapidly-growing plant, you may want to prune your Philodendron Gigas to keep a particular shape or size.
- Just be careful not to prune off more than one-third of the plant; doing so would induce a heap of stress on your plant as it would have much less surface area for photosynthesis to support its growth. It’s better to trim off a little at a time.
- The best time to prune is in spring.
Additional care: Wiping down your Philodendron Gigas’ Leaves
All those large leaves do require some maintenance. Given its velvety texture, it’s easy for dust particles to settle on its leaves. This layer of dust can clog up your plant’s “pores” or stomata, which support the free exchange of gases. A layer of dust also can inhibit photosynthesis, as less light is able to pass through. Though it is a little troublesome, wiping down your plant’s leaves once every ten days is a good habit.
Wipe it down gently with a damp cloth, then wipe dry again. As you do that, check to see if you spot any pests or signs of disease. As these pests multiply rapidly, it’s important to identify any problems early. A habit of wiping down your plant’s leaves (and inspecting your plant as you do so) gives you an opportunity to do just that.
There are two main ways you can propagate a Philodendron Gigas: through stem cuttings and through air layering. We’ll go through both techniques. Stem cuttings is usually preferred as the rooting process is quicker, but both methods are straightforward.
Propagation is best done during spring or summer.
Propagation by Stem Cuttings
- Identify a 4-6 inch length of healthy stem that has at least one node and 2-3 leaves.
- Using clean garden shears, cut the stem just below the node. (This means that the node is included in the stem cutting.)
- Remove any leaves from the bottom half of the stem cutting.
- Plant the stem cutting in 100% sphagnum moss. Ensure the moss is evenly damp but not soggy. This encourages roots to develop. Ensure that no leaves are buried beneath the surface of the moss.
- Keep the pot in a warm place with plenty of bright but indirect light. If you can, place a humidifier next to the stem cutting.
- Keep the sphagnum moss evenly moist, checking every two days to see if you need to add water.
- In about 2-3 weeks, roots should develop.
- Once the roots grow 2-3 inches, repot your stem cutting in a permanent home, using an appropriate potting mix (See Soil section for details).
- Treat as you would any other Philodendron Gigas.
Propagation by Air Layering
Air layering is a propagation method that encourages your Philodendron Gigas to grow its aerial roots into a sphagnum moss ball while the nodes and roots are still attached to the main plant. Only after the aerial roots are developed do separate the rooted node from the mother plant.
To propagate through air layering,
- Identify a healthy node on the stem of the plant.
- Prepare a layer of clear cling wrap. This will form the outer layer of the sphagnum moss ball. Create little holes in the cling wrap (this encourages the roots can breathe and allows us to keep the sphagnum moss damp.)
- Set a layer of damp sphagnum moss on the clear cling wrap.
- Now, wrap the sphagnum moss ball with the cling wrap outer layer onto the identified node, such that the sphagnum moss is the only thing in contact with the node.
- Use gardening ties to lightly secure the sphagnum moss and clingwrap ball onto the mother plant.
- Keep the sphagnum moss lightly moist, watering it every few days when you see that it has dried out.
- In about 6-8 weeks, you should see aerial roots developing within the sphagnum moss ball.
- Once the roots have grown about 2-3 inches long, cut off the rooted node using clean garden shears.
- Then, plant the rooted node into an appropriate soil mix – this is its permanent home. (See Soil section for details.)
- Treat as you would any other Philodendron Gigas.
Common Problems, Pests, and Diseases
Overwatering is a common problem for Philodendron Gigas. They are susceptible to root rot, which occurs when roots are suffocated by too much water and cannot breathe. As a result, they decay and can also attract moisture-loving fungi that eat away at their roots.
- Yellow leaves are a common sign that your plant is overwatered. Check the soil moisture to confirm.
- Adjust your watering practices, always allowing the topsoil to dry before watering again. Check the soil moisture with your fingers before watering; don’t just blindly follow a watering schedule, as changes in climate, growing seasons, and evaporation rates change your plant’s water requirements.
- If overwatering has persisted for several weeks, you may need to take more drastic measures to save your overwatered plant. Here’s our step-by-step guide to rescuing your plant.
Aphids are a pest that may infest your Philodendron Gigas. These sucking pests feed on plant sap from new growth, depriving your plant of nutrients. They usually cluster on the growth ends, where they use sharp mouth parts to pierce plant tissues to reach the sap.
They are usually light green in color and pear-shaped, about 1/8 of an inch long. However, there are over 5,000 species of aphids that also come in black, pink, and white.
To kill off aphids,
- Isolate your plant from other healthy plants to prevent contamination. These insects are highly mobile so can start to infect your other houseplants.
- Take a good look at your plant. Use a water jet to physically dislodge any visible aphids.
- Spray a neem oil solution on your plant’s stem and foliage. Neem oil works to inhibit aphids and kill off larvae. Check out our guide on how to make a neem oil solution and how to use and reapply this.
- Use sterilized garden shears to cut off damaged parts of the plant. Dispose of this securely; remember, you don’t want to contaminate other plants!
- Re-apply neem oil as necessary.
Why are my Philodendron Gigas’ leaves yellow?
There can be several reasons for yellow leaves. Do note that the occasional old, yellow leaf is normal for Philodendron Gigas. Older leaves turn yellow and fall away, making way for new growth. This is not unhealthy and is just a part of your plant’s natural growth.
However, if the yellow leaves are widespread, this most commonly indicates an overwatered plant. There are two main reasons for this:
- You are watering too frequently. Ensure the topsoil is dry before watering.
- You are using a potting mix that retains too much water. Check out our ideal potting mix, which ensures a very airy mixture that is also well-draining.
Why are my Philodendron Gigas’ leaves soft and brown?
Soft and brown leaves usually indicate an overwatered plant. See our guide on how to save your overwatered plant. On the other hand, brown and crispy leaves may mean underwatering or too little humidity.
Check the soil’s moisture with your fingers to confirm whether too much or too little is the problem.
Why do my Philodendron Gigas’ leaves have yellow spots?
- Leaves with a few small, yellow spots are also typical. These are extrafloral nectaries: nectar-secreting glands on your plant’s leaves!
- However, yellow spots on leaves, accompanied by curling, are not healthy. This is usually a sign of pest infestation or a fungi disease, like leaf spot.
- In the case of a fungi infection, isolate your plant away from others to prevent contamination. Treat with a fungicide.
- In the case of pest infestation, a solution of neem oil or insecticidal soap spray works wonders.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the difference between Philodendron Melanochrysum and Philodendron Gigas?
Both these plants have similarly large and narrowly-elongated shaped drop leaves. To tell them apart, look carefully at the plant’s foliage. Here are some key differences:
- The Philodendron Gigas tends to be more olive-green, while the Philodendron Melanochrysum is typically a darker green. This is why the Melanochrysum is sometimes referred to as the Black Gold Plant. Do note, however, that Philodendrons as a genus are highly variable in appearance, even within each species. On average, Gigas tend to have a lighter leaf color than the Philodendron Melanochrysum, but the differences may be more or less obvious depending on individual plants.
- Though both leaves are long and oval-shaped, in mature leaves the Gigas tends to be broader and appear less elongated than the Melano. However, this is only in mature leaves.
- The Melano Plant has gold specks on mature leaves that glisten in the sun!
- The Philodendron Gigas has a D-shaped petiole, compared with the terete petioles of the Melano Plant.
What’s the difference between Philodendron Gigas and Philodendron Micans?
Though there are some similarities in the appearance of leaves in these two Philodendrons, there are two main distinctions that can be easily identified:
- Philodendron Micans is a much smaller plant than the Philodendron Gigas. The easiest way to tell is the sheer size of the leaves. Philodendron Micans leaves typically grow up to 3-4 inches (8-10cm); while Philodendron Gigas leaves can grow to three times bigger, to 1 foot (30 cm) when kept indoors.
- Difference in growth habits. Philodendron Micans is a trailing plant commonly kept in hanging baskets. They crawl or trail but don’t climb the same way that the Philodendron Gigas does. This is because the Philodendron Gigas is hemi-epiphytic and has aerial roots it uses to climb up on host trees and other structures.
Where can I buy a Philodendron Gigas, and how much would this cost?
It’s not easy to find Philodendron Gigas. They are rare and difficult to come by. Try Etsy or private online sellers. Otherwise, a specialist Aroid nursery may have them available.
How do you pronounce Philodendron Gigas?
Good question! JY-gas is how you pronounced Gigas. So it’s “fil-oh-den-dron jy-gas”.
What is the rarest Philodendron?
The rarest Philodendron is the Philodendron Spiritus Sancti. Native to Brazil, it is said that there is only a handful of the prized Spiritus Sancti left growing in the wild. Most others reside in the homes of private collectors.
Is Pothos a Philodendron?
No. They are distinct and separate genera (plural for genus). While they are both usually easy to grow and share many care conditions, Pothos and Philodendron have several different attributes. Here’s more information on these key differences!
Similar Plants and Varieties
- Philodendron Melanochrysum
- Philodendron Verrucosum
- Philodendron Mamei
- Philodendron Plowmanii
- Philodendron McDowell – a rare hybrid between the Gloriosum and the Pastazanum
- Philodendron Splendid
- Philodendron Brandtianum
- Philodendron Micans
- Philodendron Florida Ghost
- Philodendron Birkin
- Philodendron Atabapoense
- Philodendron Atom
- Philodendron Rugosum (Pig Skin Philodendron)
- Philodendron Imperial Red
- Philodendron Pink Princess
- Philodendron Goeldii
- Philodendron Tortum – palm-like fronds on twisted stems give a tropical vibe 🙂
Deborah is a plant enthusiast and founder of Gardening Collective.