The Philodendron McDowell is also called the Philodendron Dean McDowell. It is a rare plant that’s sought after because of its large leaves.
As such, you won’t also see it for sale as many stores will either be ‘sold out’ or ‘out of stock’. If you do find someone willing to part with their plant, it is usually expensive with a price of $90 or higher.
Due to the short supply, there will be significant variations in price depending on the store and the seller. So, don’t take the first offer you get and canvas for the best price.
Another thing worth noting about the Philodendron McDowell is that it is often confused or compared to the Philodendron pastazanum. And for good reason.
The Philodendron pastazanum and the Philodendron gloriosum are its parents.
And of the two, the Philodendron pastazanum passes on the dominant traits to the Philodendron McDowell hybrid.
This is why the plant features very similar. You have the same large and wide heart-shaped. dark green leaves with stunning white/silver veins. It is likewise a good sized plant. Although its foliage make up most of the plant.
Philodendron McDowell vs. Philodendron Pastazanum
The reason I point out that the Philodendron McDowell and the Philodendron pastazanum are similar is that they’re often mislabeled for one another, even in stores.
Therefore, if you’re looking for one or the other, you don’t want to end up paying a lot of money for a different plant.
So, the first thing to clear up is that the Philodendron McDowell and Philodendron pastazanum are not the same plant. Although. they look alike.
And to differentiate the two, you want to look at their leaves. The best way is to have them side by side. Thus, I’ll refer to the great comparison photos by the The Plant Garden.
If you’re looking at new (unhardened) leaves, you’ll notice that::
- With the Philodendron McDowell, the mid vein and lateral veins are pink in color. The new leaf also has a pinkish hue. Similarly, the abaxial side of the leaf has a light pink color as well.
- With the Philodendron pastazanum, the mid vein and lateral veins are white to light green in color. The leaves themselves are green (a bit light green) while the abaxial side if also green.
If you’re looking at hardened leaves, the two look more alike which is why there’s confusion. But, there are still differences.
- With the Philodendron McDowell, the leaf blade looks a bit quilted and you can see the secondary veins.
- With the Philodendron pastazanum, the secondary veins are not visible and you see a smoother, more blank area between the lateral veins because there is no quilting either.
Hopefully, this helps you tell the difference.
Philodendron McDowell Plant Care
The Philodendron McDowell needs medium to bright light in order to produce the large, beautiful heart-shaped leaves everyone is very fond off. Just as importantly it needs a good amount of it.
This is why I keep the plan near an east facing window along with my other philodendrons. There is receives a good amount of sun through the morning and more passive light in the afternoon.
The west and south facing window also work really well provided that you distance the plant a little farther from the window. That’s because the these locations get the late morning to mid-day sun, which is very harsh.
Too much of this intense light or exposure to direct sun will damage the leaves of the Philodendron McDowell. You can end up with discoloration or even burn marks if you keep it there.
The Philodendron McDowell is native to Ecuador and other South American countries. This means it is used to living in environments that are near the equator.
So, it is used to warm to hot climates that are also very humid. This gives you a heat index that easily hovers around the high 80s and 90s during the summer, even over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Because the plant lives under the forest canopy, it does get some shade and reprieve from the heat of the sun.
This is why it enjoys temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit the most. It also can tolerate conditions between 55 degrees to 95 degrees without any issues.
For this reason, I find the plant relatively easy to care at home. You don’t really have to do anything extra since our homes protect us from too much heat in the summer and the cold during the winter.
However, if you experience very hot summers (over 95 degrees), it is a good idea to check on the plant and make sure it gets enough moisture to stay cool.
Similarly, if you have very cold winters, make sure the temperature where the plant is staying does not drop under 55 degrees.
Outdoors, the plant is hardy to USDA Zones 10 and 11. It can likewise tolerate zone 9 with a little bit of protection from the colder part of the year.
But in areas below zone 9, it is better off living indoors as a houseplant. You can still bring it outside every now and then when the weather is warm like the summer.
Like temperature, I’ve noticed that the Philodendron McDowell is fairly tolerant of different humidity as well.
It does not have a problem as long as you keep humidity at 40% or higher which makes it easier to accommodate in most homes. I can likewise withstand levels slightly lower than that when given enough moisture. But, you do want to monitor it for dry tips and brown edges the drier the air gets.
On the other hand, its optimal humidity is at 60% and above where it is happiest. At these levels, it will give you the most beautiful leaves possible with more size as well.
If you’re not sure about what humidity is at home, I suggest picking up a digital hygrometer. It is quite inexpensive and very valuable especially if you have hot summers and cold winters when the air can dry up.
Should this happen, you can employ some humidity raising measures to keep the plant healthy.
- Group your houseplants together – when they transpire as a collective, the moisture they expel from their leaves helps boost humidity.
- Place the plant on a pebble tray – you can place a tray filled with water or a saucer with liquid under the pot. Make sure to keep the pot about the moisture so it does not get wet. You can use pebbles or other objects. As the water evaporates, it increases the humidity around the plant.
- Misting – I don’t mist my plants a lot simply because it is a lot of work once you have a good sized collection. Misting or spraying the leaves and air around your plants with water does help. But it is temporary so you need to repeat it regularly.
- A humidifier – this is the simplest method since you can get the humidity level of the humidifier. Make sure you get one that’s big enough for the room you keep your plants (if you have many plants). The downside to humidifiers is that they cost more and require more maintenance.
How Often to Water Philodendron McDowell
The Philodendron McDowell needs regular watering. But it cannot sit in too much water or stay wet for long periods of time either. Like other philodendrons, it is prone to root rot. So, you want to be mindful of overwatering and waterlogged soil.
This means it is important to let the soil dry out a bit between waterings. Doing so will help prevent overly wet, soggy or mucky soil.
But it is likewise not a good idea to let the soil completely dry either. Although the plant can tolerate more dryness compared to a wet environment, it will eventually succumb to dehydration if you let it go completely dry for extended periods.
On average, I water my Philodendron McDowell about once a week give or take depend on how hot the weather has been lately. In the winter that goes down close to once very 2 weeks.
Please note that I live in Southern California where our winters are very mild. So, it is important to adjust if you live somewhere with snow and frost.
Another essential thing to consider with watering is that every home is different. Therefore, please use my watering frequency as a guide not a hard rule.
The amount of sun your plant receives, the temperature in your home, the humidity and how you pot the plant all affect how often you’ll need to water. This makes every plant’s living condition different.
For this reason I suggest going by feel. Touch the soil to see how dry it is before you water. Ideally you want to wait until the top 1 to 2 inches of soil dry up before watering again.
Philodendron McDowell Potting Soil
The two most important things I’ve noticed that the Philodendron McDowell needs when it comes to soil are:
- Good drainage
- High air circulation
In some ways, the two are related. But you can use different components to make your growing media achieve these features.
I like using an Aroid mix because it gives the plant all the things it needs to stay healthy. You can pick some up in your nursery if they carry it. If not, you can use this Aroid mix recipe.
Mix equal parts of:
- Sphagnum moss
- Orchid bark
- Worm castings
- Activated charcoal
You can adjust the amounts based on whether you need more water retention, drainage, nutrients or aeration. Here’s what each ingredient does.
The moss holds water to keep the plant hydrated and the soil moist. Perlite allows for good drainage so the plant does not sit in water. Orchid bark also helps with drainage because it leaves a lot of spaces. The spaces let oxygen reach the roots to prevent root rot.
Worm castings increase nutrition as it is rich in organic matter. Meanwhile, the charcoal is also chunky to allow for more airflow which absorbing moisture as well.
If you already have potting soil at home, you may just want to add perlite or pumice to improve its drainage.
The Philodendron McDowell needs fertilizer to optimize its growth. While you can opt to go without plant food, I’ve noticed that there’s a big different in growth (size), rate of growth and also leaf production when you do or don’t use fertilizer.
As such, I always use it on my plants.
The caveat here is to avoid overdoing it because you see how helpful it is. Adding too much fertilizer or applying too often will only end up damaging the roots of the plant, in what gardeners call fertilizer burn.
As such, try to avoid doing so.
The Philodendron McDowell only needs once a month application during the spring and summer months. You don’t need to apply plant food in fall or winter.
You can use a balanced or all-purpose fertilizer for this. I do suggest going at half strength when applying to reduce the fertilizer salt buildup in the soil.
The Philodendron McDowell will grow into a good sized plant. in most cases it will reach anywhere from 2 to 4 or so feet indoors in a container.
The plant will also “blow up” to the sides as it gets fuller because its huge leaves will take up space to the left and right.
For me, this is when the plant becomes stunning. The leaves reach about 1 to 2 feet or so in length and are fairly wide thanks to their heart-shapes. This allows it to reach a width of 6 to 7 feet from side to side.
If you lift the plant, you can easily hide 2 or 3 people’s upper bodies behind it depending on how bushy it is.
Because its leaves are its crowning glory, you don’t really want to prune the plant unless there are deal, yellow or diseased leaves.
How to Propagate Philodendron McDowell
The best way to propagate the Philodendron McDowell is through stem cuttings. But you can also divide the plant when you repot as well.
Because the plant is a crawler, its stem comes in the form or a rhizome, which is just basically a “fatter” looking stem that grows horizontally on the soil.
From the rhizomes, you’ll see petioles grow upwards to form the leaves.
This is important because you want to cut sections of the rhizome (which is technically the plant’s stems). This is what you’ll used to propagate it.
Propagate Philodendron McDowell through stem cuttings at home.
- Look at the base for the plant. You’re looking for stems or rhizomes that are growing horizontally across the soil. Once you spot them, look for sections where there are nodes.
- In some cases, the rhizome will be buried in the soil. While I don’t recommend this because doing so can cause it to rot, many growers do this. If this is the case with your plant, you’ll need to dig up the plant to expose the stems.
- Once you’ve selected the sections, use a sterile cutting too cut take the sections between nodes. All you need is one node although you can take an entire section with multiple nodes as well.
- Next, you need to decide to whether to propagate the cutting in water, soil or other growing media like perlite. I like to go with a potting mix although sphagnum moss on its own works as well.
- Plant the cutting in the soil and keep the soil moist.
- Leave the container in a warm spot with good lighting (no direct sun) and high humidity. if you can’t find a humid spot, cover the plant with a plastic bag. You can likewise use a heat mat to keep the plant warm. These things help speed up the rooting process.
How to Repot or Transplant Philodendron McDowell
As your Philodendron McDowell gets bigger, it will need to be repotted. But there’s no need to be in a hurry to do this.
The only time you need to repot is when you start seeing roots come out from beneath the pot or above the soil. These are signs that the plant’s roots need more space than what they currently have.
And by giving them more space (with a bigger pot), you’re allowing it to grow bigger.
This is one plant that you want to grow bigger because it won’t get overly tall. Also, repotting will let it stay healthy and produce larger, wider leaves.
I use a round container for my Philodendron McDowell but you can go with a rectangular shaped one as well if you prefer. Some growers say this shape is better as the stems of the plant (its rhizomes) tend to grow sideways on the soil. So, the circular shaped pots are less optimal.
I haven’t had any problems though with round pots. I do like to use plastic because my daughter finds it easier to carry compared to ceramic or terracotta due to the weight, especially for larger ones.
Keep in mind that the plant does get top heavy because of the large leaves. So, balance is key so the pot does not tip over.
Is It Toxic/Poisonous to Humans, Cats & Dogs
As pretty as the Philodendron McDowell is, it is toxic when ingested. All the parts are poisonous to people and animals. So, do be mindful of when the kids and pets are near the plant to avoid accidental chewing or consumption.
Problems & Troubleshooting
Brown Leaves and Tips
Brown tips and leaves are often caused by lack of water. Although too much water can also do this. While this is a problem, it is fixable. But you need to figure out what’s causing it first.
I like to check the soil to feel how dry or wet it is for confirmation.
Dry soil means the plant lacks water. Wet, mucky soil means it is getting too much water.
Adjust depending on what the soil is telling you.
Also, trim off the brown sections. They won’t get better or recover.
Yellow leaves often mean overwatering. But there are other reasons as well.
Again, check the soil to see if it is soggy. This will help you verify whether too much water is indeed the cause.
If so, you need to figure out whether it is your watering schedule that’s the problem or the soil.
For the former, watering too much each time or too frequently can cause overwatering. With the latter, soil that retains too much moisture is the cause.
Spider mites, mealybugs, thrips and scale are among the most common pests that will hound your Philodendron McDowell. While the plant is usually pest free, these critters can come and attack it especially during times of weakness, stress or illness.
So you want to keep an eye for them since they can really do a number on your plant and infect other plants as well.
Root rot is something that’s always a threat with houseplants. That’s because the indoors is generally cooler than outside and you don’t get as much sunlight and air circulation.
So, soil can stay wet longer.
Overwatering and waterlogging are the two main causes. And, you can prevent them by watering properly, avoid doing it too often and making sure to use the right kind of soil for that specific plant.