The Philodendron Birkin is an exciting (and relatively new) variety that bucks the trend when it comes to growth.
Where many popular Philodendron are vining species, the Birkin is a compact plant that more than makes up for its lack of growth with oodles of character and colour.
Take one look at the variegation patterns it exhibits, and you will understand the appeal!
The stunning white stripes of these leaves contrast the dark emerald foliage (they almost look as if they were painted on) and they only become more prominent as it matures.
Honestly, it’s easy to care for, rarely fussy, and fits nicely into terrariums and smaller spaces alike.
What’s not to love?!
What is the Philodendron Birkin? (+ Mysterious Origin Story)
Though this designer plant looks like a work of art, its origins are apparently far less intentional.
As a non-patented variety, the records of Philodendron Birkin’s beginnings are… somewhat murky.
But – if the online gardening forum threads are to be believed – the Philodendron Birkin is in fact a spontaneous mutation of the (quite different) Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’.
Now, internet heresay may not be the best source of information, but this forum thread does show a variety of photos of Philodendron Birkin’s reverting with red leaves. Seems legit to me!
I quite like the prospect of plant that can spontaneously turn out another plants’ leaves (though mine is still developing its own variegation).
Regardless of how it all started, the Birkin is here to stay.
It’s one of the few Philodendron plants that’s compact enough to comfortably grow on windowsills and in terrariums, and that versatility paired with its stunning foliage makes it special.
Philodendron Birkin Care & Growth
At a Glance
|Lighting||Bright, indirect light|
|Watering||Moderate, even moisture|
|Humidity||High humidity (60-90%)|
While this is one of the few plants that can tolerate the lower light areas of your home, the Philodendron Birkin will always do better with higher amounts of indirect sunlight.
Honestly, it’s a bit of mixed bag in terms of its adaptations.
Though the dark green leaves indicate high concentrations of chlorophyll, it’s also heavily variegated (and those white streaks definitely don’t have any chlorophyll).
So – as with many tropical plants – I’d recommend bright, indirect light for best results.
North and East facing windows are your best bets if you’re in the Northern hemisphere like me. Though, my plant is kept on a bookshelf a few feet from a big South facing bay window.
If you need any further incentive, typically the brighter the light, the brighter the foliage… just saying.
But, make sure to keep out of direct sunlight. It can both scorch and fade those intricate leaves if the light is too intense.
Using a grow light can be a great way to maximise light intensity without risk of damage.
The Philodendron Birkin enjoys moisture as much as the next tropical plant, preferring to be moist but never soggy.
In a pot, the easiest way to manage this is with a drainage hole in the bottom. Simply add water until it comes out of the hole then throw away the excess water.
In a terrarium, try to water as evenly as possible to prevent waterlogging the substrate (adding a small amount at a time with a spray bottle) until you’ve achieved the right water balance and moisture level.
Having a mix with solid drainage (and/or a false bottom) can really help set the Birkin up for success in its new terrarium home.
To satisfy the high water requirements of this Philodendron, you’ll want to use a substrate mix that can hold plenty of moisture.
But, balancing that with proper drainage and aeration is essential to keeping a healthy plant and staving off root rot.
A typical tropical substrate mix should do the trick (e.g. ABG mix).
Something with a moisture-retaining base like coco coir and plenty of materials to help provide drainage and aeration for the roots (e.g. orchid bark, perlite, vermiculite or pumice).
If you’re using coco coir, you will need to add earthworm castings for nutrients, or top up with liquid fertilizer – though it’s not a fast grower and won’t need it on a regular basis.
I’d just avoid your standard potting soil that has a habit of immediately compacting upon watering and turning quickly from moist soil into a thick mud.
Temperature & Humidity
These tropical beauties will thrive in a high temperature and humid environment.
We may not all live in the tropics (yet) but the closer we can replicate its rainforest environment, the happier our Philodendron Birkins will be.
If that means buying lots more tropical plants for the home, oh no…
Alternatively, you can actually create your own mini jungle in a terrarium and really pump up those humidity levels. Your Birkin will thank you for it!
Sealing it inside a glass container can also really help in protecting your plant from cold drafts and winter temperature drops – both things you should try to avoid when growing these as indoor plants.
Because the Birkin is a relatively new plant on the market, not a ton is known yet about its maximum height, growth pattern, or variation when it’s really old.
After all, many other Aroids that you wouldn’t normally associate with split leaves, can grow fenestrations (e.g. Pothos). Though it often takes many years and it’s always in the wild from what I’ve seen.
Who knows how the Birkin might develop in 20 years!
My young plant came to me with completely green leaves and a really dense growth pattern.
To be honest, it came probably only 5 inches tall, and it hasn’t gotten much bigger. Though it is pumping out new growth from a variety of shoots.
The variegation is coming through now too, with the characteristic white pinstripes showing on all of its new leaves.
I’m pleasantly surprised by how slow/compact this grows.
It really is a strong contender for terrarium life.
Where many other Aroids will need a lot of pruning to keep in check – both as house plants and terrarium plants – the Birkin will mostly stay in its lane and look after itself.
Even if it did need cutting back, it’s going to take its sweet time to get big again.
Philodendron Birkins take well to stem propagating when they are mature enough to have some spare nodes to grow from.
In a sense, the natural density of the parent plant can really help in providing lots of good propagations… but it can also make the process much more finicky.
Unlike its vining cousins, the Philodendron Birkin doesn’t present regular leaf nodes to isolate and cut. It’s generally easiest to locate the aerial roots and snip beneath those instead.
Mature plants can have somewhat thick stems, so you’ll probably have more luck with a sharp set of secateurs than a knife.
The cleaner the cut, the better.
Ideally you’ll take stem cutting that includes at least one node and some aerial roots to maximize your chances of new growth.
These cuttings can be developed in a couple of different ways:
- Directly into water (as we do) – this is particularly great for unrooted/poorly rooted cuttings.
- In a chunky aroid mix – this can work well, but I’d only recommend it if there are already some great aerial roots.
We prefer water propagation for its simplicity, but if you’re growing your Birkin in a terrarium then I’d consider planting the cuttings right back into the substrate (provided the roots are strong).
The extra moisture and humidity of a terrarium are the ideal growth conditions for fresh cuttings.
Varieties & Similar Plants
The Philodendron family is massive, with new hybrids coming out every year. There are a few other varieties that grow upright rather than vine, and these include the Philodendron ‘Black Cardinal’, ‘Prince of Orange’, and ‘Pink Congo’.
Even in such a diverse plant genus, the Philodendron Birkin and its variegation pattern is uniquely beautiful.
Though Birkin is one of the few compact foliage plants in the genus, there are a variety of other Philodendron vining species suitable for terrariums e.g. Philodendron hastatum, Philodendron verrucosum, Philodendron micans and Philodendron Brasil (or their classic version, Philodendron hederaceum).
Frequently Asked Questions
The Philodendron Birkin has a modest growth rate overall, and it’s unlikely to need regular pruning (if at all).
As a relatively new – and currently unpatented – variety, the Philodendron Birkin hasn’t yet been given a scientific classification.
Though plants in the Philodendron genus do flower, they generally only do so at full maturity – and it can take many years to reach that point. You’re unlikely to see the Philodendron Birkin flower. In fact, with its recent origins, it’s unlikely to have ever flowered for anyone yet.
Yellow leaves can signal a variety of issues, but it’s usually overwatering. Try adjusting your watering schedule or if it’s in a terrarium, let it air out a little to remove some moisture from the system.
Like many others in the Aroid family, Philodendron Birkin is indeed poisonous to animals and humans due to the presence of calcium oxalate crystals. So, it’s best to keep out of homes with little ones or sealed inside a terrarium away from prying hands.
As the offspring of a recent mutation, Philodendron Birkin was pretty rare for a time. But, these days with mass tissue culture, they’re freely available and relatively inexpensive.
Without being certain of its origins, it’s difficult to say for sure if the Philodendron Birkin can revert. But, if it is indeed a mutation of the Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ then it’s certainly possible, and there is photo evidence of this online.
Misting isn’t particularly effective at increasing humidity, however, it can help to clean the leaves and maximize the amount of sunlight they can take in.