Did anyone order the dessert? Because Philodendron micans is one luxurious treat of a vine.
Seriously, with those iridescent heart-shaped leaves and characteristic soft, velvety texture, it’s a real feast for the senses.
Displaying a wide range of red, green, and bronze hues, the so-called Velvet Leaf Philodendron is a beautiful way to brighten up any area of your home.
Though its trailing nature lends itself to hanging baskets or softly cascading from a bookshelf (as I’ve been leaning towards with my new plant), its smaller leaves also make it a rare terrarium contender from the Philodendron genus.
Want to find out how to get the most from this little stunner? Read on.
What is Philodendron micans? (Really)
Let’s get the naming out of the way first, this plant has been a little ambiguous from a botanical point of view.
In fact, it has been an ongoing debate for well over a century…
P. micans goes by a number of synonyms and common names (e.g., Philodendron scandens ‘Micans’ or Philodendron cordatum) but the consensus has seemingly settled on it actually just being a variety of Philodendron hederaceum – i.e. the Heartleaf Philodendron.
That’s right. Same plant, but completely different color and leaf texture (at least in their juvenile form – more on that later).
Regardless, this plant is almost always just sold as Philodendron micans, so that’s what I’m going with.
Why make life hard for ourselves, ey?
Honestly, the versatility of this beauty makes it an easy choice for everyone.
It’s easy to care for, has a variety of growth patterns to fit your needs – trailing or climbing – and can handle a variety of indoor conditions.
For terrarium life, you’ll likely need a large container, or you can expect to need to trim it back regularly (as though the leaves tend to stay relatively small, the vine can grow to several feet).
Next, we’ll get into how to keep this plant happy, healthy, and positively glowing!
Philodendron micans Care & Growth
At a Glance
|Medium – high indirect light
|Regular, even moisture
|Medium – high humidity (40-80%)
|Up to 10 inches high (unattached), 3+ feet vine
When it comes to lighting, Philodendron micans is a pretty versatile plant species.
As a tropical vine that’s typically found climbing rainforest trees in Central and South America, it’s used to a mixture of dappled canopy light, small bursts of direct sunlight, and varying degrees of low lighting conditions as the Sun moves across the sky.
So, while it can handle low to moderate light, it’s really going to do best in a space that maximizes bright light intensity without being so strong that it scorches the delicate leaves.
In a nutshell, bright indirect light is ideal here.
In the home, you can best recreate that with:
- A North-facing window – These only get indirect light throughout the day, so you can have your plant right up to the light source without risk.
- An East-facing window – These get some direct light in the morning, then indirect light for the rest of the day. Though the direct light is typically the much weaker early morning rays, so you can judge how strong/suitable that is in your space.
In fact, in low light conditions, it tends to just put out smaller leaves, so for terrariums, this might even be the better option.
Philodendron micans appreciates regular moisture, but the vining nature of this plant means it’s not accustomed to sitting in water.
Like many other tropical house plants, it’s really not a fan of wet feet.
They’d naturally undergo more of a soak-and-dry process in the wild, drawing moisture from the rain and whatever it’s attached to with its aerial roots.
So, unfortunately, this semi-epiphytic species is somewhat prone to root rot if left in a fully saturated substrate for too long.
Not to worry though, it’s not super sensitive.
All you have to do is let the plant dry out a little before watering again and ensure your container has plenty of drainage – either via a hole in the pot or a terrarium drainage layer.
We can really help alleviate the wet feet problem with the right choice of substrate.
Balancing moisture retention with proportional drainage is the key to keeping this tropical vine happy and healthy.
Just as their aerial roots enjoy a nice warm breeze (don’t we all?), epiphytic vines like the Velvet Leaf Philodendron tend to also love having lots of airflow around their roots.
So, instead of packing the root ball in with potting soil that can compact in at a mere suggestion of moisture – opt for a coarser tropical mix that can provide plenty of air pockets.
I’d recommend a coco coir base to provide consistent moisture and plenty of orchid bark, perlite, or pumice for that all-important drainage/airflow.
Worm castings are my preferred way to provide plant food, though liquid fertilizer is A-OK, too.
Temperature & Humidity
For a tropical vine, humidity really isn’t a deal-breaker here.
Philodendron micans is one of the most popular indoor plants these days, grown all over the world. So, you can expect this plant to comfortably grow in most household conditions.
Temperature, on the other hand, is a little more sensitive. It’ll still grow well in a range of temperatures, but it’s not frost-hardy by any means – so take care to protect your plant from cold drafts and even colder Winter months.
To be fair, I’d say its lowest range of 55°F (12°C) is far below what I’d consider comfortable household conditions.
So, generally, if you’re happy, it’s happy.
If you really want to optimize its conditions as a tropical species, Philodendron micans will really appreciate those higher temperatures and humidities that a closed terrarium can provide. Just saying…
Philodendron micans is the little black dress of the plant world.
This versatile number looks great at any occasion and can be dressed up in a variety of ways.
Despite its elegant trailing nature, the Velvet Leaf Philodendron is a true climbing plant at heart. It can – and will – readily climb anything it can get its (aerial root) hands-on.
When ours was quite young, we attached it to a short bamboo stick to give it a start. And though it may struggle to attach to the smooth surface, we’ll likely replace it with a moss pole when it’s a little bigger.
The interesting thing about this plant’s growth habit is that it needs to climb in order to mature.
That’s not to say it won’t grow as a trailing plant – it can grow for many feet – but rather, if you want bigger leaves, it needs to climb.
Also, it’s worth mentioning at this point that mature plants are very different. As in, Philodendron micans as a true adult plant looks nothing like the juvenile version.
Sure, it can grow very large leaves (some people even compare it to the huge leaves of the Philodendron melanochrysum), but it also loses all of those beautiful iridescent colors (reverting to deep green) and its signature velvetiness!
So, whether you want a mature plant is a different story altogether…
Honestly, it’s stunning in both forms, and you have control over how you want it to grow.
In a terrarium, you’re probably better off having it trail around the ground or having it mounted up high. If you let it climb, you might find yourself with a much larger plant than you can accommodate.
As with many other vines, propagating Philodendron micans is very easy indeed.
Simply take a stem cutting with a few leaves just behind a root node (ideally at a 45° angle), and you’re good to go.
You can pop that into a glass of water till it’s formed more roots, or in a terrarium, you can plant that directly back into the substrate.
Cutting your plant like this helps to make it bushier, too, so next time you go for a prune, do it strategically, and you can produce some new baby plants!
It’s best to do it during the Summer months when it’s really able to push out lots of new growth.
Varieties & Similar Plants
As a type of Philodendron hederaceum, there are plenty of similar plants on the market.
The standard Heartleaf Philodendron is the obvious first thought, but its variegated form Philodendron Brasil, is an absolute stunner, too.
For more velvety-smooth leaves, take a look at the wonderful Satin Pothos (Scindapsus pictus).
Frequently Asked Questions
Philodendron micans loves to climb. In fact, giving this plant something to climb is the best way to get bigger, healthy leaves and a more mature plant.
Philodendron micans is a fairly prolific grower and will quickly develop along a trailing vine under optimal conditions.
The leaves of juvenile Philodendron micans plants tend to stay fairly small at just a few inches across, but fully mature plants (usually only in the wild) can put out very large leaves up to 20 inches in size.
Yellowing leaves is a common sign of overwatering. Philodendron micans likes an evenly moist soil, not a consistently saturated one. So, try to pair back your watering schedule and allow your plant to dry out more before watering again.
Droopy leaves are a common sign of underwatering. If you see this in your Philodendron micans, then it’s time to increase your watering schedule or maybe re-pot into a substrate with greater water retention.
In lower levels of light, Philodendron micans tend to still put out vines but with much smaller leaves. They also need to climb in order to mature. So, if you want to grow bigger leaves, try giving your plant more natural light and something to climb (like a moss pole).
Though plants in the Philodendron genus cope quite well with being rootbound, it’s not ideal for them. You’re better off re-potting your micans if it starts showing those telltale signs of stress.
On the whole, Philodendron plants can be susceptible to a variety of common pests, such as mealy bugs and spider mites, but Philodendron micans appears to be fairly resistant.