Birkin Philodendron (Philodendron ‘Birkin’) Plant Care Guide

Bright, beautiful Birkin is a highly popular, compact Philodendron with a classic look perfect for small spaces in a home or office. 

Like other Philodendrons, Birkin is a great beginner plant that requires minimum care. Mine sits happily on a windowsill in my home office and has never given me a minute of trouble.

Its new leaves are ovate and dark green with thin, white edges. As they mature, they develop a unique variegation of narrow white stripes between wider white ones. The more mature the leaves are, the brighter the variegation.

This beautiful plant has an uncertain heritage and is not currently patented. It is thought to be either a mutation of Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ or a hybrid between one of the ‘Congo’ and one of the ‘Imperial’ cultivars.

But whatever its parentage, Birkin’s origins, like all Philodendrons, were in the tropical rainforests of Central and South America. The medium light and warm temperature requirements make them excellent houseplants.

Care for Your Birkin Philodendron 

Image Credit: Author/Nancy Maffia

All Philodendrons, including hybridized cultivars, originated as rainforest understory plants. You can’t create the same environment in your home, but you can come close with a few cultural tweaks.

If you give it what it needs, as outlined below, you should be able to enjoy it for years to come.

Light

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Birkin Philodendron needs bright, indirect light, preferably from an east- or north-facing window. I have mine on a bright, north-facing windowsill with plenty of indirect sunlight, and I rotate it every couple of days since it bends toward the sun.

If you don’t have that exposure available, set it back about three feet from a south- or west-facing window or soften the light with a sheer curtain.

Birkin’s variegation will be most vivid in bright light, but it must be out of the direct sun’s rays, or the leaves can burn.  

Temperature and Humidity

Birkins do best in temperatures of 65 to 85 degrees F, which are within the average household range. However, they must be kept away from drafts, like from a cold winter window or air conditioner vents.

And because of their rainforest heritage, they need about 50 to 60 percent more than in most households. You can increase the humidity levels around your Birkin by setting it on a pebble tray of water or using a humidifier. 

As an alternative, you can keep it in the bathroom, laundry room, or kitchen with higher humidity as long as there is enough light.

Soil and Pot

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Your plant needs light, loose soil that allows water to drain quickly and provides air spaces for oxygen to move around the roots. An organic potting soil mixed with orchid bark, coco coir, peat moss, and perlite is excellent for your Birkin.

Pots come in many beautiful shapes and sizes, made of plastic, ceramic, terracotta, or composite. But when you choose that perfect pot for your plant, it will need at least one hole in the bottom so that water can run through quickly and won’t build up around the roots. 

Water

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Philodendrons are forgiving if you forget to water them. But too much water, especially without good drainage, can cause root rot and damage or kill your plant. 

Your house environment will change with the seasons and cause fluctuations in temperature, humidity, and light. So don’t keep to a watering schedule.

Instead, gauge when it’s time to water by digging your finger into the soil to feel for moisture. When it’s dry an inch or two down, your plant is ready for a drink. 

When you water, let it run through the soil and out the hole in the bottom until it is wet and completely drained. 

In addition to how you water, the type of water you use for your plants is also important. Tap water from most locales has mineral contents that may damage your houseplants, so using rainwater or distilled is a healthier choice. 

I collect rainwater in pitchers, but during a dry spell, when I run out, I fill my pitchers with tap water and leave them open to the air overnight to allow the chlorine to evaporate. It isn’t as good as rainwater, but it’s better than plain water from the tap.

Fertilizer

If you have good, nutritious soil, your Birkin won’t need more than half-strength liquid fertilizer or a small amount of slow-release pelletized fertilizer once in the spring. Too much fertilizer will burn the roots, preventing them from absorbing water.

Pests

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The most common insects that will chew on your plant are aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites. Inspect your Birkin regularly for signs of infestation, especially if the plants have been outdoors or you have other plants that have been victims of pests.

Aphids are small, pear-shaped insects that can be green, brown, red, or black and are visible to the naked eye. They suck plant juices and can cause distorted curled foliage in addition to excreting a sweet, sticky substance called honeydew that attracts a growth of mold.

Control these pests with a spray of insecticidal soap or Neem oil.

Mealybugs are cottony little critters that suck plant juices and cause distorted, shriveled leaves. Male mealybugs can fly, but females are the ones that attach themselves to the upper and lower sides of the leaves and are quite visible.

You can control these bugs with insecticidal soap, Neem oil, or a 3:1 solution of water, 92% isopropyl alcohol, and two tablespoons of Dawn dish detergent. You may have to repeat the treatment until the pests are gone if you have a heavy infestation.

Spider mites are tiny, eight-legged critters that can be yellow, green, brown, or red. They aren’t as readily seen as aphids and mealybugs, but they spin a tell-tale white webbing over the foliage that is easy to recognize.

Just like for aphids, you can control these pests with a spray of insecticidal soap or Neem oil.

Propagation

You can easily propagate stem cuttings in soil or water. Both methods are effective, and your plants will root within a month.

Water propagation

Cut stems to lengths with about 4 or 5 leaves. Put them into a clean jar or vase with fresh distilled or rainwater, and remove all the lower leaves below the waterline.

Set the jar in a warm spot with bright light and change the water every four or five days to prevent algae from growing. New growth should start to form at the nodes after about two weeks.

When the roots are 2″ to 3″ long, you can plant the new cuttings in a potting mix.

Soil propagation

Trim your cuttings just below the bottom node and remove all leaves on the bottom three nodes. Stick the cuttings into moist, loose soil and set them in a warm, bright spot. Keep the soil moist, and new roots should form in about 3 to 4 weeks.

As an option, you can dip the cut ends in rooting hormone to encourage root formation. Then, plant the rooted cuttings in a pot with loose, well-draining soil and set them in a spot out of the direct sun. 

Before planting, you can set the cuttings out in the air in a warm, dry place for about 12 hours so that the ends will develop a hard callus to help prevent the end from rotting. Callusing isn’t necessary, but it is a common practice.

Toxicity

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All members of the Aroid family, including Philodendrons, are toxic to people and pets. The foliage contains calcium oxalate crystals that can cause mouth, throat, and airway swelling. 

Keep your beautiful Birkin up and away from curious little hands and paws.

Author & Editor | + posts

Nancy has been a plant person from an early age. That interest blossomed into a bachelor’s in biology from Elmira College and a master’s degree in horticulture and communications from the University of Kentucky. Nancy worked in plant taxonomy at the University of Florida and the L. H. Bailey Hortorium at Cornell University, and wrote and edited gardening books at Rodale Press in Emmaus, PA. Her interests are plant identification, gardening, hiking, and reading.