Prized for its characteristic moss green leaves and signature creamy-white pinstripes, the Philodendron Birkin is a staple on many avid collector’s wishlists.
One of the fascinating qualities of this cultivar is that no two leaves will grow in the same. Some leaves exhibit a lime-green body with a yellowish tinge and minimal pinstriping, whilst others look like white leaves with green stripes.
Sometimes, you might even spot a red leaf or two magically unfurl from the centre.
Having said that, if you notice some leaves don’t have any pinstriping, don’t panic! This is completely normal and is super common with the Philodendron Birkin’s rare, but wacky variegation.
These little guys are unpredictable at best; but it’s part of the fun of growing one!
Whether you’re a bonafide plantophile or a beginner looking to develop a green thumb, you’ll love how easy taking care of this unique beauty is.
Philodendron Birkin care isn’t difficult, but it does require a specific type of soil and occasional tending if you want it to thrive in your home.
THE DISCOVERY OF THE PHILODENDRON BIRKIN
The Philodendron Birkin is a member of the Araceae genus of plants, a family that contains over 480 types of philodendron!
This particular plant can be found growing alongside river banks, streams and up trees in the dense, tropical rainforests of Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador as well as the Caribbean.
The Birkin is believed to be a result of a spontaneous and haphazard mutation of the common Philodendron Rojo Congo.
If you’ve ever wondered why this beauty has a tendency to revert and cause panic amongst plant owners everywhere, take note.
Due to it’s unusual mutation, its genetics are fairly unstable, which means it’s highly possible it will revert back to a normal rojo congo leaf (aka no pinstriping) in the near future.
Horticulturists believe that all Birkins have the potential to revert, but as the cultivar is so new, no-one really knows how this gorgeous plant will continue to evolve and mutate in the future!
PHILODENDRON BIRKIN CARE – THE COMPLETE A TO Z
The best thing you can do when attempting to care for your Philodendron Birkin is to try to mimic it’s natural growing habitat as much as humanly possible.
And given that this plant is a tropical one – the main things to get right are light, water and temperature.
In the wild, Philodendron Birkins grow under a tropical canopy. This means it receives bright, but indirect light. But, here’s the key.
To keep that beautiful pinstriping, you’ll want to keep it somewhere that receives lots of bright, indirect light (think 10-12 hours worth).
The detailing in its leaves is caused by a chimeric mutation which in simple terms means it needs light to be stable. The brighter the light, the better chance you have of keeping that signature look.
MEASURING HOW MUCH LIGHT YOUR PHILODENDRON BIRKIN NEEDS
Use a light meter! Super simple, and fairly cheap to pick up.
Light meters measure the overall intensity of light in a room and give the measurement in foot candles (FC).
For good growth, you’ll want to keep this plant in 300-600FC. 250FC is the absolute minimum for this plant to survive AND keep that striping.
Anything less than that, and you’ll have a sad and lifeless looking plant on your hands.
Super simple. This plant loves a chunky, airy mix that’s rich in organic matter and drains well.
‘Drains well’ is the key here though – you still want your mix to hold some moisture as philodendrons can’t hold much water in their leaves like cacti or succulents can!
In simple terms, you’ll want to mix either a good quality potting soil (or my favorite, coco coir) with perlite, orchid bark, activated charcoal and worm castings.
This is my personal tried and tested mix for the Birkin:
- 40% coco coir (replaces potting soil and is sustainable)
- 20% orchid bark (adds chunkiness, allows for good drainage)
- 15% perlite (aids in drainage
- 15% worm castings (worm poop! Acts as a fertilizer)
- 10% activated charcoal (prevents mould, gets rid of soil impurities)
Or, to make life easier, you can buy a premade monstera or philodendron potting mix that’s ready to go.
The Philodendron Birkin loves evenly moist soil, which means it’s never left to dry out completely.
Oddly enough, soil that becomes overly compacted and dry leads to root rot in the long run. You’ll only want to water this plant when the top one to two inches of soil are dry.
HOW TO TELL WHEN THE SOIL IS DRY & NEEDS WATERING
The best way to do this isn’t necessarily with your finger, but instead with a wooden chopstick or toothpick. Plunge it into the soil and leave it there for around 30-60 minutes.
After that time has passed, remove it and look at what you can see. You should see ‘layers’ on your stick!
- Wet soil will turn the stick a darker shade, and the stick will have small soil particles on it.
- Damp soil will turn the sticker a slightly darker shade, but no soil will cling.
- Dry soil won’t change the stick’s color at all, and no soil will stick.
Make sure to adjust your watering schedule to the seasons too. A plant will need more water in the summer and spring when the temperature and humidity levels are higher.
The Philodendron Birkin is a tropical plant, so it should come as no surprise that they prefer warmer climates.
Keeping your room temperature at around 65F-75F (16-30C) is ideal for good growth.
Anything less than 60F (15C) is way too cold for this rainforest dweller. Make sure to keep it away from drafts too – and that includes central heating too.
If you’re planning to grow this beauty outdoors, you should know that it’s not frost tolerant in any way shape or form.
Make sure to bring it indoors well before you spot any frost appearing outside. Depending on where you live, this will likely be just before October hits.
All philos LOVE humidity – the more, the better.
As a general rule of thumb, this plant is fairly happy with 50-80% humidity, but higher levels will lend to larger leaves with more pronounced pinstriping.
You can use a hygrometer to measure the humidity in your home.
To increase humidity in your home (especially in the winter months with central heating), try introducing a small humidifier near your plants, or group your collection together!
Grouping allows for plants to share humidity resources by a process known as transpiration.
Friendly Hint: Misting does very little to increase humidity levels.
Plus, it’s super hard to gauge when you’re overdoing it, and that coupled with poor air circulation quickly leads to nasty bacterial and fungal infections to start!
GROWING A PHILODENDRON BIRKIN – WHAT TO EXPECT
Birkins are what I call serial ‘slowers’. Even when given the right conditions, they grow fairly slowly which is ideal if you’re looking for an easy-care houseplant!
Indoor Philodendron Birkins can grow to be anywhere between 1.5 feet to just over 3 feet in height, but might take 5-10 years to do so.
It also remains fairly compact in width, with the average width span reaching a mere 30cm (1 feet). Each leaf can grow up to 15cm in length.
To increase how fast this plant grows and how many beautiful leaves unfurl, you’ll want to up it’s light intensity (only bright, indirect light though) and provide a good quality fertilizer during its peak seasons.
Make sure to clean its leaves every once in a while to remove any dust that’s gathered, as this can slow its growth.
HELP! WHAT TO DO IF YOUR PHILODENDRON BIRKIN IS LOSING ITS VARIEGATION
Okay, the first thing you’ll want to do is actually make sure you’ve got a reverting Birkin on your hands.
A reverting Philodendron Birkin will start to either produce all green leaves or a green leaf with very faint, minimal pinstriping.
If your plant throws out an all-green leaf or two, this is fairly normal and usually isn’t anything to worry about.
There isn’t a ton of information out there on how to stop this plant mid-reverting, but here’s what some of my nursery friends recommend.
- Up how much light your Philodendron Birkin is receiving. Bright, but indirect or filtered light is the way to go. Oddly enough, this type of light makes the pinstripes brighter and whiter!
- Prune the non-variegated leaves so that new leaves may regain their markings again
- Accept that this plant can revert! It’s a genetically unstable plant, though more stable than some.
You’re not failing as a plant parent if your plant loses its pinstriping. It’s all part of the fun of growing one! It’s completely unique.
REPOTTING & PRUNING
A plant lover’s dream, the Philodendron Birkin doesn’t need repotting very often. They’re super slow growers.
The only time you’ll want to repot this beauty is once every 1-2 years when the nutrients in its potting soil have run out, or if its roots are peeking through the drainage holes.
When repotting, make sure to opt for:
- A pot that’s 1-2 inches wider than the last (absolute maximum)
- A pot with drainage holes
- A good quality soil mix that’s right for this plant’s needs
Pruning is another task you can cross off your to-do list. Philodendron Birkins rarely need pruning, if at all.
They don’t tend to get bushy, and so pruning is reserved to pest infestations, damage or disease.
PESTS – ONES TO WATCH OUT FOR
Your Philodendron Birkin is no more susceptible to pests than any other plant.
The main way it catches them is in the nursery itself or from the rest of your plant collection.
Spider mites and thrips are the 2 big ‘bug’ bears for this plant. Scale, mealybugs, aphids and white flies, less so.
Spider mites generally live on the underside of leaves, and they look red or brownish in color.
They are tiny so are hard to see until they form clusters or create their signature silk webs.
They cause black and brown spots to appear on plants. Treat them with a neem oil solution, an eco-friendly insecticide or a rubbing alcohol.
Thrips are super small white, black or brown insects that are hard to notice.
The one thing that is noticeable? They leave some nasty damage behind thanks to their ability to suck sap out of the plant’s leaves and stems.
Drooping and blackened patches are the first signs these critters have made a home on your plant. Simply treat with neem oil or rubbing alcohol.
A good practice to keep pests away is to rub your plant’s leaves and major arching stems with a diluted neem oil once a month.
Most balanced houseplant fertilizers are a good option.
Not all fertilizers are made equal though, so here are some things you’ll want to look for when choosing one. Nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium are the 3 main nutrients to look for.
You can go for a balanced ratio e.g. 5-5-5 NPK, or a slightly higher nitrogen ratio of 7-9-5 NPK for example.
I love and use Dyna Gro’s 7-9-5 NPK formula as it’s a complete fertilizer with all 16 nutrients a plant needs to thrive.
I’ve also had amazing success with marine phytoplankton and fish emulsion.
WHEN & HOW TO FERTILIZE YOUR BIRKIN
Fertilize your Philodendron Birkin in the warmer, spring and summer months, ease back in autumn and completely stop in winter.
Simply dilute your chosen fertilizer to 50% strength in water and evenly apply to the soil. Try not to catch any leaves in this mix though – it can directly burn them!
HOW TO PROPAGATE A PHILODENDRON BIRKIN (THE EASY WAY)
Propagation can seem like a lofty task, but there’s absolutely nothing to fear.
The Philodendron Birkin has the highest chances of rooting success with stem cuttings.
Here’s how to do it!
- With a sterile blade, cut a stem just below a node (some nodes will have those wavy, dangly aerial roots).
- Leave the stem to callous in the air for 30-60 minutes.
- Prepare a small pot of damp sphagnum moss (brown or green is fine).
- Dip the calloused stem in rooting hormone powder (optional, but I find it helps!)
- Bury the stem cutting under the sphagnum moss, making sure to cover the node well.
- If you haven’t already done so, spritz the moss with some water so that it’s damp.
- Cover the pot with a plastic bag or seal to increase humidity levels (just make sure it’s still got some air circulation).
- Place the plant in warm, bright, indirect light, making sure to keep the moss damp at all times.
- Once little roots are starting to peek through i.e. 1-2 inches long), you can repot it in a rich, organic mix (see soil section above).
And, that’s pretty much it! You can also propagate this plant in water, but I’ve always found soil or moss propagation to give the best results!
If you’ve propagated this plant with a different method, let me know in the comments. I’d love to see what you had success with.
FAQ – YOUR CARE QUESTIONS ANSWERED
CAN THIS PLANT HANDLE FULL SUN OR FULL SHADE?
Nope! Despite what you’ve been told, this plant is neither a direct light or low light lover.
Too much direct sun (i.e. more than 1-3 hours of cool morning or late evening sun a day) will scorch the leaves and cause unsightly brown patches.
I’VE BEEN TOLD TO USE A CACTI AND SUCCULENT MIX FOR THIS PLANT. IS THIS CORRECT?
Not in the slightest. Cacti and succulents hold a ton of moisture in their leaves hence why they can tolerate a much, much drier environment.
A cactus potting mix is very dry and extremely fast draining for this reason. Philodendrons however need some moisture retention otherwise they’ll need very frequent watering to survive.
If you’re seeing lots of curling leaves, double check you didn’t pot your plant in a cacti/succulent mix!
WHY IS MY PHILODENDRON BIRKIN TURNING YELLOW?
Good question, and one that has many answers! Just to clarify, Birkins can appear a little yellow naturally.
In some leaves, this is completely natural! If you suspect something else is going on i.e. drooping and yellowing, it’s likely either a light, water or nutrient deficiency.
Check your soil first to make sure it’s airy and light enough for water to drain through.
Use a light meter to check if your plant is getting enough light, if not, move it.
The biggest nutrient deficiencies to look for with yellowing leaves are calcium and magnesium.
Premium fertilizers will already include these, but cheaper ones usually don’t! That could be the problem.
WHAT ARE THE WET, MUSHY LOOKING LESIONS ON MY PLANT?
Ah, the dreaded Erwinia Blight Disease. Erwinia is a bacterial infection that starts below soil level and creeps its way up to the leaves.
It’s caused by too much overhead watering and misting – it needs moisture to thrive.
There isn’t really a cure for the mushy looking wet spots on your plant.
The best things you can do are to 1) isolate this plant from the rest of your collection, 2) prune infected leaves, 3) change the potting mix it’s in and 4) increase air circulation around your plant.
Unfortunately, research shows that applying a copper bactericide isn’t effective against this strain of bacteria.
DO PHILODENDRON BIRKINS HAVE VINES?
No, this plant is not a vining plant. But there are many philodendron varieties out there such as the philodendron micans that do!
WHAT KIND OF WATER SHOULD I USE TO WATER THIS PLANT?
Ideally, you’ll want to use unchlorinated water to water your plant. You can use tap water if it’s only mildly chlorinated.
Sometimes, with tap water, you’ll also see water spots develop on your plant, which are harmless, but don’t look so great.
HOW BIG DOES A PHILODENDRON BIRKIN GET?
At maturity, they can grow to a spread of around 60cm (2 feet) in width, though most Birkins generally only grow 1 feet in width.
This is definitely one of the more compact, and smaller philodendrons to grow.
DO PHILODENDRON BIRKINS CLIMB?
No, not really. Whilst a Philodendron Birkin’s new growth does unfurl from the centre of the stem, these beauties aren’t climbers in the botanical sense.
They’re what’s known as self-headers which means they can support their own weight as they grow upright.
That’s not to say you can’t prop it up though! Mine is a bit of a leaner, so I propped it up with a bamboo stake.
ARE PHILODENDRON BIRKIN PLANTS TOXIC TO CATS OR DOGS?
Sadly, yes. The Philodendron Birkin has calcium oxalate crystals in its leaves which if eaten are toxic to cats, dogs and even small children.
It’s best to keep this plant away from pets and children that love to munch!
WHERE CAN I FIND A PHILODENDRON BIRKIN TO BUY?
Pretty much anywhere! Tissue culture propagation has made them so easy to find nowadays.
Just a few years ago, I paid just over $60 for my little Birkin, but now they can be picked up for as little as $9 (big difference!) on Etsy, in local nurseries, and even in places like Walmart and Home Depot.
SUMMARY – A TRULY RARE AND GORGEOUS PLANT
There you have it, the ultimate Philodendron Birkin care guide. I’ll continue to update this page with more information as and when I receive more questions.
I do get some questions asking about my background with plants – if you’re interested, I used to work in a botanical garden in the UK so picked up a few tips that I thought would be useful to share with others.
If you found this post helpful, please feel free to share it with your planty friends. It might just save a life (their plant’s, that is!).