If you’ve recently become a plant parent to this stunning and popular new houseplant, you probably have a lot of questions.
Philodendron Birkin care isn’t difficult, but it does require some specific tending. And, an explanation as to why the leaves are so varied!
Birkins are a rare and compact Philodendron variety, with deep, dark green leaves highlighted by vividly colored yellow or white pinstripes. The stems are bright green, plump, and stand upright to display the dramatic foliage.
One of the unique qualities of this cultivar is that no two leaves are the same. Some leaves show more green with minimal striping, while others look more like white leaves with green stripes. Sometimes, you may even get a red leaf or two.
If you’ve noticed some leaves don’t have any striping at all, don’t worry! This is entirely normal and a common occurrence in Philodendron Birkin variegation.
Part of the fun of growing Birkins is seeing how each leaf will develop; it’s a surprise revelation every time!
Philodendron Birkin Origin & History
Philodendrons originate from Columbia, Venezuela, and the Caribbean. These plants are tropical and widely distributed in tropical forests, swamps, along roadways, and on riverbanks.
This novel and rare variety is the result of a spontaneous mutation of the Philodendron Rojo Congo. Due to its unique mutation, the genetics are a bit unstable, which causes foliage variation.
There is also a belief among botanists that the leaves may all revert back to green at some point in the near future. Since this cultivar is so new, it’s a great unknown how it will grow through the years.
The philodendron birkin used to be extremely rare, but thanks to tissue culture propagation, you can find birkins more freely on Etsy or in specialized nurseries.
Philodendron Birkin Care: Keeping This Gorgeous Houseplant Healthy
Now that you know a little more about your plant’s history, it’s time to learn how to make it thrive in your home. The big secret to Philodendron Birkin care is to think like the plant. What does a tropical plant like – warmth, humidity, and water.
In their native habitats, philodendrons are accustomed to growing underneath a tropical canopy. The ideal place for your Birkin is somewhere that receives lots of bright, indirect light.
Its gorgeous white pinstripe variegation is a result of a chimeric mutation which in simple terms needs brighter light to remain more ‘stable’. Light helps bright out that beautiful detailing on the leaves.
Measuring How Much Light a Philodendron Birkin Really Needs
If you’re like me and love to measure things rather than take a wild guess, then you’ll love using a light meter. Light meters measure overall light intensity in a room in foot candles (FC). They’re super useful in determining where to place your new plant.
For non-vining philodendrons i.e. the Birkin, you'll want to keep in somewhere that receives around 400-600FC for good growth. The bare minimum this plant will cope with is around the 200FC mark. Anything less than that and you'll likely spot a lack of that bright whiteness.
Does This Plant Like Full Sun or Full Shade?
Not really. Too much direct sun i.e. more than 1-2 hours of cool direct light a day, can cause the pinstriped leaves to burn and drop off. On the other hand, if they are in full shade, they could become leggy, sparse or die off.
The best spot is likely an east or west-facing window where they are protected from drafts and heat vents.
If you don’t have a place in your home where this tropical plant will receive 10-12 hours of bright light per day, you may need to supplement with grow lights. You may need to do this, too, during winter when there is less daylight.
A nutrient rich, but chunky mixture is what philodendrons love the most. A coco coir and perlite based potting soil is ideal for the philodendron birkin.
To make it chunky, I recommend adding some orchid bark and fine pumice too. Chunkiness is what helps the mix become well-draining.
Personally, I love and recommend this airy mix for philos:
- 40% coco coir (replaces potting soil, great growing medium, sustainable)
- 20% orchid bark (adds chunkiness, lets roots attach & becomes hotspot for positive microbes)
- 10% perlite (helps with drainage)
- 10% worm castings (worm poop, nutrient fertilizer, holds moisture)
- 10% pumice (helps with drainage)
- 10% activated charcoal (prevents mould, gets rid of soil impurities)
The key to choosing a soil for this plant is to make sure it contains something that helps with drainage, and also has elements that help it retain some moisture.
Without some moisture, the roots will become significantly dehydrated and will shrivel up which ironically leads to root rot. Coco coir is a great substance to add as it’s been proven to retain up to 10x its weight in water!
Update: I see lots of folks out there recommending a cacti and succulent mix for philos. Unless you want to always be watering your plant, I wouldn't recommend going down this road. Cacti and succulents hold water in their thick leaves hence why they thrive in a very dry potting mix. Philos on the other hands have very thin leaves and don't actively hold moisture so they need a medium that holds some water. If you're seeing lots of curling, browning and leaves dropping, check you haven't got it in a cacti/succ mix!
The key to watering this special Philodendron is to recognise that 1) it loves evenly moist soil and 2) it should never be allowed to dry out completely.
Drying out completely can lead to root rot overtime as soil becomes compact around the roots, preventing oxygen and moisture from reaching them!
Always check the soil’s dryness before adding any water. The soil should be dry up to your first knuckle before being watered. Roughly the top inch (3cm) of soil.
How to Tell if Your Plant Really Needs Water
Not with a moisture meter that’s for sure! No, seriously. Save your money. I’ve written a whole post about why moisture meters don’t work if you’re interested.
The best methods to use would be:
- Good ol’ knuckle test
- Stick your finger deep into the potting mix.
- If it is moist at the first or second knuckle, you can hold back on watering.
- If it is dry, go head and give your plant a drink.
- Look at what is physically happening to your plant and its soil
- Is the soil really dark, with just a few light patches? It likely doesn’t need any more water.
- Is the soil hard, compacted or very dry to touch? It needs water, and possibly more frequent waterings.
In summer and spring, the philodendron birkin needs regular waterings, whilst in the autumn and winter they will need much less tending to. This is because there’s less light and lower temperatures available to your plant.
How To Make Sure the Soil is Evenly Moist and Not Just Damp on Top
Having worked in a botanical garden, one thing I picked up was how to properly water plants.
Every time you water, do it thoroughly so that water trickles out the bottom of the pot. Water pushes oxygen to the roots and helps aerate soil when done correctly.
Don’t leave any water standing in the tray or pot, though, as that can cause the roots to get waterlogged and rot.
Because of their tropical nature, philodendrons birkins prefer warm rooms and plenty of humidity. A temperature between 65F-75F (16-30 Degrees Celsius) during the day and around 60F (16 Degrees Celsius) at night is ideal.
They don’t cope well with temperatures less than 50F or 12 Degrees Celsius, which can cause damage to the leaves or stunted growth.
They’re also not that keen on hot or cold drafts, so keep them away from air conditioners and radiators, and they should be okay.
Birkins LOVE humidity! They are a little fussy, and prefer moderate to high humidity levels. Think 50 to 70%+. The higher the better.
To increase humidity levels, you can:
- Use a good ol’ humidifer
- Place it in a naturally humid room e.g. a bathroom where it can soak up all that extra moisture from the shower or bath.
- Group your plants together to increase a natural process known as transpiration
Myth Buster: Misting plants increases humidity significantly. Sorry, not true. Misting only keep the water droplets around the local area of the plant for 30-60 seconds before they disperse into the rest of the room. It's a very, very short term 'fix' for a chronic problem. Plus, if overdone, misting can become a hotspot for bacteria and fungal infections to start.
All houseplants need fertilizing because eventually, the nutrients in the potting soil dissipate. However, the key is not to overdo it. Overfertilization can cause yellowing as well as crisping on the edges of some leaves.
Best Fertilizer for the Philodendron Birkin
There isn’t a single fertilizer that’s better than all the others, but I love and use dyna gro (7-9-5 NPK formula)! It’s urea free meaning it won’t burn your plant’s roots, it’s a complete formulation, containing all 16 essential nutrients your plant needs and it will last for a good 6-9 months, depending on how many plants you need to feed.
I’ve also used organic seaweed and kelp extract, fish emulsion as well as marine phytoplankton fertilizer too. These are slightly lower in nitrogen than your regular chemical fertilizers, BUT they pack a punch in terms of foliage growth. Seaweed or marine based fertilizers are loaded with plant growth hormones.
You can also opt for a balanced houseplant liquid fertilizer.
How to Fertilizer Your Plant
Dilute 1/4 teaspoon of Dyna Gro or 1 teaspoon of liquid seaweed/marine phytoplankton fertilizer to 1 gallon of water (4.5 litres) and water your plant with this solution every time it needs watering. This method is known as maintenance feeding and replicates how plants would ‘feed’ in the wild! I’ve seen much better and steadier growth with this method.
If you’re using a balanced houseplant liquid fertilizer, dilute to half the strength recommended on the bottle.
When to Fertilize Your Plant
Feed every time you water in spring and summer, and cut back in autumn and winter. It’s easy to overfertilize during the cooler winter months because the plant isn’t actively growing and using the nutrients.
How to Propagate the Philodendron Birkin
Like all philodendrons, birkins can be propagated through stem cuttings and then grown in a water or moss medium. Taking stem cuttings is super easy (if not a little scary when you do it for the first couple of times!).
I’ll take you through both the moss and water process step-by-step. Either method is fine. If you like to watch for root development, I recommend giving water propagation a go.
Propagating Stem Cuttings In Water
- Fill a sterile glass container with freshwater. Chlorinated water can lead to chlorine toxicity in plants.
- With a clean pair of pruning scissors, cut a healthy stem just below a leaf node (they can look a little like aerial roots). This is where new roots will sprout from.
- Place the stem cutting straight into your fresh water container, making sure the node is fully under the water.
- Change the water at least once a week to prevent bacteria or decay pathogens taking hold.
- Once roots are around 1-2 inches long, you can move your plant to a new container with a rich potting mix.
Propagating Stem Cuttings In Moss
- Fill a sterile container with some moist sphagnum moss. Either green or brown sphagnum moss is fine.
- With a clean pair of pruning scissors, cut a healthy stem just below a leaf node (they can look a little like aerial roots).
- Dip the freshly cut stem into some rooting hormone or powder.
- Place the stem cutting straight into your moss container, making sure the node is buried deeply under the damp moss.
- Spray the moss with water every couple of days to prevent it drying out.
- Once roots are around 1-2 inches long, you can move your plant to a new container with a rich potting mix.
One of the great things about Birkins is that they grow slowly, which means they won’t need a lot of repotting. When it looks like the roots are outgrowing the current pot, move it to a pot 2″ wider in diameter than the one it’s currently in.
Don’t be surprised if the Birkin doesn’t do much after you first repot it; it needs several weeks to acclimate to its new home.
Another way to tell if your birkin needs repotting is if it physically looks too big for its container; it most likely is!
When repotting, you’ll want to consider the following:
- Choose a pot that has good drainage
- Opt for a well-draining soil mix
Always use sharp, clean shears or scissors. Uncleaned tools pass along diseases between plants. Clean the tool with some rubbing alcohol before use.
Throughout the year, trim away any old or dry leaves as needed. During the spring or fall, you can trim back the plant if it is getting too bushy, dense or leggy.
Plant Toxicity – Is the Philodendron Birkin Plant Toxic?
Sadly, Philodendron Birkin is toxic to humans and pets. If ingested, it can cause swelling of the mouth, gastrointestinal tract, tongue and mild vomiting and diarrhoea. Be sure to keep this houseplant away from small children, cats, and dogs.
Help! What’s Wrong with My Plant? Common Philodendron Birkin Issues
My Philodendron Birkin is Producing a Leaf with a Tinge of Red. Is it Reverting?
Not necessarily! Perfectly healthy birkins can produce a leaf with a red stripe, tinge, section or two. It absolutely doesn’t mean that the whole plant will revert to a rojo congo.
Continue to monitor new growth for any signs of loss of that beautiful pinstriping. If that happens, then you can assume it’s starting to revert.
What do I do if my Philodendron Birkin Loses Variegation?
To clarify, a reverted birkin produces fully green leaves with no pinstriping. Pinstriped deep green leaves are perfectly healthy and still exhibit classic birkin variegation.
Unfortunately, the variegation on this plant is genetically unstable which means it’s highly likely to revert back to a rojo conjo at any point.
Due to its newness, there isn’t much information or resources on how to get the variegation back. It may be the plant is reverting to its original form, and there isn’t much to be done in that case.
One thing you can try is pruning the non-variegated leaves, and the plant may regain its markings during new growth cycles. You can also up the light intensity – variegated plants need brighter light than most people think. This isn’t guaranteed to keep those luscious features though (sorry!).
If leaves turn brown, your tropical plant isn’t receiving enough humidity and is drying out. Either move it to a location with more humidity or set up a humidity tray with pebbles.
Leaves Yellowing On the Edges
The cause for leaves yellowing on the edges is overwatering. You may need to re-evaluate the watering process. The roots mustn’t get soggy or sit in water for extended periods. Be sure to always check the soil dryness before watering your Birkin.
Drooping and Wilting Leaves
Drooping, wilting or curling leaves is a sure sign that your plant is thirsty! Give it a top up of water and make sure to thoroughly water so that it’s trickling through the drainage holes.
However, if leaves are randomly dropping off, it is likely your Birkin is stressed from the cold. Remember, Philodendron Birkin is tropical and loves the heat. Ensure your plant is not near any air-conditioning that would chill it out.
Weird Lesions and Bad Smell
Erwinia blight is a bacteria that causes water-soaked lesions on the stems, a foul odor from the dying plant stalks, and will kill your plant if left untreated.
Trim off all infected areas to prevent the spread and change the potting mix as soon as possible.
Also, check all your other plants because this bacteria spreads like wildfire!
There is no cure for this disease, only the removal of infected foliage or the entire plant. To prevent it from happening, always water at soil level, so the leaves don’t get wet and encourage disease.
Common Pests of Philodendron Birkin + How To Get Rid of Them
These pests like dry, warm environments and eating the leaves of houseplants. If you keep the humidity levels high, you’ll have less of an issue with spider mites.
Spider mites leave little white spots on foliage when they feed, and if left untreated, these leaves will eventually turn yellow, then brown, and then die.
Spider mites will travel, so when you treat the Birkin, treat all plants nearby it, too. Wash all the leaves with a neem oil solution or a solution of water mixed with a few drops of natural dish soap.
These minuscule white insects suck the juices out of plant foliage. They’re hard to see but leave noticeable damage.
To get rid of thrips, gently wipe the leaves with a wet cloth to remove them. Then apply a neem oil solution to keep the pests away.
FAQS About Philodendron Birkin
Where Can I Buy a Philodendron Birkin?
Not quite as rare as in previous years, the Birkin is now available at several major box stores and plant nurseries, as well as online through Etsy.
Why Are My Philodendron Birkin Leaves Curling?
They are either receiving too much or too little water. Check that the soil is not soggy and only water when the top few inches are dry.
Do philodendron Birkin plants have vines?
No, the philodendron birkin is not a vining variety.
More Philodendron Care Guides