With its bright neon-colored leaves and spade shaped foliage, the philodendron moonlight is a real eye-catching plant to have in your collection.
Not to be confused with the lemon lime philodendron, the moonlight variety has much longer, narrower leaves with a thicker texture.
In this guide, you’ll discover:
- How to provide the best care for your philodendron moonlight
- How to fix common issues with this plant
- How to keep its brightly colored leaves happy & healthy
Philodendron Moonlight Origin
This easy to care for houseplant has seen a surge in popularity over the last few years thanks to glamorous social media shots.
It shot to fame in the past 10 years or so, and thanks to this huge increase in demand, it’s now deemed a semi-rare houseplant, although it can be found abundantly where it naturally grows.
Originating from the dense tropical and subtropical canopies of Central and South America, the philodendron moonlight is a stunning hybrid variety that has distinct bright leaves that fade to green with age.
No two plants are alike, so you can rest assured, your plant truly is one of a kind.
Philodendron Moonlight Care
The key to keeping your philodendron moonlight’s bright yellow and green leaves looking happy and healthy? Mimic the conditions found in its natural growing habitat as much as humanly possible.
This guide will help you do exactly that.
Your philodendron moonlight will look its best when it’s given ample bright, but indirect sunlight.
To find that sweet spot, your plant needs to be in a place where the sun’s rays aren’t directly hitting the plant but instead are reflected off another surface. A shaded windowsill would be perfect!
This type of dappled sunlight mimics its natural growing environment; the dense, tropical or subtropical canopy of South America.
A key thing to remember is to never place it in bright, direct sunlight. This will scorch the leaves and cause unsightly browning edges, a yellowing discoloration or even blackened spots on its foliage.
This plant can cope with medium to low light conditions, however, you might lose some of that gorgeous neon coloring if it’s kept in the shade for more than 2-3 months.
Most philodendron varieties thrive in moist, well-draining potting soil mixed with some form of organic matter such as perlite or peat moss. The philodendron moonlight is no different.
Well draining soil is absolutely fundamental for philos. They’re sensitive to overwatering and hate water-logged soil.
Most high quality potting mixes are loose and fast draining, but it’s always best to double check.
Philodendrons are also heavy feeders! Adding rich organic matter to the soil helps your plant absorb a steady stream of key nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus.
P.S I’ve seen an unnerving trend growing on Tiktok where plant owners are using already-planted garden soil to grow this houseplant. Some friendly advice, please don’t use soil from your back garden. It’s likely teeming with microbes that you definitely don’t want to introduce to your new houseplant!
It’s recommended to replace your moonlight plant’s soil and container every 1-2 years. This plant is sensitive to the salts that gather on the soil during watering. If left long enough, the accumulated salts will cause yellowing and browning of leaves.
The best time to repot is during the spring or summer months when your plant is actively growing.
Whilst the philodendron moonlight is somewhat of a fast grower, it’s not a climbing or vining variety and so only needs repotting when it’s showing signs to do so. Some common signs your plant needs repotting:
- Physically, it looks too big for its pot
- Roots are starting to peak up through the top inch of soil
- Roots are shooting out through the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot
- You’re noticing stunted or slow growth
- Drooping leaves
When repotting, it’s best to:
- Choose a pot that is 2-3 inches wider in diameter than the last pot
- Opt for well-draining, loose potting soil
- Select a pot that has drainage holes
A tropical plant, the philodendron moonlight, despite what many believe, does in fact like water. What it doesn’t like is waterlogged soil.
The key to achieving the perfect balance is to water your houseplant differently depending on the time of year.
During the spring and summer months when it’s experiencing periods of growth, you’ll want to keep the top inch of soil moist to touch.
With your knuckle or finger, touch the top inch (3cm) of soil, if it sticks to your fingers, it’s wet enough. No more watering!
If it’s dry to touch and the soil falls off your finger or is clumped, it needs more water.
In fall and winter, you can cut back on how often you water your philodendron moonlight. In fact, you’ll want to let the soil dry out slightly between waterings.
The colder weather and lower humidity tends to lead to less evaporation, meaning a riskier chance of overwatering. Over time this will lead to root rot, a hard to fix issue resulting in blackened, mushy roots.
Your philodendron moonlight naturally craves warmth. Originating from a tropical or subtropical environment, it thrives in temperatures between 65-80 Degrees Fahrenheit (18-26 Degrees Celsius).
Having said that, it’s more of a warmth lover, so it will tolerate higher temperatures that it will colder ones.
Anything below 50 Degrees Fahrenheit will likely result in poor, stunted growth.
To keep those long, elongated leaves looking luscious you will want to keep the humidity level fairly high; think 60% or higher.
Higher humidity leads to longer, healthier looking leaves with a brighter color palette.
I use a digital hygrometer to check the humidity level around my houseplants. It will help you monitor and adjust the indoor humidity in any room all year round.
To increase humidity around your plant:
- Use a humidifier
- Line a tray with pebbles, fill the tray with water, plant the pot on the pebbles and let the evaporated water naturally increase humidity levels
- Group your houseplants together. This creates a mini biome in which plants can ‘share’ humidity resources.
Feeding your philodendron moonlight is actually pretty simple. In the active growing months of spring and summer you’ll want to fertilize your plant once a month with a liquid fertilizer (either synthetic or organic) diluted to half its recommended strength. Usually, a few drops will make ½ gallon (2.5 litres) of feed. You can create a bigger batch if you have multiple houseplants you need to fertilize.
You can also use granular fertilizer where you place granules into the soil. As you water this slowly releases nutrients into the soil.
Or, you can use a slow release fertilizer which typically comes in spikes, pods or capsules. Again, these will release overtime to fertilize the soil. Both are ideal if you’re looking for a hands-off solution.
What to Look For in a Fertilizer
Not all fertilizers are made equal. Some are pricey but actually low quality. A good houseplant fertilizer will contain the key macronutrients nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.
Nitrogen promotes leaf growth, phosphorus helps plants to convert nutrients into building blocks to grow, and potassium encourages healthy development.
You’ll see these nutrients represented as numbers on the back of fertilizer solutions e.g. 7-9-5. A balanced fertilizer would be 10-10-10 or 15-15-15.
Other micronutrients you’ll want to look for include zinc, calcium, magnesium and iron, all of which help contribute to a healthy and happy plant.
Organic vs Synthetic Fertilizer – Which is Best?
This is completely up to you. Synthetic fertilizers are man-made and contain more chemicals than organic fertilizers but tend to have a more balanced ratio of the 3 key nutrients.
Whereas, organic fertilizers have a vegetable, plant and animal base e.g. seaweed extract, kelp meal, compost tea, fish emulsion etc and contain other micronutrients your plant has no other way of receiving.
One of my favorites is seaweed extract combined with kelp meal, it’s not super high in nitrogen but it contains plant growth hormones such as auxins and gibberellins, which lead to a healthier, glossier and overall happier looking plant.
Because there’s less chemicals, organic fertilizers don’t tend to burn the leaves, roots or stems as much.
Is there such a thing as too much fertilizer?
Yes! When it comes to fertilizer, less is more. Overtime, fertilizers leave behind a nitrogen residue salt that builds up in your plant’s soil. This can cause fertilizer burn, which causes yellowing, crisp and burnt looking leaves.
To prevent this you can either change the soil every 4-6 months or flush it with water.
It sounds complicated but it simply means wetting the soil with a slow, steady stream of water (a hose on the lowest setting works fine) until it flows through the drainage holes.
How to Propagate your Philodendron Moonlight
The philodendron moonlight is easy to propagate using stem cuttings. To propagate, simple do the following:
- Choose a healthy stem with 2-3 leaves on it.
- With a pair of clean pruning scissors, cut the stem just below the leaf node (this is where the roots will grow from).
- Plant the stem in a small pot of freshly prepared fast-draining potting soil.
- Place in a warm spot that receives bright, indirect light.
- In 3-6 weeks new roots will appear.
- Care for as usual.
You can also propagate using the water propagation, air layering and root division method. Root division is a little trickier so I would avoid that if you’re a complete beginner.
Growth – What Can I Expect?
Under the right conditions you can expect your philodendron moonlight to grow to around 2 feet high and 2 feet wide. Most philodendrons are labelled as creepers, but the moonlight plant forms more of a dense, shrub like form.
As the philodendron moonlight grows, it’s common for it to lose a leaf or two. Don’t panic! It’s completely normal. Simply prune or remove the dead or damaged leaf.
Beyond controlling its size and shape, this plant doesn’t need a lot of pruning.
Signs your moonlight philodendron needs pruning includes:
- Foliage is too dense and misshapen
- Foliage is leggy and sparse (usually needs more bright, indirect light)
- Leaves are damaged or dead
- Leaves have turned yellow or brown
- There’s signs of diseases or pests
To prune you’ll want to use a clean pair of pruning scissors and cut just above the leaf nodes. This helps promote new growth on the existing plant. Never remove more than 25% of the plant’s foliage.
Common Pests & Diseases to Watch Out For
You’ll be glad to know that the philodendron moonlight is generally resistant to more pests and diseases. There are just a few common ones that your plant could be affected by. These include:
- Mealybugs – sapsucking white unarmored round bugs that sap the plant’s natural juices. Kill with insecticidal soap or neem oil, an eco friendly option.
- Aphids – yellow, brown, or orange bugs that feed on the sap or juice of a plant. Kill with insecticidal soap or neem oil.
- Erwinia blight disease – wet, mushy looking lesions on plant leaves that if left untreated will kill a philodendron within days. Usually caused by overly wet soil. Change soil ASAP. If it spreads to stems, roots or more leaves, it’s almost impossible to treat.
Toxicity – is the Philodendron Moonlight Toxic?
Unfortunately yes. The philodendron moonlight plant is toxic to small children and pets, including cats, dogs. This plant contains calcium oxalate crystals which if ingested can lead to mild to moderate poisoning.
Help! What’s wrong with my plant? Common Philodendron Moonlight Care Issues
Problem #1 – Leaves are turning brown or edges are browning
Browning leaves can mean one of two things, either your plant is being under watered or it’s getting too much direct sunlight. Browning tips usually indicate underwatering, whilst entire leaf discoloration spells out sunlight troubles. Move to a shadier location and if the top inch of soil is dry, increase water intake over the next 2-3 weeks.
Problem #2 – Leaves are curling
Curling leaves are a sign that your plant isn’t receiving enough water. Curling leaves is usually the first sign of underwatering. If left untreated, you’ll see brown crispy edges or full leaf discoloration. Increase water intake over a period of weeks.
Problem #3 – Bad smelling lesions on the leaves
One of the most common problems facing the philodendron moonlight is erwinia blight disease. These wet, mushy looking spots are caused by bacteria that develops if the plant remains constantly wet or receives too much overhead watering. Change the soil as soon as possible, increase air circulation and prune infected leaves quickly.
Problem #4 – See through Leaf Spots
Not as common as the other problems, translucent leaf spots with a yellow outline and a bad smell are caused by the Xanthomonas bacteria. Harder to cure than prevent, make sure the plant isn’t overwatered from above and check your plant doesn’t have this infection before buying from Etsy or a nursery.
Problem #5 – Extremely pale leaf color
This one is tricky to spot on the moonlight philodendron given its bright, yet sometimes pale leaf color. If the leaves start looking like a pale neon pothos or the bright colors start to fade, it’s likely your plant needs to be moved to a brighter area. Low light weakens the leaf color.
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