How to Care for a Philodendron Atom-9 Easy Tips

Philodendron atoms will reward even minimal care with their lush tropical aesthetic. They are the perfect plant for beginners due to their easy-going nature and hardiness.

These compact shrub-like plants grow to between 7 – 11 inches tall and 5.5 inches wide. They usually reach maturity at around 3 years and will only need repotting every couple of years.

Weekly watering, minimal fertilizing and a regular misting schedule are the main requirements of a philodendron atom. It won’t take very much effort to maintain the beauty and health of your atom’s waxy and ruffled dark green leaves!

Table of Contents

Is Direct Light Suitable? 

Philodendron atoms like indirect sunlight the best.

Keep your philodendron atom in a bright room but in a spot away from the sun’s rays. A bright corner away from the window is ideal. Windows with frosted glass, sheer curtains or slatted blinds can help create nice conditions for a philodendron atom.

Philodendron atoms are quite versatile and will continue to grow even in dim light. The leaves on your plant will turn darker if it is kept in a very low light environment.

The key to keeping your philodendron atom happy with the light conditions is to help it avoid direct sunlight as this can burn your plant’s leaves. In its natural habitat, the tree canopy above would shield the philodendron from excessive direct sunlight. Ensure your plant gets no more than 3 hours of direct sunlight per day.

Shall I Water When The Soil Feels Dry?

philodendron atom in green pot in clay pot

Water your philodendron atom once per week in the growing season (spring through to late summer) – unless the soil is still very moist.

Wait for the top few inches of soil to dry out before watering to help your plant avoid root rot, which can be fatal. Yellow leaves are a sign that your philodendron atom is being over-watered. Brown leaves suggest under-watering.

Reduce the watering in the winter months as philodendron atoms go dormant in winter. A gentle watering once every two weeks throughout the winter months will be enough.

Should the Temperature Be Warm?

As a subtropical plant, the philodendron atom loves the warmth and detests the cold.

The minimum temperature at which a philodendron atom can thrive is 55°f (12°c) and the maximum is around 85°f (29°c).

Choose a relatively warm and bright room to keep your plant happy.

Keep your plant away from frost and drafts as philodendron atoms do not enjoy sudden temperature shocks. Also avoid radiators, fires and air-con units.

What Humidity Levels Are Best?

philodendron atom leaves ariel view

A humidity level of at least 55% is recommended for philodendron atoms. For best results, aim for 60% – 80% humidity (which is slightly higher than in the average home) to keep your plant’s foliage looking healthy and shiny.

Increase the humidity in your home slightly by misting your plant a few times every week. You could also try using a water pebble tray or humidifier. Keeping your plant in a more humid room like a bathroom or kitchen is also a good idea. 

But philodendron atoms can tolerate lower humidity levels, such as those in the average home.

Just remember to move your plant away from any radiators in the winter as they tend to dry out the air.

What Soil is Best?

Philodendron atoms like moist but well-draining soil. Select a soil mix that has a good draining material, like perlite, peat moss or coconut fibers.

Alternatively, mix up your own perfect philodendron atom soil of 1 part regular potting soil, 1 part perlite and 1 part peat moss. You could also buy a philodendron-specific commercial soil.

A slightly alkaline pH level is ideal, but philodendron atoms are not too fussy when it comes to pH levels in the soil.

As a subtropical plant, they require nutrient-rich soil, which a regular fertilizing regime can help to maintain.

When Should I Fertilize My Philodendron?

Fertilizing your philodendron atom can help it develop lush and full leaves. It’s also important for maintaining a rich level of nutrients in the soil which is important for healthy philodendron growth.

Fertilize your philodendron atom once per month in the summer.

Reduce your fertilizing schedule in the winter to just a couple of times across the whole winter season.

An all-purpose fertilizer, either liquid or slow-release granules, is fine for philodendron atoms. A fertilizer with equal nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium content is ideal.

Flush out any excess minerals in the soil at the end of the summer. Giving your plant a bottom-up water and a light shower are good ways to do this if it is not yet time for repotting and all new fresh soil.

If you notice a white covering growing on the surface of the soil, it could suggest that there is a build-up of salts. Flush out the salt by rinsing the soil until water comes out of the drainage holes.

Do Philodendron Atoms Need Annual Repotting?

hand holding a philodendron atom in black pot

Once every two years or so you will need to repot your philodendron atom.

The best way to find out if your plant needs repotting is to check if the roots are poking out of the drainage hole or beginning to stick out of the topsoil.

When repotting, pick a pot that is one size up from the current one. A pot around 2 inches larger than the plant’s root ball is ideal. 

Choose a pot that has drainage holes. Philodendron atoms require good drainage because they like the soil to be moist but not soggy.

When repotting, always replace the soil with a fresh mix. And remember to water your plant after repotting.

Is Pruning Necessary?

Cutting back your philodendron’s foliage can help to maintain its aesthetic appeal. But pruning is not essential to the health of the plant.

Keep your philodendron atom looking its best by removing any yellowing or dead leaves. Always use clean tools when cutting your plant to avoid an infection.

Can You Propagate a Philodendron Atom?

The best way to propagate a philodendron atom is through cuttings, but it is also possible to grow them from seed too.

Philodendrons From Cuttings

The most rewarding way to propagate your philodendron atom is through cuttings.

Here is an easy-to-follow method for successfully taking and growing philodendron atom cuttings:

  1. Wet the plant’s soil a few days before you take the cuttings to ensure the plant has accessed the nutrients which will help it overcome transplant shock.
  2. Take a cutting with a sharp, clean knife. Make sure the cutting has at least 2 leaf nodes and 2 or more leaves. Each cutting should be around 6 inches (or more) in length.
  3. Root your cuttings in either a small container with all-purpose potting soil or (the preferred method) in a jar of water.
  4. Keep the cutting in a bright location away from direct sunlight.
  5. If you opted for soil, keep it moist with regular misting. If you went with the water method, replace the water every three days, leaving the cutting out of the water overnight before you replace it.
  6. Once roots have started to develop (usually after 2 weeks) and reached 4 inches (which is easier to see in the preferred jar of water method), replant the cutting in a regular pot and start on a regular watering schedule.

Tip: Adding rooting hormone to the cut end of the cutting can increase the chances of propagation success.

Philodendrons From Seeds

You can also grow a philodendron atom from store-bought seeds.

  1. Place 2 – 3 seeds (as some will fail) in small individual pots with seedling soil. (There should be at least half an inch of space around them.) Insert the seeds around a third of an inch deep and cover them gently with the soil.
  2. Keep the soil moist by misting regularly.
  3. Keep the temperature between 68°f (20°c) and 73°f (23°c) to allow for germination. (Use a heat mat if necessary.)
  4. When the seedlings have sprouted (around 2 – 8 weeks), separate them into individual pots to encourage healthy root growth. Then revert to regular care and watering.

hand holding philodendron atom in clear jar with roots exposed

Are There Any Pests and Diseases That Can Harm Philodendron Atoms?

Philodendron atoms are hardy little plants and so are not often bothered by houseplant pests or diseases. But here is some key information to help you deal with any issues that might arise.

Bugs

Aphids and mealybugs can introduce infections. Spider mites will start eating your plant. Look for them around the plant’s stem and leaves.

Treat any bug infestation first by rinsing the plant – if there is no improvement, use an insecticidal soap and separate it from other plants.

Ensuring your plant gets enough nutrients (remember a philodendron atom needs nutrient-rich soil and fertilizing) and enough light to reduce the chances of lasting damage from an insect attack.

Root rot

As philodendron atoms require moist soil, they can be susceptible to over-watering and root rot. 

As root rot is a fungal infection which prevents the plant absorbing key nutrients from the soil, it can be fatal to the plant. And it is hard to spot. Watch out for any plant unsteadiness (especially at the base), a mushy stem and a nasty smell.

If you notice root rot developing early enough, a root trim and fresh repotting might save it. Propagation can also be a last ditch solution against fatal root rot.

But preventing root rot developing in the first place really is key. Ensuring your pot has good drainage holes and only watering the plant when the top few inches of soil are dry is essential.

What Are Some Common Problems When Growing A Philodendron Atom?

close up of philodendron atom leaves

Dropping Leaves

Leaf drop can have many causes: excessive direct sunlight, low temperatures, low humidity, issues with too much or too little water and root rot.

Use trial and error to figure out the cause. Start by reducing your watering, moving your plant to a shadier spot and increasing your misting, as these changes will address the most common causes.

Brown Spots

Brown spots appearing on a plant’s leaves are often a sign of a fungal infection. This is likely caused by too much light or too much water.

Move your plant out of direct sunlight. Reduce your watering to once per week (or less if the topsoil isn’t drying out).

If the infection doesn’t pass on its own, cut away any moldy parts of the plant with a sharp and clean knife, then repot the plant with fresh soil. For serious infections, treat it with a fungus fighter spray.

Yellowing Leaves

The yellowing of your plant’s leaves is usually caused by over-watering.

Water your philodendron atom once per week in summer and much less in winter. Wait until the topsoil has dried out before watering.

If you are prone to over-watering your plants, try the bottom-up watering method instead. Simply put your plant in a basin or bucket of water for 45 minutes and let the roots suck up the water the plant needs. Make sure any excess water drains out before returning your plant to its decorative cache pot.

Browning or Wilting Leaves

If your plant’s leaves are turning brown or wilting, this can be a sign of under-watering. Slightly increase your watering schedule to see if it makes a difference.

A lack of humidity can also be a cause. Philodendron atoms enjoy regular misting (a couple of times a week should be enough). Using a water pebble bath or a humidifier can also help to increase the humidity levels. 

Bathrooms (or any room with open taps) are great places for humidity-loving plants, like philodendron atoms, as they tend to have higher humidity levels than in other parts of the house.

How Many Varieties of Philodendron Are There? 

There are at least 489 varieties of philodendron! Here are some of the most commonly owned types:

  • Philodendron selloum “Philodendron atom”: This shrub-like dwarf variety grows to just 11 inches tall and has attractive waxy, ruffled leaves.
  • Philodendron hederaceum “Heartleaf Philodendron”: A fast-growing, cascading variety with iconic heart-shaped leaves and an easy-going temperament.
  • Philodendron hederaceum “Brasil”: A sub-type of the Heartleaf, this fast grower has yellow and green leaves that look a little like the Brazilian flag. The leaves look almost like plastic and are soft to touch.
  • Philodendron domesticum “Elephant Ear Philodendron”: A popular large variety with leaves shaped like elephant ears.
  • Philodendron bipinnatifidum “Split Leaf Philodendron”: With beautifully textured long leaves, this variety has a feathered look. Unlike many other varieties, it doesn’t climb, but grows like a shrub.

The philodendron atom is very similar to its cousins – the only real differences are that it is not a vining plant and its small size as a dwarf plant.


FAQs About Philodendron Atom Care

Where should I put my plant?

Philodendron atoms are fine with dim to medium light. A spot in a bright room but away from the window is best.

Just make sure to keep your plant out of direct sunlight as this can scorch the leaves.

How often should I water my plant?

Only water your plant when the top few inches of the soil have dried out. In summer this is usually once per week, and much less often in the winter (once every two weeks will be fine).

Are the philodendron atom and philodendron super atom the same?

The super atom is a close cousin of the philodendron atom. The super version is smaller than the already petite atom. Both are easy to care for and beautiful.

If you are looking for a smaller houseplant, opt for the philodendron super atom.

How big does a philodendron atom get?

As the philodendron atom is a dwarf plant, they only grow to between 7 – 11 inches tall and 5.5 inches wide. They take a few years for philodendron atoms to reach maturity.

Do philodendron atoms help to purify the air?

Yes! According to a plant air purification study by NASA, philodendrons (including the atom variety) can help purify indoor air.

Is the philodendron atom toxic to pets or humans?

The calcium oxalate crystals inside a philodendron atom’s leaves can be toxic to pets and humans if ingested.

Upgrade Your Philodendron Atom Care With These Final Tips

Philodendron atoms are very easy-going little plants that can add a lovely tropical look to your home. Their interesting ruffled and waxy leaves make a statement and are very simple to maintain.

The key to philodendron atom care is to provide it with the right levels of moisture. Weekly watering, regular misting and a well-draining soil are important for philodendron atom health.

Remember that philodendron atoms don’t mind dim light but hate excessive direct sunlight. It’s important to also keep your warmth-loving philodendron atom away from frost and nasty drafts.

Enjoyed This Philodendron Atom Care Guide?

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Catherine Allsop
Catherine inherited a love of things that bloom from her mother and grandmother. Her journey began with lavender picking in her mother’s garden and using rhubarb leaves as an umbrella in her grandmother’s garden. An interest in beautiful gardens soon transferred into the home too. Catherine’s current collection of leafy greens includes a gloriously large monstera (cheese plant), a low maintenance snake plant and an over-temperamental peace lily. Catherine also loves the interesting shapes of succulents and the structural beauty of her ZZ plant. When Catherine is not reviving peace lilies and dusting monstera leaves, she loves doing yoga, writing and visiting historical sites.

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