Among the large philodendron family, Philodendron Birkin is a true show-stopper! Its dark green, glossy leaves have delicate white variegation that appears brushed with paint by the hand of nature.
Philodendron Birkin is a member of the Araceae family and a hybrid of the Philodendron genus. Its striking white pinstripe pattern is actually a chimeric mutation that occurred spontaneously from the Philodendron Rojo Congo.
In this article, you’ll learn about the background of the Birkin plant, where to get your hands on one and instructions for care and propagation.
Let’s jump in!
Philodendron Birkin Background
Philodendron Birkin is also known as Philodendron White Wave, and that makes sense given the flowy, abstract lines of white against the dark green.
The Birkin species is not found in nature, rather springing up from a spontaneous mutation in a Philodendron Rojo Congo (which is a hybrid itself).
When plant breeders spot these random, interesting mutations, they can produce more plants with the same characteristics through a couple of methods:
- Taking cuttings of the most highly-variegated stems for propagation
- Growing new plants from tissue cultures
Both of these methods are effective for growing the population of the new subspecies. But growing a Birkin plant from seed will not work, since the DNA in the seed is unlikely to contain the mutated color gene.
This mutation occurred only recently, within the last few years. So Philodendron Birkin is definitely a newcomer in the world of plants!
All naturally occurring philodendrons’ native habitat are humid, tropical climates like Brazil and South America.
Many philodendrons are part of a group of plants called “epiphytes.” This means that they naturally climb trees by putting out aerial roots that attach to the trunks.
Because it’s so new, we’re still not sure how big the Philodendron Birkin can actually get!
However, Philodendron Birkin arises from the Rojo Congo species, which tends to stay more compact and have a bushy shape. This makes it more of a terrestrial philo, or one that grows by creeping along the ground.
Here’s a photo of some creeping roots on my own Birkin. I’ve marked them with arrows:
The Birkin plant is a relatively fast grower that generally goes dormant in winter. From what we’ve seen so far, it can grow from 1.5 feet to 3 feet tall and reaches a typical maximum width of about 2 feet.
One way your plant can gain width is by new plants growing as offshoots from the parent plant. Here’s another photo of my plant that shows a baby Birkin growing:
Most Birkin plants have dark, glossy green leaves with white and yellow paintbrush-like stripes.
In young Birkin plants, the leaves are a solid color that can range from light green to almost white. As they get older, they will take on a darker green and the lovely white variegation will start to show up. As time goes on, these graceful white stripes become bolder and more pronounced.
In my plant, the original leaves are solid green while the new ones are coming in with lovely variegation. Here are a couple of photos showing that:
They’re just so pretty!
In some cases, you may find other foliage shades:
- Almost completely white
- Completely green
- With splashes of pink
Because it’s still considered an unstable mutation, you may see different varieties of color and variegation on a single plant!
In nature, Philodendrons will produce flowers and seeds. But according to the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, it typically takes 15-16 years before the plant is mature enough to produce a bloom!
Philodendron Birkin hasn’t been around nearly that long, so we’re still in the dark about its flowering habits.
Where to Buy Philodendron Birkin
Like we mentioned earlier, you won’t be able to grow Philodendron Birkin from seed, since the new plant may look totally different than the parent plant.
So you’ll need to buy an established Birkin plant or cuttings from one.
You may be able to find a Philodendron Birkin at your local gardening center or in the tropical section of a home improvement store. I actually stumbled upon my Birkin at a housplant display at my grocery store!
But that’s kind of hit or miss, so if you want a Birkin right now, check out these beauties online!
Etsy is the best source out there for buying healthy plants on the internet. Check out Etsy’s list of shops currently selling Philodendron Burkin right now. Here are some reputable sellers that we personally recommend:
- The Longevity Garden (you can even choose to get your Birkin plant in a handmade pot!)
- Honey Plant Co.
- Lupa Garden
Philodendron Birkin Care
Despite its high-drama look, the Philodendron Birkin is actually an easy-going plant with few demands.
Here are the details on keeping your Birkin plant happy and thriving:
Choosing the Right Pot
When picking a pot for your Birkin, any material (plastic, cement, ceramic, etc) will do just fine, as long as it has adequate drainage holes.
Size is really more of an issue here. Look for a pot that’s about 1 or 2 inches larger than the root ball to allow for healthy growth.
But avoid going any bigger, since a too-large pot can contribute to overwatering and root rot.
Your Birkin needs well-draining, loose soil that mimics the conditions of a philodendron’s natural habitat on the rainforest floor.
I use this potting soil from Master Nursery. I’ve gotten this in smaller bags from my local garden center, so you might want to check at yours too.
Otherwise, many people love the indoor potting mix from Miracle-Gro.
The Birkin plant likes about 12 hours of indirect, bright light and dappled sun daily.
But be sure to keep your Birkin out of strong, direct sunlight. Remember, philodendrons naturally grow below the rainforest’s dense canopy, so direct sunlight is much too harsh for them.
For windowsill placement, it would do well in a window facing east or west. If you don’t have a bright spot indoors, you can use a grow light instead.
Typically, Philodendron Birkin needs watering about once a week during the active growing season, which is during the spring and summer months.
During the fall and winter, you can usually get away with less-frequent watering since the demand is less. But still, be sure to check soil moisture and water when needed.
The Birkin does tolerate some level of neglect, and you’re almost always better off watering too little rather than too much. So only give water when needed. You can assess this in a couple of ways:
Check by feel. When you stick your finger in the soil down to about the first knuckle, you just start to feel moisture at your fingertip. If it feels dry, it’s probably time for some water.
Use a moisture meter. This device uses a moisture-sensitive tip to measure the water level in the soil and provide a numeric reading between 1 and 10. When the reading dips below 4, it’s time for a drink.
Philodendron Birkin does best in temperatures between 60 degrees and 85 degrees F, so your normal indoor temperature range is probably just fine.
Make sure it’s never exposed to temperatures below 55 degrees F since this will shock your plant.
Keep in mind that your plant could get chilly even on hot days if you place it too close to the air conditioning vent. Consider moving it farther away or using an air deflector.
As a native of the tropical regions of the world, the Philodendron Birkin thrives in high humidity environments (anywhere from 40-70%).
If your area doesn’t have this, no worries! You can create your own high-humidity micro-climate in a few ways:
- Set your Birkin’s pot on a dish filled with small rocks, and add water to the dish. This is what I do with my plant, and we’ve covered this process in detail in our post on building a pebble humidity tray, so stop by for instructions and step-by-step photos.
- Group your Birkin with other plants, preferably ones that are taller than it. This allows your Birkin to absorb the moisture released by the other plants.
- Use a plant humidifier to raise the humidity in the entire room. You can get some shopping inspiration on our post on choosing a plant humidifier.
Plan to apply fertilizer about once a week during spring and summer when your Birkin plant is actively growing.
Once it enters its winter dormancy in the fall, the demand for nutrients drops drastically. So reduce your fertilizing routine to once a month during the fall and winter months.
Use a balanced fertilizer that includes calcium and magnesium, as this helps with the growth of large, highly variegated leaves.
This indoor fertilizer is specifically formulated for philodendrons, so it’s a great choice.
The Philodendron Birkin has a naturally bushy, non-vining shape, and it doesn’t require regular pruning to stay attractive.
But you may find that you have to cut back leaves that become damaged or die from time to time.
When you do have to do some trimming, make sure to use sharp, clean pruning shears to prevent introducing any harmful microbes. Wipe the blades off with a bit of rubbing alcohol and allow to fully air-dry before using them on your plant.
Cut as close to the stem as possible, being careful not to nick the main stem.
How to Keep Your Philodendron Birkin’s Color Bright
You may see that your Birkin plant’s new leaves are losing their variegation and reverting back to all green.
If that happens, there are a couple of things you can do:
Provide More Light
In general, variegated plants will start to lose their accent color in low-light conditions. This is because the green portions contain all the chlorophyll, which the plant needs to convert sunlight into food.
When there’s not enough light, the plant begins to take on more of a sold green color to make the most of the light it does have to work with.
So if you notice your Birkin plant starting to lose some of those stunning white stripes, try moving it a little closer to a bright window or using a grow light.
However, don’t make a drastic change in lighting suddenly. Move your plant closer to the window in stages, and always keep it out of direct, harsh sunlight.
If you’re using a grow light, start out on a lower setting if you have it. If your light doesn’t have a variable setting, move your plant closer to it in stages, just like the window.
Carefully Cut Away Non-Variegated Leaves
If a change in lighting doesn’t work, you may have to cut out any non-variegated leaves. This encourages the plant to produce more leaves with a variegated pattern.
However, use a light hand when cutting off otherwise healthy leaves. if you strip away too much foliage at once, your plant won’t be able to support itself, leading to stunted growth or even death.
Start by snipping off just a few leaves at a time, and watch your plant for any signs of shock:
- Drooping stems
- Yellowing leaves
- Slowed growth
Enjoy Your Birkin Plant the Way It Is
Keep in mind this relatively new cultivar is considered unstable and may experience some color changes.
The color that returns is largely due to a genetic mutation that cannot be altered to a significant degree.
But it is still cool to see!
Re-Potting Philodendron Birkin
The Birkin plant may outgrow a pot during a single growing season, but sometimes it will take up to two years before repotting is required.
Look for any signs of the Birkin plant becoming rootbound before deciding to re-pot:
- Roots poking out from the bottom drainage holes
- The soil dries out much faster than it used to
- Slow growth
The best time for re-potting is at the beginning of the growing season, usually in spring. Choose a new pot that’s about 1 or 2 inches wider than the pot it’s currently in to avoid problems with transplant shock.
Then just follow these steps:
- Gently slide your Birkin plant from the old pot without pulling on the stem. (Watering the day before can help make this process easier.)
- Inspect the roots for any root rot. Damaged roots will look brown and feel mushy. If you see any signs of root rot, trim the affected sections away with a clean pair of pruning shears.
- Add a well-draining potting mix with perlite or coarse sand to the new pot, enough to bring your root ball even with the pot’s lip.
- Surround the root ball with the potting mix and gently settle it in place.
- If you trimmed any roots away, wait a few days before watering to give the cut portions a chance to heal. Otherwise, give your Birkin a small drink right away and enjoy!
Potential Problems with Philodendron Birkin
Philodendron Birkin is not immune to problems, much like any other houseplant.
Let’s discuss some of these potential problems and how to remedy them:
If there are yellow leaves on your Birkin plant, it could be due to too much water or aging leaves.
To diagnose, first check the soil moisture level and ensure the pot’s drainage holes aren’t blocked.
If all that checks out ok and the yellow leaf is close to or at the lower part of the plant, it’s probably just an aging leaf and nothing to be concerned about.
Brown leaf edges usually indicate that your Birkin needs more water or more humidity.
Again, check the soil moisture right away. If it feels dry, give it a good drink. If you know your home has low humidity or the brown leaves persist, increase the air moisture using the strategies we talked about in the “Humidity” section earlier.
If you see brown spots with yellow halos or small black spots on the leaves, it may be bacterial leaf spot or bacterial blight. Both bacterial infections can be caused by too much watering.
Check the soil moisture level and drainage of the pot, then hold off on watering for about a week if the soil is too moist.
Use a sanitized pair of pruning shears to clip off affected leaves at the node. Also, be sure to disinfect the shears between each cut to avoid spreading the bacteria. Rubbing the blades with alcohol is the easiest and fastest way to disinfect.
Birkin philodendron is relatively resistant to pests, but some can cause issues including mealybugs, scale, and spider mites.
A pest-affected plant may develop discolored or misshapen leaves, or you may spot the pests on the plant.
Immediately isolate your Birkin from any other houseplants, and check all your plants for pests.
Treat all infestations with insecticidal soap, being sure to apply to both sides of the affected leaves.
Especially if the infestation is severe, you may have to apply the insecticidal soap a few times over the course of several days.
Whenever you buy a new plant, be sure to inspect it thoroughly to reduce the chance of bringing pests to your home.
Remember: Birkin plants do best with about 12 hours of bright, indirect light per day.
If your Birkin plant seems to not be growing, it may not be getting enough light. Try moving your Birkin closer to a window or adding more time in your grow light cycle.
On the other hand, if the leaves are developing brown tips and edges, it’s probably getting too much light. The opposite treatment is in order here: Move your plant farther from a window and reduce time under the grow light.
How to Propagate Philodendron Birkin
Philodendrons in general tend to grow well from stem cuttings, so you can expand your collection of Birkin plants right at home.
The optimal time for propagation would be in March or April, which is at the beginning of the active growth season.
There’s a couple of different ways to go about propagation:
- In water
- In soil
We’ll look at each method in detail. But first, let’s cover how to take a healthy cutting for propagation:
Taking a Cutting
Step 1: Sanitize a pair of sharp scissors or a craft knife with alcohol to kill any microbes.
Step 2: Choose a stem that’s at least 4 to 6 inches long and has at least three healthy leaves on it.
Step 3: Cut the stem diagonally about 1/2 inch below a leaf node. A node is the little bump where the leaf offshoots from the main stem. This will be the site where new roots emerge.
Here’s a photo that shows what leaf nodes look like:
Step 4: Leave the top two leaves intact, and snip off the lower leaf as close to the node as you can without actually cutting the stem. If you had more than one leaf under the top two, snip off the other ones in the same way.
Your goal is a stem piece with at least one bare node site and two top leaves that will support the cutting via photosynthesis. Now you’re ready to move on to rooting.
Rooting a Stem Cutting in Water
- Pour some filtered water in a clear jar. If you’re using tap water, fill it the day before and let it sit out overnight so any chlorine can evaporate.
- Place the stem cutting in the water and set your jar in an area that gets bright indirect light.
- Replace the water about every other day or when you see it start to become cloudy.
- In about a week to 10 days you’ll see the new roots growing from the leaf nodes.
- Keep maintaining your water-changing routine until the new roots are at least 1 inch long. This will likely take at least a month.
- Once the roots are long enough, carefully transfer the cutting into a pot of moistened potting soil. The roots are delicate at this point, so use care.
Rooting a Stem Cutting in Soil
- Make sure to choose a pot that has good drainage, and fill it with well-draining potting soil.
- Use a pencil or chopstick to pole a deep hole into the soil. This will be where you place your cutting.
- If you want, you can dip the end of your cutting into powdered rooting hormone. This may speed the process up a bit, but philodendrons in general root pretty well even without it.
- Place your cutting into the hole, and gently pinch the soil closed around it.
- Place your pot in an area that gets bright indirect sunlight, and mist the soil every day to keep it moist.
- New roots should start to develop in 3 to 4 weeks. You can tell if your cutting has rooted if you feel a bit of resistance when you gently pull on it.
- You can then start to water you new plant normally, and you should see new growth shortly.
Frequently Asked Questions about Philodendron Birkin
There are so many beautiful varieties of philodendrons available, but the Birkin plant definitely takes the cake, in my opinion!
I hope we’ve answered your questions about this low-maintenance plant and its care. It’s so unique in its leaf patterns and colors and relatively easy to grow, so who wouldn’t want to add this specimen to their collection?
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