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Why Is My Philodendron Having Small Leaves? [Causes & Fixes]

Is your Philodendron leggy with small leaves? Then it is time to reconsider the lighting and maintenance.

Generally, Philodendron leggy with small leaves primarily suffers from insufficient lighting (low light intensity and duration), but sometimes a lack of pruning and fertilization or overwatering can also invite a distorted appearance.

Read on to explore more about Philodendron leggy growth and possible treatments.

Reasons & Causes for Philodendrons Getting Small Leaves

Philodendron is an ornamental houseplant with large leaves spanning 4″ to 12″ and bushier foliage growth.

Seeing small or tiny leaves in your Philodendron is uncommon. For example, witnessing Pink Princess Philodendron small leaves is unusual as they naturally get about 5-8” long.

In fact, small leaves accompanied by Philodendron leggy growth may indicate severe problems with the plant.

Here are some plausible reasons why your Philodendron displays leggy growth with small leaves and appropriate fixes to get bigger and healthier leaves.

1. Insufficient Lighting

One of the earliest indications of improper Philodendron growth is insufficient lighting.

Naturally, these tropical plants require 10-12 hours of indirect lighting daily to boast healthy-looking leaves and frequent new foliage growth.

Therefore, the lack of lighting will invite some tell-tale problems, such as the following:

  1. Leggy growth: Philodendron leggy growth is indicated by an elongated stem, with no or less foliage, reaching out towards the light.
  2. Small leaves: Small leaves are hardly 1-2″ long.
  3. Pale Leaves: The leaves may turn dark pale green, or yellow without lighting.
  4. Slow growth: The overall growth rate is slow, hardly a few inches each month, with no Philodendron flowers.
philodendron small leaves
The light-deprived Philodendrons will display small leaves with frequent yellowing.

Consider these questions before deciding whether the problem is insufficient lighting.

  • Is your Philodendron kept indoors?
  • Does the location receive any amount of light?
  • Is anything preventing light from reaching your plant?

If yes, then insufficient lighting is the problem.

2. Low-light Intensity

Even if your Philodendron is placed in a sunny location, the intensity of the light may still be insufficient.

Like any other plant, Philodendron leaves require ample sunlight for photosynthesis, creating food. The low light condition will fail to provide enough resources to do so.

Philodendrons naturally grow best in medium to bright indirect sunlight, 400-1,000 nm, with smaller amounts of green, yellow, and infrared wavelengths to help photosynthesis.

Therefore, your plant would fail to push new growth or maintain an appropriate structure.

Philodendron leggy growth is more common as the plant stretches towards the light, with some Philodendrons witnessing stunted leaf growth.

3. Lack of Pruning

If you have not pruned your Philodendrons in a while, they will likely become leggy or overstretched.

It may happen as the plant’s energy is focused on elongating stems rather than producing fuller foliage.

Moreover, unkempt Philodendrons can prevent air circulation and sunlight from reaching the inner foliage, leading to small leaves.

On the other hand, pruning them aggressively will disrupt the plant’s biomechanism and hinder healthy foliage growth.

As a result, the only solution is to prune your Philodendron selectively but less or too aggressively.

philodendron leggy growth
Get rid of Philodendron leggy growth to regenerate new stems with bushier foliage.

Remember, pruning is essential for all houseplants to keep them in shape, maintain the desired length, and boost leaf production.

4. Inadequate Humidity

Inadequate humidity is a big concern for tropical plants like the Philodendron because these plants naturally do well in humid conditions.

Generally, a humidity level of about 60-70% is critical for its leaves to preserve water, prevent excess transpiration, and maintain optimal growth.

Eventually, this may invite distorted leaf growth, small or curled leaves, and Philodendron leggy stems.

Therefore, dry air is a complete No-No for Philodendrons.

You will notice that the foliage and soil are drying pretty soon, and the leaves will turn yellow or crispy. Seeing small brown spots on Philodendron leaves is equally possible.

5. Incorrect Temperature

These tropical plants always prefer warm temperatures, but extreme temperatures are a No-No.

In case the temperature goes below 50°F, the Philodendrons will wither, and anything above 90°F will dry out the plant.

If the temperature is too cold or hot, it can lead to stunted Philodendron growth and smaller leaves.

Seeing stunted leaf growth is expected in a temperature-stressed plant. You will also witness leaf discoloration, chlorosis, curling, and dropping.

6. Overwatering

Do you water your Philodendrons bi-weekly, weekly, or every fortnight? There is no definite answer because the water intake would depend on the temperature, climate, and other conditions.

However, novice gardeners are more likely to water their Philodendrons because they are unaware of the plant’s moisture requirement.

Philodendron's droopy leaves.
Overwatering causes soggy soil, and your Philodendron may face droopy leaves due to root rot.

Remember, excess watering will waterlog the soil, depriving it of oxygen and leading to microbial growth (fungal or bacterial).

Without good water, nutrient, and oxygen intake, the plant will fail to thrive, resulting in stunted growth of stems and leaves.

However, young leaves are likelier to stay small, while older leaves will turn yellow and wilt.

In case of root rot, the entire Phiodendron plant will experience stunted growth and eventual death.

7. Nutrient Deficiency/Salt Buildup

Remember, Philodendrons will take up as many nutrients as they need as salts while leaving the rest in the soil.

However, not all Philodendron fertilizer gets utilized, so the extra salt will build up in the soil, choking the roots.

Therefore, overfertilizing the plant will only dwindle its health, affecting the leaf size and root and stem growth.

Check for tell-tale signs like leaf burns, chlorosis, and stunted growth to diagnose over-feeding problems.

On the other hand, nutrient-deprived Philodendrons will naturally remain petite with shorter stems and small leaves.

Although Philodendrons are not heavy feeders, they require regular macronutrients to assist with plant growth during the active growing season.

8. Rootbound Condition

A rootbound plant can become a serious concern because the overgrowing roots will outgrow the container. Without a new space to expand, the plant’s growth will stall.

You are more likely to witness rootbound Philodendron in the growing season when you have not repotted it in a few years.

Do not confuse Heartleaf Philodendron small leaves for the plant problem, as they naturally remain small throughout.

The feeder roots will begin to pop out of the drainage hole, which is one of the tell-tale signs.

As a result, you will witness stalled plant growth along with stunted stems and leaves as the soil fails to hold moisture around the roots.

root bound in anthurium
Check for rootbound conditions such as the overgrowing roots circling the soil.

The young leaves are likelier to remain small as the plant fails to get nutrients or water, while the older leaves will begin changing color and wilt.

How Do I Make My Philodendron Leaves Bigger?

After learning the causes or past mistakes of failed care, you have a perfect checklist for scheduling the fixes.

And you can start off with the following solutions to get your Philodendron bigger leaves. 

1. Provide Enough Light

  • Immediately move the plant towards a brightly lit location, such as close to an east or west-facing window but avoid direct sunlight.
  • Find a bright spot in your home with at least eight hours of diffused or indirect sunlight.
  • If sunlight is unavailable, switch to full-spectrum LED (artificial) lighting for 10-12 hours daily.
  • Providing 1-2 hours of early morning or late noon sunlight will help compensate for insufficient lighting.

2. Maintain Light Intensity 

  • Place the Philodendron in a brighter location with indirect sunlight, such as an east, west, or south-facing window.
  • Supplement it with artificial light sources, such as LED grow lights, positioned a few feet above the plant for 10-12 hours daily.
  • Prune extra-leggy stems above a leaf node or junction to encourage bushier growth.
  • As the growth progresses, rotate the plant weekly to ensure each side receives equal sunlight.

Did you know Philodendron micans produce large leaves up to 20 inches in size in the wild but remain relatively small indoors?

3. Prune on Time

  • Start with removing leggy stems or branches with less leaf development.
  • Use a disinfected pruning shear cut just above the node or junction so that you do not hamper the new growth.
  • Avoid removing too many leaves at once; instead, focus on eliminating leggy or distorted stem growth.
  • Remove dead, decayed, browned, and small yellow spots on Philodendron leaves.

4. Increase Humidity 

  • Place your plant near a room humidifier to raise the humidity level in the surrounding air to at least 60%.
  • Alternatively, set the pot on a tray filled with water and pebbles.
  • Using a spray with water, mist the leaves frequently to increase the humidity temporarily, especially in high summer.
  • Remove wilted, browned, and decayed leaves to restore the plant’s health quickly.

5. Offer Proper Temperature 

  • Protect your Philodendron from cold drafts near windows, doors, or air conditioning units, especially at night.
  • Move them away from bright windows, doors, or patio and move to medium light.
  • Trim affected leaves and stems to reduce further stress on the plant.
  • Employ temperature control devices, such as heaters or fans, to maintain a suitable temperature range if needed.

6. Conduct a Proper Watering Schedule

  • Cut back on watering and let the soil dry out before watering again.
  • Move it to a sunny location to expedite drying and avoid fungal/mold growth, likely in low-light or cold areas.
  • Consistently waterlogged plants should be repotted in fresh, well-draining soil.
  • If the problem does not subside, consider checking for root rot problems (yellowed lower stem, smelly and mushy roots).
  • Trim the affected leaves, apply fungicide, and repot in a fresh, well-draining potting mix.

7. Practice Proper Fertilization 

  • For salt buildup, flush the soil with fresh water a couple of times to leach out the advertisement.
  • Trim away affected leaves and stems to reduce further stress on the plant.
  • Once the plant seems to recover after a few weeks, resume fertilizing with a balanced liquid or slow-release fertilizer 1-2 times in the growing season.
  • Remember to dilute the liquid plant food to half or 2/3 strength before applying it to prevent root burn.

8. Repot the Plant

  • Choose a larger pot: Select a new pot that is one or two inches larger in diameter than the current one.
  • Prepare the new pot: Ensure it has multiple drainage holes. Add a layer of fresh, well-draining potting mix at the bottom.
  • Loosen the roots: Gently loosen the tightly bound roots by dusting off old soil. You can do this by gently teasing the roots apart with your fingers or using a fork.
  • Repot the Philodendron: Place the plant in the new pot with roots first. Fill the gaps with fresh potting mix, pressing it lightly to secure the plant.
  • Water and care: Afterward, thoroughly water your Philodendron to help settle the new soil, provide hydration to the plant, and resume regular maintenance.

After repotting, the small leaves get bigger and fuller within a month.

Extra Tips for Growing Philodendrons with Large Leaves 

  • Keep your Philodendron near the south-facing window, which naturally receives ample light, but keep it 4-5 feet away to prevent sunburn. 
  • An ideal temperature for a Philodendron should be between 60-80°F during the day and nothing less than 55°F at night.
  • Ensure that the plants are kept in a temperature range suitable for their specific variety.
  • Prune your Philodendron every spring or early summer, shedding about 20% at a time.
  • Aim for a balanced and pleasing shape when pruning to help distribute growth evenly throughout the plant.
  • Grouping houseplants will help boost the humidity level naturally.
  • A nutrient-deprived Philodendron is easier to save. Start fertilizing with a balanced liquid plant food once a month to see vigorous leaf growth.
  • As a gardener, if low humidity is a persistent issue, create a mini greenhouse environment for your Philodendron and other houseplants to regulate the humidity level.
  • Water Philodendrons when the top 1-2 inches of soil dries out, and monitor the humidity level to adjust the watering frequency.
  • Generally, you should repot your Philodendron in a larger container every two years.

From Editorial Team


Philodendrons are vigorous growers, growing about 4 inches (10cm) per week in the growing season.

However, a lack of proper care and maintenance will affect the plant’s growth, including the leaf size.

Care to provide bright, indirect sunlight, maintain moderate humidity and temperature, prune regularly, and avoid overfertilizing to witness large Philodendron leaves.

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