Variegated houseplants are all the rage now, and there are many to choose from. A spectacular one to consider is White Wizard Philodendron, a rare, hard-to-find, and expensive variety of Philodendron erubescens with unique variegation that is greatly prized in the houseplant world.
Philodendron White Wizard is a hybrid plant with a complicated genetic history. Its rarity and stunning foliage with random patches and splashes of brilliant white variegation against the deep green make it a costly plant.
But make sure you’re getting White Wizard.
Which Is It – White Wizard, White Knight, or White Princess?
Three of the P. erubescens cultivars look so similar they are easily confused. Here are the differences in color and habit.
- Philodendron White Wizard has a vining habit and narrow, pointed leaves with white variegation and green stems.
- Philodendron White Knight is also a vine with rounder variegated leaves and burgundy stems.
- Philodendron White Princess is self-heading and not a vine. It has narrower pointed leaves than the other two, lighter green leaves with white patches, and stems variegated with pink and white.
Philodendron White Wizard Care
If you are lucky enough to have found a White Wizard to bring home, you’ll find it is surprisingly easy to care for.
Remember that even with its complex breeding, it is still Philodendron erubescens, a tropical plant that needs similar conditions to its native environment in the steamy rainforests of Colombia, South America.
White Wizard needs the kind of light that would filter down through a canopy of trees – bright indirect light, but never direct sunlight that could burn its delicate leaves.
You can create the same effect by putting your plant in an east-facing window that gets morning sun, which is not so strong, and bright light the rest of the day.
A north-facing exposure is almost as good, but if you only have west- or south-facing windows, set your plant back three feet from the window to protect it from the brighter, harsher light.
A gauzy curtain in front of the window will also help soften the light.
Giving your White Wizard just the right light is a balancing act. The green parts of the leaves are doing the photosynthetic work to make food for the plant, so it needs very bright light to compensate for the reduced amount of green because of the variegation.
The brightest indirect light you can provide out of the direct sun is the best for this plant. It will not thrive in low light and will revert to all green to catch as many rays as possible to boost its photosynthesis.
Temperature & Humidity
These plants need a warm, humid environment to thrive. They are most comfortable in 60 to 85 degrees F, the average household range.
They don’t like drafts and sudden changes in temperature, so keep them away from cold, drafty windows and heating and air conditioner vents.
If you take your plant outdoors in the summer, make sure that it stays within its comfort zone – not above 90 degrees in the summer heat and not below 60 toward fall.
White Wizard does best in humidity levels above 50%. Most household humidity levels are 30 to 50%, especially when the heat is on in the winter. You can increase the humidity around your plant by putting it on a pebble tray with water and keeping the bottom of the pot above the waterline.
A humidifier can help, too, or by keeping the plant in a high-humidity area of the house, like the kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room.
Soil, Pot & Pole
All Philodendrons need loose, rich, well-draining soil. For optimal drainage and air circulation, you can use a succulent potting mix or commercial indoor potting soil amended with perlite, orchid bark, coco coir, or peat moss.
A soil that is too dense can suffocate a plant by either not draining well and holding too much water or by not having enough air pockets around the roots to afford good air circulation. Water can build up in the soil and cause root rot, a fungal infection that will kill the plant, so it’s important to have loose, well-draining soil.
Pots come in several different materials that can all be beautiful – ceramic, plastic, terracotta, or composite.
Terracotta is an excellent choice since it “breathes” and allows moisture to evaporate from its walls. But whichever type you choose, make sure it has drainage holes in the bottom so that water can drain and keep the roots healthy.
NOTE: When you repot your White Wizard, only go up one pot size. A pot that is too large for the plant will hold too much soil, which will hold more water than the plant can use, likely causing root rot.
White Wizards are vining plants and will gracefully cascade over the sides of a hanging pot. Their leaves will grow larger, though, if allowed to climb up a moss pole or trellis.
Your Philodendron needs the soil to be moist but not soggy. It is susceptible to overwatering but also doesn’t like to be dry. Instead of keeping to a watering schedule, monitoring and testing the soil is better. How quickly it dries out will fluctuate with the seasons and conditions in the house.
Look at the soil and feel it with your finger. If it’s dry on the surface to an inch down, it’s time to water. But if it’s still moist, wait a few days and test it again.
When you water, let it run through the soil and out the drainage hole until it drains completely. Your plant will require more water when it’s actively growing in the spring and summer than in the winter months when its growth has slowed down.
NOTE: Public tap water usually has chlorine and mineral salts in it. Variegated plants, like White Wizard, White Knight, and White Princess, are sensitive to these chemicals that can cause the foliage to curl at the edges, so watering your plant with distilled or rainwater is healthier.
As an alternative, you can let a pitcher of tap water sit out overnight for the chlorine to evaporate.
New soil will have the most nutrition, but after a year or two, the soil will become depleted. You can give your plant a boost of nutrition with a balanced fertilizer, which will replace any nutrients in the soil that have been absorbed or washed away.
Use half-strength of the recommended amount of liquid fertilizer every month to 6 weeks during the growing season or a bit of granular fertilizer once in the spring.
Don’t fertilize it at all during the winter when the plant’s growth has slowed down to avoid fertilizer burn.
Your White Wizard is a slow grower but will eventually need trimming to keep it in shape. You can prune the stems in the spring with clean scissors or shears between the leaf nodes.
After pruning your White Wizard, you can easily propagate the stem cuttings in two ways: in water or sphagagnum moss.
Put a cutting with 4 or 5 leaves and some aerial roots in a clean jar with clean water and remove all leaves below the waterline. Set the cuttings in a warm spot in indirect light, and change the water every few days to keep algae from growing.
Your cuttings should begin to show root growth in 2 to 3 weeks. Plant them in loose, well-draining potting soil when they have sprouted to 2 or 3 inches long.
Sphagnum Moss Propagation
Some people find that propagating stem cuttings in sphagnum moss is more effective than in water or soil.
- First, soak the sphagnum moss in warm water for 20 minutes to hydrate it. Then squeeze out the excess water so that it is moist but not dripping and put it into a container.
- Take stem cuttings with 4 or 5 leaves and remove the bottom leaves so there are lengths of bare stem with at least three nodes on each stem.
- Stick the cuttings down into the moss, ensuring that the nodes are covered.
- Tie a plastic bag around the whole container and cuttings to increase the humidity and speed up the rooting.
- Keep them moist, and set them in a warm spot in indirect light. They should begin to grow roots in 2 to 4 weeks.
- Plant them in loose, well-draining potting soil when they have sprouted 2- to 3-inch-long roots.
NOTE: Only use stem cuttings because any variegated Philodendron, such as White Wizard, White Knight, White Princess, or Pink Princess, will revert to all green if propagated with leaf cuttings.
ese pests suck the juices out of the plant and can cause the leaves to have a stippled appearance and become distorted. A heavy pest infestation may cause weakened, yellow leaves that may drop off.
Control spider mites, aphids, and mealybugs with insecticidal soap or Neem oil per instructions, and wipe the foliage down with rubbing alcohol.
Scale are hard-bodied insects that need a different control strategy because sprays will not penetrate their armor. Hose the plant to knock as many off as possible, and then wipe the plant down with rubbing alcohol.
The most common disease of White Wizard is root rot, a fungal infection from overwatering the soil. When too much water fills the air spaces in the soil for too long, the roots can’t get enough oxygen, and fungus will start to grow.
Check the roots if your plant is droopy and the leaves are beginning to turn yellow. Gently take the plant out of the potting mix and wash the roots to see what they look like.
Healthy roots are white and firm, but if any are black, mushy, and smell foul, cut them off with clean scissors or shears.
Treat the remaining roots with hydrogen peroxide and water, a fungicide like Neem oil, or powdered cinnamon, a natural fungicide. Then plant them back in fresh potting mix in a clean pot with drainage holes.
All plants in the Arum family, including Philodendrons, contain crystals of calcium oxalate, which are toxic to people and pets if eaten. Keep your family safe by setting the plant away from curious little hands and paws.
Nancy has been a plant person from an early age. That interest blossomed into a bachelor’s in biology from Elmira College and a master’s degree in horticulture and communications from the University of Kentucky. Nancy worked in plant taxonomy at the University of Florida and the L. H. Bailey Hortorium at Cornell University, and wrote and edited gardening books at Rodale Press in Emmaus, PA. Her interests are plant identification, gardening, hiking, and reading.