How to Keep Your Philodendron Birkin Lush and Healthy

About Philodendron ‘Birkin’


As far as Philodendron varieties go, there are plenty of superstars to choose from: elegant ‘Brandi’, rosy ‘Pink Princess’, the velvety ‘Black Gold’, the fabulous Philodendron gloriosum with its huge leaves, all sorts of spectacularly variegated cultivars… and then there’s Philodendron ‘Birkin’, one of the most stunning of them all in my opinion.

No wonder they named it after the famous Hermès bags, the cheapest of which sells for around $10,000. Luckily for us, the plant is a bit more affordable than the purse!

A cultivar apparently resulting from a spontaneous mutation discovered in a batch of Philodendron ‘Rojo Congo’ houseplants, ‘Birkin’ (sometimes referred to as ‘White Wave’) is shaped like a typical Philodendron. It has cordate (heart-shaped) leaves that are quite small on young plants but grow larger with age.

Its growth pattern is typical for a climbing plant, with strong air roots that allow it to cling onto a vertical surface in search of more light. 

This being said, you’re unlikely to confuse ‘Birkin’ with any other Philodendron, as it’s easy to recognize by its patterned foliage. The leaves, which have a dark green base color, feature thin silvery to cream-colored veins. New ones come out almost white, gradually darkening as they mature.

Philodendron ‘Birkin’ reverting?

It has to be mentioned that, as with many other variegated plants, the pattern on Philodendron ‘Birkin’ isn’t entirely stable. I’ve had my Birkins partially revert, which results in leaves that have patches of stripes as well as fully green parts. You may also find yours throwing foliage that’s partially brownish-red in color, probably a remnant of its reddish parent plant.

Whether these funky leaves bother you or not is a matter of preference. I think it’s kind of cool, and I suppose a lot of houseplant enthusiasts agree, as they’ve even come up with a name for it: Philodendron ‘Birkin Black Cherry’. 

If you’re not a fan, you’re best off pruning any partially reverted leaves to hopefully coax your plant back into producing regular ones.

Natural habitat

As mentioned above, Philodendron ‘Birkin’ is a cultivar. This means it was developed by humans, in this case through the propagation of a spontaneous mutation in order to produce plants with the same characteristics.

What this means is that, technically speaking, this houseplant doesn’t have a natural habitat. Even its parent plant, ‘Rojo Congo’, doesn’t exist in the wild, as it’s a man-made hybrid of two other Philodendrons. One of the parents was Philodendron tatei, which can be found in rainforests in much of northern South America.

The other parent for ‘Rojo Congo’ (that is, the grandparent of Birkin) was Philodendron ‘Imperial Red’. Yes, another cultivar!

Unfortunately, we can’t trace things back any further than this, because although it’s known that ‘Imperial Red’ was also the result of a spontaneous mutation, I can’t find information on which species this mutation occurred in. 

Caring for Philodendron ‘Birkin’

Light and temperature

If you’d like to grow a Philodendron ‘Birkin’ in your home, one of the most important factors is light. Your plant needs a bright environment or its beautiful variegation will fade, but it won’t respond well to being blasted with direct sun.

That means your ‘Birkin’ is best off on a windowsill that receives bright but indirect light (anywhere but south-facing, in most cases). Artificial lighting should also work well. Be sure to always acclimate houseplants gradually if you’re moving them to a higher-light spot, or their leaves can burn!

As for temperature, remember that Philodendrons are tropicals that appreciate a toasty environment. Room temperature and above should work well for yours. A bit lower shouldn’t be an issue either, but they begin to struggle around 50°F. Frost will kill them instantly.

Water and humidity

Given the fact that most Philodendrons naturally occur in what is referred to as the “wet tropical biome,” it shouldn’t come as a surprise that your ‘Birkin’ loves plenty of moisture. Still, it’s important not to overdo it, because soggy soil can lead to root rot even in these water lovers.

During the warm and bright summer months, your plant should hopefully be growing well, producing new leaves every few weeks. It’ll appreciate regular waterings during this time; you can water when the first two inches of the soil have dried out. This may be as often as every other day in hot climates.

In winter, houseplants tend to go partially or completely dormant. They need less water during these darker months, so you can water your Philodendron ‘Birkin’ when the soil has gone about halfway dry. In cool climates, you may end up watering less than once a week in winter. 

Rainforest houseplants like this one appreciate high air moisture levels. The ideal would be 90 percent or up, but that’s rarely realistic unless you keep your ‘Birkin’ in a terrarium. Try to keep the humidity level at least 50 percent or more, though. You may want to consider running a humidifier if it regularly drops below this.

Soil and planting

Climbing plants like this Philodendron don’t tend to rely too much on their earthly tether, instead using their host trees for support. They’re not used to growing in dense soil, and their roots are sensitive to rot if proper drainage isn’t provided. 

In the home, it’s therefore a good idea to provide yours with a nice and airy soil mixture that allows excess water to drain quickly.

This preference for a lighter soil type is something that many members of the family Araceae (the Aroids) have in common. You can buy pre-mixed Aroid soil in specialty nurseries or plant shops, which should be perfect for your Philodendron ‘Birkin’. 

If you prefer mixing your own Aroid soil (store-bought ones tend to be quite pricey), that’s also easy enough. You’d need to buy a few different components, but as I said, the resulting soil mix can be used for a whole bunch of different houseplants.


One thing you need to know about Philodendron ‘Birkin’ is that it’s definitely not among the quickest-growing Philos. This is not unusual: Variegated plants have less chlorophyll, so they can’t photosynthesize quite as efficiently as their fully green cousins.

What this means is that a ‘Birkin’ doesn’t need large amounts of fertilizer. If yours is chugging along nicely during the spring and summer growing season, however, you can apply some diluted liquid houseplant fertilizer every month or so. 

Don’t use plant food during the winter dormancy period or if your Philodendron isn’t doing well. Its roots won’t be able to process the nutrients, and can actually be damaged by them instead.


Generally speaking, tropical houseplants like this one don’t require much in the way of pruning. Lower leaves will naturally die off once the plant doesn’t need them anymore, and they can be removed once they’ve gone crispy.

Dividing or repotting

Although a happy and healthy Philodendron ‘Birkin’ will produce the occasional offshoot, it usually doesn’t tend to be the best candidate for division. That leaves us with repotting, which can be done every other year (although yearly is also fine if yours is a particularly quick grower).

Repot during springtime, going one pot size up if need be. Provide some fresh soil and water a little more sparingly for a few weeks.

Propagating Philodendron ‘Birkin’

Did you know that the only way to produce a new Philodendron ‘Birkin’ is through asexual means—that is, propagation? If you attempted to grow one from seed, it wouldn’t look like the parent plant at all. This is because it won’t have that same genetic mutation that causes the pretty striped pattern.