Why The Philodendron Birkin Reverts & How To Fix It
The Philodendron Birkin flaunts streams of white on its leaves that can stand out from across a room. Or it can if it doesn’t revert. Unfortunately, this beautiful variegation is temperamental and can disappear, reverting to a pure dark green or purplish green.
Philodendron Birkin’s variegation comes from a mutation that is inconsistent depending on the leaf and the plant’s care. You can minimize reversion by improving the plant’s basic care requirements, pruning reverted sections, propagating non-reverted stems, and using lower nitrogen fertilizer.
Here is a guide on Philodendron Birkin’s origin, how its type of variegation works, and how to deal with reversion.
Philodendron Birkin’s Origin
The Philodendron Birkin is a variegated cultivar of the Philodendron Rojo Congo (a cross between the Philodendron Imperial Red and Philodendron Tatei of the Araceae family). The Rojo Congo is grown in horticulture labs, but a mutation developed that made some variegated, and those became known as the Birkin. The Birkin is also called the Philodendron White Wave and grows to 39 inches (100 cm).
The Birkin inherited dark green ovate leaves but developed a mutation that created creamy white to yellow lines. Less commonly, the stripes will be gray or pink or practically coat the leaf in that color.
Mainly, the lines curve outward and forwards. Sometimes the curves go in a convex direction, but sometimes as an S with a slightly concave shape before becoming the larger convex shape. Individual leaves on one plant will show different amounts of variegation.
Can Philodendron Birkin Lose Its Variegation?
The variegation mutation is chimeric or spontaneous. This type of mutation means the variegation trait is unstable. The Philodendron Birkin can revert and be a regular Philodendron Rojo Congo. It can also sometimes push out Rojo Congo leaves and rarely even switch back to Birkin, seemingly randomly.
Many young plants may have dark green leaves but get variegated as they mature. But then the opposite occurs with mature plants and differently aged leaves. Younger leaves start white and become green with age.
As part of the reversion, the leaves may not just become green but a partial or a complete Rojo Congo leaf. It may have purple or red patches, margins, stems, or become entirely purple red.
Why It Reverts: Is It Normal or Bad?
As a spontaneous mutation, the Philodendron Birkin’s leaves can randomly be variegated or reverted. Reversions are normal, even with the best care. But variegation is more likely for plants that receive good care compared to those with suboptimal care.
Can a Reverted Philodendron Birkin Stop The Process and Go Back to Variegation?
The Philodendron Birkin’s unstable mutation means you may encounter reversion at random. But there are ways to discourage the process and encourage your odds of variegation.
It comes down to mastering care requirements that support the smaller green leaf area for photosynthesis or removing reverted portions of the plant.
How to Stop Reversion and Bring a Philodendron Birkin Back to Variegation
There are six approaches to bringing a Philodendron Birkin back to a variegated state. You can start by providing better care to encourage the plant to be more stable. Give more light, a balance of water, and maintain the ideal temperature.
If the routine care methods fail, you have grooming and fertilizer options. You can cut the plant to the remaining variegated leaves, propagate a variegated stem, or add more nitrogen from fertilizer.
1. Provide More Bright, Indirect Light
Variegated Philodendron Birkin has less area of the leaves dedicated to converting sunlight for food. Only the chlorophyll in green surfaces achieves this. So you want to compensate for the plant’s lack of green food production by providing more bright, indirect light. The morning light is good, but the afternoon light is too strong.
Plants growing in darker areas of the house will revert to make the most of their more challenging environment.
2. Provide a Better Watering Schedule
Philodendron Birkin need to be healthy to produce variegated. A poor watering routine will harm the roots and the plant’s ability to absorb nutrients.
Chlorophyll requires good nutrition to maintain. Overwatered plants will develop yellow leaves, and underwatered plants will get light gray-green. Stress shows most in the leaves and will take priority over beautiful variegation.
The golden rule for water Philodendron Birkin is to push a finger a few inches into the soil every few days to feel for moisture. If those inches are dry, water thoroughly so that water starts to escape into the drainage pan. If those inches are moist, wait another few days and test again.
3. Maintain the Ideal Temperature
Philodendron Birkins don’t like temperature fluctuations.
If its leaves are reverting, one factor you might consider is a heater or air conditioning vent might be too close. An open window may also lend too much of a draft.
Try to maintain a 65–75° F (18–24° C) with 40–70% humidity as much as possible for the best variegation possible, though at minimum, the plant needs 60–85°F (16–30°C).
4. Cut Back to Only the Stems with Variegated Leaves
If you have enough variegated leaves, pay attention to which stems they are on. Cut back on the ones that have pure green leaves and leave the stems that host the striped ones.
Pruning this way will increase the odds of future leaves being variegated.
5. Propagate by Cutting a Variegated Stem
If you propagate a healthy stem cutting with the most variegation, the resulting plant may have more color in its newer growth.
When you make a cutting, use a clean blade and sever the stem below a node. If the cutting has some aerial roots, all the better for helping the cutting to grow into a healthy plant.
You can add rooting hormone to the incision site to speed up the process. Otherwise, place the stem into a jar of water in bright, indirect light until its roots become several inches long. At that point, it’s ready for a pot with soil.
6. Use a Lower Level of Nitrogen Fertilizer
The standard NPK or nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium fertilizer has those three elements because each supports a different part of a plant.
Nitrogen supports leaf growth and chlorophyll and does so too much for the amount of green in a variegated Philodendron Birkin.
If you’re fertilizing your plant, try switching to a low-nitrogen option and apply it in the spring and summer while watering.
Lower nitrogen products should offer enough to keep the plant healthy without overpowering the white coloration you want. Lower nitrogen fertilizer may also improve existing white markings once you achieve the level of variegation you want.
Following these guidelines will hopefully bring back or maintain your Philodendron Birkin’s beautiful variegation.
But don’t stress out about it if your best efforts fail. The unstable nature of the variegation’s mutation forfeits any guarantees. In a way, it’s like raising a child. You can nurture a child to have chosen values and traits, but sometimes they don’t keep all of those traits.