Philodendron bipinnatifidum, also known as Thaumatophyllum bipinnatifidum or Philodendron Selloum, is a tropical plant native to South America. It is commonly grown as an indoor houseplant, but it’s also prominent in outdoor gardens and landscaping in some parts of the world.
If you’re thinking about adding this gorgeous plant to your home or garden, this guide is all you need.
Read on to discover the ideal growing conditions, various care tips, and tricks to avoid common problems.
What is Philodendron bipinnatifidum?
One of the common names for the Philodendron bipinnatifidum is ‘Tree Philodendron,’ due to its natural habit of using aerial roots to attach itself to trees. Mature plants can resemble a small tree, with their woody stem and rapid growth, reaching heights of up to 15 feet (4.5 meters).
When grown indoors, the Philodendron bipinnatifidum grows much smaller, usually around 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall. However, don’t expect it to be a contained houseplant that you can keep on a shelf. This Philodendron produces large, dark green leaves with split edges that can grow up to 18 inches (45 cm) in diameter.
Is the Philodendron bipinnatifidum a Philodendron? Recent DNA studies have discovered that’s not quite the case. Some botanists now place it in the Thaumatophyllum genus, along with other large-leafed Philodendrons. However, many gardeners still prefer referring to it by its old common name.
Split leaf Philodendron vs Monstera deliciosa
We often encounter one misconception that split-leaf Philodendrons (Philodendron bipinnatifidum) and Monstera deliciosa are the same plants. In a way, it’s easy to see the similarities between the two: both plants produce large, split, or fenestrated leaves, grow aerial roots, and have the epiphyte tendency to attach themselves to trees.
However, the split-leaf Philodendron and Monstera deliciosa are not the same plants. They are both aroids but belong to different genera of plants. Also, it’s worth noting that, unlike Monstera, the Philodendron leaves contain a toxic substance that can cause irritations.
Bold, lush, and exotic, the Philodendron bipinnatifidum can quickly become a statement piece in any home or garden. With proper care and maintenance, you can enjoy this unique plant for up to 20 years.
How to care for Philodendron bipinnatifidum
Let’s take a quick look over the basics of caring for your Philodendron bipinnatifidum:
- This tropical plant needs plenty of moisture, but it is sensitive to overwatering.
- It grows best in bright, indirect light.
- The Philodendron bipinnatifidum can suffer from salt and mineral build-ups in the soil, so avoid feeding it too often.
- It has a sprawling growth habit indoors and can quickly spread out to 4 feet wide (1.2 meters) and 5 feet tall (1.5 meters). Be sure to pick a spot where it has plenty of space to grow.
With that in mind, here’s the detailed guide on how to care for Philodendron bipinnatifidum.
– Light requirements
Philodendron bipinnatifidum grows best in bright, indirect light. If you have a room in your home facing south or west, it would be the perfect spot for this plant. Like most tropical plants, this Philodendron needs at least 6 hours of light each day for healthy growth, but it is sensitive to direct sun. Avoid placing it too close to the window, as this will scorch the leaves.
Philodendron bipinnatifidum can also tolerate some shade. However, if the room is too dark, you will also notice that the plant’s growth is stunted and produces fewer leaves.
One thing to bear in mind is that the Philodendron bipinnatifidum will rotate its leaves so that they’re facing the light. In this case, the plant can develop an asymmetrical shape, with most of the growth displayed on just one side of the plant. To prevent that, rotate your Philodendron at least once a week so that the leaves are spaced out and displayed evenly.
– Temperature range
The optimum temperature range for Philodendron bipinnatifidum is between 64 °F and 77 °F (18 °C to 25 °C). During summer, aim for temperatures that are at least 70 °F (21 °C), but don’t worry if they drop to around 60 °F (15 °C) in winter.
Philodendron bipinnatifidum can be sensitive to drafts and sudden changes in temperature, which can cause the leaves to drop. As such, avoid placing it next to a radiator, heater, or AC vent.
– Water requirements
Philodendron bipinnatifidum is intolerant to drought, but like all epiphytes, it’s susceptible to overwatering. Keep the soil moist, but avoid letting the roots sit in water, as this can lead to fungal problems. On average, you can give your Philodendron a good soak once a week during spring and summer, then cut back on watering outside the growing season.
Your watering schedule will depend on the plant’s age, the container’s size, and the temperature in your home. Although it’s essential to keep a regular watering schedule, always check the soil beforehand, using your fingers. If the top inch feels dry to the touch, you can water the plant. Otherwise, wait until it has dried out a bit more.
You can also use bottom watering for your Philodendron bipinnatifidum. This method encourages strong, healthy root development, which will help support the plant as it increases in height.
To bottom water your Philodendron, place it in a container with water and allow it to soak up as much water as it needs. You can also use your bathtub for large plants. Let the pot drain before moving it back, and make sure that no water is left sitting in its container tray.
The downside to bottom watering is that it can be challenging to determine the soil moisture levels. As a result, it can be effortless to overwater your Philodendron. Our recommendation is to use a moisture meter, which will give you an idea of whether your plant needs to be watered or not.
Choose the right water
Philodendron bipinnatifidum is extremely sensitive to salt and minerals building up in the soil and chemicals such as fluoride. Depending on how hard the tap water is where you live, you might need to use rainwater or even distilled water instead. Hard water can affect the foliage, causing yellow spots and brown edges on the leaves.
Philodendron bipinnatifidum needs a lot of humidity for healthy growth. The ideal range is between 70% and 80%, which is much higher than the humidity levels in most homes. You can boost the humidity by placing the pot on top of a pebble tray.
For mature plants, however, using a humidifier will be the best solution. You can also mist the leaves daily; however, bear in mind that this only increases the air’s humidity around the plant for a very brief period.
Feed your Philodendron bipinnatifidum once a month throughout spring and summer, using an organic, liquid fertilizer. This plant is susceptible to salt build-ups in the soil, commonly caused by using too much fertilizer. Read the instructions carefully before any applications, and stick to the recommended dosage. When in doubt, it’s always better to under-feed your Philodendron, which will also reduce the risk of fertilizer burn.
– Best soil mix
Plant your Philodendron bipinnatifidum in rich, well-draining soil. This plant does not tolerate acidic or salty soils, so aim for a potting mix with a neutral pH and avoid using too much fertilizer. To make the best Philodendron bipinnatifidum soil mix, combine equal parts compost, perlite, and coir. This way, you will create the perfect blend of nutrients, drainage, and soil aeration.
– When to repot
Generally, the Philodendron bipinnatifidum growth rate is relatively rapid, typical for all plants in this genus. On average, it’s best to repot it in the first year after you’ve bought it, then repot it again once every two years. You can quickly tell whether your plant needs to be moved to a new pot by checking the bottom of the container. If you see roots coming out through the drainage hole, it’s time to repot it.
The best time to repot Philodendron bipinnatifidum is spring and summer, during the plant’s growing season. Use a container that’s 2 inches (5 cm) wider than the previous one. You can use a plastic pot, although terracotta works best for this plant. Clay is a porous material, which allows air and moisture to flow better. It’s also heavier, providing a much-needed base for this top-heavy plant.
When repotting Philodendron bipinnatifidum, avoid using a container that’s too big. As tempting as it is to save time by not repotting as often, this will only cause the plant health problems. Containers that are too large can risk suffocating the roots with too much soil. They also retain more water than is needed, which will cause root rot.
Last but not least, always make sure that the container used for repotting your Philodendron bipinnatifidum has a drainage hole at the bottom. This will prevent the bottom of the roots from sitting in water, causing fungal problems later on.
Philodendron bipinnatifidum produces very large leaves, which can be up to 3 feet (90 cm) long and 18 inches (45 cm) wide. As a result, you might need to prune it at least once a year to keep the plant contained.
Before pruning your Philodendron bipinnatifidum, make sure to wear a pair of gardening gloves and avoid touching your eyes, mouth, or nose as you work. This plant’s sap contains calcium oxalate crystals, which can cause skin irritations. Also, remember to clean your tools when you’re done.
When to prune
Prune your Philodendron bipinnatifidum in spring or summer, when the plant can grow new leaves after the trim. Use a sharp knife and cut the leaves at the bottom of the stem. You can also trim the aerial roots if they grow too big and unruly.
As your Philodendron bipinnatifidum grows, it will naturally shed its bottom leaves, revealing the trunk in the process. If you notice that some of the bottom leaves are starting to turn yellow, you can remove them. The spot from which the leaf is removed will develop an eye-shaped scar, which creates a showy pattern on the trunk.
Growing Philodendron bipinnatifidum outdoors
You can grow Philodendron bipinnatifidum as an outdoor perennial plant if you live in a tropical or subtropical climate or the U.S. hardiness zones 9 through 11. You can plant it in the soil directly or keep it outdoors as a potted plant.
To grow Philodendron bipinnatifidum outdoors, pick a part of your garden where it receives at least 6 hours of light each day, but avoid placing it in full sun. Too much light will scorch the leaves, causing yellow spots and brown, sunburned edges.
Philodendrons grown outdoors can also develop an epiphyte behavior and use their aerial roots to attach themselves to surrounding trees. In most cases, the wide leaves will deprive the trees of light, causing them to wilt and slowly die. Bear this little detail in mind when picking an outdoor location for your Philodendron bipinnatifidum, especially if you have fruiting or ornamental trees in your garden.
One of the most important things to do is providing your Philodendron with the proper soil. Create a nutrient-rich substrate using compost, and add some gravel to improve drainage.
Avoid using peat or bark amendments, as they will increase the soil acidity, causing the plant to wilt. Mulch the plant’s base regularly to help retain soil moisture, especially during hot, dry periods.
Philodendron bipinnatifidum can survive outdoors as long as temperatures don’t drop below 55 °F (13 °C). The plant is not tolerant to frost, which will wilt the leaves and damage the roots. Older, well-established plants might survive cool temperatures during winter.
As long as the roots have not been damaged by frost, your Philodendron should develop new growth in spring. However, it’s best to note that repeated exposure to temperatures below 55 °F (13 °C) will stress the plant. It might not make a successful recovery the following year.
When grown Philodendron bipinnatifidum outdoors, keep in mind that it can grow tall, really fast. As the name ‘Tree Philodendron’ suggests, this plant can reach a height of up to 15 feet (4.5 meters). Luckily, the plant can take around 10 years to reach its full height. In the meantime, it will have a sizeable shrub-like appearance, with a width of up to 10 feet (3 meters).
Is Philodendron bipinnatifidum toxic?
Philodendron bipinnatifidum is poisonous to both humans and pets. The leaves and stems produce calcium oxalate crystals, which can cause skin irritations. Suppose they’re ingested or come into contact with the mouth or throat. In that case, they can also cause inflammation, difficulty breathing, and severe pain.
Always keep your Philodendron bipinnatifidum out of reach of pets and children to prevent any accidental contact with the sap’s toxins. This is crucial to consider, especially when growing the plant outdoors, where it can be more challenging to keep an eye on it.
How to propagate Philodendron bipinnatifidum
Propagating philodendron bipinnatifidum is easy to do through stem cuttings. You can use either soil or water for rooting them. Although soil works as a medium for many houseplants, using it for this Philodendron can be tricky. We prefer rooting the cuttings in water.
- Philodendron bipinnatifidum cuttings can be quite large, with wide leaves and long stems. If you place them in the soil to develop roots, you will also need to provide them with some support. Otherwise, there’s the risk that the cutting will fall out of the soil, and the end will dry out.
- Cuttings rooted in soil are more susceptible to base rot. You can use fungicides to prevent this and cut down on water, but the danger of fungal problems might cost you a lost cutting.
- It’s easier to spot the new roots if the plant is propagated in water. This way, you can also check if the bottom of the cutting is affected by rot and save it before it’s too late.
Of course, you can use whichever medium you prefer, especially if you’re a seasoned gardener with many propagated plants under your belt.
In our step-by-step guide, we will show you how to propagate Philodendron bipinnatifidum cuttings in water.
- Wait until spring or summer to propagate your Philodendron. The cuttings have a better chance of developing roots if propagated during the plant’s growing season.
- Pick a healthy stem that has at least two leaves.
- Use a sharp knife and cut the stem below the leaf node.
- Place the cutting in a glass of water. You can also use a flower vase with a tall neck, which will keep the cutting upright and keep the stem’s base slightly above the bottom.
- Keep the cutting in a warm room that gets plenty of indirect light.
- Change the water weekly.
- Your Philodendron bipinnatifidum cuttings may take up to 2 months to develop roots that are long enough to be potted in soil. You can use a rooting hormone if you want to speed up the process a bit.
- Once the roots on the cutting are at least 2 inches (5 cm) long, you can pot your new plant in a container with well-draining, aerated soil.
Philodendron bipinnatifidum problems
Philodendron bipinnatifidum doesn’t encounter too many problems with pests and diseases. The main things it’s sensitive to are too much water and salty soil.
1. Yellow leaves
Suppose the leaves on your Philodendron are turning yellow. In that case, that’s usually a sign that it’s not getting enough light or that it’s under watered. Check the plant’s soil and give it a good soak if the top inch feels dry to the touch. If the plant is sitting in direct sunlight, move it further away from the window to prevent the leaves from being scorched.
2. Brown leaves
Brown and curling tips on the leaves of your Philodendron bipinnatifidum could indicate a salt and mineral build-up in the soil. Try using rain or distilled water if the tap water in your area is too hard. Also, rinse the soil thoroughly once a month, then allow the pot to drain. This should wash away some of the chemicals that are burning the roots.
Philodendron bipinnatifidum can also suffer attacks from aphids, spider mites, mealybugs, and scale. For aphids, blast off the pests using the showerhead or a hose, then spray them with an insecticidal solution.
For mealybugs, scale, and spider mites, a solution of water and isopropyl alcohol will give you the best results. Wipe the infested areas with the solution, and use a cotton bud to get into difficult or narrow areas. If your Philodendron has scale, you will need to scrape the pests off first before any applications. Repeat this treatment once every 4 to 7 days for a month until all infestation signs are gone.
With its large, showy leaves, Philodendron bipinnatifidum can take center stage in any home or garden. Plus, with this grow guide, it’s easier to look after than it appears!
Let’s recap the essentials:
- Bright, indirect sunlight will keep your Philodendron bipinnatifidum healthy, but too much direct light can burn the leaves;
- Philodendron bipinnatifidum enjoys moisture, but take care not to overwater your plant to avoid root rot and other issues;
- Use the correct soil mix to prevent salty deposits from causing growing problems;
- If your tap water is very hard, try to use rain or distilled water instead.
With these tips, your Philodendron bipinnatifidum is sure to be the center of attention!