Philodendron Bipennifolium (Horsehead Philodendron) Plant Care Guide

philodendron bipennifolium

Last Updated on March 19, 2022 by Admin

Philodendron bipennifolium is more commonly known as the horsehead philodendron. The reason being that if you look at its leaves the resemble the silhouette of a horse’s head.

Honestly, it’s a bit of a stretch for me. But, the name has stuck so who am I to argue.

It is also worth noting that some like to refer to it as the fiddleleaf philodendron because they believe the leaves better resemble a violin.

With that aside, this is a beautiful plant whose uniquely shaped foliage is its main attraction. In its native habitat it grows up trees which means it is a good idea to provide it with some kind of support to climb.

The Central and South American rainforests have likewise acclimated it to warm, humid conditions, which make it easily adaptable to homes.

Needless to say, it can grow large and live long. In fact, it grows to maturity and becomes ready to reproduce once at around ages 12 to 15 years old. It leaves likewise reach grow to between 1.5 to 3 feet long.

The good news, they’re much smaller indoors and in containers. By pruning it, you’ll be able to keep its size very manageable for different rooms in the house.

In addition to allowing it to climb a stake or pole in a container, hanging baskets as likewise a good options. Here, you can allow its long stems to cascade down from the edges of the pot.

Philodendron Bipennifolium Plant Care

Philodendron Bipennifolium Light Requirements

The Philodendron bipennifolium thrives in bright, indirect light. It will likewise do well in medium light and semi-shaded areas.

But, avoid direct sunlight or overly intense, hot sun for extended periods. Leaving it in a location like this will burn its leaves. As a result, you’ll see its foliage turn yellow and experience scorch marks.

The reason r this stems from how the plant has evolved in the forest.

To understand this, it is very important to keep in mind that the Philodendron bipennifolium is a hemi-epiphyte. This means it is not quite and epiphyte.

Instead, it grows from the soil and uses its long, thin stems to climb up trees. Aerial roots also grow to give it a boost up.

This feature allows the plant to live above the forest floor. But, still below the forest emergent and canopy which are made up of the largest trees and plants in the forest.

Living in the forest understory, your Philodendron bipennifolium gets a good amount of light (more than those of the forest floor). But, the thick, dense leaves and large branches of the big trees block direct sunlight.

As such, it has gotten accustomed to this environment. And, allowing it to get exposed to the sun’s rays will eventually damage its foliage because they have not evolved to become acclimated to them.

As such, a north or east facing window are ideal. Meanwhile in a west or south facing window you want to keep the plant at least 3 to 6 feet away from the windowsill or provide some kind of shade cover to filter the light.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that there’s variegated version of the Philodendron bipennifolium as well. If you prefer something with yellow patterns on its green leaves, you’ll probably enjoy its looks more than the solid colored foliage of this one.


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Horsehead Philodendron Temperature

Similarly, your Philodendron bipennifolium is used to tropical conditions. As such, it grows best in warm, humid environments. But, it does give you a bit of leeway on both the hotter and colder ends which make it easier to care for.

The best part is, the plant will be happy with conditions that are similar to where you and I are comfortable. This makes them well-suited to growing indoors in homes.

In general, as long as temperatures stay between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit it will be happy. But, do keep it away from drafts be it cold or hot. This includes window openings as well as heaters and air conditioning.

It likewise can tolerate a few degrees above and below its sweet spots. Thus, if you live somewhere the summers get hot, it will be find as long as weather does not stay over 95 degrees for prolonged periods of time regularly.

On the other hand, avoid conditions that are below 50 degrees. This can be a problem if you keep the plant outside and the snow arrives. Ideally, you’ll want to bring it indoors before first frost or the temperatures dropping to 50 degrees (whichever comes first).

The plant cannot tolerate cold, frost or freezing conditions. This will stunt its growth, inflict damage and eventually kill the plant.


Horsehead Philodendron Humidity

Philodendron bipennifolium need humid conditions to grow their best. Ideally, you want to keep them somewhere humidity stays at 50% or higher.

The good news is, they’re very adaptable to lower humidity and won’t experience any damage. Thus, they’ll do well in most homes.

But, avoid dry conditions as this will turn their leaf tips brown. In general, you want to try avoiding humidity that that’s consistently around the 30s.

Unfortunately, this can easily happen during in the peak of summer if you live in warm regions. And, it can likewise occur during freezing winters.

Thus, if you experience either I highly suggest picking up a hygrometer. This is an inexpensive device that will quickly tell you want humidity it in any given room in your home. And, it will automatically show you changes as the weather does.

This way, all you need to do is look at it and know if you need to increase humidity or not.

If you need to, here are a few options for bringing up humidity indoors.

  • Use a humidifier
  • Mist your plants twice or thrice a week
  • Place the pot over stones in a water tray
  • Group it with other plants
  • Keep it in the bathroom, provided there’s enough light there

philodendron bipennifolium

source: wikimedia commons


How Often to Water Philodendron Bipennifolium

Watering will probably be the part of caring for your Philodendron bipennifolium where you’ll need to place most attention to.

That’s because it is susceptible to too much water. And, if left in this condition, it will experience root problems.

Ideally, your Philodendron bipennifolium does best when soil is kept consistently moist. But, be careful not to water too much such that it becomes soggy or wet.

In the winter, as the weather gets cold, scale back of watering and allow the soil to almost dry before watering again.

But, never let the soil completely dry out for prolonged periods of time. The plant can tolerate a few dry days. By then, you’ll already notice it wilting and having brown leaves.

This is a sign that it is dehydrated. You can likewise feel the soil too see if it is dry.

However, overwatering is your philodendron’s #1 enemy. That’s because lots of water in the soil will block clog the tiny air pockets where oxygen passes. As the roots sit in water, oxygen is not able to get to them. Over time, they experience rotting.

If enough of the plant’s roots system is damaged by root rot, they won’t function properly. As a result, your plant won’t be able to absorb water or nutrients from the soil. Thus, it will eventually starve and dehydrate. Then, slowly die.

As such, you always want to feel the soil to before watering. If the top 2 to 3 inches are moist in any way, wait a few more days before testing again. Only water when that depth is dry.


Soil for Philodendron Bipennifolium

Because of its sensitivity to overwatering, it is important to keep your Philodendron bipennifolium in well-draining soil. it likewise does best in moist, humus-rich soil.

As such, you want to give it these three features.

Keep in mind that the plant has epiphytic characteristics. So, while it does get quite a bit of moisture in the rainforest, its roots like the soil to drain fairly quickly.

But, as much as you want to avoid heavy soils, you also don’t want overly light soils that will drain too fast that its roots don’t get a chance to absorb enough water or nutrients.

So what kind of soil does your Philodendron bipennifolium need?

  • If you prefer picking up a commercial products from your nursery, go for African violet mix or Orchid soil. This will give you the features your plant needs.
  • If you want to create your own potting mix, use a combination of peat and perlite. You can also use regular potting mix if you already have some for your other houseplants and add sand to it for extra drainage.

Just as importantly, because the plant is a hemi-epiphyte, having some king of support structure or thick stake for it to climb goes a long way. This is a good choice if you keep it in a container.

You can likewise place it in a hanging basket or pot and allow its long stems to trail downwards.


Horsehead Philodendron Fertilizer

Your Philodendron bipennifolium does not need a lot of fertilizer to grow optimally. But, it does need plant food to get enough nutrients to do so.

The good news is, it is not overly picky about what kind of fertilizer you use. This gives you a few options.

Keep in mind that with feeding, less is more. And, that chemicals in these produces leave salt residue in the soil that builds up over time.

So, as such as better quality fertilizer costs more than cheap ones, they’ll keep your plant from experiencing fertilizer burn since they don’t leave as much salt minerals in the soil.

The same is true for organic products.

That said, you can opt for either:

  • Slow release fertilizer – here, all you need to do is feed 3 times a year. Their coating is designed to dissolve at different times. This releases the entire dose over the span of months. So, you don’t need to keep feeding. More importantly, by distributing the dose, it reduces the risk of overfeeding at any one time.
  • Liquid fertilizer – this is easier to control when spreading because unlike pellets you can direct and manage how much liquid is sprayed in one area. Thus, the distribution is up to you. But, because you’re effectively placing the entire dose all at once, you want to be careful about overfertilizing or over concentration. Feed once a month diluting it to 50% of the recommended strength. And, always water when you fertilize your plant.


Pruning Horsehead Philodendron

Philodendron bipennifolium will grow to between 3 to 7 feet high. But, a lot of this will depend on the size of the pole or stake you give it. Similarly, limiting the size of the container will also limit its overall growth.

As such, how much you need to prune will depend a lot on the shape and size you want the plant to get. And, this will in turn depend on where you place the plant.

Obviously, a houseplant that’s near furniture you want kept neat and small will need more pruning than one in the patio that’s allowed to grow out.

Also, remove any yellow or dead leaves.

In addition to pruning, it is also a good idea to clean your plant’s leaves every week or 2 weeks. This will give you a chance to inspect its leaves for pests and diseases as well.


Philodendron Bipennifolium Propagation

As someone who enjoys finding ways to save in the garden, I love plant propagation.

It lets you grow new plants for yourself or to give away for free. There’s no need to go to the nursery to buy a new one or pick up seeds.

The good news is, your Philodendron bipennifolium is easy to propagate. And, stem cutting is among the most common ways to do it at home because it is fairly straightforward and produces good success rates.

  • Take a 4 to 6 inch stem cutting. Make sure to pick a healthy stem with at least 2 or 3 leaves on it. And, as always use a sterilized pair of scissors or pruning shears.
  • Prepare a small container (6 inches will do) and fill it with fresh, well-draining potting mix.
  • Plant the stem cutting into the potting mix. You can tie it to a stake for support if it won’t stand on its own.
  • Cover the plant with a plastic bag to increase humidity.
  • Then place the pot in a warm, brightly, indirect lit space.
  • In about 20 to 25 days the stem cutting will have developed roots. If you used plastic containers, you’ll be able to take the root ball out. if you look on the bottom of the root ball, you should see small white roots growing.
  • Keep the plant/s in their container/s until it is time to repot.


How to Repot Philodendron Bipennifolium

Your Philodendron bipennifolium will need repotting every 2 or 3 years. This is about the time its roots will start to run out of space within the pot.

Keep in mind that repotting does not necessarily mean that you need to move to a bigger pot. If you want to let the plant keep growing, then that’s the way to god.

However, if you’re happy with its size and don’t want it to grow much bigger, you can place it back into the same container after you’ve refreshed the potting soil.

But, at some point, if the root system just gets too big for the container, you’ll need to prune them. Pruning them will allow them to fit back into their current pot. And, limit their further growth.

On the other hand if you want it to keep growing, move to a container that’s 2 inches larger in diameter. Don’t go up more than 3 inches. Otherwise, you can run the risk of overwatering later on

Whether you decide to repot to a bigger container or keep its old one, refreshing the soil with new potting mix is always a good idea.

This will reinvigorate the plant and give it loose, airy soil.


Horsehead Philodendron Toxicity

Philodendron bipennifolium contains calcium oxalate crystals which are toxic to people and pets. So, it is a good idea to keep the plant out of the reach of your children, dogs and cats.

Ingestion will cause irritation and some mild to serious mouth, throat and gastrointestinal issues.



Philodendron bipennifolium don’t experience a lot of pests. But, they may still happen once in a while, although infestations are rare.

In most cases, you’ll deal with a few of these pests which is definitely much easier to treat than full blown problems.

Regular inspection likewise limits their reach. Because pests can quickly spread to other plants near it, it is important to spot them early and treat as quickly as possible.

Similarly, isolate the affected plants so the pests cannot get to the others.

When it comes to pests, the most common to bother your Philodendron bipennifolium include scale and aphids. Both are can cause damage.

And, both can be treated with insecticidal soap or neem oil.

I know some gardener friends who just spray them off with their hose since there aren’t a lot of them.



With diseases, moisture is your #1 enemy. By controlling this, be it excess moisture from humidity or overwatering the soil, you’ll be able to reduce or completely eliminate diseases.

Root rot is one of the most dangerous ones because it can kill your plant. Because the roots are kept out of sight by the soil and container, it is hard to tell unless you repot or know the signs to look for.

That said, a variety of fungal infections can happen to the leaves as well because of excess moisture. So, it is important to keep a close eye on both soil and foliage.

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