Philodendron Bipinnatifidum (Philodendron Selloum) Plant Care – Growing Split Leaf Philodendron

Philodendron Bipinnatifidum

The philodendron bipinnatifidum is a tropical tree that’s native to South America.

In its native environment it can grow into a large tree (10 to 15 feet tall). But, in cooler places, you’ll see it as a container houseplant that’s more limited in size.

Interestingly, while it can grow on its own, it occasionally will become epiphytic. That is, attach to much bigger trees and climb onto them.

For most houseplant owners, what makes it desirable is its very tropical appearance. This is thanks to its lovely foliage. The large, long lobed leaves grow to between 3 to 4 feet long. Their unique drooping nature also allows the plant to spread outwards to attract more attention.

That said, its looks and habits aren’t the most interesting thing about it. Instead, it is its name. Or, its change of name.

The plant is most commonly known as the split leaf philodendron or tree philodendron. But, botanically, there are a few other names attached to it.

These are Philodendron bipinnatifidum, Philodendron selloum, Philodendron hope.

And more recently, Thaumatophyllum bipinnatifidum.

Here’s why.

Philodendron bipinnatifidum is now Thaumatophyllum bipinnatifidum

Yes, plants can get their names changed. And, in this case the plant was declassified as a philodendron. And, it is now part of a new genus called Thaumatophyllum, which translated to “wonder leaf”.

Interestingly enough, the genus Thaumatophyllum is actually made up a of plants taken from the philodendron family. So, you can say that the bipinnatifidum ist just one of a few “former” philodendrons.

However, this isn’t the first time there’s some kind of confusion with this plant. Back in the day, the Philodendron bipinnatifidum and Philodendron selloum were considered two different plants.

That is, until they realized the they were actually the same plant. Then, they merged them together. This is why you’ll see the Philodendron bipinnatifidum also labeled as the Philodendron selloum, and vice versa in some plant records.

 

So why the change to genus Thaumatophyllum?

In 2018, a few botanists noticed that the DNA of some philodendrons were not the same with the rest of them. This includes the bipinnatifidum, Philodendron Xanadu and a few more. Additionally, these plants also grew trunks and were more like trees compared to “real” philodendrons which are smaller foliage plants.

As a result, they decided to separate these plants and created a new genus Thaumatophyllum to classify them under. So, while many people will still call this plant Philodendron bipinnatifidum, it is now officially named Thaumatophyllum bipinnatifidum.

That said, all these names refer to the same plant.

  • Philodendron bipinnatifidum
  • Thaumatophyllum bipinnatifidum
  • Philodendron selloum
  • Philodendron hope
  • tree philodendron
  • lacy tree philodendron
  • split leaf philodendron
  • horsehead philodendron

The first 3 names being botanical names of different variations. And, the last 3 being other common names it is referred to by.

 

Philodendron Bipinnatifidum Plant Care

Philodendron Bipinnatifidum Light

Being native of tropical environments, the philodendron bipinnatifidum enjoys full sun. However, it is able to adapt and tolerates shade.

Because of its size when grown outdoors, getting a lot of sun isn’t a problem. But, grown indoors as a houseplant, you want to provide it with bright, indirect light.

This adaptation has made the tree philodendron avoid extremes. When given too much direct sunlight, you’ll see its leaves burn, causing their color to fade.

On the other hand, too little light, or leaving it in dark areas, the plant likewise suffers. And, you’ll see its leaves turn dark green. To help you out, one if the initial symptoms that it lacks light is that it will bend towards any light source.

As such, it is key to move it somewhere it gets better illumination.

In the same manner, you’ll want to rotate your plant every so often so that each side gets some time near the sunlight. This keeps it from bending too far towards one direction.

 

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Philodendron Bipinnatifidum Temperature & Humidity

The Tree Philodendron is best suited to moderate to warm temperatures. It also not frost hardy. So, you want to keep it where the mercury doesn’t drop under 55 degrees. Once it gets below 50 degrees, you’ll start to see the plant show signs of distress.

As such, it is only feasible to grow it in the ground if you live in USDA zones 9 to 11. And, even if you live within these zones, you’ll need to consider the size of the plant.

When grown in the ground, the tree philodendron will grow up to around 15 feet tall. It also covers a spread of about 6 feet around. So, you’ll want to make sure there’s space in your yard before planting it.

This is also why most philodendron bipinnatifidum are grown in containers indoors. This makes it easier to grow the plant no matter where you live. Additionally, it limits the size of the plant as well.

As with other topical plants, it also likes high humidity. This can be a problem for some homes, especially in cooler climates.

philodendron bipinnatifidum

source: wikimedia commons

 

Watering Philodendron Bipinnatifidum

This is one aspect where the philodendron bipinnatifidum isn’t like other philodendrons. In general, most varieties prefer quick draining soil.

But, the tree philodendron savors moist soil. Even during the winter, it does better is slightly moist soil as opposed to dry.

This is where it gets tricky. The reason is that the plant is still susceptible to overwatering. So, soggy soil or allowing it to sit in water can make it sick. If left like that, it will experience root rot and die.

Thus, the best way to know when to water the plant is to check the soil beforehand first, always. To do so, stick your finger into the soil and feel the top 2 inches.

If it is about to get dry, then it is time to water. Otherwise, wait a while and test again in a couple of days.

 

Soil

As mentioned above, the philodendron bipinnatifidum enjoys slightly moist soil. This means you want to choose a potting medium that is good at retaining moisture.

Additionally, the plant grows best when provided with rich, slightly alkaline soil.

This also means you don’t want soil with high salt (saline) content. As you probably already know from when you eat lots of salty foods, sodium draws out water.

As such, soil with high saline content reduces the amount of water available to the plant.

 

Fertilizing

Besides the salt content in soil, fertilizer also produces salt residue. As such, you want to be cautious with overfeeding your plant because it causes a double whammy for the tree philodendron.

For one, overfeeding can result to fertilizer burn. Additionally, as the excess salt residue from the fertilizer builds up in the soil it will also reduce moisture that the plant needs. When this happens, you’ll see the tips of its leaves burn and they will become pale in color.

That said, you only want to feed the plant during its growing season (spring and summer), During these times, apply a balanced liquid fertilizer that’s diluted to half strength once a month. Once fall and winter come, stop feeding.

 

Pruning Philodendron Bipinnatifidum

Pruning serves a few functions. And, you will want to prune this plant because its leaves can get very big. Additionally, some leaves can get damaged from people walking and brushing against the leaves.

Thus, trimming your plant not only makes it look good, it also allows you to control its shape and size. This is something you may want to do depending on where you put the plant.

Remember, the tree philodendron has a wide spread. As such, it can flop outwards, which isn’t always what everyone wants.

In addition to appearance, pruning also makes the plant grow better. This gives you a bushier plant.

Because the plant’s sap can cause irritation, it is a good idea to wear gloves when you work on it. Also, don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth until you’ve washed your hands thoroughly after handling the philodendron selloum.

 

Philodendron Bipinnatifidum Propagation

Philodendron bipinnatifidum can be propagated through stem cuttings. The best time to do so is during the spring when you’re pruning your plant. The reason for this is that stem cuttings are what you get when you prune the plant. The only difference is you want to choose the right kinds of stems.

From there, it is all about planting it so it can root and grow into its own plant.

Here’s how to propagate philodendron bipinnatifidum through stem cuttings.

  • Pick a few stems that are healthy. Ideally, you want a stem that has between 2-4 leaves that looks sturdy and strong.
  • You want to choose more than one because propagation is not an exact science. As such, its results are not 100% guaranteed. So, even if you do everything right, some stem cuttings never grow into a new plant. By getting more than one stem, you increase your odds of success.
  • Allow the stems to dry. Their cut ends will leak sap. I like to leave them out to callous before propagating them.
  • Once the stem ends have calloused, dip it in rooting hormone powder. This will help it root faster. And, likewise increase the odds of success.
  • Plant the stem cuttings into a container with fresh potting mix.
  • Water thoroughly, and place under bright, indirect light.

 

Philodendron Bipinnatifidum Transplanting & Repotting

The best way to tell when to repot your plant is to inspect for roots. Roots that are starting to show out through the holes f the container or if they fil the current pot are key signs.

The best time to repot Thaumatophyllum bipinnatifidum is during the spring. Anytime early in its growing season likewise works.

The reason for this is that repotting gives your pot more room for its roots to grow. Additionally, fresh potting soil also helps it grow faster.

Here’s how to repot your philodendron bipinnatifidum.

  • Gently take it out of the container.
  • Remove any excess dirt and soil that are sticking onto the root ball.
  • You also want to untangle any roots. The more rootbound the plant is, the more tangled and twirled the roots will be.
  • Prepare your new container. Ideally, you want something that is about 2 inches larger than the current one. This gives your plant enough room to grow but not too much. A pot that’s too big will allow for lots of extra soil. When wet, the soil will cause the plant to sit in water for long periods of time, which is a bad thing.
  • Insert your plant into the new container. Then fill the remaining space with potting mix.
  • Water thoroughly.

 

Toxicity

In general, philodendron are toxic to both humans and animals. This is because they contain calcium oxalate crystals which are poisonous and cause irritation. When ingested, you, your kids or pets can experience drooling, mouth pain, vomiting and swelling. Difficulty in swallowing and breathing are some other symptoms as well.

Thus is it essential to keep the philodendron selloum away from kids, dogs and cats.

 

Pests and Diseases

When it comes to pests, your Thaumatophyllum bipinnatifidum is susceptible to mealybugs, scale, aphids and spider mites. These pests will cause varying degrees of harm to your plant with some being fairly harmless while others can cause them to die if not treated.

As such, it is very important to regularly inspect your tree philodendron for pests, especially the undersides of the leaves where many of them can hide.

If you spot pests, make sure to separate the infected plant/s from the others because pests are notorious for spreading to other nearby plants.

Soapy water or using insecticidal soap with water will treat most of these pests.

As far as disease goes, the biggest problems are bacterial, fungal problems and root rot. While they are all different, the all have one cause, too much water or not allowing the water to dry or drain. When this happens you’ll see dots, splotches and discoloration of leaves.

The only way to fix this is to act quickly and change your watering habits. If the soil is wet, you may want to repot the plant to give it instant relief.

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