How to Care for Philodendron Pinnatifidum (aka the Comb Leaf Philodendron)

The Philodendron Pinnatifidum is also known as the Comb Leaf Philodendron. It is a large hemi-epiphytic perennial evergreen plant that can be grown in the ground or in containers.

The plant is best known for its deeply lobed leaves. If you look closely, another distinctive feature of the plant are the red spots on its petioles.

The Philodendron Pinnatifidum is actually a less popular plant nowadays since more people prefer the very similar looking Philodendron bipinnatifidum.

As such the Philodendron bipinnatifidum is what you’ll commonly see in home or office décor.

It is said the that the Philodendron Pinnatifidum is a cross between the Philodendron xanadu and Philodendron selloum. Both plants also feature deep splits or lobes in their leaves.

This philodendron plant is native to the Caribbean and South America including Venezuela and Brazil.

How do you care for the Philodendron Pinnatifidum? This is a big plant with large leaves. So, it will eventually need space to grow.

It thrives in medium to bright, indirect sun and enjoys tropical climate. So, give it warm temperature and high humidity.

Keep soil moist but not wet. Feed the plant with a balanced fertilizer to help support its growth and leaf development, but only during its growing season.

Philodendron Pinnatifidum Plant Care

Light Requirements

The Philodendron Pinnatifidum enjoys receiving medium to bright indirect light indoors. It is an epiphytic plant which means that it native habitat of the jungles of Venezuela and Brazil, it lives on larger trees clinging onto them.

This also means that it gets shade from the forest canopy overhead.

Therefore, the plant is not used to getting tons of very strong, intense sunlight. Instead, the light it gets is filtered by the branches and leaves. Thus, giving it dappled light.

This is why it prefers indirect or filtered light indoors.

Too much direct sunlight, especially that from the hottest times of the day (10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) will negatively affect its leaves. They can turn it yellow initially.

But with too much exposure they can get burned. So, you’ll later see brown spots, patches or even large sections of the leaves turn brown from the excess sun exposure.

On the other hand, while the Philodendron Pinnatifidum can tolerate low light, there is a limit to this.

In general, the plant does not have an issue with low light. But you do want to be careful about leaving it in dim or dark locations.

After all, like all plants is still needs photosynthesis to survive. Without enough light, photosynthesis is just not possible. Or the plant will not be able to produce enough energy from photosynthesis due to the lack of raw material (light).

As such, if you don’t get a lot of natural light indoors, try artificial lights.

Grow lights and fluorescent lighting both works well for this plant.

Outdoors, keep the plant in partial shade or light shade.

 

Comb Leaf Philodendron Temperature

The Philodendron Pinnatifidum is a warm weather plant. And it prefers temperature between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ideally, it enjoys consistently warm weather all year round. That’s because it comes from the tropical jungles of South America where the climate is pretty much warm to hot (and humid) just about every day of the year.

The only exceptions are during the rainy season when the weather temporary cools a bit during the days when the rains are a bit heavier. But the sunny, warm climate will usually be back in a day or two when the rains clear.

As such, the Comb Leaf Philodendron does best outdoors in USDA Hardiness Zones 10 and 11. If you live in these areas, you’ll be able to choose between keeping the plant indoors as a houseplant or leaving it outdoors.

If you choose the latter, you can place it in a container in the patio or some shaded area outside your home. Similarly, another option is to grow it in the ground where it will eventually become much bigger than when kept in a container.

Another important thing to be aware of is that the Comb Leaf Philodendron is not cold hardy.

Again, this has to do with the tropics not having any winter weather.

So, avoid leaving in temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit because it struggles in environments colder than this level.

There, you’ll see its growth slow. And if stays longer, it will get weak. Its leaves will turn yellow which will later drop as well.

After a while, it can even die from the cold, after sustaining more and more damage over time.

 

Humidity

The Philodendron Pinnatifidum enjoys humidity between 70% and 80% because it is used to the humid conditions of the tropical forests in South America.

If you’re able to give it this kind of humidity, it will grow at its best.

That said, it is worth noting that the plant can tolerate humidity of 40% and slightly lower.

This makes it a bit easier to keep in homes.

However, you do want to monitor the plant if you live somewhere with dry air. Also, climate fluctuations can affect humidity.

For example, dry summers can cause humidity to drop. Similarly, the winter is well-known for the dry air in brings.

Therefore, keep an eye out for when these drops happen.

You can use a hygrometer which is a simple, affordable device you can move from room to room in your home to check humidity.

Or you can observe the plant’s leaves.

Brown tips and edges re usually the first sign that it plant is not getting the humidity it needs.

If either happens, you can help the plant by increasing humidity around it in a few ways. You can use one of the methods or a combination of them. Just test them out to see which works best for you.

Investing in a humidifier is probably the most straightforward solution.

But if you don’t want to spend money, you can mist the plant every few days. For a more hands-off approach, you can go with a humidity tray or a pebble tray instead.

 

Related

 

How Often to Water Philodendron Pinnatifidum

The Philodendron Pinnatifidum prefers consistently moist soil. However, it is very important not to overwater the plant or give it too much that the soil ends up wet.

This is because the plant is prone to overwatering and also root rot.

Since it is epiphytic, its roots are less able to tolerate lots of water or wet soil. The reason is that in the forest, it uses its roots more for climbing and clinging onto trees.

So, they are not buried under the ground.

As such, they get their moisture from the air, the dew and when it rains. But because they are kept exposed in the air, they dry quite quickly after getting wet once the sun comes up and with the air circulating.

Thus, wet soil puts the roots in a precarious situation since they’ll be sitting in water instead of getting lots of air. This is when problems happen to your plant.

This is also why the best way to water the Philodendron Pinnatifidum is to wait until part of the soil has dried between waterings.

Here, I’ve found two methods that work really well.

  • Wait until the top 2 inches of soil has dried. This is the minimum. Don’t water before this level to avoid overwatering.
  • Wait until the soil is half dry. If you’re not an aggressive waterer, you can wait until the top half of the soil dries before you add more water. This is more conservative and safer against overwatering.

Either way, the goal is to allow some of the soil to dry first so you don’t end up adding water to soil that is still moist or wet.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that the Philodendron Pinnatifidum is sensitive to salts and excess minerals.

Therefore, if you have hard water at home or your tap contains a lot of minerals or added chemicals, you can filter the tap or use rainwater instead.

 

Philodendron Pinnatifidum Potting Soil

Well-draining, rich potting soil is the ideal growing medium for the Philodendron Pinnatifidum.

Good drainage is important because of its susceptibility to overwatering.

Therefore, in addition to having the proper watering schedule as shown above, it is important that the soil is able to drain excess liquid fast enough so that the roots don’t end up sitting in water for long periods of time.

For this reason you want to avoid heavy soils. These tend to hold a lot of water.

So, even if you water properly, the soil will just retain most of it which leaves the roots swimming in liquid anyways.

Therefore, the wrong soil can negate all the work you put in to make sure you’re not overwatering the plant. And as a result, the plant ends up in waterlogged soil.

Similarly, you don’t want to use very sandy soils.

These have the opposite effect in that they drain water too quickly.

If this happens, the water you add quickly drips out from the soil leaving the soil dry. More importantly, it prevents the roots from getting enough moisture before the soil dries up.

Thus, well-draining soil fixes all this.

It holds enough moisture to keep the roots hydrated. But will quickly drain excess liquid to prevent overwatering.

The simplest way to find this kind of soil is to get a bag of Aroid mix from your nursery or favorite online plant shop.

If you prefer to make your own potting mix at home, here’s a recipe that works really well for me.

  • 1 part organic potting mix
  • 1 part orchid bark
  • 1 part perlite
  • 1/2 part horticultural charcoal

The potting mix holds some water while the other ingredients improved drainage and aeration. This mimics the way water keeps the roots of the Philodendron Pinnatifidum hydrated and allow them to quickly dry in the forest.

 

Comb Leaf Philodendron Fertilizer

Fertilizer is an important aspect for caring for the Philodendron Pinnatifidum if you want it to grow fast and produce more foliage.

However, it is important to be mindful of how much fertilizer you use.

That’s because the plant is sensitive to excess salt and minerals. And commercial fertilizers will leave some of these byproducts in the soil.

So, the more fertilizer you use, the heavier the buildup will be.

Additionally, avoid low quality fertilizers even if they are so much cheaper. These tend to leave a lot more salt and minerals in the soil.

Once these build up too much, they become toxic to the plant causing root damage and yellow leaves.

Therefore, only apply as much fertilizer as needed, during the times the plant needs it.

In short, follow the instructions on the label and avoid the temptation of trying to “help it out” by giving it more plant food.

The most common way of feeding this plant is to use a commercial houseplant fertilizer.

In most cases, people go with synthetic fertilizers because they are cheaper and more practical. This works well for the plant as long as you apply properly.

You only need to feed the plant once a month during its growing season. Dilute the application by half strength each time.

You can use a 20-20-20 or 15-15-15 N-P-K blend.

Don’t feed the plant during fall and winter.

Another option is to use fish emulsion if you want something affordable yet organic. You can likewise use worm castings or compost as well and incorporate it into the soil.

 

Comb Leaf Philodendron Pruning

The Comb leaf Philodendron will grow into a large plant. It can reach 4-6 feet tall with large leaves. This makes it a perfect floor plant you can put in entryways or in corners of your home.

Also, it is a fast growing plant.

As such, pruning is often focused on trimming the plant due to its size.

This is especially true if you keep it indoors.

The good news is that it can tolerate pruning without any issues. However, avoid pruning more than 30% of the plant at any time.

Instead, prune a bit at a time.

 

How to Propagate Philodendron Pinnatifidum

There are many ways to propagate the Philodendron Pinnatifidum. These include:

  • Stem cuttings
  • Air layering
  • Division
  • Seed

Stem cuttings are the most popular for home growers because it is easy to do and provides high propagation success rates. Plus, you can propagate many stem cuttings at the same time.

Air layering is another simple method.

But it requires a bit more work since you need to make sure to keep the moss moist for it to work.

Plus, you only can air layer one new plant at a time because of how the process works.

Division only works for mature plants. And it needs to have good size. That’s because you’re essentially splitting the mother plant into 2 or more smaller plants.

Therefore, division is ideal if you have a large plant and you want to reduce its size.

Seed is another effective method. But it takes much longer than the others and more effort as well. This makes it less practical for home propagation.

 

Propagating Philodendron Pinnatifidum from Stem Cuttings

To propagate the Philodendron Pinnatifidum from stem cuttings, it is important to choose the right stems.

  • The first step is to choose healthy stems. Make each candidate for cutting has at least 1 node and 2-3 leaves on it.
  • Cut the stem just below the node. You a sterile knife or pruning shears.
  • Apply rooting hormone on the cut end of the stem. Try to use rooting hormone with fungicide to prevent pathogens or infections.
  • Then plant the cuttings into well-draining soil in a pot. Bury the node under the soil.
  • Water the soil to keep it moist. And place the pot in bright, indirect light.

In about 4 or so weeks the roots will grow from the stem and will start to establish itself onto the soil.

It will take another 1-2 months before shoots will start coming out. After that, leaves will then follow suit as the shoots develop.

Note that you can also propagate the cuttings in water instead of soil.

Here, place the cuttings in water and change the water once very 1-2 weeks. In a few weeks roots will grow from the submerged nodes.

Once the roots reach about 2 inches or longer, you can transfer it to potting mix.

 

How to Repot or Transplant Philodendron Pinnatifidum

How big a pot you use will depend on the size you receive your Philodendron Pinnatifidum. You can start with a 4 inch pot if you get a young one. Or it may require a 10 inch pot or larger for a bigger plant.

This philodendron is fast growing but you don’t need to repot it too often.

Instead, it takes about 2 years before it requires repotting.

And the best way to tell is if you see roots coming out from the bottom of the pot’s drainage holes. This is your sign to repot the plant.

The best time to repot is spring.

And while you’ll eventually end up keeping the plant in large pot, don’t jump sizes just to save yourself the effort of having to repot once in a while.

Using an overly large pot increases the risk of overwatering.

Instead, go up one pot size at a time (about 2-3 inches larger than its current container).

Also change the soil each time you repot.

That said, you have a few options when repotting.

  • Move to a larger pot – do this if you want the plant to get bigger. By giving it a bigger pot, you’re giving it the “go” signal to grow more.
  • Divide the plant – if you want to reduce its size and propagate the plant at the same time, division is the way to go. You can divide one mother plant into 2 or more smaller plants.
  • Prune the roots – if you’re happy with the plant’s size and don’t want it to grow any bigger and also don’t want to propagate and divide it, prune the roots. This will allow the plant to go back to its original pot and maintain its size.

 

Is It Toxic/Poisonous to Humans, Cats & Dogs

Yes, the Philodendron Pinnatifidum is toxic to people and pets. This means it is a good idea to keep it away from the curious hands and paws of young children as well as dogs and cats.

You don’t want them to chew, ingest or consumer parts of the plant because it is toxic.

 

Philodendron Pinnatifidum Problems & Troubleshooting

Comb Leaf Philodendron Pests

Mealybugs, aphids, scale and mites are the most common pests that the Comb leaf philodendron will experience. Although, you may never need to deal with any of them through the lifespan of the plant.

However, they can happen at any time.

Therefore, it is important to do regular inspections.

If you find any pests, immediately treat them with neem oil or insecticidal soap so they don’t turn into an infestation.

 

Diseases

The most problematic issue here is root rot. That’s because it can kill your plant if not diagnosed early enough.

Root rot is caused by overwatering and waterlogging. Therefore, proper watering and using the right kind of soil are essential.

Other problems to look out for with the Philodendron Pinnatifidum are Erwinia blight and leaf spot. Again, these are caused by excess moisture so avoid wetting the leaves or soil too much.

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