Tree Philodendron aka Split Leaf ( Philodendron bipinnatifidum )

There seems to be debate as to whether this philodendron is a climber or not. It has huge leaves and one stem that does not branch. The branch falls over when the top gets too heavy. Aerial roots come off of the stem. Even though it is not defined as a climber, if planted near a tree it will climb your tree. And the stem that falls over may wind its way around your yard.

It has the most unusual flower. Mine has been in the back garden 2 years this is the first bloom I’ve seen. There are two more flower pods I expect will bloom soon.

It can get to 10′ tall and 15′ wide with a stem as thick as 6″ in diameter. This plant is native to the rain forests of Brazil. I’ve read some reports that it will grow to 50′ in Florida. So plant in a large area.

It grows best in moist, but well drained soil. It does not want full sun, dappled to part shade is best. It is not supposed to be drought tolerant, but I’ve found it does quite well during droughts. This one has done well through several extremely dry summers and watering bans. It needs little care.

It is not frost hardy. We’ve had several light frosts and temperatures as low at 28′ and the plant has done fine with no protection, some years, other years one died and the other lost all its leaves after couple of hard frosts here. If the trunk is still firm just remove damaged leaves. If the trunk feels mushy cut it back at ground level. If it dies back to the ground, wait. Often it will come back just fine when the weather warms in late May.

If you wish to prune it, remove leaves beginning at the bottom to let in light to plants shaded out from this plant. If you remove all the leaves, newer leaves should grow in at the top that are smaller than the existing leaves you removed.

If you cut the stem it will not branch out. It will send up pups from the roots somewhere nearby. When I removed the leaves I discovered three babies that had grown up from the roots near the base of the plant. The leaves had been sheltering them from view.

(Winter 2009/2010 and again 2017/2018) We recently had a 3 day freeze. All the leaves rotted. I waited a couple of weeks, then removed the leaves yesterday. It returned in 2010 ( and I expect it to in 2018) and completely filled out completely late May.

It is May and the philodendron has survived and is putting out leaves up top as are some of the pups at the bottom. A newer philodendron I planted last summer did not survive this winter’s cold.

This plant is poison — do not eat it. All philodendrons contain calcium oxalates. Depending on the plant it might numb your mouth, or cause severe stomach pain, nausea, and or irritated skin. Wear gloves while working with these plants.

Summer 2011 has brought and extreme drought and three months of temps over 100’F this plant has survived and been one of the few to grow.

Philo ( means love ) dendron ( means tree )

More information:
Floridata: Philodendron bipinnatifidum

8 thoughts on “Tree Philodendron aka Split Leaf ( Philodendron bipinnatifidum )

  1. I have a split leaf philodendron that is 40 years old I have cut the trunk into once, and planted the other half outside, but the big half is still in my home.
    In the 40 years i’ve had it i’ve never had a bloom. The half that is outside has been there about three years, and it has never had a bloom. Please advise me the plants are healthy, and beautiful, but no blooms???

  2. Hello,

    I saw your comment yesterday but do not yet have an answer for you.

    When ever a plant doesn’t bloom the first recommendation is to give it more sun. But mine is in almost full shade and blooms happily so I don’t think that is the problem.

    The second most likely thing to try to help it bloom is to give a fertilizer that is higher in phosphorous ( the second of the 3 fertilizer numbers ) phosphorous helps with blooming and most fertilizers have reduced the amount because of environmental concerns.

    Of interest is that the bloom heats up when it is ready to be pollinated, something I didn’t know. These folks have a ton of information on philodendron species.

    One thing they mention is that philodendron does not morph into adult mode unless it is allowed to climb something. Perhaps it wants to be more upright?

    I’m sorry I don’t have a more specific answer yet, but I will keep digging. In the meantime check out that link, there was a great deal of very interesting information about philodendrons there.

  3. I love this plant. I put in a second this spring. The second one is near a pine tree so it will have something to cling to and to grow up as it gets larger.

    Both are in dry, mostly shaded areas. I find they need lots of water when first planted, but do fine about 6 months down the road in moderately damp/dry spots.

  4. I have had one of these philodendrons in a pot for many years. I am having a problem and wonder if anyone is having the same problem. I live in zone 4 but I leave this plant outside year round with frost protection because of an insect problem. I have tried everything to kill this pest. It is white when immature – dark when mature – has about 10-12 legs and is visible but small. It likes the older leaves more than the new leaves. When I keep it in the house the pests multiply very fast which is why I keep it outdoors. Does anyone have any info about this?

  5. I agree this is a pretty cool plant. I was always fascinated with one my aunt had when I was younger, swearing I would have one someday. I’ve a Philo Monstera deliciosa about ten years old now; surviving through five moves with me, and has been strictly indoors, usually wedged in corner spots which receive light just a few hours each day. Living in the Northeast US, outside isn’t an option.

    Just this March it began to shoot up blooms for the first time after ten years. I didn’t notice this at first from the flowers themselves, but rather the speed the soil dried out, as it needed water twice as often (more than usual for spring). Also the leaf stems began to sweat a lot. I’m unsure why it’s waited to bloom until now, but I’m sure is only one factor in determining the health. I’ve read a casual way to determine health can also be to simply look how deep the individual leaf slots reach inward.

    Mine has three major base roots shooting four blooms so far, which seem to open and close at an extremely rapid rate, nearly every two days.

    Anyone who has one of these big guys will agree it can get an attitude; mine did NOT like direct light as mentioned above. Worthwhile solutions (for indoors) I’ve found are to prop it up fairly high in rooms which receive lots of light, and believe it or not, if the room is painted white, it can make a big difference for this kind of plant, as mine has done best with the indirect reflective benefits of a light-colored room. Another is to have curtains that are very sheer, which are cheap and extremely easy to find. (Try the Wilma line from Ikea.) I’ve also noticed, depending which direction the sun is in relation to the plant, if leaves do catch direct light at sunrise when the sun is least harsh, it’s been fine, always gravitating to these windows in my home.

    Does anyone have tips on repotting do’s and don’ts? What time of year is best to do, how to avoid breakages, how long to wait after it has bloomed, etc? I’m thinking it will be a three-person job to do this, similar to in the past when I’ve wrapped for the occasional move.

    The plant is worth its attitude I must say, as it’s the first topic of conversation whenever anyone visits! I think it must know this somehow, as the leaves seem to get bigger…

  6. That is cool, I haven’t tried one indoors yet, but you’ve got me intrigued.

    I never knew the leaf slots were an indication of health, thanks that’s neat.

    Many plants will flower when stressed, it may be that the plant drying out so frequently might of convinced it it was time to breed?

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