Herself's Houston Garden

Conservation through cultivation

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. This plant is not drought tolerant, so water when times are dry. Other than that it needs little care. This one has done well through several extremely dry summers and watering bans.

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. But one died and the other lost all its leaves after couple of hard frosts here. Just remove damaged leaves. If it dies back to the ground, wait. Often it will come back just fine when the weather warms.

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.

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.

Winter 2009/2010 We recently had a 3 day freeze. All the leaves rotted. I waited a couple of weeks, then removed the leaves yesterday. Time will tell if the plant will revive itself.

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.

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.

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