Most philodendrons are climbers, but not this one. Tree philodendron (also called split leaf philodendron) grows as a large semiwoody shrub with enormous glossy leaves and a single erect unbranched stem that tends to fall over and sprawl when the plant gets large. The robust stem bears stout aerial rootlets between conspicuous leaf scars. The leaves are up to 3 ft (0.9 m) long, deeply dissected into many wavy-margined lobes and held on long petioles. Older and larger plants develop leaves that are more deeply dissected and more ruffled. The inflorescence consists of a 1 ft (0.3 m) long purplish red spathe enclosing an upright spadix with many tiny petalless flowers. Specimens grown indoors rarely flower, however.
This oldtimer was planted up against a San Diego apartment building. In its quest for light it became top heavey and required wire support causing it to grow in interesting new directions.
Tree philodendron can get as large as 15 ft (4.6 m) tall and 15 ft (4.6 m) wide with a stem 6 in (17.8 cm) or more in diameter. Windowleaf or ceriman (Monstera deliciosa) is superficially similar to tree philodendron, but it has actual holes (windows) in the leaves instead of just indentations and lobes.
'German Selloum' has very narrow leaf lobes, and 'Variegatum' has leaves with yellow markings. Numerous hybrids with other philodendron species have been developed as well. The old name, Philodendron selloum, is still frequently seen.
Philodendron bipinnatifidum, the tree philodendron is native to the rainforests of Paraguay and southeastern Brazil.
This trio of tree philodendrons has spent the past 30 plus years partying poolside at the Howard Johnson's.
Tree philodendron grows best in fairly moist, well drained, fertile soil. It requires little care except occasional grooming should lower leaves become discolored, and watering in times of dry weather. Take care in placing a tree philodendron, though, lest it encroach on walkways or grow too close to buildings; a small specimen will get big!
Light: Philodendrons don't like full sun. Grow tree philodendron in dappled or partial shade. Indoors, position in bright light, but not direct sun. Sunlight filtered through a curtain is good. Variegated cultivars need more light.
Moisture: Not at all drought tolerant, tree philodendron should get regular watering. Keep the soil moderately moist by watering regularly. In the winter, keep the soil just barely moist. Tree philodendron has thinner leaves than most species in the genus and therefore needs a little more humid atmosphere. House plants should be misted regularly if the air is very dry. Place an electric room humidifier near the plant in the winter.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 9 - 11. This is one of the hardiest of all philodendrons. Frost may kill the leaves of tree philodendron or even kill the whole plant to the ground, but if the cold is not too severe and if the plant is well established, it will come back when warm weather returns. Indoors, keep temperatures above 55ºF (12.8 ºC) in winter and above 70ºF (21ºC) in summer.
Propagation: Philodendrons are easy to start from cuttings. To propagate this nonclimber, take shoots from the base of the plant's stem and root in potting medium.
The tree philodendron inflorescence is composed of a spathe that encloses an upright spadix upon which the actual flowers are situated.
Tree philodendron is a popular container plant for public buildings and offices, but not for small rooms! Use this impressive foliage plant in a large hall or a spacious room. In USDA zones 9-11, grow tree philodendron in a moist area under the dappled shade of trees or large shrubs. In tropical areas it makes a spectacular specimen shrub on an expanse of lawn.
For a tropical foliage splash, tree philodendron is a winner. It is most effective standing alone or in combination with other lush-leafed plants such as gingers and bananas. Since it prefers some shade, tree philodendron is superb for a courtyard or against a wall in a pool yard. It can be used in beds under trees to soften the stark trunks and serve as a foliar background for lower plantings. Caladiums planted in a drift in front of a tree philodendron can be quite effective. Great in containers - indoors and out!
Philodendrons have been used as house plants for centuries. There are more than 200 species and even more hybrids.
Philodendrons are poisonous if eaten and the sap may irritate sensitive skin.