Growing and Caring for Split Leaf Philodendrons at Home

Hugely popular and highly photogenic, the Split Leaf Philodendron is another dependable indoor plant from the Araceae family. This easy-care plant is perfect for beginners, thriving even with some neglect. The Split Leaf Philodendron is often confused with Monstera deliciosa, commonly sold under the same name, but they are actually completely different plants. Here we’ll show you how to spot the difference and detail everything you need to know about Split Leaf Philodendron care and how to grow this plant at home. Plus, we’ll share some facts about their origins, history, cultural meanings, and symbolism.

For more, see our guide to the best specialist plant shops and garden centers delivering Philodendron plants nationwide throughout the United States.


About Split Leaf Philodendron Plants

About Split Leaf Philodendron

Origins and History

The Split Leaf Philodendron is a tropical plant native to Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and has also been introduced into Belize. The plant has played an important role in the indigenous cultures of Paraguay, northern Argentina, and Brazil where the roots were used for binding and the yellow/white berries were used as a sweet food and medicinal source.

Botanical Information

  • Family: Araceae
  • Genus: Thaumatophyllum
  • Species: Thaumatophyllum bipinnatifidum

There is much confusion with the naming of the Split Leaf Philodendron, so it may be worth noting the other names it has been known by. Its synonyms are Arum pinnatifidum, Philodendron bipinnatifidum, and Philodendron pygmaeum.

To prevent further confusion, Philodendron selloum (which some sources list as a synonym) has not been included here. It does appear to have been a synonym in the past, as mentioned in a Kew Bulletin article from 1991. But, Plants of World Online (a more modern Kew resource, considered by professionals to be an authority naming source) does not include this name as a synonym.

Appearance

The Split Leaf Philodendron is an evergreen shrub with dark, glossy green, long-stalked leaves. The plant grows to around 10 feet (3m) high and 15 feet (4.5m) wide.

Its deeply divided leaves can reach up to 3 feet (1m) in length. The RHS reports that it can occasionally produce purple and cream spathes (flower spikes) a foot (30cm) in length.


Most Common Varieties to Grow as Houseplants

There are a number of varieties of Split Leaf Philodendron on the market. One of the most common is Philodendron Xanadu (Philodendron bipinnatifidum ‘Winterbourn’). Xanadu is a more compact cultivar with an ultimate height of only 3-4 feet (90-120cm).

Other common cultivars include:

  • ‘Gold Satin’ – bright yellow leaves.
  • ‘Little Crunchy’ – a dwarf plant with thick lettuce-like leaves.
  • ‘Lime Fiddle’ – variegated patterned leaves.

Split Leaf Philodendron vs Monstera – What’s the Difference?

The Split Leaf Philodendron plant is often confused with Monstera deliciosa, the Swiss Cheese plant. Both are commonly known by the name Split Leaf Philodendron and, although they do look rather similar, they are totally different plants. This confusion has become so widespread that some plant nurseries are now selling the Monstera plant incorrectly labeled as Split Leafed Philodendrons.

The differences

Monstera deliciosa – holes in the Monstera leaves don’t reach the edges. It has a climbing habit and needs support as it grows. In its natural environment, it would grow up a tree.

Monstera Deliciosa
Monstera Deliciosa

Split Leaf Philodendron – splits in the leaves run from the edges, inward. It’s also a self-heading type of plant, meaning it doesn’t need support to grow up. It supports itself with a trunk, like a tree, and generally has smaller leaves.

Split Leaf Philodendron
Split Leaf Philodendron

Split-Leaf Philodendron Uses & Benefits 

  • Ornamental – Its lush, dark green foliage makes it a perfect choice for adding a tropical feel to your home.
  • Feng Shui – Its softly rounded leaves make it a good choice for bringing gentle, natural energy to any room.
  • Food – The berries can be cooked to make a compote.
  • Medicinal – The Useful Tropical Plants Database lists the Split Leaf Philodendron as a medicinal plant. The roots can be used as a purgative and the stems for inflammation.

For more, see our in-depth guide to the uses and benefits of philodendron plants.


Split-Leaf Philodendron Meaning & Symbolism

Meaning and Symbolism of Split Leaf Philodendrons

A Split Leaf Philodendron makes a wonderful gift for anyone who cares about the natural world as it symbolizes a love of nature. Its ability to grow to a great size reflects personal growth and abundance. It is a plant that keeps on giving.

It is also used to symbolize good health so it makes a thoughtful present for someone going through a period of illness.


How to Grow Split-Leaf Philodendron Plants at Home:

How to Grow Split Leaf Philodendron

5 Things to do Before Planting:

  1. Using the information provided above, make sure that your new plant is actually a Split Leaf Philodendron and not a Monstera deliciosa.
  2. Check it over thoroughly to make sure there are no signs of pests or disease. The most obvious signs are the presence of insects and, discolored or drooping leaves.
  3. Consider where in your home you would like to place your new plant. You should plan for a height and spread of at least 6 feet (1.8m). An ideal location is free of draughts and, is away from any heat sources. Natural light is essential, a location within 3 feet of a window is best. (See below for further details on lighting needs)
  4. Choose a decorative pot with drainage holes and a saucer to match. Your pot should be large enough to comfortably hold the root ball, plus a couple of inches of excess space all around.
  5. Buy in plenty of good quality potting soil. A standard houseplant mix will suit it just fine. (See below for the ideal potting mix)

Growth Expectations – How Big Will the Split Leaf Philodendron Grow Indoors?

It is possible for the Split Leaf Philodendron to grow to around 10 feet (3m) high and 15 feet (4.5m) wide in 10-20 years. Within a household setting, it is more likely to be around 6 feet (1.8m) tall and wide.


How to Plant a Split Leaf Philodendron:

How to Plant a Split Leaf Philodendron

Suitable Pots for a Split Leaf Philodendron

  • Your pot should be large enough to comfortably hold the root ball of your new plant.
  • There should be a couple of inches of extra space all around the root ball to allow space to grow into.
  • It should have drainage holes at the bottom to allow the water to run freely away from the roots.

How to Pot Your Split Leaf Philodendron

  1. Remove the plant from its plastic pot.
  2. Gentle loosen any tightly packed roots, taking care not to break them.
  3. Add a couple of inches of your potting mix to the base of the pot then pop your plant on top.
  4. Place more compost around the sides of the root ball, gently pressing it into place.
  5. Fill the pot to the top of the root ball. No higher than it was in its original pot.
  6. Gently firm the plant into place and water thoroughly, until the water flows from the bottom of the pot.

What’s the Best Potting Soil Mix for a Split Leaf Philodendron?

The best potting mix for a Split Leaf Philodendron is a soil that is rich in nutrients and well-draining.

It will be more than happy in a standard peat moss based mix but if you wish to make your own mix, the perfect ingredients are:

  • Perlite
  • Peat moss or coconut coir
  • Standard potting soil

Mix the three together, in equal parts, to achieve a potting mix that has a good balance of moisture retention and drainage.


Split Leaf Philodendron Care

Watering Split Leaf Philodendron

Split Leaf Philodendron Light Preferences

Ideally, Split Leaf Philodendrons need bright indirect light, so a position within 3 feet of a south or east-facing window protected by blinds would be perfect. Hot, midday and afternoon direct sun can scorch the leaves so only indirect light should be provided during those hours.

Temperature & Humidity Preferences

Temperature: Average house temperatures are perfect for the Split Leaf Philodendron. They thrive at temperatures between 65-80°F (18-27°C). They can’t tolerate anything lower than 60°F (16°C).

Humidity: The Split Leaf Philodendron is a rainforest native and therefore prefers an environment where humidity is at 40% or more.

Watering Split Leaf Philodendron

These plants like their soil to be kept consistently moist, but never waterlogged. Water when the top inch or two of soil feels dry to the touch.

Water thoroughly, until the water drains out from the bottom of the pot. If using a saucer, after an hour or two, empty any water left standing in it.

How and When to Fertilize Split Leaf Philodendron

Fertilizing is not usually necessary when plants are regularly repotted (see below for schedule). If your plant begins to show signs of needing extra nutrition (such as yellowing leaves or a marked reduction in growth rate) you can feed monthly with a balanced liquid fertilizer.

Feed from spring through to fall, according to the instructions on the packet.


When and How to Prune a Split Leaf Philodendron

Pruning Split Leaf Philodendron

When to Prune

Prune out any dead, diseased or damaged growth as it appears. To restrict growth, prune in late winter/early spring.

How to Prune

Using a sharp, clean pair of secateurs, cut back any stem by trimming it back to the trunk, or to just above a node. A node is the part of the stem where the leaves grow from. Usually, there is a line around the stem where a node is, you should cut just above this point.


Propagating a Split Leaf Philodendron

Split Leaf Philodendrons are easily propagated by seed (if it appears), by layering, or by stem cuttings.

By seed

  1. Sow the seed in spring, close to the surface of your potting mix (as detailed above).
  2. Water well and place in a propagator, or cover with a plastic bag until germination occurs.
  3. Your seeds should be kept at an even temperature of 66-75F (19-24C).
  4. Once the seedlings appear you can remove the plastic bag/take them out of the propagator.
  5. Pot them on into individual pots when they have two sets of leaves.

By layering

  1. Locate a stem that is flexible enough to bend to soil level without breaking
  2. Pin an area of stem with a node to the soil. You can use a wire peg, or something heavy like a rock to hold it down. The aim is to get the nodes to stay in contact with the soil.
  3. You can cover the stem area with compost or sphagnum moss if you wish but it isn’t usually necessary.
  4. Leave in place for a few months until roots form at the nodes.
  5. Cut away the rooted stem parts and pot up individually.

By stem cutting

  1. In spring, remove a section of stem from the main plant, cutting just above a node. The cut section should contain at least 3 nodes.
  2. Trim your cutting just under the lowest node.
  3. Insert the cutting into a pot of propagating mix.
  4. Water well and place into a propagator or cover with a plastic bag. Use sticks to hold the plastic away from the cuttings if using the bag method.
  5. Keep your cuttings in a warm place, out of direct sunlight, until you can see roots appearing at the holes in the bottom of the pot.

When and How to Repot Split Leaf Philodendron

Split Leaf Philodendrons should be repotted every year, preferably at the start of the growing season in spring. Repotting in spring gives the plant a boost of fresh nutrients that will last throughout the growing year ahead.

If the root ball is becoming congested, move it to a pot that is a couple of inches larger to allow plenty of space for new roots to grow.

To repot you plant:

  1. Remove your plant from its pot and shake off any loose, old soil.
  2. Add a layer of soil (a couple of inches deep) to the bottom of your new pot then replace the plant.
  3. Add more soil around the sides of the root ball gently firming into place until the pot is evenly filled.
  4. Water thoroughly, until the water runs from the bottom of the pot.

Common Split Leaf Philodendron Problems & How to Treat Them

Common Split Leaf Philodendron Problems and Remedies

Leaf and Root Problems

The appearance of yellow leaves can be a symptom of overwatering, a lack of light, or a nutrient deficiency. Move your plant closer to a light source, begin a feeding regime (as described above), and/or reduce the frequency of watering.

Dark brown spots are also a sign of overwatering and can be an indication that root rot has begun. Remove the plant from its pot and inspect the root system. The soil should be damp but not wet.

If water appears to be pooling around the roots you can repot (as described above) or, you can leave the plant out of its pot for a few hours to dry out a little. If you see any dark or obviously rotten roots, trim them off with a sharp, clean knife.

Pale brown, crispy leaves are a sign of underwatering or low humidity. Increase the frequency of watering and/or increase humidity levels with a humidifier. Alternatively, you can place a tray filled with water and gravel underneath the plant. As the water evaporates from the tray it will raise the air humidity.

Common Pests & Diseases

Scale insects and spider mites are common houseplant pests so it is advisable to check your plants regularly for signs of any infestations. Pests can be eradicated by applying an insecticidal soap to the leaves or horticultural oil.


Essential Tools to Have Around

No specialist tools are needed to care for a Split Leaf Philodendron. The only things to have on hand are a sharp knife or pair of secateurs for pruning and, a cloth to wipe dust from the leaves. 


Wrap Up

Despite the confusion surrounding the identity of the Split Leaf Philodendron, they are readily available and super easy to care for. Just use the tips mentioned above to make sure that what you are getting is actually a Split Leaf Philodendron and not a Monstera! Enjoy.


Split Leaf Philodendron Care Guide FAQ:

Split Leaf Philodendrons need bright, indirect light, so a position within 3 feet of a south or east-facing window protected by Venetian blinds would be perfect.

The Split Leaf Philodendron is often confused with Monstera deliciosa (similar-looking, but totally different plants).

The Split Leaf Philodendron is poisonous to humans and pets and can cause discomfort and disturbance throughout the digestive system.

Indoors, Split Leaf Philodendrons typically grow to be around 6 feet (1.8m) tall and wide.


Philodendron Plant Care & Buying Guides

For more, see our growing and care guide to Philodendron Heartleaf, Philodenreon Micans, and Philodendron Hope Selloum.

If you’re looking for your next live plant, see our guide to the best plant delivery services shipping Philodendron plants nationwide.



Briana Yablonski
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Briana holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Penn State University. She manages a small market garden where she grows vegetables and herbs. She also enjoys growing flowers and houseplants at home.

Author

Briana holds a B.S. in Plant Sciences from Penn State University. She manages a small market garden where she grows vegetables and herbs. She also enjoys growing flowers and houseplants at home.

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