Everything You Need to Know About Growing & Caring for Split Leaf Philodendrons at Home
Hugely popular, and highly photogenic, the Split Leaf Philodendron is another dependable plant from the Arcacea family. With huge, glossy green leaves, it makes a wonderful tropical centerpiece for the home. This easy to care for plant is perfect for beginners as it is known to thrive as a house plant, even with some neglect. The Split Leaf Philodendron is often confused with Monstera deliciosa and both (similar-looking, but totally different plants) are now commonly sold under the same name. 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 cool facts about their origins, history, cultural meanings, and symbolism.
- About Split Leaf Philodendron Plants (Origins, History, Botanical Overview, Popular Varieties)
- Split-Leaf Philodendron vs Monstera – What’s the Difference?
- Uses & Benefits of Split Leaf Philodendron
- Split-Leaf Philodendron Meaning & Symbolism
- How to Grow Split Leaf Philodendron Plants at Home
- Split Leaf Philodendron Care Guide (Light, Temperature, Watering, Fertilizing)
- When and How to Prune a Split Leaf Philodendron
- Propagating a Split Leaf Philodendron
- When and How to Re-pot Split Leaf Philodendron
- Common Problems, Pests & Diseases & How to Treat Them
- Essential Tools to Have Around
About Split-Leaf Philodendron Plants
Origins and History
Split Leaf Philodendron as being native to Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and has also been introduced into Belize.
It has played an important role within the indigenous cultures of Paraguay, northern Argentina and Brazil. The roots were used for binding and the yellow/white berries were used as a sweet food and medicinal source.
- Family: Araceae
- Genus: Thaumatophyllum
- Species: 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, 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.
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 Monstera plants that are incorrectly labeled as Split Leafed Philodendrons.
Here are the differences between the two:
Monstera deliciosa – Has holes in the leaves that 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.
Split Leaf Philodendron – Has splits in the leaves that 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.
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, the stems for inflammation.
*Note – The medicinal properties of Split Leaf Philodendron are often reported under its other commonly used names, Philodendron bipinnatifidum and Philodendron selloum.
Split-Leaf Philodendron Meaning & Symbolism
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:
5 Things to do Before Planting:
- Using the information provided above, make sure that your new plant is actually a Split Leaf Philodendron and not a Monstera deliciosa!
- 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.
- 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)
- 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 excess space all round.
- Buy in plenty of good quality potting compost. 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:
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
- Remove the plant from its plastic pot.
- Gentle loosen any tightly packed roots, taking care not to break them.
- Add a couple of inches of your potting mix to the base of the pot then pop your plant on top.
- Place more compost around the sides of the root ball, gently pressing it into place.
- Fill the pot to the top of the root ball. No higher than it was in its original pot.
- 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 drained.
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:
- Standard houseplant mix
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
Split Leaf Philodendron Care – 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 Venetian blinds would be perfect. Hot, midday sun can scorch the leaves so shade should be provided during those hours.
Temperature & Humidity Preferences:
Temperature: Average house temperatures are perfect for the Split Leaf Philodendron. They thrive at 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 it not usually necessary when plants are regularly re-potted (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. You can feed from spring through to fall, according to the instructions on the packet.
When and How to Prune a 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 you can 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.
- Sow the seed in spring, close to the surface of your potting mix (as detailed above).
- Water well and place in a propagator, or cover with a plastic bag until germination occurs.
- Your seeds should be kept at an even temperature of 66-75F (19-24C).
- Once the seedlings appear you can remove the plastic bag/take them out of the propagator.
- Pot them on into individual pots when they have two sets of leaves.
- Locate a stem that is flexible enough to bend to soil level without breaking
- 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.
- You can cover the stem area with compost if you wish but it isn’t usually necessary.
- Leave in place for a few months until roots form at the nodes.
- Cut away the rooted stem parts and pot up individually.
By Stem Cutting:
- 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.
- Trim your cutting just under the lowest node.
- Insert the cutting into a pot of compost (as detailed above) or specialist cutting compost.
- 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.
- 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 Re-pot Split Leaf Philodendron
Split Leaf Philodendrons should be re-potted every year, preferably 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:
- Remove your plant from its pot and shake off any loose, old compost.
- Add a layer of compost (a couple of inches deep) to the bottom of your new pot then replace the plant.
- Add more compost around the sides of the root ball gently firming into place until the pot is evenly filled.
- Water thoroughly, until the water runs from the bottom of the pot.
Common Split Leaf Philodendron Problems & How to Treat Them
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 the roots are beginning to rot. Remove the plant from its pot and inspect the root system. The compost 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
Split Leaf Philodendrons are generally pest and disease free.
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, by applying a systemic pesticide to the roots.
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.
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:
How much light does a split leaf philodendron need?
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.
Is split leaf philodendron the same as Monstera?
The Split Leaf Philodendron is often confused with Monstera deliciosa (similar-looking, but totally different plants).
Are split leaf philodendron poisonous to humans?
The Split Leaf Philodendron is poisonous to humans and and pets and can cause discomfort and disturbance throughout the indigestive system.
How big do split leaf philodendrons grow indoors?
Indoors, Split Leaf Philodendrons typically grow to be around 6 feet (1.8m) tall and wide.