Split Leaf Philodendron
The Split leaf philodendron is an evergreen shrub that is widely cultivated and an absolute star when it comes to house plants.
Not only is it highly attractive to look at with its enormous glossy, green leaves with deep splits, but it is also easy to care for and a fast grower.
In this article we will guide you through all the dos and don’ts of caring for this beautiful houseplant as well as what to look out for before you decide to buy one.
Position Bright but indirect sunlight
Watering Water regularly to keep root ball moist
Size 6 ft. tall indoors
Climate Not cold hardy. Zone 9b, 10, 11, 12 (Min 60°F / 15°C)
Propagate Stem cuttings and seeds
Seasonality Evergreen, winter dormant
Split Leaf Philodendron has lusciously dense foliage and can grow indoors up to 6 ft tall and as wide. Its easy-to-care-for and forgiving nature means that whether you are an indoor tropical plant novice or an experienced house plant grower, owning a Split Leaf Philodendron will create a real talking point in your home.
Native to Central America, this plant was once a useful resource for indigenous tribes who used the berries of the plant for food and medicinal purposes as well as the roots as crafting materials. Split Leaf Philodendron can still be found in the rainforests and forests of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay where naturally it is significantly bigger than when grown as an indoor plant, often reaching the canopy of the forest.
If this plant appeals to you and you are looking to buy one then it is worth noting that it has a number of synonyms by which it is also referred. These include Philodendron Bipinnatifidum, Arum Pinnatifidum, and Philodendron Pygmaeum.
Monstera vs Philodendron
A word of caution if you are thinking of purchasing a Split Leaf Philodendron, this plant is often mistaken, misnamed, and mis-sold as Monstera Deliciosa. This is a relatively common mistake to make but avoidable when you know what you are looking for. Here’s a rundown of what you need to look out for.
Both plants grow enormous 3 ft leaves however, the Split Leaf Philodendron has deep splits in the leaves rather than holes.
The other main difference is Split Leaf Philodendron is a self-heading plant, meaning it has a trunk that enables it to grow upright. In contrast, Monstera Deliciosa needs support to climb because it is a vining plant that uses aerial roots to attach itself to nearby structures including trees, moss poles, and trellis.
Both are beautiful plants and even if you did purchase a Monstera Deliciosa instead of a Split Leaf Philodendron, it would be a happy mistake to make.
Split Leaf Philodendron Care
Split Leaf Philodendron grows well indoors in a spot that is bright and naturally lit. Keep it away from direct sunlight as this can easily scorch the leaves. They prefer a warm environment of 60°F or more and humidity levels at around 40%.
For outdoor planting, they need temperatures of between 60 – 85 °F and again, at least 40% humidity. If you know that temperatures will drop below 60 °F then it is best to plant in a pot or container that can easily be transferred indoors.
There are various ways to increase the level of humidity in your home. The most expensive option is to invest in a humidifier. They range in price and capability vastly but they are a great idea if you already have or are planning on expanding your tropical house plant collection.
Another way is to mist the leaves of your plant regularly to replicate the moist environment of the rainforest.
It also helps to position all of your humidity-loving plants next to one another. This is because the moisture that is released from the leaves of your plants (also known as transpiration) will all contribute towards increasing humidity levels. More plants, more humidity.
Placing a pebble tray underneath the container of your plant will also help to increase humidity levels. Fill the pebble tray with 1 inch of pebbles and add water but do not allow the water to reach the level of the container. As the water in the pebble tray evaporates, it will create moisture in the air around your plant.
Split Leaf Philodendron is a fast-growing plant and when given the right conditions to thrive will reach heights of around 6 feet when grown indoors. If you live in a tropical climate this plant will grow outdoors up to 15 feet tall and as much wide. In any event, your plant will need decent levels of humidity, good quality well-draining soil, and a pot with good-sized drainage holes in order to thrive.
How Often to Water Philodendron
Split Leaf Philodendron plants will thrive if their root ball is kept moist so don’t allow the soil in the depths of your plant’s container to become too dry. They will not, however, tolerate soggy soil. To keep them happy it is best to water them when the top 2 inches of soil is dry. Give them a good soak and then drain off any excess water that remains in the drip tray below the container.
I prefer to be guided by the moisture level in the soil of my Split Leaf Philodendron rather than sticking to a regular watering schedule to tell me when to water my plants.
It is easy to test the moisture levels in the soil by either purchasing a soil measuring kit or by simply placing a finger 2 inches below the level of the soil. If the soil is dry in the top 1 to 2 inches and moist thereafter, it’s time to water. If it is still moist at the top, then I hold off with my watering can for a few days before checking again.
There are some variables that contribute to how much water your Split Leaf Philodendron needs. Using a pot or container with good-sized drainage holes and well-draining soil will both help your plant to thrive. Other factors to consider are changes in the temperature, light conditions, and seasons of the year.
This is especially so during the winter months when your plant is in a period of dormancy and when you will notice that your plant’s soil remains damp for longer. When this happens, make sure to reduce the amount and frequency of watering.
By far the best type of soil for all Philodendron plants is a well-draining potting mix that is rich in nutrients and has organic minerals such as perlite or grit added to it to assist further with drainage.
A peat-moss base for the potting mix will provide the moisture needed to keep the root ball happy and an organic mineral product will prevent the soil from staying soggy.
All reputable garden supply retailers sell good quality potting mixes and there is also plenty of choice available online. Check the latest price on Amazon here.
You can easily make your own well-draining potting mix at home if you’d prefer. It’s straightforward to do and relatively cheap. Simply, mix one-third organic matter such as peat-moss soil with one part grit or perlite, plus one-part good quality house-plant soil.
I like to feed most of my houseplants with a slow-release fertilizer spike. They are a great way to deliver a steady feed throughout the growing season. You can find them on Amazon.com here.
If your plant looks sick then use a good quality balanced liquid fertilizer used once per month from Spring until the end of the growing season in Autumn will provide extra nutrients to your plant throughout the growing season. There is no need to feed a Philodendron plant while your plant is dormant during the winter period.
It’s worth holding off fertilizing for 2-3 months after your plant has been re-potted. The fresh soil will already contain the nutrients your plants need.
Split Leaf Philodendron Pruning
Your Split Leaf Philodendron will need pruning regularly to restrict foliage from becoming unruly and taking over your space.
Wait until early spring or late winter before attempting any pruning at which point remove any wayward stems as well as any dying or damaged growth. Use a sterile and sharp knife or pair of scissors and cut as close to the main trunk as possible or just above a leaf node.
The vigorous growth of Split Leaf Philodendron means that it will need to be re-potted every year and spring is the ideal time to do this.
The pot or container that you choose needs to comfortably fit the root ball plus 2-3 inches all around to allow for new root growth.
Always use fresh well-draining potting soil as this will give your plant a boost of nutrients ready for the growing season ahead and avoid fertilizing your plant for 2-3 months or so afterward.
Split Leaf Philodendron Propagation
The most effective way to propagate Split Leaf Philodendrons is by stem cuttings. It is possible to propagate by seeds however, since flowers of indoor house plants are not always guaranteed, this is not always an option for everyone.
Here is a step by step guide of how to propagate your Split Leaf Philodendron by stem cutting in either soil or water.
Begin by carefully selecting a cutting. Find a healthy-looking stem that has 2 or 3 nodes and at least one leaf attached to it. Use a sterile and sharp knife or pair of scissors to carefully remove the cutting just below the lowest node.
How To Propagate Philodendron In Soil
Place the cutting in a small pot with drainage holes that has been filled with potting compost.
Position in a bright spot but not in direct sunlight and keep the soil slightly damp.
Keep your cutting warm by covering it with a plastic bag to seal in moisture. Do remember to remove the bag for a few hours every few days to allow air to circulate.
Wait for the first signs of new roots to appear from the holes in the base of the pot. This should take 4-6 weeks. Once these new roots have appeared, you can remove the plastic bag and begin watering as you would for a young Split Leaf Philodendron plant.
Growing philodendron in Water
Take your healthy stem cutting and place it in a propagation station or in a jar with clean water that covers the nodes.
Place your cutting in a bright position but not in direct sunlight and change the water every 3-5 days.
Be patient while you wait for new roots to appear. This can take 4-6 weeks and often longer. Your cutting will be ready to pot in soil once a network of new roots begins to appear.
It can take longer than you might imagine for new cuttings to root but keeping them warm and being patient will all help.
Common problems with a Split Leaf Philodendron
Although generally pest and disease resistant Split Leaf Philodendron can be prone to an infestation of pests from time to time especially Spider Mites and Scale. Whilst unsightly and inconvenient they are unlikely to be detrimental to the health of your plant provided they are treated promptly.
Spider Mites can be found on the underside of leaves near the stem. They are minuscule eight-legged creatures that look like tiny white specks. They can usually be found suspended from the silk webbing that they spin on infected leaves.
If left untreated leaves will develop yellow spots and tiny holes from where the little critters have been extracting sap.
To rid your plant of spider mites you first need to blast all affected areas with a reasonably powerful faucet of water. Do this in the sink, shower or with a hose to dislodge the spider mites and their webbing. Take care not to get too much water into the soil when the water runs off.
After rinsing with water use a spray bottle or a clean dry cloth to apply a solution of neem oil and water to your plant. Carefully wipe the solution all over the plant paying particular attention to the underside of leaves and at stem junctions.
Repeat the water treatment daily and the neem oil treatment every 5-7 days or until all signs of the infestation have been removed.
Scale are static shell-like parasites that sit on the underside of the leaves and feed on the sap in your plant. Infestations lead to the plant looking sick and wilted.
Use a damp cotton tip or cotton pad to gently remove as much of the infestation as you can see. Follow this up by using neem oil or soapy water to wash the infestation away.
Repeat regularly until all signs of the infestation have subsided.
For more serious infestations of either Spider mites or Scale it may be necessary to treat them with a stronger insecticide. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the application of any household insect spray and take extra caution as the leaves of a Philodendron plant can become burned by chemicals.
As soon as you have detected any signs of either spider mites or Scale move your plant away from all other plants. Treat your infested plant first but afterward, take some time to check over all of your other plants for any signs of infestation.
There are a number of reasons why your plant may have yellow leaves. The most common reason is over-watering, but it can also be due to a lack of nutrients or inadequate lighting. Make sure your plant is positioned in a naturally bright spot but away from direct sunlight and test the moisture levels of the soil. Only water your plant if the top 2 inches of soil are dry.
Brown or yellow dry leaves
Leaves that appear shriveled, dry or have turned yellow or light brown are often an indication of under-watering or low humidity levels.
Check the moisture levels in the soil. If the pot feels lighter than usual or the soil near the roots is dry then you will need to give your plant a drink. It may also be worth investing in a humidifier to increase the levels of humidity to 40% or more.
A Philodendron plant will not tolerate waterlogged soil. Any prolonged periods of soggy roots will almost certainly cause root rot. Leaves that develop dark brown splotches are often an indicator of root rot and must be quickly investigated by carefully removing your plant from the container or pot and checking the roots.
Once removed from the pot or container, brush away as much soil as possible from the roots using a soft brush or your fingers. Roots that appear brown or black and are soft and mushy will need to be trimmed away using a sterile and sharp knife or pair of scissors. All traces will need to be removed until you are left with only white or cream roots. It’s also recommended to re-sterilize your cutting utensils each time you snip away an infected root.
Repot in a cleaned pot and always use fresh soil then allow your plant to recover for a few days before resuming a less frequent watering schedule.
Root rot can be detrimental to the health of your plant and so the best method of prevention is to always use well-draining soil, a container or pot with good-sized drainage holes, and only water your plant when the first 2 inches of soil is dry.