A Comprehensive Guide to Growing Split Leaf Philodendrons

A Comprehensive Guide to Growing Split Leaf Philodendrons

Split leaf philodendrons are among the most sought-after houseplants today. Unlike other houseplants that can be used to decorate shelves, this indoor giant is more suitable for filling up spaces and making a statement.

While these beautiful plants may seem fussy and high-maintenance because of their elegant appearance, they’re actually quite hardy and easy to care for. Whether you’re an experienced or a novice plant enthusiast, you can grow these plants.

In this guide, we’ll provide a thorough and detailed explanation of how to properly take care of split leaf philodendrons. We’ll also help address some problems that you may encounter while growing one.

Split Leaf Philodendron General Information

Split Leaf Philodendron General Information

Scientific Name: Thaumatophyllum bipinnatifidum
Common Name: Split leaf philodendron, tree philodendron, lacy tree philodendron, horsehead philodendron
Family: Araceae
Plant Type: Perennial 
Native Habitat: South America
Preferred Environment: Warm environment
Blooming Period: Late spring to mid-summer
Mature Size: 15 feet tall, 10 feet wide outdoors; 6 feet tall, 8 feet wide indoors
Toxicity: Toxic to humans and pets

Split leaf philodendrons, or Thaumatophyllum bipinnatifidum, are perennial evergreen shrubs from the Araceae family. They’re native to the tropical rainforests of Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina and Paraguay.

They used to be classified in the Philodendron genus and were called Philodendron bipinnatifidum. However, they were reclassified to the Thaumatophyllum genus in 2018 because it was discovered that they don’t share the same DNA as other philodendrons.

Some people often mistake split leaf philodendron for Monstera deliciosa because of how similar the plants look. However, they’re not the same plant, and they belong to a different genus.

Taking Care of a Split Leaf Philodendron

What soil is best for split leaf philodendrons?

What soil is best for split leaf philodendrons

Split leaf philodendrons do best in slightly alkaline, well-draining, nutrient-rich soil that can retain enough moisture to support its growth. 

A common misconception is that they like their soil acidic, like most philodendrons. However, they typically don’t do well in acidic and salty soil, so regularly check the soil for salt buildup or pH changes.

How do I make my own soil mix for split leaf philodendrons?

How do I make my own soil mix for split leaf philodendrons

To make your own soil mix for your split leaf philodendron, combine one part compost, one part perlite, and one part coco coir in a container. Mix each component thoroughly to maximize the benefit of each.

Compost is nutrient-rich and can provide your split leaf philodendrons with sufficient nutrients. It’s also naturally alkaline, which is favorable for the plant.

Perlite will help create air pockets in the mix to improve its draining capacity and aeration. By incorporating it into the mix, you’re reducing the chances of overwatering your plant.

Coco coir, on the other hand, will help retain enough moisture to provide consistent hydration to the plant. While some may recommend peat moss as an alternative, it can be too acidic for split leaf philodendron, so it’s best to avoid it.

How often should I water my split leaf philodendron?

How often should I water my split leaf philodendron

Water split leaf philodendrons when the top 1-inch part of the soil is almost dry. They prefer a consistently moist growing medium, so it’s best not to let the soil completely dry before watering.

That said, make sure you’re also not overwatering them since they’re susceptible to root rot. Remember that the soil should only be moist, not soggy or waterlogged.

When watering your plant, water the soil thoroughly until you see some escaping from the drainage holes. This ensures that every part of the soil is watered properly.

Do split leaf philodendrons require sun or shade?

Do split leaf philodendrons require sun or shade

Split leaf philodendrons thrive when they receive medium to bright, indirect light. They are not fond of direct sunlight, which can scorch their leaves, and low light, which can hinder their growth.

East facing windows are usually the ideal places for them since these spots receive bright, indirect light. South and west facing windows will also work if they have a sheer curtain or screens to filter out the light. 

What temperature is recommended for split leaf philodendrons?

What temperature is recommended for split leaf philodendrons

Split leaf philodendrons are native to the tropical areas of South America, so they naturally prefer warm temperatures. They’re best grown in an environment of 65°F to 80°F.

These plants can’t tolerate temperatures lower than 60°F. Drafts can also be detrimental to their health, so make sure to maintain a steady environment wherever you’re growing them.

What humidity level is recommended for split leaf philodendrons?

What humidity level is recommended for split leaf philodendrons

Aim for a humidity level of around 40% or more if you’re growing split leaf philodendrons. They’re from the rainforests in South America, so they naturally need a humid environment to thrive.

If you live in a relatively dry environment, you can mist the leaves or place the pot in a tray filled with water and pebbles. A humidifier can also help maintain a consistent and elevated humidity level.

How often should I fertilize my split leaf philodendron?

How often should I fertilize my split leaf philodendron

Split leaf philodendrons are sensitive to salt buildup, so it’s advisable not to put too much fertilizer. Fertilizing them once a month throughout their growing season, spring and summer, should be enough.

Avoid fertilizing the plant during fall and winter, as they’re not actively growing during these seasons. Feeding them around these seasons can do more harm than good and may even cause fertilizer burn.

Use a balanced, liquid houseplant fertilizer whenever you’re fertilizing a split leaf philodendron. Liquid fertilizers are typically more effective than granular fertilizers since they can be readily absorbed by the soil.

How often should I prune my split leaf philodendron?

How often should I prune my split leaf philodendron

Split leaf philodendrons may need pruning at least once a year to maintain their shape and appearance. These are huge plants and can produce leaves that are 3 feet long, so pruning is essential when growing them.

Over time, damaged leaves will also appear due to various reasons. You can prune these leaves to keep the plant’s beautiful appearance.

It’s recommended to prune during spring and summer since they’re actively growing then. Just don’t cut more than one-third of the plant’s overall foliage in a single pruning session, as this can cause stress to the plant.

When should I repot my split leaf philodendron?

When should I repot my split leaf philodendron

Split leaf philodendrons are fast growers, growing about 2 to 4 inches per week. Hence, they may need more frequent repotting than other house plants.

Your split leaf philodendron will typically need to be repotted a year after you bought it. After that, repotting it every two years would be sufficient to encourage healthy development.

You’ll know that you need to repot it when you see roots coming out of the drainage holes. This typically means the plant has outgrown its current pot, and the roots have become tightly packed.

How do I repot my split leaf philodendron?

Number of steps7
Time required30 minutes
Things you needNew pot, fresh potting mix, scissors or pruning shears, water

Step 1: Prepare a new pot

The new pot for your split leaf philodendron should be an inch or two bigger than the current one. This will encourage your plant’s roots to spread and develop.

Step 2: Prepare the potting mix

The new potting mix should still be nutrient-rich and well-draining. It would be better if you use the same mix as you used in the current pot to reduce the risk of transplant shock.

Step 3: Take the plant out of its current pot

Carefully pull the plant from its current pot. If the roots are tightly packed inside the pot, you might need to carefully break the pot to remove the plant.

Step 4: Check the roots for any sign of damage

Inspect for any sign of damage in the roots. We don’t want unhealthy roots to be planted because they might cause damage to the healthier roots.

Trim away any unhealthy or rotting roots using clean and sterilized scissors or pruning shears.

Step 5: Add a layer of potting mix to the pot

Create a base in the new pot by adding a layer of fresh potting mix. Make sure that your split leaf philodendron will sit in the same depth as it was in the old pot to make it easier for it to adjust in its new home.

Step 6: Transfer the plant

Put the plant in the center of the pot and fill the space around it with fresh potting mix. Gently press around it to secure the plant in its place.

Step 7: Water thoroughly

Water the plant evenly and thoroughly after securing it in its new pot. This will help 

secure your split leaf philodendron in its place.

How to Successfully Propagate a Split Leaf Philodendron

How to Successfully Propagate a Split Leaf Philodendron

Split leaf philodendrons can be propagated through three methods: stem cutting, air layering, and using seeds. 

How to Successfully Propagate a Split Leaf Philodendron through Stem Cutting

Number of steps5
Time required20 to 30 minutes.
Things you needPruning shears or scissors, pot, potting mix, water, and plastic bag

Step 1: Wait for spring and summer

Split leaf philodendrons actively grow during spring and summer, so propagating around this time will usually give you higher chances of successfully developing new roots from your cutting.

Step 2: Take a cutting

Choose a healthy stem that has two or more leaves. Using a pair of sharp scissors or pruning shears, make a clean cut just below the leaf node or the small bump where new leaves grow.

Step 3: Plant the cutting to a new pot

Prepare a small pot with fresh potting mix. Plant the cutting to the pot and gently press the soil around it to stabilize it.

Step 4: Water the soil thoroughly

After planting, water the soil thoroughly until you see water escaping the drainage holes. Make sure to water the soil evenly, and don’t focus on one side only.

Step 5: Wrap a plastic bag around the pot

Place a plastic bag over the pot to trap moisture and keep the cutting’s surroundings humid. This will encourage faster root development. 

How to Successfully Propagate a Split Leaf Philodendron through Seeds

Step 1: Prepare the seed tray or pot

Fill a seed tray or a small pot with a seed-starting mix. The soil mix recipe we recommended earlier can be used as long as the compost is sterilized.

Step 2: Sow the seeds and water them

Place the seeds on the soil’s surface, a few inches away from each other. Press them gently into the soil, but don’t bury them too deeply since they need a lot of light to germinate.

After placing the seeds, water them thoroughly to help them settle into the soil.

Step 3: Cover the tray with a clear plastic bag or a plant propagator

Use a clear plastic bag or a plant germinator to cover the tray. This is crucial since the seeds need a highly humid environment to germinate.

Step 4: Keep the tray in a bright and warm environment

Place the tray somewhere it can receive bright, indirect sunlight. It’s also best to keep the temperature within 66°F to 75°F to help the seeds germinate faster.

Step 5: Wait for seedlings to appear

It usually takes days to weeks for seedlings to start appearing. Until you see seedlings growing, don’t remove the plastic cover or plant propagator.

Step 6: Transplant the seedlings into individual pots

Once the seedlings have two leaves or more, you can transfer them to individual pots.

How to Successfully Propagate a Split Leaf Philodendron through Air Layering

Number of steps5
Time required1 to 2 months
Things you needKnife, sphagnum moss, plant twine, plastic cover, tape or plant ties, pot, potting mix

Step 1: Peel a small portion of the stem

Using a sharp knife, make two horizontal cuts through the stem about an inch away from each other. Make sure not to sever it and just cut enough for you to be able to peel the skin of the stem.

Step 2: Prepare sphagnum moss

Moisten sphagnum moss so it’s damp but not soaking wet. Squeeze out any excess moisture to make sure it’s perfect for your split leaf philodendron.

Step 3: Cover the peeled portion with sphagnum moss

Cover the entire peeled portion of the stem with the sphagnum moss that you prepared to encourage root growth. Secure the sphagnum moss in place using plant twine.

Step 4: Encase the sphagnum moss with plastic

Once you secure the sphagnum moss into the stem, encase it with a plastic bag to prevent moisture loss. Secure the top and bottom of the plastic with tape or plant ties.

Step 5: Cut the stem when it finally develops roots

It may take a few weeks or months until the roots develop, so just wait patiently. Once roots start growing, you can cut the stem from the parent plant and plant it in its own pot.

Common Problems with Split Leaf Philodendron

 Yellow Leaves

Yellowing of the leaves is one of the most common problems in various plants, including split leaf philodendrons. For split leaf philodendrons, this is usually caused by lighting and watering problems. 

If the plant isn’t getting enough light, it may produce less chlorophyll, resulting in yellow leaves. That said, light that’s too intense may also scorch the leaves and cause yellow patches.

The leaves of an underwatered split leaf philodendron are also likely to turn yellow. Underwatering can cause plant stress, which can be manifested by the plant through yellow leaves.

How to Fix Yellow Leaves

If your split leaf philodendron is placed in a shaded area, move it near a window with plenty of bright, indirect light. If it’s already in a bright location, but there are still yellow patches, move it a few inches away from the window to avoid further scorching.

If the plant is receiving enough sunlight and doesn’t show signs of scorching, check if the soil is dry. If it’s dry to the touch, water the plant thoroughly and evenly.

Observe the plant for a few days for any changes. If the soil dries up in a day or two, add more coco coir to the soil to improve its moisture retention properties.

Brown and Curling Leaves

As we’ve mentioned earlier, split leaf philodendrons are very sensitive to salt buildup. If there’s a significant buildup of salt and minerals in the soil, their leaves can start curling and turning brown.

Salt and mineral buildup can impair the plant’s ability to absorb water, oxygen, and essential nutrients, leading to brown spots in the leaves. The buildup will also force the plant to curl its leaves to conserve its resources.

How to Fix Brown and Curling Leaves

Flush the soil to remove the excess salt. Water it thoroughly, allowing water to flow through the drainage holes for several minutes to make sure all the excess salts are gone.

Whenever you’re watering your plant, use distilled water or rainwater. Avoid using hard water or softened water since they typically contain a lot of minerals and salt.

Moreover, be cautious with fertilization. Don’t fertilize the plant during winter and fall since they’re more focused on surviving rather than growing.

Pest Infestation

Although split leaf philodendrons are relatively hardy and less prone to pests than other houseplants, they can still be infested by pests. The most common types of pests that infest them are spider mites and scale insects.

Spider mites are often found on the underside of the leaves. They usually cause a lot of stippling and webbing on the leaves, causing damage to the overall health of the plant.

Scale insects, on the other hand, appear as waxy bumps on the leaves of split leaf philodendrons. They suck out sap from plants, leading to stressed and weakened plants.

How to Fix Pest Infestation

Isolate infested plants from your other houseplants to ensure the infestation doesn’t spread. Trim away the heavily infested leaves since you most likely won’t be able to save them.

For spider mite infestation, you can apply neem oil to the plant to kill the pests. You can also spray insecticidal soap or rubbing alcohol on the infested area to eliminate the remaining ones.

For scale insect infestation, try removing each of them using a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol. If there are many of them, you can spray them with insecticidal soap once or twice a week.

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