How to Grow and Care for Philodendron Spiritus-Sancti

Philodendron spiritus sancti

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If you are looking for a rare, unique houseplant to be the star of your collection, look no further than the philodendron spiritus-sancti. However, be prepared to pay up. These plants are rare in the wild and hard to cultivate, even for experienced gardeners and greenhouses. It's not uncommon to find a specimen of this variety of philodendron selling for $500 to $5,000 or more.

Native to Espirito Santo, Brazil, this unique plant is coveted for its elongated, sword-like leaves that can reach up to two feet long. Before adding this indoor philodendron to your collection, however, it is important to note that they are toxic to pets and people.

Common Name Santa Leopoldina
Botanical Name Philodendron spiritus-sancti
Family Araceae
Plant Type Vine
Mature Size 65 ft. long, 6 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full, Partial
Soil Type Loamy, Sandy, Well-drained
Soil pH Acidic, Neutral
Bloom Time Spring, Summer
Flower Color Pink, White
Hardiness Zones 10-12, USA
Native Area South America
Toxicity Toxic to pets, toxic to people

Philodendron Spiritus-Sancti Care

This sought-after plant is relatively easy to care for when given the correct conditions to grow in. It requires very airy, well-draining soil and consistent moisture levels; neither too dry nor too wet. This philodendron thrives in consistent temperatures and humidity levels and does not do well with fluctuations. To give these plants the best conditions to thrive, aim to mimic the conditions of their natural habitat.

The most common issue with is root rot, though it can be avoided with careful watering and airy soil. Spider mites and mealybug may also be a problem.

Light

The philodendron spiritus-sancti does best with bright, indirect lighting. An ideal location is near (but not in) a bright window. These plants are hemiepiphyte, meaning they germinate in the trees and live part of their lives without their roots reaching the ground, so they receivie bright light filtered through the tree’s leaves. When deciding where to place your plant, keep this in mind. Direct light can burn the plant, while dim areas will not provide them with enough light.  

Soil

Philodendron spiritus-sancti’s hemiepiphytic nature is also very important when it comes to soil types. These plants typically receive water and nutrients from rainfall and fallen leaves through roots exposed to mostly open air. Airy, well-draining soil is critical. Create air pockets by mixing peat moss or sustainable alternatives like coco coir, bark, pebbles, pumice, or sand. Orchid potting mixes also work well for these plants.  

Water

These tropical plants like to be kept moist, but never soggy. As mentioned above, root rot is a real threat. When deciding whether to water, check the soil first. If the top few inches feel dry, then it is time to water the plant. When you do water, be sure any excess water is allowed to drain out and away. Do not let excess water sit in the pot. How often you water will depend on your humidity levels. Always check the soil before watering and use caution until you learn how often your plant likes to be watered. 

Temperature and Humidity

Philodendron spiritus-sancti prefers stable temperatures and humidity levels. It thrives when kept between 66 degrees and 76 degrees Fahrenheit with no more than 80 percent humidity. However this plant has been known to tolerate slightly lower humidity conditions as well. Keep it away from drafty windows and doors, air conditioners, or other areas where the temperature may fluctuate. 

Fertilizer

Because these plants would naturally receive nutrients from fallen leaves, they do not require high amounts of nutrition. Therefore, they very rarely require fertilizer. Occasionally adding a very light liquid fertilizer will be plenty and may help support blooming once the plant is mature. 

Pruning

As noted above, the vines can grow to be massive specimens. They have been found to reach up to 65 feet tall in the wild. However, because these heights won’t fit in the average home, you may wish to trim the vine as it matures. Many plants available for purchase are still small, so this will most likely not be a concern for a long time.  

Propagating Philodendron Spiritus-Sancti

Propagating these plants can be quite tricky, as cuttings do not root well. However, getting them to produce seeds is extremely difficult, and many seeds sold online are not the real deal. Therefore, air layering is your best bet. If you decide to try this, proceed with caution. Some have reported their plants going downhill after being cut, so losing the plant is a possibility. 

You will need sphagnum moss, plastic wrap, tape or twisty ties, a knife, well-draining soil, and a small pot with drainage holes. Then follow these instructions: 

  1. Select a vine with at least one node. It is best to select new, healthy growth that already has a few leaves on it. 
  2. Wet the sphagnum moss and cover the node completely. 
  3. Using the plastic wrap, wrap the moss securely around the node. Be sure that only the moss is touching the node, not the plastic. This is what will encourage roots to form.
  4. Secure the plastic in place with the tape or twisty ties.  
  5. Slice a small opening in the plastic to allow airflow. 
  6. Check the moss daily to ensure it stays moist. Gently water if it begins to dry.  
  7. After 3 to 5 weeks, check the node for root growth. Once roots appear, use a clean, sharp knife to cut below the node and remove the new growth. 
  8. Plant the rooted cutting into well-draining, moist soil and place the plant in bright, indirect lighting. 

Potting and Repotting Philodendron Spiritus-Sancti

These plants can grow relatively quickly when given ideal conditions. They will most likely need to be repotted yearly. Once the plant is root bound, it will need a pot that is several inches larger to enable new growth.

When deciding on a pot for philodendron spiritus-sancti, be sure you select one that has plenty of drainage holes. Clear pots allow you to monitor the roots without disturbing the plant. Plastic pots are popular, as additional holes can be poked into the sides of the pot for extra airflow and water drainage. When it is time to repot, gently tap the pot to loosen the roots. Slide the plant out and plant it in its new pot with fresh, well-draining soil mix. 

How to Get Philodendron Spiritus-Sancti to Bloom

These plants may flower during the peak mid-summer growing season. They produce large, white and pink blooms that look very similar to peace lilies. 

Some factors that enable this plant to bloom are out of your control, such as the size and age of the plant. Older, more mature plants are more likely to bloom than young, small plants. If you happen to have a mature plant, be sure to give it conditions that closely resemble its natural habitat, including steady temperatures and moderate to high humidity. Ensure that the roots get good airflow and that it receives enough water and nutrients. Besides this, patience and time are needed.  

Common Problems With Philodendron Spiritus-Sancti

Philodendron spiritus-sancti is relatively problem-free when given the ideal conditions for growing. The largest culprits of problems with this rare plant have to do with watering and its environment.

Drooping, Yellowing Leaves

If you notice this, it is important to take a look at your soil. If the soil is soggy,, the plant is getting too much water. You will need to remedy this quickly to avoid root rot, which can be fatal. Add more well-draining material to the soil, such as coco chips, sand, pebbles, or bark. Allow the soil to dry out before watering again. 

Dry, Brown Tips

This can be a sign of two things: too much direct sunlight or too little humidity. Take a look at your plant’s environment to determine which one is most likely to blame. If it is too much light, try placing it in an area with a more indirect light source. If it requires more humidity, try misting the plant or placing a humidifier near it.

FAQ
  • Why is Philodendron spiritus-sancti expensive?

    These plants go for a pretty penny, but not without reason. They are very rare and very few are found left in the wild. They are also in high demand in the houseplant collecting world. These factors combined make the philodendron spiritus-sancti an expensive addition to your houseplant collection. 

  • How rare is Philodendron spiritus-sancti?

    Philodendron spiritus-sancti is very rare and is considered endangered, as there are very few found left in their native habitat. There are more in cultivation than there are in the wild. 

  • Where is Philodendron spiritus-sancti native to?

    Philodendron spiritus-sancti is native to Brazil, specifically the state of Espirito Santo. There are very few left in the wild. 

Article Sources
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  1. Dieffenbachia and Philodendron. (n.d.). Poison.org.