How to Grow and Care for Philodendron Xanadu

Large Philodendron xanadu in a deep purple pot on a white background.

Bilal photos / Getty Images

If you are looking for a large, tropical houseplant to add to your home then the Philodendron xanadu (Thaumatophyllum xanadu) is an excellent choice. Easy to grow with lush foliage, this Brazilian native is known for its large, multi-lobed leaves and bushy growth habit. 

Until recently, this plant was considered a philodendron, hence its common name. However, in 2018 the philodendron xanadu, along with several other plants in the philodendron genus were reclassified into the newly created Thaumatophyllum genus. Unfortunately, despite this reclassification, the xanadu is still considered toxic to pets and humans if ingested so take care with this houseplant if you have furry friends or small children at home.

Philodendron xanadu is commonly confused with its close relative, the philodendron selloum (Thaumatophyllum selloum). Both have large, deeply lobed leaves, however, there are a few distinct differences that can help you tell these tropical plants apart. First, their growth habits are drastically different. The philodendron selloum, also known as philodendron bipinnatifidum, has a climbing growth habit, developing a thick trunk and large aerial roots as it matures. In contrast, the philodendron xanadu has a more shrub-like growth habit, remaining relatively compact and bushy without climbing. Second, the philodendron selloum grows significantly larger than the xanadu—reaching several meters at maturity—while the xanadu usually tops out at around five feet tall. Lastly, while both plants are known for their large foliage the xanadu has slightly smaller and narrower leaves than the selloum, although the shapes are very similar.

Common Name  Philodendron xanadu, Philodendron ‘Winterbourn’ 
Botanical Name  Thaumatophyllum xanadu 
Family  Araceae 
Plant Type  Perennial 
Mature Size  4-5 ft. tall (indoors); 4-5 ft. wide (indoors) 
Sun Exposure  Partial 
Soil Type  Moist but well-draining 
Soil pH  Acidic, neutral 
Bloom Time  Spring, summer 
Flower Color  Green 
Hardiness Zones  9-11, USDA  
Native Area  South America
Toxicity  Toxic to pets, toxic to humans

Philodendron Xanadu Care

Like many other plants in the Araceae family, the philodendron xanadu grows well in standard household conditions, making it an excellent houseplant. It is relatively low-maintenance, enjoying medium to low light and semi-regular watering. It does not require any pruning or aggressive repotting and is not prone to any particular pests, diseases, or other problems. Here’s what you need to know about growing this tropical plant indoors.

Several Philodendron xanadu leaves shot from the side against a white background,

Dewin ' Indew / Getty Images

Light

As a forest understory plant, the xanadu is accustomed to receiving several hours of indirect, dappled light every day. As a result, it does best in bright, indirect light when grown indoors, although it can tolerate short periods of low light as well. Be careful not to expose this tropical plant to extended periods of intense, direct sunlight as it can develop leaf burn. 

Soil

Choose a soil mix that is rich, airy, and well-draining while still retaining some moisture. A combination of equal parts indoor potting soil, perlite, and orchid bark is a great option that you can easily whip up at home. Alternatively, any ready-made soil mix that is designed for aroids is a great option.

Water

Allow the soil to almost completely dry out between waterings and then water your philodendron xanadu thoroughly. Ideally, you should be watering your plant until water drains from the pot’s drainage holes (houseplants should always be planted in pots with drainage holes). Ensure all excess water has drained from the pot before returning it to its original location. 

Like most houseplants, it is generally better to under-water a philodendron xanadu than to overwater it. These tropical plants are sensitive to overwatering and can develop root rot if their roots are left sitting in water.

Temperature and Humidity

For the most part, standard household temperature and humidity levels are fine for a philodendron xanadu. That being said, these tropical plants do enjoy humid conditions where available, so providing your xanadu with an extra source of humidity will always be appreciated. Try placing a small humidifier nearby or moving your plant to a naturally humid room such as a bathroom, kitchen, or laundry room.

Fertilizer

In spring and summer, fertilize your philodendron xanadu with a balanced liquid fertilizer once a month. Ensure you dilute the fertilizer before applying it to prevent fertilizer burn.

Propagating Philodendron Xanadu

These tropical plants can be easily propagated using stem cuttings. Here’s how you can propagate philodendron xanadu in just a few simple steps. 

  1. Using a pair of sharp, clean pruning shears or scissors, remove stem cuttings from a healthy and mature xanadu. Ensure each cutting has between three to five nodes along the stem. 
  2. Remove the bottom leaves from each stem cutting to expose the nodes along the stem. Each cutting should be left with around one to two leaves for the best chance of success
  3. Prepare a small container by filling it with fresh, clean water and place the stem cuttings in the water, ensuring the remaining leaves sit above the water while the nodes are submerged in water.
  4. Place the cuttings in a location that receives bright indirect light, and refresh the water once a week. After a couple of weeks, you should begin to see small white roots forming. Once the roots are at least an inch long, the cutting can be transferred from water to soil. 
  5. Fill a small pot or container with well-draining soil and plant the rooted cutting(s) in the soil, patting it down firmly and then watering it thoroughly. 
  6. Return the planted cuttings to their bright window. For the first week, keep the soil evenly moist to help the roots acclimate back to the soil. Then, enjoy your new plants!

Potting and Repotting Philodendron Xanadu

Philodendron xanadu only needs to be repotted once it begins to outgrow its previous potting container. Usually, this means once every one to two years depending on your plant’s health and growing environment. Choose a new pot that is two to three inches larger than its previous container. Ideally, wait until the late winter or early spring to repot your plant in an effort to reduce the risk of shock. Then, ensure that you replace as much of the soil as possible with fresh soil mix and water the freshly repotted plant well.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

Philodendron xanadu are not particularly prone to any pests or diseases, but like most houseplants, there are a few common pests and diseases to keep an eye out for. Watch out for signs of spider mites, mealybugs, and thrips, as well as root rot (which often results from overwatering). Regularly inspecting your plant for signs of pests is the best way to catch any potential infestations early and ensure the problem doesn’t get out of hand.

Common Problems With Philodendron Xanadu

Philodendron xanadu are pretty low-maintenance houseplants. For the most part, these tropical plants are problem free. However, there are a few common houseplant problems that can afflict the xanadu too. Keep an eye out for the following:

Yellow Leaves

Leaves turning yellow can be perfectly normal and expected, or they can be a sign that something is wrong in your plant’s care. If your plant develops one or two yellow leaves as it ages, there is probably nothing to worry about—especially if it's the oldest leaves that are turning yellow. However, if all of your plant's leaves suddenly start turning yellow and falling off then you probably have a bigger problem on your hands.

Usually, yellow leaves are a sign of either underwatering or overwatering, but can also be an indication that your plant is not receiving enough light (and sometimes that it is receiving too much light). Additionally, yellow leaves can be a sign of temperature stress or a lack of humidity. So how can you determine what the ultimate culprit is? A close examination of your plant’s growing environment is the only thing that can be done to determine what the root cause of the problem may be.

Brown Leaves

Similarly, brown leaves are a common problem for houseplants including the philodendron xanadu. They can be a sign of underwatering, lack of light, too much light, or lack of humidity. Again, closely examining your plant’s growing environment to determine the culprit is the only way to figure out what may be causing the leaves to brown.

FAQ
  • Are philodendron xanadu fast growers?

    These large houseplants are considered fast growers if they are given the right conditions.

  • How big do philodendron xanadu get?

    A smaller relative of its large cousin, the philodendron selloum, the xanadu usually grows to between four to five feet tall when grown indoors.

  • Should I mist my philodendron xanadu?

    While philodendron xanadu does well in standard household humidity levels, they will thrive if given some added humidity. That being said, misting the leaves is not the best way to increase the humidity for the plant and can actually result in fungal infections due to the increased amount of water that is left sitting on the leaves. Instead, try placing a humidifier close to the plant or moving your xanadu into the bathroom or laundry room if you are concerned about humidity. 

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  1. Pet Poison Helpline. "Philodendron." petpoisonhelpline.com. N.p., n.d. Web.