How to Grow and Care for Tree Philodendron (Philodendron bipinnatifidum)

Overhead shot of a young tree philodendron (Philodendron bippinatifidum) in a white pot against a white background.

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In This Article

The tree philodendron (Philodendron bipinnatifidum) is a large plant that is native to the tropical regions of South America, namely Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina, and Paraguay. This tropical aroid also grows naturally in the East and Gulf coasts of the United States and is popular as a houseplant. Mainly grown for its large and unique foliage, the tree philodendron is easy to grow and adds a tropical feel to any space.

Botanical Name Philodendron bipinnatifidum, Thaumatophyllum bipinnatifidum 
Common Name Tree philodendron, lacy tree philodendron, Philodendron selloum, horsehead philodendron 
Plant Type  Perennial
Mature Size 15 ft. tall outdoors, 10 ft. spread outdoors; 6 ft. tall indoors, 8 ft. spread indoors.
Sun Exposure Partial
Soil Type Loamy, moist but well-draining
Soil pH Neutral, alkaline
Bloom Time Spring, summer
Flower Color White, green
Hardiness Zones 9a, 9b, 10a, 10b, 11a, 11b
Native Area South America
Toxicity Toxic to pets
Close up shot of a tree philodendron (Philodendron bippinatifidum) leaf.

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Tree Philodendron Care

If its common name is any indication, the Philodendron bipinnatifidum can grow very large depending on its environment. In its native habitat, this tropical plant can get up to 15 feet tall with leaves up to 5 feet long! When grown indoors, however, it normally only reaches heights of between 5 to 6 feet tall with leaves that are 2 to 3 feet long. 

Similar to many other types of philodendron, the tree philodendron is not fussy about its care and grows well indoors as a houseplant. As long as it is provided with sunlight and regular watering it will be happy.

Tip

The large leaves of the tree philodendron can accumulate dust easily when grown indoors, which can hinder photosynthesis. Ensure that you regularly clean the leaves with a damp washcloth or paper towel to keep the dust at bay.

Light

The tree philodendron does best in locations that receive medium to bright indirect light. South and west-facing windows are ideal spots for a tree philodendron when grown indoors. As with most varieties of philodendron, the tree philodendron does not do well in low-light conditions. Lack of light can lead to stunted or leggy growth. The leaves of a tree philodendron reach towards the closest light source, so it is best to regularly rotate the plant to keep the growth even on all sides.

Soil

This member of the aroid family prefers soil that is moist but well-draining and high in organic matter. Use a mixture of one part perlite, one part orchid bark, and one part peat moss or coco coir.

Water

Water your tree philodendron once the top two inches of the soil are dry. The soil should be consistently moist, but never waterlogged. The tree philodendron is relatively drought-tolerant when necessary but grows best with consistent watering. However, avoid overwatering at all costs as the tree philodendron is susceptible to root rot.

Temperature and Humidity

The tree philodendron appreciates warm, humid environments. When grown indoors, average household temperature and humidity levels are usually sufficient for this tropical plant as long as it is not placed too close to a heating vent or drafty window. If you notice that the leaves of your plant are yellowing or developing crispy edges, this could be an indication that it needs more humidity and could benefit from a humidifier or pebble tray. Outdoors, the tree philodendron can grow in USDA zones 9a through 11b.

Fertilizer

Use a balanced fertilizer once a month throughout the growing season to encourage strong, healthy growth. Stop fertilizing in the fall and winter months when the plant enters dormancy to avoid fertilizer burn.

Is Tree Philodendron Toxic?

Similar to other plants in the Araceae family, the tree philodendron contains insoluble calcium oxalate crystals which make it toxic to pets and children if ingested. If your pets or children are known for getting into your plants, it may be best to avoid the tree philodendron altogether. If you suspect tree philodendron poisoning call your doctor or vet immediately to seek treatment.

Symptoms of Poisoning

  • Burning and irritation of the mouth, tongue, and throat
  • Excessive drooling
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Vomiting

Propagating Tree Philodendron

The tree philodendron can be propagated through stem cuttings. Since these plants grow so large, trimming the stems may be necessary at some point to contain the size of the plant. Instead of throwing these cuttings away you can propagate them to create brand new plants.

To take a cutting, make a clean cut below a node on the stem. Each cutting should have 2-3 leaves and a couple of nodes on the stem that will be submerged in water. Place the fresh cutting in water and put it in a location that receives bright, indirect light. Change out the water every week to keep it fresh. After a couple of weeks you should begin to see small roots forming. Once the roots are between 1-2 inches long, the cutting can be moved from water to potting medium.

Common Pests and Diseases

These tropical plants are susceptible to a few common pests such as spider mites, fungus gnats, aphids, and mealybugs. Regularly inspecting the leaves for signs of pests is the best way to catch infestations early and eradicate them quickly. 

Tree philodendrons are also susceptible to root rot, which occurs as a result of improper watering or compacted soil. Mushy stems and brown, dying leaves are both signs of root rot which can kill a plant quickly. If you catch root rot early enough, you may be able to save the plant by cutting off the rotted parts and propagating the remaining stem to grow new roots.