How to Grow and Care for Tree Philodendron

Tree philodendron plant with large lobed leaves in white pot and plant stand in room corner

The Spruce / Cielito Vivas

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  Broadleaf evergreen
Mature Size 15 ft. tall outdoors, 10 ft. spread outdoors; 6 ft. tall indoors, 8 ft. spread indoors.
Sun Exposure Part shade; avoid direct full sun
Soil Type Loamy, moist but well-draining
Soil pH Neutral, alkaline
Bloom Time Spring, summer
Flower Color White
Hardiness Zones 9 to 11
Native Area South America
Toxicity Toxic to humans and pets

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 grow to 15 feet tall with leaves up to five feet long! When grown indoors, however, it reaches heights of between five to six feet tall with leaves that are two to three 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. If is provided with bright indirect sunlight and regular watering, it will thrive.

Tip

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

Tree philodendron plant with large lobed and bright green leaf closeup

The Spruce / Cielito Vivas

Tree philodendron plant leaf with bright green and lobed edges closeup

The Spruce / Cielito Vivas

Tree philodendron plant stems with new sprouts in white pot closeup

The Spruce / Cielito Vivas

Light

The tree philodendron does best in locations that receive dappled shade or medium to bright indirect light. Indoors, sunny windows filtered with a thin curtain or window blinds are ideal spots for a tree philodendron. 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 maintain symmetrical growth.

Soil

This member of the aroid family prefers soil that is moist but well-draining and high in organic matter. The tree philodendron doesn't tolerate acidic or salty soil. To create your own growing medium, use a mixture of one part compost to make the soil more alkaline, one part perlite for drainage, and one part orchid bark or coco coir. Peat moss is too acidic.

Water

Water your tree philodendron when the top two inches of the soil are dry. The soil should be consistently moist but never waterlogged. The tree philodendron does not tolerate drought and grows best with consistent watering. However, avoid overwatering at all costs because the tree philodendron is susceptible to root rot in overly wet soil.

Temperature and Humidity

The tree philodendron grows well in warm, humid environments. When grown indoors, average household temperature and humidity levels are usually sufficient for this tropical plant if 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 filled with water. Outdoors, the tree philodendron is cold hardy in USDA cold hardiness zones 9a through 11b.

Fertilizer

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

Propagating Tree Philodendron

The tree philodendron can be propagated through stem cuttings. Because these plants grow so large, trimming the stems might be necessary at some point to contain the size of the plant. Instead of throwing these cuttings into the trash, you can propagate them to create 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. Place the fresh cutting in water and put it in a location that receives bright, indirect light. Change the water every week to keep it fresh. After a couple of weeks you should begin to see small roots forming. When the roots are between one to two inches long, move the cutting water into 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 might be able to save the plant by cutting off the rotted parts and propagating the remaining stem to grow a new root system.