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Philodendron bipinnatifidum

Botanical Name —  Philodendron bipinnatifidum
Common Name — Selloum, Lacy tree philodendron, or Horsehead philodendron
Plant Family — Araceae

Background 

Philodendron bipinnatifidum is an incredibly adaptable tropical rainforest dweller native to South America. As it matures, selloum will often create a woody stalk to support itself like a tree, but it also shows epiphytic behavior when given a chance to climb and root on a larger plant. Anything to get as much light as possible in the dense rainforest canopy! Many-fingered, fanlike leaves give this popular houseplant its iconic look. These large leaves, plus the plant’s spreading habit, will often result in a plant wingspan of up to ten feet, even indoors.


Growth Requirements

Sun

  • Selloum prefers a good two or three hours of direct sunlight throughout the day, with bright indirect light the rest of the day. Don’t let the leaves receive too much direct sunlight, since that can burn the leaves. 
  • Place this plant near an east facing window. If you have south or west facing windows, place a couple of feet away from the window and/or provide shade with a sheer curtain. 
  • They can tolerate lower light conditions but can become leggy and produce smaller leaves.

Temperature/ Humidity 
  • Philodendrons like room temperatures around 65 to 80 ºF.  They should always be kept above 55 ºF.  
  • Though philodendrons like high humidity, they can tolerate and thrive where there is low humidity. If your home is dry, especially during the winter months, your plant can benefit from misting with tepid water or a humidifier. 

Water
  • Allow the soil to completely dry to 2 inches down between waterings.  Water thoroughly when dry and let the excess drain out the bottom of the planter.  Water more often during the spring and summer months.  Reduce watering as often in the fall and winter months.
  • If your philodendron receives too much water the leaves will begin to wilt, and older leaves will often turn a bright yellow. Brown, crisping leaves mean the plant needs more water.

Soil/Roots
  • Use a well aerated, quick draining potting mix. Amend with up to 50% coco coir to lighten the soil and mimic the aerated soil of the rainforest.

Flowering
  • Mature plants occasionally produce green color spathes with white spadix. The flowers on this plant can appear at any time of the year but mainly in summer. However, it is common for houseplants not to flower.
Fertilization
  • In spring and summer, fertilize once a month with an organic houseplant fertilizer.

Propagation
  • Philodendrons are easily propagated by stem cuttings. Cut the leaf stem where it meets the stalk and place in a vase of water. It’ll take a couple weeks, but eventually you’ll see roots growing in the water. Plant in a small pot when the roots are at least two inches long. Regularly water the newly-potted cutting. The soil should be just barely moist to the touch at all times.

Health / Diseases
  • The most common insect pests for philodendron in homes are scale, mealybugs, and thrips. Spider mites can occasionally be a problem as well.
  • Overwatering can cause root rot.
  • Leaf spot diseases can be a problem and are usually caused by improper watering.

Maintenance (pruning, legginess, repotting)
  • Repot your philodendron once the plant has become root bound.  Choose a planter that is two sizes larger than your current planter.  Make sure to add fresh soil when repotting.
  • Plants can be selectively pruned to reduce legginess and to also encourage new growth for a fuller look.  
  • Dust, rinse, or mist leaves frequently to prevent dust from clogging the plant’s pores.
Toxicity
  • Philodendron leaves are toxic to pets and humans since they contain calcium oxalate. Swelling of the lips and tongue, and stomach irritation with possible vomiting can occur when ingested.