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How to Care for the Tropical Philodendron Selloum

If you’re looking for philodendron selloupeatm care tips, this post has you covered! I’ve got a total rundown of everything you need to know to help this tropical beauty thrive, including light, soil, and water needs, as well as propagation tips and more.

How to care for the tropical philodendron selloum

Today is all about the philodendron selloum, or “tree philodendron,” which is a great way to add a tropical touch to any room in your home. They are easy to care for and have beautiful, broad tropical leaves that will liven up your home. The philodendron selloum is also known by the names “horse head philodendron,” “hope philodendron,” “lacy tree philodendron,” and “split leaf philodendron.”

large philodendron selloum
large philodendron selloum

What is a philodendron selloum?

These plants are part of the genus philodendron, which means “tree loving” in Greek. This genus has around 450 varieties, all of which are easily recognized for their foliage with large green leaves that can grow up to 5 feet long! Their enormous leaves are shiny and create cool-patterned shadows because of their unique cutouts. And the plants can get really wide, too. They take up a lot of space.

Philodendron selloums filter toxins like Xylene and Toluene, actually improving the air quality of the room that it’s in. However, it’s important to note that they are slightly toxic to humans and animals because of their calcium oxalate crystals. When ingested in large quantities, it can cause swelling of the tongue and throat, and skin irritations. Keep out of reach of children and pets, especially cats if you’ve got notorious plant munchers!

I want to talk for a minute about what a philodendron selloum is not, too. I often see monstera deliciosa plants labeled as “split leaf philodendron,” confusing it with the philodendron selloum. While the monstera deliciosa does have large split leaves, it is part of the monstera genus, not the philodendron genus. They are two totally different plants, although they are both gorgeous and have similar care needs!

monstera deliciosa
Monstera deliciosa plant, which is NOT a “split leaf philodendron” 🙂

Where did the tree philodendron come from?

Heinrich Schott studied philodendrons extensively and named this plant P. bipinnatifidum. “Bi” for double, “pinna” for feather, and “findo” for split. Altogether, the classification denotes a bilaterally symmetrical plant with feathery, split leaves. (Aka, a plant with gorgeous, tropical leaves.) I had never heard of the leaves described as “feathery” until doing this research, but I can totally see that.

The tree philodendron is from South America and is native to the tropics, particularly Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina, and Paraguay. They grow naturally and abundantly in rainforests. If you’re ever wondering about how to care for this plant, think about where they originated, and that should guide you: the dappled, filtered bright light of the rainforest canopy and humidity! Let’s dig in.

large philodendron selloum
philodendron selloum leaf

Lighting requirements for a tree philodendron

Philodendron selloum grows best in bright, indirect light. In rainforests, plants that are low growing like this one are not privy to direct sunlight. They live under the dense rainforest canopy of trees and foliage, which blocks a lot of the light. Too much light will turn the beautiful green leaves yellow, but some additional light may help the plant grow a bit faster.

Not enough light, will turn the leaves dark green, and its stems will become stunted and leggy. The leaves maybe also be smaller and less shiny. Place your plant in a south- or north-facing window where bright light will reach it, but not direct rays. Keep in mind that it will grow in the direction it receives light from, so rotate the plant every so often to keep it from growing slanted.

outdoor space with plants
large philodendron selloum leaf

Philodendron selloum care: Water and soil needs

The tree philodendron is accustomed to dark, rich, slightly alkaline soil. The soil should retain moisture while draining properly to prevent overwatering and root rot. The soil should always be slightly moist but never soggy or drenched. Excess salt in the soil will cause the leaf tips to burn, so a way to reduce soil salinity is through good drainage. All in all, it will grow well in a soil amended with coco coir or fine moss.

Watering is the tricky part of philodendron selloum care. Remember, they come from South America where it is constantly raining and always humid. This plant is NOT drought tolerant, and will wilt, drop leaves, and possibly die without proper watering. You must find the right balance for the plant to thrive and its leaves to appear healthy.

To water your plant, flood the pot with water slowly, then allow it all to drain out through the bottom of the pot. Every inch of the soil should be moist, especially the area where the roots are. A good way of knowing when to water again is when the top few inches of soil are dry to the touch. Usually this will be about once a week. Do not overwater or allow the plant to sit in water, because soggy soil will cause root rot and even death. During the winter, water less often and keep the soil only a bit moist.

tree philodendron leaf unfurling
large philodendron selloum
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Here is a link to the Dropbox folder with the guide!

teaser image of the cover of the houseplant care guide

Why does my philodendron selloum have yellow leaves?

I want to spotlight an issue I had with my tree philodendron last summer. The leaves started turning yellow, and it was directly related to its water and soil. I was overwatering for the type of soil I had it in. I’d planted it in a pretty dense soil since I had it in a pot outdoors.

Summers here in Maryland can get really hot, up into the mid-90s and even over 100 some days. That means my outdoor potted plants can dry out very quickly. So I typically put my plants in a denser soil just to help the pots retain a bit of moisture. I still have to water a lot of them daily or every other day since the moisture evaporates so quickly.

However, I was really overwatering my tree philodendron outside. It was under my top balcony, so it was shaded from much of the direct sun. That meant that it was drying out less frequently. I wasn’t taking that and the dense soil into consideration and was watering it daily or every other day. It was staying pretty water logged.

I noticed that all of the new growth was coming out dappled with yellow or sometimes straight up yellow. Those leaves won’t turn green once you fix the watering, so the only option was to cut them all off and lay off the watering. Once I did that, all of the new leaves emerged the beautiful shiny green color they should be.

If I do a tree philodendron outside next year, I’ll plant it in a slightly lighter soil to help with air flow and drainage. I actually ended up selling my plant at the end of the growing season on Facebook. It did so well outdoors for the summer, and I sadly didn’t have room for it inside!

large tree philodendron outdoors on a patio
philodendron selloum yellow leaves
philodendron selloum yellow leaves
philodendron selloum yellow leaves
new tree philodendron leaf

Want to check out more philodendrons? See my care guides for philodendron birkin, philodendron micans, and heart-leaf philodendron.

Temperature and humidity

For the best growth, philodendron selloums require warmer temperatures and humid environments. Warm temperatures are typically considered 70-85oF, which shouldn’t be an issue if you’re growing it indoors. Keep your plant away from windows or doors with cold drafts, and heaters and stoves that could fatally dry it out.

Since its leaves are so thin, it requires quite a bit of moisture in the air to grow properly. Most homes are not naturally humid enough, so there are measures you’ll have to take to keep its surrounding air moist. Mist it frequently during the spring and summer months, and occasionally during the winter. You can also sit it on a wet pebble tray to keep the air humid or get a humidifier.

This plant is a great candidate for summering outside, especially in our area. It gets really hot and humid where we’re at in Maryland, so this plant is right at home with a bit of shelter from direct sun. Under a balcony, large tree, deck, or sun shade is great.

large tree philodendron
large tree philodendron leaf

How to propagate A philodendron selloum

The best way to propagate this lovely houseplant is through stem cuttings. After you have pruned it, keep those fresh cuttings to grow new plants. Pruning is necessary to keep it from overgrowing or to shape it how you’d like. Use sharp scissors to cut leaves at the base of the leaf stem.

The stem cutting must have the leaf node intact because that’s where the roots will grow from. This is a lot like propagating the monstera deliciosa, the plant this one is often confused with! After you’ve chosen the perfect cutting, place it in a jar of water in a warm spot for the roots to emerge. You can also put the cutting in moist soil, which might be a bit more difficult for the roots to sprout. Check for root growth by gently pulling on the stem and feeling for resistance.

This plant also grows babies, much like the philodendron xanadu. You can easily split these babies off of the mother plant gently, making sure to keep as much of the root system in tact as possible. Then simply plant this baby in it’s own pot. It will eventually grow and create more babies.

philodendron xanadu baby
Example of a philodendron xanadu baby separated from the mother plant.
large philodendron selloum leaves

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image collage of philodendron selloum care with text overlay
image collage of philodendron selloum care with text overlay
Brittany Goldwyn
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