Philodendron refers to an American variety of "climbing" tropical plant. They're quite often grown as houseplants, and require a general temperature range of 75-85 degrees fahrenheit. Most require little watering, and will do very poorly if over-watered or kept in a dimly lit area.

A plant that fits this genus is the Split Leaf Tree, which grows upward and must be bound to a sturdy stake or, quite often, half of a small portion of tree trunk split in two. It doesn't matter what you use for support, really, it's just essential that it has something.

These are supposed to be strong plants, though I have one and it's doing quite badly, I think due to a lack of sunlight in my closet-like bedroom.
There are many varieties of philodendron plants that are used commonly as both houseplants and for outdoor gardening. The big green leaves of these plants are wonderful for indoor air purification.

The name comes from latin, philo meaning "love of", dendron meaning "tree". These plants are tree climbers, growing special aerial roots which help anchor themselves to trees and branches.

WARNING: Most philodendron plants contain a sap which can irritate sensitive skin. The sap is also poisonous if injested (though only in large quantities), however the sap is so irritating the mouth if chewed that poisoning is not a common problem.

Split Leaf Philodendron (Philodendron Selloum)

Split Leaf Philodendron is BIG. It requires a lot of room. The leaves grow from a woody trunk on long stalks which may be up to 3" long. It can be grown outdoors in warmer climates and is often used as a ground cover. this plant looks like a palm tree of some sort due to it's woody stem and large shiny dark green palmate leaves. the woody stem will grow upright if it is staked at an early age, but more often will grow along the ground. The plant, when staked, can grow to 10' tall. When grown in optimal conditions, it will produce edible fruit which has been described as tasting like a cross between pineapple, banana, and peach. Grown indoors, it takes a LOT to kill these plants, although without optimum conditions you will wind up with a plant that has small drooping leaves, grows very slowly, and produces few, if any, offshoots.

CONDITIONS PREFERRED: Soil should be well drained, peaty, and rich, and should be kept moist (but NOT wet). Water at the first sign of leaf-droop but be careful to avoid getting water on the leaves. Fertilize once a month. The plant prefers plenty of light (full or indirect sunlight) but will do well in partial shade. If you keep it near a window it should do well.

PROPAGATION: This philodendron will reproduce itself by forming offshoots (also called "pups") at or near the base of the woody trunk. These can be separated from the main root system and planted elsewhere. The roots of this plant are very hardy -- to separate an offshoot, take the plant out of it's pot and try to separate the pup by hand. If it cannot be separated by hand, use a sharp sterilized knife to cut the root ball. This plant can also be propagated through stem cuttings -- it is ideal to cut the woody stem just below any air roots which have formed, however if there aren't any viable air roots, simply cut the trunk at the desired length and place the bit you have cut off into very rich soil (manure is best but not ideal for indoor growers) until roots are formed. The trunk which is left will form new growth. Pruning is unecessary -- in fact, in the case of Philodendron Selloum the only pruning that can really be done is the separation of offshoots or the cutting and repotting of the trunk.

Heart Leaf Philodendron (Philodendron Scandens)

Another very common houseplant variety is heart leaf philodendron commonly seen as long trailing vines growing in a pot or hanging basket or grown against moss covered bark to form a "tree" (the proper term for this type of planting is "totem"). The plant is characterised by 3" - 4" glossy dark green heart-shaped leaves growing on viney stems. It can be used as an outdoor ground cover in warm climates. It can also be used as a ground cover in large planters containing other plants. This plant DOES flower, although it is extremely rare to see flowers on plants outside of their natural tropical habitat. This plant is very hardy and is excellently suited for a beginning indoor gardener due to it's quick spreading and ease of propagation.

CONDITIONS PREFERRED: It prefers partial or full shade and nutrient rich soil. Although it will not grow as well as it would in soil, Philodendron Scandens can live in water for extended periods. The leaves should be dusted as often as is necessary. Sometimes the plants can seem like one continuous vine without any branches (I once had one which was almost 10 feet long). The plant can be made bushier by pinching off leaves, this will cause the plant to branch.

PROPAGATION: Along the viney branches there are small brown nubs formed where the leaves meet the stem. These nubs, when in contact with soil or water, will grow roots. There are many ways to propagate this plant, the easiest being to cut a branch just below a root-nub and place it in water with a few pieces of horticultural charcoal to reduce the likelihood of rot. As soon as new leaf growth is noted, pot in rich soil. The plant can also be propagated within it's own pot by pinning vines at the root-nub to the soil with hairpins or bent wire. The root-nub in contact with the soil will sprout new roots shortly. When you are rooting sections of Philodendron Scandens, the plant will greatly benefit from misting several times a day (it is best to use purified water, minerals in tap water build up on the leaves).

Update, March 13, 2001

I recently was told that heart leaf philodendron can grow quite successfully completely submerged in an aquarium environment with fish. In fact it is said that like all awuatic plans, both the philo and the tank environment will be better for it. The fish waste which fouls the water is nourishing to the philodendron and broken down, the plant quells algae growth by out-competing it for those nutrients. The philo it known to be able to grow indefinitely rooted in water, so long as it is kept fresh.

The philodendron may be planted in an aquarium by using fresh cuttings. You must be sure to wash the leaves thouroughly to remove any unwanted chemicals. You can either float leaves on the water and let the roots grow in the open water, or you can stick the ends of the cuttings firmly underneath the gravel. Planted in the gravel, the philodenron will grow in it's same above-water growing habits. It will form a vine and eventually the leaves will reach the surface.

Even low-light aquariums with standard lighting will provide adequate light for philodendron (except highly variegated or completely yellow varieties). The plant will grow profilically, and you will have to prune the growing tips for bushiness.

I found it regrettable there was so much unfounded information on this page.

First, the genus Philodendron contains approximately 1000 species. ALL are rain forest plants. Some prefer less water but there aren't any that prefer "little watering". The majority receive 8 months of rain on a daily basis every year. There are such species as Philodendron bipinnatifidum from Brazil that can survive on little water but that isn't the norm. The reason people "think" their plants don't like water is they plant them is the "mud" sold in stores as house plant soil and the plant's rooms can't move around and breathe. The species need a very porous soil that freely breathes.

Just a few posts later another grower talks about growing P. scandens which is correctly Philodendron hederaceum in an aquarium. Both can't be true! Ether the genus likes water or it doesn't. The truth is the genus is loves water but it needs to drain quickly.

The world of tropical plant growing as well as the internet is filled with myths. People believe what a friend tells them and pass it along as truth when it is nothing but fiction.

The "Split Leaf" Philodendron mentioned above appears to be Monstera delicosa rather than Philodendron selloum which is correctly known as Philodendron bipinnatifidum. Philodendron selloum does not produce a fruit as does Monstera deliciosa. That problems appears to come from the use of the same common name for both species.

This link may help: http://www.exoticrainforest.com/Grow%20or%20Growing%20Philodendrons.html

If you go to the homepage of the site you'll see a photo of some very large Philodenron climbing a post. Those plants are watered 10 minutes per day, four days per week, often twice daily during the heat of the year. Please don't just believe anything you read! It may well be a myth!!!

http://www.exoticrainforest.com/

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