Hailing from South America, Philodendron selloum (fill-loe-DEN-drun sell-LOE-um) is a plant with many names and an impressive size when fully grown. It a common Philodendron in the landscape.
Known by the common name tree philodendron, it’s also known as split-leaf philodendron, split-leaf elephant ear, and a sport called Philodendron hope.
A newer alternate scientific name for is member of the Araceae family is Philodendron bipinnatifidum.
This perennial tropical plant gains its common names from the thick, trunk-like stem it develops, as well as leaves featuring deep lobes and a shiny, dark green color.
These leaves of Philodendron selloum are attached to the trunk by long, smooth petioles.
Selloum is also known to grow aerial roots.
Tree Philodendron Selloum Plant Care
Size & Growth
Tree pholodendron has a fairly long lifespan, eventually achieving a height of approximately 5’ feet.
The drooping upper canopy may stretch up to 10’ feet across and comprise of leaves up to 3’ feet long and 12″ to 14” inches wide.
Flowering will not occur until the plant is 15 to 20 years old.
Flowering and Fragrance
It is very difficult to get Phillodendron selloum to flower indoors.
The white inflorescent flowers are encased in a spathe.
They have no discernable scent.
Light & Temperature
The ideal lighting conditions are a bright indirect light but does grow in full sun as well..
The leaves will turn a darker green in low light conditions and the plant will become more prone to rot.
Full sun may result in leaf burn and will also cause rapid growth sapping nutrients from the soil, requiring more frequent feeding.
Excess bright light can cause the leaves to fade.
When planting outdoors, selloum will grow well in USDA hardiness zones 8b to 11.
A good outdoor spot will have dappled sunlight or only a few hours of direct sunlight and deep shade.
Indoors, it prefers temperatures above 55° degrees Fahrenheit (13° C).
Avoid placing near any sources of drafts, such as windows or vents.
A controlled temperature of 65° to 78° degrees Fahrenheit is ideal (18° – 25° C).
Higher humidity is necessary due to the thin leaf tips structure.
You may choose to mist the plant daily, although it’s easier to provide a humidifier or wet pebble tray, especially if the plant will be living in a room with low natural humidity.
Watering and Feeding
As with many tropical houseplants, watering requires proper moderation.
Ideally, you’ll want moist but not soggy soil.
A good practice is to add distilled water until you see water draining from the bottom of the drainage hole in the pot.
Wait until the soil surface is dry before adding more water to avoid overwatering and possible rot.
Give your selloum a water-soluble plant food monthly during spring and summer and 6 to 8 weeks the rest of the year.
The fertilizer should contain micronutrients, especially calcium and magnesium, and be diluted by half or as directions recommend.
Soil & Transplanting
Selloum prefers a rich, slightly alkaline soil.
Don’t let salt build up in the soil, as this can damage the leaves or even kill the plant.
The soil should be loose and well-drained, although you may also successfully plant in sphagnum moss, a soil-free mixture, or a potting mix marked as suitable for Philodendron plants.
When transplanting, a general rule of thumb is to choose a new container 1″ – 2” inches larger than the previous one.
Transplanting should occur whenever the roots become crowded.
Grooming And Maintenance
Pruning is an important part of raising your tree philodendron.
It not only allows you to control the shape and size but easily remove the lower leaves to display more of its trunk.
Removal should be done with sharp scissors or pruners at the base of the leaf stem for the best results.
The sap can cause skin irritation in some people, so you should always wear gloves and wash your hands after pruning.
How To Propagate Split-leaf Philodendron
Stem cuttings are the easiest way to propagate Philodendron selloum although most growers commercially grow them from seeds.
After pruning, choose stem cuttings with an intact leaf node.
The cutting may then be propagated in either soil or water.
Water propagation requires little more than a jar of water in a warm, safe spot.
However, to use soil, you must first dip the cut portion of the stem in root hormone and repotting in moist soil deep enough to hold the cutting upright.
As you cannot see the root growth, you will need to either watch for new growth or gently pull on the cutting to see if it offers resistance.
Once the roots have formed, you may transplant the new plant to a bigger pot or more permanent home.
Tree Philodendron Bugs, Pests and Diseases
Selloum is susceptible to a range of common pests, including:
- Spider mites
… although these may be kept at bay by simply a spray made of water and insecticidal soap.
Just be sure to avoid hitting the leaves as much as possible.
Reduce the risk of fungus gnats by removing the husks of new leaves and any yellow leaves or dead growth regularly.
Scale is another common issue affecting the stems, although this may be gently scraped off with a soft toothbrush.
Bacterial blight is more serious, creating dark green spots on the leaves which quickly spread.
This latter issue is caused by moisture on the leaves and will rot out the infected leaves.
Be sure to remove any affected leaves immediately to avoid contaminating healthy foliage.
It is not drought-resistant and will need extra watering in such conditions.
However, overwatering may result in root rot, which is potentially fatal to this plant.
Philodendrons are inherently poisonous due to the calcium oxalate crystals they contain.
Symptoms of ingestion include mouth pain, swelling of the lips and tongue, and vomiting.
Pets may also exhibit drooling.
Suggested Philodendron Selloum Uses
Outdoors, selloum is great for mass planting and foundations or as a container plant or informal hedge.
Indoors, the plant gives visitors a taste of the Amazon but takes up a lot of space.