Philodendron bipinnatifidum: care, propagation & tree philodendron varieties


My fascination with the world of plants led me to study horticulture. Whether they are crops or ornamental plants, whether they are found in the tropics or are native to our region, each plant has its own special characteristics.
I love to be inspired by the incredible variety in botanical gardens and try to bring as much nature as possible into my flat and onto my balcony.

Favourite fruit: mango, banana
Favourite vegetables: garlic, aubergine

Tree philodendrons are popular, low-maintenance houseplants that are great for adding a tropical vibe to any room. With several varieties to choose from, there is something for everyone looking to recreate that holiday feeling at home.

Lots of tree philodendron leaves
Tree philodendron in its natural habitat [Photo: Poetra.RH/]

The tree philodendron (Thaumatophyllum bipinnatifidum syn. Philodendron bipinnatifidum, Philodendron selloum) has impressive leaves and a strong trunk with unique leaf scars. Keep reading to find out how to plant and care for tree philodendrons and discover some of the different varieties.

Philodendron bipinnatifidum: origin and characteristics

The tree philodendron, also known as lacy tree philodendron, oak leaf philodendron, horsehead philodendron or split-leaf philodendron, is native to the rainforests of Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina and Paraguay. Until 2018, this plant was classified in the genus Philodendron, hence the names Philodendron bipinnatifidum and Philodendron selloum, but it has since been assigned to the genus Thaumatophyllum. Tree philodendrons are either hemiepiphytic, meaning they grow on a host plant at first but later establish contact with the ground through their roots, or terrestrial, meaning they grow on the ground their whole life. This member of the arum family (Araceae) grows to around 4m high outdoors but indoor tree philodendrons usually only reach up to 2m. Tree philodendron leaves are deeply lobed, can reach up to 1m in length and grow on long petioles. At first, the leaves grow from the base of the plant but as the plant matures it develops a thick stem from which it forms a tuft of leaves at the upper end.

Close-up of leaf scars on tree philodendron trunk
Tree philodendrons have thick stems with very unique leaf scars [Photo: CarlosHerrerosfotografia/]

Tip: to find out more about the difference between terrestrial, epiphytic and hemiepiphytic plants, check out our article on the genus Philodendron.

In their natural habitat, it takes tree philodendrons upwards of 10 years to flower. They usually do not flower when kept as houseplants due to the suboptimal conditions in our homes. Tree philodendron flowers come in the form of a green-white spathe surrounding a spadix, which is typical of arum plants. Tree philodendrons are unique in that the tiny flowers that grow on the spadix are male in the upper third, female in the lower third and sterile in the middle. The sterile ones give off heat, which helps to spread the chemicals that attract pollinators.

Close-up of tree philodendron spadix and spathes
Tree philodendrons have flowers that are typical of members of the arum family [Photo: Kobus Peche/]

Tree philodendron varieties

There are several varieties of Philodendron bipinnatifidum, all of which share the same location and care requirements. Here are some of the most popular types of tree philodendron:

  • ‘Hope’: like many Philodendrons, this variety has heart-shaped leaves when young, but later starts developing deeply lobed, arrow-shaped leaves. As a houseplant, it grows up to 1m in height and width.
Philodendron selloum ‘Hope’ houseplant
Philodendron selloum ‘Hope’ [Photo: Kirsten Cox Photographer/]
  • ‘Atom’: can reach a height and width of up to 1m. The leaves have unique wavy edges and grow to between 30 and 50cm.
A small Philodendron bipinnatifidum ‘Atom’ plant
The tree philodendron variety ‘Atom’ [Photo: Jaromir Chalabala/]
  • ‘Tortum’: stands out with its fine and very deeply lobed leaves. Philodendron ‘Tortum’ also grows up to 1m in height and resembles a palm tree.
Deeply lobed leaves of Philodendron ‘Tortum’
Tree philodendron ‘Tortum’ [Photo: Nina van Vlaanderen/]
  • ‘Xanadu’: one of the most popular varieties, Philodendron bipinnatifidum ‘Xanadu’ trees boast multi-lobed leaves and grow up to 1.5m tall.
Potted Philodendron Xanadu
Tree philodendron ‘Xanadu’ [Photo: rattiya lamrod/]

Although tree philodendrons are no longer considered philodendrons, there are many types of philodendron that might be worth looking into if you are a fan of them generally, such as Philodendron ‘Prince of Orange’. These do not take up quite as much room as tree philodendrons and have unique orange foliage.

Planting tree philodendrons

Tree philodendrons like very bright but indirect light. As tropical plants, they need warm soil. Keep them at room temperature and down to around 16 °C at night but never below 15 °C. Putting them somewhere cold, on a cold tiled floor for instance, increases the risk of root rot.

Philodendron bipinnatifidum deeply lobed leaves
Philodendron bipinnatifidum like plenty of bright but indirect light [Photo: marie martin/]

Like most tropical plants, tree philodendrons love high humidity and do not tolerate draughts well. They feel at home in humus-rich and well-drained soil. Our Plantura Organic All Purpose Compost is an example of a good soil for these plants, as it comes pre-fertilised and is well-structured. It also stores water well and has a slightly acidic pH value, which is ideal for tree philodendrons.

Tip: we recommend mixing a third of expanded clay into the soil to improve drainage and help prevent waterlogging.

Organic All Purpose Compost, 40L
Organic All Purpose Compost, 40L
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  • Perfect for all your house, garden & balcony plants
  • For strong & healthy plants as well as an active soil life
  • Peat-free & organic soil: CO2-saving composition

Philodendron bipinnatifidum care

Philodendron bipinnatifidum are relatively easy to care for. Just make sure to always keep the soil moist but not wet. To check if you need to water it again, stick your finger into the top layer of soil — if it feels a bit dry to the touch, it is time to give your plant a drink. If your tree philodendron is lacking in nutrients, you may notice the leaves start to discolour or even drop. To prevent this, use a high-quality liquid fertiliser. Our Plantura Liquid Houseplant Food, for instance, is a natural fertiliser that helps tree philodendrons to grow healthily. It is also animal-free and easy to apply — simply dilute some of it into the water you use to water your plants. Fertilise your tree philodendron every 2 weeks from spring until autumn.

Potted tree philodendron on chair
In the right conditions, your tree philodendron will produce beautiful lush foliage [Photo: Tran Trung Designer/]

Tip: dusting your tree philodendron’s leaves regularly not only makes the plant look nicer, but also allows it to photosynthesise more efficiently.

Liquid Houseplant Food, 800ml
Liquid Houseplant Food, 800ml
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  • Perfect for a wide variety of houseplants & foliage plants
  • Liquid fertiliser for robust plants & healthy growth
  • Quick & easy application - child & pet friendly

Repot your tree philodendron as soon as you notice any roots poking out of the drainage holes or hanging down the side of the pot. Depending on your plant’s growth, this usually means repotting once every 2 years. When repotting, give the roots plenty of room (both width and depth).

Relatively small Philodendron selloum leaf
Repotting your tree philodendron will give its roots more room and will encourage it to produce more leaves [Photo: marie martin/]


Propagating tree philodendrons can be done by division or by cuttings. Which method you choose depends on the variety and the age of the plant.

Propagating by cuttings is easy. Simply take a cutting, place it in some soil and new roots will grow. Where exactly you will need to cut depends on where the nodes are. With the variety ‘Tortum’, for instance, you can cut the leaves from the stems just below the nodes. New roots will then develop from this point and the mother plant will continue to grow unharmed.

You can also propagate young plants that have not yet developed a woody stem by dividing them at the roots. You can then pot up the individual plant parts at the same planting depth.

Potted tree philodendron outdoors
Propagation by division is possible when your tree philodendron is still at this growth stage [Photo: Tran Trung Designer/]

You can also divide older tree philodendrons that have a woody stem and aerial roots. To do this, first carefully remove the plant from its pot. Next, get a clean saw and saw the stem into several pieces, making sure each piece has enough roots and at least one leaf too. Then pot up the individual pieces into appropriate soil, but do not cover the surface of the trunk. Place the cuttings somewhere bright, water well and continue to care for them as described above.

Propagating Philodendron bipinnatifidum from seed is difficult, as these plants cannot usually pollinate themselves. In order to obtain seeds, you must have two genetically different specimens that flower at the same time so that one plant’s pollen can meet the other’s stigma. You will also most likely need to pollinate them by hand, as there probably are not any pollinators in your home. If pollination is successful, you can harvest the small white seeds and sow them directly in seed trays. Place them 0.5 to 1cm deep into the soil and keep them at approx. 25 °C. To ensure optimal humidity, put some cling film over the seed trays. Remember to air everything out regularly to prevent mould from growing. The seeds should germinate after about 2 to 5 weeks. Once the plants are about 5cm high, transplant them into individual pots. Thereafter, treat the young plants the same way you would a mature tree philodendron.

Tip: if you do not have the time or patience to wait for your tree philodendron to bloom, you can buy seeds from selected specialist dealers that are ready to sow. However, as these rare exotic seeds can sometimes be a bit past their prime, they may have a lower germination rate or may just take much longer to germinate than seeds you harvest yourself.

Philodendron bipinnatifidum in a pot
Freshly potted young tree philodendron [Photo: jamaludinyusuppp/]

If you do not have the room for a tree philodendron, you might like to consider getting yourself nerve plants (Fittonia spp.) instead. They are much daintier and have beautiful colouring and intricate leaf patterns.

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