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Easy Houseplants - Tree Philodendron

Updated on August 2, 2017
Dolores Monet profile image

An avid gardener for over 40 years, Dolores has landscaped for private clients and maintained one client's small orchid collection.

Tree Philodendron


Tree philodendron is a wonderful houseplant with large, deeply lobed leaves. On some forms, the notched leaves show a ruffled edge that produce a very showy effect. Bright, medium green leaves can grow as large as 3 feet long. The plant is excellent for filling in empty spaces and creating a natural focal point in a room.

Often called by one of its Latin names, the main difference between forms such as Philodendron bipinnatifidum and Philodendron selloum is leaf size, how deeply the leaves are notched, and how ruffled the edges of the lobes appear.

Young plants do not show these deep notches but are heart shaped. As the plant ages and new leaves appear, slight differences show up. The change is gradual as the plant matures.

A native of south America, Tree Philodendrons also make attractive patio plants and may enjoy a summer vacation out of doors. Never allow them to suffer temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit as they are tropical plants. Grow as an outdoor specimen in US Zone 9 - 11.

Tree Philodendron is occasionally called Lacey Tree Philodendron. It is not actually a tree but grows up a tree in the wild. It is called a tree because of its trunk like stem.

Tree Philodendron Care

Tolerant of low light in winter, Tree Philodendron prefers bright to medium light indoors and warm temperatures of 70 - 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Bright light does not mean you should set the plant in a window that faces south but several feet away from the window. Direct sun through glass can scorch a houseplant.

  • Plant in a large container with drainage holes in the bottom. Place plant over a saucer or something to catch drained water so as not to ruin the floor.
  • Plant in loose, well drained potting mix.
  • Water enough to keep soil slightly moist, but not soggy.
  • Do not allow drained water to accumulate in catch pot.
  • Fertilize once a month spring through autumn. Some experts suggest fertilizing twice a month, but this sounds a bit heavy handed to me. If fertilizing every other week, offer the plant a weakened dose of liquid fertilizer.
  • Dust off the large leaves occasionally. Mist to provide adequate humidity.

Tree Philodendron
Tree Philodendron | Source

Tree Philodendron Problems

Poison Like many houseplants, Tree Philodendron can be toxic to children or pets if ingested, though how toxic they really are is questionable.

Brown Leaves usually indicate over fertilizing. Cut back on fertilizer. Remove damaged leaves.

Yellow leaves are often a sign of over watering, the main killer of indoor plants. Cut back on water and remove yellowed leaves; they will not revive.

Leggy plant or sprawling and droopy leaves mean that the plant is not getting enough light. Move to a brighter location, preferably an east facing window.

Moving the Plant Outdoors

You can move the plant outdoors in warm weather. Make sure to allow for some afternoon shade as the sun can become quite intense at that time of day. An area that gets morning sun is best.

Water every other day. Containers dry out quickly in hot summer weather.

Rain is so much better for plants than tap water!

Do not take the plant outside until your local frost date. One cold night can kill a tropical plant. Tropicals do best in temperatures above 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

After the plant matures it may become too large to move.

Confusing 2 Large Houseplants

Some people confuse Tree Philodendron and Monstera Deliciosa which is often called Split Leaf Philodendron. In fact, some refer to both plants as Split Leaf Philodendron. They are not the same and are not related.

Monstera Deliciosa or Swiss Cheese Plant is not a Philodendron at all. It's leaves, though deeply notched, are flatter and darker green than the leaves of Tree Philodendrons.

Leaves of Monstera have holes while Tree Philodendron does not.

Tree Philodendron grows from a single "trunk" and loses its leaves, exposing the trunk. Monstera does not.

© 2013 Dolores Monet


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    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 5 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Hi Peggy - I have seen some very huge specimens at botanical gardens and in conservatories. Of course the environment of a typical house (as well as the container) is not tropical. I guess if they got that big indoors nobody would have them, haha. Though a giant one would be pretty. Thank you!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      These Philodendrons grow outside in Houston, Texas and can get quite large. We had them growing at our former home and they made for a terrific specimen plant. I would never have thought to grow them inside. Perhaps the size of the pot keeps them from growing so large? They certainly are a pretty tropical plant. UUI votes and tweeting.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 5 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Hi sgbrown - yes! You are certainly right about that. I think that's why I started this series in late winter - just missing the gardening! Thank you!

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 5 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      I love to have indoor plants. It brings nature inside with you, even in the winter. Most of my indoor plants are fairly small as I live in a smaller house. These are beautiful plants and I would love to have one, but they get a little too big for me. Great information and pictures! Voted up and more! :)

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 5 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Plantrees - thank you!

      Hi Kittythedreamer - I had so many plants when we lived in an apartment. But when we moved into a house, and started having kids, I totally forgot about houseplants. And so many of them are poisonous! Thanks for stopping in!

      Hi drbj - I remember those Swiss Cheese plants were popular in the 70's (that's the 1970s btw) . I had the Tree Philodendron and used to tote it outside in summer for a little holiday. Seems like nobody had both. Thanks!

      Hi Fossillady - you know some of these plants look so exotic, then when you go to the plant shop, there they are. Tree Philodendrons are widely available and relatively inexpensive. A friend of mine just got one at Loew's. Thank you!

    • Fossillady profile image

      Kathi 5 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

      Hello Delores, What a beautiful plant, I have a perfect place for one that is now occupied by a fake fig tree. Are they hard to come by?

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 5 years ago from south Florida

      Thanks for this interesting info, Dolores. Now I no longer feel as philodendron-challenged. So there IS a big difference between these two plants? Who knew?

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Nicole Canfield 5 years ago from Summerland

      I love philodendrons but don't have them in my house because of pets and children. Awesome article though! Great information on a wonderful house plant. :)

    • Plantrees profile image

      Plantrees 5 years ago

      Highly nformative, contemporary and factual plant information.