Big, bold and beautiful foliage of Philodendron bipinnatifidum

Philodendron bipinnatifidum (Tree Philodendron, Cut-Leaf/Split-Leaf Philodendron, Lacy Tree Philodendron, Selloum)

Philodendron bipinnatifidum (Cut-Leaf/Split-Leaf Philodendron, Tree Philodendron, Selloum), in our garden May 2009They were just tiny tots, less than 30 cm tall when added to our garden about four and a half years ago, but looking at them now, we’re absolutely pleased with their current status.

This duo have matured marvelously over the years, almost 1.3 m tall and as wide, with strikingly big, bold and beautiful bipinnatifid foliage.

A little restricted though being container-grown, otherwise these tropical beauties would definitely have been much larger and more spectacular as grounded garden specimens.

Plant Profile, Culture and Propagation :

  • Botanical Name: Philodendron bipinnatifidum (syn.: Philodendron selloum)
  • Common Name: Cut-Leaf Philodendron, Split-Leaf Philodendron, Fiddle-Leaf Philodendron, Tree Philodendron, Lacy Tree Philodendron, Selloum, Elephant Ear Philodendron, Banana-de-macaco (one of the many Brazilian names)
  • Family name: Araceae (Arum family)
  • Plant type: Ornamental semi-woody shrub that is native to Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina and Paraguay in Southern America.
  • Features: Our potted Philodendron bipinnatifidum (Cut-Leaf/Split-Leaf Philodendron, Tree Philodendron, Selloum) - shot March 2009Philodendron bipinnatifidum is one of the most well-known species of the large genus Philodendron, consisting of approximately 1000 species or more. Belonging to the Meconostigma group within the genus that are collectively known as Tree Philodendron species, this tropical rainforest plant with tree-like base can reach incredible height and width (sometimes 7 x 7 m), especially in its natural environment, where it supports itself by climbing trees as an epiphyte, using its rope-like anchor roots to wrap around tree stems.
    In cultivation though, P. bipinnatifidum with a medium to fast growth rate, typically grows outdoors as a large semi-woody shrub between 2-4.6 m tall with an equal width, but much smaller as a potted houseplant indoors.

    Philodendron bipinnatifidum (Tree or Cut-leaf Philodendron, Selloum): close-up of foliage, shot May 2009It is popularly grown as an ornamental or landscape plant for its beautiful and glossy foliage with large bipinnatifid leaves of variable lengths, up to 90 cm long. The dark green leaves are deeply divided into many lobes with undulated margins and display prominent veins. They are held on long arching petioles (up to 1.5 m long) that are smooth and similarly colored as the leaves, emerging closely from the basal rhizome that gradually develops into an upright single tree-like trunk.

    Philodendron bipinnatifidum (Tree Philodendron, Selloum): its tree-like trunk, aerial roots and petioles, shot May 2009The unbranched trunk with a thickness ranging from 6-15 cm in diameter may eventually bend or flop, being top-heavy or aged. It displays characteristic leaf scars created by the discarded discolored basal leaves and sends down to the ground numerous and tough aerial roots for support and to assist in transporting water and nutrients from the soil.
    Typical of an aroid, it produces an inflorescence, consisting of a greenish spathe enclosing a whitish spadix that bears the petalless flowers. Remarkably, the spathe is about 1 ft tall. Whatever, it rarely blooms if grown indoors. More notable and amazing is the flower’s ability to maintain a constant high temperature of 114 degrees F for the 2 days that it is opened, the only one of a kind on earth! Read more about the heat-producing Philodendron flower at UBC Botanical Garden Forums and UCC Biology Department.
    Be aware that the plant contains toxic calcium oxalate raphide crystals that upon ingestion may cause severe swelling and affects respiratory functions.
  • Culture (Care): Philodendron bipinnatifidum or P. selloum as it was previously and commonly known, is an easy-to-grow foliage plant that needs little attention, preferring the warm, humid and wet tropical conditions.
    Light: Grows best in dappled sunlight or bright filtered light. Can take full sun or partial shade but not deep shade.
    Moisture: Water moderately and regularly. Soil need to be kept evenly moist but not waterlogged. It enjoys humid and well-aerated conditions. Mist the plant regularly if air is very dry to provide adequate humidity.
    Soil: Grows best in a sandy loam medium that is humus or organic-enriched and can retain moisture, yet drains well. Nonetheless, it is not choosy about soil, any kind will do.
    Others: Remove discolored and withered leaves. Repot in larger container if too root-bound. Be extra careful when handling this plant as the sap may irritate sensitive skin and cause rashes, as well as stain clothing. Feed with a balanced liquid fertilizer fortnightly. No serious pests or diseases.
    For subtropical regions: Hardiness: USDA Zone 9 -11. This is supposedly the hardiest of all philodendrons, though not frost-hardy, where frost or freeze may kill the leaves or whole plant to ground-level, but it will usually come back when warm weather returns in spring. Nonetheless, it’s best to give protection during winter freezes or overwinter indoors.
  • Propagation: Easily propagate by division of offsets or suckers that sprout laterally from the root system of the parent plant and grow them individually as new plants. Can also be propagated from cuttings (check here), by tissue culture (mostly done commercially) or seeds which are rarely available, though one can learn how-to artificially pollinate the flowers to set seeds here.
  • Foliage plants: Philodendron bipinnatifidum, Fern, Caladium lindenii, Spathiphyllum and Anthurium at our garden porch, May 2009Usage: P. bipinnatifidum or Cut-leaf Philodendron make spectacular ornamental or landscape specimen shrub outdoors in gardens, parks and public places, especially where there’s spacious land area. Great as a filler plant for bare spots or in borders under tall trees.
    Excellent in containers as a patio or deck plant, or located at porches, entrances and courtyards as stand-alone specimen or amongst a crowd of low-growing foliage plants.
    Use it too as an impressive houseplant in homes or as a decorative interiorscape plant in public buildings, offices and lobbies or greenhouses.

Other external links:

More photos of Philodendron bipinnatifidum
Philodendron bipinnatifidum on a raised concrete border #1/2 Philodendron bipinnatifidum on a raised concrete border #2/2

Last edit: June 2, 2016

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10 Responses to “Big, bold and beautiful foliage of Philodendron bipinnatifidum”

  1. k.bone Says:

    just wanted to know if this plant can be left outside on a covered porch for the winter, i live in north east N.C. not sure what zone i’m in. we do get some freezing weather for about a week at a time. my porch gets the morning sunrise. thanks

  2. Anya Says:

    Hi there, wonderful site! I am not experienced with plants and have just been given a 40 yr old house plant from my father. It is a Philodendron bipinnatifidum (Tree Philodendron, Cut-Leaf/Split-Leaf Philodendron, Lacy Tree Philodendron, Selloum)… according to your website.

    This plant – given it’s age – has a very very long trunk and tons of vines growing off the trunk. Due to the length of the trunk it is now growing almost horizontally.

    I was wondering if it is wise (or possible) to do some plant surgery – essentially hosing off the root ball and cutting half the trunk off (leaving many of the root vines growing from it) and replanting it so it sits upright.

    I love this plant but want it to sit upright. I also would feel horrible for killing the thing given how long my father had it.


  3. patty Says:

    Hi Jacqueline I found your site when googling info on the reproduction of the philodendron selloum because our plant had the spathe that I’d never seen before. That being said, your site information and links were the most informative and I would like to thank you for your post.
    I will be posting the photograph on my site soon, it would be an honor if you could stop by and take a look :)

  4. Jacqueline Says:

    How lovely to discover its flower on your plant. We’ve never seen it before on our plants and would definitely hop over at your site to view it.
    Thanks for your positive comments, Patty… it made my day. :-)

  5. Island Folks Says:

    something very unusual which we noticed about ours….. last week when removing a few lower leaves from our large plant, some of the liquid from the plant dripped on my left hand….. an immediate burning sensation happened and i noticed a very very distinct smell from the leaf where i had just removed it from the trunk. Any info on toxicity? or use in bush medicine situations. It is a serious burn which blistered up and is purple black just as if i has been burned with hot grease.

  6. Jacqueline Says:

    Sorry to read of your severe encounter of its sap on your hand, Island Folks. Indeed this plant is toxic and poisonous and will cause skin irritation. Check out the external link on Wikipedia which I’ve provided in my article above on toxicity.
    Hope all’s well with your hand now. Take care.

  7. Karen Says:

    My split leaf philodrendron is in a pot about 4 foot tall and easily as wide. This plant is in our office and our boss has a problem with all the suckers shooting out all over the floor. Can these be removed without harming my plant. I’ve tried feeding them into another pot to try to propagate. They seem to have rooted however are not growing any leaves of their own, which I would think needs to happen for them to survive on their own. Your advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks, Karen

  8. Jacqueline Says:

    Hi Karen,
    We’ve never tried propagating this plant, so unable to advise wisely. However, I’ve provided a link in my article above at sub-item ‘Propagation’… you may want to check that out as it provided good tips on propagating by cuttings.
    All the best to you.

  9. chris Says:

    i got sap on me from this plant from removing a section of it at my sisters for her because it will grow uo and out of your yard . now i have a rash where ever the sap stuck to me and spreading . red little bumps that itch and oozing a too days afterwards. so do yourself a favor and if you get it on yourself remove it as quickly as possible with a solvent because its real sticky.

  10. Daisy Ortiz Says:


    I was given a pot of 2 Philodendron bipinnatifidums. The larger of the two plants stands ~ 55 inches tall and its think trunk has bent over from its own weight. I want to take it out of the pot in an effort to make the plant stand more upright. I have read one can cut the trunk but I’m not certain this would work for the potted plant. Unfortunately bringing the plant outdoors and letting it take it natural vining shape is not an option as I live hardiness Zone 6b: -5F to 0F. Any advice or how-to videos would be helpful. Thank you!

    Thank you

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