Tropical, but tough – the tree philodendron

 

The large and tropical leaves of the tree philodendron or Philodendron bipinnatifidum a.k.a. Selloum, are unmatched for their beauty and texture. If you are looking for a large foliage plant that does well in our area, the tree philodendron is likely to be an addition to your landscape.

Often kept as a container plant, the tree philodendron can grow up to twelve feet tall with a similar spread with time. While many philodendrons are vine-line, this species develops a rosette of leaves atop an attractive sprawling trunk complete with some large areal roots. Each leaf is deeply divided and up to three feet long and eighteen inches wide. This plant does change with age as the more clump-like younger specimen matures intro an interesting asymmetrical piece of living art. Partial dappled shade is best for the tree philodendron as might be found at the edge of trees. It does like fairly moist soil which is more easily obtained in the recommended shaded conditions.

Beyond a large container plant, the tree philodendron is suitable for a planting as a foundation plant, around a pool, under the dappled shade of trees, or in mass plantings. Keep in mind its potential mature size and long, somewhat snake-like trunk so that it does not impede passersby near walkways. As the tree philodendron matures, you may be treated with an occasional flower or two. The flowers are very different and remind one of a jack-in-the -pulpit bloom. The large green to purplish flower spathe up to one foot tall opens up to reveal a white, often fragrant, spadix .

In addition to the common tree philodendron, there are some cultivars up for your consideration. One cultivar called ‘Lundii” is a more compact form of the commonly available type. Another cultivar, ‘German Selloum’ has narrow leaf lobes. There is even a variegated type called ‘Variegatum’ which features yellow attractive markings. This cultivar will need a bit more light to maintain its variegation.

The tree philodendron is fully hardy in our area and is normally readily available at all garden centers. The selected cultivars will more likely be found only in specialty nurseries and perhaps through mail order Internet sites.

A couple of parting thoughts – the tree philodendron is poisonous, so be careful with this plant around kids and pets, and when handling the sap. Propagation can be accomplished with rooted shoots taken from the base of the plant or from seed.

The tree philodendron is a tried and true Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ plant that will definitely catch your attention! For more information on all types of plant treasures for your landscape, please call our Master Gardener volunteers on the Plant Lifeline on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 4 pm at 764-4340 for gardening help and insight into their role as an Extension volunteer. Don’t forget to visit our other County Plant Clinics in the area. Please check this link for a complete list of site locations, dates and times – http://charlotte.ifas.ufl.edu/horticulture/Plant%20Clinics%20Schedule.pdf.

Resources:

Gilman, E. F. (2014) Philodendron selloum Selloum. The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.
Scheper, J. & Christman, S. (1997/2004) Philodendron bipinnatifidum . Floridata.com, Tallahassee, FL.
The Florida-Friendly Landscaping Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design (2010) The University of Florida Extension Services, IFAS.

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