Caring for Your Split Leaf Philodendron: 10 Tips for a Healthy Plant

Philodendron xanadu in a pot on white background.
pornpawit/Shutterstock.com

Written by Rebecca Mathews

Updated: August 24, 2023

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Split leaf philodendrons look fantastic. Their glossy, tropical looks bring instant impact to a boring room, and their split leaves help purify indoor air. What’s not to love? Oh, the care requirements! Don’t worry; split leaf philodendrons have very few demands, and once they’re nailed, this beautiful plant brings pleasure for years.

Caring for your split leaf philodendron is easy — here are ten tips for a healthy plant.

What Is a Split Leaf Philodendron?

Philodendron bipinnatifidum or Philodendron selloum is a tropical plant in the Araceae family that typically grows around six feet (1.8 meters) tall and wide. It has large, glossy, heart-shaped leaves that split as they mature. Some varieties have wavy margins, too.

Wild philodendron species number in the hundreds. The original plants hail from the Caribbean, Colombia, and Venezuela, but plant breeders have created new cultivars that better suit our homes.

This tropical beauty is low maintenance and easy to grow outside in warm zones such as Florida or California or indoors all year round.

Difference Between Split Leaf Philodendron and Monstera Deliciosa

Split leaf philodendron and monstera deliciosa (also called the “Swiss cheese plant”) look very similar. The easiest way to spot the difference is Monstera’s perforated leaves (called fenestrations) sometimes reach the edges, whereas a split leaf philo’s leaves clearly split to the margins every time. A monstera’s foliage also appears flatter and shiner than ruffled split leaf philodendrons.

It’s a slightly different look but a completely different plant. Don’t worry if you can’t tell which you have because they have identical care requirements.

monstera outdoors

Monstera plants differ from split leaf philodendrons because they have fenestrations.

Split Leaf Philodendron’s Many Names

Split leaf philodendrons’ two botanical names are Philodendron bipinnatifidum and Philodendron selloum. Lacy Tree Philodendron and Horsehead Philodendron are its common names.

1. Best Soil Type

All philos, including split leaf varieties, need a well-drained houseplant soil mixture rich in nutrients. Look out for bags of commercial houseplant compost that include chunky orchid bark, perlite, or coco coir because these ingredients drain out excess water, so it can’t rot roots.

Perlite for indoor potted plants

Perlite aids drainage. It’s an important component of good quality houseplant soil.

2. How to Stake a Split Leaf Philodendron

A philodendron plant is a tree-like shrub, and it grows fast! Young plants push up sturdy upright stems, but as they age, their stems lie horizontally and sprawl out.

In the wild, philodendrons are epiphytes that grow on trees, so in a home, they need support. A tall, mossy pole is a good bet. Push one into the base of your split leaf’s container and gently tie it on with garden twine or commercial clips.

3. How Much Light Does a Split Leaf Philodendron Need?

Moderate to bright light is best for a split leaf philodendron, but not direct sun, which will scorch its leaves. They prefer bright, indirect light from an east or south-facing window, but if this is too harsh, consider adding a net curtain to soften the rays.

A split-leaf philodendron needing more light will lean towards a light source or turn yellow. Too much light, and it’ll turn pale green with brown burn marks.

Give the plant a quarter turn each week to ensure equal growth. If you don’t turn it, you’ll find the light side grows more strongly, and it’ll tip the container over.

Outdoor split leaf philodendrons do best beneath trees or large shrubs.

Peace lily in a living room

Net curtains (or Venetian blinds) shade houseplants, like this peace lily, from too much sunlight.

4. Best Temperatures

Tropical split leaf philodendrons prefer warm temperatures. Outside, they won’t survive a frost and thrive in USDA zones 8 to 11 and areas where the temperature doesn’t fall below 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Indoor plants need a draft-free position, so avoid that air con unit, radiator, or frequently opened window.

5. Best Way to Water  

A split leaf philodendron needs less water than you’d think.

The best way to water it is by soaking the whole pot in a bucket of water for several hours and then allowing it to drain for another hour. Replace the Philo in its display pot when the water has stopped running from the drainage holes. This prevents standing water from rotting the roots over the coming days.

Allow a split leaf Philo’s soil to dry out down to an inch before watering it again. Roots need water and oxygen, consistently soggy soils drown them and rot their essential roots.

At watering time, wipe the dust from its leaves with a damp cloth to enhance photosynthesis and spray it with warm water. Misting foliage raises humidity levels similar to its native tropical rainforest home and keeps its leaves in tip-top condition.

Misting fiddle leaf fig plant, Ficus lyrata

Regularly misting tropical houseplants boosts humidity and removes dust.

6. What About Fertilizer?

Like all houseplants, split leaf philodendrons eventually use up their soil’s available nutrients. Unless it’s replaced, your glorious leafy friend will turn yellow and die. Avoid this with a weak application of water-soluble fertilizer every month in the growing season.

Always follow fertilizer instructions because too much poisons a philodendron.

7. How to Trim a Split Leaf Philodendron

You can trim away damaged foliage at any point, and if you want to halt its upward growth, cut off the leader stem.

You might spot odd-looking tendrils growing off the main stem. These are aerial roots used to grip tree trunks. You can wind them around the mossy pole, leave them, or snip them off.

closeup monstera aerial roots

You can leave or trim a philodendron’s aerial roots in place.

8. How to Repot a Split Leaf Philo

When a philodendron first arrives home, it’s best to repot it.

Choose a liner pot just an inch larger than its current pot with many drainage holes. Gently slip the philo from its pot, remove some soil, check for root rot (snip it off), and place the root ball in the new pot’s center. Gently backfill will fresh houseplant compost and let it soak in water.

Split leaf philodendrons generally need repotting every few years. Roots poking through the drainage holes is an indication it needs more room.

Re-potting encourages growth, it’s likely the plant will gain height and new foliage a month or two after repotting.

A 'Marble Queen' pothos plant with roots exposed

Houseplants need repotting when roots poke through the drainage holes.

9. Split Leaf Philodendron: Pests and Diseases

Split leaf philodendrons rarely develop diseases if they’re well cared for, but bugs may attack them:

Aphids: Sap-sucking aphids drink life-giving sap from plants. These little vampires are hard to spot, so the first sign is usually crinkled leaves and yellow specks. Use rubbing alcohol on a Q-tip to remove the aphids or squeeze neem oil into the hard-to-reach areas. A dish soap and water spray mixture is another good anti-aphid tactic.

Spider Mites: Much like aphids, spider mites drain split leaf philodendrons of their essential sap, but you’ll first notice white webbing in the leaf-stem joints. Get rid of them the same way as aphids.

aaphids attacking leaf

Aphids drain sap from split leaf philodendrons, which causes yellow patches and poor growth.

10. Why Is My Split Leaf Philodendron Dying: Troubleshooting Guide

The number one reason indoor tropical plants die is overwatering. Killing with kindness is real! However, there are several issues a philodendron may run into. Check out this troubleshooting guide.

Yellow leaves: Overwatering, too much sun, lack of fertilizer, and pest attacks cause yellow leaves. If your Philo is growing at ground height, dog or cat urine may be another culprit.

Brown patches: Pest attack or sun scorch causes brown patches. If it has brown leaf tips, that’s most likely due to underwatering.

Leaning: The plant is not receiving enough light, so it’s leaning toward a light source. Move it closer and rotate it.

Soggy stem: Overwatering causes rotten roots and a soggy stem. It’s game over at this point.

Drooping foliage: Too much fertilizer or not enough water. If you’ve given too much fertilizer, repot the split leaf philodendron straight away to limit the damage.

Are Split-Leaf Philodendrons Toxic?

Split leaf philodendron leaves contain calcium oxalate. If ingested, it causes throat swelling and vomiting in animals and in humans, too. Use gloves when handling them and place these gorgeous plants somewhere pets and children can’t reach.

Cute Black bombay cat portrait with big yellow eyes sit on windowsill with green houseplant at home

Split leaf philodendrons contain toxins that make humans, cats, and dogs unwell.


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About the Author

Rebecca is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on plants and geography. Rebecca has been writing and researching the environment for over 10 years and holds a Master’s Degree from Reading University in Archaeology, which she earned in 2005. A resident of England’s south coast, Rebecca enjoys rehabilitating injured wildlife and visiting Greek islands to support the stray cat population.

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