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How to care for tree philodendrons: watering, repotting and where to position them

Keep tree philodendron plants together for a bushy look, or separate into pots carefully and get more bang for your buck.

Alamy Stock Photo
08 April 2021

uch loved, philodendrons come in all shapes and sizes.

The name philodendron comes from the Greek philo for love and dendron for tree, because these natives of the rainforests of South America are often found climbing the trunks of trees in order to reach the forest canopy.

The tree philodendron, or Philodendronbipinnatifidum, also enjoys climbing, but unlike other varieties, this philodendron forms a tree of its own. Tree philodendrons are the manspreaders of the plant world.

If you want the tropical foliage but don’t have the space for a full-sized plant, seek out its smaller cousin Philodendronxanadu, which takes on all the best features of a tree philodendron in miniature.

How to care for tree philodendrons

Tree philodendrons can grow to be majestic beasts, huge stems and deeply lobed leaves resembling dangling fingers. Their majesty requires patience, as plants only tend to put on a few new leaves of growth each year, taking years to form their arching trunks that give them the name tree philodendrons.

Having to wait for your indoor jungle to mature can mean your plants are at risk of houseplant problems like mealybug and spider mite, but the shiny, slightly leathery leaves and limited hiding places mean your tree philodendron is much less likely to succumb to this problem. And much easier to remedy if they do, by simply washing the leaves.

When positioning your tree philodendron, remember they thrive in bright indirect light. That means not too close to a south-facing window that gets the strongest rays of sun, causing the leaves to scorch or turn a washed-out green. Windows that get sun in the morning or afternoon are less of a concern. Low light conditions won’t be the end of the world, but you won’t get the best out of your philodendron. No one wants an unhappy houseplant.

Native to the rainforests of South America, tree philodendrons are used to fairly moist and humid conditions. Through spring and summer, aim to keep the compost moist but not wet. In the cooler months of the year, allow the compost to dry out between watering. If you notice leaves going brown at the tips it could be a lack of humidity. Mist the leaves, both on top and underneath.

Propagating tree philodendrons

The tree philodendron and its smaller cousin can be propagated by division or removal of offsets around the base of the plant.

If you’ve just bought your philodendron, chances are there are a few plants in the pot. This keeps it looking bushy, but if you want more bang for your buck, you can carefully prise these plants apart and pot them into an organic, peat-free compost.

George Hudson is head of plants and education at Walworth Garden, a south London charity delivering workshops, courses, therapeutic horticulture and plants for sale in a garden open to all. Follow them on Instagram at @walworthgarden