Philodendron selloum, now known as philodendron bipinnatifidum, is a lush plant that steadily blooms into a massive statement piece. This beautiful plant is one of the most popular houseplants for a reason. As you care for your philodendron, it will grow to massive heights and impress everyone with its 18-inch leaves. Long-term devotion to this striking plant reaps rewards: in 15 to 20 years you'll have some of the most interesting and beautiful blooms you’ve ever seen.
Native to subtropical areas in South America, philodendron selloum also grows well in plant hardiness zones nine through 11 in the United States. If you live in a different zone, start your philodendron in a pot. You can keep the pot outside, though once temperatures drop below 20 degrees F, you should move it indoors. To plant, gently slide the philodendron out of its current container and hold your palm flat against the soil. Over the pot, gently shake most of the soil off and set in the container, spreading out its roots. Fill the pot with soil up to the previous soil level.
A philodendron selloum propagates best with stem cuttings. Using sharp, clean scissors, cut a short four to six-inch piece from the end of a healthy stem, just below where a leaf connects to the stem. Cover the cut tip of the stem with a small amount of rooting hormone and plant it in a small pot. To prevent the soil from drying out, you can cover the pot with plastic wrap. Check the soil every day to ensure it stays moist. After a few weeks, gently pull on the stem. If there is resistance, the roots are developing and you can remove the plastic wrap.
Because the plant is native to the forest floors of subtropical areas, it likes slightly moist soil. It can be difficult to figure out when to water the plant and overwatering is typically responsible for killing a philodendron selloum. Allow the top inch of soil to dry between waterings. You can insert your finger into the soil up to the first knuckle as a way to measure the moistness. Don’t let the plant sit in water.
These plants adore bright, indirect or dappled light. While you can grow your philodendron in shade, the plant will often look darker and slightly unhealthy. It will also grow much slower. A philodendron selloum can acclimate to direct light but will see a dramatic increase in growth rate and require many more nutrients.
Generally, philodendron selloum plants aren’t picky with their pots. As the plant grows, you can identify when it’s time to move pots by checking where the roots are. If the roots have filled the pot, simply transplant the philodendron to a pot that’s between one and two inches wider and deeper than the previous one.
Picking the right soil is key to a happy and healthy tree philodendron. Use loose, well-drained soil that’s high in organic matter for the best results. Alternatively, soilless mixtures like peat-vermiculite or peat-perlite will also work. Some growers find that the plants are capable of growing in 100% sphagnum peat moss.
Thankfully, philodendron selloum plants are not prone to pests and insects, though you might encounter the odd aphid or mealybug. Occasionally showering the plant with water or using an insecticidal soap can keep pests in check. If you do find insects like mealybugs on your plant, simply dip some cotton balls in rubbing alcohol and wipe the bugs away.
Though they don’t have many pests, philodendron selloum plants are susceptible to a few diseases. The most likely source of trouble is bacterial blight, which causes the leaves to develop dark patches before eventually rotting and dying. Pruning is the best way to manage bacterial blight, though you may need to dispose of the entire plant if it continues to progress. You can prevent the disease by avoiding overhead watering and making sure the leaves stay dry.
You should feed your philodendron selloum monthly through the spring, summer, and fall. Use a water-soluble fertilizer and dilute it to half strength. If you don’t, excess salt may accumulate in the soil, leading to leaf burn. When a philodendron selloum’s leaves turn pale green, the plant probably needs more fertilizer.
While a philodendron selloum plant makes for a wonderful addition to a home or garden, you do need to be wary of its toxicity. Wear gloves when handling the plant and make sure that no child or animal ever puts the plant in their mouths. Most philodendrons contain calcium oxalate crystals that can cause pain, drooling, and vomiting. They can also trigger swelling of the mouth and airway, making it difficult to swallow or breathe.