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Plant-o-Pedia: Lacy Tree Philodendron


Alea Joy and Anne Parker‘s Philodendron bipinnatifidum. Photo: Dabito (Outtake from The New Bohemians book)

If you’re looking for a quick-growing, easy-going plant that makes a strong statement in any space- the Philodendron bipinnatifidum, aka Lacy Tree or Split Leaf Philodendron, is the plant for you. They’ve even been known to come back from the brink of death (we rescued ours from the clearance section at the hardware store and with a little love and proper care it’s huge and happy). We love the lobed leaves that can grow to be several feet across (even larger when grown outdoors), and the wide spread of the plant- perfect to fill a space with jungalicious vibes!


Photo: Danae Horst for The Jungalow

GET THE GREEN:  Lacy Tree/Split Leaf Philodendron (Philodendron bipinnatifidum)

WATER: Keep soil evenly moist, but not soggy. Plant in pot with good drainage. Water when top 2-3 inches of soil is dry to the touch.

SUNLIGHT: Bright indirect light. A southern or eastern facing window is ideal. If the plant starts getting too leggy, it needs more light

PLACEMENT: Lacy Tree Philodendrons can grow to be quite large, and grow rather fast, so ensure you have space for a big plant. Rotate it regularly to maintain an even shape. While some of the leaves will grow upwards, many spread and grow outwards, so you may need more horizontal space than vertical.

EXTRA CREDIT: As aerial roots appear, simply tuck them back into the pot. A careful re-potting every few years may be necessary as the Lacy Tree Philodendron plant grows- they have been known to burst their pots if the pot is too small. When new leaves form, the may be protected by a sheath which will dry up and may be removed. As older leaves fall off, their stems will leave leaf scars on the trunk- this is normal and gives the trunk it’s signature appearance.

WORD OF CAUTION: According to the ASPCA, Lacy Tree Philodendrons are toxic to cats and dogs.

Is there a plant you want to learn more about? Leave a comment and you may find it in a future Plant-o-Pedia!

Alternative Text Danae Horst

Total Plant Geek. Check out my botanical shop and design firm, Folia Collective.

29 responses to “Plant-o-Pedia: Lacy Tree Philodendron”

  1. Keri says:

    So what do you do when you have a love of plants but also have pets? If a plant is toxic to cats is it really that big of a deal for the cats to be near it?

    • Danae Horst says:

      Hi Keri,

      That can definitely be tricky! I grew up in a house full of plants and pets, so it’s definitely possible, you just need to be prepared to maybe lose a few plants to cats munching on them. ;)

      If your cats tend to try and eat your plants, you’ll want to be sure anything in their reach isn’t toxic- it can make them sick if they eat those. If they don’t try to eat them, you’re probably good! Generally, most house plants aren’t toxic to just be near- but we recommend always checking with your vet or the ASPCA first before bringing in anything you might be worried about.

      Hope that helps!

      • Tina says:

        Hi, a am a huge plant lover and my husband’s brother family live next door. I always put bamboo skewers in all my plants, sharp side up. This is a great Deterant for animals, including chickens. They don’t get hurt seriously, just a poke to tell them to keep away. They don’t even bother trying anymore.

  2. Post on Lacy Tree Philodendron is interesting but, I want to know that does it purify the air?

  3. Yiyi says:

    Thank you so much! This is wonderful info. But what do you mean by leggy?

    • Alena says:

      The term ‘leggy’ typically means that the stems are longer than they normally would be as the plant tries grow in the direction of the light (e.g. towards the window).

    • Danae Horst says:

      Great question! Yep- Alena is right- it refers to the stems getting long and a bit thinner as they seek out more light.

  4. Miranda says:

    i read about one that has lived like 20-30 years! it was overtaking the man’s living room (this is not that story but this one is FORTY! http://www.post-gazette.com/life/garden/2013/01/19/Pittsburgh-woman-kept-her-philodendron-growing-for-more-than-40-years/stories/201301190216).

    aren’t they related to monstera deliciosa???

    i had one that lived about 2 years but i ultimately killed it. named him phil. phil the philodendron. poor guy. rip.

    • Danae Horst says:

      Hi Miranda! Wow- isn’t that amazing?!

      Philodendrons and Monstera’s are in the Araceae family, but not the same genus, so they are related, but not as closely as most people think. Monsteras aren’t Philodendrons at all, despite a common name for the Monstera being ‘split leaf Philodendron’,

      Sorry for your loss (but cute name)! I think we’ve all been there from time to time. ;)

  5. […] on out to Planterra, but don’t go before you read the Jungalow’s amazing Plant-o-pedia for some botanical geeking out. I love me a good tropical tree, in a rattan pot […]

  6. Lelia Roberts says:

    I would love to know how you revived yours? My mother gave me a huge one years ago and I have completely neglected it. I am just now getting in to plants and want to try reviving him. I wasn’t sure it was a philodendron at first, so I know now I was over watering him. His leaves have completely fallen over. I cut back the browned leaves. I also cut out all the dead roots. I moved from inside to a shaded place outside. Any other tips you may have?

    • Danae Horst says:

      Hi Lelia- I apologize for missing your comment originally! How is yours doing after you moved it outside? If you’re still in need of tips, let me know and I’ll try to help!

  7. […] common choice among air purifying plants, this Lacy Tree Philodendron is one of the few of its kind that enjoys lightly moist soil. It will keep your air clean and fresh […]

  8. Sarah says:

    I recently got a lacy tree philodendron and re-pottted it in a large pot since it was rootbound when I purchased it. Every since I re-potted it the leaves seem to be drooping more and dying off at a faster rate (3 last week!). I think I put it in too large of a pot (3 inches wider and 5 inches deeper) and am not sure the best way to rescue it. Right now I have it in a south facing window and wait for the top of the soil to dry out before watering it. How did you manage to rescue yours? Any advice? Thank you!

    • Sherry Smith says:

      It could be the new potting soil. Maybe try fresh soil.
      Add a food spike to the soil.
      Rotate in the sunny window every few days.
      Once it has had about 2 or 3 weeks to recover from re-potting with fresh soil, try not watering for 4, 5 days, let soil get a liitte bit dry, then give a good watering and mist leaves with lukewarm or room temp water. They don’t like cold water.
      Hope this helps.

    • Danae Horst says:

      Hi Sarah- I missed your comment originally, so apologies for the delay. If you haven’t been able to get yours sorted out, it does sound like it might have been a bit too big of a pot, which can cause a plant stress, and often makes it hard for a plant to use enough of the water that the excess amount of soil is holding, which can cause root rot. Let me know if you’re still having trouble with it and I’ll try to help. I hope you were able to save yours!

  9. Sherry Smith says:

    24 yrs ago we rescued an almost dead philodendron abandoned by previous tenants, when it outgrew our bay window it moved to central Florida with my parents. It now has beautiful blooms for about 18-20 years, has created it’s own domain with large roots and is about 28 to 30 feet wide.
    It is a beauty. It has been such a survivor we hate to cut it or it’s roots, but is now taking over a huge section of the driveway.
    Any suggestions as to how to go about pruning the plant/roots.

    • Danae Horst says:

      Hi Sherry- I know this is a very delayed response, so you probably already solved this, but you can definitely cut back this plant. The sections you cut off can be rooted and I’m sure someone near you would be excited to take a mature cutting off your hands! Hope you found a good solution- your plant sounds beautiful!

  10. Anonymous says:

    I have one of these plants which is about 26-30yrs old. I am wondering if the plant can be split into separate pots?
    Thanks. Joss

    • Danae Horst says:

      I apologize for missing your comment originally- yes, Philodendrons can usually be divided. You may need to actually cut the root ball in half to divide it, unless there is an obvious division in the root ball already. Hope that helps!

  11. Jenn says:

    My split leaf got over watered by my son, he was “helping”. I took it out of the pot and dried the soil and root bulb, the roots were white and healthy so it wasn’t sitting in soggy soil for long. I reported it with better draining soil and a pot with more drainage holes. It seems to still be getting soggy/spongy stems and drooping. Anything more I can do or is it a waiting game? It still have new growth coming up so am I over the worst of it?

    • Danae Horst says:

      Sorry for a long delay in replying to your comment, Jenn! I don’t know if you got this sorted out, but generally, what you did was the right course of action after an accidental over watering. It will often cause the plant some stress though, so it can take some time for it to bounce back- a waiting game like you said. While the plant is re-adjusting, it’s best to water sparingly. Hope it pulled through!

  12. Kelly says:

    Split leaf philodendrons (aka Monstera deliciosa – not actually philodendrons at all!) and lacy tree philodendrons (selloum or Philodendron bipinnatifidum) are actually different plants. They require different care. Without seeing the base of your plant, I can’t exactly tell which it is, but it looks more likely that it’s a Monstera deliciosa. Lacy tree philodendrons have big, tree-like stalks out of which the leaves shoot, while Monstera deliciosa do not. Either way, it’s a beautiful plant, and you are clearly keeping it very healthy. I only posted this clarification so that those with lacy trees did not get misinformation about their plant care.

    • Danae Horst says:

      Thanks for your comment Kelly! Both of the plants in these photos are indeed P. bipinnatifidum, though they are both in more late-juvenile stages and since they are being grown indoors in containers, may never exhibit the characteristics of a mature specimen growing outdoors, such as the very developed tree-like stalks you mention. Those develop with maturity, and as leaves are lost over time, leaving behind leaf scars and seeing the stalk become more woody. ‘Split Leaf Philodendron’ is a common name used for a variety of species, several species of Monstera included, but a few Philodendron as well. We include common names in these posts, so that readers not familiar with botanical names can more easily find the plants they’re looking for. As with all Plant-o-Pedia posts, the care info included here is for the Philodendron bipinnatifidum, when grown indoors as a houseplant. You’ll find our post about Monstera deliciosa here: https://www.jungalow.com/2015/09/plant-o-pedia-monstera-deliciosa.html

  13. Janaina says:


    I recently rescued a neglected Lacy Tree Philodendron from a hardware store and it’s been doing great, so great in fact that it has a baby plant growing next to the enormous one in the pot. Can I remove it and plant it in its own container? I wish I could add a photo to show…

    • Danae Horst says:

      Hi Janaina! I love that you rescued one- rescue plants are some of the most rewarding plants from my own plant family! Philodendrons can definitely be divided- you’ll need to remove the whole plant from it’s pot and separate the baby plant’s roots from the main roots. You’ll likely need to use a sharp, clean blade to cut the roots that connect the two plants, but as long as some of the roots are still intact, you can often plant the baby directly into soil. If you opt to just cut the new stem off the plant, you can root it in water and once the roots are nice and robust, plant it in soil. I hope that helps!

  14. Elizabeth Brannan says:

    I have an old, over 60 years, split leaf philodendron. The trunk/main stem is getting long and has grown more horizontal. I am afraid it will break off. It has been putting out a lot of stem roots which I direct back into the pot. Can I cut it just below a few of the stem roots and just shove the stem in a pot?

    • Danae Horst says:

      If you take a cutting from your plant, I’d advise rooting the cutting in water, before potting it. That way, you can be sure vigorous roots have developed and not risk over or under watering that portion of that plant. For a large cutting you may need to use a large vase, or pitcher and might need to support the cutting while it roots so that it doesn’t tip the vessel over. Hope you have success with it!

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