Monstera deliciosa in Costa Rica.
Split-leaf philodendron, Swiss cheese plant, or windowleaf (Monstera deliciosa) is a tropical plant native to rainforests of Central America from southern Mexico to Panama, and commonly grown as a foliage houseplant. It was introduced into cultivation in England in 1752. It is the only ornamental aroid also grown for its fruit. In spite of its common name, it is not a member of the genus Philodendron (it was formerly classified in that genus) but is in the same family (Araceae). It has glossy, heart-shaped or rounded leathery leaves that develop deep clefts and oblong perforations as they grow older. The leaves may be as much as 18” wide on foot-long leafstalks. The cultivars ‘Variegata’ and ‘Albovariegata’ have variegated foliage, and the leaves tend to be somewhat smaller than the species.
M. obliqua has smaller leaves than M. deliciosa.
Other related species, such as M. obliqua, have smaller leaves.
In nature this plant is actually an evergreen liana, a trailing or climbing epiphytic vine, which grows high into the rainforest canopy. It can grow 70 feet or more and rarely branches. The heavy, cylindrical, 2½ -3” stems are rough with leaf scars.
Clinging aerial roots of split-leaf philodendron.
It produces numerous, long, tentacle-like aerial roots as it grows upward which attach to nearby branches and tree trunks. The tough roots grow downward from the thick stem and will root if they touch the ground.
The young plants appear very different. Seedlings grow toward the darkest area until they encounter a tree, then they grow upwards. The leaves are small and without lobes or holes, and they grow closely overlapping each other up the tree trunk in a stage called “shingle plants.” As they grow older they develop the characteristic foliage of the mature plant. The fenestrations (holes in the leaves) theoretically are a way of allowing high winds to pass through the large leaves without tearing them.
The flowers, which are rarely if ever seen on houseplants, are a 8-12” long, creamy-white, Jack-in-the-pulpit type. The fleshy upright spike (spadix) with tiny flowers is surrounded by the boat-shaped spathe. It takes a little over a year for the fruit to mature, swelling into a 9” cone-like structure that looks sort of like a green cob of corn with hexagonal kernels. The edible fruits, called cerimans or monsteras, supposedly taste like a combination of banana, pineapple and mango and are high in potassium and Vitamin C. They are used to flavor drinks and ice cream, or are eaten fresh. The fruit ripens from the bottom up. Once the thick, hard rind of hexagonal plates or “scales” covering the individual segments begin to dry out and fall away, the off-white, custard-like pulp underneath is cut away from the inedible core to eat. There usually are no seeds, but occasionally pale-green, hard seeds the size of large peas, may occur in some of the segments.
Inflorescences (L) and fruit (C and R) of Monstera deliciosa.
The plant contains oxalic acid, so all parts are poisonous except the ripe fruits. Young fruit, that still has the covering firmly attached, contains enough glass-like calcium oxalate crystals to cause immediate and painful irritation to the throat.
Split-leaf philodendron makes a good houseplant in the right conditions
As a houseplant, split-leaf philodendron does best in bright light in summer and direct sun in winter. It can be grown under florescent light, but will not develop the leaf perforations when light is inadequate. It prefers warm room temperature and medium to high humidity, but is fairly tolerant of a wide range of conditions once acclimated. Plants do not grow below 50ºF, however, and frost will kill them.
Grow split-leaf philodendron in a rich soil mix, with ample root room to promote larger leaf growth. They can be very vigorous growers and need support to keep the stems from breaking. Provide a tree bark or strong, moss-covered support sunk into the pot for the aerial roots to attach to. Sphagnum moss wrapped around a wooden slat, secured with monofilament fishing line or nylon thread, will work well. Water thoroughly and allow the soil to dry slightly between waterings, being sure to also water the moss-covered support so the aerial roots can obtain water and nutrients. The leaves will “sweat” if the growing medium is too moist. If this happens, reduce watering to prevent root rot.
Leaves of split-leaf philodendron.
Plants kept on the dry side will have slower growth. Water less in winter. Fertilize regularly from spring until fall. The leaf edges will turn brown if humidity is too low. Wipe the dust from the leaves periodically. This plant has few pests indoors, but may be infested by aphids, mealybugs, scale insects or spider mites.
Container-grown plants need frequent repotting to accommodate the root system. They can be moved outside for the summer, but need to be acclimated to higher light levels gradually or will sunburn.
Propagate from stem cuttings from mature plants or by air layering or simple layering any time of the year. Cut the tip of the stem just below an aerial root and pot the cutting. For more plants, cut the vine into 1-foot sections, press the sections half way into the surface of a bed of rooting medium (such as a mixture of leafmold and sand), and then transplant when roots have developed. Plants can be grown from seed, but seedlings require warm temperatures and are slow to develop.
– Susan Mahr, University of Wisconsin – Madison
The monstera deliciosa is also known as the Swiss cheese plant, split leaf philodendron and Mexican breadfruit, among many other names. It is a huge floor plant with one of the most recognizable leaves in the design world. Its “Swiss cheese” nickname comes from the iconic splits and holes in its leaves and its “breadfruit” nickname refers to its corn-shaped fruit.
Monsteras have a longstanding history in art and interior design. You can commonly find pictures of the monstera leaf printed on pillows, framed on walls and even hanging solo in a glass vase.
The monstera grows natively in Central American rainforests from Mexico to Panama. Monsteras hail from the arum family like other popular houseplants including peace lilies and ZZ plants. You can grow a monstera deliciosa outside if you live in zones 10 or 11. Check out the USDA’s plant hardiness zone map to learn more about the different zones.
- Monstera Deliciosa Overview
- Types of Monstera Deliciosa
- Monstera Deliciosa Care Tips
- Outdoor Philodendron Care – How To Care For Philodendrons In The Garden
- Outdoor Philodendron Care
- Philodendron Gone Wild! When Houseplants Outgrow the House
- Philodendron Selloum
- A plant that works well in Florida
- How to Grow Warm-Weather Plants in a North Florida Yard
Monstera Deliciosa Overview
These climbing, evergreen perennials can reach up to 60 feet or more in height in their natural habitat. In your home, they can reach about eight feet in height. Their leaves alone can measure up to 2 feet long. Due to the impressive height of the monstera deliciosa, use a trellis or moist moss-covered sticks for support.
A monstera’s uniquely shaped leaves allow it to withstand downpours in tropical rain forests. Its structure also helps it take in the few streaks of sunlight that make it to the rain forest floor. These characteristics are how it gained another nickname: the hurricane plant.
These vibrant houseplants look best in living and dining rooms where your guests can admire them for all their beauty. Keep in mind, these plants take up a lot of space. So just be sure there’s extra room wherever you’re planning on showing your new greenery off. As an added bonus, they also purify the air!
Types of Monstera Deliciosa
Different monstera deliciosa varieties feature different leaves and sizes. You’ll notice subtle color variation and slightly different leaf structures in each plant. Take a look at a couple of the types you can have in your home:
M. deliciosa borsigiana
This variety is perfect for you if you lack floor space, but still want to have a beautiful monstera in your home. They typically grow quickly and are smaller in size compared to other varieties.
M. deliciosa variegata
This type of monstera deliciosa has yellowish-cream pattern dappled on its leaves. This variation takes a long time to grow and is not as common to find in homes.
M. deliciosa albovariegata
The distinct white variegation on its leaves differentiates it from other monstera deliciosa varieties. No two leaves are ever alike! Some leaves become completely white while others may feature speckled patterns. This is another rare monstera variety, similar to the M. deliciosa variegata.
Monstera Deliciosa Care Tips
Monsteras are simple to take care of and require the right balance between sunlight, water and temperature needs. Take a look at their care guidelines below to see how you can keep your plant strong.
Light: The right amount of sunlight is essential for a monstera’s leaf development. Place it in a spot where it can receive filtered, indirect sunlight. Too much direct sunlight can give a monstera yellow or scorched leaves. You may need to rotate your plant if you notice its leaves reaching for sunlight, so just be sure to keep an eye on it.
Water: You should water your plant when the first couple inches of soil are dry. Poke your finger in the soil to check its dryness. Monsteras prefer peaty, well-draining soil since overly-moist soil can lead to root rot. These plants also sometimes grow aerial roots over time. You can cover these roots with moist sphagnum moss or direct them to the soil so they can also get plenty of water.
Temperature: The monstera plant prefer normal room temperatures between 68–86 °F. Since it originally comes from tropical rain forests, a similar tropical and humid atmosphere will make this plant feel right at home. Misting your monstera deliciosa once a week can increase humidity around the plant if you live in a dry area.
Toxicity: All parts of this plant, excluding its ripe fruit, are poisonous to humans and pets making the larger variety not an ideal choice for pet owners. Opt for a mini variety like the M. deliciosa borsigiana that you can keep high on shelves to prevent your curious furry friends from taking a bite. The plant can cause stomach pains if ingested and skin irritation if touched because of the calcium oxalates found in its sap. It’s still safe to have in your home, as long you do not ingest any part of the plant and take extra care when handling it. Take a look at our guide to poisonous plants to learn more about what to do if part of a monstera is ingested.
Pests: Monsteras are prone to mealybugs under their leaves along with scales, aphids and spider mites. Wipe their leaves down about once a week to keep them clean and remove dust. This routine maintenance keeps their dark green leaves healthy and shiny. If you do find small critters in your plant, wipe them off with a mild soap solution or gentle insecticide to get rid of the pests.
Problems: As we mentioned earlier, the leaves may not develop properly if your plant doesn’t receive enough sunlight. If you notice that your monstera’s leaves aren’t splitting properly, move it to a better-lit area.
Monstera deliciosa leaves can turn yellow if they are overwatered or undernourished. If this happens, refrain from watering your plant until you feel its soil dry. If the problem persists, repot your monstera in fresh soil. Finally, if all of those solutions aren’t working, feed your plant a little homemade plant food or fertilizer to get its leaves back to peak health. One way to tell the difference is to see if the leaves are “sweating” — this is an additional sign of overwatering.
Brown leaf tips or edges can result from dry air and low humidity. Correct this by misting your plant once a week or by keeping a humidifier near your plant.
Repotting: Monsteras, in particular, are large pants that need repotting every couple years to support their growing root systems. Pick a pot a few inches larger in height and width than your previous one to give your monstera more room to grow. You can also keep it in the same pot, repot less frequently or routinely prune back its leaves to keep it a manageable size. Take a look at our guide to repotting a plant for more in-depth repotting tips.
Propagation: Air layering is a common propagation method for monsteras. Read on to see the steps needed to do this.
- Locate a leaf with a small aerial root below it.
- Cut a notch below that root that’s about one third of the stem’s diameter.
- Wrap this area (notch, root and node where leaf meets the stem) with a layer of damp floral or sphagnum moss.
- Wrap the moss in plastic tight enough so it stays secure, but loose enough so you can open it and check the roots. You can secure the moss and plastic with string or other ties.
- Once you start to see roots, cut the stem and plant it in new soil.
Monstera deliciosa plants are a gem to have in your home, with easy care guidelines too. Taking care of your monstera is sure to bring you lots of compliments and a happy plant!
Outdoor Philodendron Care – How To Care For Philodendrons In The Garden
The name ‘Philodendron’ means ‘tree loving’ in Greek and, believe me, there is plenty to love. When you think of philodendron, you may envision a houseplant with big, heart-shaped leaves, but there are actually several hundred species of these beautiful tropical foliage plants featured in a wide variety of leaf sizes, shapes and colors. A majority of the species are vining, with leaves 3 inches (8 cm.) to 3 feet (91 cm.) in length, while others are in more of a shrub shape (self-heading).
While they have a reputation as great easy-to-grow houseplants, can philodendron plants grow outdoors? Why yes, they can! So let’s learn more about how to care for philodendrons outside!
Outdoor Philodendron Care
When learning how to care for philodendrons, it is best to consider the growing criteria for your specific variety; however, this article can help provide you with a general overview of outdoor philodendron care.
The first question you should ask is, “In my region, can philodendron plants grow outdoors”? Given that philodendrons are tropical plants, you will only be able to grow them outside year round, with any measure of success, in a warm weather climate where temperatures do not dip below 55 F. (13 C.) at night, although 65 F. (18 C.) is more ideal since they really do not like the cold.
The rest of us, including myself, as I live in the Northeast U.S., will be carting our philodendron plants in their respective containers indoors and out, according to the season and the reading on the temperature gauge. Given that philodendrons can reach some significant height, I’m sure that some of us with container philodendrons will opt to keep our plants inside year round, but I prefer to give mine some outdoor time, as it really seems to boost growth.
When planting philodendrons in the garden, or when situating your philodendron container outdoors, you need to consider that philodendrons are forest dwelling plants that are best served in a location that provides shade and indirect sunlight. Full sunlight will cause yellow sunburnt leaves, and you don’t want that.
The soil should be kept consistently moist but never soggy, be well draining and rich in nutrients and organic matter. A light feeding every 3-4 months with granular food is also recommended when caring for your philodendron outside.
Another important consideration to make when caring for your philodendron outside is that they are toxic to people and pets, causing severe inflammation of the mouth and throat. Their sap is also known to cause skin irritation, so please be sure to wear gloves when trimming the plant and to disinfect pruning tools upon completion of pruning tasks. Pruning is not really a requirement for promoting growth for your philodendrons in the garden, but you may need to trim away dead or yellow leaves on occasion.
Philodendron Gone Wild! When Houseplants Outgrow the House
Q. First, I want to tell you that we have marvelous gardens thanks to all we’ve learned listening to you—FAITHFULLY—on WTEB, Public Radio East. Our concern is an Elephant Ear philodendron we purchased more than 35 years ago. It thrived in the window of our record shop for 20 years, but when Mom & Pop record stores closed all across the country in the early 2000’s, we took it home, bringing it inside for the winter and outside during warm weather. We’ve re-potted it a few times and it’s now an eight foot tall MONSTER.
We know that you have to bring your tropical plants in for the winter, but YOU live up north. We have plenty of room, either under giant pines and magnolias or out in full sun. It can get cold here—last year was awful!—but our neighbor’s banana trees come back every spring. Can our Elephant Ear Philodendron do the same? We’re getting up in years and the thought of lugging this heavy, beautiful creature up and down the stairs is becoming overwhelming!
–Tom & Rebecca in eastern North Carolina
A. And that’s where they got me—with the stairs. I have two very large Birds of Paradise in pots, they only have to go up two small steps to get into our enclosed, insulated porch for the winter, and I can’t do that without help. Just the thought of dragging an eight foot tall plant up a flight of real stairs makes me shudder.
So: can they leave it outside?
The answer is somewhere between a straight ‘no’ and ‘maybe, kind-of, but it won’t be pretty’ –depending somewhat on exactly what plant they have. Although everybody thinks of one basic house plant with big, heart-shaped leaves, the genus “Philodendron” is actually so huge that experts differ on the number of species by hundreds (although a lot of those are epiphytes that grow way up high in the canopy of rainforests). And there’s a common American houseplant whose scientific name is “Monstera”, but whose common names are split leaf or cut leaf philodendron; and a lot of books just list it with philodendrons.
“Monstera” is aptly named. In a frost-free climate, it typically reaches 30 to 60 feet—I saw philodendrons that size when I was in Cuba, where our house plants are their outdoor landscaping. There are true philodendrons whose common name is “elephant ear”, but I found that variety name listed under several different species names. My best guess is the one we’re talking about will top out at ten to twenty feet.
Yikes! (Maybe that’s why a British book on houseplants I frequently consult notes—with more than a little bit of ‘Across the Pond’ attitude—that some philodendrons “are capable of growing into immense plants more suitable for public buildings than the average home.”)
Now: What about hardiness? Can any survive outdoors in the States? That answer is a solid yes. “The Southern Living Garden Book” says that some types will survive winter in what they call ‘the Tropical South’ (Southern Florida and the far Southern tip of Texas and the like). They add that some types will even ‘occasionally’ survive in the ‘Coastal South’, for which North Carolina barely qualifies; they’re talking more about the Eastern shores of Georgia and North Florida. And if it is a ‘Elephant Ear’ type, we’re only talking about the Tropical South–or a similar climate, like Southern California.
So what can these poor people do? (Other than move to San Diego…)
My first thought is to try and donate it to someplace with decent light and a 20 foot high ceiling, where it could just stay inside all year or go outdoors in the summer on wheels of some kind.
I hear some of you thinking: “but they say that the neighbor’s banana trees survive!”
Those are probably a class of plant called hardy bananas. It’s a source of pride to grow these plants as far North as possible; some crazy people have gotten them to survive as far North as New York! (Parts of which are as far North as you can get before you hit Canada.) Kind of like figs, you can either wrap them for the winter or just let the tops freeze and they’ll grow back from the roots.
Could philodendrons possibly do the same? “The book” (which means my interpretation of the info in six or seven different books) says that, in general, philodendrons are pretty frost sensitive but that they can also regrow after frost damage, so there is a chance. But it’s a real crap shoot; they’d have to be prepared to lose this plant if they can’t roll a nine.
If they want to roll those dice, I would pick a protected area near structures and trees, on high ground, that drains really well. I would dig a hole, and drop the pot into the hole—both to avoid any extra shock to the plant and to make it easier to get out if they can give it away next year. Then I would surround it with burlap wrapped around stakes and throw another piece of burlap over the top.
I would not just drape the plant itself with burlap. If the fabric gets wet and freezes, it shouldn’t be touching the plant. No plastic either—that could cook the plant on a sunny day.
Or they could roll the plant up sideways against the house, cover it with shredded leaves and then cover the shredded leaves with burlap. Either way, after all risk of frost is over in the spring, unwrap it and prune away any winter damage, just like with figs.
I have NO idea if this will actually work—but anything has to be better than those steps.
In all likelihood, this is the cold hardiest philodendron out there. According to the Southern Living Garden Encyclopedia, philodendron bipinnatifidum can be grown in the coastal south with protection and are almost always winter hardy in zone 9a and higher! Although its very common in northern and central Florida, its with good reason that even strip malls and hotels use this hardy aroid. The many forms of philodendron bipinnatifidum range from southern Brazil into southern Paraguay and Uruguay, and that explains its tolerance to cold. However, there are some forms from the warmer regions of its range that show much less cold hardiness, so one plant can be destroyed by a freeze while another form right next to it from Paraguay would be unharmed.
Split leaf philodendron instantly adds the look of the rainforest to a garden, but site this monster carefully! Don’t plant it too close to your walls or in high traffic areas since it likes to sprawl out wherever it pleases in its never ending quest for light. Instead, try planting split leaf philodendron at the base of trees where it can climb by wrapping its rope-like aerial roots around tree trunks and branches, much like its natural role as a hemiepiphyte (as seen in the photo to the right, click here for an awesome article!)
My favorite trees in south Florida are strangler figs and banyans for their wicked looking roots, twisting and enveloping anything in their path, and split leaf philodendron has a similar look but on a scale more agreeable to sidewalks and sewage lines. I recommend placing this at corners along garden paths or near stopping points so that its trunk and roots can be closely admired. Because this is such a readily available and affordable plant, don’t hesitate to buy several for use as an informal hedge or privacy barrier. Split leaf philodendron’s huge leaves are a great shelter for kids, treefrogs and lizards, as well as a tender plant that benefits from the extra protection afforded by its umbrella of a canopy.
Make sure you give split leaf philodendron plenty of water and fertilizer for huge glossy leaves up to 3 feet long! Its pretty tough and can withstand neglect, but a little lovin goes a long way here. They can be grown in shade and in sun, but its best to give it a humid and protected location for the best all around appearance and health. As mentioned above, some forms of selloum are hardier than others, but if your plant has trouble with the cold you can always wrap the growing point overnight to help protect it. Usually even if a trunk is wiped out by a freeze, the plant comes back from the ground with multiple suckers. To the left is a picture of my juvenile plant in March alongside a freeze killed bird of paradise, serving as a perfect demonstration of its endurance in cold winters.
In summary, I urge anyone going for “that rainforest look” to forgo unnecessarily killing less hardy philodendrons by planting them outdoors, and stick with this tried and true ambassador for tropical gardening where its not so tropical. (okay, maybe you can grow some less hardy philodendrons at its base… I wouldn’t be able to resist either.)
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Monstera deliciosa (Split-leaf Philodendron) A large vining plant that can sprawl across the ground or cling to tree trunks or structures to climb 20 feet or more on 2 inch thick stems that have thick cord-like aerial roots and hold huge (2 foot wide by 3 foot long) dark green glossy leaves held angling downwards on 2 to 3 foot long stout petioles. These leaves are distinctively cut and perforated, which gives this plant its common name. When mature plants are well situated they will produce their unusual arum flowers in late summer and fall with a 6 to 10 inch spadix surrounded by a greenish white spathe that is followed by the swollen spadix being covered in the sweet smelling edible fruit that looks like a green cob of corn and has a fragrance and taste often compared to the mix of pineapple and banana. Plant in full coastal sun (where leaves tend to be will be smaller) to fairly deep shade and irrigate regularly to occasionally – surprisingly drought tolerant in shady locations once established. Hardy and evergreen to 28-30°F and will repsprout from stems if foliage is damaged. This plant is often seen as an indoor house plant growing in dark corners but it is also a great understory plant in mild Bay Area and Southern California gardens, where its stems crawls along with foliage rising 2-4 feet until it finds something to allow it to climb. Makes a nice large scale groundcover with palms where its large decorative foliage adds to the tropical feel. Split-leaf Philodendron is native to tropical rainforests of southern Mexico, south to Panama. The name for the genus is thought to be from either the Latin word ‘mons’ or ‘montis’ meaning a “mountain” with ‘teres’ meaning “rounded off” or “smoothed” or from the word ‘monstrifer’ meaning “monster-bearing” and both likely a reference to the large perforated leaves. The specific epithet means “delicious” and is in reference to the sweet edible fruit. Although technically not a “true” philodendron, this plant is commonly called split-leaf philodendron, an obvious reference to the perforated foliage but it is also called Swiss Cheese Plant and Hurricane Plant. This plant was awarded the prestigious Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Merit in 1993. We likely would never have grown this plant until seeing it growing in an unirrigated area in the garden of the late Bruce Van Dyke, one of Santa Barbara’s premier horticulturists. In this garden a large Monstera was happily growing beneath and up into the branches of a large coast live oak, Quercus agrifolia. It was from this plant our stock came from and it now is a ground cover beneath and through a large hedge of Victorian box, Pittosporum undulatum, in our own nursery garden. The information on this page is based on research conducted in our nursery library and from online sources as well as from observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery, in the nursery’s garden and in other gardens that we have observed it in. We also will incorporate comments received from others and always appreciate getting feedback of any kind from those who have additional information, particularly if this information is contrary to what we have written or includes additional cultural tips that might aid others in growing Monstera deliciosa.
Layers of rich green, deeply divided leaves makes philodendron selloum the star of South Florida’s tropical gardening.
These magnificent, massive plants bring the look of the tropics to any yard. They will grow in sun but do best in a part sun to part or full shade area.
This plant works as a tropical shrub, and may climb a nearby fence or tree (it won’t hurt the tree). However, if you want a true climber, try ‘Monstera deliciosa’ philodendron – sometimes called “Swiss Cheese Plant.”
Selloum grows a trunk eventually though you won’t see much of it when the leaves droop over each other in dense layers.
These plants also work well in containers by the pool, on a patio or balcony, or even indoors.
If being big, fat and fabulous is too much of a good thing for the planting area you’ve got, there’s a smaller lookalike variety, Hope philodendron, which only grows to 4 feet, and the smaller mounded Xanadu.
This plant contains toxins that can cause harm if ingested. Keep this in mind when placing it if you have any munchers in the family. If you have sensitive skin, wear gloves when handling.
This plant can grow 8 to 10 feet tall and 6 feet or more wide. It’s a moderate grower that takes sun or shade but seems to prefer part sun to part shade.
These are tropical plants that do best in Zone 10, though they will do fine in Zone 9B if given cold protection. You can also grow them in large containers to bring inside during cold snaps.
Philodendrons are considered deer-resistant and generally bugs don’t like them either.
Add composted cow manure to the hole when you plant.
No trimming is needed other than to remove an old leaf and stem. This plant can’t be cut back for size, so make sure its ultimate height and width will work in your landscape.
If cold damages an established selloum it may die all the way back but send up new sprouts in spring.
Water regularly but give the plant time to dry out between waterings. Philodendrons cannot take a wet area – they’ll rot.
Fertilize 3 times a year – in spring, summer, and autumn – with a quality granular fertilizer.
Place 5 feet apart and the same distance from nearby shrubs. If planting by a tree, you can go much closer.
Along a walk or drive, come in at least 4 feet – more if you can to accommodate the mature size. Come out from the house 4 or 5 feet.
These work very well in containers as long as you don’t keep them overly wet.
Landscape uses for philodendron selloum
- large entryway accent
- backdrop for smaller plants
- between tall palms
- informal hedge
- single yard specimen
- privacy screen
- lining a driveway or walk
- beside a porch, deck or patio
- along a fence
- corner-of-the-house shrub
- flanking each side of a driveway entrance
- decoration for a blank wall
- camouflage plant
- container plant
GOOD SNOWBIRD PLANT? YES
COMPANION PLANT SUGGESTIONS: White bird of paradise, variegated arboricola, angel’s trumpet, podocarpus, dwarf tibouchina, pinwheel jasmine, and orange bird of paradise.
Other plants you might like: Schefflera, Crinum Lily
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- Large Shrubs
- Philodendron Selloum
A plant that works well in Florida
Anthurium, Caladium and Dieffenbachia are a few of the familiar genera that compose the Aroid family, a group of 3,200 herbaceous, largely tropical species. But among the most beloved of Aroids are plants in the genus Philodendron, which includes over 700 tropical American species.
Although the word Philodendron means tree-loving, a reference to the climbing habit many of these plants display, there’s no linkage between Aroids and “air plants,” a silly expression for epiphytes: Plants that perch non-parasitically on tree branches.
The most common landscape Philodendron in Central Florida is the selloum (P. bipinnatifidum), a Brazilian, non-climbing, shrubby plant that can grow over eight feet tall in sun or filtered light. This large-leaved species which, with age, develops sprawling stems and ropy, above-ground roots, lends a wonderfully exotic ambience to landscapes.
Philodendron x evansii, a beautiful hybrid plant, has less deeply lobed leaves and a more rounded growth habit than the selloum. Incidentally, lopping off healthy Philodendron leaves is an abomination practiced by some maintenance crews for the same reason they butcher palms: To make ignorant consumers think they’re earning their pay.
A delightful plant that looks like a dwarf form of selloum, but is actually a distinct Brazilian species, is Philodendron xanadu. Suitable for full sun or moderate shade, xanadu rarely grows over 42 inches tall but can spread 4 feet to 6 feet across. Due to its smaller stature, xanadu is extremely versatile, suitable for foundation plantings, massing and container cultivation. Like other popular landscape Philodendrons, the xanadu, though adaptable and drought tolerant once established, performs best in moist, shaded, sheltered locations that are kept thickly mulched. When installed on ideal sites, Philodendrons are remarkably low-maintenance plants.
Among other self-heading (usually non-climbing) Philodendrons is P. goeldii, an unusual and attractive species with a spiraling stem — resembling those of some Costus gingers — from which the leaflets radiate. Also striking is P. wendlandii, which, like a bird’s nest fern, forms a lovely rosette. It features broad leaves that are preceded by reddish structures called cataphylls. Handsome non-climbing Philodendron hybrids include Autumn, with copper-colored young foliage, and Rojo Congo, with leaves that are green above and red below. Colorful hybrids like these are becoming popular with landscape designers and homeowners.
Charles Reynolds, a Winter Haven resident, is a member of the Garden Writers Association of America.
How to Grow Warm-Weather Plants in a North Florida Yard
July 3, 2013
Q: I’d like to give my yard a tropical look and feel, but I don’t know which plants will survive our North Florida winters. What do you suggest?
A: Florida is a very diverse state in its climate and plant life, as your question illustrates. Even within North Florida, the difference between USDA Zones 8 and 9 can be the difference between a light frost and a hard freeze. Proximity to the coast is another factor, because it gets colder inland than it does along the shore.
If you’re willing to dig up your tropical plants every fall and store them over our usually brief and mild winters in a greenhouse or other protective structure, you can add any tropical plants you desire to your landscape. And some people are willing to do that. For most of us, though, that’s more work than we care to commit to. Instead, we treat tropical plants like annuals, replacing them every spring. Or we plant one or two in large pots and haul the pots inside for the cold season. Decorative pots filled with Chinese hibiscus look great on a patio, and they’re relatively easy to stash in a corner of the garage for winter — or you could bring them indoors. Just make sure you give any plant you’re bringing inside a good rinse with the garden hose first, so you don’t bring any insects along.
Adding palm trees to your landscape is one way to create a tropical atmosphere quickly. The tall, swaying coconut palms of South Florida postcards won’t survive here, but there are plenty of other palms that will. The sabal palm (Sabal palmetto), also called the cabbage palm, is the state tree and does very well throughout North Florida and the Panhandle. It’s a native plant that can take salt, making it a good tree for coastal gardens.
Other palms to consider are Washington palm (Washingtonia robusta), also known as the Mexican fan palm and the petticoat palm; Windmill palm (Trachycarpus fortunei); Pindo palm (Butia capitata); and Lady palm (Rhapis excelsa). Most palms require sunlight, but Bamboo palm (Chamaedorea micrspadix) requires shade. Depending on the microclimates in your yard, you might be able to grow a Canary Island date palm (Phoenix canariensis), which requires sun and is hardy in Zone 9A and farther south.
Most palm trees are fairly slow growing, so buy the largest tree you can afford, and be prepared to spend some money. An 8- to 10-foot palm can cost several hundred dollars.
Other trees to consider are loquats, also known as Japanese plum trees, and citrus trees. Loquats do fine in our area, but young citrus need to be protected the first two or three years they’re in the ground, even if they ultimately will be cold-hardy when established.
To give your yard a lush atmosphere, select green perennials such as giant split-leaf philodendron (Philodendron selloum), which needs to be in a protected area, and Swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa), with its large rounded leaves punctuated by holes, hence its common name. Both are shade plants that will die back in winter but return in spring if heavily mulched. The same is true for most banana plants. Many people find the dead foliage of banana plants unappealing, but don’t cut it until new growth starts in spring, because it protects the plant. If you really hate the sight of the brown stalks, put it in an out-of-the-way location as a background plant.
Other tropical-looking perennials that do well in most North Florida yards are coontie (Zamia), elephant ears (Alocasia and Colocasia) and various plants commonly called gingers but are members of different botanical families. These include butterfly gingers (Hedychium spp.), peacock gingers (Kaempferia spp.) and shell ginger (Alpinia zerumbet), as well as culinary ginger (Zingiber officinale). Make sure you mulch your gingers well. Bouganvillea (Bouganvillea spp), the thorny tropical climbing vine with bountiful flowers, needs winter protection but if planted in the right spot, it will perform as a perennial.
Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae) is a beautiful plant that adds color to a tropical yard, but you’ll have to bring it inside over the winter. Bird of Paradise can take temperatures in the upper 20s, but its flower buds will be killed.
Ti plant (Cordyline) and Croton (Croton linearis) provide lots of color, but neither can take a freeze. Both are fairly inexpensive, so treat them as annuals and replace each spring.
July and August in the Garden
- Taking care of the gardener is as important as taking care of the garden this time of year. Do garden and yard chores early in the morning to avoid the heat. Wear a hat, use sunscreen and drink lots of water to stay hydrated.
- Apply a final dose of fertilizer for the year to citrus trees. Fertilizing after August encourages new growth, which could be susceptible to early frosts and freezes in October.
- Cut back leggy growth on annuals such as impatiens and begonias to encourage bushy new growth; fertilize lightly.
- Pinch back chrysanthemums and other fall-blooming perennials.
- Remove suckers from tomato plants and plant in sterile potting soil. They should have established roots and be ready to transplant into the garden in September.
- Plant broccoli, collards, turnips and other fall crops in late August.