Philodendron tortum is a rare or less common root climbing plant native to Colombia. Many sellers often mislabel it as Philodendron bipinnatifidum ‘Tortum’ or Philodendron polypodioides ‘Tortum’, yet it is a unique species.
It has lovely, deeply cut, or lobed, dark green leaves that resemble palm fronds. This houseplant will add a tropical vibe to your home. Also, it is air purifying and easy to care for or low maintenance. We’ve all the care and growth needs or requirements.
You have the freedom of settling for the Philodendron tortum wide form or the much-coveted narrow form. They are both magnificent.
Is it expensive? Yes. P. tortum goes for between $50 and $300, making it way more expensive than average houseplants. But it is worth every penny you invest in it.
Lastly, if you are interested in buying it, Etsy.com and eBay are good places. These marketplaces offer unbeatable prices. Also, they have vendors not just from the USA but all over the world. Some will even ship to most locations.
Table of content
- History and origin
- Philodendron tortum identification and description
- Philodendron tortum wide and narrow forms or types
- Philodendron tortum vs. elegans
- Philodendron tortum vs. polypodioides
- Philodendron tortum vs. bipinnatifidum
- Philodendron tortum care and growth needs
- Philodendron tortum propagation
- Problems or issues
- Where to find Philodendron elegans on sale?
- Frequently asked questions
- Scientific name: Philodendron tortum
- Family: Araceae
- Native habitat: Brazil and Colombia
- Toxicity: Toxic to dogs, cats, and humans because the sap has insoluble calcium oxalate. What will happen if chewed? Patients will experience severe oral irritation and a burning sensation. Also, their lips, tongue, or mouth may swell or turn red. More signs are drooling, loss of appetite, and difficulty in swallowing.
- Care level: Easy or ow maintenance
- Growth rate: Slow to moderate
History and origin
Philodendron tortum was first collected in the 1960s. However, it was not until 2001 when Maria de Lourdes Soares, a Brazilian botanist, and Dr. Simon Mayo of Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew published it.
P. tortum is native to Northern Brazil, i.e., Amazonas (especially the protected Adolfo Ducke Forest Reserve, near Manaus city) and Bolivia (Santa Cruz, Pando, and Beni). However, there have been collections from Acres, Rondônia, and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
Many often mislabel it as Philodendron bipinnatifidum ‘Tortum’, or Philodendron polypodioides ‘Tortum’, implying it is a cultivar of either bipinnatifidum or polypodioides. However, these plants are different species, albeit with some similarities. We will talk a little bit more later.
Philodendron tortum identification and description
It’s time to give you a description of this plant. It will be a little detailed. We do so to ensure you don’t confuse it with other similar-looking plants.
1. Growing habits
Philodendron tortum is a root-climbing epiphyte that almost always grows above six feet on tree trunks in the wild. This evergreen plant mainly occurs in lowland and plateau humid rainforests at 50 to 540 meters (164-1771 feet) above sea level.
Here, it gets mainly filtered light from taller tree canopies. Also, like most of the other plants in the Philodendron species, it morphs. So, you expect baby plants to look different from mature or adult ones. Leaves are one noticeable feature.
2. Growth rate and size
Philodendron tortum growth rate is slow to moderate. At home, it can grow up to 4 to 6 feet. However, to reach these heights, you need to give it a stake – moss pole, trellis, totem, etc.
3. Juvenile and mature Philodendron tortum leaves
Baby plants have smaller, elongated oval to lance-shaped entire green leaves. But as they grow, the leaves will start having shallow, poorly formed lobes.
On the other hand, mature Philodendron tortum has large, deeply split or cut glossy dark green leaves with a pale green underside. These leaves measure about 15.3-24.6 inches long by 19.6–24.2 inches wide and have a grooved midrib.
The anterior section of the leaf has 9-10 lateral lobes, each with a single primary lateral vein. Lobes measure between 0.8 and 1.6 in width, and sinuses are mostly 0.8 to 1.2 inches. However, in some cases, sinuses may be as small as 0.6 inches to as wide as 2 inches.
On the other hand, these leaves have a poorly developed posterior section with a pinna on either side. These pinnae have a tip curved towards the apex and two lobes pointed to the leaf base, with the one closer to the leaf base less developed.
Lastly, the semi-spongy petiole is dark green with fine purplish streaks. Its upper surface has weak grooves and the lower rounded. Also, it has purplish extrafloral nectaries near the apex.
It has relatively thin (up to an inch), strongly angled grey green stems with internodes up to 2.8 inches. However, the flowering stems have shorter internodes.
These stems have aerial roots at the nodes and prophylls that shortly fall or are deciduous.
Mature Philodendron tortum bears mostly 2-5 or occasionally up to 6 inflorescences per floral sympodium. Each has a nearly cylindrical peduncle, a surrounding spathe, and a spadix (which bears tiny flowers).
Contrary to what many assume, the spathe isn’t the actual flower but a bract. This bract is constricted at the middle demarking the lower tube from a blade. Instead, flowers are on the spadix, i.e., it has female (bottommost), middle male sterile, and top male fertile flowers.
Lastly, the spathe is pale green inside and out on the upper blade, while the lower tube is purplish inside and pale green with darker streaks when it emerges. But as it matures, it will turn green and have reddish spots.
Philodendron tortum wide and narrow forms or types
These are nothing other than varieties or cultivars of these plants whose differences lie in leaves and cataphylls. We cannot verify if they are cultivars or varieties. There is very little information about these two. How do they differ?
The Philodendron tortum narrow form has leaves with narrower lobes than the wide form. The sinuses are wider than the lobes. Also, the cataphylls and newly emerging leaves are pinkish. However, as they harden, they will turn green.
On the other hand, Philodendron tortum wide form has wider lobes compared to the narrow form. Also, the lobes are wider or nearly equal to the sinuses, and newly emerging leaves and cataphylls are greenish, not pinkish.
Philodendron tortum vs. elegans
Philodendron tortum grows much smaller and has slender stems than Philodendron elegans. Its leaves have lobes that go near to the midrib than elegans. Also, the anterior section lobes are more, i.e., 9-10 vs. 6-9, and have no barely denuded posterior rib as it is with elegans.
The other difference lies in petioles. P. tortum has sulcate petioles with fine, purple linear striae. In contrast, P. elegans petioles are not sulcate and have light green spots and a sheath on the base.
Lastly, if you are lucky to find mature plants with flowers, again, you will see some differences. P. tortum has a pale spathe blade (in and out) and a pale green with darker striae tube on the outside and purplish inside. In contrast, P. elegans has dark green to greenish pink spathe outside while the inner side is dirty dark purple.
Philodendron tortum vs. polypodioides
Philodendron polypodioides is a synonym for Philodendron pedatum native to southern tropical America. How do these two differ? We already did a detailed discussion on this aroid.
P. tortum has more (9-10) deeply cut narrower lobes on the anterior section, each with a single primary lateral vein. In contrast, P. pedatum has fewer (1-5) shallowly to deeply (but as deep) lateral lobes on the anterior lobes, each with more than one primary lateral vein, and may further be lobed.
The other difference is in the posterior lobe. In P. tortum, it is poorly developed with a pinna on either side with two lobes on the side of the base, while P. pedatum has more (up to 5) lobes on the anterior section.
Lastly, both plants have greenish petiole with striae. However, in P. tortum, the petioles are a bit spongy and have fine purplish streaks, while P. pedatum has reddish-tinged petioles with a rough surface.
Philodendron tortum vs. cardosoi
It is easy to tell the difference between these two. Why? Because Philodendron cardosoi is a ground creeping species whose leaves have fewer (6-8) anterior lateral lobes while tortum is a root climber whose leaves more (9-10) anterior lateral lobes.
Also, P. cardosoi has a denuded posterior rib with 2-3 front facing and 1-2 base facing lobes. In contrast, P. tortum’s rear section has pinna on either side, with only two lobes facing the leaf base.
Lastly, P. cardosoi has straight and inflexed leaves, while P. tortum has curved prophyll and erect leaves (1).
Philodendron tortum vs. bipinnatifidum
Some people confuse Philodendron bipinnatifidum with tortum. However, these plants are not as closely related. Why? Because in 2018, botanists moved bipinnatifidum and all plants in the former subgenus Meconostigma to the genus Thaumatophyllum. So, its correct name is Thaumatophyllum bipinnatifidum. So, how do these two plants differ?
Firstly, P. tortum is a climber that can grow beyond six feet tall, while T. bipinnatifidum has a tree-like mounding growth, and the stem hardly goes beyond 3 feet.
Secondly, P. tortum leaves are smaller and have deeply cut, narrower lobes with a smooth margin and broader sinuses. In comparison, bipinnatifidum has not as deeply cut but larger leaves with lobed margins.
Lastly, P. tortum will have 2-6 inflorescence per sympodium, while bipinnatifidum has only one. Also, bipinnatifidum has a thicker spathe, the sterile male is longer or equal to the fertile male, and the spadix is longer than the spathe. However, in P. tortum, the spathe isn’t as thick; the male sterile partition is shorter than the fertile one. Also, the spadix doesn’t protrude from the spathe.
Philodendron tortum care and growth needs
Philodendron tortum prefers a warm (60-85°F) humidity (60% relative humidity or more) place with bright indirect light. Their soil should be well-drained, aerated, and high in organic matter, and you should water them once the top 1-2 inches feel dry.
Additional care needs include pruning, repotting after 2-3 years, and feeding with a balanced fertilizer. Don’t forget to give them a place to climb, i.e., a moss pole, totem, trellis, or whatever you have.
Here is more on the care needs and growth requirements:
1. USDA hardiness zone
The USDA hardiness zone for this aroid is 10-11. Frost will kill it. Therefore, only grow it outside all year if you are in these zones.
P. tortum is a tropical plant. So, you should expect it to thrive well in warmer places with ideal temperatures of 60 to 85°F (15-29°C). But it can still grow in lower temperatures, up to 50°F, albeit slowly.
Also, to avoid stressing it, I ensure there are no drastic temperature changes, and I don’t place it near a heat source or in places with cold drafts, including air conditioning vents.
Cold drafts may cause drooping, wilting, or a burnt look. Also, the leaves will look scorched and discolored (yellow, whitish, faded, or browning). Similarly, heat stress or very high temperature isn’t good either. It will cause brown tips, edges, wilting, leaf curling, etc.
These plants love humid places and grow best at 60% or more relative humidity. Luckily, they can grow fine in lower, including the average household level.
Low humidity could be the reason for the wilting, leaves curling, or brown tips and edges. So, if yours is too low, try the following:
- Misting your plant: It offers temporary relief and is ideal when humidity is not very low or fluctuates. Just put some water inside your misting bottle and spritz it a few times a day. However, ensure the water dries, especially overnight, to avoid leaf diseases.
- Pebble tray: It is a more reliable method. It involves putting your plant pot on a shallow tray with water and pebbles. But you must ensure water doesn’t reach the planter.
- Move plants to humid rooms: Bathrooms and the kitchen tend to be more humid. You should consider moving your plant to these areas if they have enough light.
- Buy a humidifier: For individuals with very low humidity, a humidifier will help. It will also ensure you are comfortable.
4. Light needs
Philodendron tortum requires bright, indirect light for 10-14 hours daily. But they can still grow well in medium light.
Very low light will slow growth and make your plant leggy. Also, it will have smaller, paler leaves. If you notice this, move your plant to a bright spot or consider buying grow lights.
On the other hand, avoid direct sun as it will cause sunburn. Signs include brown tips, edges, and washed-out, paler, or yellowish leaves. Also, leaves may curl or droop, and the soil will dry quickly.
When indoors, I place the plant at a distance where no direct sun can reach it. But you can allow a little bit of early morning sun on my east-facing window. When I take it outside, it is always under shade. Here it will receive filtered light just like in the wild.
5. Best soil mix
The ideal soil for Philodendron tortum soil should be well-drained, aerated, and rich in organic matter. Also, ensure it is slightly acidic to neutral (pH of 6.1 to 7.3). This plant is not fussy on the potting mix and will grow well, even on sphagnum moss alone.
You can buy an aroid mix or make one. I usually take 50% potting soil and add some perlite, bark chips (or coconut husks), peat moss, and compost. You can replace peat moss with coco coir. Also, warm castings can replace compost as a source of organic matter.
Some people will give you ratios. It doesn’t matter much. Just ensure it drains well. But avoid clay, heavy, or poorly drained soils. Otherwise, you may end up with root rot. Also, it should retain moisture, i.e., not dry so fast.
I water this plant when a few top inches feel dry. I usually stick my finger into the potting mix up to the 1st knuckle to know it’s time to water. If it feels dry, I water it; if not, I wait for a few days before feeling it again.
Alternatively, you can buy a soil moisture meter and water when the reading is on the dry side. This will be three or less for most brands, including XLUX, the most popular brand. I have good experience using it.
To me, watering is after 4-6 days in growing months and biweekly in non-growing months. But you shouldn’t follow my schedule since many factors affect water needs, including your conditions, pot size, or type.
Lastly, when watering, I saturate the soil evenly and slowly until some water flows from the potting mix. Then, I wait for 15 minutes and pour any that collects on the saucer.
Plant foods will provide extra nutrients for fast and healthy growth; this Philo is no exception. Remember, a healthy plant resists pests and diseases better.
I feed this and all my Philodendrons with an all-purpose, balanced liquid fertilizer for houseplants. I use it at half the recommended strength monthly during the growing season.
To be specific, I use Miracle-Gro Indoor Plant Food. Why? Because it is balanced, i.e., NPK 1-1-1. It is also easy to apply, i.e., you can apply it alone or mix it with water. However, there are many other good brands, too, including NPK 20-20-20 or 10-10-10 brands
Lastly, some people prefer slow-release formula. Just ensure it is for indoor houseplants. And when using it, follow what the manufacturer recommends.
It doesn’t require much pruning. All you need to do is cut any dead, damaged, or diseased leaves or parts with sterilized gardening shears. Also, you can cut a few stems back if it grows too large. Do this during early spring.
Repotting is every 2-3 years or if your plant is rootbound. Check for roots growing from drainage holes or spiraling inside the pot. Other signs are yellowing or browning of leaves and stunted growth. Also, your plant may droop, be leggy, etc.
When repotting, go for a pot 2-3 inches wider in diameter than the current one.
10. Moss pole or stake
These plants are climbers. So, they will grow best if you give and train them on a moss pole, totem, trellis, etc. It doesn’t work well as a hanging plant.
Philodendron tortum propagation
Philodendron tortum propagation is by stem cutting in water or soil and air layering. Seeds are very rare. However, you can also use them if you are lucky to find them.
Air layering involves wrapping moist sphagnum moss on a node of a selected stem while still attached to the mother plant. Keep the moss moist and aerated. Once the node has long enough roots, cut it from the mother plant, and grow it in its pot.
We prefer stem cutting, and the stem must have at least a node. We find both water and soil propagation easy. Let us look at water propagation. We will also talk a little more about the soil method.
1. Water propagation
It is easy, less messy, and will give you a chance to see your plant root. However, it takes longer, and plants suffer transplant shock.
What you need
- Rooting hormone (optional). It prevents rot and speeds rooting.
- 70% to 90% rubbing alcohol for sterilization purposes
Steps to follow
- Identify a healthy, mature stem with at least one or two nodes. One with aerial roots will be better but not a must.
- Cut the stem below the lower node at about ¼ an inch away and remove any lower leaves if it has more than two.
- Apply your rooting hormone on the cut end, covering the node(s) that will go into the water.
- Fill your jar with chlorine-free water and dip the cutting, ensuring the nodes are underwater but not leaves.
- Please place it in a warm area with bright, indirect light.
After 4 to 6 weeks, your plant may have grown roots. However, the exact time will depend on your conditions. Transplant it when they are at least 2-3 inches long.
2. Soil propagation
We love soil propagation because rooting occurs faster. The cutting gets nutrients from the soil and will suffer less transplant shock.
After applying your rooting hormone, plant it in the soil and water it. Then keep the soil moist.
However, consider covering the cutting with a plastic bag if your humidity is low. This bag shouldn’t touch leaves and should have a small opening for breathing.
Problems or issues
We have not had any instances of mealybugs, thrips, scale insects, aphids, and spider mites. Also, diseases, especially leaf spots or blights, both bacterial and fungal, are rare.
The issue you may have is root rot. It is prevalent in people who over-water their plants. Also, poorly draining soils or too large pots may contribute.
The other common problem is spots (brown, yellow, or black) and leaf discoloration. Spots often indicate a pest or disease problem.
On the other hand, P. tortum leaves yellowing, and browning, including brown tips, edges, or splotches) occurs due to wrong growing conditions. These reasons may include
- Moisture issues (overwatering or underwatering)
- Too much or little light
- Low humidity
- Heat stress
- Nutritional deficiency
- Root rot
- Transplant or repotting shock
That is not all. Leaves of your plant may curl, or your plant may droop. These are likely signs of underwatering, low humidity, root rot, heat stress, and too much light.
Lastly, if this plant is dying, check any of the issues above and root rot. They are the most probable reason why your P. tortum may be dying.
Where to find Philodendron elegans on sale?
The best places to buy Philodendron elegans are Etsy.com and eBay. These two marketplaces have sellers from all over the world or those willing to ship to most locations. Also, their prices are competitive.
The other places to search for this plant are Facebook and Instagram. These sites, too, have vendors from across the globe. Just ensure you get someone with a bit of reputation.
More places to buy this plant in the US, Canada, UK, Europe, and Australia, and their respective prices are as follows:
1. the U.S. and Canada
In most cases, people in the U.S. and Canada will pay a little more to buy P. tortum than those in the U.K., Europe, or Australia. Some of the best places to buy this plant in the U.S. or Canada and prices are as follows:
- Carnivero (Austin, TX) – US$60.00
- Vedas Plant shop (Chicago, IL, USA) – US$275.00
- NSE Tropical (Plantation, FL) – US$249.00
- Next World Exotics (Boynton Beach, FL, USA) – US$90.00)
- Plant Bro (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada) – C$175.00
- Roehampton Orchid (Toronto, ON, Canada) – C$99.00
- Jordan’s Jungle (Pawtucket, RI, USA) – US$79.99
- Watson’s Greenhouse Puyallup, WA, USA)- US$199.99
2. The U.K. and Europe
If you are in the U.K. or Europe, dozens of vendors sell this plant. Also, most willing to ship it within and beyond Europe. Some of these sellers and their prices are as follows:
- Root Houseplants (Liverpool, UK) £18.00
- Plant Circle (Berlin, Germany) – €49,00
- Jungle Leaves (Ewaldstraße, Herten, Germany.) – 19,99€
- Grow Jungle (Sappemeer, Netherlands) – €27.48
- Crocus (Windlesham, U.K.)- £39.99
- Foliage Dreams (Frankfurt, Germany) €29,90
- Leafy House (Northampton, U.K.) – £26.00
Australia has many Philodendron tortum sellers, especially around Queensland. Their prices are much lower than those of the USA, U.K. or Canada. Also, most of them will deliver the plant to the entire country. Some of these places you will get this plant include:
- Aroid Australia (QLD,) A$3.99 AUD
- Nursery 2 Brisbane, Queensland) A$18.00
- Uprooted (Archerfield, QLD) – A$15.00
- Rare Plants (Nambour, QLD)- A$13.90
- The Green Philo (Brisbane, Queensland) – A$12.00
We didn’t list all the places you can buy this aroid. Search for “Philodendron tortum for sale” for more locations. Note that some vendors label it as Philodendron bipinnatifidum tortum.
Frequently asked questions
Yes. Philodendron tortum is a rare and hard-to-find houseplant. We highly doubt if any local tropical plant vendors have it. Also, none of the large-scale horticultural growers have it. Luckily, we have given you a list of some of the vendors. So, it shouldn’t be impossible to find one.
Philodendron tortum price ranges from $50 to $300 in the U.S. and Canada. How much you pay will depend on the size and where you buy it. However, people in Europe and Australia will find it at slightly lower prices, with Australia having the least costs.
No. So far, we have not seen any vendor with a variegated Philodendron tortum anywhere. However, this doesn’t rule out the possibility of there being one. Remember, it occurs due to a rare cell mutation.
Yes. We have seen some vendors, especially in the Asian markets, with tissue culture P. tortum plants on sale. They are a bit cheaper and a great choice if you cannot get the non-TC.