What is a Split-Leaf Philodendron?

Alex Tree

The split-leaf philodendron, scientifically known as Monstera deliciosa, is a species of perennial plant belonging to the family Araceae. This creeping-vine plant has aerial roots and can grow up to a length of 66 feet (about 20 m). Its broad, heart-shaped leaves are glossy, leathery and large, usually measuring 10 to 35 inches (about 25 to 90 cm) in length and roughly 10 to 30 inches (25 to 75 cm) in width. Young plants bear smaller leaves without holes or lobes but quickly develop rips and gaps as they mature.

Jackfruit is similar in taste to a split-leaf philodendron's fruit.
Jackfruit is similar in taste to a split-leaf philodendron's fruit.

Monstera deliciosa is a creeping vine commonly grown as a houseplant or decoration for the interior of public buildings. This ornamental plant is made popular by its over-sized leaves that appear to have cuts or splits, hence the name. When it is grown as a potted plant and placed indoors, care should be taken since it is poisonous and may pose a risk to children and pets when ingested.

This creeping plant bears fruit that grows to a maximum length of about 10 inches (25 cm) and a diameter of 1 to 1.6 inches (approximately 3 to 4 cm). The fruit resembles a green ear of corn covered with scales that are hexagonal in shape. When unripe, the fruit of the split-leaf philodendron has a form of oxalic acid that may cause immediate swelling, painful irritation, and loss of voice when eaten. It usually takes about a year for the fruit to ripen and become safe enough to eat. The edible flesh exudes a strong odor and has a fruity flavor comparable to that of pineapple and jackfruit.

Common names for these climbers include Mexican breadfruit, windowleaf, and ceriman. The split-leaf philodendron is native to the rain forests of tropical regions, such as south Panama and southern Mexico. It thrives in temperatures between 68 to 86°F (about 20 to 30°C) and prefers shade and high humidity. Frost can cause this plant to die, and growth stops when the temperature is lower than about 50°F (10°C). When grown indoors, the leaves may not develop their distinctive perforations if the light level is excessively low.

Only moderate watering is required for this plant, such as once a week. When choosing a location for the split-leaf philodendron, it should be planted somewhere it can stay permanently because it cannot tolerant frequent moving around. If moved to another spot, it tends to drop its leaves. It is generally free of pests, but it can be infested with spider mites, mealy bugs and aphids. If this happens, a simple solution of water and dish soap can be sprayed over the plant.

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