If you’re looking for an unusual houseplant, why not try the genus Philodendron? It contains many funky species that can easily be found in your local plant store or online. Among them is Philodendron tortum, one of my latest personal favorites.
Keep reading for everything you need to know about Philodendron tortum care and growing this houseplant in your own home!
|Name(s) (common, scientific)||Philodendron tortum|
|Recommended lighting||Bright indirect|
|Water||Keep lightly moist|
Philodendron tortum natural habitat
This aroid species is a pretty new player in the houseplant world, and really the plant world in general. It has taken things by storm, though. It really is a nice species to look at with its thin, spidery leaves. It’s almost reminiscent of a palm in terms of looks, although it’s not related to true palms at all.
Philodendron tortum wasn’t first described until 2012 (by authors Soares & Mayo). They noted that the plant could be found in a forest reserve in the municipality of Manaus, in the Brazilian Amazonas region.
The authors mention that the tortums found in the rainforest grew on trees like lianas, which is to expect from the genus Philodendron. In forests like these, the plants would receive limited light and enjoy high humidity levels, so that’s something to keep in mind in the home.
A note on Philodendron tortum naming
I’ve seen this plant referred to as Philodendron bipinnatifidum ‘Tortum’ and Philodendron ‘Polypodioides Tortum’, but the article first describing it doesn’t mention that it’s a subspecies of either Philodendron bipinnatifidum or polypodioides, so it appears this isn’t correct! It seems it really is just Philodendron tortum and nothing more.
A bunch of Philodendrons, including bipinnatifidum and polypodioides (and also mayoi, distantilobum and more) are pretty similar in appearance to this species, so it’s not surprising that some confusion has arisen.
Philodendron tortum light, temperature & humidity
Because the scorching Brazilian sun would naturally be blocked out by taller trees in the rainforest, Philodendron tortum isn’t used to very intense light. However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still like plenty of light!
Find your plant a spot that receives bright but indirect light or only limited amounts of sun, like in the early morning or late evening. You can also supplement with some artificial lighting to help your Philodendron tortum thrive.
The average temperature in Manaus, Brazil (the species’ homeland) doesn’t drop below 24 °C/75 °F at any point during the year. This means that unless you live in a tropical climate, this species is definitely an indoor plant, except for maybe the warmest summer months.
If you feel comfy in your home temperature-wise, then your Philodendron tortum should be fine as well. Just be sure to keep this one away from drafty windows and A/C units. It probably won’t like temperatures below 15 °C/59 °F.
Rainforest plants love a bit of humidity! In my experience, my Philodendron tortum isn’t overly demanding and my home’s 50-70% humidity levels are fine. If your home is on the dry side, though, you might want to consider running a humidifier for this plant and your other tropicals.
If the humidifier doesn’t cut it, this plant is probably a good candidate for growing in a glass cabinet to help keep some humidity in.
Philodendron tortum soil & planting
When considering soil for a climbing, almost epiphytic aroid like a Philodendron tortum, you gotta think light and airy. They’re not used to being stuffed in heavy and dense potting soil! A special aroid mix is probably the way to go and will work for many houseplants.
A pre-mixed aroid soil should work for this species, but you can also mix your own. I discussed the 5:1:1 soil mixture in the post on Monstera care and that’s probably a good candidate for this plant as well. It consists of the following:
- Five parts pine bark
- One part perlite
- One part sphagnum moss
The pine bark and perlite ensure that excess water drains quickly and that the mix stays very light. Plenty of oxygen can reach the plant’s roots. The sphagnum moss is a water-retaining element that prevents the soil from drying out too quickly.
You should always use a container with a drainage hole for your houseplants, as they don’t like standing in excess water. Wet feet can lead to rot.
In my experience, this is a pretty quick grower. You’ll probably end up repotting yours every 1-2 years. If the roots are sticking out of the drainage holes, that’s a good sign it might be time for a repot next spring.
Watering Philodendron tortum
Like other rainforest plants, Philodendron tortum likes a drink. Keep the soil lightly moist, watering as often as every other day if you use an aroid soil mixture.
If you’ve got your specimen planted in heavier soil, poke a finger in the soil first. It should be about halfway dry before you water again, which can take a few days during the summer months or more than a week in winter.
Fertilizing Philodendron tortum
As mentioned earlier, I find my Philodendron tortum is a relatively prolific grower. This means it appreciates some fertilizer to help it along during the growing season, when it’s actively putting out new foliage.
You can use a diluted liquid houseplant fertilizer once or twice a month. Stop applying fertilizer during winter or if your plant isn’t doing well to prevent damaging it.
Propagating Philodendron tortum
Philodendrons are a breeze to propagate and this one is no exception. A mature Philodendron tortum specimen should have a clearly visible stem that you can take cuttings from. Just make sure each section contains at least one node and you’re good to go!
The cuttings can be rooted in soil or water, although most growers prefer giving them a dip in rooting hormone and placing them in a mini greenhouse. This can be as simple as using a plastic cup with some sphagnum moss. Here’s how it works:
- Soak the moss lightly, so it’s moist but not dripping with water.
- Stick the cutting in the moss.
- Place the entire thing in a clear plastic bag to keep warmth and humidity in.
Rooting cuttings is a breeze using this method. Once your new Philodendron is well-rooted, you can transfer it to a container with regular aroid soil.
Is Philodendron tortum toxic to cats and dogs?
Philodendrons like this one are considered toxic to cats, dogs and humans due to their calcium oxalate content.
Taking a bite out of your Philodendron tortum isn’t going to kill your furry friend, but it can cause irritation, as calcium oxalate provokes swelling and a burning sensation in the mouth and throat.
If you have any more questions about Philodendron tortum care or if you’d like to share your own experiences with this fascinating houseplant, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!