11 Varieties of Rare Philodendrons

Philodendron is a genus of around 450 different evergreen, flowering plants. The name translates to “love tree” in Greek, which alludes to the fact most of the species are climbing varieties. 

Native to the tropical rainforests of the Americas, philodendron is an under-storey plant that has adapted to growing beneath the dappled shade of the rainforest canopy. Alongside their large, exquisite leaves and air-purifying ability, both rare philodendrons as well as their more common cousins have become popular species of houseplants. 

There are numerous factors that determine whether a philodendron is rare including:

  • Geographical location 
  • Cost
  • Demand
  • Variegated leaves
  • Ease of care

If you’re determined to obtain a precious philodendron, then keep reading to discover the top 11 most rare of the species. 

Types of Rare Philodendrons

Philodendrons can be categorized based on their physical characteristics and growth habits. Before you choose a rare species for yourself, it’s worth considering the space you have available and the look you are trying to achieve.

Vining

The majority of philodendrons are climbing species. They are commonly grown as houseplants in containers or hanging baskets. Vining philodendrons have aerial roots that allow them to cling onto and climb up nearby structures and surfaces. 

In their native rainforests, they vine around trees and other plants.  

Upright

A few species of philodendron have an upright rather than a vining habit. Non-climbing types are slow growing, produce bigger leaves and grow to larger overall sizes. 

Variegated Leaves

The presence of variegated leaves is one factor that makes philodendrons rare. These leaves are a combination of two colors, typically green and white. However, the foliage may be a combination of several different colors. 

The patterned coloration can occur as dots, blotches, stripes, edges or veining. 

Leaf Shape 

Philodendrons are sought after for their unique foliage rather than their blooms. There are 3 main shapes in which their leaves occur heart-shaped, palm-shaped and lance-shaped. The overall style of the plant is determined by the leaf shape.

11 Varieties of Rare Philodendrons

Philodendron species come in a variety of shapes, sizes and rarities. Below I have listed some of the most difficult-to-come-by species. Read on to discover more about these precious varieties and the best ways to look after them. 

1. Florida Ghost

Scientific Name: Philodendron pedatum

Florida Ghost
Credit: Beatrizvale77 by CC: 4.0
  • Ideal Position: Dappled light to partial shade
  • Difficulty: Relatively low maintenance 
  • Toxicity: Toxic to humans and animals if ingested  
  • USDA Zones: 9 to 11

Florida ghost, also called oak leaf, is a vining philodendron and is native to Brazil. It has shiny, deeply lobed leaves that first emerge a brilliant white color before maturing to emerald green. Some leaves retain this variegation remaining both green and white. 

The sprawling, vining habit of this plant makes it a great candidate for hanging pots of planters or located on a high shelf. Able to reach a spread of between 2 and 5 feet, with large leaves that average around 8 inches, be sure you have plenty of space for growth. 

Given the correct care and growing conditions, this plant can bloom with flowers that are green-brown in color. 

2. Wendlandii

Scientific Name: Philodendron wendlandii 

Wendlandii
Credit: Daderot by CC: 1.0
  • Ideal Position: Dappled light to partial shade
  • Difficulty: Relatively low maintenance 
  • Toxicity: Toxic to humans and animals if ingested  
  • USDA Zones: 9 to 11

Wendlandii has large, lance-shaped leaves that can reach almost a foot in length. The foliage is deep green and prominently veined. This plant has short stems and grows in an upright habit, and when fully grown can resemble the structure of a small tree. 

Native to Costa Rica and Panama, leylandii is a tough and hardy plant. It grows fairly slowly and will reach a maximum height of around 4 feet. 

3. Moonlight

Scientific Name: Philodendron cordatum

Moonlight
Credit: David J. Stang by CC: 4.0
  • Ideal Position: Dappled light to partial shade
  • Difficulty: Relatively low maintenance 
  • Toxicity: Toxic to humans and animals if ingested  
  • USDA Zones: 10 and 11

Moonlight philodendron has smooth and glossy heart-shaped leaves. When the leaves first unfurl, they are bright yellow in color and are said to resemble the light of the moon, hence their name. As the leaves mature, they become dark green. 

Native to Brazil, this plant can reach around 20 feet and each leaf can grow up to a foot in length. Moonlight philodendron has an upright habit, causing it to look like a small tree. 

4. Tree Philodendron

Scientific Name: Philodendron bipinnatifidum

Tree Philodendron
Credit: Daderot by CC: 1.0
  • Ideal Position: Dappled light to partial shade
  • Difficulty: Relatively low maintenance 
  • Toxicity: Toxic to humans and animals if ingested  
  • USDA Zones: 10 and 11

The foliage of the tree philodendron is easily recognizable. The dark green leaves are deeply lobed and sit on the end of thin stems. As this plant grows, it reveals a woody, tree-like trunk. This plant creates a bold statement in any room due to its large size and sculptural leaves.  

In its native habitat, tree philodendron can reach 15 feet in height and have leaves that are 5 feet in length. When grown as a houseplant, however, they rarely exceed 5 feet in height with leaves of no more than 3 feet in length. 

5. Silver Cloud

Scientific Name: Philodendron mamei

Silver Cloud
Credit: Daderot by CC: 1.0

Scientific Name: Philodendron mamei

  • Ideal Position: Dappled light to partial shade
  • Difficulty: Relatively low maintenance 
  • Toxicity: Toxic to humans and animals if ingested  
  • USDA Zones: 10 and 11

Silver Cloud is named after its beautiful foliage. It has huge, heart-shaped leaves that are predominantly dark green with silver variegation and the deep veined pattern creates a ruffled texture. 

An individual leaf can grow up to 1.5 feet in size and sits on thick stems that are reddish towards the tips. 

In its natural environment, the silver cloud has a crawling habit and spreads along the ground. As a houseplant, it can easily be trained to climb or crawl. 

6. Pink Princess

Scientific Name: Philodendron erubescens

Pink Princess
Credit: Cliff by CC: 2.0
  • Ideal Position: Dappled light to partial shade
  • Difficulty: Relatively low maintenance 
  • Toxicity: Toxic to humans and animals if ingested  
  • USDA Zones: 9 to 11

Named after its unique foliage, the pink princess has dark green and pink variegated leaves. The leaves are long and heart-shaped which further adds to the elegant and romantic look of this plant. The pink patches range in tone from pastel to vibrant. 

Pink princess is a vining plant which makes it perfect to trail over the edge of shelves of hanging baskets. Additionally, you can also trim this plant back to give it a more shrub-like appearance.

7. Silver Sword

Scientific Name: Philodendron hastatum

Silver Sword
Credit: Krzysztof Ziarnek Kenraizby CC: 4.0
  • Ideal Position: Dappled light to partial shade
  • Difficulty: Relatively low maintenance 
  • Toxicity: Toxic to humans and animals if ingested  
  • USDA Zones: 9 to 11

The name silver sword is derived from the foliage of this plant. It has long, sword-shaped leaves that are green in color, but under certain light conditions shine silver. The elongated, pointy leaves can reach up to 2.5 feet in length. 

The silver sword is a vining species so be sure to provide it with support it can climb up as it grows. It can grow as high as 15 feet inside. It is native to the tropical Brazilian rainforests. Direct sunlight exposure can cause the leaves to turn black. 

8. Billie (Variegated)

Scientific Name: Philodendron billietiae

Billie (Variegated)
  • Ideal Position: Dappled light to partial shade
  • Difficulty: Relatively low maintenance 
  • Toxicity: Toxic to humans and animals if ingested  
  • USDA Zones: 9 to 11

Variegated Billie is rare due to its coloration. Thick, vibrant orange stems support large, elongated, heart-shaped leaves. Normal billie has plain green foliage but the variegated variety has green and yellow speckled leaves. A single leaf can reach around 3 feet in length and can cost more than $1,000. 

Billies are native to Brazil and French Guiana. It is a naturally vining species but can also be trained to grow in a compact and upright fashion. These plants grow relatively quickly and need plenty of space to grow. 

9. Prince of Orange

Scientific Name: Philodendron spp. 

Prince of Orange
Credit: David J. Stang CC: 4.0
  • Ideal Position: Dappled light to partial shade
  • Difficulty: Relatively low maintenance 
  • Toxicity: Toxic to humans and animals if ingested  
  • USDA Zones: 9 to 11

Prince of Orange is very aptly named after the colors of its foliage. This plant bears large, waxy leaves that are spear-shaped. Newly emerging leaves appear bright yellow and develop into red and copper shades, before becoming dark green. This coloration creates a contrasting and fiery display. 

Each leaf can reach around 3 feet in size. They sit atop thick stems that come directly out of the soil. This species is not vining but instead has an upright habit, giving it a tree-like appearance. 

10. Creeping Velvet

Scientific Name: Philodendron gloriosum

Creeping Velvet
Credit: David J. Stang CC: 4.0
  • Ideal Position: Dappled light to partial shade
  • Difficulty: Relatively low maintenance 
  • Toxicity: Toxic to humans and animals if ingested  
  • USDA Zones: 9 to 11

The huge, striking leaves of creeping velvet look almost too perfect to be real. This plant may be slow growing, but each leaf can reach 3 feet in size. The leaves are heart-shaped and emerald green with white veining. 

Native to Brazil’s tropical rainforests, creeping velvet has an upright growth habit. The foliage sits on long branches which creates a slightly bushy appearance. Be sure to give this plant plenty of growing space. 

11. Pigskin

Scientific Name: Philodendron rugosum

Pigskin
Credit: David J. Stang CC: 4.0
  • Ideal Position: Dappled light to partial shade
  • Difficulty: Relatively low maintenance 
  • Toxicity: Toxic to humans and animals if ingested  
  • USDA Zones: 9 to 11

The thick and leathery foliage of this plant combined with their wrinkled edges, somewhat resembles pig ears, hence its name. The large leaves are green and heart-shaped. The top of the leaves looks like they have been painted with delicate brushstrokes.  

Pigskin is a vining variety and can grow around 16 feet long. Provide this plant with a supporting structure that it can cling to and climb up. 

Rare Philodendron Plant Care

The different philodendron species have similar care requirements. Follow the guidelines I have written below to keep your philodendron in good health and looking its best. 

Watering Requirements

Philodendrons favor evenly moist but not waterlogged soil as this can lead to root rot. Ensure the top inch of soil is completely dry before watering your plant. 

Position

Philodendrons require low light conditions and cannot tolerate direct sunlight as this can scorch their leaves. Indirect, medium, filtered light is best as it mimics the sunlight they would receive in their natural environments. 

Temperature and Humidity

Warm temperatures and high humidity levels that mimic their native rainforest habitats are best for philodendrons. Temperatures between 75oF and 85oF and humidity between 60% and 80% are ideal. Regularly mist your philodendron to keep the humidity levels high and encourage the leaves to grow large. 

Soil Type

Philodendrons grow best in loose, well-draining soil that is rich in organic matter. The ideal soil pH for these plants is slightly acidic between 5.0 and 6.0. 

Feeding

Feed your philodendron once a month during spring and summer and every 6 to 8 weeks during fall and winter. Use a fertilizer that has an NPK ratio of 3-1-2 and is high in organic matter. 

Propagation

The easiest way to propagate your philodendron is through stem cutting. Choose a healthy stem that has a few leaves on it and cut it just below a node. 

Remove any leaves from the bottom portion of the stem and place them in a glass of water. Once roots have formed, you can transfer your cutting to some potting soil. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the rarest species of philodendron in the world?

Spiritus Sancti is the rarest philodendron plant. It can only be found in Espirito Santo in Brazil. There are so few of these plants left they are classed as endangered. Due to this, they are also incredibly expensive to purchase. 

Where can I purchase rare philodendrons? 

Rare varieties are hard to come by and cannot be picked up at local stores. Garden centers and websites that specialize in rare plants and also private collectors are the best places to look. Be prepared to pay a small fortune for many of them. 

Citations

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Ben's horticultural interest grew when graduating from Hertfordshire University in 1997. Having contributed to numerous publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Garden Design Magazine, and The English Garden. He is also the author of Propagating Houseplants Made Easy.