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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