Philodendron xanadu and Philodendron selloum are both tropical plants with large, green leaves that make for great decorative houseplants. Native to South America, they are both relatively low maintenance while bringing plenty of life and vigor into any space in your home or office.
At first, you may think these two plants are the same, but on closer inspection they actually have several differences.
The most obvious differences between the two are in their appearance. The leaves of the Philodendron xanadu are flat, rather than wavy, and because of this the plant may take up more space due to its width.
Philodendron selloum leaves, on the other hand, are shaped more like spears and tend to grow upwards, much like a tree. Its leaves are also wavier and less flat.
In this article, we will discuss more about the differences between these two plants, so if you are looking to learn more about either or both of them, just keep reading.
This plant originated from Brazil as the Winterbourn philodendron. The name ‘xanadu’ was bestowed upon it in Australia in 1988, when it was gaining popularity in that country.
Also known as Thaumatophyllum xanadu, it is a perennial that can be grown both indoors and outdoors. Its leaves grow out to the sides and it can measure up to seven feet wide when grown outdoors. Grown indoors, however, it will grow significantly smaller.
This plant is widespread in Australia, South Africa and the warmer states of the United States, such as Florida.
The Philodendron selloum is a popular houseplant that can now be found in most parts of the United States. It is often called the tree philodendron because of how the leaves grow upwards, giving the plant a look quite similar to that of a tree.
This plant is also native to South America and has been observed to grow up to 15 feet tall in the wild.
Philodendron xanadu vs Philodendron selloum
The Philodendron xanadu is the smaller plant of the two. It grows in a bunched-up manner and will only reach a height of five feet, on average. Because it grows sideways, it can grow to be seven feet wide, but if it grows too big or wide for you, you can always just prune it. Make sure you use clippers and wear gloves when doing so.
The Philodendron selloum is much bigger than the xanadu, especially if it gets its ideal amounts of sunlight, water and fertilizer. It can grow up to 12 feet high and 15 feet in width. This is why it is often called the tree philodendron; it can literally grow as tall as a tree. If you are worried that your indoor Philodendron xanadu will get too big for your living room, do not fret as the plant’s growth will not be as fast as those grown outdoors.
Both plants have lobed leaves that are a deep green in color. Due to the lobing and the ends of the leaves stretching out, they resemble droopy fingers.
The Philodendron xanadu’s symmetrical leaves are the glossier of the two, and can grow to 16 inches long and 12 inches wide. The leaves are not arranged in a particular order on the plant; they grow from seemingly random spots on the stem.
The Philodendron selloum’s leaves can grow to a whopping five feet in length, and may be the biggest leaves in the whole Philodendron family. They are connected to the trunk by smooth stems, and are arranged in a spiral pattern along the plant’s trunk.
The Philodendron xanadu likes its potting mix to be well-draining. A great combination would be regular potting mix with perlite, peat and compost.
The Philodendron selloum, on the other hand, likes its potting mix to be alkaline rich, and retain moisture well. This does not mean that the plant’s soil should be sopping wet at all times; it simply means that the soil should remain damp for a few days to continuously provide the plant with moisture. Perpetually wet soil will lead to overwatering, and possibly even to root rot and other diseases.
What are the similarities between Philodendron xanadu and Philodendron selloum?
Both of these plants should be rotated in place every couple of weeks to make sure that each side of the plant gets its time in the sunlight. This is especially true for plants that are kept indoors.
If you keep your plant in a spot where it does not get enough light, it will start to become leggy, meaning it will start to grow in the direction of the light, rather than growing symmetrically. This is a plant’s way of surviving. The change in the plant’s symmetry is not harmful in any way, but it does affect the overall aesthetic of the plant. You might also notice aerial roots starting to grow from the plant as a means of escaping the pot and anchoring itself on anything that is closer to the light.
Avoid legginess by rotating the plant and making sure that it is close enough to a generous source of light.
If there is little to no sunlight coming in through the windows during the fall or winter, you might have to invest in some grow lights to help your plants out.
Neither plant produces any flowers when kept predominantly indoors; they only produce luscious green leaves.
If you have an older Philodendron, you might have seen a ‘flower’ on the plant once, but that is actually what botanists call a spathe. This spathe is red in color and is not a flower but a protective covering over the spadix.
The spadix opens for two days, and this is when insects such as beetles or bees pollinate it. However, because a spadix appears very rarely and only opens for two days, it may be difficult for the plant to actually reproduce this way.
These plants will not do well under bright, direct light. You need to replicate the light that these plants get in their natural habitat, which is the rainforest. Plants on the rainforest floor or those growing on the trunks of trees only get the stippled sunlight that makes its way through the forest’s tree canopy.
Direct sunlight can easily burn the leaves on these plants because of their large surface area. If you plan to keep your plant outdoors, opt to place it under a large tree or under any shade that will protect it from the harsh daylight. You will know your plant is getting too much light if the leaves are looking lighter than normal, since the sunlight has bleached them.
Remember that, even if the plant is kept in a shady spot, it will still grow towards the light and could become leggy, so do not forget to rotate the pot every couple of weeks.
Do not be afraid to move your plants around and use trial and error to ascertain which spot in your home is best for them.
Humidity and temperature
Because both these plants are native to South America, they enjoy a temperature of 65 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, as well as higher-than-normal humidity of over 50%.
If you live in a place where the air is dry most of the time, you might need to buy a humidifier to automatically regulate the humidity around the plant. If the humidity is a little low only during the summer, you can help the plant by misting it once in a while or by placing a water pebble tray underneath its pot. The water in the pebble tray will evaporate and add moisture to the soil in the pot as well as to the foliage.
Refrain from placing the plant in spots such as under an air conditioner or near a heater, as the cold and warm air can quickly dry it out. Also avoid placing it in spots where cold and warm drafts pass through, for the same reason.
Philodendron plants are low maintenance and all you really need to do is simulate the living conditions of their natural habitats.
Make sure you do not overwater either plant and that their pots have sufficient drainage holes to allow excess water to flow out, rather than stagnating in the soil around their roots. Overwatering can lead to root rot, which is when the roots drown in soggy soil and start to rot. The rot will make its way into the rest of the plant until the entire plant is affected and dies.
The best way to know when to water your plant is by touching the top two inches of soil. If the soil is dry to the touch, water the plant, but if the soil is still damp, wait one or two days before checking it again. Usually, the plant will need watering once a week in warmer months and once every two weeks during the colder months.
Any houseplant fertilizer is fine to use on either plant. Make sure you only fertilize them in the spring and summer, when they are actively growing and in need of nutrients. Do not feed the plants during the fall or winter, because they are going into dormancy and will not consume all the nutrients in the fertilizer, which could lead to soil toxicity.
A good indication that either plant is in need of fertilization is when the leaves become a much lighter shade of green than normal.
Diseases and pests
Both the Philodendron xanadu and selloum are susceptible to certain fungal diseases, as well as blight caused by bacteria, which presents as dark blotches on the leaves.
Both plants are also host to the same pests, such as mealybugs, aphids and spider mites. You can use a neem oil spray to get rid of these pests. Make your own spray by mixing one gallon of warm water with two tablespoons of mild dish soap and two tablespoons of neem oil. Place the solution in a garden sprayer and spray the tops and undersides of the plant’s leaves until they are drenched. Do this during the late afternoon, once a week, for as long as needed.
Are these plants toxic?
Yes, both the Philodendron xanadu and selloum are toxic to humans and animals. When ingested, it can cause difficulty breathing, and if the plant’s sap gets onto your skin, it can lead to irritation. Make sure you are wearing protective gloves when pruning, trimming or repotting these plants. Wash the gloves as well as any tools you used so that the sap is removed.
Keep the plant out of reach, especially if you have pets or small children, so that they cannot accidentally eat or touch the plant.
The Philodendron xanadu and Philodendron selloum are large houseplants that have become popular because of their large, beautiful leaves. Both are low maintenance and quite easy to find.
The most obvious differences between the two plants are in their appearance. The xanadu is the smaller of the two; it does not grow tall, but instead grows outwards, thus occupying a lot of space. The selloum’s leaves grow upwards like a tree, and it can reach up to 15 feet tall.
The leaves on the xanadu are flatter and not as wavy, while the selloum’s leaves are spear-shaped and wavier. Xanadus like well-draining potting mix, while selloums like potting mix that is alkaline rich.
In terms of care, these two plants are virtually the same. They have the same temperature, humidity, sunlight, water and fertilization requirements.
Remember that both plants are toxic to humans and pets, so keep them out of reach of both.
They are intriguing and beautiful houseplants, but just make sure you are careful when handling them because their sap can be an irritant to the skin.
Image: istockphoto.com / Bilal photos