When we think of philodendron plants, our minds usually veer toward the heart-shaped leaves for which they’re famous. Yet while that distinguishing characteristic may be somewhat the norm, one variety, the Philodendron Spiritus Sancti, stands out from the crowd due to its sleek, dark, sword-like foliage.
This absolute stunner of a plant hails from Brazil, or more specifically, from Espirito Santo. Therefore, it follows that it has tropical inclinations and prefers humid living conditions with lots of bright light and plenty of warmth.
If treated right, the rare and unusual Spiritus Sancti can reach unbelievable sizes of up to 65 feet tall (20 meters) and 6 feet wide (2 meters).
In this article, I’ll take a deep dive into why the Philodendron Spiritus Sancti is so sought-after and how you can get your hands on one of your own. I’ll also cover a few other interesting facts about what makes it so unique.
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Is Philodendron Spiritus Sancti rare?
The Philodendron Spiritus Sancti is extremely rare and is currently listed as endangered in its natural habitat of Espirito Santo, Brazil. Indeed, it is estimated that there are fewer than 20 left in the wild. Today, these plants are kept thriving by collectors and cultivators.
They’ve also recently started being produced via tissue culture in laboratories and while this has helped to increase numbers, the Spiritus Sancti is definitely not a plant you’ll come across in your local nursery or garden center.
Even avid collectors have a hard time getting their hands on them. For the most part, cuttings or juvenile plants are exchanged or placed on the market by specialist collectors. And when they do become available, it’s usually for exorbitant prices.
Of course, this all makes sense when you think about their scarcity. However, tissue culture labs are in the process of changing the game. Advancements in genetic engineering are making it easier to produce these beautiful specimens in larger quantities – but that is not to say they’ll become freely available anytime in the near future.
Why is the Philodendron Spiritus Sancti so rare?
The Philodendron Spiritus Sancti has only ever been located in one geographic region in Brazil, around 800 meters above sea level, north of Rio de Janeiro. Currently, the last remaining wild Spiritus Sancti are kept in conservation on a private estate, so it’s unknown exactly how few are left.
Because of their natural scarcity, they can only be cultivated between collectors with mature plants who are willing to propagate them, or via tissue labs. Both processes are expensive and time-intensive, and production is slow.
Demand for this plant, on the other hand, is vast. As soon as they become available, they are just as quickly swept up by the highest bidder.
What’s a standard Philodendron Spiritus Sancti price?
You won’t find a Philodendron Spiritus Sancti for less than a few hundred dollars, and that’s on the lower end of the price spectrum. Cuttings can start from $800 upward, and there is no guarantee that they will root. Mature or established plants range in price from $1,000 to $12,000.
The two primary reasons for the high cost of the Spiritus Sancti are their scarcity and their slow growth rate.
They’re very difficult to find, and those who have them have a hard time propagating them – especially as they’re not known to root well. Even lab-grown Spiritus Sancti take a while to reach sellable age.
Of course, this means that limited stock on the market allows producers to sell these plants for insane prices. The Philodendron Spiritus Sancti is one of the most expensive plants you can find, rivaling other collector favorites like the Monstera Obliqua and Philodendron Pink Princess.
Why is the Philodendron Spiritus Sancti so expensive?
The law of supply and demand dictates that, so long as the Spiritus Sancti remains rare and sought-after, cultivators will be able to sell them for extremely high prices. Combine this fact with their increasing popularity, largely thanks to social platforms and ‘plantfluencers’, and you have a winning recipe for unfavorable economics.
By the same token, we can’t underestimate status, and the Spiritus Sancti has done well to work itself into a stately position as a must-have collector’s item.
Where to find a Philodendron Spiritus Sancti cutting for sale
If your mind is made up and you’ve decided to invest in a Spiritus Sancti, your next step is tracking one down. Most suppliers opt to sell cuttings from their established plants. For this purpose, you’ll want to do a deep dive into online marketplaces like eBay and Etsy.
That said, there is always a risk of plant scammers (which exist in hordes) who will sell you a sub-standard product. For this reason, I always recommend browsing forums or contacting specialist breeders to see who they can put you in touch with. If you’re lucky, avid collectors may have a cutting or two of their own to sell.
Can you buy Philodendron Spiritus Sancti seeds?
As with cuttings, Philodendron Spiritus Sancti seeds can be purchased through online marketplaces like Etsy. However, seeds are generally challenging to come by, thanks to the slow-growing nature of this plant, and there is no way to verify their legitimacy until they germinate.
Because the Spiritus Sancti is so rare, innovative collectors are always trying to find ways to produce juvenile plants effectively. Unfortunately, this gorgeous plant is not given to propagate well, often failing to root at all, which means many people turn to seeds instead.
Thanks to the global nature of the internet, it is now possible to buy Spiritus Sancti seeds which you can try to germinate at home.
The risk with this, however, is that many (even well-intentioned) sellers are not marketing authentic Philodendron Spiritus Sancti seeds. And you may end up with a completely different plant.
In this regard, if you’re hankering after Spiritus Sancti seeds, I recommend always working through a verified stockist to avoid disappointment and ensure your best chance of success.
But, that said, if you have the option, cuttings are still a better choice, provided you go the air layering route and provide them with the best care possible.
How to care for a Philodendron Spiritus Sancti
The best way to care for a Philodendron Spiritus Sancti is to try and emulate its natural, tropical environment. This involves providing it with bright, indirect light, plenty of warmth and humidity, well-draining soil, good hydration, and seasonal feeding. Occasional pruning and cleaning also help your Philodendron Spiritus Sancti’ overall well-being.
Philodendron Spiritus Sancti make great houseplants, and if you have any hesitation about their care, worry no further. These gracious green beauties are low-maintenance and straightforward in terms of their needs, making them perfect for even beginner plant parents.
Bearing in mind that Philodendron Spiritus Sancti are tropical plants, the best environment you can offer them is one where they’ll have a sunny spot with lots of light, relative humidity, and plenty of moisture.
In good news, most homes are already set up for this with East and South-facing windows and a generalized humidity level of around 50%. To supplement the rest of their care needs, you just need to ensure your Philodendron Spiritus Sancti stays hydrated, is fed with both good soil and that you occasionally fertilize your philodendron.
Best soil for Philodendrons
Light and well-draining (perfect for avoiding root rot) while being packed with just the right nutrients – that will feed your plant for up to six months. The best soil for keeping your philodendron healthy and strong.
In the following sections, we’ll look at Philodendron Spiritus Sancti care in greater detail to equip you with everything you need to help your houseplants thrive.
How much light does a Philodendron Spiritus Sancti need?
Philodendron Spiritus Sancti prefer at least six to eight hours of bright, indirect sunlight each day. As their leaves can be vulnerable if they receive too much light, keep an eye out for any signs of sunburn on your Philodendron Spiritus Sancti’s leaves, such as yellowing leaves or brown spots appearing.
Most (if not all) plants depend on sunlight energy to grow, and Philodendron Spiritus Sancti are no different. Native to tropical America, they’re accustomed to dappled light from the jungle canopies above them, which you can try to mimic in the home with clever positioning.
In the winter, when it starts to cool down, and there is less indoor sun available, a Philodendron Spiritus Sancti’s light needs can be augmented with a bit of time spent outdoors on a sheltered patio or balcony. The fresh air will do them good, too.
Find out more: Philodendron Light Needs: The Ultimate Guide
What is the right temperature for Philodendron Spiritus Sancti?
Your Philodendron Spiritus Sancti will thrive in temperatures between 75°F and 85°F (23°C to 29°C). While they can survive at lower temperatures than this, don’t let them stay for too long anywhere less than 65°F (18°C) as your plant may not survive.
Clearly some plants, like Philodendron Spiritus Sancti, like it hot. However, the real kicker is ensuring your Philodendron Spiritus Sancti are placed in an area with mid-to-high humidity.
What are the best humidity levels for a Philodendron Spiritus Sancti?
Philodendron Spiritus Sancti prefer humidity levels of around 65% to 80%. Given that they are native to tropical Central and South America, they thrive in humidity conditions similar to their natural habitat. However, most homes won’t reach these levels, so you may need to boost this for your Philodendron Spiritus Sancti to thrive.
Houseplants that receive adequate amounts of sunlight daily generally don’t require supplementary humidity, particularly if you consider most homes fall in the 40% to 50% range. However, with their tropical inclinations, Philodendron Spiritus Sancti can benefit from a little extra care in this regard.
The easiest, in my opinion, is to invest in a small plug-in humidifier. Alternatively, you can rest your Philodendron Spiritus Sancti on a damp pebble tray, making sure not to let their roots touch the water.
Alternatively, if you have a whole collection of houseplants, cluster them together so they can benefit from each other’s transpiration processes. It has the added benefit of looking great too!
What soil is best for Philodendron Spiritus Sancti?
A Philodendron Spiritus Sancti’s soil mix should be loosely clustered, nutrient-rich, and well-draining. The high nutrient level emulates its natural habitat, where plant material in the rainforest falls onto Philodendron Spiritus Sancti and nourishes them. Having light and airy potting mix helps to avoid the soil staying too soggy, which can lead to root rot.
While many Philodendron Spiritus Sancti varieties have aerial roots as well as ground-dwelling (terrestrial) roots, they receive the bulk of their vitamins and minerals from their soil, making it an essential part of their fundamental care.
Top pick: My preferred soil for Philodendron Spiritus Sancti is the Miracle-Gro Tropical Potting Mix (check the latest price here).
It’s very well draining and will feed nutrients to your Philodendron Spiritus Sancti for up to six months. For a tropical plant like the Philodendron Spiritus Sancti, it’s got everything you need.
Buying pre-blended Philodendron Spiritus Sancti soil from most garden centers is a simple option. Alternatively, you can easily mix your own by combining potting soil with chunky bits of bark (grab some here) and moisture-retentive perlite (get it here).
If you’re buying your Philodendron Spiritus Sancti pre-potted, they’ll likely arrive in appropriate soil from the get-go. Even so, you’ll need to replace their soil every 18 to 24 months to prevent a build-up of salts or eliminate any beasties and creatures like pests, fungi, or bacteria, so make sure you’re replanting them in the best soil for philodendrons so they continue to thrive.
Indeed, this is a good maintenance practice for all houseplants, not just Philodendron Spiritus Sancti!
How often should you water Philodendron Spiritus Sancti?
You should water your Philodendron Spiritus Sancti when the top two inches of its soil has dried out, which you can test by sticking your finger into your plant’s potting mix. In summer, this will be around once per week, but may be less frequent in the cooler months.
It’s always good to have a watering schedule for your plants, but with so many factors (like season and sunlight) at play, I prefer to meet my Philodendron Spiritus Sancti’s watering needs as required – by waiting for their top inch of soil to dry out before hydrating.
The reason for this is that the leading cause of fatality in Philodendron Spiritus Sancti is root rot, which they tend to contract from overly soggy soil or from standing in pooled water. As they’re pretty drought-tolerant, it’s best to err on the side of caution and only water philodendrons as they need it rather than strictly once-per-week.
That said, when you do water them, a hearty dose of moisture is great, provided it doesn’t make their soil soggy and heavy, which weighs down on their root systems.
When should I fertilize my Philodendron Spiritus Sancti?
Philodendron Spiritus Sancti likes some fertilizer every now and again. In fact, they do their best when they are fed twice a month during their active growing season, which is the spring and summer. However, you shouldn’t fertilize your Philodendron Spiritus Sancti during its dormant period in the cooler months.
This is because feeding the plant during this time can interfere with its natural growing cycle.
Overall, though, occasional feeding with a balanced fertilizer is greatly beneficial for Philodendron Spiritus Sancti, especially at the start of their growing seasons in the spring and summer months.
If you think about it, these jungle-dwellers are used to all the rich, dense nutrients they have access to from the forest floor, which can’t be substituted by typical potting soil. An all-purpose liquid fertilizer at half strength is a good way to replace their natural feeding schedule, providing them with an extra dose of energy for new growth.
Best fertilizer for Philodendrons
A great fertilizer with the perfect balance for your philodendron. Simply dissolve in water and feed your plant to watch it thrive.
Should I prune my Philodendron Spiritus Sancti?
You should prune your Philodendron Spiritus Sancti from time to time as part of their regular maintenance, with spring being the best time of the year to do this. Removing dead foliage or browning stems will allow robust leaves and vines to draw in more sunlight and stop your plant from wasting energy.
Just like humans shower, cut their hair, and clip their nails, Philodendron Spiritus Sancti can do with occasional grooming, especially when it comes to eradicating old or dying growth. Fortunately, trimming your philodendron really isn’t hard to do.
When it comes to cleaning, remember that each large leaf of your Philodendron Spiritus Sancti is full of sunlight receptors that are easily blocked by dust or grime. Wiping down your leaves with a damp cloth keeps them clean and free to function at their best.
When should I repot my Philodendron Spiritus Sancti
The Philodendron Spiritus Sancti is not a plant that needs to be repotted regularly, with it often only needing to be transplanted every two to three years. With that said, however, you should repot your Philodendron Spiritus Sancti if you see roots growing out of the drainage holes.
In fact, this plant does well when it is rootbound. That said, when you do transplant a Philodendron Spiritus Sancti, do so in spring before the plant starts to produce new growth, and select a pot that is about 3 sizes larger than the current pot.
Alternatively, you can wait until fall to perform the transplant.
Find out more: 7 Simple Steps to Repot Philodendrons (+ When To Do It)
How to propagate a Philodendron Spiritus Sancti
The easiest way to propagate your Philodendron Spiritus Sancti is to root it in water. Simply place your cutting into a jar with water in it and place it in a warm sunny spot, and wait. Refresh the water once a week to keep it oxygenated and, in six to eight weeks, new roots will appear.
At that point, your Philodendron Spiritus Sancti cutting will be ready for transplantation!
Philodendron Spiritus Sancti can be propagated from stem cuttings, provided they have a visible node and a leaf or two to draw in moisture from the air. You can either root your cuttings in water first or plant them directly into soil.
Alternatively, if you only have a small piece of stem, you can try to root them in a nutrient-rich growing medium with concentrated humidity.
That is, a second option is to place your cutting directly into a planter with soil. This is slightly riskier as they require a lot of humidity to make up for the moisture they’d usually draw via roots, but it can be equally effective with proper care.
If your cutting has no leaves, try laying it on a bed of peat moss and covering the tray or container with plastic to retain humidity. While this method isn’t always effective, it’s worth a try to avoid throwing away any pieces of your precious plants.
Find out more: 10 Easy Steps to Propagate Philodendron Cuttings
How fast does the Philodendron Spiritus Sancti grow?
Compared to other members of the philodendron family, the Spiritus Sancti is not particularly fast-growing, developing only 1 to 3 leaves each month. That said, its development rate depends largely on the season, its environmental conditions, and its age.
Good things are worth waiting for, and this couldn’t be truer than when it comes to the Philodendron Spiritus Sancti. But if you’re in a rush to see its enormous, pendant-shaped leaves, you’ll have to practice patience – the Spiritus Sancti is known to be quite a meandering grower.
Of course, the speed at which it grows is directly tied to how much it enjoys its environment.
It may come as a surprise that such a sought-after plant is easy to care for, but it is essentially unfussy and can fare perfectly well in an indoor home environment. All you need is to ensure it has sufficient light, water, airy, nutrient-rich soil, and relatively high humidity.
With these care measures in place, the Spiritus Sancti should put on at least a few leaves during every month of the spring and summer, slowing down slightly as temperatures drop. Conversely, if its growth habit is leggy or lagging, you may want to consider changing up its living conditions to include more light or moisture.
Overall, the Philodendron Spiritus Sancti is also quite hardy and resistant to pests and diseases. Still, root rot can be a real nuisance and have a massive negative impact on its health.
For this reason, keep an eye out for drooping or wilting paired with delayed development. In tandem, these symptoms may indicate a root system ailment.
How do you make a Philodendron Spiritus Sancti bushy?
The best way to make a Philodendron Spiritus Sancti bushy is to prune it in its growing season, which is spring and summer. Make sure you remove any dead or dying leaves, as this ensures your plant doesn’t spend energy on this foliage and will instead focus on new growth.
Funnily enough, regularly trimming your plant is actually key to maximizing your philodendron’s growth rate.
Regularly turning your plant so that all its angles receive sunlight is another good way to ensure consistent, rounded, and aesthetic growth with a clustered appearance to make your philodendron fuller.
You can also use a moss pole so that your Philodendron Spiritus Sancti has space to climb upwards, which is what it would do in its natural environment – aiming upwards towards a source of light.
Are Philodendron Spiritus Sancti toxic?
Philodendron Spiritus Sancti are toxic to humans and animals, as they contain sharp calcium oxalate crystals that cause skin irritation through direct contact, or gastrointestinal distress and other potentially dangerous symptoms when ingested. All parts of the plant contain these crystals, which are most prevalent in its sap.
While Philodendron Spiritus Sancti are indisputably beautiful in the home, it is best to keep them away from curious kids and pets, as skin contact and ingestion can be highly irritating at best and have real health consequences at worst.
These plants’ sticky white sap is full of needle-like calcium crystals. When they make contact with bare skin, they can cause welts or irritating rashes, which, fortunately, can usually be treated with a topical skin ointment.
Be aware: Ingestion of any part of a Philodendron Spiritus Sancti can cause swelling of the throat tissue, nausea, dizziness, diarrhea, and other symptoms of gastrointestinal distress. In a worst-case scenario, ingestion can cause difficulty breathing, in which case, medical treatment should be sought as a matter of urgency.
While this all sounds very daunting, the good news is that these plants don’t taste good, so there is no real reason (other than curiosity or carelessness) why rogue children or pets would eat them. Even so, prevention is better than cure, so place your plants out of reach if you’re concerned they may get chomped.
Why are my Philodendron Spiritus Sancti’s leaves turning yellow?
There are a few reasons why Philodendron Spiritus Sancti leaves turn yellow, but the primary cause is overwatering, with yellowing leaves being an early sign of root rot. Damaged roots cannot transport nutrients, oxygen, and water to a plant’s leaves, which causes cell death, and by default, turns them yellow.
I find watering my plants to be the most cathartic exercise on earth. However, with some trial and error, I’ve learned that my Philodendron Spiritus Sancti, in particular, doesn’t do well with being over-loved.
While they’re super hardy, too much hydration can quickly cause root rot in philodendrons – a fungal or bacterial infection that destroys your plant’s root system.
Therefore, if you notice yellowing leaves on your philodendron, run a diagnostic immediately. Is your soil damp or soggy? Allow it to dry out, which may reverse some of the damage. Lots of sun helps. Or if the damage is progressed, try repotting your Philodendron Spiritus Sancti, removing damaging roots in the process.
A secondary cause of yellowing leaves is chemical burn, which your Philodendron Spiritus Sancti may contract from over-fertilization. In this case, transplantation is also recommended, followed by a restriction of your feeding practices.
Why is my Philodendron Spiritus Sancti drooping?
Drooping and wilting in Philodendron Spiritus Sancti is more often than not related to watering practices. Too little water can cause fatigue which will make your plant look droopy, while too much water (or root rot) can also cause ill health. Generally, when a plant wilts, it is trying to communicate that it’s unwell.
While a drooping Philodendron Spiritus Sancti is distressing, it’s not usually terribly serious and most likely due to dehydration. This can be solved with a dose of water and sunlight and, of course, more consistent care going forward. In no time, your plant should be back to its old self.
Conversely, if this doesn’t do the trick, your philodendron leaves curling may indicate an underlying issue like root rot, which, ironically, is caused by overwatering. If you suspect this is the case, you may be best off transplanting your Philodendron Spiritus Sancti into fresh soil and readjusting your watering schedule.
A third cause of drooping is related to light. If a Philodendron Spiritus Sancti isn’t receiving enough sun, it will tell you by dropping its leaves and wilting. Remember, six to eight hours a day is critical, and if you can’t provide this, mitigate potential drooping with supplementary grow lights.
Why are there brown spots on my Philodendron Spiritus Sancti?
Like yellowing and drooping, brown spots on a Philodendron Spiritus Sancti are a sign of a health ailment. Browning, in particular, is mainly caused by pest infestations or bacterial and fungal infections. The best way to get rid of brown spots is to identify the cause and then treat your plant accordingly.
None of us want to see our Philodendron Spiritus Sancti suffer, and brown spots usually aren’t a very good sign. If you notice your philodendron leaves turning brown, the first thing you want to do is identify the cause, whether it be pests or soil-related.
In the case of creepy crawlies, you can treat your Philodendron Spiritus Sancti by washing it down with a horticultural soap, followed by a wipe with neem oil. Remove damaged growth, and give your plant lots of love, water, and light.
On the other hand, bacterial and fungal infections are best treated by getting rid of old soil. I highly recommend transplanting your Philodendron Spiritus Sancti (preferably in spring or summer), and cutting away any visible root and leaf damage, provided it’s not more than 30% of your plant’s total volume.
Brown spots on philodendrons can also be caused by sunburn, but in this case, they’ll look more like a sheen than a spot, per se. Sunburn can be prevented by keeping your Philodendron Spiritus Sancti out of direct light.
Why are my Philodendron Spiritus Sancti’s leaves falling off?
When a Philodendron Spiritus Sancti’s leaves start to drop, it is more often than not a sign of either overwatering or underwatering. Root rot, a consequence of too much water, can cause leaves to wilt, curl, and fall. Underwatering, conversely, sees them dry and turn crisp before dropping.
Spiritus Sanctis are great communicators and will tell you when there is something in their environment they don’t enjoy. As hardy plants, they don’t have many health issues, so any sudden onset of leaf drop is a cause for immediate concern.
As mentioned, this is usually related to watering practices, with the first sign of an issue being wilting, curling, or dried leaves. You should adapt your hydration timeframes accordingly.
If watering is not the problem, it may be that your Spiritus Sancti is scorching (you’ll note its leaves start turning pink), in which case you should move it to a shadier spot as soon as possible.