How to Care for Philodendron Spiritus Sancti – 7 Tips and Bonus Point

The Philodendron spiritus sancti is the perfect addition to your collection, especially for those who love rare and interesting plants. This philodendron is one of the most unique plants I’ve ever seen, but with that comes a hefty price tag, this variety of philodendron tends to go for a high price. So it’s extra important to know how to look after this plant as they are rare, expensive and hard to cultivate! Luckily for you though, it’s not as scary as it might seem, and we’ve got you covered.

This particular variety of Philodendron is native to the area of Espirito Santo in Brazil. It has been popularized because of its glorious long leaves which resemble swords, and can reach two feet long! It’s a gorgeous plant and it makes an amazing statement piece for any room! Their rare status they have been referred to as ‘The Holy Grail of Philodendrons’. As there are many similar varieties of philodendrons, some buyers even get their spiritus sancti DNA tested! Read on to find out all about the mysterious Philodendron spiritus sancti!

philodendron spiritus sancti

Table of Contents 

What Light Is Best?

Philodendron spiritus sancti likes bright, indirect light best!

window with plant on windowsill

Philodendron spiritus sancti will flourish best in bright, indirect lighting, which means near a south-facing window but not right up against it.

You’ll want to keep your plant out of direct light, because it might cause burns or scorched leaves. Bright light is light that will cast a super distinct shadow of the plant directly behind it, generally that’ll be light from a south facing window in the morning and midday. Therefore you’ll want to keep your plant a little distance from south facing windows. The phrase, ‘bright indirect light’ can be a bit confusing. But it just means your plant is slightly further away from the window or the light is coming through a sheer curtain. You’ll need it to be bright enough that you could comfortably read by the light. Maybe you’re not sure about it, that’s okay, just keep an eye on the plant itself. 

If you start finding that the leaves are going brown or bleached/white then it’s probably getting too much light. Perhaps the leaves are not really growing or growing very far apart your air plant probably needs more light. Also if you do want to keep your plant in a lower light area that’s totally fine. Try supplementing with a grow light or moving it to a higher light area every now and then. If you’re looking for any advice on which grow light to get we have an honest review you might find helpful. 

What Is Hemiepiphytic?

These Philodendrons are hemiepiphytic* which means they begin their life in the canopy of other trees where they grow until their roots reach the ground. Bear this in mind as the key thing for happy plants is to replicate their natural growing environment. This plant (and most of them) need less light as immature forms and as they mature they will need more light, so if your philodendron is super young consider reducing how much light it is receiving!

*Epiphytes are plants which grow on others. The prefix hemi means half, referring to the way that these philodendrons start as epiphytes before establishing as a separate plant.

philodendron leaves close up

Here’s a Guide to Knowing Your Philodendron Spiritus Sancti Needs:

Too MuchToo Little
Stunted growthStunted growth/ leggy
Brown patches on leaves Yellowing or pale leaves
Crispy leavesLeaning towards the light 

You can bring your plant outdoors for some more sun if the light inside your house just isn’t cutting it. However you need to keep in mind that the plant could get shock or sunburn from being moved too quickly. I’d recommend gradually increasing the sun exposure in order to acclimate the plant a bit better. You can start by putting your plant outside for half an hour and increasing its time outside each day by ten minutes or so. Alternatively you can move your plant closer to bright windows before putting in the shade outside and gradually moving it out of the shade close to the bright sun.

different type of leaves as a border

Overall lighting recommendations: every plant is different so the key thing is to provide your Philodendron spiritus sancti with lots of bright, indirect light (a south facing window is ideal) and watch out for the warning signs of too much or too little sun. 

How Much Water Do They Need?

Depending on how warm your house is, how high the moisture in the air is, and the time of year, your plant will need watering between twice a week and twice a month.

green watering can watering plants

As these philodendrons are tropical plants they enjoy moist soil that is consistently moist, but never soggy. Since these plants are hemiepiphytic and would usually receive water and nutrients through rainfall and moisture in the air, root rot is a real concern when growing them in a medium such as soil.

Always check the soil with your finger or a moisture meter before deciding it is time to water it, you’ll want to wait until the top 2 or 3 inches of soil feel dry. Never let your philodendron sit in stagnant water as this will lead to root rot, pests and over saturated soil.

Here’s How to Check If the Soil Is Dry / Needs Watering:

If You’re Using Your Finger or a Stick:

hand sticking in soil with plants

When the top 2-3 inches of the soil feel dry and your finger comes out of the soil clean (the wet soil sticks, the dry soil falls off) it’s time to water your plant. If you don’t want to use your finger just use a stick or similar for the same process.

If You Have a Moisture Meter:

moisture meter in the soil with plants

Keep your moisture meter in the soil at all times or stick it in to test the moisture levels every week or so and when the soil is dry, give the plant a drink. Make sure to not have the moisture meter too deep in the soil or the plant will end up underwatered. 

If you are increasing the humidity surrounding the plant then make sure to decrease the frequency of watering as plants lose less water in a humid environment. Potentially if the light levels or temperatures are going to increase then it can be beneficial to water your plant slightly more often.

Personally, I find bottom watering the most effective way to care for most of my plants, and if I were lucky enough to own this particular philodendron that’s what I would do. Use lukewarm water (cold or hot water can shock the roots) in a container, allow your philodendron to sit in the water for roughly twenty or thirty minutes, just watch for when the plant stops absorbing water.

Bottom watering encourages strong roots as the plant has to grow downwards to find the nutrients it needs. A stronger root system will help your plant in the long run. So don’t be discouraged or disappointed if your plant is putting out more roots than foliage to begin with, it’s all part of the process. 

different type of tropical plants in pots

The most important thing is to not stick rigidly to a schedule. Whilst consistency is good for a plant it’s okay to wait longer to water or to water early when you think it’s appropriate. 

Here’s a Guide:

FactorIncrease or decrease in watering 
Humidity increasedecrease
Temperature increaseincrease
Light increaseincrease
Bigger Pot SizeDecrease 
Age of plantYoung plants require more water 

Do Philodendrons Like Humidity? 

Philodendrons are going to want more humidity than is naturally available in your home, ideally around 75%. Tons of people recommend misting but I strongly advise that you do not do this. Create a humid environment using a humidifier if need be, check out this guide for finding the best one 10 best humidifiers for plants. 

humidifier blowing steam with plants

Misting encourages pests and sunburn by creating pools of stagnant water – I highly recommend you do not let any water sit in your plant or pot.

Alternatively, if you want to boost humidity in your home without spending any money on a humidifier there’s a few DIY tricks. Grouping plants together – plants lose moisture in their leaves, by grouping many plants together they create a more humid microclimate.

philodendron leaves white background

Here are the main signs your philodendron plant needs some more humidity: 

  • Brown edges/ crispy leaves 
  • Dull color
  • Yellow leaves
  • Wilting 
  • Stunted Growth 

What Temperature Is Best? 

Most plants will be damaged, potentially even fatally if they are left in super cold conditions and philodendrons are no exception. So it’s important therefore to keep them away from windows in the winter. They should be kept roughly at between 66ºF and 76ºF but there’s no exact number when it comes to plants. 

philodendron leaves with support white background

Be careful with chilly windows, hot morning sun, radiators, fans and big electric devices which can all sometimes get to extreme temperatures which can damage your Bonsai causing scorched leaves, browning foliage or even shock.

Does Philodendron Sancti Need Fertilizer?

Philodendron spiritus sancti don’t require a lot of additional nutrition, and therefore generally won’t need fertilizer. You can add a little bit of liquid fertilizer occasionally, and that will be enough. Alternatively, you can mix a small amount of slow release fertilizer granules in the soil, just personal preference, make sure you never combine both fertilizers.

Fertilizer typeProsCons
LiquidEasier to control and useNeeds to be use more often
Better for young plants as they have a lower salt content Harder to keep track of 
The nutrients are more mobile so can reach the roots more easily 
Granules/ Pellets CheaperLess control over the nutrients
Easier to storeHarder to use 
Needs using less frequently 

hand pouring fertlizer onto plant

If your plant is blooming it’ll require more fertilizer.

Is Propagation Doable?

Propagation is a bit difficult as rooting can be a problem. Seeds are also a tough path. Air layering is probably the way to go with this plant, not to worry this sounds difficult but is not too complicated! Essentially it involves wrapping soil around a node and seeing if it takes root.

How Do I Overwinter My Philodendron?

As the seasons change, your plant will be receiving a lot less light and be enduring much colder temperatures. This inevitably calls for a change in how you care for your plant. The key things are compensating for seasonal changes in the environment and to watch out for negative effects of the way you look after yourself in the winter. 

If you use central heating then consider this a PSA, it’s really important to move your plants (all of them, not just these ones) away from blasts of air/ radiators/ fireplaces. Using any kind of indoor heating will also dry out your air, which can negatively affect plants so consider using your humidifier.

ariel view of philodendron in pot

What Else Can You Do?

To begin compensating for the cold weather, reduce your watering as the temperature is lower and the plant is receiving less light they will be photosynthesising less. This means they need less water than they need in the seasons of active growth. 

Another way to adjust the plant care is to stop fertilizing the plants, again this is just because the plant is not actively growing it is not using as many nutrients so does not need extra fertilizer. Too much fertilizing leads to growth which is unsustainable and then death.

You might also consider investing in a grow light for your houseplants. If you have one already I would recommend using it more in the winter to compensate for the lack of sunlight, especially for a plant from a place such as Brazil. Though Philodendron spiritus sancti usually grows in the shade of other plants in its natural habitat of South America.

grow lights for plants

Does Philodendron Spiritus Sancti Need Repotting? 

To repot your philodendron, gently remove the root ball from the old plant, taking care to avoid snagging the roots or ripping them. Then I find it easiest to use a bucket of water to rinse the roots in, to quickly get rid of the older soil. I’ll fill my new pot with about a third full of the soil, place the plant in and fill the rest of the pot up with more soil. Then give the plant a good, thorough watering and place it in its new home.  

two plants being repotted

Use a pot that is roughly an inch or two bigger than the current pot, but it’s not a one size fits all situation, just try not to use a pot that’s a lot bigger or the plant could get stressed. I like a well-draining soil for the Philodendrons, but with ingredients that can absorb moisture and retain it well, like coco coir. I generally use potting mix with perlite for the easiest, most convenient option. If you’re a little more organized than me, you could mix together coco coir (or peat, but peat is unsustainable), orchid mix/ chunky soil mix and perlite for the ultimate soil. 

philodendron leaves with support white background

The Philodendron can be a fast growing plant when it is well looked after, so it could need repotting every other year in its prime. Once you find that the roots of the plant are growing out of the base of the pot, it’s time to repot. You’ll need to repot during spring or summer, when the plant is actively growing since this helps with its recovery time as the plant will have more energy for regrowth.

About Philodendron Spiritus Sancti

leaves of a philodendron in black pot

Common nameSanta Leopoldina
Scientific namePhilodendron spiritus-sancti
Native AreaSouth America, specifically Brazil 
Growing patternVining
Size at maturity Up to 65 feet long/tall and up to 6 feet wide
Light RequirementsBright light with full sun exposure 
Soil NeedsWell-draining, sandy soil with a neutral pH
Flowering InfoBlooms through spring and summer, bearing pink or white flowers
Hardiness ZonesUSDA zones 10-12
ToxicityToxic to pets and people when ingested 

philodendron leaves close up


Why is Philodendron spiritus-sancti so rare?

This variety of Philodendron is critically endangered because of habitat loss as a result of human behaviors, there are currently only six recorded wild specimens. They are tough to propagate too, which makes the situation worse. Fortunately there are cultivated specimens across the globe as a result of the work from passionate, private collectors.

What is the rarest Philodendron?

Philodendron spiritus sancti is often considered one of the rarest philodendrons of all of them; they have long leaves with a gorgeous deep green color, and it is only found in the state of Espirito santo in Brazil. Other rare philodendrons include the Pink Princess Philodendron which grows abundantly but has become so popular it’s hard to get. Philodendron Hastatum ‘Silver Sword’ is another rare species, due to its endangered status.

Demystifying the Rare and Beautiful Philodendron Spiritus Sancti 

The main things for caring for this type of plant is occasional water when the soil is drying out. Also with lots of bright, indirect light and plenty of warmth. Ensure the plant is fully dried and there’s no trapped water in the leaves as this will cause rot. If you come across any trouble with your plant, our comment section is the place to be! 

Happy Growing!

Enjoyed Learning About How to Grow Philodendrons? 

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Katie Riggs
Katie’s love of plants began at a young age, in fact it was the first time she went camping and discovered the medicinal wonders of a dock leaf that the fascination with all things botanical took hold. Spending time in nature and frequently visiting the Kew Gardens, she became obsessed with the diversity of plants you could grow at home. Her favorite things to grow are herbs and vegetables outdoors as well as her prized fiddle leaf fig and calathea orbifolia. Hundreds of mistakes later she has become well versed in how not to kill a houseplant. Her passions now involve sharing her love of nature and all things green to help other people keep their plants happy and healthy.

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