Philodendron spiritus sancti
Today we’re taking a quick look at a plant that holds a special place on a lot of wish lists: Philodendron spiritus sancti. These stunning Aroids are an endangered species native to the Brazilian state of Espirito Santo, where it’s said there may be a handful of specimens left growing in the wild. More of these plants live in private collections than in their natural habitat.
The rarity and subsequent price tag can make this an intimidating plant to consider for your collection, but from experience I can say that the spiritus sancti isn’t a terribly fussy plant. If you, like me, lack a greenhouse — fear not. It’s totally possible to grow these beauties inside as long as you’re able and willing to imitate their natural environment.
The main challenge I face is finding the right spot for mine, because he’s kind of big and a little bit wild, and needs to be protected from a large, clumsy dog and a plant-chomping cat. Oh, and clumsy humans. We’ve had one leaf casualty from sheer clumsiness and I don’t mind telling you, I shouted a lot and cried just a bit! I’ve found a decent spot in a south-southwest window that has an overhang to protect him from the harshest light while still letting in a lot of bright indirect light.
Keeping the temperature and humidity stable is key, but luckily SS doesn’t have wildly different needs than a lot of our favorite tropical plants. During the winter I run three strategically placed humidifiers for my plants, as well as a space heater devoted to the plant room to keep that temperature on point (in the mid-70s Fahrenheit).
In terms of potting, mine is in terra cotta with a very chunky, well-draining mix of orchid bark, charcoal, a bit of perlite, some chopped sphagnum moss, and a little dash of soil. As a hemiepiphytic plant, spiritus sancti simply doesn’t want to sit in a lot of soggy soil.
My spiritus sancti enjoys a little summer vacation with the majority of my other plants to enjoy humidity, some dappled sunlight under the canopy, and fresh rain water.
The trickiest thing about the P. spiritus sancti seems to be propagation. When I purchased mine, I made sure to ask for any special care tips, just in case. It turns out, they really are pretty easy to grow, but I’m told they’re quite difficult to root. I haven’t been bold enough to try my hand at propagation, although air layering has been suggested. If I’m ever brave enough to try, we’ll be sure to post the results here!
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