Philodendron Tortum: Care Guide & Tips, Problems & Propagation

philodendron tortum care

Philodendron Tortum is a spectacular plant. I could only find a very small specimen in my town when I was looking to add one to my collection. Even though it’s so small, it brings me so much joy (and is a great plant to post on Instagram for Tiny Plant Tuesday!). 

Each bright green new leaf is fascinating to watch. It emerges as it unfurls like a corkscrew and opens into a long tendrilled leaf that matures deep green. Despite its unique appearance, this plant is luckily not too complicated to look after. 

All About Philodendron Tortum

The Philodendron Tortum is a root-climbing epiphyte native to Brazil, where it can be found growing in tree boles.

The Tortum is unique because of its sword-shaped, deep green leaves that are twisted and deeply pinnate. They closely resemble a palm and have a beautiful unwieldy look to them.

philodendron tortum mature

When encouraged to climb on a trellis, they can grow up to 1.8 meters tall and have leaves that reach over 60cm in length. You will most commonly find them as smaller specimens when looking to purchase one.

The Tortum is often confused with the Philodendron Polypodioides, but they are two completely different plants. Polypodioides has much flatter leaves that appear feathery and are divided into three sections. The Tortum is more compact and not as wide as the Polypodioides. 

How To Care For Philodendron Tortum

Lighting & Placement

This plant is an epiphyte that grows under the forest canopy, so it prefers bright, indirect light. Prolonged exposure to direct sunlight can result in the leaves burning and becoming unsightly. 

I recommend placing your plant near a sun-facing window to receive enough light without getting burned. It can grow into a large and wild plant, so consider your space when choosing a spot.

philodendron tortum baby

My Tortum is still very small, so I have it in a high-humidity grow cabinet that stays nice and warm and has artificial lighting. This gives it the best chance of survival once it gets a bit bigger and needs to be removed from the cabinet. 


The Philodendron Tortum only needs to be watered when the top 3cm of soil is dry. You can check the soil weekly with your finger and gauge when to water. In my climate, this is generally only every 2-3 weeks. 

You must not let your Tortum sit in water for long periods. Water thoroughly and drain any excess in the drip tray/decorative pot. Tortums like to have lots of air around their roots, and waterlogged soil will suffocate them, leading to root rot. 

tortum philodendron

Soil & Potting

The Philodendron Tortum needs a well-draining potting mix that retains the right amount of moisture. Because this plant is a root-climbing epiphyte, the soil mix I’d recommend is slightly different from my usual Aroid mix.

My suggestion is:

  • 10% Sphagnum moss
  • 20% Pumice/Volcanic rock/Leca
  • 10% Coco coir
  • 40% Small bark chips 
  • 20% Perlite 
philodendron tortum potting

I recommend a clear plastic pot with a good amount of drainage holes. These pots help you keep an eye on the plant’s roots and can be placed into a decorative planter to cheer them up. 

Temperature & Humidity

As this plant comes from the rainforest, it does prefer a warm climate. Temperatures between 16-30℃ are ideal. If exposed to long periods of lower temperatures, the growth will be stunted, and the plant will begin to wilt. I have a heater in the room where I place my grow cabinet to keep it warm in winter & prevent temperature drops. Make sure to also keep this plant away from drafts. 

philodendron tortum leaf

The Tortum does prefer higher levels of humidity of above 70%. They can tolerate moderate levels but will not thrive. I have mine in a grow cabinet that stays at around 80-90% humidity throughout the day. Higher humidity will result in more ariel roots growing on your plant, making propagation easier! I recommend investing in a humidifier or a pebble tray underneath your plant to boost humidity. 


The Philodendron Tortum will benefit from regular feeding. If you notice the leaves are small and taking a long time to grow, it might be time to increase your fertilization. 

I recommend using a balanced liquid fertilizer NPK ratio of 20-20-20 monthly during the growing season and every 6-8 weeks during winter. Be careful not to overdo it, as this could result in the roots being burned. Make sure to follow the instructions on your fertilizer of choice. 

Showing aerial roots

Growth Rate & Repotting

As I mentioned, your Philodendron Tortum can grow quite a large plant (up to 1.8 meters tall). It is a moderate grower in ideal conditions and puts out new leaves every 2-3 months, in my experience. They do not need to be repotted often, generally every 1-2 years or when you notice that your plant is root bound. 

philodendron tortum climbing

I recommend using a pot that is only 3cm bigger than the previous one to prevent root rot and repotting shock. Spring is the best time to repot as it is the growing season. 

When repotting, I recommend watering your plant the day before, as this will help loosen up the soil and make repotting easier. Always use new soil, as the plant would have used up all of the old soil’s nutrients. 

How To Propagate Philodendron Tortum

There are two ways to propagate a Tortum: cuttings and air layering. When propagating, you should consider the time of year. Spring/summer is ideal, as the plant is actively growing. Tortums grow aerial roots which makes propagation easier. 


  • Sterilize a blade using rubbing alcohol or use a new sterile blade to make a cutting below the node. 
  • Cure the cutting by leaving it to callus overnight in a dry place. 
  • You can then place the cutting in a glass of water or directly into damp Sphagnum moss. Depending on your chosen method, you’ll need to replace the water every two weeks or keep the moss damp. Make sure that the cutting receives bright, indirect light. 
  • When the roots reach 5-7cm in length, you can transfer your new plants into pots with the same soil mix you use for the mother plant. Keep the mix quite damp for the first few weeks to avoid the roots going into shock. 
philodendron tortum propagation

Air Layering

  • Take a handful of damp Sphagnum moss and make a ball around the chosen node on your plant. 
  • Secure it in place using cling film, making sure any aerial roots aren’t touching the cling film.
  • Check on the moss ball regularly and ensure it stays damp by spraying water under the clingwrap through the top opening.
  • Once you see that the roots are large enough (5-7cm), you can cut the stem below the node with a sterile blade. 
  • Remove some of the moss and plant the cutting into a new pot. 
  • Ensure the new plant stays warm and receives enough bright, indirect light. 

Common Problems

The Philodendron Tortum is not particularly susceptible to disease and pests. Still, like most Philodendrons, it can be attacked by the usual houseplant pests, including mealybug, spider mites, scale, and aphids. 

ScaleSmall round bumps on the stem with a sticky residue, might look like barnacles.Dip a cotton bud in rubbing alcohol and firmly brush off the plant. Use neem oil to kill the remaining larvae.
MealybugSmall fluffy bugs in crevices and behind leavesSuffocate with neem oil and then remove each bug with rubbing alcohol.
Spider mitesFine webbing with red and black bugs on the underside of leaves and on stems Douse the entire plant with insecticide high in Bifenthrin every second day for a week.
AphidsOval-shaped insects with antennae that appear in groups on sections of the plant.Remove aphids with cotton wool dipped in rubbing alcohol and spray the plant with aphicide.

Common & Related Questions

What is the difference between the Tortum and the Elegans?

The Tortum has thinner and fewer lobes per leaf, making it appear more skeletal. 

Is the Philodendron Tortum rare?

Yes, it is considered a rare plant and is not readily available at your local nursery. 

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