Philodendron Xanadu Care Guide [Botanist’s Secrets!]

For years the philodendron xanadu has brightened up many homes with its dramatic foliage consisting of prehistoric fern looking branches. Its consistently tight self heading nature combined with its glossy pinnate leaves make it a wonderful addition to any home or garden looking for an extra pop of color. 

In this post, we’ll explain everything you need to know to keep your plant alive and well, as well as some common pitfalls to avoid.

Summary: In terms of philodendron xanadu care requirements, this plant loves moderate to bright, but indirect sunlight 

Philodendron Xanadu Brief History – Where Does this Magnificent Plant Come From?

The philodendron xanadu is fairly new to the block. It was originally patented in the early 1980’s in Australia, where it was given the unusual name of ‘Winterbourn’.

But, based on DNA evidence it was discovered that this small genus of plants were actually hiding in plain sight – it grows abundantly as a wild species in Brazil and has been for many decades.

In 2018, the royal botanic society renamed the plant to ‘Thaumatophyllum xanadu’ but as it’s little known, we’ll stick with the more commonly known name of philodendron xanadu.

Philodendron Xanadu Care

Soil

The philodendron xanadu thrives in loose, well draining and organic potting mix. This includes an equal mix of coco coir or peat moss, perlite and a high quality potting soil topped with some orchid bark. Perlite helps to keep the soil loose, airy and fast draining.

This setup naturally mimics the xanadu’s growing environment in Brazil where the soil maintains a ph balance of 5.5 to 7.6. As coco coir and peat moss degrade, they will mildly acidify the soil.

Over time the fertility and nutrient quality of these organic materials will degrade so will either need replacing or you can supplement these missing nutrients with a good fertilizer (see below).

Light

The philodendron xanadu produces magnificent deep green foliage when kept in moderate to bright, indirect light. It should never be placed in a location where light directly bounces onto the leaves, this is known as direct sunlight and can burn the plant.

It’s super easy to spot a xanadu that has been burnt – it will have browning edges or blackened spots on the leaves.

Similarly, a xanadu that’s not getting enough sunlight will look leggy and sparse.

Whilst it can cope in lower light conditions, this philodendron will lose its coloring over deep.

Temperature

Originating from the tropical canopies of Brazil, it’s no surprise that the xanadu loves warm temperatures. Anywhere between 65-85 Degrees Fahrenheit is ideal.

Anything less than 55 Degrees Fahrenheit will result in slower or completely stunted growth. 

Can I Grow this Plant Outdoors? In Which Zones?

Yes, you can. In fact, it will produce much wider, greener leaves when planted outdoors in USDA zones 10-11. 

You can check which zone you live in here.

Note, it doesn’t tolerate frost well. Some growers in zones 9 have been able to protect their xanadu by covering it in mulch, but I would choose a more hardy and durable plant for colder zones.

Watering

This plant likes moist, well drained soil that’s not soggy or sitting in water. This is perhaps the trickiest part of Philodendron Xanadu care.

One of the easiest ways to kill the xanadu plant is by overwatering. 

How Often Should I Water my Philodendron Xanadu?

Water your xanadu plant when the top inch of soil (3cm) is dry to touch. If the soil is clumping or pulling away from the sides of the pot, it needs water as soon as possible. 

As a general rule of thumb, water once a week – more in the hotter months where transpiration and evaporation are higher. This isn’t an exact science but it’s better than overwatering and causing root rot. 

Overly wet soil can cause erwinia blight disease of pseudomonas leaf spot, both nasty diseases that can kill your plant within days. Whilst this plant doesn’t like extremes, it’s better to keep it on the dryer side rather than drowning it. 

Humidity

Generally, the more moisture in the air, the more glossy, and green the philodendron xanadu’s leaves will be. That’s not to say you need to mimic Brazil’s super high humidity levels though. This plant is more tolerant of normal humidity levels than most tropical varieties. 60%+ humidity is ideal, but it can cope with lower levels in the 40s and 50s.

If your environment is lacking humidity or wintertime heating is drying out the air, there are a few simple, but proven ways to increase humidity:

  • Use a humidifier to add more moisture to the air
  • Group your plants together – studies show this creates a mini-biome whereby plants share ‘humidity’ resources via a process known as transpiration
  • Line a tray with pebbles, fill with water and place the pot on the pebbles (not in the water)

Botanist’s tip: Misting does nothing to increase humidity and if overdone can cause problems later down the road

How to Fertilize the Philodendron Xanadu

Regular fertilizing during the spring and summer months is crucial to providing good philodendron xanadu care. You can cut back on fertilization during fall, and stop during the winter months. 

EDIT: I used to recommend Osmocote, but it has since changed its formula. They’re now using microplastic beads to release the nutrients. This is not eco-friendly, nor something I’d want to promote. I’ve now switched to a liquid fertilizer. 

What is the Best Fertilizer to Use for this Plant?

I use dyna grow pro (7-9-5 formulation) with amazing results. It’s a premium, complete formulation liquid fertilizer that offers all 16 of the key macro and micronutrients your plant needs. It’s also urea free (which is a good thing!). Urea, found in cheap fertilizers, contains lots of heavy residue salts that can build up on the soil over time and eventually cause root burn or death.

How to Fertilize your Philodendron Xanadu

Simply mix a ¼ teaspoon with 4.5 litres (1 gallon) of freshwater, spring is ideal. Tap water, at least where I live, is quite high in chlorine. Too much chlorine  can lead to chlorine toxicity in plants. Try to keep a regular fertilizing schedule (you’ll be surprised how quickly plants adapt to a regular feeding) and make sure to fertilize away from the roots as much as possible i.e. on the outskirts of the pot. This formula is low in residue salts but it’s always best to be on the more cautious side.

Pro Tip: Flush out the soil monthly to prevent excess build up of salts.

Can I use organic fertilizer instead?

You could, but bear in mind organic fertilizer needs bacteria to decompose and release the nutrients for the plant to use. I’ve added seaweed extract and fish emulsion to some of my juvenile plants in the past and I’ve seen a slight uptick in budding varieties. This is because organic fertilizers tend to contain plant growth hormones auxins and cytokinins.

Note, if you have a complete formulation fertilizer, you don’t need extra organic fertilizer. Less is more when it comes to fertilizer.

Growth – What Can I Expect?

The philodendron xanadu is a moderate to fast growing plant. It will grow slower indoors, reaching 3-4 feet at maturity. Outdoors, it will spread out and up, although it’s not a climber. Depending on conditions, it can grow up to 6 feet in height and 1-2 feet wide.

Pruning

The philodendron xanadu forms solid, dense clumps of foliage as it grows, and rarely needs pruning to keep its shape. The only time you will need to prune this plant is if it has:

  • Dead leaves
  • Signs of pests
  • Signs of being sparse or leggy

With a clean pair of pruning scissors, cut back until you reach a healthy leaf, branch or node. 

Repotting

The philodendron xanadu is a hardy and tolerant plant and rarely needs repotting. Once a year is suitable. Signs your plant needs repotting includes:

  • Roots are starting to peek through drainage holes
  • Your plant is root bound
  • It’s needing water every 2-3 days (roots lacking moisture)
  • Growth is stagnant
  • Soil isn’t draining well anymore

The best time to repot and minimise stress on your plant is at the beginning of spring when its beginning its new growth cycle.

Pro Tip: Just bought your plant from a nursery? It’s likely it needs repotting straight away. Nurseries tend to resell their plants when they’ve reached max growing capacity.

When repotting your philodendron xanadu, keep these things in mind:

  • Choose a pot that has drainage holes
  • Only select a pot that is 2-3 inches bigger than the last (no more).
  • Fill with a high quality, loose, well draining potting mix 

You don’t need to tease out the old soil from the roots, the roots will expand into the new pot on their own. If anything teasing the roots can cause extra unnecessary stress.

How to Propagate your Philodendron Xanadu

Propagating this plant is easy! Taking stem cuttings and planting them either in soil or water is the most successful method I’ve tried so far.  

Propagation Methods – Step by Step

Pro Tip: Propagating at the beginning of spring, at the start of this plant’s growth cycle, lends to stronger and healthier roots.

Method #1 – Taking a Stem Cutting + Planting in Soil

  1. Choose a healthy stem that’s around 3-6 inches in length.
  2. With a clean pair of pruning scissors, cut the stem just above another leaf.
  3. Prepare a small pot of moist potting soil and perlite (2:1 ratio).The mix should be wet, but not soaking.
  4. Dip the fresh stem cutting in rooting hormone. This is optional but I find it helps roots take hold quicker.
  5. Plant the stem into your pre-made potting mix (2-3 inches into the mix).
  6. Fill the rest of the pot with your potting soil and perlite mix.
  7. Place in a warm area that receives bright, indirect light.
  8. Water as usual.
  9. In 3-4 weeks roots should develop. Tug very gently to check for roots.
  10. Transfer to a bigger container or once roots have taken hold.

Method #2 Water propagation

  1. Have a small, transparent clean jar of freshwater ready (so you can see root growth)
  2. With a clean pair of pruning scissors, cut a healthy 3-6 inch stem, just above another leaf.
  3. Place the stem cutting into the jar of water, leaving the main leaves above water level.
  4. Change the water at least once a week to prevent decay pathogens taking hold.
  5. After 2-5 weeks, you should see some roots beginning to sprout.
  6. Once the roots are around an inch long (3cm) you can take them out of the water and plant them in a small pot with moist, well draining potting soil with perlite.
  7. Water and care for as usual before transferring to a larger container.

Common Pests & Diseases to Watch Out For

You’ll be glad to know that the philodendron xanadu is a very hardy and resilient plant. Luckily it’s not prone to anything in particular. The main suspect to watch out for is a pesky bacterial infection known as erwinia blight disease. It thrives on moisture and goes hand in hand with overwatering. It causes wet, mushy lesions on stems and leaves, and if left unchecked can kill your plant within days. It’s much easier to prevent than cure. 

Pro Tip: This is why I don’t recommend you mist your plant – it’s difficult to gauge when you’re overdoing it!

Have You Just Imported this Plant? This is What you Need to Know:

Caring for an imported plant is slightly different than caring for a plant that you’ve picked up at your local nursery. Here are a few things you need to know:

  • Your plant’s roots will probably come wrapped in moss which you’ll need to take off. If the soil is evenly slightly dry, the moss will compact and you’ll have a hard time getting moisture to your plant.
  • All of the leaves your plant came with might die – this is completely normal. It might take one or two growth cycles to start seeing new shoots again.
  • You’ll need to isolate and sanitise your plant before adding it to your plant collection. Wipe the leaves and arching stems over with some neem oil and isolate for 2 weeks to prevent pests spreading.
  • It will suffer some transit shock – but you can mitigate its effects by adding some diluted superthrive to your plant’s soil. Superthrive is a natural stress reliever for plants.

Toxicity – Is this plant toxic?

Yes. The philodendron xanadu’s leaves are toxic to pets, including cats and dogs if ingested. It leaves calcium oxalate crystals that typically cause swelling of the esophagus, mouth, and tongue. There’s been no known toxicity reports relating to horses, birds or people.

Help! What’s wrong with my plant? – Common Issues with the Philodendron Xanadu

Problem #1 – Why are my philodendron xanadu’s leaves turning yellow?

Yellow leaves are a sign of overwatering. Usually this means you need to add better drainage to your soil and cut down on your watering schedule. Change the potting mix and prune the damaged leaves. Yellow leaves can also be a sign of pests or nutrient deficiencies. 

Problem #2 – Why is my philodendron xanadu drooping?

Legginess and droopiness go hand in hand. This is a sure sign your philodendron xanadu is either not getting enough light or its lacking moisture and humidity. Try placing it in a brighter location and upping the moisture. If your plant has yellowing leaves though, a lack of moisture is not likely the issue. 

FAQ – Common Questions About the Philodendron Xanadu

Is philodendron xanadu an indoor plant?

Yes, the philodendron xanadu can be kept as an indoor plant. It’s a low maintenance and easy to grow houseplant that produce some incredibly dramatic foliage.

Is the Philodendron Xanadu rare?

No, the philodendron xanadu plant or ‘winterbourn’ as it’s sometimes known is a commonly found plant. It’s not rare. Its hybrid varieties, however, are rare. The xanadu lime gold is a very rare exotic houseplant.

Can I plant my Xanadu plant outdoors in full sun?

You can absolutely plant the xanaxu outdoors, but I wouldn’t place it in full, direct sun. Full sun typically means the plant is exposed to 6+ hours of direct sun a day. The Xanadu doesn’t handle extremes well, and this kind of sunlight will cause the leaves to burn. Instead, place it somewhere with partial or dappled sunlight. This mimics its naturally growing environment in Brazil.

Is the Xanandu poisonous to dogs and cats?

Yes, the philodendron xanadu is poisonous to dogs and cats if ingested. It’s best to grow a more pet friendly plant if you have pets.

Do Xanadu plants spread?

Yes, the xanadu will spread easily, more so if spread outdoors. It can spread to a width of 2-4 feet outdoors, 1-3 feet if planted in a container indoors. It won’t grow out of control though, these plants grow fairly compact and dense. Almost like a shrub.

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