It’s hard to be a plant lover and not be familiar with Philodendrons. They’re classically beautiful and low maintenance. They’re powerhouses at air purification and they’re typically easy to come by…unless they aren’t.
Today, we’re taking a peek into the world of rare Philodendron species.
Some you’ve likely heard of, and some, you may even have the incredible fortune of having in your own collection; but we’re pretty sure that we’ll also introduce you to a new variety or two as we cover a list of unique and elusive, striking and rare Philodendrons.
What is a Philodendron?
Native to the West Indies and tropical forests of Central & South America, Philodendrons are a seriously sizeable member of the Araceae family, with close to 500 recognized species to their name.
These tropical favorites are most often a vibrant green in color and are known for their signature heart-shaped/blade-shaped leaves. Their classic shape also gives insight into the plant’s Greek origin; “Philo” (love) “Dendron” (tree).
Philodendrons are naturally vertical climbers in nature, using their viny structures or thick stems to wind their way up trees in search of sunlight.
Striking plants however and wherever you find them, today we’re diving into the rarest of the rare; taking a closer look at some of the most beautiful and elusive species the Philodendron has to offer.
What Makes a Philodendron Rare?
Just like anything in life, Philodendrons are classifieds as “rare” when a handful of criteria is met:
- Location: We know that Philodendrons come from tropical forests, but as you narrow your search to rarer and rarer species, you’ll find your hunt getting far more difficult as these elusive varieties not only live deep in forests, but some are only found in specific regions…or sub-regions around the globe. The harder it is to locate, the rarer the Philodendron is considered to be.
- Variegation: Variegated plants have different colored markings on their leaves, and they are incredibly rare. Variegation occurs naturally in plants (not just Philodendrons, but plants in general) approximately every 1 in 100,000 making variegated varieties both rare and highly sought after.
- Scarcity: In following the most basic economic principle, the harder it is to come by a good, the rarer it is classified as. As we said above with location, some of these varieties are incredibly difficult to find. On top of that, once they’ve been located, some are so rare that they are actively protected, driving up the desirability of the few available in the public market.
Rare Philodendron Species List
#1 Philodendron White Knight: With a traditional heart shape, White Knight leaves are distinguished by streaks of white, shooting off from an intricately decorated stem often marked with brown or dark purple.
They’re fun because there is no typical size – they grow to fit their environment and thrive indoors, so place accordingly and watch them flourish.
#2 Pink Princess: Native to Columbia, one of the most strikingly beautiful Philodendrons is the Pink Princess.
Standing anywhere from 2 – 4 feet in height once mature, it is recognized by dark green & (naturally occurring!) light pink variegation.
If you’re in the market, get your wallet ready as these guys go for anywhere from $75 – $100 on average for even just a cutting, with outlier costs into the thousands.
#3 Rugosum: Calling Ecuador home, Rugosums thrives in high elevations (up to 5,000 feet!). Slightly humorous in name origin, “Rugosum” translates in Italian to “Ruga” or wrinkled.
Match that with the fact that the wrinkled texture is paired with a leaf shape & size resembling a pig ear, and you have the plant’s common name, “Pigskin”.
#4 Hastatum Silver Sword: A natural climber, Silver Swords are most often found in the Atlantic coastal forests of Brazil, winding their way up trees in search of sun.
Its nickname comes from the elongated gray-green leaves resembling the blade of a sword that can give off a metallic sheen in the right light.
#5 Melanochrysum x Verrucosum: A two-for-one! Created by cross-breeding the Philodendron Melanochrysum & Philodendron Verrucosum, this variety is more commonly referred to as the Philodendron Splendid, and for good reason.
Leaf tops are dark green and velvety, streaked with light veins. Flip it over and find a deep maroon underside with yellow veins! Leaves grow long, maturing at 2 feet in length by 1 foot across.
#6 69686: Named as such because the true origin of this variety remains unknown, it sounds more like a robot than a plant.
Rest assured, the Philodendron 69686 is a tri-lobed (three leaves coming off one stem) variety with elongated hourglass-shaped smooth leaves growing off the top of long, skinny stems; a part which is very beneficial for this natural tree climber.
#7 Tortum: Likely the most uniquely shaped Philodendron on our list, the Tortum has some of the deepest lobes (“cuts” in individual leaves) and is often mistaken as a member of the palm family.
Their leaf spindles grow to 2 – 3 inches long, and are separated by a gap (lobe) of up to 1.5 inches.
Bonuses – they are powerhouses at air purification and can grow three times as tall indoors as opposed to when grown outdoors.
#8 Red Moon: It’s difficult to look at a Red Moon and not have trouble believing that a paintbrush wasn’t involved.
Characterized by its bright green (almost yellow) leaves with vibrant red streaks or spots on every other leaf, Red Moon is a show-stopper. As it matures, its pale green leaves darken into a Philodendron’s signature deep emerald.
Fun fact! The red & yellow splotches on the colored leaves do not contain chlorophyll, so it’s necessary for green to be present on the leaf to keep it alive.
#9 Dark Lord: Native to the tropical forests of Columbia and Panama, the Dark Lord provides entertainment value as it develops.
New leaf growth starts out as copper, then in “adolescence”, it turns to a deep bronze, and when mature, it showcases a deep shade of emerald that almost appears black.
While the leaf tops change, the underside remains a super shiny maroon. This fast and furious grower’s individual leaves can reach up to two feet in length – so place accordingly.
#10 Angustialatum: Native to Brazil & Peru, Angustialatum is a quick-growing, easy-to-maintain variety.
With the traditional heart shape, this variety’s leaves are far more oblong – and wrinkly – than Philodendron leaves we may traditionally picture. They are natural climbers who will thrive with something to wind their way up.
#11 Spiritus Sancti: With only six known specimens in the world, Philodendron Spiritus Sancti is considered both endangered and protected.
Native to just a single state in Brazil (Espirito Santo), the plant’s leaves appear “droopy” and that’s just because its parts are all long!
Its petioles (the part connecting the stem & leaf) can reach 30 inches, and then the dull emerald, elongated, triangle-shaped leaf can grow down another 30 inches.
Most Critically Endangered Philodendron Species in the World
All Native to Ecuador, the following list shows off the most critically endangered species in the world. Note that all formal plant names begin with “Philodendron”.
- Balaoanum: Recognized by vibrant green, “T”-shaped, long leaves growing atop long, thin stems.
- Cruentospathum: A quick climber with striking thick, oblong leaves that show off maroon and green patterns both on their face and underside.
- Hooveri: More of a shrub, Hooveris can grow up to 6 feet tall, and have an egg shape to their leaves that then taper off to a pointed end.
- Musifolium: With a dark green glossy surface above, and a lighter coloring (still glossy) below, the leaves are spongy in texture, and uniquely oval in shape with leaves growing up to 2 feet long, but just 6 inches across.
- Nanegalense: Light green, ribbed, heart shaped leaves mark this variety as a classic Philodendron, but the sweetest differentiators are its fuzzy petioles (connector between stem & leaf) and the slight hint of pink on the leaf’s underside.
- Pogonocaule: With the ability to grow a towering 12 feet in height, with the stems making up more than 30 inches of that height, they’re recognizable for the abundance of pink and red shades on their cataphylls and peduncles (stalks bearing flowers).
- Quitense: Simply emphasizing the incredible rarity of this variety – no information has yet been published online regarding appearance, characteristics or care! We so look forward to sharing a comprehensive article with you if/when the day comes where more is known on this variety.
- Riparium: As above with the Philodendron Quitense, no information has been publicly shared regarding the elusive Riparium variety either! As/if more information becomes available, we will be here ready to research and compile the best possible overview for you.
- Rugosum: See above list, (#3).
- Ventricosum: With leaves growing up to 2.5 feet long and 2 feet wide, this variety is found in high elevations, showing off their green – almost silver markings on their leaf tops, and their dark purple and red shadings below.
What is the Rarest Philodendron in the World?
The rarest Philodendron in the world is our aforementioned Philodendron Spiritus Sancti. With just six known specimens in the world, it is found and highly protected only in Espirito Santo, Brazil.
How Many Species of Philodendron are There?
The second-largest genus in the Araceae family, as of 2015, the World Checklist of Selected Plant Families recognized a thoroughly impressive 489 Philodendron species, which is more than enough to keep any person busy for quite some time.
Regardless of how many Philodendrons (or other plant friends) you plan on bringing into your home throughout life, we hope you found some inspiration within this article to search for something a little more unique – and we hope you learned lots along the way as well.
Thanks as always for stopping by!