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Philodendron Selloum vs Xanadu: What’s the Difference?

Are you considering adding a large leafy green to your home, but not quite sure which one to pick? Philodendrons are a popular plant family: they’re not too fussy and instantly add a tropical vibe to your home. If you’re debating between a Philodendron Selloum and a Philodendron Xanadu, you’ve come to the right place. 

Philodendrons are native to South America, where they grow to enormous sizes in humid jungles. Imagine them growing tall in the partial shade below taller plants, in high humidity and their roots partially in the rich soil, partially in the open air, looking for support to grow up towards the light.

The main difference is Philodendron selloum has spear-like leaf shapes that grow proudly upwards like a tree. on the other hand, Philodendron Xanadu tends to have flatter, less wavy leaves. Xanadu takes up more width to show off her smoothly lobed leaves. 

Either one will add a fascinating artistic flair to your home or garden and can grow very large if you give them enough love and space. Read on to find out how to tell these big boys apart.

Differences Between Philodendron Selloum and Xanadu

The easiest way to tell the Philodendron Selloum and Xanadu apart is by their size. The Selloum can grow to up to 12 feet (3.6m) tall, with leaves up to 5 feet (1.5m) each.

Hence its nickname, Tree Selloum. The Xanadu variant grows in more of a shrub formation, with much smaller leaves, that are even more intricately lobed.

Philodendron Selloum Has Bigger Leaves

Philodendron Selloum vs Xanadu Leaves
Philodendron Selloum vs Xanadu Leaves

Both the Philodendron Selloum and the Xanadu have deeply lobed leaves that stretch out almost like fingers. Their leaves usually droop down.

Philodendron Selloum can grow the biggest leaves in this plant family. They can grow up to 5 feet (1.5m) long and are attached to the trunk by long, smooth stems. 

Whereas the Selloum has gone for size, the Philodendron Xanadu goes for beauty. Its leaves are glossy and have symmetrical lobes up to 16 inches (40 cm) long and 12 inches (30 cm) wide.

 You can tell these plants apart by their leaf arrangement: Philodendron Selloum grows its leaves in a spiral manner, adding new ones to its trunk as it grows. Philodendron Xanadu has an alternate arrangement, appearing more random.

Height and Structure

The Philodendron Selloum will grow BIG if given water, fertilizer, and lots of indirect sunlight: up to 12 ft (3.6 m) tall and 15 ft (4.5 m) wide. Philodendron Selloum can grow to be as tall as a tree in nature, earning it the nickname Tree Philodendron. Don’t worry, it’s not likely to become a tree in indoor conditions. 

Philodendron Xanadu is smaller and grows in a clump up to 5 ft (1.5m) tall by 7 ft (2m) wide. If the clump gets too big for your home, it’s easy to trim. Make sure you wear gloves and wash your equipment after.

Soil

For the Philodendron Xanadu, well-draining soil is important. Potting mix with peat, perlite, and compost is best. 

Philodendron Selloum, however, loves a rich, slightly alkaline soil that retains moisture. 

Philodendron Selloum vs Xanadu
Philodendron Selloum vs Xanadu

Similarities Between Philodendron Selloum and Xanadu

As parts of the same genus, these plants are more alike than they are different. Below are the most interesting similarities, as well as some more information on taking good care of them.

Leaf Coloring 

Both produce green leaves that stay green all year. The intensity of color differs with light conditions. Some but not all Philodendron Xanadu leaves have a red marrow.

No Flowers 

Unfortunately, neither are likely to produce flowers indoors. Just lots and lots of lush, green foliage.

To reproduce, older (15-20 years) Philodendron Selloum and Xanadu can produce what is often called a flower, but, according to botanists, is not one: a protective spathe around a phallic-shaped spadix. The spathe of the Xanadu is red. 

This ‘flower’ is open for 2 days, in which – hopefully – a Cyclocephala beetle pollinates it. Even crazier: to ensure the ‘flower’ is warm enough to stay clean and attract only the right kind of insect, the plant burns stored fatty tissue at the same metabolic rate as a small cat.

Growth Habit

Both species tend to get leggy when placed too far away from a light source. Rotate the plant every 3 weeks to make sure it grows evenly on all sides.

You might find an aerial root trying to escape the pot. Selloum and Xanadu use these in the wild to grow up towards the light and anchor themselves as they reach for sunlight. 

Not Too Bright 

Neither the Philodendron Selloum nor the Xanadu will be happy in sunlight. Direct light will burn their beautiful leaves. Like many plants, they thrive in bright, indirect spaces. Philodendron Xanadu is popular because it is quite happy in a shady spot – which cannot be said of all tropical plants.

Both will grow towards the light if they are in a spot that’s a bit too dark. This will create a ‘stemmy’ plant, its leaves looking like hands reaching for the light. If you don’t have a brighter spot, you can turn the pot every month or so to make sure the plant doesn’t grow lopsided.

If they are in a spot that has too much light, both types of Philodendron will appear to have slightly bleached, lighter leaves.

For a ‘full’-looking bush with deep green foliage, play around and move it every month or so until you find the perfect spot in your home! 

Heat and Humidity

Think jungle: both Selloum and Xanadu thrive at temperatures ranging from  65ºF (18ºC) to 85ºF (29ºC). Both like humid environments, ideally above 40%. In spaces with air conditioning or heaters, consider a humidifier

Watering

Philodendrons are surprisingly easy to take care of, as long as you keep in mind their native jungles. The Philodendron Xanadu is especially sensitive to root rot, so make sure pots have drainage holes. \

Water them once a week in summer, once every two weeks in winter. If the soil is dry to the touch, water generously until water comes out of the draining hole. 

Fertilizer

Only in spring and summer, the plant goes dormant in winter and will not require as many nutrients.

Liquid and powder form fertilizers are both fine, but make sure you don’t overfeed them. Leaves usually turn a lighter shade of green when the plant needs more fertilizer. 

Pest and Diseases

Neither species are particularly vulnerable to pests. Keep an eye out for spider mites, aphids, and mealybugs. 

Philodendron Selloum and Xanadu can fall victim to bacterial blight, which creates small dark green blotches on their leaves. Xanadu is sensitive to root rot.  

Toxicity

Both species are toxic to animals and humans, causing stomach pains and difficulty with breathing. Direct skin contact with the sap may irritate. When repotting or trimming either the Selloum or Xanadu, make sure you are wearing protective gloves and wash all the equipment you used.

Eating them will guarantee a bad time so make sure kids and pets cannot reach them. 

What’s in a name?

 Philodendron SelloumPhilodendron Xanadu
USDA Hardiness zone8B – 1110 – 11
Scientific NameThaumatophyllum / Philodendron bipinnatifidumThaumatophyllum / Philodendron ‘Xanadu’
Mature height6 to 12 ft (1.8 – 3.6 m)5 ft (1.5m)
Mature width10 – 15 ft (3 – 4.5 m)7 ft  (2m)
Growth rateFastFast
HabitUpwardsOutwards
Light RequirementBright, indirect. Medium indirect light. 
Soil TypeRich soil which retains moisturewell-draining potting mix, high in organic matter
Soil pH6.1 – 7.85.6 – 7.5
Watering FrequencyOnce per week in summer, once every 2 weeks in winterOnce per week in summer, once every 2 weeks in winter
PestsSpider mites. (spray with warm soapy water)Aphid and mealybugs are the main culprits. Also, spider mites when dry air
DiseasesBacterial blight – small dark green blotches. If so, leaves should be kept dry an affected leaves cut offLeaf spot disease. Root rot
Philodendron Selloum vs Xanadu At a Glance

The Selloum and Xanadu used to be Philodendrons, part of the Araceae family’s subgenus Meconostigma –  one of three subgenera within the genus Philodendron. In 2018, however, both species were reclassified in their own genus Thaumatophyllum which translates roughly to Miracle Leaf’. Which suits them so well!  Because they are both still commonly known as Philodendrons, I have referred to them as such. 

But there’s more. The Xanadu was named by a cultivator in Australia. I assume they were huge fans of Australian singer Olivia Newton-John. However, it was trademarked ‘Winterbourne’ a few years later. The patent from 1988 has run out, so it is no longer trademarked: you’re allowed to propagate. 

Some claim it was never a cultivated plant, but simply grown from a seed collected from a wild plant in Brazil and claimed to be a new invention in 1983. 

The Philodendron selloum also has a colored naming past. Its true name is Thaumatophyllum bipinnatifidum, not selloum. When botanists realized Selloum and Bipinnatifidum were the same plants, they took the name that was published in literature first. It has multiple nicknames, like Hope Selloum and Tree Selloum.