Philodendron Spiritus Sancti

Philodendron Spiritus Sancti – even its name tells you that there is something spiritual about this plant. Meaning, The Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost, this endangered plant is difficult to purchase, and when it is occasionally available, the price tag will be hefty. Unless you are a serious collector, you might never encounter this member of the philodendron family.

Philodendron Spiritus Sancti is an extremely rare species of the Philodendron family. This large climbing plant features dark green pendant leaves. It is a hemiepiphyte, which means that it can successfully live off the surface of other plants and does not need to be rooted in soil.

Only a handful of these plants remain in their natural habitat, which is in a small region in Brazil. It is believed that there are more examples of Spiritus Sancti in cultivation than in the wild. Because they are so incredibly rare and expensive, if one ever does come your way, you must know how to take care of it to preserve this unique plant.

Philodendron Spiritus Sancti

The Spiritus Sancti can become a large plant. Its natural home is among the branches of other trees in the forest canopy, where they get nutrients from fallen leaves, water, and air. 

The leaves are elongated triangular dark green blades of between 22-29 inches in length. Their pendant leaves appear suspended in front of them. They are supported by thin petioles of between 12 and 24 inches in length.

Plants such as the Spiritus Sancti are called hemiepiphyte vines. They begin as seeds in soil or above ground in trees. Plants that originate at soil level grow upward, and those that start as tree-dwellers send out roots to connect with the soil. You would think that they are extremely difficult to care for, but the main challenge seems to be obtaining a specimen rather than keeping it alive.

Like all house plants that are dependent on artificially created environments. You can keep your Spiritus Sancti healthy by mimicking its natural conditions. The following elements must be considered when caring for this precious plant:

  • Soil
  • Fertilizer
  • Type of pot
  • Watering
  • Light
  • Humidity
  • Temperature

While all these elements are essential in maintaining the health of this climbing plant, it is especially sensitive to conditions relating to temperature and soil drainage.

Philodendron Spiritus Sancti

Philodendron Spiritus Sancti Soil

The Spiritus Sancti is an epiphyte which means that it is not dependent on ground soil to survive. In fact, keeping its roots in rich soil may kill it. In nature, this plant clings to trees and survives on nutrients from decaying plant matter and rain.

Soil needs to be airy and free draining. Use potting material that creates natural air pockets, like sphagnum with perlite and orchid bark or charcoal. Spiritus Sancti develops root rot very quickly.

Drainage holes under the pot must be open, and there should be no build-up of water on the catchment saucer under the pot that could hold dampness around the roots.

Philodendron Spiritus Sancti Fertilizer

Once established in the correct soil, the Spiritus Sancti is very undemanding about added fertilizers. In nature, it depends on fallen leaf matter and adequate rainfall, so unless you are using distilled water, no additional fertilizing is recommended during routine watering.

You can occasionally add liquid fertilizer to the water, but this should not be the norm. If the correct soil, temperature, and humidity are maintained, the Sancti will harvest what it needs from the air and soil.

Related: Philodendron Serpens

Philodendron Spiritus Sancti Potting Requirements

Because this plant is so rare, information about its potting requirements is not standard. Various growers have developed ‘tricks of the trade’ to keep their precious Spiritus Sancti happily potted.

When selecting a pot, keep in mind that the leaves are pendent, so the pot will need to stand on a podium or in a basket where it can hang. The leaves are elongated, and the lowest ones may well hang below the level of the pot.

Drainage on the pot is critical as water needs to flow through without ever building up around the roots. And while most pots have drainage holes underneath, some Sancti growers have taken this a step further and added holes to the pot’s sides. These extra holes are to provide additional airflow to the base of the plant.

Using a transparent plastic pot is also recommended to check the roots without disturbing the plant. This way, you will immediately see if excessive water condensation is building up around the roots.

Philodendron Spiritus Sancti is a climbing vine, and its vertical growth will need support. Trees would usually fulfill this function, but you can use a natural stick or moss pole in the center of the pot for the plant to twine around.

Watering Your Philodendron Spiritus Sancti

Watering of the plant is critical. The soil needs to remain damp but never get waterlogged. The plant should be watered consistently, and the roots should never dry out.

Keeping the balance between wet but not soaked soil is tricky. If you own a Spiritus Sancti, you would have already have invested a small fortune to purchase it, so losing it to something like overwatering would be a tragedy. Investing in a tensiometer is highly advised. A compact type that is ideal for pots can be purchased for around $75.

Read more: Philodendron Atabapoense

Philodendron Spiritus Sancti Light Requirements

The Spiritus Sancti must be kept in indirect bright light.  The huge leaves naturally tilt upwards to seek out dappled light from the forest canopy above should never be placed where harsh sunlight could burn the leaves.

The perfect setting for a Sancti would be under a skylight where natural light could stream in from above. This placement would better mimic the plant’s natural tropical environment where filtered light comes from above.

Philodendron Spiritus Sancti Humidity Requirements

The best humidity levels for most Philodendron plants are between 60-70%. These tropical plants thrive in rainforest conditions. However, fortunately, the Spiritus Sancti seems to be quite tolerant of average humidity levels provided that there are no sudden huge fluctuations.

It is highly recommended to have a humidifier in the room where your Sancti is kept. This will ensure that the air does not dry out.

Philodendron Spiritus Sancti

Temperature Requirements for Philodendron Spiritus Sancti

Maintaining a constant warm temperature is one of the most critical factors to keep your Sancti alive. They are not tolerant of cold temperatures.

This Philodendron needs to remain within a very narrow temperature range. The temperature of Spiritus Sancti’s environment should never dip below 66F. It should also never be warmer than 76F.  Avoiding any fluctuations in temperature is key to keeping this plant healthy.

Propagation of The Philodendron Spiritus Sancti

If they were easy to propagate, they wouldn’t be so incredibly rare.  Philodendron Spiritus Sancti is not something you can try to grow multiple new plants from at home.

Experienced growers should only ever harvest root cuttings as the chances of harming an irreplaceable plant if not done correctly is too huge to risk. Cuttings are taken from the roots of established plants. The rate of success is not as high as with many other species of Philodendron.

If you own a Sancti, it is good to encourage the plants’ roots to spread naturally by air laying. Cutting pieces off your plant is just too risky. Air laying is a method of propagation where the stem of an existing plant is wrapped in damp material to encourage roots to form.

Where Can I Buy A Philodendron Spiritus Sancti?

If you are a collector of extremely rare plants, then the Philodendron Spiritus Sancti will be high on your list of must-have plants.  Conservative estimates of what you will pay to own your own Sancti hover around $2000. A single plant has sold for over $6000, so this is not a spur of the moment type of purchase!

Only a few of these tropical plants are available for sale each year. If you are determined to own a specimen, you may need to shop online from sources in Thailand or the Philippines with nurseries that propagate this variety. Buyer beware, though – before you order a plant, be extremely careful that the source is legitimate and that the plant you are purchasing is indeed the Spiritus Sancti. A similar-looking plant of the Philodendron family, the Santa Leopoldina, is sometimes passed off as the rare Spiritus Sancti.

Conclusion

The Philodendron Spiritus Sancti is a rare and expensive climbing plant. It is an epiphyte plant but is not parasitic and obtains its nutrients from decaying leaves and rainwater. The Spiritus Sancti, which features distinctive dark green elongated pendant leaves, is not a plant you often encounter. If you are fortunate enough to own one, take time to appreciate its unique beauty and its fragile status in the world.

References:

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Spiritus_Sanctus

https://nuplantcare.com/how-to-care-for-philodendron-plant-profile/