(image credit: IG:lostandfoundvintagegoods)
Philodendron Spiritus Sancti is the holy grail of plant ownership. If you think Monstera Obliqua and Monstera Adansonii are rare, hard to get and expensive, Philodendron Spiritus Sanct tops them in all 3 aspects.
The plant itself is found in the state of Espirito Santo near the town Domingos Martins in Brazil and it is said that there are only a handful of plants left in the wild. There are probably more plants in cultivation that are left in the wild.
As this plant is so ultra-rare, we do our best to share as much of the available information with you in this blog post.
The looks of the Spiritus Sancti
This plant itself is rather large with pendent leaves up to a size of 29” inches. Philodendron Spiritus Sancti is a hemiepiphyte. A hemiepiphytic plant is a plant that spends most of its life as an epiphyte.
Primary hemiepiphytes are sending down roots to the ground. Its seeds germinate in the tree canopy and they begin their lives as an epiphyte. Epiphytes are organisms that can live on the surface of other plants.
They take in nutrients from air, rainwater, water and debris such as fallen leaves.
Its leaves are between 22- 29 inches long and have a dark green dull colour with a width of 4.5 – 4.9 inches. The petioles – that is a name for the stalks that attach a leaf to its stem – are between 12 and 24 inches long.
The leaf blades are mostly thin with 4 lateral veins and have an elongated triangular shape. The shape of the leaves looks somewhat as if the Philodendron Spiritus Sancti leaves have bunny ears.
Geographic Location / Habitat
Y0u find this plant at an elevation of about 800 meters close to the Atlantic Ocean, northeast of Rio de Janeiro Brazil. The Philodendron SS is said to be almost extinct in the wild and is certainly endangered as only a handful of plants are known to remain in its natural habitat.
The described location is also the only geographical location where it has ever been found. The remaining specimen in situ are all located on a privately known land called the Kautsky farm.
It is sad but true to state that there are many more Spiritus Sancti found in cultivation than in the wild. But do not get me wrong, this Philodendron is very rare and hard to find. it will never be sold it in your common nursery or garden centre.
Philodendron Spiritus Sancti Care Sheet
Interestingly the Philodendron SS care is said by at least some growers to be rather easy to care for unlike the care for Monstera Obliqua, a rather finicky leafy friend that needs the right levels of humidity and yellows/browns if you provide too much or too little light or if the nutrient intake is not in check.
Others say it’s only easy to grow when you have figured out how to prevent its roots from rotting.
This plant needs an airy soil mix best achieved by mixing leaves, shredded mosses, little soil, orchid bark and charcoal. The mix needs to be extremely well-draining and porous.
Some growers grow the Spiritus Sancti in bare Spaghnum Moss or with mixed in coco chips and perlite. It has to drain quickly but also has to hold some of the moisture in for the plant roots to absorb.
What you are looking for are air pockets created by a chunky soil mixture. The Spiritus Sancti is very prone to root rot.
Spritus Sancti likes bright indirect light. A few hours of direct sunlight in the morning is fine but most light needs to be indirect. Make sure that the light is received from above as this Philodendron is directing its leaves towards the light source.
Having the light come in from one side only will lead to a strange-looking plant unless you are willing to rotate its’ pot frequently. But that could stress the plant and lead to other problems along the way.
So directing the light to the plant from above is suggested.
Keep your Philodendron Spiritus Sancti moist at all times is advised. Look for a wet feel to the touch. By no means should it stand in water or even worse soggy soil.
That would quickly lead to you having to say bye-bye to your beautiful pendent friend and most likely to a couple of grand. Also in terms of watering we advise for consistency.
Having roots drying up for too long or keeping them too wet for too long and they are gone before you know it.
This plant doesn’t like big swings in temperature either. Holding a constant temperature is key to care for this aroid successfully. Not much is written about the ideal temperature to grow this beautiful plant.
Whenever this is the case it might make sense to check the climate table where the plant is found in situ. In this case, it is Domingo Martins in the estate Espirito Santo in Brazil. The town is 567 above ground and has a tropical climate.
The average temperature is 70.7° Fahrenheit or 21.5° Celsius. The highest average temperature is 75.74° Fahrenheit or 24.3° Celcisus, whereas the lowest average temperature is 66.02° Fahrenheit 18.9° Celsius.
So a temperature between 66° – 76° for a Philodendron Spiritus Sancti will mimick its natural habitat, at least temperature-wise.
In its’ natural habitat the average humidity is just below 80%. This plant is surprisingly not an extreme sucker for extreme humidity and will also do well in average humidity in your house depending on where you live.
It will not appreciate big humidity changes and likes humidity to be kept at a constant level. A humidity level of at least 20% seems to be sufficient.
As an epiphyte, this aroid is doing well with little to no fertilizer as in the wild it has to survive with what the wind, rain, water and fallen leaves contain in terms of nutrients. A sufficient amount of nutrients, on the other hand, will make sure that your plant stays healthy and produces beautiful leaves and might lead to an increased growth rate.
We recommend adding little to no fertilizer, depending on the water you are using for watering. If you use distilled water, you will have to add liquid fertilizer to it from time to time.
Propagating the Philodendron Spiritus Sancti seems to be a challenge. Not so much the growing part of it but more the rooting of new cuttings. For some reason, the rooting process takes a while and new cuttings are not very eager to root.
So before you chop your unicorn into pieces, air layering might be a good way to produce leaves first before taking your scissors out.
However challenging does not mean impossible as many growers have propagated it before with success and may collectors will be more than happy to buy it from you if you are able to part with a propagated plant.
This Philodendron is a climber and grows best as an epiphyte. Provide it with a stick or a moss pole where you can attach it to. It has pendent leaves that will be hanging down and can get rather large.
Under good conditions, the Spiritus Sancti seems to be a good and vigorous grower and 1-3 new leaves a month are not uncommon.
Provide it with a pot that allows for sufficient airflow. Proper drainage is also key as excess water needs to be able to drain quickly. So drainage holes in the bottom are a must.
Many growers are using plastic pots and are also putting holes into the side of the pot for better airflow. In addition, a transparent plastic pot can be used as this enables to check the roots regularly without having to disturb the plant.
As the leaves are pendent and will grow rather large you will need to think of a solution that allows the leaves to hang in the air. So you either need to provide a podium or put the Spiritus Sancti into a hanging basket.
If you ever acquire or are already taking care of a Philodendron Spiritus Sancti we would love to hear from you. Thank you and good luck with your Spiritus Sancti. Amen.
Most frequently asked questions:
Where can I buy a Philodendron Spiritus Sancti?
As said before, the Spiritus Sancti is certainly one of the rarest Philodendron species and hard to be found. One of the nurseries in the US that has this species available from time to time is NSE Tropicals. But mostly you will just see “out of stock”, as there is only a very limited number of plants available each year.
If you are not living in the US or if NSE Tropicals doesn’t have a Philodendron Spiritus Sancti available, there are nurseries in Thailand and also the Philippines that might have it in stock. The best thing to get in touch with such apart from flying over is to screen Social Media (Facebook & Instagram) and screen for SS related posts and images.
And of course, there always is the option to buy from an aroid collector or houseplant enthusiast. The challenge apart from the price tag will be to find someone that has it available (propagation seems to be a challenge) and is willing to sell to you.
In addition, some specimen have been sold on eBay, auction-style. This way of acquiring a plant probably needs the deepest pockets as you will be in competition with other aspiring plant collectors that would love the add the #1 unicorn to their collection. A recent winning bid on eBay for a Spiritus Sancti was almost $6000 USD.
The IAS – International Aroid Society sometimes sells specimen in their annual auctions, usually held in the 3rd weekend of September. The last auction was in 2020 at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami.
How much does a Philodendron Spiritus Sancti cost?
Prices have recently risen astronomically and followed the pattern of price tag increases of plants such as the Monstera Obliqua and the Monstera Adansonii Variegata. The lower the supply and the higher the demand, the more expensive the plant is. Add in the effect of creating envy on Social Media such as Instagram and Facebook through posting pictures and an auction on eBay where a specimen of a specific plant has sold for a high price and you end up with the perfect brew.
The price action how we see it:
Pre 2019 <$1000 for a Spiritus Sancti
2019 – Around $1000 – $1500
2020 – After the recent eBay Auction (a grown Spiritus Sancti sold for almost $6000). The price for a Spiritus Sancti with 3-5 leaves >=$3000
Will the price for a Philodendron Spiritus Sancti go down eventually?
Yes, it eventually will. But we are talking years and not months. It is more likely that the price will either stay stable or go up further as demand for SS is increasing. More and more plant enthusiasts enter the hobby and hear about the rarity of this aroid for the first time. For most, this is the unicorn “houseplant” #1.
Should I buy Philodendron Spiritus Sancti seeds on the internet?
No. Never buy seeds over the internet (some exceptions apply such as herb seeds and cacti seeds among others). The chance to be scammed is very high. Specifically not Philodendron Spiritus Sancti seeds, you will be scammed 100%.
Is this plant difficult to care for?
The interesting thing is that many describe the Spiritus Sancti as rather easy to care for. This is unlike the Monstera Obliqua that needs constant high humidity and is always suffering from some kind of nutrient deficiency and is not holding back in showing this by changing leaf colour, dropping leaves, dry leaves etc (at least for us). It can be such as drama queen.
We heard that the Philodendron Spiritus Sancti is – apart from being very prone to root rot – quite easy to care for. Once you have covered your bases by providing an airy substrate mix, are using a pot that allows great airflow (eg. holes in the side of the pot) and put the plant where it is bright but with limited direct sun, it is supposed to be a happy camper. At least that is what we heard.
As most aroids and specifically Philodendron, the Spiritus Sancti loves humidity. But rather in the air than in the soil constantly as this will lead to root rot.
So it is fair to conclude, that compared to other rare aroids, the Spiritus Sancti is rather easy to care for.
Is Philodendron Santa Leopoldina the same as Philodendron Spiritus Sancti?
No, in most cases if not all cases the Philodendron Spiritus Sancti is not the same as a Philodendron Santa Leopoldina as this is just a common name and could, therefore, be used for almost any plant with long pendant leaves. There are several species referred to as Santa Leopoldina. It makes sense to use your common sense. When a plant is sold for $30 and is called Santa Leopoldina, it will not be a genuine Spiritus Sancti. It is as simple as that.