Unveiling the Mysteries of Philodendron Spiritus Sancti


Discover the enchanting world of Philodendron spiritus-sancti, a plant that has captured the hearts of avid collectors and plant enthusiasts alike. This rare species has gained fame for its remarkable appearance, scarcity, and historical value. With its sword-like leaves reminiscent of a Kori Blade, this unicorn plant stands tall, reaching heights of up to 20 meters (65 feet) and boasting individual leaves that can exceed 60 centimeters (24 inches) in length.

Habitat & Ecology of Philodendron spiritus-sancti

Nestled in the mountains of Espírito Santo, Brazil, at an elevation of 650 meters, you’ll find the natural habitat of Philodendron spiritus-sancti. This critically endangered species, with only six known wild specimens remaining, thrives in a warm climate with temperatures ranging from 25 to 31 degrees Celsius (77-88 degrees Fahrenheit) during the day and 17 to 22 degrees Celsius (63-72 degrees Fahrenheit) at night. The region experiences high humidity of around 75% year-round, with minimal fluctuations. Rainfall is abundant, averaging about 154 days per year, resulting in a lush, tropical environment for the plant to flourish.

In situ photo of Philodendron spiritus-sancti growing up a tree

Philodendron Spiritus Sancti Overview

Often referred to as “the holy grail of philodendrons” and “the crown jewel,” Philodendron spiritus-sancti has garnered attention and intrigue. Its rarity and historical significance have led to high demand and, consequently, high prices. However, this plant has not been without controversy, as its authenticity has been questioned, forcing some sellers to resort to DNA tests for verification.

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In this article, we aim to shed light on the cultural information surrounding this species, exploring its care as a houseplant in less-than-ideal conditions. While regarded as challenging to grow, we believe that success can be achieved through careful attention to factors such as light intensity, water quality, nutrients, and other cultural practices.

Young Philodendron spiritus-sancti leaf

A Brief Taxonomic History

Philodendron spiritus-sancti was first described by George S. Bunting in 1987, although references to it date back to 1983. Belonging to the subgenus Philodendron and section Calostigma, its taxonomic classification within specific subsections remains uncertain. Discovered on the property of Antonio Carlos Kautsky in 2000, this species now enjoys protection due to its critically endangered status.

Spiritus Sancti Common Questions – FAQs

Why is Spiritus Sancti expensive?

The high price of Philodendron spiritus-sancti can be attributed to its rarity, slow growth, and challenging propagation. Additionally, its desirability among the plant community has further driven up its value. While high prices are not uncommon in the plant hobby, this species commands a significant premium due to its unique characteristics and scarcity.

How much is a Philodendron spiritus-sancti?

The price of a Philodendron spiritus-sancti can vary greatly, depending on factors such as size and availability. Historically, large specimens have fetched prices as high as $20,000. However, smaller seedlings and tissue-cultured plants are becoming more accessible, with prices starting as low as a couple of thousand dollars.

Where are philodendron spiritus-sancti from?

Philodendron spiritus-sancti is native to Eastern Brazil, specifically in the Espírito Santo province.

What is a Spiritus Sancti?

Spiritus Sancti refers to the rare tropical climbing plant known as Philodendron spiritus-sancti. Its name is derived from “Spiritus sanctus,” Latin for the Holy Spirit or the Holy Ghost in Christianity.

Philodendron spiritus-sancti Care & Culture – Indoors

When it comes to caring for Philodendron spiritus-sancti indoors, paying attention to a few key factors will help ensure its well-being. Here are some essential tips:

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Potting mix

Use a well-draining potting mix to accommodate the plant’s epiphytic nature. A blend of Aroid mix, bark, and sand will provide the necessary moisture retention and airflow needed for optimum growth.

Watering & Plant Hydration

Keep your plant adequately hydrated, as Philodendron spiritus-sancti thrives in continuously moist conditions. However, be cautious not to overwater, as this can lead to root rot. Adjust your watering frequency based on your potting mix’s drying rate and the establishment of roots, aiming for once a week or every 10 days.


Philodendron spiritus-sancti prefers high humidity levels, ranging from 70-80%. While it thrives in such conditions, it can still adapt to lower humidity levels with consistent watering and a well-draining potting mix.

Water Quality & pH

Rainwater, distilled water, or reverse osmosis water are preferable for Philodendron spiritus-sancti, as they mimic the plant’s natural conditions more closely. If using tap water, acidify it to a pH of 6 to enhance nutrient availability and uptake.

Fertilizer & Nutrients

A standard fertilizer routine should suffice for Philodendron spiritus-sancti. Using a soluble orchid fertilizer every second or third watering, along with occasional organic fertilizer applications, will help keep your plant healthy and promote growth.


Philodendrons, including spiritus-sancti, can tolerate more light than many other Aroids. While they thrive in bright light, direct sun should be avoided, as it can lead to leaf burn. Aim for filtered direct sunlight equivalent to 5-25% intensity for a few hours in the morning, supplemented by LED grow lights for the remainder of the day.

Philodendron spiritus-sancti under bright light

Philodendron spiritus-sancti Morphological Differences

Philodendron spiritus-sancti exhibits variations in leaf shape and color, providing an added allure to this already captivating plant. The broadness of its leaves can vary, influenced by factors such as light intensity, humidity, and temperature. Additionally, the expression of red or green hues in the leaves is determined by genetics, environmental conditions, and the plant’s adaptation to capture more light.

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Flowering & Pollination

Successful pollination of Philodendron spiritus-sancti has been a recent achievement, shedding light on the plant’s reproductive process. Pollination is a delicate process, as the plant has a short fertility period and offsets male pollen creation from female receptivity. Achieving successful pollination often requires careful timing during a narrow window at night. The plant’s spadix, which attracts pollinators through heat, plays a crucial role in the pollination process.

Tissue Culture Philodendron spiritus-sancti

Tissue culture offers a valuable tool in preserving and propagating Philodendron spiritus-sancti. While some plant enthusiasts express reservations about tissue-cultured plants, it is important to note that the quality of these plants depends on the quality of the tissue used for propagation. Tissue culture plays a vital role in maintaining genetic diversity and ensuring the long-term sustainability of this species.

My Philodendron spiritus-sancti (Photo timeline)

Photo of Philodendron spiritus-sancti after a year in my care

Follow along on my journey with Philodendron spiritus-sancti, from its arrival to its progress over time. This photo timeline showcases the growth and development of this extraordinary plant.

Additional Reading

For further information and resources on Philodendron spiritus-sancti, consider the following references:

  • “Growing the crown jewel: Philodendron spiritus-sancti” by Alex Bello (The IAS Newsletter)
  • “A Successful Pollination of Philodendron spiritus-sancti” by Domonick Gravine (The IAS Newsletter)
  • “Notes on a Wild Population of Philodendron spiritus-sancti” by Eduardo G. Gonçalves & Emerson R. Salviani (Aroideana)
  • Kew Royal Botanical Garden’s Species Listing for P. spiritus-sancti

In conclusion, Philodendron spiritus-sancti stands as a testament to nature’s beauty and fascination. With proper care and attention, this plant can thrive in indoor environments, bringing a touch of tropical allure to any space. Embrace the enchantment of this extraordinary species and embark on your journey to cultivate the incredible Philodendron spiritus-sancti.

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