Philodendron Elegans: The Unique Skeleton Leaf Plant

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If you want a simple looking, but rare, houseplant that isn’t too fussy or complicated, you can consider Philodendron Elegans in your option lists. Don’t be fooled by the seemingly simple appearance as the plant is super attractive with appealing leaf shapes and unique veins. As Philodendrons, the plant is relatively simple and straightforward to care, provided that you follow the right directions and guide to care for the houseplant.


  • Scientific name: Philodendron Elegans
  • Popular nickname: Skeleton Aroid, Finger Leaf Philodendron, Skeleton Key Philodendron
  • Family: Araceae
  • Growth rate: Slow
  • Native habitat: Colombia

About the Plant

This plant typically grows as vines, either climbing the available support or sprawling on the floor. The leaves are unusual, forming skeleton-like appearance. That’s why it’s named Skeleton Key. The leaves themselves are big and pinnate. The shade of green can be different and various. What makes this plant unique is the deeply cut and elegant leaves, even with only the midveins. The leaves of Philodendron Elegans can grow up to 1.75 feet (or 21 inches) in length, and a foot (or 12 inches) in width.

Don’t be panic when your young plant somewhat has different shape and also colors from the adult plant. As the plant grows older, the leaves would ‘transform’ and change to the skeleton shape. Because of the pinnate leaves, the structure of the leaf may look like a palm. The petioles themselves have spongy texture, connected to the main stalks’ leaf blade. Like the leaves, petioles are green having purple ring located on the top.

Philodendron Elegans or Finger Leaf Philodendron is a rare type of plant that has gained admiration all over the world. The plant originates from Brazil and Columbia, described originally in 1913. This plant needs peat-based mix to drain the excess moisture efficiently. This plant is considered a slow growing plant, but once the leaves are growing, it is definitely worth the wait. The mature plant can grow up to 9 feet to 16 feet.


Soil Requirement

The soil needs to be free draining mix that can hold moisture. It needs pH level of 5 to 8. You can have a peat based soil, such as peat and perlite or peat and vermiculite. It’s also possible to use soilless medium (such as sphagnum moss) or 20% perlite and coconut pith.

Water Requirement

Philodendrons require just enough water; not too little, but not too much. It is sensitive to overwatering. Never let it being flooded or with standing water. Only water when the top soil feels dry; at least 50% of the mixture dries off.

Lighting Requirement

Philodendron Elegans appreciate bright but medium sunlight. It requires partial shade to grow healthy. Never put it in direct sunlight because it will burn the plant; scorching the leaves and make them discolored.

Temperature and Humidity

The plant survives well in warm temperature, from 50 degrees to 86 degrees Fahrenheit, or similar to between 10 degrees and 30 degrees Celsius. It won’t be able to stand any temperature below 58 degrees Fahrenheit or around 15 degrees Celsius. The plant may be able to tolerate 50 degrees Fahrenheit in winter, but if it gets lower than that, it may die.

Medium humidity level and good airflow is needed to thrive. The ideal level would be between 60% and 80%. If your house doesn’t have enough humidity, consider adding a humidifier to help your plant survive. In some situations, grouping plants together can also help to increase the humidity level.

However, you should also check your plant. If the growth is too slow, it may happen because of the uneven water and light distribution. If you want to group plants together, provide enough space, so airflow and light distribution would be even and equal amongst those plants.

Read also : Philodendron Xanadu : Guide from the Experts


When your Philodendron Elegans is healthy and well, you may not need to prune. But in most cases, pruning is often needed to control the overall growth, especially to keep the size under control. It is often done to encourage leaves to grow more. Moreover, pruning is crucial when the plant is sick – you can see the leaves are affected and diseased.

When you prune, make sure to do it during the active growing periods. Use sharp and clean shears or scissors. Make sure to sterilize them before each application, especially if you are about to cut the damaged, brown, or yellow leaves. Even when you want to cut the healthy parts (to encourage more growth), you still need to sterilize the shears and scissors. Don’t wait up when you see the damaged leaves. If you wait for too long, the disease will spread.


You can use ceramic pot or terracotta pot. Some people may use plastic pots; that’s fine. Some others even use transparent plastic pots so they can see the inside of the soil without disturbing the plant. Whatever pots you use, make sure that they have enough drainage holes. If you can’t find enough holes, make them. Repotting is also done once in two years, or when you see new roots coming out of the drainage holes.



There are several ways to propagate your Elegans. Make sure to follow the given directions carefully.

Root Division

  • As the simplest way to propagate the Elegans, it is related to repotting.
  • Collect and prepare all the tools, including a potting mix containing well-draining, organic, and rich soil
  • Collect some water. Let it be for at least several hours although overnight would be better
  • Don’t forget a plastic bag and sterilized shears
  • Divide your Elegans to some new plants. By using a shovel, dig the soil. Do it around the plant’s base until you can see the roots. Dig deeply enough.
  • Remove the plant from its container. If you dig deep, you should be able to take the roots easily without damaging them
  • Untangle the roots when needed by using scissors. Clean them from excess soil. Use a water spray or gentle brush when needed.
  • While doing this, check for the roots for any damaged condition or rots. If you find damaged or mushy roots, trim them
  • Divide the (root) ball to some sections. Make sure that every stem has at least a leaf and a stem.
  • Now you can pot every section in a different container. Add soil so the roots can settle. Use your fingers to help to settle the soil
  • After planting, moisture every one of those pots. Be sure to use chlorine free lukewarm water. Watch as the extra water is being drained out
  • Put these transplanted pots in areas where they can get indirect and bright sunlight. Pay attention to the proper watering regime
  • New plants try to acclimate (be adjusted to new environment). You can help by taking a special care of those plants. If you want to, add a little fertilizer to help them.

Soil Propagation

Besides root division, soil propagation is also one of the simplest and also most common propagation ways for houseplants like Philodendron Elegans.

  • Prepare a pot and the potting mix
  • Choose a (healthy) stem. It should have one leaf (at least) and it has active growth
  • Sterilize your shears. NEVER make any cut without sterilizing the blades first.
  • Cut that stem, which should be a few inches of length, just below the node. If you have a rooting hormone, dip the cut so it can recover
  • On the pot, right on the center of the soil, make a small hole. Put your cutting there and then close it up with potting mix.
  • Add some water. It should be just enough so the soil would be moisturized thoroughly. The pot and soil should retain the water well.
  • Place the pot in the area that gets enough sunlight, but make sure that it is indirect
  • When the cut produces new leaves and roots, move it to a new container.

Water Propagation

For this method, you want to prepare a jar-like and long glass container. In this way, you can see the root grows, which is actually a fun process.

  • Fill out the glass jar with water; choose the chlorine free one. Collect water and leave it be overnight. The chlorine will dissipate by doing this. You can add a little liquid fertilizer to help promote better growth.
  • Perform a stem cutting like described in the previous section
  • Submerge the cutting in water, but let the leaves stay above the water surface. Don’t put it in direct sunlight so you won’t have to deal with algae growth.
  • Replace the water once in 2 days or when it has evaporated
  • When you see new roots growth, remove the cutting from the water and move it to the soil medium.

Read also : Philodendron Verrucosum : Unique Philo With Different Way To Care


All Philodendrons are basically toxic, so this Philodendron Elegans isn’t different. The content of (insoluble) calcium oxalates is the reason why it is dangerous. The sap is dangerous to animals and humans. When chewed, it will lead to serious and quite severe oral irritation. Ingestion issues will definitely take place. Drooling, appetite loss, difficulty in swallowing, and also swollen lips, tongue, or mouth are some of the most common signs of the issue. The sap will also irritate the skin and cause a burning feeling.

It is advisable that you always wear gloves when handling this plant. It would also be wise (and smart) to keep your pets and kids away from your plant. Despite the beauty, you should always treat this plant carefully and never take it for granted.


Is Philodendron Elegans rare?

It’s considered a rare type of plant because it’s not easy to find. It’s not like every day you can find such a variant in your local nursery or even online grower.

Do Elegans climb?

Yes, it is basically a climbing variant. If you want to grow it well and healthy, make sure to provide support. Vertical support would be appreciated.

Philodendron Radiatum vs Elegans

The difference would be more noticeable if you can compare them side by side. Philodendron Elegans would appear smaller. It also has fewer divisions.

Is it normal that my Elegans grows closely packed foliage?

It’s likely because of the high light. If you dislike this pattern, move your plant to a shadier place where it can get abundance of indirect light conveniently.


Philodendron Elegans vs Mayoi

It’s kind of hard to tell these plants aside because they do look similar. However, if you take a closer look at both plants, you can see the obvious difference. Philodendron Elegans somewhat have dark purple rings, located at the petioles and leaf blades’ connecting points. The Mayoi, on the other hand, comes red petioles and red veins on the leaves’ underside.

Philodendron Tortum vs Elegans

Just like Mayoi, differentiating the Elegans and Tortum can be difficult. Basically, Elegans is both Tortum and Mayoi combined together. If you look at Tortum closely, the leaves are somewhat thinner, and the ‘fingers’ are more spread out. The distance of each finger is somewhat wider.

My Elegans are drooping. Does it mean that I do something wrong?

Drooping leaves are typically related to watering problems. It can be under watering or overwatering. Check the soil to find out. If it’s wet, then you overwater it. If it’s dry, then it’s under watering. That’s why you need to water your plant only when the soil has completely dried off.

Can I cut my Elegans?

Of course, but if your Philodendron doesn’t have any issue at all, then why do it? Pruning the plant is necessary when it becomes too expansive, taking too much space or if it becomes leggy. Do it during the most active growth period, which is the spring or summer. Don’t do it during winter or fall as the growth may be super slow or stunted.

What makes this plant special and rare?

The skeleton-look alike leaves are the main reasons why plant enthusiasts and collectors are so into this plant. The draping leaves and the veins deliver a leafy display that is just visually appealing, making the Philodendron Elegans price goes up.  


Elegans is very rare and unique, and it would be an interesting focal point in your house. Make sure that you follow these guidelines, and your Philodendron Elegans would be shining, glowing, and happy.

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