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No houseplant collection is complete without a few philodendrons here and there. These popular houseplants are so easy to care for that they’ve become popular in the indoor gardening community.
The most common Philodendron is probably already in your collection. The Philodendron Hederaceum ‘heart-leaf Philodendron’ is one of the most familiar species, often being confused with a Pothos plant.
However, when the phrase ‘rare philodendron’ comes to mind, the first plant people will often think of is the Philodendron Pink Princess and its lovely pastel leaves.
In the gardening hobby, a rare Philodendron can easily cost ten times more than your usual big box store purchases. While many Philodendrons can be found at stores, some varieties are so rare that they can only be bought from special collectors.
In this guide, we’ll dive into the world of tropical Philodendrons and their rarest varieties. From the sweet Pink Princess to even more precious varieties, you’ll be able to find a Philodendron to admire.
What is a Philodendron?
Philodendrons are a broad genus of plants that currently encompass over 500 species worldwide. The name Philodendron comes from the Greek word love (Philo) and tree (Dendron); which points to the fact that these plants are mostly found growing on trees or vining around them.
All Philodendrons fall under the Araceae family. This means that the Monstera and Pothos plants are close cousins of the Philodendron genus.
Philodendron Growth Habit
The growth habit of a Philodendron is what sets it apart from most houseplants. With most species seen climbing on tree trunks, Philodendrons are generally climbers. When kept indoors, these plants are given moss poles and trellises for support.
Most Philodendrons are characterized by their easy care. Because they are found in forests, they prefer lower light levels and love occasional but deep watering. (Related Article: Philodendron Houseplant Care)
In general, this genus of plants is sensitive to full sunlight. Almost all Philodendrons will thrive in bright indirect sunlight; more than 4 hours may put them at risk of turning black due to sunburn. Keep them in shade to avoid the dreaded black spots.
The easy-care Philodendrons on this list are now sold in stores, so check your local nursery for availability.
What makes a Philodendron rare?
There are several reasons that Philodendrons are categorized as rare. Scientifically, some plants are harder to find than others because of their geography.
Economically, other plants become rare because the demand for them is high. In general, rarity can be classified according to the following:
Indoor plants sold in stores today were once sourced in the wild. Like a pet dog versus an endangered animal, some plants are harder to find than others.
Most rare Philodendrons are found in tropical rainforests, where they grow and thrive. These wildlife forests are found only in specific countries and even specific states. That is why a certain Philodendron can cost thousands, while a common one costs close to nothing.
Similar to Geographic location is scarcity. Some rare species on this list are not found in stores because there are so few of them in the world.
Naturally, rare objects become expensive because not everybody can have them. For this reason, some indoor plants are grown and multiplied in labs to increase their population for sale.
The number of people who demand certain Philodendrons matters, too. If a lot of people want to buy an indoor plant but none are available, then that plant becomes rare.
The Pink Princess Philodendron was once so rare that others were paying hundreds of dollars to buy it. Now that the plant is widely available in nurseries, it is now cheaper and less rare than it used to be.
Variegation is rare in nature. It occurs randomly, with 1 out of 100,000 plants on average having variegation through mutation. A Philodendron with natural variegation cannot be produced in a lab.
A plant is considered variegated if it exhibits a color mutation in its foliage. Instead of the usual green leaf, some plants produce a different color (usually white) due to their genetics.
A good example of this is the Variegated Philodendron Billietiae, which you’ll see later in this list. A regular Billietiae goes for below $100, while one with variegation easily sells for $6,000! Similar plants, different variegation.
Rare Philodendron Varieties
The Philodendron genus comes in many shapes and sizes. Take a look at these precious varieties and you might just be able to find a plant to add to your home!
Philodendron Hastatum ‘Silver Sword’
For a Philodendron named after a weapon, the Philodendron Hastatum or ‘Silver Sword’ is truly one of the most magnificent and awe-inspiring plants. Though it is technically green, it shines like silver!
The name Hastatum is from the Latin word ‘spear fashioned’ or sword-shaped. The Silver Sword Philodendron is exactly what you think it is; a plant shaped with narrow, sharp foliage, and a silvery sheen.
Like a mirror, this philodendron will leave you admiring its silver-blue reflection all day long. This plant is native to the tropical Brazilian rainforests, where it receives low light and moist soil.
Though the Philodendron Silver Sword has become more common in nurseries, it is endangered. Most Hastatum plants are now grown indoors or at home.
This particular plant loves to climb up trees. When it gets support, its leaves grow sharper and sharper; like a sword being forged. To keep this plant thriving, give it a pole to grow on so that its foliage grows long. This variety can grow up to meters high for so long as it has something to climb on.
Keep this tropical climbing plant in-between temperatures of 18-25C and place it in a well-drained potting mix. The Philodendron Hastatum thrives in moist soil but does not enjoy getting waterlogged.
Because this rare philodendron lives under the canopies of trees, it prefers to live in low-light areas. Keep its sunlight exposure to only the first few hours of the morning so that its leaves avoid turning black.
With its bright lime-green foliage and large growth habit, the Philodendron Moonlight is a rare variety to add to your collection.
This lime-colored Philodendron gets its Moonlight name from the way its foliage looks upon unfurling; luminescent like the Moon, its leaves appear white before turning green.
This attractive variety grows large leaves in a shrub-like fashion and produces red-orange spikes that turn into flowers. Like most Philodendrons, this variety is well accustomed to tropical conditions.
Often, the Philodendron Moonlight retains its medium height, but can still climb. Take note that it grows wide instead of tall due to its growth habit.
Due to its light green leaves, this plant much prefers lower sunlight levels. This rare variety can withstand 2-3 hours of sunlight, so it is best suited as an indoor plant.
Philodendron Erubescens ‘Pink Princess’
The most popular Philodendron in recent years is the Philodendron Pink Princess, nicknamed so because of its stunning blush-colored leaves. This plant has now become so popular that it’s even sold on websites like Etsy!
This beautiful Philodendron has the scientific name Philodendron Erubescens, a Latin word for ‘blushing’. Its nickname comes from its foliage; its leaves are colored with pink and a warm, dark chocolate brown. Its stems are also a deep, dark red.
Similar to its Philodendron siblings, the Erubescens is a climber. It can reach up to 5 feet tall with leaves of up to 9 inches long with good support. If you plan or already own this Philodendron, give it a trellis or pole to climb on to let it grow.
The reason this Philodendron variety became so rare is due to its demand. Though it is found abundantly in the country of Columbia, Pink Princesses are sold in low numbers to the rest of the world. With so many buyers and so little supply, this plant is sold out extremely fast.
If you’re lucky enough to grab this lovely plant, you will find that its maintenance is particularly easy. Keep your Pink Princess Philodendron in bright, indirect light throughout the day. This plant prefers growing in shade, so let it rest in the dark after at most 3 hours of natural light.
This plant can easily be grown in a pot or outdoors in the garden. You’ll find that in the wild, these plants grow upright on trees and turn into vining plants with the right conditions.
Like the Philodendron Hastaum, the Philodendron Mamei is a rare specimen with foliage that shines. Nicknamed ‘Silver Cloud’, this vining specimen grows green leaves with silver-like cloud patterns.
First found deep in the forests of Ecuador in 1883, this rare Philodendron variety is also a climber. With its wide, silvery leaves, it grows tall relatively fast. Like most varieties, this leafy green Philodendron enjoys climbing.
This specific Philodendron is also known for its ruffled stem, alongside its leaves. It can reach up to 2 meters and beyond with optimum care. The average leaf size for this gorgeous plant is 10-18 inches long, and it also produces red flowers.
Though the care for a Philodendron Mamei is similar to most on this list, it is a creeping plant. Unlike its climbing Philodendron siblings, a Mamei will grow across the ground in an upright manner.
However, keep this plant out of direct sunlight so that its leaves can retain their green and silver glow. If you ever manage to get this gem, water it once a week or even less to avoid yellow, overwatered leaves.
The Philodendron Mamei plant can be grown in a pot or outdoors, for so long as its temperature range is within 60-75F (15-25C). These days, this once hard-to-find Philodendron is now available in your local store.
A Philodendron named with a number is sure to catch some attention. This specific Philodendron, named 69686, comes from the tropical French Guianas.
The name 69686 has no symbolic or out-of-this-world meaning. The researcher who discovered this Philodendron simply did not give it a name; 69686 is the number it ranked when it was identified.
With oddly shaped dark green leaves and a similar appearance to the even rarer Philodendron Joepii below, the Philodendron 69686 is a tree-grower. A leaf from this Philodendron can grow up to two feet tall, and so it needs a large space to grow in.
This precious Philodendron is lobed with bunny-like ears and narrow, upright green leaves. In the wild, the Philodendron 69686 is found growing in shady areas where it can comfortably stretch its long stems.
To care for this interesting plant, keep its environment similar to the tropics. Humidity and occasional watering are necessary for the 69686; keep this plant fairly moist so that its leaves can grow.
In the world of Philodendron species, names can be particularly difficult to pronounce. This specimen is named the Philodendron Joepii (Yoo-Pee-Eye), after the Dutch researcher Joep Moonen who discovered them in French Guiana.
The discovery story of this Philodendron is an interesting one. Mr. Moonen, who first identified this Philodendron, found it growing on an ant’s nest. Afterward, he fell into the nest and thousands of ants began to attack him! Indeed, this interesting plant has an equally fascinating history.
This quirky-looking Philodendron is unique because of its green leaves. With a wide lower-lobed body, a delicate upper portion, the leaf of a Joepii plant is topped off with rabbit-like ears pointing upright.
The Philodendron Joepii thrives in medium, bright indirect light, and well-draining soil. Similar to other tropical plants, the Joepii is watered once every week or two.
Philodendron Billietiae (Variegated)
The variegated Philodendron Billietiae is one of the plants on this list that is rare due to its genetic configuration. While a normal Billietiae sports orange stems and green leaves, the variegated version takes it even further. A variegated Philodendron Billietiae has orange stems and leaves speckled with a beautiful yellow color.
As mentioned earlier, variegation is rare in the wild. On average, for every 100,000 plants, only 1 has foliage with natural variegation. This type of color variation makes plants expensive. Variegation can come in white, yellow, and a multitude of other colors.
A regular Philodendron Billietiae will cost around $60, while a variegated version will easily cost above $1,000 for a single leaf! The bright yellow specks of variegation are surely something that serious plant collectors are willing to pay money for.
Regular Billietiaes are already quite rare, to begin with. With this large species being native to Brazil and French Guiana, a variegated Philodendron Billietiae is by no means common. Both the regular and variegated Billietiae will have sturdy, leathery leaves and an iconic orange stem to match.
Unlike the plants on this list, the variegated Billietiae enjoys bright, medium-light. It often grows by river banks and tree logs, and so it also enjoys moisture. If you manage to snag one of these gems, give this Philodendron space to grow and enough water to drink so that its leaves grow large.
The care for this specific Billietiae can be tricky due to its variegation. With this type of Philodendron, variegation can ‘revert’, or turn back into its original color. In this case, a variegated Philodendron Billietiae may turn completely green again. The high price of this plant also comes with a high risk.
To keep this Philodendron in the best shape, give it enough bright light without the risk of direct sunlight. With its light needs taken care of, this wonderful Billietiae is sure to produce yellow-green leaves.
Philodendron Spiritus Sancti
Arguably one of the most, if not the rarest Philodendron variety on this list is the beautiful Philodendron Spiritus Sancti. This specimen sounds sacred and holy by its name alone!
The Spiritus Sancti is named after the Brazilian state of Espirito Santo. Being the only place in the whole world that this Philodendron can be found growing, no wonder it is so rare. It has been said that there are only around six of these large plants left in the wild. Yes, six!
This plant is so rare that it is held under close supervision in a secret location in Espirito Santo, with security guards and CCTV. The average price of this climbing plant can easily reach upwards of $5,000-10,000 dollars. Not bad, for a plant that is close to total extinction.
The Spiritus Sancti grows green leaves that are about 2 feet long, on average. Though this plant seems daunting because of its hefty price tag, its care is fairly easy. With optimum care, the glorious Spiritus Sancti will produce small, white flowers.
A Spiritus Sancti can be placed indoors or in the garden, as long as its humidity needs are met. This plant prefers a humidity of at least 50% and prefers a deep and thorough watering.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where can I buy rare houseplants?
While varieties like the Philodendron Hastatum, Moonlight, and Pink Princess can be found at your local store, uncommon houseplants are often sourced from exotic countries.
To buy a specific houseplant, check foreign stores as well as websites like Etsy and eBay for better deals. Special garden centers also keep rarer houseplant varieties, so you will have to look for places that specialize in tropical, hard-to-find plants.
Houseplants that have a price tag of $1000 upward are usually found in collector’s homes. If you plan to buy the rarest varieties, you can find collectors and specialized networks to help you out.
What is the rarest Philodendron?
The rarest Philodendron on this list is the Philodendron Spiritus Sancti. With only a handful of these unique foliaged beauties in the wild, this endangered species is the rarest Philodendron variety. This plant is also one of the most expensive Philodendron varieties available.
Why is the Pink Princess Philodendron so expensive?
This specific Philodendron has become expensive in recent years due to its increasing popularity and demand. Though its pink leaves seem unique and hard to find in your area, they grow abundantly in Columbia.
The reason this specimen is pricey is that its rarity is driven by high demand and low supply. The fewer Philodendrons there are in your area, the more rare and expensive it becomes.
How do I identify my Philodendron?
Many identification methods are available. If buying from a store, you can ask a sales representative to check your Philodendron’s name and growth conditions.
If you manage to find a Philodendron in the wild, you can freely send a photograph of your plant to Facebook groups and collector’s networks to have your Philodendron identified for you.
When all else fails, you can identify your Philodendron by downloading a plant identification app on your phone for further research.
Is the Monstera Deliciosa (Split-leaf Philodendron) a true Philodendron?
Unfortunately, it is not considered a Philodendron. Though this plant shares the same type of maintenance and growth habits, it is a member of the Monstera genus. However, it does fall under the same Araceae family as Philodendrons. Essentially, they belong to the same family but do not share a similar genus. (Related Article:
While you may enjoy having common plants like the Heart-leaf Philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum), Pothos, or Monstera Deliciosa in your garden, you may find that your indoor plant journey is far from over.
Philodendrons are found in many parts of the world in shades of white, green, and even red or orange. Some have large foliage, while others grow in small sizes. New Philodendron varieties are being discovered every day.
Whether it’s foliage or specific colors you’re seeking, different Philodendron varieties will surely catch your eye.