The Elusive Ghost

Recently my inbox has been flooded with people talking about the Philodendron Florida Ghosts that were for sale at Woolworths for a mere R199. Most recently, one of these plants sold for R119 732 on a bid in New Zealand. And the predominant accompanying question regarding these plants from Woolies is the fact that there is no white on the plant.

This took quite a lot of research for me since I’m not an expert on the commercial foliage plant growing industry and anything that revolves around ‘Florida Ghosts’ or ‘Florida Beauty’ can be very confusing. So let’s start with the basics:

What is a Philodendron Florida?

The main school of thought is that all Philodendron Florida plants (Ghost or Beauty or otherwise) have been formed through the hybridisation between Philodendron pedatum and Philodendron squamiferum. The normal Philodendron Florida is a green plant as you can see in the below image.

What is a Philodendron Florida ghost?

A Philodendron Florida ghost looks like a Philodendron Florida, but the new leaves come out white and as they get older they get greener and ‘revert’ back to the dark green colour of the Philodendron Florida.

The newest leaf is white
The likelihood of your Florida ghost being a ghost:

Woolworths has definitely been stepping up their plant game in South Africa and they’ve been bringing some amazingly hard to find (expensive!) plants to South Africa at very reasonable prices. It isn’t a stretch to believe that this is a Ghost since they’ve had success in the past bringing in Dragonscale Alocasia; Crocodile Ferns and the like. However. One very telling circumstance leads me to believe that these are not ghosts and that is that of all the thousands of Philodendron Florida ghosts that are in their shops not one single one of them has a translucent or white leaf.

These plants are grown from TC (Tissue Culture) and imported from overseas. There have been quite a few growers and shops that have bought these plugs from the same company. If they were Florida ghosts, sure the variegation might vary from plant to plant from their genetic copy and some might not be white but it is very unlikely that a thousand plants from the same supplier would all turn out dark green and could remain being classified as a ‘ghost’. There are some murmurings about these plants (because they are from tissue culture and not direct cuttings) that they will only sprout white leaves a year or two from now. However, there is absolutely no proof of this and it is generally used as a defence from growers and labs against unsatisfied customers.

At least some of the leaves in this batch are white
What does this mean?

Your plant is most definitely likely not a Florida ghost. It is probably just a normal Philodendron Florida. This is still a relatively hard species to find in South Africa, and the plants that Woolies have produced are massive and in beautiful condition. It is still the best price you will find this plant at in South Africa and it is a stunning species to add to your collection. I for one am definitely heading to my nearest Woolies to purchase one. A top tip: There are two different plants listed on their website under Philodendron with trellis. So ordering online you might not get the specific species you want. Instead phone Woolworths customer care, and give them the SKU number and specify which species you want and then ask which Woolworths close to you has them.

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