Rhaphidophora decursiva is a rare houseplant that has been making waves among collectors since 2020. Its glossy, fenestrated leaves can add a veritable touch of exotic elegance to any home. And although it’s difficult to find, this tropical vining plant is just as easy to care for as its more common relatives, like pothos or monstera.
In this houseplant care guide, we’ll reveal our top tips on how to help this coveted beauty thrive in your home. We’ll also discuss the best way to propagate this rare species and dispel some common misconceptions about it.
1857 Orgin & Ever-Changing Names
Rhaphidophora decursiva is a tropical plant belonging to the Araceae family. It is a climbing vine with glossy green leaves that have a smooth, leathery feel.
What’s truly fascinating about this species is how the leaves change shape as they mature. When the plant is young, the leaves are small and oval-shaped. But when the plant starts using its aerial roots to climb, it will enter its mature form, and the leaves will develop deeply-cut fenestrations that resemble the fronds of a palm tree.
This aroid is native to the tropical forests of China, India, and Southeast Asia. Rhaphidophora decursiva in the wild a mature plant can grow to an impressive height of 66 feet (20 meters), with split leaves almost 2 feet (60 cm) long. When grown indoors, it usually reaches a height of 7 feet (2.1 meters), with large, monstera-like foliage.
Scientists first identified this plant in 1857, and since then, they have changed its name several times. R. decursiva was once known as:
- Monstera decursiva
- Pothos decursiva
- Scindapsus decursiva
Today, there still needs to be more clarity surrounding this plant. Due to its foliage and growth habit, it’s often mistaken for a monstera or philodendron species.
Some sellers list it under the common name of Dragon Tail plant, which is also used for a species of pothos, the Epipremnum pinnatum’ dragon tail’.
But whatever you decide to call it, there’s no denying that this trendy indoor plant will make a fantastic addition to your indoor jungle.
Rhaphidophora Decursiva Care Guide
This unpretentious tropical houseplant can quickly adapt to the average indoor growing conditions. It prefers bright indirect light, well-draining soil, regular feeding, watering, and high humidity if your home can provide it.
Most importantly, it will require support to climb on to develop mature, fenestrated leaves. So let’s take a closer look.
Rhaphidophora decursiva needs bright indirect light to thrive. If your home is too dark, the lack of light can cause leggy growth and the leaves to get smaller. However, direct sunlight exposure can burn the plant’s leaves.
Try keeping it in an east or west-facing room, about 2 – 3 feet away from the window. In a south-facing room, you can use sheer curtains to block the intense sun and provide the plant with filtered light.
The ideal soil mix for this plant should be rich in organic matter, well-draining, and moisture-retentive.
If the soil dries out too fast, this can result in underwatering issues and curling, yellowing leaves. However, if the soil doesn’t have sufficient drainage, it can become waterlogged and can cause problems such as root rot.
You can use a pre-made aroid potting mix or make your own at home. Here’s an excellent soil recipe you can try:
- 50% peat moss
- 20% perlite or pumice
- 20% orchid bark
- 10% horticultural charcoal.
The Rhaphidophora plant has moderate watering needs. Keep the soil moist, but avoid watering it too often.
This plant doesn’t like having ‘wet feet,’ and the excess water can cause root rot, which may prove fatal (mushy stems are an indicator).
Water your decursiva when the top 2 inches (5 cm) of the soil feel dry to the touch. Always use the soak-and-drain watering method for this plant.
This ensures that the soil gets evenly moist, and also helps flush out excess fertilizer salts and minerals.
This tropical plant grows best in temperatures ranging from 65°F to 82°F (18°C to 28°C). Avoid exposing it to temperatures below 59°F (15°C), as this can stunt its growth and can lead to root damage.
You can grow it outdoors if you live in USDA hardiness zones 10 to 12. In cooler climates, you can keep the plant outside throughout summer, then bring it inside when night-time temperatures drop too low.
This plant can tolerate average household humidity levels. But if you want to help it thrive, try to increase the humidity levels in your home to at least 60%. The easiest way to achieve this is by using a humidifier or keeping the plant in a naturally more humid room, such as a bathroom.
If your home has very low humidity, you may notice that the leaves will start curling or develop brown, crispy tips.
Rhaphidophora decursiva requires regular fertilizer applications to support its fast growth. Feed it with a balanced houseplant fertilizer from early spring until mid-fall.
A fertilizer with an N-P-K nutrient ratio of 20-20-20 works best for monthly applications. For example, if you’re using a fertilizer with a 10-10-10 ratio, you can apply it once every two weeks. Micracle-Grow also sells liquid fertilizer that can also be an option.
The Rhaphidophora plant is a natural climber. So also, the only way to help it reach maturity and develop split, fenestrated leaves is to give it something to climb on.
A sphagnum moss pole would be ideal, but you can also use a coco coir pole or even a simple trellis.
Pruning & Maintenance
Prune your R. decursiva in spring or summer. Removing the dried or yellowing leaves will maintain its looks and encourage the plant to spend its energy on new growth.
If the vines are becoming too long, you can trim them down to about half the length and use the cuttings for propagation.
Once every one or two weeks, use a damp cloth or a microfiber glove to wipe the leaves. Dust and grime can block sunlight and clog the stomata in the leaves, reducing the plant’s ability to photosynthesize.
You will need to repot your plant once every two years. Rhaphidophora has a rapid growth rate and can quickly outgrow its container.
If you can see the roots come out through the drainage holes, transplant it into a pot that’s two inches wider or one size bigger than its current pot.
Rhaphidophora Decursiva Propagation Guide
The easiest method for propagating Rhaphidophora plants is rooting stem cuttings in water. This method works best if you use it in spring and summer when the plant is actively growing.
Here’s our simple step-by-step propagation guide.
- Take a pair of sharp scissors and disinfect the blades with rubbing alcohol.
- Find a stem that’s at least one foot long, and cut it between two nodes. For best results, use single-node cuttings with one growth node and one leaf. If the cutting has two or more leaves, it will take longer to grow roots.
- Fill a glass or plastic container with water, and put the cutting in it. The water level should cover the node but not the leaf.
- Keep the container in a warm, sunny room, away from direct sunlight.
- Change the water once every 5 – 7 days. This will prevent algae from growing inside the container and reduce the risk of water-borne diseases leading to stem rot.
- The cutting should take between 3 and 6 weeks to grow roots. Wait until the roots are at least 2 inches long (5 cm) before transplanting.
- When the roots are long enough, fill a nursery pot with a well-draining potting mix and transplant your cutting.
- Water the new plant regularly and monitor its development for the next month to ensure it has successfully transitioned from water to soil.
Alternatively, you can root cuttings in sphagnum moss, perlite, or vermiculite.
Soil propagation is also an option, but keep in mind that the roots will develop slower. Also, the cutting is more susceptible to stem rot if you use this method.
Can You Grow Rhaphidophora Decursiva From Seed?
You can grow a Rhaphidophora plant from seeds. However, this propagation method is rarely feasible for indoor gardeners because it requires freshly harvested seeds.
To be successful, you must wait for your plant to flower, then manually pollinate it. After pollination, your plant will produce small, round berries. Once the berries are ripe, you can remove the seeds from the fruit and plant them as soon as possible.
The main problem with this propagation method is that R. decursiva rarely flowers indoors. Also, the seeds last only a short time after you harvest them. And once they dry, their germination rate drops dramatically.
As tempting as it is, never buy Rhaphidophora seeds online. Most of them are too old and dry, and they will not sprout after you plant them.
This low-maintenance plant rarely suffers from any serious problems. However, here are a few things to keep an eye out for.
Common Rhaphidophora decursiva pests include thrips, mealybugs, spider mites, and scale. These pests can cause leaf discoloration and stunted growth; in severe cases, they can kill your plant.
You can use a neem oil solution to prevent severe pest infestations.
Use an insecticidal soap solution or a mix of distilled water and isopropyl alcohol to treat scale, mealybugs, and spider mites.
If you’re dealing with thrips, prune the damaged leaves, then spray the plant with a systemic pesticide.
Yellowing leaves are usually a sign of giving your plant too much or too little water. In severe cases, watering issues can lead to root rot, and leaf discoloration is the first symptom that your plant’s roots are dying.
Other causes for yellowing leaves include low light, nutrient deficiency, low humidity, and pest infestations.
Curling leaves are a defense mechanism used by the plant to preserve moisture. This could indicate that your plant is thirsty, that the air in your home is too dry, or that the plant is sitting too close to a heating vent.
The main culprit is low light if your R. decursiva has a long stem with no leaves. In a dark room, the plant will spend its energy trying to find a light source, which will result in bare, leggy stems. Move your plant to a brighter location or use a grow light, especially if your home has very little natural light.
Plant Not Growing
If your plant is not producing any new leaves or stems, it needs more light, nutrients, or a bigger pot. Keep the plant in a room with bright indirect light, fertilize it regularly during the growing season, and repot it in fresh soil at least once every two years.
Growing Smaller Leaves
The amount of light your Rhaphidophora plant receives plays an essential role in leaf shape and size.
If the new leaves are smaller than the older ones, you need to move your plant to a brighter location.
Also, consider giving the plant something to climb on. If kept as a hanging plant, R. decursiva will maintain its juvenile shape, and its leaves will get smaller with each passing month.
Is this plant pet safe?
This plant is toxic to cats and dogs. All parts of the plant contain small, needle-shaped calcium oxalate crystals called raphides. They can cause painful skin irritations and, if ingested, can cause swelling of the lips and mouth, difficulty breathing, nausea, excessive drooling, and other gastrointestinal problems.
Always keep this plant away from pets and small children.
Is Rhaphidophora Decursiva Rare?
Rhaphidophora decursiva is relatively rare. It became a houseplant sensation in 2020; back then, it was pretty expensive.
Since 2021, it has become cheaper and easier to find, thanks to tissue culture propagation. But only a few sellers stock it and, depending on where you live, the price for a small plant can range from $15 to more than $60.
Is it a crawler?
No, it is a species of climbing aroid. You can grow it as a hanging or trailing plant, but to encourage large, fenestrated leaves, it’s best to grow it on a trellis or a moss pole.
Is Rhaphidophora Decursiva a Philodendron?
No. Although some sources call it the Creeping Philodendron, Rhaphidophora decursiva is neither a creeping plant nor a philodendron species.
Instead, it belongs to the genus Rhaphidophora which, admittedly, does bear some similarities to philodendron and monstera plants regarding leaf shape and growth pattern.