One of the rarest houseplants currently available, Philodendron Squamiferum is popular for its pretty foliage, attractive climbing habit and easy going nature. In fact, for many Philodendron Squamiferum growers, tracking down one of these tropical plants is often the hardest part of the task.
Part of the large Philodendron plant family, Squamiferum specimens are increasingly popular houseplants. But what exactly is Philodendron Squamiferum? From identifying to caring for the plant, this guide will take you through everything that you need to know.
What is Philodendron Squamiferum?
Sometimes known as the Hairy Philodendron, this aroid epiphyte is one of the rarer members of the Philodendron family.
Easy to identify, the Squamiferum cultivar is distinguished from other varieties by its distinctive stems that are covered in red hairs. The plants also produce oak shaped leaves, which can have up to 5 lobes.
The distinctive stems of the Hairy Philodendron plant. Source: Philodendron Squamiferum by cpf1 / CC 2.0
An aroid epiphyte, most plants sold are 15 to 20 inches tall. While this suggests a small plant with a compact growth habit, in the wild they can grow up to 20 ft tall. Planting in a pot and some light pruning coupled with the plant’s relatively modest growth rate helps to keep their spread to a minimum.
A tropical plant, you can find P. Squamiferum plants growing in rainforest habitats in Suriname, Brazil, and French Guiana. Here the plants develop long, climbing vines that scale the tallest trees, enabling the leaves to bask in dappled sun. While specimens growing in containers are more compact, they will require some form of support, such as a trellis.
During the spring or summer months burgundy spathes emerge. On the spathes white flowers develop. If pollinated pink berries develop as the spent flowers fade.
Warning. Like other members of the Araceae family, Philodendron Squamiferum plants contain insoluble calcium oxalate crystals. These can cause a burning sensation in the mouths of both humans and pets if consumed. Be careful where you place the plants if you have small children or curious pets.
Where to Place Philodendron Squamiferum
Finding the right place to keep your plant is vital. Not only does the correct position help the plant to thrive it also reduces the amount of regular maintenance that you need to do.
Like other epiphytes, such as some types of Peperomia, Philodendron Squamiferum plants like to climb up to the light. In their natural habitat the plants are happiest in dappled canopies. While the plants struggle in positions with too much direct light, they also struggle in positions that are too dark.
These plants thrive in dappled light.
If placed in too dark a position growth may slow or cease. Wet soil and root rot can also develop.
A position which enjoys medium to bright indirect light is ideal. During the winter months, when light levels are naturally lower, try moving the plant to a slightly lighter indirect light position. You can also use grow lights to artificially boost light levels.
Temperature and Humidity Levels
The temperature around the plants should be over 50 ℉. Exposure to temperatures below this for a prolonged period can harm your Philodendron Squamiferum. Similarly the temperature should not be allowed to rise above 77 ℉. Again exposure to too much heat can damage the plants. If you are uncertain, try placing the plants somewhere that enjoys a steady room temperature and is free from drafts.
Outside these attractive specimens are hardy in USDA Zones 9 to 11. In cooler areas plants growing outside in pots should be moved undercover before the cool fall temperatures arrive.
Philodendron Squamiferum is native to the jungle. This means that it thrives in humid conditions. Humidity level should measure at least 40%.
If humidity levels around the plants are too low, they can start to struggle. Browning leaf tips are a visible sign that humidity levels are too low. A SMARTRO Digital Indoor Hygrometer can be used to measure the humidity levels around your plants.
A humidity tray is a reliable, easy way to raise humidity levels. The Humidi-Grow Indoor Plant Stand has a compartment for the water overwich sits a tray for yout pot. This enables you to ensure that the plant isn’t sitting in water for an extended period whilst safely raising humidity levels.
You can also mist the plants with a Plant Mister Spray Bottle or use a humidifier. If you are misting the plants, be careful not to get the foliage too wet or increase the moisture levels around your plants too much. Damp or wet foliage can attract mites and pests to your plants.
Selecting the Right Potting Medium
While these plants are popularly grown as potted houseplants this doesn’t mean that you can use a general purpose potting soil.
As we have already noted, the Philodendron Squamiferum is an epiphyte. This means that its roots are made for anchoring the plant to a surface. They should not be buried under too much dense potting material. Burying the roots too deeply or in too heavy a material can suffocate the plant. Instead plant in a light, coarse potting medium.
A potting mix containing sphagnum moss or coco coir is preferred. These materials help the soil to retain some, but not too much, moisture. Another useful ingredient is perlite, this allows excess water to escape. Partially composted pine bark can also be used.
Sphagnum moss helps to aerate the soil and improve drainage.
If you are unsure, plant your Philodendron Squamiferum in a succulent mix such as Espoma Organic Cactus Potting Soil. Succulent potting mixes are light, well draining mixes which are ideal for epiphytes.
Finally, the soil or potting medium should be organic and fertile. A soil rich in nutrients encourages healthy growth. Avoid using anything too heavy or clay-like or potting mediums with a sandy texture. A soil pH which measures between 5.1 to 6.0 is perfect.
When and How to Repot
Repot your Philodendron Squamiferum when growth slows or you notice that the potting soil is drying out between waterings more quickly than usual. These are both signs that the plant is becoming rootbound and in need of a new home. On average these plants require repotting once every 3 years.
The best time to replant your Philodendron Squamiferum is in the spring or summer. During this part of the year the plants are actively growing meaning that they will more quickly settle into their new position. Do not attempt to repot the plant during the winter when it is dormant.
Each time you transplant your growing plant, increase the pot size slightly. For example, increase the pot size from a 6 to 8 inch pot.
If allowed to, an indoor specimen can reach a mature height of around 5 ft. Keeping the plant in a smaller pot and regularly dividing and pruning can keep your Philodendron Squamiferum more compact.
Plant in a well draining, light potting medium. Philodendron squamiferum 20210815_171250 by Benjamin Ho / CC 2.0
Well draining terracotta pots are ideal. You can hide the pot inside a larger, more decorative pot after planting if you desire.
To transplant, add a layer of potting soil to the bottom of the new pot. Remove the plant from its old pot and center in the new pot. Aim to plant to a similar level as in the previous pot. The top of the root system should sit just below the lip of the pot. When you are happy with the position of the plant, add more soil and water well.
This is also the ideal time to install a support such as a trellis for the vines to scale.
Caring for a Philodendron Squamiferum
In a favorable position, the amount of care these plants require is minimal.
Correctly caring for the plant correctly enables it to flourish. It also helps to increase the lifespan of the plant. Philodendron Squamiferum care is not complicated. In general try to avoid exposing your plant to extremes. Constant exposure to moderate light and care is all that the plant needs to thrive.
When to Water
These plants like a regular drink of water, particularly when they are actively growing. Be careful not to overwater the plants, this can lead to infestations developing or the roots rotting.
Allow the top 4 inches or 3 cm of soil to dry out before watering. In warm, bright spots and loose soil this can mean watering once every 6 to 8 days during the summer months and once every 11 to 13 days during the winter.
Aim to keep the soil moist but not water clogged or soggy. Philodendron squamiferum plants struggle in constantly wet soil. A reliable soil moisture sensor can help you to better gauge when to water your plants.
How to Fertilize
Philodendron Squamiferum is not a quick growing plant. This means that it is not a heavy feeding plant. Apply a little fertilizer once every 4 to 6 weeks during the spring and summer. You can also fertilize the plants again in the fall if they are still actively growing.
A general purpose houseplant fertilizer is fine. Dilute moderately before use. If you are using a granular fertilizer, spread the fertilizer evenly over the soil 4 to 6 inches away from the plant for an even distribution of nutrients.
A slow release fertilizer need only be applied 3 times a year. This is more than enough to stimulate lots of healthy growth.
A regular dose of fertilizer helps a strong, productive stem to develop.
A few weeks after applying the final dose of fertilizer for the year, flush the soil out to remove any excess salt. Too much salt in the soil can cause fertilizer stress to affect the roots. This, in turn, causes leaf spot to develop. Regularly repotting the plants into fresh soil also helps to prevent salt build up.
How to Prune
A low maintenance plant, there is no need to prune Philodendron Squamiferum on a regular basis. The only time that you need to prune the plants is if the leaves develop spot or other unsightly issues. You can also use garden scissors to remove yellow or dead leaves.
The only other time you need to prune Philodendron Squamiferum is to control its size. As the plants grow they may start to outgrow their position or trellis. Removing a few of the more unruly vines helps to control the plant’s spread. Healthy vines can be propagated to create new plants.
How to Propagate Philodendron Squamiferum
Philodendron Squamiferum is easily propagated by stem cuttings. You can take cuttings specifically for propagation or use some of the vines removed when pruning the plant. The vines should be healthy and infestation free.
Cut the vine so that it is 4 to 6 inches long. Remove the lower leaves to create more leaf nodes and plant in a small pot filled with a well draining potting medium. The nodes should be covered by the soil.
Place the planted cutting in a warm, light position and keep the soil evenly moist. Roots typically form in a few weeks.
You can also root the cuttings in a fresh glass of water. If you are rooting cuttings in water it is important to not use so much water that the leaves get wet. The foliage should remain above the water line at all times. Wet or damp foliage can become diseased and cause your cutting to fail.
Change the water on a daily basis. As soon as roots emerge from the nodes, repot the plant in a small pot filled with well draining potting soil.
How to Propagate by Air Layering
To propagate the plants by air layering, inspect the stems looking for an appropriate, easily accessible root node. Wrap the node and surrounding stem in sphagnum moss and cover with a plastic bag. Covering the node in this way tricks the node into thinking it has touched the soil. This, in turn, stimulates root growth.
In a few weeks roots develop from the covered node. At this point the stem can be cut from the parent plant and potted on.
Common Philodendron Squamiferum Problems
In a favorable position and with the right care, Philodendron Squamiferum plants are largely problem free. Changes in the plant’s appearance can indicate a more severe issue. Noticing these changes quickly can enable you to act before the issue becomes too serious, saving the plant in the process.
Foliage turning crispy is usually an indication of low humidity levels. Increasing the humidity levels around the plants should resolve the issue. Misting the foliage on a regular basis is a quick way to raise humidity levels.
The condition of the leaves tells you much about the health of the plant.
If just the tip of the leaf is crispy it could be a sign of a fungal infection.
Foliage turning yellow or brown is usually a sign of underwatering. Spider mites like to inhabit dry soils and leaves while fungus gnats are common if the soil is too wet. If you notice a change in the color of the plants foliage, check the plans for any signs of infestation.
Raising humidity levels around affected plants and misting their foliage should get rid of spider mites. Like other insects, spider mite infestations can also be treated by wiping neem oil onto the affected leaves.
Overwatering can cause more serious issues such as root rot to develop. This can cause the foliage to brown or blacken. The leaves may also wilt.
Amending your watering routine and repotting into dry, well draining soil can save the plant. If the root is too severely affected you may need to discard the plant. Healthy sections can be cut away and propagated to create a new plant.
Best placed in well draining soil, these are distinctive houseplants.
Too much fertilizer can cause fertilizer burn. The most apparent sign of this condition is the development of brown spots on the foliage.
While issues such as fertilizer burn can seem daunting, taking the time to learn how to correctly care for your plant significantly reduces the chances of a problem developing.
One of the rarest types of Philodendron, P. Squamiferum is a distinctive addition to the houseplant collection. Attractive and easy to care for, if you are looking for something a little more unusual that doesn’t require any extra care, Philodendron Squamiferum is the plant for you.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.