The Philodendron squamiferum is a tropical epiphyte that calls the rainforest its first home. But, it is a popular houseplant because of its lovely lobed leaves and climbing habit.
These features make it similar to its cousin the Monstera Deliciosa, which likewise ranks among the most common houseplants people own.
However, one unique feature of the Philodendron squamiferum is its red hairs. It is why the plant is also called the hairy philodendron.
That said, it is very easy to care for and is well-suited to average home conditions.
The one thing you do want to watch out for is its sizes. In the jungle, it climbs up large trees. And, given the size of those in the rainforest, this makes your Philodendron squamiferum’s growth potential extremely huge. In fact, mature plants will grow leaves up to 18 inches long.
That said, it is a moderate grower. So it will take a very long time before it will outgrow your home if any. By pruning, limiting its pot size and controlling its environment you’ll be able to keep it much smaller than what it would grow in its natural habitat.
Philodendron Squamiferum Plant Care
Philodendron Squamiferum Light Requirements
Philodendron squamiferum need medium to bright indirect light. But, they don’t do well with extremes.
This means you don’t want to keep them under direct sunlight or overly long periods of bright light. Nor, do they appreciate staying in dark rooms or very dim spaces.
Too much light will burn their leaves. As such,
- Indoors, you want to keep them near the window but away from the sun’s direct rays. If you can’t find a spot that offers enough light, use artificial lights to supplement what you have.
- Outdoors, placing them in partial shade is best. You especially want to keep them away from the hot summer sun. If you can’t find such a space, pick up a shade cloth from your local nursery. They use shade cloths to cover plants under the sun. So, they’ll have them.
The reason for avoidance of direct sunlight or too much sun is because you want to mimic the plant’s native habitat.
In the forest, Philodendron squamiferum climb up trees to get as close to light as they can. But the large branches and leaves of trees provide a canopy overhead which keeps them from receiving direct sun.
This has acclimated them to growing under bright filtered or dappled light.
On the other hand, it also won’t do well in dark corners of your home. Like all plants, it relies on photosynthesis to survive and thrive. Photosynthesis, in turn, relies on light to happen.
So, lack of light negatively affects your plant’s growth. Thus, in too little light it will experience slow growth and smaller foliage. It’s need for light will also cause it to stretch in desperation to find a light source, resulting it in becoming leggy.
As such, while it can tolerate low light, you need to find that balance where there’s enough illumination to keep it healthy. Past a certain threshold, it becomes harmful.
Philodendron squamiferum grow in rainforests. There, climate conditions are fairly warn and humid. It likewise experiences quite a bit of rain.
Thus, being able to recreate or closely simulate this environment will allow you to produce the best results for this plant.
So what should you do?
When it comes to temperature, keeping things between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. You likewise can go up and down a big from there. But, not a whole lot because it won’t tolerate that much of a discrepancy.
This means you want to avoid overly hot conditions where indoor temperature reaches 95 degrees or higher. The same is true outdoors. When this happens, move the plant to a cooler location.
More importantly, because it does not experience snow or frost, it will not be able to live through cold winters.
Anything below 50 degrees will be a problem. Keeping the plant there will cause it to experience stress. As it gets colder, it will sustain damage. And, over time, will not survive unless moved to a toastier location.
The good news is, its ideal temperature preference is just like ours. We humans enjoy the same range. So, the Philodendron squamiferum is well-suited for homes.
Unfortunately, humidity will be more of a problem. Jungle conditions are humid. And, with the extra rainfall rainforests receive, it makes the environment moist.
This is something that most homes don’t have.
As such, for optimum growth, your Philodendron squamiferum will want humidity to stay above 60% (or higher).
But, there’s good news.
It is perfectly find with humidity of 40% or above. So, unless your home has a fairly dry environment, it will do okay.
However, it is always a good idea to make sure. I highly suggest picking up a digital hygrometer. It is inexpensive and will let you know what the humidity in a particular room is.
This will ensure that you’re able to keep levels above 40% wherever you decide to keep the plant.
If it happens that the you pick has low humidity, worry not.
You can group the plant with other plants to increase humditiy. Or, you can place it over a water tray on top of pebbles. Similarly, you can pick up a humidifier. All these methods work to boost humidity around the plant.
In any case, if you see leaves getting crispy or their leaf tips turning brown, it is a sign humidity is too low for its liking.
Last but not least, always remember that with high humidity comes the risk of excess leaf moisture. And with that comes the risk of fungal problems. So, keep the plant in a well-ventilated room or at least one with good air circulation and warmth to help the moisture dry up quickly.
How Often to Water Philodendron Squamiferum
Philodendron squamiferum prefers drier soil conditions. In fact, unlike most houseplants that prefer moist soil, you don not want to keep soil consistently moist with this one.
Ideally, allow the top few inches of soil dry out before watering. The best way to do this is to stick your finger down into the soil.
Nothing should stick to your finger when you take it out. All you should see are crumbs and bits (much like finely ground coffee). Any moisture, wetness, muddy soil means wait a few more days before watering.
Because conditions vary per household. And, likewise do during different times of the year, it is difficult to give exact watering schedules.
Where I live (Southern California), summertime usually means watering once a week give or take a day. The rest of the year it is closer to 12 to 13 days.
We don’t have winters here. But, if you do in your area, you’ll want to allow the soil to dry out a little more. That’s because cold weather slows down the drying process. This means the plant sits in water longer.
So, the more water you give it, the higher risk of root rot.
Similarly, if you keep the plant in a warm, sunnier location it will need more water than if you keep it in low light.
Soil for Philodendron Squamiferum
Philodendron squamiferum are epiphytes. So, their roots have evolved to be less efficient in soil. instead, these roots are designed for clinging as well as absorbing nutrients from air.
Because of this, while rainforests get a lot of moisture from rainfall, these epiphytic roots get wet but quickly dry since they’re exposed to air rather that stuck under the soil.
What does this mean for you?
It means that you don’t want to use just regular potting soil because it is too dense. It likewise retains too much moisture for the plant.
Instead, you want something light, airy and fast draining. Yet, able to retain enough moisture to keep the plant hydrated.
So, you have a few choices.
If you prefer something commercial, pick up a cacti or succulent mix from your local nursery. These soils are lighter and coarser making them perfect for your Philodendron squamiferum’s needs.
If you prefer making your own mix, you can use sphagnum moss, coconut coir or perlite. You can also add some pine bark to improve drainage and aeration.
Philodendron Squamiferum Fertilizer
Philodendron squamiferum is not a heavy feeder. But, it does need some plant food to grow its best.
- Apply water soluble fertilizer once a month or every 6 weeks during its growing season (spring and summer). You don’t need to feed it during the winter.
- If you prefer to use slow release fertilizer, you’ll only need to apply 2 or 3 times a year.
Keep in mind that the two are very different kinds of fertilizer, even if their formulations may be similar in some cases.
Liquid fertilizer is fast releasing. That is once you dilute it and apply onto the soil, the entire dose takes into effect. Because of the risk of overfertilization (which can result in root burn), you always want to water when you feed your plants.
As such, after the summer or early fall when feeding is done, it is a good idea to flush the soil to remove any fertilizer salt residue buildup which if enough collects can damage the plant’s roots.
Slow release works differently. As its names says, it releases the dose slowly. This is done by pellet with different coatings. Some coating dissolve faster releasing their dose earlier. Other coating take longer.
This allows the entire dose to be distributed over time. In doing so, reduces the risk of fertilizer burn.
As far as fertilizer goes, you can use a balance houseplant fertilizer. Do check for calcium and magnesium which are essential micronutrients needed by the plant. If it doesn’t get enough of them, its leaves will get pale.
Another option is to get philodendron fertilizer.
Philodendron squamiferum are not fast growers. So, you won’t need to do a lot of pruning.
That said, depending on where you place it and how you want it to look, you may trim it to the size and shape you prefer.
Similarly, it is a good idea to remove any dead, yellow, diseased or damaged leaves. You want to take these off because they use up valuable resources that the plant can use for growing its healthy and new parts.
Finally, there are the leggy stems and those that grow in an unruly way. These will cause your plant to look ugly or messy.
Philodendron Squamiferum Propagation
Philodendron squamiferum is easy to propagate. You can do so via seed, stem cutting or air layer. While all these methods work, some are easier to perform than others. And, they each take different amounts of time as well.
The easiest of the three is stem cutting. And, the ideal time to do this is during spring or early summer.
Here’s how to propagate Philodendron squamiferum from stem cuttings.
- Pick out a 4 to 6 inch long stem. Make sure it is healthy and it has at least 2 to 3 leaves on it.
- Take the cutting with a sterilized pair of scissors or pruning shears. Use rubbing alcohol and cotton to wipe the blade before making the cut to ensure no bacteria is passed to the plant.
- Place the stem cutting into a small container with moist, well-draining soil.
- It will take about 3 to 4 weeks for the plant to develop its first roots.
- In the meantime, cover the plant with a plastic bag to increase humidity. Then, keep it in warm spot with bright, indirect sunlight.
- Once you get to about day 24 or so, test the plant by lighting tugging it. It should resist a little bit, which is a sign that roots have started to develop.
How to Repot Philodendron Squamiferum
While Philodendron squamiferum is not a fast grower, it will at some point outgrow its pot. Here are a few signs to look for:
- Roots coming out of the drainage holes
- Soil drying up faster than it normally does
- The plant is not growing as well as it normally does
When you notice one or more of these symptoms, it is time to repot the plant. Keeping it in an overly tight container not only limits it growth but also causes stress.
Stress is never good as it affects the health of your plant. Just as importantly, it makes the plant susceptible to pests and disease.
When moving to a new pot, don’t jump sizes. Go up at most 2 inches in diameter.
You don’t have to worry about the small increment because it is an epiphyte. So, its roots won’t grow as much as other houseplants that have fibrous roots.
Another important thing is to make sure there is a drainage hole at the bottom.
Philodendron squamiferum have calcium oxalate crystals which are dangerous to consume. In small amounts they can cause irritation and burning. In large amounts they are toxic.
Thus, it is a good idea to keep the playful hands (or paws) and mouths of children, dogs and cats away from the plant.
Pests and Disease
Philodendron squamiferum don’t experience much problems. In fact, I haven’t seen any pests or had to deal with diseases with it.
That said, you always want to be vigilant because once it happens, they can spread fairly quickly.
The most common pests that attack the plant include spider mites. Similarly, fungus gnats can also happen because of its love of humidity.
On the other hand, disease often comes in the form of root rot or leaf spots. Both of which are caused by too much moisture, which makes them preventable.
Root rot is from overwatering. This makes how you water and when you water very important, which is why the section above goes into detail about both.
Leaf spot often occurs due to the leaves getting wet and high humidity. Thus, giving it enough warm sunlight and air ventilation is important to help it quickly dry.